[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

Highlight Words

The Gospel of St. Matthew

Schmidt Number: S-2274

On-line since: 15th January, 2017


September 3, 1910

Before coming to our main theme I want to make a brief addition to something that was said in the lecture yesterday. I spoke of the fact that really significant happenings in the evolution of humanity can be characterized by expressions derived front processes in the Cosmos. I also emphasized how impossible it is to speak intelligibly and adequately in the words of ordinary language about thc great mysteries of existence.

The best way to characterize the deeply significant inter-action between Hermes and Moses, the two great pupils of Zarathustra, is to present it as a repetition, a re-enactment, of a cosmic process, viewed in the light of occult science.

In order to picture this cosmic process, let us again look back to the time when our Earth had separated from the Sun, when each with an independent centre was pursuing a further life of its own in the Cosmos. We can picture that in the far, far distant past, the substantiality of Earth +Sun formed a single whole, one great cosmic body which then divided into two. In saying this it must be remembered that other, parallel cosmic happenings — the splitting off of the other planets belonging to our solar system — are being left out of consideration here. For our immediate purpose the time sequence of these other severances need not be taken into account; it is enough to say that a separation once took place, as the result of which the Sun became an entity and the Earth another.

It must also be remembered that this separation took place in an age when the globe now called ‘Earth’ still contained within it the substantiality of the present Moon. Earth + Moon on thc one side confronted Sun on the other. All the forces, both spiritual and physical, that had been at work before this separation, divided: the coarser elements, the coarser, cruder activities, remained with thc Earth, whereas the higher, spiritual-ethereal activities accompanied the Sun. We must picture to ourselves that for long ages Earth and Sun continued their evolution separately. To begin with, everything going forth from the Sun to the Earth was entirely different in character from the forces streaming from the Sun to-day. Earth-existence, Earth-life, was inward, enclosed, receiving little life from the Sun, little of what rayed down spiritually, taking physical expression, from the Sun.

In this first period of separation from the Sun, the Earth threatened to become barren, arid, mummified. And if the Moon had continued to remain in thc Earth the life that is present on our planet to-day would never have been possible. While the Moon was still contained in the Earth, the life pouring from the Sun could not be fully effective; this was only possible at a later time, when the Earth had separated from itself the substantiality of what is now Moon, and with it the spiritual Beings connected with the Moon.

But very much else is connected with the separation of the Moon from the Earth. It must be realised that everything we call life on our Earth to-day evolved by slow degrees, and Spiritual Science indicates the successive conditions or states of existence which made life possible. Previously there was the Old Saturn-existence, then the Old Sun-existence, then the Old Moon-existence, and finally our Earth-existence. The separation of the Sun and also the earlier union of Earth and Sun were therefore preceded by other, quite different evolutionary processes. And when the Earth began to exist in its present form, it was still united with the substance of all the planets that belong to our solar system and were not separated off until later — the process of separation and differentiation being brought about by forces previously operating during the three preceding evolutionary periods of Old Saturn, Old. Sun, Old Moon.

We know that during the Old Saturn-existence there was no matter, no substance, such as is present to-day; there were no solid bodies, no fluids, even no gaseous, vaporous or aeriform masses. Old Saturn was composed solely of warmth — differentiated warmth. We can therefore say: the body of ancient Saturn consisted of warmth only; everything evolved within the element of warmth. I need not emphasize here that one who ventures to make such a statement is fully aware of how impossible it is for modern physics to conceive of a body consisting solely of warmth; he is also aware that ‘warmth’ is for modem physics a state or condition only, not anything having the character of substance. However that may be, we are not concerned to-day with modern physics but only with the truth. [ Note 01 ]

Evolution advanced from the warmth-body of Saturn to the next stage — the stage of Old Sun. There, as described in thc book Occult Science, the warmth-body of Saturn densified. Some of the warmth remained, but the warmth-body densified, in part, to the gaseous, aeriform sate of Old Sun. The process was not only one of densification but also of rarefication — a development upwards, to light. Hence we can say: passing from the warmth-condition of Old Saturn to the stage of Old Sun, we have a cosmic body comprising air, warmth and light.

When the Old Sun-existence advanced to the stage of the Old Moon-existence which preceded that of our Earth, again there was densification and again rarefication. The fluid or watery condition was added to the gaseous, but a change also took place on the other side, in the direction as it wry or spiritualisation, etherealisation. During the Old Moon stage, not only was there light but also the sound-ether or chemical ether. What is here called sound-ether is not to be identified with what we call physical sound or tone. The latter is only a reflection of what is experienced by clairvoyant consciousness as the 'Harmony of the Spheres', as etheric sound or tone weaving as a living power through the Universe. In speaking of this ether and of this sound we are therefore speaking of something far more spiritual, far more ethereal than ordinary sound.

Densification to the solid state took place when Old Moon evolved to Earth. On Old Moon there were no solid bodies such as exist on Earth, where the solid condition came into existence for the first time. On the Earth, therefore, WC now have, on the one side, warmth, the gaseous and watery states, and solid bodies; and on the other side, light-ether, sound-ether, and then life-ether. Evolution on the Earth has reached this stage. Thus on the Earth there are seven elemental states or conditions, whereas on Old Saturn there was only the one state — that of warmth.

When our Earth emerged from the cosmic night at the beginning of its existence, when it was still united with the Sun and with the other planets, we must picture it living and weaving in these seven elemental conditions. But with the separation from the Sun something very remarkable took place.

Warmth and light are present for external life to-day since it is affected by the influences that stream from the Sun to the Earth and belong to the whole domain of sense-perception; but the sound-ether and the life-ether do not belong to this domain. The workings of the sound-ether manifest themselves only in chemical combinations and dissolutions, that is to say, in processes operating in material existence. What we call the working of the life-ether as it streams in from the Sun cannot be directly perceived by man in the sense that light is perceptible when through the senses he distinguishes light from darkness. The active workings or effects of life are perceived in living beings, but not the instreaming life-ether itself. Hence science too is compelled to admit that life per se is a riddle.—

Thus the two highest kinds of etheric manifestation — the life-ether and the sound-ether — although they proceed from the Sun as extremely delicate emanations — are not directly manifest in Earth-existence. Although these emanations ray down from the Sun, they are hidden from ordinary perception. Yet in modern existence too, something corresponding to what lives in the sound-ether and life-ether is perceptible on the Earth in the inner nature of man. The direct influences and effects of the life-ether and the sound-ether (the harmony of the spheres) are not externally perceptible on the Earth, but what takes effect in the constitution of man is perceptible.

The easiest way in which I can explain this will be to re-mind you of the process of human evolution on Earth. In very ancient times and on into the Atlantean epoch, man was endowed with a faculty of clairvoyance enabling him to behold not only a material world as he does to-day but also the spiritual backgrounds of material existence. This was possible for man because in those ancient times there was an intermediate state between the waking consciousness that is ours to-day and what we call the sleeping state. In the waking state man perceived the things of the physical world of the senses; in the sleeping state to-day he neither perceives nor is aware of anything at all; he simply goes on living. — That at any rate is true of the great majority of people. If you were to investigate clairvoyantly man's life during sleep you would make startling discoveries — although only those people who look no deeper than the surface of things would be taken aback by them.

While man is asleep his astral body and Ego are outside his physical and etheric bodies. But it must not be imagined that astral body and Ego during sleep are like a misty cloud hovering in the vicinity of the physical body. What an inferior kind of astral clairvoyance sees in the form of a cloud and which we call the astral body, is only the very crudest beginning of what the human being reveals during sleep. If anyone were to regard this cloudlike formation near the physical and etheric bodies as the only phenomenon of importance he would simply be basing himself upon the lowest forms of astral clairvoyance. The truth is that during sleep man is a being of vast magnitude. At the moment of going to sleep, the inner forces in the astral body and in the Ego actually begin to expand over the whole solar system, to become part of it. From every direction man draws into his astral body and into his Ego forces which strengthen this life during sleep, and on waking he contracts into the narrower confines within his skin and pours into these what he has absorbed during the night from the whole solar system. That is why medieval occultists too called this spiritual body of man the ‘astral’ body, because it is united with the worlds of the stars and draws its forces from them. During sleep at night, then, man actually expands over the whole solar system.

What is it that permeates the astral body during sleep when it is outside the physical and etheric bodies? It is the weaving life of the harmonies of the spheres, forces that can otherwise operate only in thc sound-ether. Just as when a violin bow is drawn across the edge of a metal disc strewn with sand the vibrations pulsing through the air also pulsate through the sand and produce the well-known Chladni sound-figures, so do the harmonies of the spheres vibrate through the human being during sleep and bring order again into what has been cast into disorder during the day through his sense-perceptions. The weaving forces of the life-ether also permeate him during sleep, but he is entirely unaware of this inner life of his sheaths when he is separated from the physical and etheric bodies. In the normal state, man has the power of perception only when he again plunges down into the physical and etheric bodies, using the outer organs of the etheric body for thinking and those of the physical body for sense-perception.

But in ancient times there were intermediate states between waking life and sleep, states which can be induced to-day only by abnormal means and because of the dangers inseparable from such conditions, ought never to be induced. In Atlantean times, however, these faculties of perception that functioned normally in the intermediate states between waking and sleeping, enabled man to be transported into the domain of the forces living and weaving in the sound-ether and the life-ether. In other words: through clairvoyance in its old form, man was able in that distant past to be aware of what was being radiated to him by the Sun as the harmony of the spheres and the life that pulses through cosmic space — although the earthly effects of the sound-ether and the life-ether were perceptible only in living beings in the external world.

Such experiences gradually ceased to be possible; with the loss of the old clairvoyance the door closed against these perceptions and something different came into being, namely the inner power of cognition. Only then did man learn to reflect, to ponder, to cogitate. What we to-day call reflection about the things of the physical world, in other words an inner activity, began to develop only when the old clairvoyance was fading away. In the early epochs of Atlantis, man had no inner life such as he has to-day — an inner life of feelings, sentient experiences, thoughts and mental concepts, which actually constitute the creative impulse in culture and civilization. In the intermediate states between waking and sleeping his whole being was outpoured in a spiritual world and the material world of the senses seemed to be veiled in mist.

With the gradual disappearance of the old clairvoyance, external life increased in importance. A faint reflection of the harmony of the spheres and of the working of the life-ether was present in man's inner nature. But the reflection of the harmony of the spheres faded away to the same extent as man became inwardly aware of feelings and perceptions which mirrored the external world to him and constitute his inner life to-day. To the extent to which he felt himself an ‘I’, an Ego-being, his perception of the divine, all-pervading life-ether vanished from him. His condition had to be acquired at the cost of being deprived of certain aspects of external life. As an earthly being, man felt that the life he could no longer experience as streaming directly from the Sun was enclosed within him; and in his inner life to-day He has only a faint reflection of the sublime cosmic life, of the harmony of the spheres and the life-ether.

The development of man's faculty of cognition was also a kind of repetition of the Earth's own evolution. The Earth, when it separated from the Sun and became self-enclosed, would have hardened completely if all the substances left within it after the separation had been retained. The Sun's influence could not, to begin with, find entrance into the process of thc Earth's evolution and this state of things lasted until the Moon was separated from the Earth, together with all those substances and qualities that were making it impossible for the Earth to receive direct influences and forces from the Sun. Thus it was through having cast out the Moon that the Earth was able to receive the influences and forces of the now separated Sun. The Earth sent part of itself, the Moon, towards the Sun, in the opposite direction to that in which it had itself separated from the Sun, and the Moon then reflected back to the Earth the influences of the Sun, just as outwardly it reflects its light. The separation of the Moon from the Earth was an event of untold significance: the Earth had opened itself to the influences and forces of the Sun.

A cosmic event of this kind had necessarily to be re-enacted in the life of man as well. It was only when the Earth had long since opened itself to the workings of the Sun that the right point of time arrived for man to shut himself off from the direct influences of the Sun. The direct influences and forces of thc Sun were still active in the clairvoyance of Atlantean man. And just as there had come a time when the Earth began to harden, so too there came a time for man when he withdrew into his own inner nature, developed an inner life and could no longer receive the direct workings of the Sun. This process of the development of an inner life, when man could no longer be open to the Sun's influences and could receive only faint reflections within himself of the workings of the life-ether, the sound-ether, the harmonies of the spheres — this process lasted for long ages, right on into the post-Atlantean era.

In the earliest epochs of Atlantean evolution men had been directly aware of the Sun's influences. Then they shut them-selves off; and when these influences could no longer penetrate into them and their own inner life asserted itself strongly, it was only in the sacred Mysteries, through the practice of what may be called ‘Yoga’ that the spiritual powers of the pupils could be trained as it were to defy the normal conditions of Earth-existence and become directly aware of the workings of the Sun. Thus in the second half of the Atlantean epoch there were sanctuaries, appropriately called ‘Oracles’, where from among a humanity no longer able in a normal way to be aware of the direct workings of the sound-ether and the life-ether, pupils and dedicated disciples of the sacred wisdom were so trained that by first suppressing all perception through the senses, they could become aware of the manifestations of these higher ethers.

In places where genuine spiritual science was cultivated, this possibility actually remained in the post-Atlantean epoch — so persistently indeed that even external science, without understanding the meaning of it, has preserved a tradition originating in the School of Pythagoras to the effect that the harmonies of the spheres can become audible. But external science immediately turns anything of the nature of the harmony of the spheres into an abstraction — which of course it is not — and has no inkling of the reality. In the Pythagorean Schools the power to become aware of the harmony of the spheres was understood to be the re-opening of man's being to the sound-ether and to the divine life-ether.

It was Zarathustra or Zoroaster who had proclaimed with the greatest power and splendour that behind the Sun radiating its light and warmth to the Earth there is something which as the activity of the sound-ether and indeed of the life-ether is only feebly reflected in man's inner life. If we endeavour to translate his teaching into modern language, we can say that he taught his pupils as follows. — He said to them: When you look upwards to the Sun you are aware of the beneficial warmth and light streaming from it to the Earth; but if you develop higher organs, if you develop your faculty of spiritual perception, you can become aware of the Sun Being behind the physical Sun and its life; and then you become aware of the workings of the sound-ether and within these the essence of life!

Zarathustra spoke to his pupils of Ormuzd, or Ahura Mazdao, the great Sun Aura, as the spiritual reality behind the physical workings of the Sun. ‘Ahura Mazdao’ can therefore also be translated as the ‘Great Wisdom’ in contrast to the meagre wisdom evolved by men to-day. Man becomes aware of the Great Wisdom when he beholds the spiritual essence of the Sun, the great Sun Aura.

A poet, gazing back to the remote past in the evolution of humanity, was able to point in the following words to what the spiritual investigator knows to be a truth:

‘The sun-orb sings, in emulation,
'Mid brother-spheres, his ancient round:
His path predestined through Creation,
He ends with step of thunder-sound.’
(Faust: Prologue in Heaven. Tr. Bayard Taylor)

Disciples of aestheticism regard this simply as euphony and quote it as an outstanding example of poetic licence. They have no inkling that a poet of Goethe's calibre is describing actual realities when he writes: ‘The sun-orb sings his ancient round’ — that is to say, in the way known to ancient humanity, and known even to-day to one who is initiated.

Zarathustra had imparted this mighty truth to his pupils, particularly to the two among them who can be said to have been his most intimate disciples and were incarnated later on as Hermes and Moses. But Zarathustra gave the instruction on what lies behind the radiant body of the Sun in two quite different forms. The instruction given to Hermes enabled him to receive the influence streaming directly from the Sun. Moses, on the other hand, was inspired in such a way that he preserved the secret of the Sun-wisdom as though in a memory.

If in the light of what is said in the book Occult Science we picture the Earth after its separation from the Sun, and then the departure of the Moon-forces from the Earth after which the Earth opened itself to the Sun, we find Venus and Mercury between Earth and Sun. Dividing the whole space between Sun and Earth into three, we can say: the Earth separated from the Sun and sent forth the Moon towards the Sun. Then Venus and Mercury separated off from the Sun and came towards the Earth. Venus and Mercury, therefore, move from the Sun towards the Earth; the Moon goes from the Earth towards the Sun.

Conditions in the evolution of humanity reflect conditions in the Cosmos. The Sun-wisdom contained in the revelations of Zarathustra had been transmitted by him on the one side to Hermes and on the other to Moses. In Hermes there lived the Sun-wisdom radiating from the astral body of Zarathustra that had been transmitted to him; the wisdom living in Moses was like a separate planet that had still to develop towards what radiated directly from the Sun. Just as the Earth, by relinquishing the Moon, opened itself to the influence of ,the Sun, so did the wisdom of Moses open itself to receive the Sun-wisdom radiating directly from Zarathustra. And these two forms of wisdom, the Earth-wisdom of Moses and the Sun-wisdom of Zarathustra as imparted to Hermes, came into con-tact in Egypt, where the teachings of Moses encountered those of Hermes. What Moses had received from Zarathustra in the far distant past, he wakened to life within his own being and transmitted it to his people. We have to conceive of this as a process analogous to the emergence of the Moon-substantiality from the Earth.

The wisdom transmitted by Moses to his people can also be called Jahve- or Jehovah-wisdom — the name which, if rightly understood, epitomises it. We can also understand why old traditions speak of Jahve or Jehovah as a Moon God. This is frequently stated but is comprehensible only when these profound connections arc known. Just as the Earth cast out the Moon, sending it towards the Sun, so too the path of the Earth-wisdom of Moses inevitably led towards Hermes who possessed the direct wisdom of Zarathustra in the astral body that had been bequeathed. The wisdom of Moses, having made contact with Hermes, had then itself to evolve, and we have already described how its development continued until the age of David, when in David himself, the royal warrior and psalmist of the Hebrew people, Hermetic or Mercury-wisdom arose in a new form. We have also heard how the wisdom of Moses made still closer contact with the Sun-wisdom during the time of the Babylonian captivity, when Zarathustra himself, then bearing the name of Zarathas or Nazarathos, was the teacher of the Hebraic Initiates during the captivity. In the wisdom of Moses, therefore, we see a re-enactment of the cosmic process of the separation of Earth from Sun and of subsequent happenings on the Earth.

The wise men among the ancient Hebrews and all who were aware of these connections were filled with deepest reverence. They felt as though direct revelations were being vouchsafed to them from cosmic spaces and cosmic existence. And a personality such as Moses seemed to them to be a messenger of the cosmic Powers themselves. This they felt — and We too must feel something of the kind if we desire genuinely to understand ancient times. Otherwise, all our learning is no more than empty abstraction.

It was essential that what had streamed from Zarathustra and had been transmitted to posterity through Hermes and Moses should also evolve to a higher stage and appear again in a different, more advanced form. To this end it was necessary that Zarathustra himself, the Individuality who had previously bequeathed only the astral body and the etheric body, should be able to appear on the Earth in a physical body, in order that this too might be offered up. Here we have a beautiful illustration of progress. In his life in the very distant past, Zarathustra had given the impulse to post-Atlantean evolution in ancient Iranian culture. Then he bequeathed his astral body in order to inaugurate a. new form of culture through Hermes, and he bequeathed his etheric body to Moses. He had thus bequeathed two of his sheaths. Opportunity had now to be afforded him to offer up his physical body as well, for the great mystery of the evolution of humanity demanded the offering of the three bodies by one single individual. The third act still ahead of Zarathustra was the offering of the physical body, and this required very special measures of preparation. I have already indicated how the particular kind of life lived by the Hebrew people throughout the generations made possible the preparation of the physical body that could eventually be offered up by Zarathustra as his third great act. This preparation demanded that what elsewhere had been direct, outwardly oriented spiritual perception — the astral vision which in the Turanians had become decadent—should be trans-formed into an inner activity.

This is the secret of the Hebrew people. Whereas in the Turanians the forces inherited from ancient times produced organs of external clairvoyance, in the Hebrew people these forces turned inwards, organising the inner constitution of the body. Hence the Hebrews were the people destined to feel and to experience inwardly what during the Atlantean age men had seen outspread behind the single physical objects. Jahve or Jehovah — the name consciously uttered and proclaimed by the Hebrew people — was the ‘Great Spirit’ revealed to ancient clairvoyance behind all things and beings and now concentrated into a unity. And it is also indicated that in a very special way the progenitor of the ancient Hebrews had been endowed with this inner organic constitution.

Let me again repeat that the pictorial accounts of ancient happenings contained in sagas and legends are nearer to the truth than the picture of evolution pieced together by modern anthropological research from evidence provided by excavations and fragments of monuments. In most eases the old legends are corroborated by spiritual-scientific investigation. I say ‘in most cases’ and not ‘in all’ because I have not investigated every one of them; but it is very probable that the above holds good for all genuinely ancient legends. Thus when we enquire into the origin of the Hebrew people, we are led back, not to what modern anthropologists surmise, but to an actual progenitor named in the Bible. Abraham or Abram is a living figure and what the Talmud legend says of this original ancestor is true.

According to the story, the father of Abraham is a captain in the service of that legendary but nevertheless real personality called ‘Nimrod’ in the Bible (Genesis X, 8-9). It is announced to Nimrod by those who understand the signs of the times as revealed in dreams that many kings and rulers will be overthrown by his captain's son. Nimrod is seized with fear and orders that the child be killed. Such is the legend, and its truth is confirmed by occult investigation. Abraham's father resorts to subterfuge and presents another man's child to Nimrod. His own child, Abraham, is reared in a cave. — Abraham is the first in whom the forces formerly operating as the faculties of external clairvoyance turned inwards to become the powers that were to lead to inner consciousness of the Divine. This complete reversal of forces is indicated in the legend by saying that by thc grace of God the child was able to suck milk from the fingers of his own right hand during the three years he lived in the cave. This process of self-nourishment, in other words the penetration of the forces formerly used for the old clairvoyance into the inner constitution of man, is illustrated in a wonderful way in Abraham, the progenitor of thc Hebrew people. — If their real foundations are understood, legends of this kind are so convincing that we realise why old narratives could only convey in pictures what lay behind their contents. But these pictures were able to evoke feelings — even if not actual consciousness — of the great truths. And that sufficed in those ancient times. Abraham, then, was the first man in whom the faculties of divine wisdom, divine vision, were reflected inwardly in an entirely human form, as thought of the Divine. In actual fact, and as occult investigation will always insist, the physical constitution of Abram, or Abraham as he was called later on, was entirely different from that of everyone living around him. The organic constitution of other human beings was not such as would have enabled them to unfold inner activity of thinking through a special instrument. Thinking was possible for them when they were free of the body, when forces were activated in the etheric body; but they had not yet developed the instrument for thinking in the physical body itself. Abraham was actually the first in whom the physical instrument for thinking had been elaborated in the real sense. Hence—although this must not be taken too literally—he is not incorrectly called the inventor of arithmetic, the science dependent primarily upon the instrument of the physical body. Arithmetic is something that in its form, and because of its intrinsic certainty, comes near to clairvoyant knowledge, but it is essentially dependent upon a bodily organ.

Thus there is a deep and intimate connection between a faculty in which external forces had hitherto been used for clairvoyance and one which now made use of an inner organ for the activity of thinking. This is indicated when Abraham is spoken of as the inventor of arithmetic. He is therefore to be regarded as the first personality into whom was implanted the physical organ of thinking, the organ through which man, by means of physical thinking, could rise to actual thought of the Divine, whereas formerly it was only through clairvoyant vision that he could have any knowledge of God and of the Divine. All such knowledge in ancient times was the outcome of clairvoyance. To rise to the Divine through thought required a physical instrument and Abraham was the first into whom it was implanted. And as here it was a matter, of a physical organ, the whole relation of this thought or concept of the Divine to the objective world and to the subjective being of man was different from what it had formerly been, when a physical instrument was not involved.

The thought of the Divine had formerly been grasped through the wisdom preserved in the Mystery Schools and could be conveyed to one who had developed to the stage of being able to have perceptions in the etheric body, free from the organs of the physical body. But the only means for the transmission of a physical instrument to another human being is physical heredity. Thus if what was of salient importance for Abraham, namely the physical organ, was to be preserved on the Earth, it had to be transmitted from generation to generation through heredity. It is therefore understandable that the element of racial heredity, the transmission of this physical attribute through the blood flowing down the generations, was of very great importance in the Hebrew people.

But a physical attribute that appeared for the first time in Abraham, resulting from the crystallization and shaping of a physical organ for comprehension of the Divine — such an attribute had to be established. Transmitted by heredity from generation to generation, it penetrated ever more deeply into the nature and constitution of man and took firmer and firmer hold there as the effect of heredity grew progressively stronger. Hence we can say: it was necessary that what had been imparted to Abraham in order that the mission of the Hebrew people might be fulfilled, should reach greater perfection in the course of being transmitted from generation to generation through heredity. And in thc case of a physical organ this was the only possible means.

If the Individuality we have come to know as Zarathustra was to be provided with as perfect a physical body as possible — that is to say, a body containing an organ capable of grasping, in a human physical body, the thought or concept of the Divine — the physical instrument once implanted in Abraham had to be brought to the highest attainable degree of perfection; it had to be inwardly consolidated through heredity and to develop in such a way that a body suitable for Zarathustra might be produced, with all the qualities needed by him in his physical body. But a physical body that was to be of use to Zarathustra could not have developed to greater perfection by itself, separated from the rest of man's constitution; all the three sheaths, physical, etheric and astral, had gradually to be perfected through what physical heredity flowing down the successive generations was able to impart to them.

There is a certain law in evolution of which we have often heard in connection with thc development of the individual human being. A particular period of this process is from birth until the sixth or seventh year of life, during which the main development is that of the physical body. The period of the development of the etheric body is from the sixth or seventh year until the fourteenth or fifteenth. The period of the development of the astral body is from then until the twenty-first or twenty-second year. Such is the law, based on the number seven, governing thc development of the individual human being. The development of the outer sheaths of humanity in general through the generations is governed by a similar law and the deeper aspects of this process have still to be considered.

Whereas in the course of every seven years the individual completes a stage of development, until his seventh year that of the physical body, which becomes more and more perfect during this period — so the whole structure of the physical body of mankind in general, developing as it can do through the generations, reaches a certain completion after seven generations. But heredity works in such a way that the qualities transmitted do not pass from one human being to his nearest descendant in the immediately following generation; the salient qualities and attributes cannot be transmitted directly from father to son, from mother to daughter, but only from father to grandson — thus to the second generation, then the fourth, and so on. The number seven is basic in the process of heredity through the generations; but as every other generation is skipped, we have, in reality, to do with the number fourteen.

The special physical constitution established in Abraham could reach the peak of its development after fourteen generations. But for this process to take effect in the etheric body and the astral body as well, the development which in the case of the individual proceeds during the period from the seventh to the fourteenth year would have to continue through a further seven, or in reality, fourteen generations, and then through a still further period of seven (or fourteen) generations, starting from the fourteenth year in the case of the individual human being. In other words : the physical constitution established in Abraham, the racial progenitor, had to develop through three times seven or rather three times fourteen generations; the development had then taken place in all the three sheaths — physical body, etheric body and astral body. Thus the process of heredity through three times fourteen generations, i.e. through forty-two generations, made it possible for a man to receive in the physical body, etheric body and astral body in a state of perfected development, what had been imparted to Abraham in its first rudiments.

Thus after three times fourteen generations, beginning with Abraham, we find a human body impregnated with what had been present in Abraham in its earliest rudiments. Only a body of this kind was suitable for Zarathustra in his incarnation. This is also made clear by the writer of the Gospel of St. Matthew. In the table of generations, fourteen generations are expressly enumerated from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian captivity, and fourteen from the captivity to Jesus Christ. Through these three times fourteen generations — in the sequence of which one is always skipped — the complete development has been achieved of what was imparted to Abraham for the mission of the Hebrew people. This was now fully impressed into the principles of human nature and thence could arise the body needed by Zarathustra for his incarnation in the epoch when a completely new impulse was to be brought to mankind through him.

The wisdom underlying the beginning of the Gospel of St. Matthew is indeed profound. It is essential, however, to understand what is indicated by these three times fourteen generations. In the body that it was possible for Joseph to provide for Jesus of Nazareth there was contained the essence of what had been present, in its rudiments, in Abraham; this had streamed into the whole Hebrew people and could then be concentrated in a single instrument, in the sheath used by Zarathustra by whom the incarnation of Christ was to be made possible.



1. See Occult Science—an Outline, p. 21. From Rudolf Steiner's Preface to the first edition. (1909).

The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com