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

Man in the Past, Present, and Future; The Evolution of Consciousness

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

Man in the Past, Present, and Future; The Evolution of Consciousness

On-line since: 19th April, 2004

Summary of Contents

Lecture I

Western world-views are concerned with man's place in the whole course of human history on Earth, whereas those of the East are content to envisage man in terms of space only. The essential nature of man can be seen in the evolution of his consciousness. Man experiences his own being in waking, dreaming and sleeping. In modern thinking he loses his real self. Descartes' cogito ergo sum is not based on something inwardly experienced but is only a convulsive effort to attach oneself to reality.

Remains of Druidic culture in Wales, near Penmaenmawr. Inner qualities of sunlight and the shadows it casts. The Druid priests and the stone circles. Imaginations are much more alive than abstract thoughts which can give no inkling of reality, but only pictures of it. Within the stone circles the Druid sought his science, his wisdom — his Sun-wisdom and also his Nature-wisdom. The actions and effects of the Sun and the Moon on plant-life. Elemental beings and their activities. The good gods and their opponents. Medicinal properties of plants. Man's consciousness and disposition of soul were quite different when the Druid religion was in its prime — some three to five thousand years ago. Thinking was more dreamlike; when men woke they felt that something was still remaining over from sleep, like an “after-taste.” They felt that they were received into a kind of grave by the forces of gravity. In certain souls — Boehme and Swedenborg are examples — something connected with evolution arises as a genuine memory of earlier times.

Stuttgart, 14th September, 1923

Lecture II

In earlier periods of evolution, consciousness was filled more with living pictures than with abstract concepts. Elemental spirits were seen hovering around the plants. The activities of gigantic elemental beings in wind, frost and hail, storm and thunder. Men did not feel that their soul-life was separated from external Nature. Moreover they had an inner spiritual perception of the real being of man; they saw not only their present existence but their pre-earthly existence as well. But they came gradually to feel that the spirit had withdrawn from Nature, that they had been cast out of the spiritual world and thrust into a world of which, in their essential being, they did not belong. This mood expressed itself through the feeling that there had been a Fall of man. The Mysteries were the only source of consolation. Sleep was a draught of Nature, its aftermath being experienced as a kind of sweetness. In dreamless sleep man felt as though he was submerged in the Earth, as in a grave. Not only the forces of the Sun, but also those of the Moon penetrate below the surface of the Earth. The forces of the Moon work against the force of earthly gravity. Man is drawn to the Earth by gravity and away from it by the forces of the Moon; for him as earthly man it is the Earth which has the upper hand. But as regards his head-activity, the effective influence on it is the negative gravity that draws him away. Thus though man might not be able to fly, at least he could raise his spirit into the starry spaces. Through this “astrological Initiation” men were taught by the Mystery-priests about the effects of the stellar environment upon them. Vision of Nature permeated by spirit became gradually clouded, but atavistic remains persisted. They manifest in sleep-walking, in men who are by nature “Sun-men” such as Jacob Boehme and Paracelsus, and in “Saturn-men” such as Swedenborg. The different character of seership in Boehme and Swedenborg.

Stuttgart, 15th September, 1923

Lecture III

In earlier conditions of soul-life, man experienced his cosmic existence. Dreams and their characteristics. Every experience of which we have been aware must wait 3 or 4 days before it is fully out own, i.e., impressed upon the etheric and physical bodies — and then it is part, not of ourselves only, but also of the Cosmos. The meaning and purpose of the three days' sleep in the ancient form of Initiation. The laws we look for in the external world by our methods of observation and experiment cease to be valid inside the skin of a human being; the laws of the very substances consumed are changed, down to the smallest particles. “Our dreams are a protest against that part of reality which is shackled within the laws of Nature ... the moment you enter, even to the slightest degree, into the spiritual world through your dreams, your dream-experience arises as a protest against the laws of Nature.” (Staudenmaier and the effects of mediumship upon him.) It is tragic for a modern man when he passes through Initiation to experience entry into a sphere of being where this protest against the laws of Nature, is swamped. But he finally realizes that a different world — the moral world-order — is pressing in upon him. The vicarious Deed of Christ. Man was to take a step upwards in evolution and to experience in moral form what had previously come to him naturally. The Mystery of Golgotha is related closely to the meaning of earthly revolution because of its relation to the evolution of man's consciousness. We can visualize three states of consciousness: a dulled dream-life, waking life, and a state of heightened waking consciousness. Only through the latter can the Mystery of Golgotha be understood. In this present age of freedom we must resolve out of our own free knowledge to live on towards the goal laid down for us by the Divine Powers of the world.

Stuttgart, 16th September, 1923

Lecture IV

The Sun-Initiation of the Druid Priests and his Moon-Science

Cosmic processes in Earth-evolution. Sun Beings and Moon Beings; ancient memories of their existence and influence expressed in myths and sagas. Druid culture in its prime preceded the epoch of mythologies connected with the names of Wotan or Odin. Druid priests were the authorities by whom the whole life of the people was guided. Their wisdom was an unconscious memory of the Sun and Moon elements in the Earth before the separation of Sun and Moon. Initiation in the Druid Mysteries was a Sun-Initiation, bound up with Moon-wisdom. Cromlechs and dolmens: instruments whereby the physical effects of the Sun were shut off, enabling seers to observe the inner qualities of the Sun and the relation of the Earth to the Sun. Understanding of the Moon-forces which had remained in the Earth after the separation of the Moon. The Druid's science of Nature was a Moon-science. Giant elemental beings (Jötuns.) Weather-processes and Earth-knowledge. Remedies, healing herbs. Wotan-Mercury. Runes. The Wotan impulse denotes the first entry of intellectualism. Wotan civilization felt as an illness by Druidic culture. “Baldur ... the Sun-force coming fro Wotan, is the Sun-force reflected back by Mercury.” The death of Baldur and the Christ-Impulse. Transition to abstract conceptions of medicine and remedies. The primeval wisdom once cultivated by the Moon Beings on the Earth was preserved through the Sun-Initiation of the Druid priests. 

Dornach, 10th September, 1923

© 2021 Steiner Online Library. All rights reserved.

Steiner Online Library is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, EIN 85-2621701. Donations are tax-deductible.

Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | Contact Us