EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND
The Experiences of Initiation.
The Mysteries of the Planets.
The Descent of the Primeval Word.
September 5, 1908
YESTERDAY we closed with the discussion of an extraordinarily important event in
the inner life, in the real spiritual life of man. We attempted to bring before
our souls an impression that the seeker for initiation had at the beginning of
the last third of the Atlantean epoch. We saw how there stood before the soul of
the neophyte an ideal human form, a thought-picture, on which he had to
concentrate in meditation, and how this filled the would-be initiate's life of
thinking, feeling and willing. This thought-picture had to become ever more the
model for the man of the future.
Now we must try to conceive roughly how this thought-picture looked. It was not
entirely similar to the man of today. If we can think of a kind of combination
of man and woman in which the lower part is omitted, a sort of double figure in
which only the upper part of the body is clearly perceptible, then we have the
sensible-supersensible picture that stood before the meditating person at that
time. This picture worked so strongly that the neophytes could make their
external bodies actually resemble it.
It is important that the meditating neophyte had within him, facing him,
a sort of human form. If he had been sufficiently prepared to have this picture
livingly before him, then he had to realize the following clearly, “As I look
upon this picture I transport myself into the earliest condition of the earth's
evolution, when earth, moon, and sun were not yet divided. At that time the
earth consisted of the primeval atom, but in this atom the clairvoyant could see
the picture that now arises before me. This picture was already present at the
beginning of the earth when as yet there were no mineral, plant, or animal
forms. At that time the earth consisted only of the human atom, of reawakened
It is true that the first beginnings of the animals were created during the
ancient Moon condition of the earth;
animals already existed then. 1 But we know too that a planetary
system, when it disappears, goes into a Pralaya, in which all forms are
dissolved. Thus, although the ancient Moon was already populated with animal
forms, the earth at first contained nothing similar to animals and plants. These
first appeared later. Only after the separation of the sun did the animals
gradually appear. The earth was purely human in its first beginnings.
The neophyte looked back upon this primeval condition of the earth. He saw in
the primeval atom the ideal human form. Keeping this form before him, he
realized, “Thus I transport myself into the earliest condition of the earth.
What lives in the earth, the ideal human picture or form, tells me that the
Godhead works from eternity to eternity. It has poured itself out into these
forms. It has breathed out this original human form.” Then he asked himself what
happened to the animals, plants, and other beings.
In spirit the neophyte saw the primal form of the Godhead. He saw the animals
and plants as accompanying forms, which appeared on earth only at a later time.
Everything in the lower kingdoms was regarded by the Atlantean neophyte as
having proceeded from the human form. We understand this thought if we recollect
how coal is formed. Think of the huge primeval forests that once flourished and
are now coal. The plants have remained behind, evolving out of a higher kingdom
into a lower one. The plants have hardened into stone.
Thus the pupil of the Atlantean mysteries saw everything in the world about him
as the product of the human form. In primeval times, this impression was
conjured before the soul of man. These impressions were retained in memory
through the time of the flood. The ancient Indian initiators again called up in
the souls of their pupils this picture of primeval man, of the man who had been
breathed forth by the eternal self. When the Indian pupil had this picture
before him, he felt that everything had sprung from it, that what appeared in
this picture as the blood had become the waters of the earth, etc. This picture,
expanded until it became the foundation of the universe. Then the following was
put before his soul. It was said to him, “In this picture you have two things
before your eyes. First, the picture itself; but then, also, what lights up in
you as your innermost essence when you contemplate this picture. Without is the
macrocosm; within you is what you feel as a sort of extract, the microcosm.”
When the Greeks, under Alexander, pressed into India and met the last echoes of
what the pupils had felt in ancient times, they experienced the following: When
the pupil contemplates what is spread out in the universe as man, then he has
Heracles before him. The Indians gave the name of
Vach 2 to what lives as the forces of the world-all. But in
man, as a sort of extract of the whole, they felt what they called Brahman.
Thus the Greeks expounded these echoes of what occurred in the soul of the
pupil of the ancient holy Indian culture. This was the fruit of the Greek's
campaign to India under Alexander the Great.
Out of precisely this fundamental feeling developed the sacred doctrine of the
ancient Indian initiates, which appears like a spiritual image of that primeval
state of the earth when it still contained the sun-forces and high beings, for
whose sublimity man later yearned. Hence it was a great moment in his spiritual
life when the pupil was initiated and could allow to arise within him what was
grasped as Brahman. This was a mighty event in the human soul. It was a rising
into higher worlds. In no other way could a man be initiated and achieve real
vision, than by rising into higher worlds.
The world around us is the physical world. Within and around it surges the
astral world. Higher stands Devachan, the world of the gods. The pupil must
penetrate to the highest regions of Devachan if he is to feel Brahman, the
primeval self, in the macrocosm. Then he is in highest Devachan, the world of
the gods, whence springs the noblest that is in man. It was a realm of the
highest and most perfect order into which the pupil was transported, a realm
that offered much knowledge in addition to what has been described here.
Before we go any further, we must learn to know the teachers also. All of you
have heard of the holy Rishis, who were the original founders of the ancient
holy Indian culture and had Manu for their own teacher. Who were these seven
great teachers of ancient India? As far as possible, we must explain the nature
of the holy Rishis. This requires us to look again into the universe. We must be
quite clear that what we perceive with the physical senses is a result of what
is spiritual. If we think of the entire surrounding world as spiritualised, we
can compare it with a primeval etheric mist. This mist then gradually became
denser; it descended into the condition of matter and the various heavenly
bodies condensed out of it. Sun, Moon, and Earth detached themselves.
But why did the other Planets split off? For it also occurred that Saturn,
Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury detached themselves. Why did this happen? We
shall understand this if we realize that in the great universe there occurs
something similar to an event in our trivial everyday life. It is not only in
school that pupils sometimes fail to be promoted, but also in the cosmos there
are beings who remain behind and cannot progress with the others. Let us be
quite clear about this. There was one group of higher beings who could not
continue with 'the earth's tempo. These abstracted the finest substances and
formed therefrom the sun as their dwelling-place. These were the highest beings
connected with our evolution, although they also had gone through an evolution
of their own. Thus there were beings who were in the act of becoming
sun-spirits, and others who had remained behind, standing lower than the
sun-spirits but higher than man. These could not continue with the sun-spirits
because they were not equally mature. They could not go out with the sun, for it
would have scorched them. But on the other hand they were too noble for the
earth. Therefore they abstracted certain substances, which were between sun and
earth in fineness and corresponded to their nature, and built themselves
dwelling-places between the sun and the earth. Thus Venus and Mercury were
separated off. Here we have two groups of beings who are not as high as the
sun-spirits, but are further along than man. They became the spirits of Venus
and Mercury. These are the beings who caused the appearance of these two
planets. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were formed earlier for other reasons, and
they also became dwelling-places for certain beings.
Thus we, see how spirits caused the appearance of these planets. Now one should
not believe that these beings inhabiting the various bodies of the solar system
have no connection with the inhabitants of the earth. We must see that the
physical boundaries are not the real boundaries, and that it is possible for the
beings of the other heavenly bodies to exercise magical influences upon the
earth. Thus the influences of the spirits of the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn,
Venus, and Mercury extend into the earth. The two latter stand nearer to the
earth, and after the sun had withdrawn they helped men to prepare the earth as
we have it today.
Here I would like to add one thing, because misunderstandings have crept into
the naming of the planets. In all occult nomenclature, what the astronomers call
Venus is called Mercury, and vice versa. Astronomers know nothing of the
mysteries behind this, because in the past it was not desired that the esoteric
names should be revealed. This happened in order to conceal certain things.
All these spirits of the other planets influence the earth. From every planet
influences descend upon man. To begin with, however, these influences had need
of an intermediary. Through the great Manu this was provided by the seven Rishis
being initiated in such a way that each understood the mysteries and influences
of a single planet. Since there were seven planets there were seven Rishis, who
collectively formed a sevenfold lodge that could transmit to the pupils the
secrets of the solar system. We find hints of this in many ancient occult
writings. When, for example, it is said that there are mysteries beyond the
seven, the reference is to those preserved by the holy Manu himself concerning
the time before the splitting-off of the planets.
The forces preserved by the planets were the subject of the mysteries of the
seven Rishis. This choir of seven Rishis, in complete harmony with Manu,
cooperated in the wonderful wisdom that was transmitted to the pupils.. If we
were to characterize this, we would have to say that this primeval teaching
contained approximately what we learn today as the evolution of humanity through
the planetary conditions of Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and
Vulcan. The mysteries of evolution were secreted in the seven members of the
lodge, each of whom typified one stage in the progress of humanity.
The pupil saw this — not only saw it, but heard it — when he raised himself into
Devachan, into the Devachanic world, for this is a world of tones. There he
heard the harmony of the spheres, of the seven planets. In the astral world he
saw the picture; in the Devachanic world he heard the tone; and in
the highest world he experienced the word. When the Indian pupil raised
himself into upper Devachan he perceived through the music of the spheres and
through the word of the spheres how the primordial spirit, Brahma, is divided
through evolution into the seven-fold planetary chain. He heard this out of the
primal word Vach. This was the designation of the primal tone of creation
that the pupil heard. In it he heard the entire world-evolution. The word, split
into seven members, the primal word of creation, worked in the soul of the
pupil; this was the primal word, which he described to the uninitiated
approximately as we today would describe our world evolution. What he perceived
is described in an elementary way in my book, Theosophy, An Introduction to
Supersensible Knowledge. The description we find again in the ancient sacred
tradition of the Indians, in what was called the
Veda, 3 or the Word. This is the true meaning of the Vedas, and
what was later written down is only a last memory of the ancient sacred doctrine
of the Word. The Word itself was only passed from mouth to mouth, for an ancient
tradition is impaired by being written down. Only in the Vedas can one feel
something of what flowed into this culture at that time. When the pupil
experienced this in his memory, he could say to himself, “What I experience in
my soul as Brahman, what I have in my soul as primal Word, this was already
present on ancient Saturn; on Saturn resounded the first breath of the
Evolution had now progressed through the Sun and Moon stages, as far as the
Earth. The word had become continually denser, had taken on ever denser forms,
and the picture of man in the primeval seed of the earth was already a
condensation of the condition in which the primeval word existed on Saturn. What
had happened here?
The divine Word, primeval man, had sheathed itself in ever new coverings, and we
must see what sheaths the Word assumed in the evolution of the earth. The pupil
knew that nothing in the universe repeats itself exactly, and that each planet
has its mission. What on the ancient Sun he saw shape itself as life,
what on the ancient Moon was injected into the foundation of all things as
wisdom, was followed by the task or mission of the Earth, which is to
develop love. This was not yet present on the ancient Moon. What was
present on the latter planet in a much more spiritual (but also in a much
colder) form, the primal image of man, clothed itself in a warm astral covering.
On the Moon, what man was supposed to become was clothed in a warm astral
sheath, and it is this part which on Earth enables the inner human life to
develop love from the lowest to the highest form.
To the Indian pupil the human form, the primal image, became clearly perceptible
in higher Devachan. In lower Devachan it then surrounded itself with an astral
sheath, which contained the forces for developing love. Love, or Eros, was
Kama. 4 Thus Kama acquires a meaning for earth-evolution. The
divine Word, Brahman, clothed itself in Kama, and through Kama the primal Word
resounded to the pupil. Kama was the garment of love, the garment of the primal
Word Vach, which lies at the root of the Latin vox.
In his innermost being the pupil felt that the divine Word had taken on an
astral garment of love, and he said to himself, “Man, who today consists of four
members, physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego, has his ego as his
highest member. This ego descended into the garment of love and formed
Kama-Manas for itself. Kama, in which Manas clothed itself, was the innermost
essence of man. This was the ego. But we know also that this innermost essence
will evolve three higher members. These transform the lower members, transform
even the physical body. As Manas grows out of the astral sheath, as Buddhi on a
higher stage corresponds to Prana, so will the physical body, when it has been
entirely spiritualised, be Atma.”
All this already existed germinally in the Vach, and a verse of the Veda recalls
how the pupil brought the mystery of the innermost being to expression.
We know that the physical body first appeared on Saturn, the etheric on the Sun,
the astral on the Moon, and the ego on the Earth. The true and original human
germ, the primal Vach, however, already contained the three following members in
itself. Man may still expect three higher members as well, and then only will he
be a true image of the Word of creation, the primal Word. It was pointed out to
the pupil that only to the initiate could the true nature of the physical,
etheric and astral bodies be made clear. Today man is himself only when he
expresses his “I am,” when he keeps in mind what is entirely his own. Only then
is he fully Man. The other members are manifest, but in them he is still
unconscious. In the fourth, however, the Vach becomes manifest.
“In the fourth, Man speaks.” This was the verse of the Veda. When the word of
the ego resounds, the fourth part of the Vach resounds. The verse of the Veda
reads, “Four parts of the Vach are manifest; three are visible; three are now
concealed; in the fourth speaks Man.”
Here we have a wonderful description of what we have so often heard. This stood
before the pupil's spiritual perception. His gaze was directed backward to the
condition in which nothing was as yet separate, in which there was still a
primeval earth, in which the full Vach spoke. This is expressed in another verse
of the Veda. “Formerly I knew not what the I am is. Only when the first-born of
the earth came upon me did the spirit become filled with light, and I had a
share in the holy Vach.” In this is reproduced the vision that the initiate had.
In all this we have a hint of the experiences of the ancient pupils of the
Rishis, of the wonderful teachings that flowed into the Indian culture, were
transmitted to the following epochs, and were transformed in accordance with the
needs of other peoples. But all of these understood the primeval Word, Vach.
We shall understand many things better if we keep in mind one mystery in its
full scope. We must imagine that at that time the teacher's influence on the
pupil was entirely different from what it is today. Such an influence is now
possible only when the pupil has already been brought to a certain stage of
initiation. The forces exerted by the teacher on the pupil were much stronger at
that time. Not only what the teacher could transmit by word or writing had an
effect. In reality, all this worked only on the intellectual soul, but apart
from this, mysterious magical forces worked from the teacher to the pupil, and
it was essentially the teacher's forces that were able to fill with brightness
and living force the pictures that the teacher called up before the pupil's
soul. This singular influence was lost only in the fourth post-Atlantean period,
in the Greco-Latin culture. These forces simply change. When one of the old
Egyptians confronted a young person, it was quite different from a teacher
confronting a pupil today. Entirely different forces worked from age to youth.
This will be recognized by anyone who seeks to understand what was still
described in ancient Greece. Socrates actually had telepathic powers, which he
allowed to work on his pupils while he instructed them. Such things can no
longer work in our time, but they are hinted at in Plato's writings. What was
entirely justified then would be rejected as a misdemeanor today. Changes take
place, and today no one has a right to copy such methods. Certain phenomena
today may remind us of this, but they must be considered reprehensible.
In ancient times, forces proceeded from the teacher to the pupil. Even in
ancient Egypt there were still a great many people who could absorb forces in
this manner. If a person who was especially sensitive stood before someone who
had learned to strengthen his thoughts, a strong thought worked in such a way
that it appeared as a picture in the soul of the sensitive person. In ancient
Egypt such a telepathic influence was eminently possible, and
thought-transference was present to a high degree. If a strong will-nature
confronted someone who had not been strengthened, this was often the case. In
Egypt one was able to guide and direct in a high degree through thoughts, in a
way we today cannot imagine at all. Today such forces would be woefully misused.
In ancient Egypt, however, initiation rested principally upon forces of this
kind. This was likewise true in ancient India and Persia.
These forces also reinforced the method which, if an exoteric expression is
desired, might be called medical. By this we do not mean the official medical
practice of today. The Egyptian physician and initiate would have laughed to
scorn what modern man calls medicine. The Egyptian physician knew one thing —
that the conditions that prevailed in ancient Atlantis, and that could still be
perceived in initiation, could in a certain sense be reawakened. The
consciousness in which man lived in Atlantis was a dim clairvoyant
consciousness. At that time (said the Egyptian initiate) the spiritual beings
could exert a much greater influence on man. Today, when he sleeps, man knows
nothing of the higher worlds, but the Atlantean, in his shadowy clairvoyant
consciousness, then lived with the gods. If modern man can raise himself to an
ideal, this is better for him than all moral teachings; similarly, the Egyptian
initiate worked on his pupil through pictures of higher spiritual events. This
had no mere external effect; it worked deeply within, and in such a way that a
definite result ensued.
Let us think of a sick person, who is sick because certain bodily functions do
not proceed in a normal way. What is the cause of this? A person with occult
training knows that when the physical body functions irregularly, the cause does
not lie outside the latter. On the contrary, all illnesses that do not come from
outside the Physical body, originate in the fact that the etheric body is not in
order. But the etheric body is ill because the astral body is out of order. If
an Atlantean was threatened with a disorder in the distribution of fluids, this
was quickly taken care of. In a sleeping condition he received from the
spiritual worlds such force that through his sleep the disturbed functions were
restored to order, and he was brought back to health. He rebuilt the healing
forces through sleep.
The ancient Egyptian physicians did something similar. They reduced the
patient's consciousness to a sort of hypnotic sleep, during which they could
govern the soul-pictures that arose around the patient. They guided these
pictures in such a way that they were able to work back on the physical body and
make it healthy. This was the significance of the temple-sleep that was applied
for internal ailments. The patient was given no medicine, but was allowed to
sleep in the temple. His consciousness was damped down, and he was allowed to
look into the spiritual worlds. Then his astral experiences were guided in such
a way that they had the power to pour health into the body. This is no
superstition; it is a secret that was known to the initiates. They introduced
the spiritual into the patient's experiences. In this medical art, which we find
so closely connected with the principle of initiation, the Atlantean conditions
were artificially recreated during the healing. Since man did not work against
himself through his day-consciousness, those forces could be active that were
necessary for healing. This is how the temple-sleep worked.
In the Egyptian culture there still reigned that principle which, in India,
reigned among those wise Rishis who guided affairs, who transmitted the
planetary forces, who were the pupils of Manu, the great teacher of that first
sublime culture. In the first post-Atlantean culture it was the Rishis who
brought the sublime teaching that led men into lofty spiritual worlds, even into
the world of higher Devachan. In the succeeding cultural periods, what was seen
there was led down as far as the physical plane. Until the fourth post-Atlantean
period there continued to descend into the physical plane that Being whom we
learned to know as Brahman in the Indian period and whom we now designate as
Christ. No longer does he transmit the spiritual; he himself became man in order
to radiate over all men the mysterious power of the primal Word.
Thus the primal Word descended, in order that it might lead man upward again.
Man must understand how that happened, if he is to make himself an instrument
through which he can work into the future. We must learn to know what happened
before our time, so that we ourselves can cooperate in an ever higher molding of
what exists around us and for us.
We must create a spiritual world in the future. To do this, we must first
understand the cosmos.
1 Throughout this and the
following lectures much is said of the development of human and animal forms.
For an attempt to systematize Dr. Steiner's views in this field and to bring
them into connection with ordinary scientific knowledge, the reader is again
referred to Poppelbaum, Man and Animal (Rudolf Steiner Press, London,
2 The Sanscrit word is Vach
or Vac; see Maurice Bloomfield's Religion of India (New York,
Putnam, 1908), pages 191 and 243. Dr. Steiner uses WHA in German, but the first
letter should be pronounced like the English V, hence the WHA becomes VHA in
3 Selections from the Vedas
are given in Sacred Books of the East (Oxford University Press,
1879-1910) but there seems to be no complete translation or index in English.
4 Kama is a Sanscrit word
meaning desire, the nature of the astral body.
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