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Lecture 9

The Influence of the Sun and Moon Spirits, of the Isis and Osiris Forces.
The Change in Consciousness.
The Conquest of the Physical Plane.

September 11, 1908

by Rudolph Steiner

IN the preceding lectures we reviewed in some detail a number of facts concerning the evolution of humanity. I tried to show how man developed in the period of evolution that stretches approximately from the moment when the sun withdrew from the earth to the time when the moon also departed. Today something will be added to these facts, which could be called “facts of occult anatomy and physiology.” In order to understand everything properly, however, today we must throw a little light on certain other facts of the spiritual life, for we must not forget that what is really to be demonstrated is the relation between the Egyptian myths and mysteries, between the whole Egyptian cultural period, and our own time. Therefore it is necessary that we be entirely clear about how evolution progressed further through the various epochs.

Let us again recall what was described as the working of the sun and moon spirits, especially of the Osiris and Isis forces, through whose activities the human body first appeared and was built up. Remember that this occurred in the remote past, that our earth as yet had scarcely crystallized out of the water-earth, and that a great part of what was described actually took place in the water-earth. Man at that time was in a condition that we should bring clearly before our minds so that we may form a clear conception of how things looked to human vision during man's progress through evolution.

I have described how man's lower members, the feet, shanks, knees, etc., appeared as physical forms as early as the time when the sun had shown indications of withdrawing from the earth. But we must always remember what has been said so often: all this would have been visible had there been a human eye to see it. But such an eye did not exist. It appeared only much later. While man was still in the water-earth, he perceived only by means of the organ described as the pineal gland. Perception by means of the physical eye began only after the hip region had been formed. Thus we may say that man already had the lower part of the human form, but possessed nothing whereby he could have seen the body. At that time man could not see himself. Only at the moment when his body, building itself up from below, passed the region of the hips, did man receive the capacity of seeing himself. When he was shaped as far as the sign of the Balance, man's eyes were opened for the first time. Then he began to see himself as in a mist. Then he developed the vision of objects. Until the hip region evolved, all human perception, all seeing, was of a clairvoyant astral-etheric nature. At that time man could not yet see physical things. Human consciousness was still dark and shadowy, though of a dreamy clairvoyant nature.

Then man passed over to that condition of consciousness in which sleeping and waking alternated. When he was awake man saw darkly what was physical, but as though it were wrapped in mist and surrounded by an aura of light. In his sleep man rose to the spiritual worlds and the divine spiritual beings. He alternated between a clairvoyant consciousness, which grew ever weaker, and a day-consciousness, an object-consciousness, which grew stronger and stronger and is the head-consciousness of today. Gradually he lost the capacity of clairvoyant perception, together with the faculty of seeing the gods in sleep. However, the clarity of day-consciousness waxed in the same proportion, and the consciousness of self, the I-feeling, the I-perception, grew stronger.

If we look back into the Lemurian time, into the time before, during, and after the moon's exit from the earth, we find that man then had a clairvoyant consciousness in which he had no inkling of what we today call death. For if, at that time, man withdrew from his physical body, whether through sleep or through death, his consciousness did not diminish. On the contrary, he received a higher consciousness and, in certain ways, one more spiritual than his consciousness when in his physical body. He never said to himself, “Now I am dying,” or, “I am falling into unconsciousness” — that did not exist in those times. Man did not yet rely on his own feeling of self, but he felt himself immortal in the womb of divinity, and for him all that we describe here today were obvious facts.

Let us imagine that we lie down to sleep, that the astral body removes itself from the physical, and that all this happens in the full moon. We have the physical and etheric bodies lying in bed, the astral body hovering above, and all of this in the full moonlight. Now the situation is not so that an astral cloud simply becomes visible there for the clairvoyant. On the contrary, what he actually sees is streams from the astral body into the physical, and these streams are the forces that remove fatigue in the night. They bring to the physical body replenishment for the wear and tear of the day, so that it feels refreshed and quickened. At the same time one would see spiritual streams proceeding from the moon, and these streams are permeated by astral powers. One would see how there actually proceed from the moon spiritual effects that permeate and strengthen the astral body and influence its working on the physical body.

Let us assume that we are men of the old Lemurian time. Then the astral body would have perceived this streaming-in of the spiritual forces, would have gazed upward and said, “This is Osiris who strengthens me, who works on me. I see how his influence goes through me.” We would have felt ourselves sheltered in Osiris during the night; we would have lived, so to say, in Osiris with our ego. We would have felt, “I and Osiris are one.” Had we been able to give words to what we felt at that time, we would have described it approximately thus, when we returned into the physical body, “Now I must descend again into the physical body that waits for me there below; this is a time when I must dive down into my lower nature.” We should have rejoiced when the time came when we could leave the physical body once again, and rise up to rest in the lap of Osiris, or in the lap of Isis, where we again united our ego with Osiris.

As the physical body evolved further, and especially after the development of the upper members, man could see more physically, could perceive the objects in the physical world about him. In the same proportion, however, he had to tarry longer when he descended into his physical body. He took more interest in the physical world. His consciousness grew darker for the spiritual world as his consciousness in the physical body became clearer. He became disaccustomed to the spiritual world. Thus the life of man in the physical world evolved further, and in the conditions that prevailed between death and a new birth consciousness grew darker and darker. In the Atlantean time man lost almost entirely the feeling of being at home with the gods, and when the great catastrophe was past, a great part of mankind had completely lost the natural ability to gaze into the spiritual world at night. But in place of this they gained the capacity of seeing ever more sharply by day, so that the objects around them appeared in ever clearer outlines. We have already pointed out that, among the men who had remained behind, the gift of clairvoyance was still preserved, even into the post-Atlantean cultures. At the time when Christianity was founded, remnants of this clairvoyance still existed, and even today there are occasional persons who have preserved it as a natural gift. But this clairvoyance is entirely different from that which is gained through esoteric training.

Thus night gradually grew dark for man in Atlantis, while day-consciousness began to light up. The night was without consciousness for the people of the first post-Atlantean culture, whom we tried to characterize in all their greatness, in the spirituality that entered through the holy Rishis. In the earlier lectures we examined these people, and now we must describe them from another side.

Let us try to enter into the souls of the pupils of the holy Rishis, into the souls of the people of the Indian culture in general, in the time immediately after the last traces of the great Atlantean water-catastrophes had vanished. A sort of memory of the ancient world still lived in the soul, a memory of that world in which man experienced and saw the gods who worked on his body, a memory of how Osiris and Isis worked on him. Now he had emerged from this world, out of the womb of the gods. Formerly all this had been present to him as the physical is present to him today. Like a memory this passed through the mind of the Indian man of the first post-Atlantean times, to whom the Rishis still could speak of how things actually had been. He knew that the Rishis and their pupils still could see into the spiritual world, but he also knew that for the normal person of the Indian culture the time was past when he could see into the spiritual world.

Like a painful memory of his old true home, this went through the soul of the ancient Indian when he saw himself transplanted into the physical world, which is only the outer shell of the spiritual world. He yearned to be out of this external world. He felt, “Unreal are the mountains and valleys, unreal the cloud-masses in the air, unreal even the firmament. All this is only like a sheath, like the physiognomy of a real being, and we cannot see the reality behind this, the gods and the true form of man. What we see is Maya, is unreal; the real is veiled.” The feeling grew ever keener that man had sprung from the truth and had his real home in the spiritual; that the things of sense were untrue, were Maya, and that the physical world of the senses was the night around him. 1 When one feels so strongly the contrast between the spiritual and the unreal physical, the religious mood will tend to produce little interest in the physical world and to lead the spirit toward what the initiates see, as to which the holy Rishis could give knowledge. The ancient Indian longed to escape from this hard reality, which for him was nothing but illusion, for to him the true was not what his senses perceived, but what lay beyond that. Therefore the first post-Atlantean culture entertained little interest for what occurred externally on the physical plane.

Things were already different among the Persians in the second cultural period, out of which arose Zarathustra, the great pupil of Manu. If we wish to characterize in a few strokes the difference between the Indian and Persian cultures, we may say that a member of the Persian culture felt the physical to be not merely a burden, but a task to be fulfilled. He also looked up into the regions of light, into the spiritual worlds, but he turned his gaze back into the physical world and in his soul he saw how everything divides into the powers of light and the powers of darkness. The physical world became for him a field of work. The Persian said to himself, “There is the beneficent fullness of light, the god Ahura Mazdao or Ormuzd, and there are the dark powers under the leadership of Angramainyush or Ahriman. From Ahura Mazdao comes salvation for men; from Ahriman comes the physical world. We must transform what comes from Ahriman; we must unite with the good gods and vanquish Ahriman, the evil god in matter, by transforming the earth, by becoming beings capable of working upon the earth. By thus vanquishing Ahriman, we make the earth into a medium for the good.” The first step toward redeeming the earth was taken by the members of the Persian culture. They hoped that the earth would become a good planet one day, that it would be redeemed, and that a glorification of Ahura Mazdao, the highest being, would come about.

Thus a man felt who did not gaze up into the sublime heights like the Indian, but planted his feet firmly on this physical earth. A member of the Indian culture, who did not plant his feet in this way, would not have thought thus.

The conquest of the physical plane proceeded further in the third cultural epoch, in the Egyptian-Babylonian-Assyrian-Chaldean culture. At this time, hardly anything remained of the ancient repugnance with which the physical world was felt to be Maya. The Chaldeans looked up to the heavens, and the light of the stars was not merely Maya for them; it was the script that the gods had imprinted on the physical plane. On the paths of the stars the Chaldean priest pursued his way back into the spiritual worlds, and when he was initiated, when he learned to know all the beings who inhabited the planets and the stars, he lifted up his eyes and said, “What I see with my eyes when I gaze up to the heavens is the outer expression of what is given me by occult vision, by initiation. When the initiating priest endows me with the grace of the perception of the divine, then I see God. But all I see externally is not mere illusions; I see in it the handwriting of the gods.”

The initiate felt as we would feel if we had been long separated from a friend, then received a letter from him and recognized his familiar handwriting. We see that it was our friend's hand that formed these signs, and we observe the feelings of his heart expressed in them. Approximately thus felt the Chaldean initiate (and also the Egyptian) who was inducted into the holy mysteries and who, while he was in the mystery temple, saw with his spiritual eye the spiritual beings that are connected with our earth. When he went out again, after seeing all this, and cast his eyes on the world of stars, this appeared to him like a letter from the spiritual beings. He perceived a script of the gods. In the blaze of the lightning, in the rolling of the thunder, in the tempest, he saw a revelation of the gods. The gods manifested themselves for him in all that he saw externally. As we feel about the letter from a friend, so did he feel in regard to the outer world. Thus did he feel when he saw the world of the elements, the world of plants, animals, and mountains, the world of the clouds, the world of the stars. Everything was deciphered as a divine script.

The Egyptian had confidence in the laws that man could find in the physical world, through which man can master matter. By this means arose geometry, mathematics. With the help of this, man could rule the elements because he trusted in what his spirit could find, because he believed that he could imprint the spirit upon matter. Thus he could build the pyramids, the temples, and the sphinxes. This was a mighty step in the conquest of the physical plane that was accomplished in the third cultural period. Man had progressed so far that for the first time he was able rightly to respect the physical plane. The physical world began to mean something to him. But what kind of teachers did he require for this?

Man had always needed teachers. Even the initiates had teachers, as in the old Indian time. What kind of teachers did the initiates need? It was necessary that the initiate should be artificially led to see again, during initiation, what man had been able to see previously in his dark clairvoyant consciousness. The neophyte had to be led back into the spiritual world, into the earlier home of the spirit, so that he could communicate to others what he learned from his experiences. For this he needed teachers. The pupils of the Rishis needed teachers who could show them what happened in ancient Lemuria and Atlantis, when man was still clairvoyant. The same was also true of the Persians.

It was different with the Chaldeans, and even more different with the Egyptians. They also had teachers who aided the pupil to develop his powers so that he could see, through clairvoyant vision, into the spiritual world behind the physical world. These were the initiators, who showed what lay behind the physical. But a new teaching, a wholly new method, became necessary in Egypt. In ancient India man had troubled himself little about how what happened in the spiritual world was imprinted upon the physical plane, about the correspondence between gods and men. But in Egypt something else was needed. It was necessary that through initiation the pupil should see the gods, but also that he should see how the gods moved their hands in writing the starry script, how all physical forms had evolved. The ancient Egyptians had schools entirely on the model of those of the Indians, but they also learned how the spiritual forces were correlated with the physical world. Thus they taught new subjects. In ancient India the pupil was shown the spiritual forces through clairvoyance, but in Egypt he was also shown what corresponded physically with the spiritual deeds. He was shown how every member of the physical body corresponded to some spiritual labor, how the heart, for example, corresponded to some spiritual work. The founder of this school, in which was shown not only the spiritual but also its work upon the physical, was the great initiator, Hermes Trismegistos. It was he, the thrice-great Thoth, who first showed to men the entire physical world as the handwriting of the gods. Here we see how piece by piece our post-Atlantean cultures embodied their impulses in human evolution. Hermes appeared to the Egyptians like a divine ambassador. He gave then what had to be deciphered as the deed of the gods in the physical world.

In all of this we have somewhat characterized the first three cultural epochs of the post-Atlantean time. Men had learned to value the physical plane.

The fourth epoch, the Greco-Latin, is the period when man came even more into contact with the physical plane. In this time man progressed so far that he not only saw the script of the gods in the physical world, but he also inserted his own self, his spiritual individuality, into the objective world. Such artistic creations as we find in Greece were not known earlier. That man could portray himself in sculpture, creating therein something like his physical self — this was achieved in the fourth cultural period.

In this time we see man's inward spiritual elements step out of him onto the physical plane and flow into matter. This marriage between the spiritual and the material may be seen most clearly in the Greek temple. For everyone who can look back and see this temple, it is a wonderful work. The Greeks had the greatest architectonic gifts. Every art has its climax at some point, and here architecture had its high point. Modeling and painting reached their climax elsewhere. Despite the gigantic pyramids, the most wonderful architecture appears in the Greek temple. For what is attained here? A weak echo may be experienced by one who has an artistic feeling for space, who feels how a horizontal line is related to one that moves in the vertical. A number of cosmic truths light up in the soul that can simply feel how the column carries what is above it. One must be able to feel how all these lines were already invisibly present in space. The Greek artist saw the column as though clairvoyantly, and simply filled what he saw with matter. He saw space as altogether composed of life, as something permeated by living forces.

How can the man of today get some impression of the liveliness that this space-filling had? We see a faint reflection of it in the old painters. For example, we can find paintings where angels float in space, and we have the feeling that the angels support each other. Today little remains of this feeling for space. I shall make no objection to Boecklin's colors,  2 but all occult space-feeling is missing in him. Such a being as we find above his Piet&aaccent; — you cannot tell if it is supposed to be an angel or some other being — must waken in the observer the feeling that at any minute it may fall on the group below it. This must be emphasized when one tries to explain something of which hardly an inkling can be conveyed today, such as the space-feeling of the Greeks. It must be expressly stated that this was of an occult nature. In a Greek temple it was as if space had given birth to itself out of its own lines. The result of this was that the divine beings for whom the temple was built, and with whom the Greek as a clairvoyant was acquainted, really descended into the temple, really felt comfortable in it. It is true that Pallas Athena, Zeus, etc., were actually within the temples. They had their bodies, their material bodies, in these temples. For since these beings could incarnate only as far as an etheric body, they found their dwelling-place in the physical world in these temples. Such a temple could become their physical body, in which their etheric body felt at home.

One who understands the Greek temple knows that it differs profoundly from a Gothic cathedral. This is not a criticism of the Gothic, for the Gothic cathedral is a sublime work of art. But an understanding person can well imagine of a Greek temple, that even if it stood in a solitude with no people anywhere near, even if it were quite alone, it would be a whole. A Greek temple is complete even when nobody is praying in it. It is not soulless, it is not empty, for the god is in it. It is inhabited by the god.

But a Gothic cathedral is only half complete if there are no worshippers within. One who understands this cannot think of a Gothic cathedral, standing alone, without a congregation of the faithful, whose thoughts stream into it. All the Gothic forms and ornaments belong to what streams from it. No god, no spiritual being, is close to the Gothic cathedral when the prayers of the faithful are not present. Only when the praying congregation is assembled is the cathedral filled with the divine. This is shown in the very word “Dom,” 3 for this is connected with the “dom” in Christendom and similar words, which signifies something collective. Even the word “Duma” 4 is related to this. The Greek temple is not a house for the faithful. It is shaped as a house that the god himself inhabits; it can stand alone. But in the Gothic cathedral one feels at home only when it is filled by the believing throng, when the pious congregation is assembled, when the light of the sun shines through the colored window-panes and the colors are diffused by the fine dust-particles. Then, as often happened, the preacher in the cathedral pulpit would say, “Even as the light is split into many colors, so is the single spiritual light, the divine force, divided among the crowds of souls and split into the diverse forces of the physical plane.” Such words were often heard from the preacher. When perception and spiritual experience flowed together in this way, the cathedral was something complete.

As in the great temple buildings, so was it in everything artistic among the Greeks. The marble of their sculptures took on the appearance of life. The Greek expressed in the physical what lived in his spiritual. Among the Greeks the marriage of the spiritual with the physical was a fact.

The Roman went a step further in the conquest of the physical plane. The Greek had the capacity of embodying the soul-spiritual in his works of art, but he still felt himself as part of a whole, of the polis, the city-state. He did not yet feel himself as a personality. This was also the case in the earlier cultures. The Egyptian did not feel himself as a separate person, but as an Egyptian, as a member of his people. Thus in Greece we find that a man laid little worth on feeling himself to be a person, but it was his greatest pride to be a Spartan or an Athenian. To be a personality, to be something in the world through the self, was felt for the first time in Rome. That a personality could be something for itself was first true for the Roman. The Romans worked out the concept of the citizen, and it was among them that jurisprudence, the science of law, arose. This is correctly regarded as a Roman invention. Only modern jurists, who know nothing of these facts, have had the lack of judgment to assert that law, in this sense, existed earlier. It is nonsense to speak of oriental lawgivers, such as Hammurabi. There were no legal rules earlier; there were only divine commands. 5 One would have to use harsh words if one were to speak objectively about this kind of science.

The concept of the citizen first became a real feeling in ancient Rome. By that time man had brought the spiritual into the physical world as far as his own individuality. The last Will and Testament was invented in ancient Rome. The will of the single personality had become so strong that even beyond death it could determine what should be done with its property, its own things. The single personal man was now the determining factor. With this deed man, in his own individuality, had brought the spiritual down to the physical plane. This was the lowest point of evolution.

Man stood at his highest in the Indian culture. At this highest point the Indian still moved in spiritual heights. In the second culture, the ancient Persian, man had already descended a little. In the third culture, the Egyptian, still more. In the fourth culture man descended entirely to the physical plane, into matter. There came a point when man stood at the parting of the ways. Either he could sink lower and lower, or he could achieve the possibility of working up again, of fighting his way back into the spiritual world. But for this a spiritual impulse had to appear on the physical plane, a mighty thrust that could lead man back into the spiritual world. This mighty thrust was given through the appearance of Christ Jesus on earth. The divine-spiritual Christ had to come to men in a physical human body, had to go through a physical appearance in the physical world. Now, when man was wholly in the physical world, the god had to descend to him so he might find the way back into the spiritual world. Previously this would not have been possible.

Today we have followed the evolution of the cultures of the post-Atlantean time down to their lowest point. We have seen how the spiritual impulse occurred through the Christ at the lowest point. Now man must rise again, transfigured by the Christ principle. We shall go on to show how the Egyptian culture emerges again in our time, but permeated by the Christ principle.


For a clear expression of this sentiment, see Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East (New York, Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb; 1917), Vol. 9, p. 104.

Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901), Swiss painter.

Dom is the German word for cathedral.

The Duma was a short-lived parliament in late Czarist Russia.

Our best modern scholars agree with the views here expressed. See Wigmore, Panorama of the World's Legal Systems (Washington Law Book Company, 1936).

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