Our bookstore is now open. Shop today →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

GA 254

As published in Anthroposophic News Sheet 22nd of January 1940 No. 3-4, this seems to be a condensed version of the three lectures comprising the series, Significant Facts Pertaining to the Spiritual Life of the Middle of the XIXth Century.

31 October, 1 & 7 November 1915, Dornach

Translator Unknown

Spiritual science seeks to enlarge our horizon in regard to the true nature of man and to make us see a little more than what we are able to see through the generally accepted form of modern science. It wishes to draw our attention to epochs of human evolution which lie far back in time, for instance, to the Atlantean epoch, and to show us what man was like upon Atlantis; then it also seeks to point out to us the true nature of the evolutionary processes in which the human being is really involved.

Let us be clear as to one particular point: What can we discover if the things which we have learned in connection with the ancient continent of Atlantis are allowed to pass before our soul's eye — what can we discover if we then cast our gaze upon the animal world and upon the world of man which now surround us? During the Atlantean epoch, everything was quite different. Let us therefore call up in our mind the facts which we know in this connection.

We know that only at the time of ancient Atlantis the human souls came down to the earth after their pilgrimage through the starry world. The first thing which they had to do, was to look out for suitable human bodies formed out of the material, the substance of the earth. From descriptions which have already been given in this connection, we know that the human bodies of the Atlantean epoch were very different from ours. I have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact (you may also find this in my writings that during the Atlantean epoch the human body was soft, pliable and plastic, so that the souls that came down from the heavenly worlds could still form and shape their bodies.

Let us take the case of a woman of to-day — or, in order not to be one-sided, of a man of to-day who grows angry, really angry, and has evil thoughts in respect to another person. This will not be so strongly visible upon his face as a change of its form; there will be a change to some extent, but not a very marked one. At the present time, a man may be extremely evil-minded, yet this will not appear in a very marked way upon his physiognomy.

In the remote past, this was quite different. If someone harboured evil thoughts, his face completely assumed the expression of his inner being; his countenance changed completely. At that time, it would therefore not have been incorrect to say: That man resembles a cat. If he was a hypocrite, he really resembled a cat, or a hyaena. In that remote past, man's countenance and his outward shape were altogether the expression of his inner life. The human being was at that time able to transform his outward form and he possessed this capacity in a high degree.

In the animals, this capacity of transformation was far less conspicuous, although they also possessed it. Their physical body was far more hardened than that of man and they could only transform it gradually. The animals could transform themselves particularly as a species and the various qualities were not transmitted hereditarily in the stereotyped manner of to-day.

Since the Atlantean epoch, everything has therefore grown more and more hardened as far as man's physical body is concerned, and it has, I might say, been cast into solid forms. To-day, we are still able to move our hands and our face can still change expression, but in a certain way the bodily form has grown firm and hard. The animal forms are however quite hardened, so that their physiognomies are rigid. But in the Atlantean age this was not the case in such a marked degree, even among the animals.

Generally speaking, we may therefore say, if we wish to characterize the human being: At the present time, man's physical body is extremely rigid, but his etheric body is still mobile to some extent, so that the etheric body still assumes forms in accordance with man's inner nature. In the case of an evil-minded person, it is therefore significant — indeed, it is to some extent a reality — that outwardly his face may only have a slight resemblance with a hyaena, whereas his etheric body will have a far greater resemblance with a hyaena. The etheric body is still changeable; it still possesses something which allows it to be transformed. But even the etheric body is on the way of growing rigid, like the physical body.

Just as the physical body has taken on rigid forms from the Atlantean epoch onwards, up to our fifth post-Atlantean epoch, so will also the etheric body take on more rigid, solid forms from the fifth post-Atlantean epoch onwards, into the sixth epoch and on into the second post-Atlantean age. As a result — and I have pointed this out in many lectures — in the etheric body, whose forms penetrate into the physical body, will assert itself very strongly. We are now living in the fifth epoch of the first post-Atlantean age; then come into the sixth and seventh epochs. During the sixth and seventh epochs, the rigidity of the etheric body will have a great influence upon the physical body and the physical body will become a faithful copy of the etheric.

This will give rise to serious and important results. During the sixth epoch of the post-Atlantean evolution of the earth, the human beings will therefore be born with specially marked bodies, which will express their inner moral qualities. We shall then be meeting someone and we shall know what his moral constitution is like, for his outward appearance shall reveal it. In future, the MORAL physiognomy will be particularly conspicuous, whereas all those marks which now characterize the human physiognomy will be far less conspicuous. The human physiognomy is now strongly dependent upon heredity: we resemble our parents, our ancestors and bear the characteristics of our race. But these things will have no meaning whatever during the sixth epoch, our bodily form will then obtain its expression from the series of our incarnations. The human beings will differ very much from one another and their features will be strongly marked. When we encounter somebody, we shall then know exactly: This is a good person and that is an evil one. Just as to-day we know that this is an Italian and that a Frenchman etc., so we shall know in future that this is a good person and that a bad one ... Of course, there will be many intermediary stages of good and evil. The human countenance will thus more and more express the moral qualities.

During the sixth epoch, even the outward physiognomy of our environment will have a very changed aspect. Particularly those animals which now supply meat for human consumption, shall then have died out. In future, a great hymn of praise will be sung to vegetarianism, and people will tell one another, as if they were speaking of some ancient memory, that their ancestors used to eat meat. Not all the animals shall then have died out, but only certain species; particularly those animals shall have disappeared from the earth that have taken on the most rigid forms. Thus, even the earth and its outward physiognomy will undergo certain changes.

You see, the fact that in future we shall be so firmly bound to a rigid physiognomy, will constitute an almost fatal destiny, a real fate, which will be impressed upon our whole being. And we shall be unable to do anything whatever against this fate, against this destiny. Imagine the tragedy of such a situation!

We shall then really be obliged to admit: During the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, a few materialists believed that a man is a criminal if his posterior occipital lobe does not cover his cerebellum. This is merely a materialistic theory in our present fifth post-Atlantean epoch, but it will become a reality in future, and that part (the etheric body) which can still be shaped and moulded at the present time, shall then have grown rigid. The tendency that the materialistic world-conception shall one day assume real shape really exists. At present, the materialistic theories are not yet realities, but they have the tendency to become realities.

World-conception and its mysteries has now brought us to a very strange point. The materialists of to-day would surely protest, if they were to be looked upon as prophets. Nevertheless they are prophets. The materialists declare: A man is a criminal, if his occipital lobe does not cover his cerebellum. Those who now declare such things, will prove that they are prophesying the truth, for one day this will be true. The materialists of to-day are real prophets. At the present time, that peculiar formation of the physical body which shows an insufficiently developed occipital lobe, may be paralyzed and counter-balanced with the aid of a suitable education, but during the sixth post-Atlantean epoch this will no longer be possible, for the etheric body will then no longer be transformable. Strong measures, quite different and far stronger measures are needed in order to counter-balance this. If no preventive measures are taken, then the conditions which the materialists describe will really arise; these will then be reality.

We may find a description of these conditions in the poems of Marie Eugenie delle Grazie, poems which contain so much suffering. They describe a time, the coming of which may be felt in advance, a time which will really exist during the sixth post-Atlantean epoch. Her poems easily enable us to feel: Here is a soul that feels that the knowledge which can be gained at present, only submerges it into a void, into nothingness. Marie Eugenie delle Grazie would like to proceed, but she lacks the means enabling her to do so ... and so she sees an image: She sees what the world and the conditions of life will be like, if the materialistic direction is followed also in the future! Unless the human beings of to-day take steps to prevent that the course of evolution should follow the direction which it would be obliged to follow in accordance with the forces which now live in mankind, unless these preventive measures are taken, the human beings of the sixth post-Atlantean epoch will only be able to concern themselves with the things which Marie Eugenie delle Grazie describes.

All the religious systems of the world which have existed up to the present time would be unable to prevent the terrible fate which will befall mankind during the sixth post-Atlantean epoch; namely, that their moral qualities will be written upon their countenances, upon the physiognomy of their bodies. It will then be impossible to do anything against this fate; nothing can be done, if everything is left to follow the tendencies of that world-conception which now holds sway.

These are earnest thoughts, tremendously earnest thoughts. A good way of transforming the dreams of the materialists into realities would be, to allow those people to triumph in regard to a conception of the world, who now declare: “Spiritual science imagines that in future we shall see Christ in an etheric shape, and other etheric forms as well. These are the things which spiritual science imagines! But the people who speak in this way are fools; let us lock them up in lunatic asylums!” The materialists who consider that these things are fantastic notions are very clever people, but if their materialistic world-conception were to triumph, the conditions which I have described to you would have to arise. The materialistic world-conception MUST NOT triumph! Let this be our firm and unshakeable conviction! Let us bear in mind the fact that if our etheric body is to be strong, so that it may be able to correct the mistakes of our physical body, its strength should be evident through the fact that we learn to consider the things which come to us from the etheric world as something very earnest and real. This will be the attitude which will be able to exercise a more and more healing influence. It will be necessary above all that we should take up spiritual science, so as to be prepared for the moment when the etheric shape of Christ shall appear to us, and so that we may take this up with due earnestness and in the right spirit.

There is a stage in the evolution of humanity which we can mark with a thick line. At first, man's etheric body was active from within and moulded his physical body. But a time will come, when both the physical and etheric body shall have grown rigid ... The human being should accustom himself to the fact that he must see the etheric outside, in every form and shape. The etheric will be an element to which we shall have to conform ourselves in the same way in which we now conform ourselves to the sense-perceptions which come to us from outside. We face a time in which we shall first of all discover the Christ, and in His following we shall gradually discover the etheric. Even then, this etheric element will have the strength to make of us individual human beings.

Many mysteries lie concealed in the evolution of the world, and many of these are overwhelming. Once upon a time there lived a man such as Homer. If you read with understanding the explanations contained in many of my lectures, and also in my small volume, “GUIDANCE OF MAN AND OF MANKIND”, you will have to ask yourself the question: How was Homer able to be Homer? He was Homer through the fact that he was still guided by a higher spirit. Homer was well aware of this. His epics therefore never begin with the words: “I sing ...”, but with the words: “Sing thou, O Muse ...”. These things should be taken quite seriously. Homer knew that a higher spirit was inspiring him. But at the present time, Homer's words are looked upon as phrases, just as the following words of Goethe are looked upon as phrases, “The Sun resounds to an ancient measure, in the competing hymn sung by brother spheres, and it completes its fore-ordained voyage with a thunder-step ...” etc. In so far as Homer reincarnates, only the “man” Homer will reincarnate, not the spirit that once guided him. But in the etheric world we may encounter the spirit that once inspired him ... we may encounter the spirits that inspired Socrates or Plato, in so far as they were inspired. We should begin to understand the spiritual world, the world of spiritual science. The other things will then follow spontaneously. But if we do not begin with spiritual science, we must face that time which will load such a fearful fate upon mankind.

The materialistic world-conception does not need to be true, nevertheless it has an inner truth. Of this inner truth we may say: What the materialistic world-conception describes in connection with man, would become true if the materialistic world-conception were allowed to triumph. It is incumbent upon us to prevent the triumph of materialism, through another world-conception. Matters are not so easy that we can simply say: The materialistic world-conception is wrong — but it lies in our own power to overcome it with deeds, not with lame objections. The greater the number of those who open their eyes to the spiritual, the greater will be the number of those who see that the realisation of materialism can be checked, and the greater will be the possibility of keeping materialism in check.

At the present time, there may be some who have an inkling of this or of that — perhaps they are poets or artists, and they may say: “I feel my genius within me!” This may certainly be possible for some time still, but this attitude will disappear, it will disappear completely! Another attitude will arise, which will induce people to say: “An etheric Being has appeared to me at a certain moment and it has told me this or that. I am the instrument through which that spiritual Being can exercise an influence at the present time!” The spiritual world must more and more become a reality.

Undoubtedly the spiritual world exists, but in spite of this, we may turn away from it. The materialistic world-conception may be designated as the great conspiracy against the spirit. The materialistic world-conception is not only an error, but it is a conspiracy, the conspiracy against the spirit.

I hope that in spite of the few indications with which I have traced these things, your souls may nevertheless be seized, so that they may be active within these thoughts. Particularly the followers of the spiritual-scientific world-conception should know something about the impulses that govern the evolution of the world — the impulses in which mankind lives. Very likely, many people may still come along and say: “This is not right and that is not right”, or “this is not Christian and that is not Christian”, and so forth. But if the impulses which govern the world are grasped deeply and earnestly with the aid of spiritual science, our meditative life will enable us to feel eternal, fundamental laws, and when those people come along who say that we are fools, we shall know how matters stand with the evolution of the world and of man. And He who has passed for their sake through the Mystery of Golgotha, also sees what is developing within our souls as an expression of the evolution of the world. “CHRIST SEES US” ... let us hold fast to this truth!