Secrets of the Bible Story of Creation

By Rudolf Steiner

Lecture VII

IN our efforts to understand existence it is our practice to trace the course of some aspect of its development up to the present time, and we have had many opportunities of becoming familiar with the idea that everything we perceive around us is in course of evolution. We must get used to applying the idea of evolution more widely, we must apply it in spheres not usually associated with it today � for instance, we must apply it to the life of the soul. We probably do recognise it as it manifests itself outwardly in the life of the individual between birth and death. But so far as humanity as a whole is concerned, people immediately think of evolution as an ascent from the condition of the lower animals and draw the conclusion � even from the standpoint of modern knowledge a somewhat fanciful one � that the human has evolved out of the animal � as if the higher could, without more ado, evolve out of the lower! It is of course not my task in this cycle to show in detail, as I have often done, that our present consciousness has undergone a far-reaching evolution, that the kind of consciousness, the kind of mental life we have today, was preceded by another form of consciousness. We have often described this earlier form as a kind of lower clairvoyant consciousness. Our modern consciousness furnishes us with mental images of outer objects by means of external perception. But that other earlier consciousness can best be studied if we look back to the [ancient] Moon evolution. [1]

The most outstanding difference between the evolution of the Moon and that of our present earth is that the old form of clairvoyance, a kind of picture-consciousness, has been superseded by the present-day object-consciousness. I have for many years been calling attention to this, and years ago I was able to give information out of the Akasha Chronicle on the subject of evolution. It appeared in the early essays of the magazine Lucifer-Gnosis. There I pointed out that the old, dreamlike picture-consciousness which characterised our nature in former times has developed into our earth-consciousness, into what today gives us consciousness of external things, consciousness of things outside us in space as contrasted with what we ourselves are in our inner being. This ability to distinguish between external objects and our own inner life is what characterises our present state of consciousness. When we have an object in front of us � let us say a rose � we say: �That rose is there in space! It is separated from us; we stand at a different spot from it.� We perceive the rose, and make a mental image of it. The mental image is within us, the rose is outside. The distinction between outer and inner is the mark of our present-day consciousness. Consciousness on the Moon was not like that. Beings with the Moon-consciousness made no such distinction. Suppose that when you looked at the rose you were not conscious that the rose was outside, and that you were making a mental image of it, but that you felt �The real being of this rose which hovers there in space is not confined to the space which it occupies, but its being extends outward into space, and is actually in me.� Indeed you could go further. Suppose that when you looked at the sun you did not feel that the sun was above you and that you were below, but felt that while you were forming a mental image of the sun it was within you; suppose your consciousness was taking hold of it in a more or less spiritual way! Then there would be no distinction between outer and inner. If you can make that clear to yourselves, you will have grasped the outstanding characteristic of consciousness as it was throughout the Moon evolution.

Another quality of this consciousness was that it was pictorial; things did not appear directly as objects, but as images, just as today dreams often unfold as imagery. For example, a dream can take its course in such a way that a fire external to ourselves appears as a being radiating light. It was somewhat in this way that consciousness on the Moon perceived things. It was a pictorial consciousness, at the same time permeated with the quality of inwardness.

There was yet another essential way in which the consciousness of that time differed from that of our present time. It did not work in such a way that outer objects would have been there at all as they are for our present earth-consciousness. For the consciousness of the Moon period what we today call our environment, what we perceive in the vegetable, the mineral, the human kingdoms as sense-objects, was not there. What was there � on a lower, dreamlike level � was something similar to what there is in the soul today when the power of conscious clairvoyance awakens. The first awakening of clairvoyant consciousness is of such a nature that to begin with it does not extend to external Beings. This is a source of countless deceptions for those who are training themselves esoterically to develop clairvoyance.

Such a training progresses by stages. There is a first stage which unfolds in various ways. In it the student sees many things around him. But he would make a great mistake if he were straightway to think that what he sees around him, so to say in spiritual space, is also spiritual reality. Johannes Thomasius in my Mystery Play goes through this stage of astral clairvoyance. Let me remind you of the scenes which rise before his soul as he sits in meditation down-stage, and feels in his soul the dawn of the spiritual world. Pictures arise in his soul, and the first one is that the Spirit of the Elements brings before him persons whom he has previously known in life. In the Play, Johannes Thomasius has come to know Professor Capesius and Doctor Strader. He knew them on the physical plane, and there formed certain impressions of them. Then, when after his great sorrow his clairvoyant capacity breaks through, he sees them again. He sees them in remarkable forms. He sees Capesius as a young man, as he was at the age of twenty-five or twenty-six, and not as he is at the moment when he, Johannes Thomasius, sits meditating; and he sees Doctor Strader as he will be in his present incarnation when he is old. This and many other pictures pass through the soul of Johannes Thomasius. These pictures which are really living in the soul through meditation can only be represented in the play as happening on the stage. It would be quite wrong for Johannes Thomasius to regard this as deception. The only right attitude towards all this would be to say to himself that he cannot yet know how far this is reality or deception. He does not know whether what the pictures show is an external spiritual reality or not; that is, he does not know whether it is something inscribed in the Akashic record or whether he has expanded his own self to a world. It could be either, and he must recognise that fact. It is only from the moment when the Devachan consciousness begins, when in Devachan he perceives the spiritual reality of a being whom he knows on the physical plane � Maria � that he is able to look back again and to discriminate between reality and mere picture-consciousness. Thus you can see that man has to pass through a stage in the course of his esoteric development in which he is surrounded by pictures, but is unable to distinguish between what is a manifestation of spiritual reality and what is merely picture. The scenes of the Mystery Play of course were intended to express spiritual realities. The appearance of Professor Capesius is a real picture of the young Capesius, as it is inscribed in the Akashic record, and the appearance of Doctor Strader is the real Strader as he will be in his old age. They are intended to be real in the play, only Johannes Thomasius does not know it.

The stage of consciousness I have just described was experienced on the [ancient] Moon, only at a lower, more dreamlike level, so that no faculty of discrimination was possible. The ability to discriminate only began later. You must try to get a thorough grasp of what I am telling you. Let us bear in mind that the clairvoyant lives in a kind of picture-consciousness. But during the Moon period the pictures which arose were in the main quite different from the objects of our earthly consciousness; and the same thing applies today in the early stages of clairvoyance. To begin with, the clairvoyant does not see spiritual things at all; he sees pictures, and the question is what do these pictures signify? In the first stages of clairvoyance they do not express real spiritual Beings, but a kind of organic consciousness. The experience is a pictorial representation, a projection into space, of what is actually taking place in himself. To take an example, when the clairvoyant begins to develop these forces in himself, he can have the experience of seeing two luminous globes far outside in space. He sees pictures of two globes in luminous colour. If he were then to think to himself �there outside me are two Beings,� the probability is that he would be quite wrong; at any rate that would be the case to begin with. What is happening is that his clairvoyance is projecting outwards into space forces which are at work in himself, and he sees them as two globes. And these two globes could represent what is at work in his astral body to produce within him the power of sight in his two eyes. This power of sight can be projected outwards in the form of two globes. Thus what is actually to be seen is an inner faculty showing itself as an external phenomenon in astral space. It would be a very great mistake for such an experience to be taken to herald the external presence of spiritual Beings.

It would be a still greater error if in these early stages by some means or other it were to happen that voices were heard, and these voices taken as inspirations from outside. That is the greatest error into which one can fall. Such an experience can hardly be more than an echo of an inner process; and while what appears in picture form, in colour, usually represents fairly pure inner processes, voices as a rule manifest lower and rather worthless elements of soul-life. It is best for anyone who begins to hear voices to cultivate the greatest distrust of them. The early stages of these imaginal representations should always be received with the greatest caution. It is a kind of organic consciousness, a projection outwards into space of one's own inner being. Such an organic consciousness was quite normal during the Moon evolution. The human being at that stage scarcely perceived anything except what was happening to himself.

I have often called attention to an important saying of Goethe's: �The eye has been formed by the light for the light.� This saying should be taken quite seriously. All man's organs have been formed by his environment, out of his environment. It is a superficial philosophy which stresses only one side of this truth, that without the eye man could not perceive light. For the other important aspect of the truth is that without light the eye could never have developed; and in the same way without sound there would have been no ear. Looked at from a deeper standpoint Kantianism is very superficial, because it only gives half the truth. The light which weaves and floods throughout the cosmos � that is the cause of the organs of vision. During the Moon period, the main task of the Beings who took part in the development of our universe was the construction of our organs. First these organs have to be built up; then they are able to perceive. Our present objective consciousness is due to the fact that organs have first been formed for it. The sense organs, as purely physical organs, had already been formed on Saturn, with the eye somewhat like the photographer's camera obscura. Purely physical apparatuses like that can perceive nothing. They are constructed according to purely physical laws. In the Moon period the organs acquired an inner life. Thus on Saturn the eye was so formed that it was merely a physical apparatus; at the Moon stage, through the sunlight which fell upon it from without, it was transformed into an organ of perception, an organ of consciousness. The essence of this activity during the Moon evolution is that the organs were, so to say, drawn forth from the beings. During the earth period light works essentially on the plants, maintains plant development. We see the outward result of this activity of light in our flora. During the Moon evolution light did not act in this way, it drew forth our organs; and what was perceived by man at that time was this work upon his own organs. He perceived it in the form of pictures which seemed, it is true, to fill cosmic space. The pictures seemed to be spread out in space. In reality they merely represented the work of elementary existence upon the human organs. During the Moon period what man perceived was his own inner becoming, he perceived this work upon himself, saw the way he was fashioning himself, the way he was evolving his perceiving eye out of his own being. Thus the outer world was an inner world, because the entire outer world was working upon his inner being. And he made no distinction between outer and inner. He did not perceive the sun as external to himself. He did not separate the sun from himself, but within himself he felt his eyes coming into existence. And this active coming into existence of his eyes expanded for him into a pictorial perception which filled space. That was how he perceived the sun, but it was an inner process. The characteristic thing about the Moon-consciousness was that one was surrounded by a world of pictures, but these pictures represented an inner development, an inner formation of soul. Thus the Moon period man was enveloped in the astral and felt his own development as an external world. Today it would be an illness to perceive this inner development as an outer world, not to distinguish these pictures from the world outside, to perceive the outside world merely as a reflection of one's own growth. During the Moon evolution it was normal. For instance, man perceived in his own being the work of those [spiritual] Beings who later became the Elohim. He perceived the activity of the Elohim somewhat as today you might perceive your blood flowing into you! It was inside him, but it was reflected in pictures from without.

But on the Moon such a consciousness was the only one possible. For what happens upon our earth has to take place in harmony with the whole cosmos. A consciousness such as man has upon the earth, with this distinction between outer and inner, with this perception that real objects are there outside us, and that our inwardness exists alongside them, called for the whole evolutionary transition from the Moon to the earth, called for an entirely different kind of cleavage in our cosmic system. During the Moon evolution, there was no separation between Moon and earth, as there is today. We have to think of the Moon as the present earth would be if the moon were still united with it. So all the other planets, including the sun, were quite differently formed; and under the conditions which then obtained only a picture-consciousness was possible. It was only after our whole cosmos had assumed the form it now has, encompassing the earth, that our present objective consciousness could develop.

Such a consciousness as man has on earth today was withheld from him until the time of earth evolution. Not only was man without it, but none of the other Beings whom we speak of as belonging to this or that hierarchy had it. It would be superficial to think, because the angels underwent their human stage on the Moon, that they must therefore have had on the Moon such a consciousness as man has today on the earth. It was not so, and this is what distinguishes them from men � that they experienced their humanity in another consciousness. An exact repetition of the past never takes place. Each evolutionary impulse happens once only, and happens for its own sake and not for the sake of repeating something. Thus to produce what we know today as human earthly consciousness, all the processes which have actually brought this earth about were needed � for that purpose man had to be there as man. It was impossible for such a form of consciousness to develop at an earlier stage of evolution. To us an object is something outside us; earlier, all the Beings of whom we can speak had a consciousness which made no distinction between outer and inner, so that it would have been nonsense for any of them to say: �Something is standing before me.� Even the Elohim could not say that; they had no such experience. They could only say: �We live and weave in the cosmos; we create, and in creating are aware of this our creation; objects do not stand before us, do not appear to be before us.� To say �objects appear before us� conveys a situation in which we are confronted by something real formed in an external space from which we ourselves are separated. This did not come about even for the Elohim until the time of earth evolution. During the Moon evolution, when these Elohim felt themselves weaving and working in the light which streamed from the Sun upon the Moon, they might have said to themselves: �We feel ourselves to be within this light, we feel how with this light we sink into the beings who live as men on the Moon; we speed through space with this light.� But they could never have said: �We see this light outside us.� There was no such thing on the Moon. That was a completely new earth experience.

When at a certain stage in the Genesis account the momentous words occur And God said, Let there be light, it meant that something new had happened, that the Elohim did not merely feel themselves to be flowing with the light, but that light streamed back to them from objects, that objects appeared to them from without. This is expressed by the writer of the Genesis account when to the words And God said, Let there be light he adds: And God saw the light. In this ancient document there is nothing superfluous, nothing meaningless. If only men could learn, among much else that this document could teach them, to ascribe to it nothing that is not pregnant with meaning, to take nothing in it as an empty phrase! The writer of the Genesis account wrote nothing unnecessary, nothing by way of commonplace embellishment to enhance the beauty of the creation of light; he does not make the Elohim say anything like this: �We see the light and are very pleased with ourselves that we have made it so well.� What the brief sentence emphasises, what it signifies, is simply that something new has come about.

Moreover it does not say merely And God saw the light, but that He saw that it was beautiful � or good. Note that in the Hebrew tongue the distinction between �beautiful� and �good� was not made as it is today. The Hebrew language has the same word for good and for beautiful. What is the significance of this? In ancient Sanskrit, even in German, there is still an echo of what it meant. The word �beautiful� covers all words in all languages which mean that an inner spiritual element reveals itself in an external form. To be beautiful means that something inward is externally manifest. Today when we use the word �beauty� we are thinking most truly when we hold that an inner spiritual reality in the beautiful object is represented on its surface in physical form. We say that something is beautiful if the spiritual shines through what is externally sense-perceptible. When does a marble sculpture become a thing of beauty? When its form arouses the illusion that spirit indwells it. Beauty is the manifestation of the spiritual through the external. Thus when in Genesis we come to the words God saw the light, we can say that they convey the specific quality of earth evolution; also that what could formerly only be experienced subjectively now manifests itself from without; that the spirit presents itself in its external manifestation. Thus we can paraphrase the biblical words by saying �and the Elohim experienced the consciousness that something in which they themselves formerly existed confronted them as an external phenomenon; and they realised that the spirit was behind this appearance and came to expression in the external.� This is the significance of the word �beautiful� or �good.� Wordy explanations will not help us to understand the Genesis account, but only diligent search for the secrets which are really hidden behind the words. Then research will yield rich fruits; whereas all too many interpretations are nothing but tiresome pedantry.

Let us go a step further. We have seen that the characteristic features of the Moon evolution were only able to come about through the separation of the Sun from the Moon. Then we have seen that during the earth evolution it again became necessary for the sun to separate off from the earth; we have seen that a duality is necessary for a life of full consciousness. The earth element had to withdraw. But in such a withdrawal something else is also involved; the elementary conditions of the moon nature and of the sun nature change, become different. If you make a study of our present sun, even from a purely physical aspect you are obliged to say to yourselves: �The conditions which we have on earth and which we call solid and liquid are not to be found in the physical sun.� The most you can say is that the sun still condenses to the gaseous state. This is recognised by modern physics. Such a separation of elementary conditions comes about through the severing of what was previously a unity.

We have seen that the earth develops in such a way that a gradual densification downward takes place from warmth to solid, to earth, and that what is above as elementary existence � light-ether, sound-ether, life-ether � seems to press inwards from without. But this description does not fit the part which goes out as the sun. It would be better therefore to say that there are seven states of elementary existence. The first, the most rarefied state, which constitutes and brings about life; then what we call number, or sound-ether; then light-ether; then warmth-ether; then we have air, or the gaseous element, the watery element and finally the earthy or solid. It is in the earth that we have to look mainly for the elements up as far as warmth. Warmth permeates the earth, whereas the earth only shares in light in so far as the beings in its environment � or if you like the bodies in its environment � take part in the life of the earth. Light streams upon the earth from the sun. If we wish to locate the three higher elementary states � light-ether, the ether of spiritual sound, and life-ether � we must place them in the sphere of the sun. In the earth we have to look for the solid, fluid and gaseous elements; warmth is shared by both earth and sun.

The sun separated off for the first time during the Moon evolution. It was then that the light was for the first time active from without, but not then as light. I have just pointed out that the sentence in Genesis which reads And God saw the light ... could not have been spoken in respect of the Moon evolution. There one would have had to say that the Elohim speeded through space with the light, were in the light, but saw it not. Just as today one can swim in water and moves forward in it without actually seeing it, so one did not see the light, but light was a bearer of the work in cosmic space. It was with the coming of earth evolution that light began to appear, to be reflected by objects.

It was natural that this, which held good for light on the Moon, should itself reach a higher stage of development during earth evolution. It is therefore to be expected that what applied to light on the Moon should during earth evolution apply to the sound-ether. This would involve that what we call spiritual sound was not perceived by the Elohim as reverberating back to them in the manner of the reflected light. Thus, if Genesis wished to convey that evolution was advancing from the activity of the light-ether to that of sound-ether, it would have to say something like this: �And the Elohim saw the light in the developing earth, and saw that it was beautiful.� But it could not go on in the same way to say: �And the Elohim during this phase perceived the sound-ether�; it would have to say �they lived and wove in it.� Nor could it be said of the second �day� of creation that the Elohim perceived the stir which separated the elements above from those below; it could not be said of this work of the Elohim that they perceived. The words �perceive� and �beautiful� would have had to be omitted. Then the description would correspond with what can be observed through Spiritual Science.

Thus the seer who wrote the Genesis account had, when describing the second �day,� to leave out the words: And God saw ...

Now look at Genesis. On the first �day� it reads: And God saw the light, that it was good. On the second day of creation, after the end of the first day, it says: And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters ... and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. The sentence And God saw ..., which we find on the first day, is left out on the second day. Genesis gives the facts as we should expect them to be given from what we have been able to observe by spiritual scientific method.

Here again is a knotty point of which the commentators of the nineteenth century have not known what to make. There have been commentators who said: �What does it matter if the second time the words are omitted? The writer just forgot them.� Men should learn that Genesis not only records nothing irrelevant, but also omits nothing relevant. The writer has forgotten nothing. There is a profound reason why on the second day of creation these words are not to be found. Here we have another example � I could quote many � of what fills us with immense reverence for such ancient records.

We could learn much from these ancient writers, who really needed to take no oath, but followed of their own accord the rule of telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth which they knew. They felt through and through that every word that stands there must be sacred to us, and equally that nothing essential must be omitted.

We have now gained an insight into the composition of what are called the first and second �days� of creation. Anyone who discovers through spiritual investigation what lies behind things might well say to himself, as he turns to his Bible, �It would be marvellous, it would be astounding, if these intimate details which can be discovered by scrupulous spiritual investigation should be corroborated by the words of the ancient seer who took part in the making of Genesis.� And when he finds that the astounding thing is true, a wonderful feeling comes over him � a feeling such as should indeed penetrate human souls if they are once more to appreciate the holiness of this ancient document.

[1].  The word �Moon�, capitalized, refers to the evolutionary stage of the earth previous to the present one. These lectures were for members of the Anthroposophical Society, who understood the distinction without further explanation.

Continued in the next issue of SCR.

Thanks to the Rudolf Steiner Archive.