Secrets of the Bible Story of Creation

by Rudolf Steiner

Lecture X – Munich, August 26, 1910

From all that has been said in the last few days, and especially from what was said yesterday, you will have gathered at about what time we have placed the Genesis story. In fact we have pointed out that the first momentous words of the Bible mark the moment when we should say in terms of Spiritual Science that the substance constituting the earth and sun, hitherto one body, was making ready to separate. Then the separation followed, and during its course what is described in the opening verses took place. The biblical description of the creation then goes on to cover all that happens until far into the Lemurian age, right up to the separation of the moon. What has been described by Spiritual Science as coming after the withdrawal of the moon, that is, at the end of Lemuria and in the beginning of Atlantis, took place after the “days” of creation. We pointed that out yesterday. We also pointed out the deep significance of the statement that man received in his body the imprint of the earth-moon-dust. This coincided with the cosmic event which we have called the advancement of the Elohim to become Jahve-Elohim. We had to think of this advance as more or less coinciding with the beginning of the moon's activity from outside. Thus we must think of the process of the moon's separation, and its activity from without, as associated with that Being who represents the Elohim as one undivided entity, with Him whom we call Jahve-Elohim. The first phase of the action of the moon upon the earth coincides with the imprinting of the earth-moon material into the human body. The human body, which hitherto had consisted solely of warmth, was now endowed with something expressed as follows: And the Lord God ... breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul — or, let us say, a living being.

We must not fail once again to notice the aptness, the grandeur, the power of the biblical words! I have impressed upon you that the proper earthly incarnation of man depended upon his being able to wait in his spiritual nature in spiritual surroundings until suitable conditions were present on the earth itself; so that it was his late assumption of his bodily nature which enabled him to become a mature being. Had he come down into his body earlier, let us say, during the events of the fifth “day,” he could only have become a being resembling physically the beings of the air and of the water. How does Genesis describe the being of man? Wonderfully! The passage is a model of accurate and appropriate wording. We are told that the group-souls who descended into earthly matter on the fifth “day” became living creatures — became what we today call living creatures. Man did not descend at that time. The group-souls who still remained above in the great reservoir of the spirit did not descend until later. And even on the sixth “day” it was the animals nearest to man, the earth-animals proper, which came down first. Thus man was not able to descend into solid matter even during the first part of the sixth “day,” for if he had imprinted the earth-forces into himself at that time he would have become a creature physically resembling the animals. The group-souls of the higher animals descended first and populated the earth, as distinct from the air and the sea. Only after that, little by little, came about conditions favourable to the formation of the prototype of humanity.

How was it achieved? It is conveyed to us in memorable words when we are told that the Elohim set about combining their activities in order to make man after the image I have described to you. This earth-man arose because the Elohim, each with his different capacity, worked together as a group to achieve a common purpose. Man began by being the common purpose of the Elohim as a group.

We must try to get a closer idea of what man was like on the sixth “day.” He was not yet as he is today. The physical body which we find in man today only came later with the inbreathing by Jahve of the breath of life. The event which is described as the creation of man by the Elohim took place before the earth-dust had been imprinted into his bodily nature. What was he like — this human brought into existence by the Elohim, still in the Lemurian age?

Remember what I have often said about the character and nature of the people of today. It is only as regards the higher members that their physical humanity is the same in all men. As regards their sex we must distinguish. The male has a feminine etheric body, and the female a masculine etheric body. How did it come about? This differentiation, this separation into male and female, came about relatively late, after the “days” of creation. There was no such differentiation in the human being who arose on the sixth “day” as the common purpose of the Elohim. At that time all human beings had a bodily nature in common. We can best describe it (so far as representation is possible at all) by saying that the physical body was more etheric and the etheric body somewhat denser than is the case today. A differentiation between physical and etheric, a densification on the side of the physical, only occurred later under the influence of Jahve-Elohim. You will appreciate that we cannot speak of the human creation of the Elohim as separately male and female in the sense of today; the Elohim-man was at the same time both male and female, undifferentiated. Thus man, in the sense expressed by the Elohim in the words Let us make man, was still undifferentiated, still male and female at the same time. Through this deed of the Elohim the bisexual man was created. That is the meaning of the words translated male and female created he them. The words do not refer to man and woman in the sense of today, but to the undifferentiated man, the male-female man.

I am well aware that countless biblical commentators have objected to this interpretation and have sought to throw ridicule on what earlier distinguished commentators have maintained — which is nevertheless the truth. They take exception to the view that the Elohim-man was male-female, and that therefore the male-female is what was made in the image of the Elohim. I should like to ask such commentators on what they base their view. It cannot be upon clairvoyant investigation, for that will never give anything other than what I am saying. If it is upon external investigation, I should like to ask them how, in face of tradition, they justify any other interpretation. At least people ought to be told what the biblical tradition is. When through clairvoyant investigation one first discovers the true facts, then life and light breaks into the text, and minor discrepancies in the tradition no longer matter, because knowledge of the truth enables one to read the text correctly. But it is very different if one approaches the matter from the point of view of philology. One must nevertheless understand clearly that, even as late as the early centuries of the Christian era, there was nothing in the first chapters of the Bible to mislead anyone into reading the text as it is read today. There were no vowels at all, and the text was in such a condition that even the division into separate words had yet to be made. The dots which in Hebrew signify the vowels were only inserted later. Without the preparation which Spiritual Science gives, what claim has anyone to offer an interpretation of the original text, of which he can say conscientiously, and with scholarship, that it is reliable?

Thus in the Elohim-creation we have man at a preparatory stage. All the processes which are included in a term such as “human propagation” were at that time more etheric, more spiritual. They remained at a higher level. It was the deed of Jahve-Elohim which first made man into what he has become today. That had to be preceded by the creation in due order of other, lower beings. Thus the animals became living creatures by what one might almost call a premature act of creation. The same expression nephesch:

living creature, is applied to these animals as is ultimately applied to man. But how is it applied to man? At the moment when Jahve-Elohim intervenes and makes man into the man of today, it is said that Jahve-Elohim imprints n'schamah
It is through having a higher member implanted into him that man himself becomes a living being.

Note what a very fruitful concept the Bible, of all books, introduces into the theory of evolution! Of course it would be foolish not to recognise that, as regards his external form, man belongs to the highest stage of the animal kingdom. This small concession may be made to Darwinism. But the essential thing is that man did not become a living being in the same way as the other, lower beings, whose nature is described as nephesch; man was first endowed with a higher member of his being, a previously prepared soul-spiritual element.

Here we come to another parallel between the ancient Hebrew doctrine and our own Spiritual Science. When we speak of the human soul, we distinguish between sentient soul, comprehension soul and consciousness soul. We know that these first arose in their soul-spiritual form during the first three “days” of creation. It was then that their characteristic tendencies were formed. But this inner soul-nature was not clothed in physical form, was not, so to say, impressed into a physical body until much later. Thus we have to understand that first there arises the spiritual, that this spiritual is then invested with the astral and then gradually condenses into the etheric-physical; it is only then that what was previously spiritual is imprinted into the body as the breath of life. Thus what was implanted as a seed into the human being by Jahve-Elohim had already been prepared earlier. It was there in the womb of the Elohim. Now it is imprinted into man, whose bodily nature had been built up from another direction. Thus it is something which enters into man from without. This impress of n'schamah first made it possible to implant in man the predisposition to, the rudiments of, the ego nature. For these old Hebrew expressions nephesch, ruach, n'schamah correspond to our spiritual scientific terms sentient soul, comprehension soul and consciousness soul respectively.

Thus this further evolution is very complicated. We must think of all that happened on the six “days” of creation, that is to say, we must think of the work of the Elohim before they advanced to Jahve-Elohim, as having taken place in higher, spiritual realms; and what we can see today in the world as physical man first came about through the deed of Jahve-Elohim.

Of all this which we find in the Bible — and again now in clairvoyant perception — and which first enables us to understand the inner nature of man, the Greek philosophers still had a consciousness derived from their various initiation centres — Plato especially, but even Aristotle still knew something of it. Anyone familiar with the works of Plato and Aristotle knows that in Aristotle there was still an awareness that man first became a living being through the introduction of a higher soul-spiritual member, whereas the lower animals went through different evolutionary processes. Aristotle expressed it somewhat as follows. He says that the lower animals became what they were through other processes of evolution; but that at the time when the forces which are active in the animal were able to become effective, the human soul-spiritual being, which still hovered in higher regions, was not yet allowed to acquire an earthly body, otherwise it would have remained at the animal stage. The human being had to wait; in him the lower, the animal stages, had to be ousted from their sovereignty through the implanting of the human member. To express this Aristotle made use of the word φθειρεσθαι (phtheiresthai). By this he meant to say, “Of course, superficially speaking, man has the same bodily functions as the animal, but in the animal these functions are supreme, whereas in man the bodily functions have been dethroned and have to follow a higher principle.” That is the meaning of the word φθειρεσθαι.

The same truth lies behind the biblical story of the creation. Through the implanting of n'schamah the lower members were dethroned. In the bearer of his ego man has acquired a higher member. But his earlier, more etheric nature was thereby brought down a stage and became differentiated. Man acquired an external, bodily member, and an inner, more etheric member; the one became denser and the other more rarefied. The principle was repeated in man which we have come to recognise as running through the whole of evolution. We saw how warmth condensed to air and rarefied to light, how air condensed to water and rarefied into sound-ether and so on. The same process takes place in man at higher levels. The male-female becomes differentiated into man and woman, and moreover in such a way that the denser physical body appears on the outside, the more rarefied, etheric, invisible body goes inwards. We could also call this the progress from Elohim-man to man the creation of Jahve-Elohim. The man we know today is the creation of JahveElohim, and the sixth “day” of creation corresponds with the Lemurian age, in which we speak of the male-female human being.

Now the Bible speaks of yet a seventh “day” of creation, and we are told that on this seventh “day” the Elohim rested. What does that actually mean? We only understand it aright if we realise that this is the very time when the Elohim rise, when they experience their promotion to become Jahve-Elohim. But we must not conceive Jahve-Elohim as the entire hierarchy of the Elohim united; we must understand that the Elohim give up, so to speak, only a part of their Being to the moon-Being, and hold the rest in reserve; and that in this older part of their Being they continue their own further evolution. So far as this part of them is concerned, their work is no longer devoted to the creation of man. That part of the Elohim which has become Jahve-Elohim continues to work on man. The other part does not work directly upon the earth, it devotes itself to its own evolution. That is what is meant by rest from earthly work, by the Sabbath day, by the seventh “day” of creation.

And now we must call attention to something else of importance. If everything that I have just been saying is correct, then we must regard the Jahve-man, the man into whom Jahve impressed his own Being, as the direct successor of the more etheric, more delicate man who was formed on the sixth “day.” Thus there is a direct line from the more etheric man, who is still male-female — from the bi-sexual man — to the physical man. Physical man is the descendant, in a densified form, of the etheric man. If one wanted to describe the Jahve-man who passes over into Atlantis, one would have to say: “And the man who was formed by the Elohim on the sixth ‘day' of creation developed further into the unisexual man, the Jahve-man.” Those who followed after the seven “days” of creation are the descendants of the Elohim-men, and thus of what came into being during the first six “days.”

Again the Bible is sublime when, in the second chapter, it tells us that the Jahve-man is in fact a descendant of the heavenly man, the man who was formed by the Elohim on the sixth “day.” The Jahve-man is the descendant of the Elohim-man in precisely the same way as the son is the descendant of the father. The Bible tells us this in the fourth verse of the second chapter, which says “Those who are to follow are the descendants, the subsequent generations, of the heavenly man.” That is what it really says. But if you take a modern translation, you find the remarkable sentence: These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Usually we find the whole hierarchy of the Elohim called “God,” and Jahve-Elohim called “the Lord God” — the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. I ask you to look at this sentence carefully and try honestly to find a reasonable meaning for it. Anyone who claims to do so had better not look on ahead in his Bible, for the word used here is tol'doth

which means “subsequent generations”; and the same word is used in the later chapter which tells of the subsequent generations of Noah. Thus here it is speaking of the Jahve-men as the descendants, the subsequent generations, of the heavenly Beings, in the same way as there it speaks of the descendants of Noah. Thus this passage must be translated something like this: “In what follows we are speaking of the descendants of the heaven-and-earth beings who were created by the Elohim and further developed by Jahve-Elohim.” Thus the Bible too looks upon the Jahve-people as the descendants of the Elohim-people. Anyone who wants to presuppose a fresh account of the creation, because it says that God created man, should also look at the fifth chapter, which begins This is the book of the generations (the word used there is the very same as in the other passages — tol'doth), and should assume a third account there — thus making his Rainbow Bible really complete! That way you will get something made of Bible fragments, but will no longer have the Bible. If we could go on longer, we should be able to elucidate what is said in chapter five too.

Thus, when we go deeply into these things, we see that there is full agreement between the biblical account of the creation and what we can establish through Spiritual or Occult Science. This leads us to ask why the Bible account is in a more or less pictorial form. What do these pictures represent? And then we realise that they too are the result of clairvoyant experience. Just as today the eye of the seer gazes in the supersensible upon the origin of our earth existence, so too did those who originally composed the Bible story gaze upon the supersensible. It was by clairvoyant experience that the facts originally given to us were acquired. When we set to work to construct prehistory from the point of view of purely physical observation, we start from the traces of it which are extant and discoverable by external means, and the farther back we go in physical life and physical origins the more hazy the physical forms become. But in this misty element spiritual Beings hold sway. And man himself in his spiritual part was originally within them. And if we pursue our study of its origin as far back as the times described in Genesis, we come to the original spiritual condition of our earth itself. The “days” of creation refer to spiritual stages of development, only to be grasped by spiritual investigation. What the Bible is telling us is that the physical is little by little formed out of the spiritual.

When the seer gazes upon the facts which are described for us in Genesis, to begin with he only sees spiritual processes. The physical eye would see absolutely nothing; it would gaze into a void. But, as we have seen, time goes on. Little by little for the seer the solid crystallises out of the spiritual, just as ice is formed out of water and solidifies. Out of the flowing sea of the astral, of the Devachanic, emerges what can now be seen by the physical eye. Thus, as clairvoyant observation proceeds, within the picture which to begin with has to be understood as purely spiritual, the physical emerges like a crystallisation. It follows that at an earlier time physical eyes would not have been able to discover the human being. Right up to the sixth and seventh “days” of creation, that is, right up to our Lemurian age, man could not have been seen by the physical eye; at that time he only existed spiritually. That is the great difference between a true theory of evolution and a fanciful one. The fanciful one assumes only a physical process of development. But man did not originate by lower beings evolving to human stature. It is utterly absurd to imagine that an animal form can be transformed into the higher, human form. During the time when the animal forms came into being, forming their physical bodies below, man had already long been in existence, but it is only later that he descends and takes his place beside the animal natures which had descended much earlier. Anyone who cannot look upon evolution in this way is beyond help; he is hypnotised as it were by modern concepts, he is influenced, not by natural scientific facts, but by contemporary opinion.

If we want to connect the coming into being of man with that of all other creatures, we must say that first there appear two branches, the birds and the marine animals; then, as a special offshoot, come the land animals; the birds and marine animals came into existence on the fifth “day” of creation, the land animals on the sixth. And then came man, only not by producing the same line further, not as a continuation of the series, but by a descent upon the earth. That is the true theory of evolution, and it is contained more exactly in the Bible than in any modern textbook which surrenders to materialistic fantasy.

These are a few fragmentary remarks such as always seem to be required in the last lecture of a Cycle. To follow up adequately every aspect of such a theme as this would take months; there is so very much in this Genesis story of creation. In our lecture cycles we can never do more than touch upon things, and that is all I have attempted to do this time. I should like to emphasise once more that it has not been so very easy for me to give this particular course; nor will any of my hearers readily realise how difficult it is to reach the depths upon which the Bible story is based, how hard it is to find the true parallel between already ascertained spiritual scientific facts and the corresponding passages in the Bible. If one works conscientiously, the task is an extraordinarily exacting one. It is so often assumed that the eye of the seer reaches with ease everywhere — that one has only to look, and everything follows of itself. An inexperienced person often thinks, when confronted with a problem, that he will easily be able to solve it, whereas the further he probes the more numerous are the difficulties which present themselves. This is so even in ordinary, external research, and when one leaves the physical and plunges into clairvoyant investigation, then the real difficulties begin to show themselves, and with them the feeling of the great responsibility incurred in speaking of these things at all. Nevertheless, I think I may say that I have not made use of a single word in the whole of this cycle which cannot stand, which is not as far as it goes an adequate expression in our own language of the right way to conceive these things. But it was certainly not easy.

There is much that I could still say. Especially something which has been borne in upon us at every stage during these lectures — and that is the need for anthroposophical teaching so to permeate our hearts as to lift us with all the strength of our inner life to ever higher forms of perception, to an ever larger-hearted comprehension of the world. Whether we become better people in the intellectual, feeling and moral spheres — that is the touchstone for the fruitfulness of what we gather in the spiritual-scientific field. To study the parallel between spiritual-scientific investigation and the Bible can be particularly fruitful; for it enables us to experience how we ourselves are the “primal cause,” the “primal state,” as Jacob Boehme would have said, in that supersensible spiritual womb whence also came those very Elohim who developed into Jahve-Elohim, into that higher form of evolution, in order to bring about the great goal of their activity, which we call man. Let us comprehend our origin with due reverence, but also with a due sense of our responsibility. The Elohim and Jahve-Elohim gave their highest forces to the beginning of our evolution. Let us look upon this our origin as laying upon us an obligation to absorb into our human nature more and more of the spiritual forces which in the course of subsequent evolution have entered into the development of the earth.

We have spoken of the influence of Lucifer. Because of this influence something which lay in the womb of that spirituality in which man too originated remained there for the time being; it came forth later in the incarnation of the Christ in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Since that time the Christ has worked in the earth as another divine principle. And contemplation of the great truths of Genesis ought to point us to the duty of taking more and more into our own being the spiritual Being of the Christ; for only by permeating ourselves with the Christ principle shall we be able to fulfill our human task; only so shall we become on the earth more and more what we were predisposed to be in those times with which the biblical story of creation is concerned.

Thus such a series of lectures as this can not only give us knowledge, but can stir forces in our souls. Even if we forget much of its detail, may what we have learnt through a closer examination of the biblical story of creation go on working as power in our souls. I may perhaps be allowed to say this at the close of these lectures, during which we have tried to immerse ourselves in our anthroposophical life. Let us try to take with us the strength which should flow from this teaching. Let us carry it away with us, let us fructify our outside life with this strength. Whatever we may be doing, in whatever worldly profession we may be engaged, this strength can warm and ripen our creative activity as well as intensify our joy, our happiness. No one who has rightly grasped the sublime origin of human existence can go on living without taking this knowledge as a germinal force of blessing and joy for the rest of his life. When you try to carry out deeds of love, let the truth about the mighty origin of humanity shine forth from your eyes, and thus you will best reveal what anthroposophical teaching is. Our deeds will proclaim its truth, rejoicing those around us, conferring blessing, refreshment and health upon our own spirit, soul and body. We ought to be better, stronger, healthier human beings through having absorbed anthroposophical teaching. May this above all be the effect of this lecture cycle! It should be a seed which sinks into the soul of the hearer only to spring up again and bear fruit for those around us. Thus we go our separate ways, while our spirits remain united, and we try to work together to translate this teaching into life. Let us permeate ourselves with this spirit, without weakening, until the moment when we are able to meet again not only in the spirit but in the flesh.

Thanks to the Rudof Steiner Archive

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