Last time we began to investigate Rudolf Steiner’s indications from the lecture “Perception of the Nature of Thought: Sun Activity in Earthly Evolution”, given on January 10, 1915. Here he describes the development and biography of the being Philosophia; he alludes to her approximately 700-year cycles, analogous to the 7-year cycles of the biographical development of the human being. He also points to the fact that the birth of Philosophia’s astral body, corresponding to age 14 of the human being, was expressed in the rise and flowering of the philosophy of ancient Greece—Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
In this lecture, he goes on to describe the succeeding three life cycles of this being—the period of the Neoplatonists and early Church Fathers up through John Scotus Eriugena corresponding to the “Sentient Soul years” of 21-28; the time from Eriugena through Descartes corresponding to the “Intellectual Soul years” of 28-35; and the time since then, the time in which we still live, corresponding to the “Consciousness Soul years” of 35-42. We will elaborate further on these different time periods in future sections of this article series.
What has become clear to me in working deeply with these indications is that the rhythm of the biographical development of Philosophia follows the rhythm of the Zodiacal Ages. Each life cycle is 720 years, one-third of a Zodiacal Age of 2,160 years. Her first three life cycles took place in the Age of Aries, from 1945 BC to 215 AD:
Physical Body/Moon Years (0-7) = 1945-1225 BC
Etheric Body/Mercury Years (7-14) = 1225-505 BC
Astral Body/Venus Years (14-21) = 505 BC – 215 AD
Aries is related to the human head; this was the time period when the human head became particularly active. We can see this first of all in that the human being’s pictorial consciousness faded, and was eclipsed by a perception of thoughts rather than pictures. This development reached its apotheosis in the Greek philosophers. On the other hand, the Age of Aries culminated in the birth of the human personality, which felt itself as centered in the head.
Can we try to understand the nature of these first two cycles, the “Moon years” and “Mercury years” of Philosophia, which Rudolf Steiner barely goes into? The closest he comes to doing so is an allusion to pre-Socratic philosophers such as Thales and Anaxagoras who grasped their world philosophy in an elemental, temperamental form: the origin of the world was found in a primal Water or a primal Fire. These philosophers were active when Philosophia was equivalent to the age of 12-14 years old (between 700-500 BC), transitioning out of the “Mercury years” of primary school into the “Venus years” of the teenage adolescent.
We can find an answer to the mystery of these first two “life cycles” of Philosophia by looking to two other lectures given by Rudolf Steiner five years previously, in 1910: the second lecture on the “True Nature of the Second Coming,” from March 6 (https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/Dates/19100306p02.html) and the second lecture from the series on the Gospel of St Matthew on September 2 (https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/Dates/19100902p01.html).
From the first of these two lectures, we get the clearest indication as to why exactly the start of the Age of Aries marked the birth of the being Philosophia in the history of mankind. This is related to the Hebrew Patriarch Abraham, who was born and lived around the start of the Age of Aries, 1945 BC (emphasis mine):
…at the conclusion of the first millennium of Kali Yuga [i.e., around the year 2000 BC], a kind of substitute was given for vision of the spiritual worlds. This substitute was made possible through the fact that a particular individual — Abraham — was chosen out because the special organisation of his physical brain enabled him to have consciousness of the spiritual world without the old faculties. That is why in Spiritual Science we call the first millennium of Kali Yuga the Abraham-epoch; it was the epoch when man did, it is true, lose the direct vision of the spiritual worlds, but when there unfolded in him something like a consciousness of the Divine which gradually made its way more and more deeply into his ego, with the result that he came to conceive of the Deity as related to human ego-consciousness. In the first millennium of Kali Yuga — which at its conclusion we can call the Abraham-epoch — the Deity is revealed as the World-Ego.
So we see that with Abraham, we have the birth of thinking that is attached specifically to the physical brain. The spiritual world is no longer perceived in a pictorial sense as something outside the human being; it now begins to be grasped as an internal reality of World-Ego. This new development in human evolution, this birth of Philosophia, is represented in the sacrificial lamb appearing to spare Isaac from the sacrifice. The lamb, Aries, the human head, sacrifices its perception of the spiritual world as an objective reality, and begins to turn itself to the perception of thoughts, so that the individual human personality (Isaac) can arise within the human soul.
This first cycle—the Moon cycle, the years related to the physical body in human development (0-7)—is consequently born with Abraham. In the three Hebrew Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we might see an image the first three years of child development, and the gifts of uprightness (Abraham), speech (Isaac), and thought (Jacob). The second half of these years, the equivalent of 3.5 to 7, are then spent in Egypt. It is the departure from Egypt back into the Holy Land that marks the “change of teeth” of Philosophia. Moses is the figure which marks the end of the “Moon years,” transitioning to the “Mercury years” of 1225-505 BC (equivalent to 7-14 in a human biography).
The story of the “Moon years” is the gradual establishment, the “codifying” so to speak, of the religious rite of the ancient Hebrews. Up until this point it had existed as a kind of golden thread, organically flowing from generation to generation through more-or-less direct perception and/or memory of the spiritual world. But with the life of Abraham this direct perception and memory is sundered. With the time in history between the lives of Abraham and Moses, we see the rise of the first alphabets—picture-writing to begin with, hieroglyphics. Writing came about in order to preserve the knowledge that was no longer accessible through direct perception. This process culminated in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible written by Moses.
Here we see that picture-consciousness of the spiritual world has become mythology; a remnant of what was once perceivable. At the same time, we see written in exact detail the rites of the Hebrew people, which up until that time had not been codified. What existed previously as direct inspiration from the spiritual world needed to be transmitted to and codified by a chosen individual for the sake of the many.
And so we see that although Steiner first speaks of the Ancient Greeks in relation to the development of Philosophia, it is in the Ancient Hebrew peoples that we find her origin, her birth. Further confirmation of this is found in the second lecture mentioned above, from the series on the Gospel of St. Matthew. Steiner is here speaking of Zarathustra’s incarnation in Ancient Persia, some 5,000 years before Christ. Zarathustra had two pupils at this time. To one of them he passed on his astral body, and all the mysteries of Space. This individual reincarnated as Thoth or Hermes Trisgmegistus, around the year 2500 BC. He originated the Osiris cult and much of the external culture of Ancient Egypt. The other pupil received the etheric body of Zarathustra, and all the mysteries of Time. This individual reincarnated as Moses, who, along with the rest of the Ancient Hebrews from Joseph onwards, was immersed in the Hermetic culture of Ancient Egypt:
Now the contact of the wisdom of Hermes with that of Moses was pictured in the Mysteries of ancient Egypt as representing something that, according also to Spiritual Science, had previously taken place in the cosmos. We know that early in evolution the sun separated from the earth, leaving the moon for a period within the earth. Later a part of this globe separate from the earth, and remained as the present moon. Thus the earth sent a portion of itself, as moon, into universal space, towards the sun. We may think of the remarkable occurrence of the meeting of the Earth-wisdom of Moses with the Sun-wisdom of Hermes as comparable with this streaming forth of the Earth-forces towards the sun. One might say: The wisdom of Moses, in its further course, after separating from the Sun-wisdom of Zarathustra, developed as the wisdom of the earth and of men in such a way that it drew again towards the sun, absorbing and filling itself with direct solar wisdom. The earth was destined to receive direct Sun-wisdom only to a certain extent, then to develop further alone and independently. The wisdom of Moses, therefore, only remained in Egypt until it had absorbed sufficient for its needs. Then came the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, in order that the Sun-wisdom taken up by the Earth-wisdom might be assimilated and brought to greater self-dependence.
The wisdom of Moses was two-fold. One part was developed under the sheltering wing of the Hermes-wisdom which it continually absorbed from every side, then, after the exodus from Egypt, it separated from this development, continued further within itself, and later passed through three stages. Towards what should this wisdom evolve? What is its task? Its ultimate task was to find its way back from the earth to the sun. It had become earthly wisdom. Moses was born with all he inherited from Zarathustra, as a wise man of earth. He was to find the way back, and he sought it in three stages, the first being that in which he absorbed the wisdom of Hermes. These stages are again best expressed in the images drawn from cosmic events. When what takes place upon the earth streams back in space from the earth towards the sun, it first encounters what is of the nature of Mercury (in ordinary astronomy the Mercury of astronomy is the Venus of Occult Science), then that of Venus, and ultimately that which is of the nature of the sun. The soul of Moses had to develop his Zarathustrian inheritance in inner experiences in such a way that he might return and find once more what appertained to the Sun. In order to do this he had to attain a certain degree of development. The wisdom Moses had implanted in western culture had to develop according to the way he gave it to his people. The wisdom he had gained from Hermes and which came to him like the direct rays of the sun, he had to develop anew, and reflect it back again in a changed form, after he had absorbed some part of it.
And so we can discover from the above quotation that the “Moon years” center around the meeting of the Hebraic Earth wisdom with the Egyptian Solar wisdom, like the Moon reaching out to the Sun from the Earth. Next, we come to the description of the second life-phase, the Mercury phase, of the being Philosophia. This life-phase centers around the time of Kind David, who is an image of the “nine-year change” in the life of Philosophia. At this time the Hebrew people transition to an age of Kings, to the “Solomon era” which comes after the “Moses era.” Mythology slowly transforms into epic poetry. The law established by theocratic, initiate priest-kings now transitions into a monarchy: the roles of king, priest and prophet each separate, specialize and mutually influence each other. We can see in the Psalms of David, in the Song of Songs, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes a kind of proto-philosophy—part philosophy, part poetry.
Steiner describes the time periods of the “Mercury years” (1225-505 BC) and the “Venus years” (505 BC – 215 AD) as such:
Now we are told that Hermes, who was later called ‘Mercury,’ brought to his people science and art, that is, external knowledge and art, in a form suitable to them. But it was in a different and almost opposite way that the wisdom of Moses attained to the Hermes-Mercury standpoint. Moses had himself to develop the wisdom of Hermes further. This is shown in the progress of the Hebrew people up to the age and reign of David. David, who is presented to us as the royal singer of Psalms and holy prophet, who as a man of God worked both as warrior and harpist, is the Hermes, or Mercury, of the Hebrew people. That stream of the Hebrew folk had now so far evolved that it had developed an independent form of Hermetic or Mercury wisdom. At the time of David the wisdom received from Hermes had reached the Mercury sphere, or Mercury stage, on its return journey. It then continued to the region of Venus. This came to pass for the Hebrews when the Moses-wisdom, or rather that version of it which had endured as his wisdom for hundreds of years, had to unite with an entirely different element, with a stream issuing from another direction.
Just as that which streams back in space from the earth towards the sun encounters Venus, so the wisdom of Moses encountered an Asiatic wisdom that came from another direction during the Babylonian Captivity. The Moses-wisdom came in touch with the weakened form of another wisdom in the Mysteries of Babylon and Chaldea. Like a wanderer who, having acquired knowledge of the earth, leaves it for the Mercury sphere, and thence passes on to Venus desirous of experiencing the sunlight as it is felt there, so the Moses-wisdom, having received the direct Sun-wisdom from the holy teachings of Zarathustra, passed over in a weakened form to the mystery schools of Chaldea and Babylon. The wisdom of Moses experienced this weakening during the Babylonian captivity, where it united with all that had penetrated into the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates. Here something else happened.
In the sanctuaries which the wise men among the Hebrews were obliged to frequent during their captivity, the wisdom of Moses was directly impregnated with the qualities of the Sun-wisdom. For at this time Zarathustra was himself incarnated and taught in the mystery schools of the Tigris and Euphrates, and was known to the learned among the Hebrews. He who had relinquished part of his wisdom so that he might receive it back again, was himself teaching at this time. He had frequently reincarnated, and in this incarnation in which he was known as Zarathos or Nazarathos, he taught the captive Jews in Babylon.
Thus in the course of its further progress, the wisdom of Moses came in touch with what Zarathustra had himself become after he had withdrawn from the more distant Mystery Sanctuaries and had entered those of Asia Minor. Here he became the teacher of the initiate Chaldean disciples, as well as teacher of the Hebrews. They now received a fructification of their Mosaic wisdom by a stream they were now fitter to encounter, because what had once been given to their ancestor Moses by Zarathustra came to them now directly from himself, in his incarnation as Zarathos or Nazarathos. This was the destiny through which Mosaic wisdom passed. Originally it sprang from Zarathustra, but was then transplanted into an alien land. It was as if a Sun-being with bandaged eyes had been brought down to earth, and now, on its backward journey, had to seek all it had lost. Such a wanderer was Moses, the pupil of Zarathustra. His destiny had placed him within Egyptian civilization, so that all the wisdom given him at one time by Zarathustra might be quickened and illuminated in his inner being. He was cut off, as it were, from the sun on the fields of earth, where unaware of the source of his illumination he moved unconsciously towards what once was sun. In Egypt he was attracted towards the wisdom of Hermes, which brought to him direct Zarathustra-wisdom, not an indirect reflection like his own. After absorbing sufficiently of this, the wisdom of Moses continued its development in a more direct way. Having founded an Hermetic wisdom at the time of David, and a science and art of its own, it turned again towards the sun from which it had originally come forth, though in a way that had at first to appear veiled.
In the ancient Babylonian schools of learning where, among others, Zarathustra taught Pythagoras, his teaching was restricted by the type of physical body of the period. If Zarathustra was to give full expression to his Sun-nature through a form suited to those times, as he was able to do in that earlier incarnation when he had passed it on to Moses and Hermes, he would require a bodily instrument fitted to the new age. Restricted by a body such as could be produced in ancient Babylonia, he was only able to convey such wisdom as he passed on to Pythagoras, to the learned Hebrews and wise men of Chaldea and Babylon, who in the sixth century before Christ, were ready and able to hear it. In respect of this teaching it was exactly as if the sunlight were first taken up by Venus and prevented from shining directly on the earth; as if his teaching could not shine with its original splendour but only in a weakened form. Before the Sun-wisdom of Zarathustra could shine forth once more in its pristine power, a body suited to him must first be provided, and in a very special way.
So we see that the Venus years were inaugurated at the time of the reincarnated Zarathustra (Nazarathos) in the 6th century AD. Both the Ancient Hebrew and the Ancient Greek streams were given a kind of infusion of life at this time: Nazarathos taught both Pythagoras and the prophet Daniel. Yet each stream carried a different mission. The Ancient Hebrews had the mission of cultivating a physical body that could actually bring to birth the individualized ego—the promise of the first sacrifice of Jesus and Christ finding its fulfillment in the fourth sacrifice, the Mystery of Golgotha, the birth of the human “I”:
In the first lecture, we told of the three folk-souls of Asia, the Indian in the South, the Iranian, and the Turanian to the North, and we described the connection of these with the Atlantean migrations into Asia. Where the northern stream which came from Atlantis met the southern stream which passed through Africa, an extraordinary mixture of races occurred. From this admixture a race developed from which later the Hebrew people sprang.
Something unusual occurred in the development of these ancestors of the Hebrews. The lower astral-etheric clairvoyance which had become so decadent among certain races because it was the last phase of external perception, had in those people who developed into the Hebrew race, turned inwards and manifested as an organizing force. That which we have described as being externally decadent, as having remained behind in certain races as a last phase of declining clairvoyance, and as being permeated somewhat by the Ahrimanic element, had progressed among the Hebrews in the right direction by becoming an actively organizing force within the human body. Through this, bodies became more perfect. What among the Turanians was decadent worked constructively and progressively in the Hebrews. Within the physical nature of the Hebrews, as propagated from generation to generation in the close bond of blood relationship, all those forces were active which had accomplished their mission in developing external sight. These were no longer required to provide external sight, so could enter on another sphere of action, thus passing into their right element. That which had given to the Atlantean the power to gaze spiritually into space and into spiritual realms, that had run wild in the Turanians, appearing as a last relic of clairvoyance — all this force worked inwardly in the little Hebrew nation. What in the Atlantean had been spiritual and divine, worked inwardly in the Hebrew race to form certain organs. It worked constructively in the body and could therefore flash forth in the blood of this people as an inward divine consciousness. With the Hebrew people it was if all the Atlantean had seen when directing his clairvoyant vision into space was turned inwards, as if it constructed inwardly an organ of consciousness which was the Jahve-consciousness — the consciousness of God within him. This people felt the God Who filled all space to be united with their blood, felt they were filled, impregnated with Him, and that He lived in the pulsation of their blood.
As in the last lecture we contrasted the Iranians and the Turanians we have now considered the Turanians and the Hebrews, and have seen that what in its further progress and in its essence had become decadent in the Turanians, pulsated later in the blood of the Hebrew people. All that the Atlantean had seen, lived on in the Hebrew as an inward feeling, and could be comprised in a single word: Jahve or Jehovah. The consciousness of God lived throughout the generations of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob concentrated as into a single point, invisible but inwardly felt. The God Who had revealed Himself to the Atlantean clairvoyance behind all living things was now the God dwelling in the blood of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and led the generations of their race from destiny to destiny. The outward had thus become inward; it was experienced, no longer seen; it was no longer described by different names, but by one single name ‘I am the I am!’ It had taken on an entirely different form. Whereas for the Atlantean this was found where he was not — in the external world — it was now found by man in the centre of his own being; in his ego; he was conscious of it in the blood that coursed through the generations. The mighty God of the Universe had now become the God of the Hebrews; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and flowed through the generations as the blood of the race.
It was in this way that the race was founded whose special inner mission for humanity we shall consider in the next lecture. We have thus far only been able to indicate the very earliest stage of the composition of the blood of this people, in which was concentrated everything that in the age of ancient Atlantis, humanity had allowed to be impressed upon it from without. We shall see later what mysteries were fulfilled in that which had here its beginning, and shall learn to recognize the peculiar nature of that people from which Zarathustra could take his body to become the being we call Jesus of Nazareth.
In contrast to the Ancient Hebrews, it was the mission of the Ancient Greeks to bring to absolute perfection the human astral body that had been born at the end of the Atlantean Age. Their goal was to allow perception of thought to fully eclipse the ancient picture-consciousness. This perfected astral body could then be the solid foundation upon which the individualized Ego could stand. The Ancient Hebrews realized the promise of the Ego given to them at the time of the first sacrifice of Jesus and Christ; but they would have been unable to do this without the perfecting of the astral body on the part of the Ancient Greeks.
We see this perfecting and offering the astral body brought to a single point—an individual, representative, sacrificial activity—at the time of Christ. The Archangel Jesus once again offers his astral body to the Nathan Jesus, the vessel for Christ. He had offered this astral body at the dawn of the Atlantean Age in order to allow its force to flow down into the human etheric body, organizing and elaborating it, allowing it to separate off from the higher conglomeration of “bodies.” During the fourth sacrifice at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, the Archangel Jesus once again offers this astral body—but this time in order to lay the foundation for something higher to be born: the human ego. Keeping in mind that Rudolf Steiner indicated that Archangel Jesus was the same as the Apollo of the Ancient Greeks, we could say that the Apollonian wisdom of Greece was offered to the representative Hebrew—indeed, the representative of all Humanity—in order to facilitate the birth of the individual human “I”, the promise of the first sacrifice of Jesus and Christ. We will investigate this further in part five.