Humanity is getting younger
The mainstream contemporary materialistic worldview assumes that in former times and ancient cultures, man's soul configuration was more or less as it is now. This assumption is quite wrong.
There is a law of development governing both the individual person and the evolution of humanity as a whole, and these two are related. See schema FMC00.232 below.
A human being after birth develops his physical body and bodily organs and upto a certain age his spirit and soul is bound up and happens in parallel with the development of the physical body. From a certain point in his life man is physically fully developed, at which point his spirit and soul being ceases to be dependent on his bodily organs whose growth and development have come to an end: from then on his spirit and soul become free of the body and develop independently. This moment (when Man is 'fully developed', and the soul becomes free of the body) occurs at a certain age, and has not been the same in the various preceeding cultural ages.
Connection between mankind's earthly evolution and the age and death of Christ Jesus
At the start of the fourth Greco-Latin cultural age the above was at an age of about 35: just at the time when the body's decline set in, the soul became free from the body.
The Mystery of Golgotha took place just at this point in time that Christ Jesus reached the age of 33 which at that time was also the 'age of mankind', and through the MoG the possibility arose for knowledge of immortality to be obtained directly without any physical intermediary (1917-05-29-GA176).
To place this in context, see: Three years of Christ Jesus
Impact on worldview
The soul experience as coupled to the certain developmental age is fundamental for the underlying worldview in a certain age. As an example is given the views of Aristotle on life after death, see 1917-05-29-GA176 (link below) but also 1917-05-15-GA174B before (both with reference to Franz Brentano's correct interpretation of Aristotle's views in that context).
Besides the normal spiritual hierarchies, there are also luciferic, ahrimanic and asuric counterforces who play into Man's soul and can make use of this opportunity. This influence relates to Man's blood and nervous system, and the impact is clearly visible in the development of humanity.
FMC00.232 shows the law of development relating the individual Man to the evolution of humanity as a whole. In the various cultural ages man felt the dependence of his spirit-soul being on his physical-bodily nature and bodily development up to a certain age, in other words the soul becomes independant at this certain age. This shows how humanity should not count on developing further in the physical body, as that door closes (see discussion section below) upto the point physical reproduction will cease to be a possibility.
Lecture coverage and references
Two key lectures dedicated to this topic and the basis for further reading are 1917-05-29-GA176 and 1918-04-26-GA174B. This topic is a nice example to show that Steiner's coverage of this topic can be timed to 1917-05 to 1918-04 but lectures are in four different GA volumes.
1917-05-13-GA174B and 1917-05-19-GA174A cover humanity getting younger, with examples of Rudolf Eucken and Woodrow Wilson.
1917-05-29-GA176 synopsis reads:
The general age of mankind as a whole is receding. This means that the development of man's soul and spirit ceases to be dependent on the physical body at an ever earlier age. At the time of the ancient Indian cultural epoch this dependence lasted up to the age of 56, receding during that epoch to 49. During the Persian epoch it receded to the age of 42, during the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch to the age of 35, during the Graeco-Latin epoch to the age of 28, so that at the beginning of the present fifth post-Atlantean epoch man's soul and spirit were dependent on the physical body only up to the age of 28 and it has by now receded to the age of 27. This has far-reaching consequences for mankind's evolution. At the time the Mystery of Golgotha took place mankind's age had receded to 33 and therefore coincided exactly with the age of Christ Jesus. This event bestowed upon man the power to take his inner development in hand which will otherwise cease at the age of 27.
This lecture is central to this topic to be read entirely, no extract is given here.
1917-07-17-GA176 synopsis reads
Man no longer experiences the Rubicon he crosses when in his thirties the bodily forces begin to decline. This is because his soul and spirit become independent from the body at the age of 27. When the dependence lasted into mature age, he grew naturally wise. The elders in ancient India were super-geniuses. Now man does not grow wise beyond the age of 27 unless he develops through his own inner initiative. He remains at age 27 even if he lives to be a hundred years old. This means he produces nothing that can carry evolution forward into the future. A perfect example of a brilliant personality who remained at a soul age of 27 although he accomplished much is Lloyd George. Just because he had no affinity with impulses stemming from another age group, he became, as did others, a puppet manipulated by individuals who possessed occult powers through ancient impulses and traditions, powers which brought about the 1914 world war.
1917-10-28-GA177 - Physical reproduction to cease in the sixth or seventh millennium. Aims of spirits of darkness in relation to humanity growing younger. (SWCC) This lecture first sketches the frame of context of the evolution of the work of angels and archangels in the blood and nervous system of Man.
An evolution of profound significance has thus been initiated. ... not later than the seventh millennium in earth evolution women will grow infertile, and reproduction will no longer be possible. If matters went entirely according to the normal Angelic spirits in the blood, human reproduction would not even continue for as long as this; it would only continue until the sixth millennium, or the sixth postatlantean cultural age; according to the wisdom of light, the impulse for reproduction would not continue beyond this time in the seven cultural ages in this Postatlantean epoch. However, it will go on beyond this, into the seventh millennium and possibly a little beyond. The reason will be that those cast-down Angels will be in charge and will give the impulses for reproduction.
This is highly significant. In the sixth Postatlantean cultural age, the human fertility which depends on the powers of light for its impulses will gradually come to an end. The powers of darkness will have to intervene so that the affair may continue for a time. We know the seeds for the sixth postAtlantean period of civilization lie in the East of Europe. The East of Europe will develop powerful tendencies which do not allow physical human reproduction to continue beyond the sixth period of civilization but, instead, let the earth enter into a form of existence in soul and spirit. The other impulses for the seventh post-Atlantean period of civilization, in which procreation will be guided by impulses from the cast-down Angels, will come from America.
Consider the complex nature of these things, which can only be discovered by direct observation of the spiritual worlds. Mere theorizing will generally lead to error, for with this we tend to follow a single line of thought which will finally led to the statement that human procreative life will be extinguished in the sixth postAtlantean cultural age. It needs actual spiritual observation to enable us to observe the different currents which interact to produce the whole. You have to put a great deal into it if you are to arrive at significant insights and their interactions, such as those of which I have been speaking.
The enormous complexity of human beings becomes apparent when you consider that now, in the fifth postAtlantean age, Archangels and Angels are active in them via the nervous system and the blood, but so are the abnormal spirits which oppose them. This is where the forces are anchored which act with each other, against each other and so on; there we see what is happening in reality. Looking at events in outer life, one only sees the surface wave and not the forces which cast it to the surface.
We can give another instance of the way in which the spirits of darkness, who were cast down in 1879, seek to exert an influence — before 1879 from the spiritual world and since then from the human realm.
You will recall something of which I spoke in an earlier lecture: that humanity as a whole is getting younger and younger. If we go back to ancient India, we find that people remained young and capable of physical development well into ripe old age; during the Persian epoch less so, in Egypto-Chaldean times even less, until into Graeco-Latin times people were only capable of development until they reached the span extending from their twenty-eighth to their thirty-fifth year. Today they have grown even younger and are only capable of development up to their twenty-seventh year, as I told you. Later a time will come when this only goes to the twenty-sixth year, and so on. You will recall that I referred to someone who is at the hub of things at the present time and who can only be really understood if we realize that the age of 27 plays such a special role in life today — and this is Lloyd George. For it is always significant when the life of the soul coincides with the outer life of the body.
The fact that in our fifth post-Atlantean age people are naturally capable of further development only until they reach their 20s, is important as a basis for the concerted action of Archangels and Angels.
- The normal spirits, the spirits of light, want to direct human evolution in a certain way. This is as follows: human beings are naturally capable of further development until they are in their 20s; the spirits of light want to keep this an intimate affair, letting it proceed without much ado in human beings; then, in the twenty-eighth year, between the twenty-eighth and thirty-fifth years, the development which has gone on quietly is to emerge. Mark well, therefore. Something which evolves in the human blood until people reach their twenty-eighth year is to enter more into people's self-awareness, it is to be handed over to the blood in self-awareness. It is therefore the intention of the normal spirits, the spirits of light, that the inner life should develop quietly, unambitiously and selflessly and only come into action when individuals have reached the age of 28, when the years of apprenticeship are behind them, as it were, and they become journeymen, and finally masters.
- The spirits of darkness which had been cast down from the spiritual world rebelled against this. They wanted people to take an active role in life and be masters at using the external intellect in their twenties, rather than go through quiet inner development.
Here you have a social phenomenon traced back to its spiritual foundations, and a significant battle is taking place among us:
- The spirits of light only want us to reach maturity and be ready to take on an active role in public life after the twenty-eighth year.
- The spirits of darkness want the time put forward, so that it comes before the twenty-eighth year; they want to push people out into public life at an earlier time. All the impulses in our social life which reflect these elements have their origin in this — when in some place or other, for instance, the request is made to bring the age of majority down even further, into the 20s or even earlier than the 20s. There you have the origins of these elements.
People find it uncomfortable to know such things today. For they make it evident to what extent the spirits of darkness are causing havoc in public affairs. Much of what I have been saying has so far been known instinctively and atavistically by people. This has come to an end, however, and people will have to be prepared to gain conscious knowledge of things that used to be known instinctively and were also instilled into human minds by the ancient Mysteries. Spiritual principles must be included in shaping the social structure; they have to be thought of, rather than people wanting to shape the world blindly on the basis of mere emotions. The spirits of darkness find it easiest to achieve their aims if people are asleep to what goes on in the spirit. They can then easily gain power over what that they cannot achieve if people enter consciously into the spiritual impulses that are active in evolution.
Much of the mendacity which exists in the world today serves the purpose of rocking people to sleep so that they do not see the reality, are deflected from reality, and the spirits of darkness have it all their own way with the human race. All kinds of things are falsely presented to people to deflect them from truths they could experience if they were awake and, indeed, ought to experience, if human evolution is to proceed in a fruitful way. This is the age when human beings must take affairs into their own hands.
1918-01-29-GA181 synopsis reads
When the head is 28 the rest is only about 7, in modern education. A man should not mature for public life before 45. Between death and re-birth we work on the head, and there is added something for the rest of the organism. The older we grow the younger the etheric, but in youth we must learn to supply spiritual ideas as future youthful forces.
1918-04-26-GA174B is a key lecture (not on rsarchive any more, has been taken off-line, it is part of the special Karma of Untruthfullness Volume 2 with sensitive and eye-opening materials)
1918-05-04-GA174A .. synopsis: dullness of many people after having reached age 27
1920-01-16-GA196 synopsis reads
How humanity is becoming younger; the lowering of the age at which we have the ability for development in our present era. The coming end of the development of physical humanity on Earth.
1920-01-17-GA196 synopsis reads
Our ability to develop until age twenty-eight; the science of initiation is the only possibility for the further progress of humanity.
As you know, humanity as such is becoming younger and younger. It is becoming more and more the case that the development of body and soul only continues up to a certain point in life. At the time of the death of the Christ when the event of Golgotha took place, mankind in general was capable of physical and soul development until age thirty-three. Today, people are able to develop only until age twenty-seven. In the fourth millennium A.D., a time will come when human beings will be capable of development only until age twenty-one. Again, in the seventh millennium, a time will come when their bodily nature will be capable of development only until the fourteenth year of life. Then, women will cease to be fertile; an entirely different form of living on earth will come about. That will be the time when the moon will again approach the earth and will be incorporated into it.
The intellect will become more and more shadowy. If man does not resolve to absorb what is to descend from the spiritual world, he will pass completely over to the shadowy side of his intellect. The intellect is now only able to understand the mineral kingdom, it cannot penetrate to the human being. Plant life is a deep riddle to it, animal life is more so, human life is completely opaque. The formation of images devoid of reality will continue unless man resolves to develop imagination. If he does this the shadowy pictures will be re-animated by Spiritual Science, and become not merely human events but cosmic as well.
In the course of evolution humanity is becoming younger and younger and retains the power of evolving in body and soul to a definite age.
- In ancient India man retained plasticity up to the age of 56.
- At the time of Golgotha to the age of 33; now, to the age of 27.
- In the 6th post-Atlantean epoch it will be to the age of 21-14
- in the 7th epoch, 14-7.
Woman will cease to be fertile, another mode of entering earthly life will take place when the Moon re-unites with the Earth, in 8,000 A.D. The re-uniting of the Moon with the Earth will be of great significance; we shall be connected with the Earth differently.
The matter in this topic shows how a door is closing. The window of opportunity for development in the physical body is coming to an end, and not slowly but at a very high speed of evolution if we relate it to the number of incarnations we still have left. This directly relates to the urgency of the need to develop spiritual abilities (sense organs), and the importance of not only studying spiritual science but also practice of exercices of initiation.
With some 5-6000 years to go, this leaves only a number of incarnations to develop once's astral senses and higher triad.
Rudolf Steiner's on a personal note
In 1917-05-29-GA176 Rudolf Steiner also shares more personal notes (see also the start of the lecture) on how the depth and importance of this research affected his soul:
It affects one deeply when, in considering mankind's evolution as such with quite different assumptions, one discovers during spiritual investigation the deep connection between mankind's earthly evolution and the age and death of Christ Jesus. I can think of little which must have a greater impact on the soul than knowledge of the placement of the Mystery of Golgotha within an important law of development governing the individual person and the evolution of humanity as a whole. ... .. I venture to say that during my spiritual research, few moments have been more moving than when—let me put it in these words — there arose for me, out of the grey mist of the spirit, the recognition of the connection between mankind's age of 33 in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch and the age of 33 of Christ Jesus just when the death on Golgotha took place.
see also 1918-01-11 (re Biography work)