Their Meaning and Connection with Evolution
Published by Steiner Book Centre, Canada in 1978
Book Notes by Bobby Matherne ©1996
In this book Steiner makes clear how the evolution of mankind proceeded in step with the
devolution of the gods. In the childhood of humanity, man was like a child of today, who perceives
things directly without the mediation of explanatory concepts or rational thought. They also perceive
imaginary playmates that we adults have no clue about, up until now. In mankind's childhood man
perceived himself as an integral part of the cosmic polis with no separate individuality as we know it
today. His only ego was a collective ego of the cosmos, the heavens, and the gods with which he felt a
oneness and reality. Like a baby, when it grows up, the soft spot in the crown of its skull hardens, so,
too, did man's head ossify. With each increase in hardening of the head, the functions of the gods
devolved to mankind and the individual ego of man evolved.
More and more man was thrown on his own individual resources to understand and explain the
world by sifting it through the sieve of logical and rational thought, the evolving capability fully
contained within man's head. Less and less did he behold the universe directly. During the Greco-Latin period, just when man lost complete touch with his gods and his cosmic reality, the heavens sent
the Christ to earth: "they sent down their greatest Messenger precisely at that time so that man can find
on earth what he formerly received from heaven -- the Christ." Christ's coming to earth may be seen as
the final devolution of the gods -- the final throwing of authority upon the individual. Christ made it
clear many times that He came not to be their Sovereign on earth, but to proclaim the individual
Sovereignty of every man.
The myth of Isis, Osiris, and Typhon is the primary one that Steiner covers in this book. Osiris
was killed by his brother Typhon and his wife Isis searched for his body, and finding it chopped into
fourteen pieces in Byblos, Phoenicia, returned it to Egypt where she pieced the body back together to
give it the appearance of Osiris. Steiner shows how the Osiris picture-script (origin of the Egyptian
hieroglyphic writing) was replaced Typhon's letter-script (origin of our alphabetic script which the
Phoenicians invented), thus illuminating the meaning of the story of Osiris's death. The whole of a
body (picture) is chopped into fourteen pieces (26 in English today) and by careful reconstruction the
appearance of the body is created. The Osiris myth chronicles the evolution of man as he progressed
from using a picture-script language to using a letter-script language, and the concomitant evolution
from direct, all-at-once perception of the cosmos to the mirror reflection of the cosmos created by the
pieced together, linear construction of rational, analytic, abstract thought.
Modern man has become like Till Eulenspiegel, whose name means "owl in the mirror." Till
wandered through medieval Europe playing merry pranks on dignitaries of all levels of society by
interpreting their words and command literally. ( e. g., "Bring me a doctor." Till fetched a history
professor.) He poked fun at the words we used to govern our lives, reminding us that we were only
talking to our image in the mirror. Would you talk to an image in the mirror and expect it to actually
talk back to you? No, you wouldn't Till might say, but you invest the abstract concepts embodied in
your words with reality, when, they, in essence, are nothing but foggy images in a mirror in your mind.
There is much more reality to behold in this book that I can covey in these few paltry words, but I cannot leave without expressing another major insight of Steiner's which deflates the rampant youth culture of our times. He says that man must begin to learn to grow old. It is only then that man will come to know that "the world is riddle and man is the solution," and thereby become capable of lifting the veil of Isis. In the words of the popular song, "Grow old with me, the best is yet to come."