“At the time when the etheric body still further densifies and changes from a light-body into a fire or heat-body, the stage of evolution has been reached at which, as described above, pats of the solid earth elements are incorporated into man. Because the etheric body has condensed to the consistency of fire, it is now able, by means of the forces of the physical body previously implanted in it, to combine with the physical substances of the earth attenuated as far as the fire state. But by itself it would no longer be able to introduce air substances into the body which has meanwhile become more more solidified. …
“The result is that this life becomes independent of the soul part of man. … The Lords of Form now remain united with the image, and the life they have bestowed, they transfer to man’s descendants, when his soul has left his body. Thus comes about what may be called heredity, and when the human soul once more appears on earth it feels that it has a body animated by the life of its ancestors. … In that way, something like a memory is formed of the ancestor with whom the soul feels itself to be at one. This memory passes through the line of descendants in the form of a consciousness possessed in common. The ego thus flows down through the generations.” ~Rudolf Steiner
In his own way, Steiner is telling us that that we started out with bodies that were not dense at all, but over many generations and many centuries became denser and denser. The result is that we now have a physical body that is so dense it cannot possibly live on Divine Light as we were intended to live. We may wish to quit eating our fellow beings of matter, but we cannot. We can cut down on killing and eating other beings (whether plant or animal makes little difference), but we can’t completely stop and live on light alone. We have to reverse this body compacting process and eventually we will become of a high enough vibration that we can live only of Divine Light once again.
Light-Body to Heat-Body
Steiner talks of this process of the light body descending deeper into matter and becoming what he calls a fire-body or heat-body “evolution”. More accurately, this descent into matter should be call devolution. When you turn around and head back in the other direction, then you can say you are evolving. Some believe that this evolution to devolution is a cycle that keeps repeating. If so, it is a cycle that takes billions of years to complete.
Steiner says that this dense body combines with the physical substance of the Earth. Many spiritual groups today would say instead that we are made up of the substance of stars. Somehow, they have decided that it is a good thing to be made of the same material as stars and planets. That might be true if they were talking about spiritual stars and planets, but not the physical. Being made of physical matter, no matter where it originated, is not a good thing. A dense body of matter subjects us to the laws of space and time, to death and disease, to pain and limitations. As spirits, we had no such problems or limitations.
Life Independent of the Soul
I’m not sure that life becomes truly independent of the soul because the soul remains with us in nearly all cases. Only the one who commits a major crime against the law of God, such as murder, will have his soul permanently leave the body. Only then, in my opinion, is one truly independent of a soul, and that is definitely not a good thing. To have a dense body without a soul is the worse thing that can happen to us.
Most of us are not that completely independent of the soul, even when we have a dense body of matter. The soul is in us, but it is dormant. It is in a state similar to that of the body and mind being in a coma. It must be awakened from that state to be fully functional. That is what it means to have a true spiritual awakening. We awaken or spirit and soul with the light of the spiritual sun. Once we awaken the soul, we are no longer independent of the soul, yet still not fully integrated with it. It takes time for the awakened soul to integrate with the dense body and mind. That is why we need to awaken the soul as early as possible. Waiting until we are dead to do that is like waiting until we fall off a ship to learn how to swim.
Transfer to Descendents
This is an important thing Steiner is saying here that is too often ignored. We pass not only the physical attributes of the dense body on from generation to generation, but also memories. Few seem to understand that. As a result, when they began to remember things that happened in a past life, they automatically assume it was their past life and they have been reincarnated. But it is not your past life you are remembering, but the life of an ancestor. It doesn’t have to be your parents or grandparents. You can carry within your memories from ten, twenty, or thirty generations. So while that doesn’t necessarily mean that the concept of reincarnation as commonly understood is false, it does mean that remembering a past life is not proof of it. The dense body, and the brain-mind in it, are good at tricking us into believing things that seem reasonable, but simply are not true.