Rudolf Steiner, Helsinki, Finland, April 10, 1912:
Spirits of Wisdom
Spirits of Form
Now, we can also direct our occultly developed vision to the Sun itself, the fixed star. If we wish to know the fixed star in its own being, we must be careful that in our observation of it we do not confuse it with what, in the main, has significance not for the fixed star but for its surrounding planets. Let us understand correctly. In a previous lecture I stated that all these beings of the higher hierarchies down to the Spirits of Form actually work together in the cosmic system as a sort of council having its residence in the Sun; that the Sun is actually the center of activity of all these spirits. Now, when it is stated that Mars, for instance, has its own Spirit of Form, likewise has Jupiter, and also the Earth, we must if we wish to speak in picture (and in relation to these exalted conditions everything is more or less a picture) we must imagine that although actually the seat, the center, of the activities of the Spirits of Form of Mars and Jupiter and so on is always the Sun — that they work from there, from the fixed star — yet their sphere of action on Mars is, so to speak, allotted to the Spirits of Form from the Sun. They work upon Mars from the Sun; other Spirits of Form work upon the Earth, others upon Jupiter. That which they perform is an activity for the benefit of the whole system.
Now we will not ask what is accomplished from the Sun, from the fixed star, for the benefit of the planets, but rather what takes place in the realm of the fixed star itself for its own beings, for the actual evolution of the beings belonging to the fixed star.
Thus, if we direct our gaze to the fixed star, we must say: Life upon the fixed star is so exalted, so grand and mighty, that the beings developing there can only associate with beings of the sublimity of the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, and Spirits of Wisdom; while the Spirits of Motion and Form, who are going through their evolution upon the fixed star itself, are powerless to do anything for its evolution. They are not of sufficiently exalted rank; they, who are of such immense importance for the humanity of the planets, are of no importance to the fixed star; they are powerless to work upon its development. Thus if we fix our attention on the being of the planet, and look away from the humanity dwelling upon it — on our Earth — we can say: In so far as the planet has its place in the solar system, all ranks of beings down to the Spirits of Form have an influence on its development. Down to the Spirits of Wisdom we have to reckon the sphere of influence upon the fixed stars; down to the Spirits of Form the sphere of influence upon the planets.
Now, within the planetary system there still remain two cosmic bodies — the Moon and the comets — and the question now is: How do these cosmic bodies present themselves to occult vision? If directed to the Moon which revolves around our Earth, what forms of activity does occult vision find there?
Occult vision finds upon the Moon nothing of that which is developed as human life upon the Earth. An evolution resembling the human is not to be found upon the Moon. Nor is there anything to be found upon it, as regards its evolution, which can be compared to our animal kingdom. Neither of these is to be found by occult vision upon our Moon. It would, of course, be trivial and superfluous to say that no human beings incorporated in flesh perambulate the Moon, or such animals as are to be met with upon the Earth; when an occultist uses such expressions he means something essentially different. It certainly might he possible for something resembling the higher principles of human nature (the human ego, or astral body) to be in existence under other conditions on a cosmic body, and there go through a development without being incarnated in a human fleshly or etheric body. That is conceivable — and such conditions really do exist. It is conceivable that an evolution in a spiritual sense might take place upon the Moon without the external embodiment, the external stamp, of beings resembling those of man; but it does not happen to be the case. Nothing like human history, like a development of beings who might even psychically resemble man or our animals, exists upon the Moon. Even if we ascend from man to the beings we have called the first spiritual leaders of mankind, whom we have described as Angels in the ranks of the hierarchies, we do not find their evolution upon the Moon. We find there no form of activity, no forces, such as those which proceed from the intervention upon Earth of the Angels, or the Angeloi. We have described somewhat exactly what these beings have to do for mankind upon the Earth. No such intervention takes place on the Moon. Nowhere do we find traces of any human or animal activity, or any such as we could attribute to the Angels. But if we go further and fix our attention on the forces by means of which the Archangels forward human evolution and if we then turn our occult sight to the Moon, strange to say we find these forces existing there. Occult vision finds there as active forces in existence on the Moon the same forces which it encounters when, in contemplating the Earth evolution, it looks upon the development of a people through its Folk-soul, through its Archangel. The Archangel who spiritually guides the lives of nations is present in his special characteristic as forces and speaks to us when we focus our spiritual sight upon the Moon. When we fix our attention upon the nature of those spiritual beings whom we designate as the Archai or Spirits of the Age, the beings who take charge of and lead earthly evolution from one epoch to another — for instance, from the Egyptian civilization to the Greek, or from the Greek to our own — if we acquire an occult vision of the forces which rule in the guidance of evolution by the Spirit of the Age, we find again these same distinctive forces when we look upon that which meets our gaze from the Moon. So, just as we could, for the planet, designate for its sphere the beings of the higher hierarchies as far as the Spirits of Form, so can we also set limits to the sphere of the Moon and say: The sphere of the Moon extends as far as the Archangels.
Now, before we continue to study the results of occult investigation as we have done before, it will be useful for our further consideration if, from the point of view of occultism, we further compare the Moon and planets and the fixed star. In undertaking such a comparison, it is necessary, in the first place, to acquire the right ideas of what exists in man himself and especially in his physical body, in a way not taken into account by the ordinary materialistic anatomy and physiology. What does the ordinary anatomist of today do when he investigates a physical body? Well, he takes a piece of the liver, let us say, then a piece of nerve or brain substance as contiguous substances; these he investigates side by side, comparing the one with the other in a purely external way. The ordinary materialistic anatomist or physiologist does not take into consideration the fact that when we have before us a piece of brain-substance and a piece of liver-substance, we have absolutely different things. In one part of the human body we have something upon which the higher bodies, the supersensible principles, work in quite a different way from how they do on another part. Thus, for instance, a portion of brain substance is so constituted that the whole structure, the whole formation, could not arise if this substance had not been worked upon not only by the etheric body but also by an astral body. The astral body permeates and works upon the brain-substance, and there is nothing in the brain-substance or the nerve-substance upon which the astral body, in cooperation with the etheric body, does not work. Take on the other hand a portion of the liver: you must imagine that the liver is also permeated by the astral body, but that it does nothing for the liver, takes no part in the inner organization of the liver. On the other hand, the etheric body takes a very essential part in the organization and structure of the liver. The different organs in man are in reality very different from each other. We can only study the liver when we know that in it the etheric body with its forces plays the chief part, and that the astral body, though it certainly permeates the liver as water does a sponge, has no special share in its formation or inner configuration. We can only picture the brain-substance as something in which the astral body has essentially the largest share, and the etheric body only a lesser one. Again, in the whole structure of the blood-system, even to the framework of the heart, the ego has its essential part, while in the organization of nerve-substance as such, for instance, the ego takes no part at all — not to mention the other organs. Thus, when we consider the physical body of man in the occult sense, not in the sense of mere formulae, we have in its various organs, things, beings of quite different value, of quite different essence, altogether of quite different nature. We may say that what in man is his liver or his spleen depends upon higher principles at work within it. Liver and spleen are very different organs; the astral body has, in a very special manner, a strong share in the spleen, while it has hardly any share in the liver. All these things will at some time have to be studied; and indeed at no very distant date, by the physiologists and anatomists, because gradually facts will come to light in the materialistic descriptions of the organs of men, animals, and plants that would have no sense at all if only compared as though they were peas and beans, as external anatomy and physical science does today. How something in the world and in man stands to the spirit, represents its true nature. And as in man, so it is in the heavenly system. A moon is quite different from a planet or fixed star. We have already seen that the relation of the beings of the higher hierarchies are different as regards the Sun from what they are in regard to the Moon or the planets; consequently we must fix our attention on the following in order to describe these differences. Suppose we could take out of a planetary system — as if we peeled them off — all the moons of the individual planets: that is to say thought away for a moment the fixed star itself and the planets, till we have only the moons remaining in the planetary system. If occult vision were so directed that it only observed the moons — everything which is moon within the planetary system, everything in which the forces, as far down as the Archangels, are the same as upon our Earth in the successive evolution of humanity — we should then gain a very definite impression; we should have a very definite occult experience.
We might repeat this occult experience a second time. Anyone with trained occult vision can, if he has sufficient willpower, think away the fixed star and the planets from the planetary system so that only the moons remain (that is to say, he must fix his attention only upon that for which he has prepared himself). He must then seek for something else from which he has the same impression as that connected with all the moons of a planetary system. Precisely the same impression as is made upon one by visualizing all the moons is also made on one who looks at a human corpse, a physical body, the bearer of which has recently passed through the gate of death. Although these things appear externally as absolutely different, what appears to natural science as an external difference is maya. The impression made upon our occult vision when we, as human beings, stand thus with regard to all the moons of a planetary system on the one hand, and on the other stand before a physical body left behind, deserted by the astral and etheric bodies, is one and the same. From this arises the occult knowledge that in the moons that are continually coming into existence the planetary system is gradually forming its own corpse within itself. All the moons of a system which are continually being formed will constitute the corpse of a planetary system. The difference with regard to man is, that at the moment when he, with his being, passes into the condition in which the planetary system is when it forms its moons, he then rejects his corpse; while the planetary system keeps the corpse within itself, binds it together, and condenses the dying matter into moons. Thus it is as though man, when he goes through the gates of death, were not to lay aside his physical body, but were to form it into some sort of organ, and by a certain power within him, drag it about with him. A planetary system actually drags about its own corpse, and indeed a continually changing corpse, in its moons; a corpse which is in the process of becoming, which is in the course of evolution.
Let us now go further and try to describe the impression which occult sight has when it thinks away all the moons of the planetary system as well as the fixed star and the possibly existing comets. If he thus fixes his attention upon the whole system of the planets themselves, completely concentrates himself upon this system of planets, makes the impression clear to himself and imprints it upon his memory in order to describe it, he must again, later, compare this impression with something which differs from the impression he received from the individual planets. If a man searches for something which will give him the same impression as does the totality of the planets of a system he finds in his immediate earthly environment none other than that made on him if he allows the various forms of the animals to work upon him. This is an impression which it is extremely difficult to gain completely; but it can be partially gained by allowing various animal forms to work upon one. One cannot at one time have an occult impression of all the animals on the Earth — that would be too complicated — but a compromise can be made by letting a number of characteristic animal forms so work upon him that he only takes into consideration the occult forces at work in those forms; then, comparing them by means of occult vision, he can gain from the form something producing a similar impression to that made by the totality of the planets of a system. Thus as the animal kingdom lives on Earth (and in so far as man has an extract of the animal body in his living body we can also draw this comparison with the living human body) and the impression of all the forms working in the animal kingdom resembles the forces which proceed from the individual planets — we can say the following: The actual living body, the body with which a living, conscious being is endowed as in primitive man, or in the animals, corresponds to the system of planets of a planetary system; so that in a whole planetary system we have all that we call the totality of the planetary mass, the living body, that is, the body permeated by the principle of life and of consciousness. The totality of the planets of a system is therefore the living body of the planetary system. If we consider all the spiritual beings we have described as contained in the planetary system as the spirit and soul of the system, we must then consider the totality of the planets as its living body, and the totality of the moons as the corpse of the planets, which they drag about with them.
Now let us direct our occult vision to the fixed star, thus in our case, to the Sun, and try to gain an impression of the fixed star in the way described for the totality of the moons and planets. If we notice the impression made by the forces active in the fixed star, we can find something in the Earth conditions themselves which can call up a similar impression. This again is somewhat difficult, because this time we have to do with the plants, and we cannot reach the whole plant-world of our Earth. But comparatively speaking it will suffice if we fix our occult gaze upon a certain number of forms, of plant-forms, and gain the occult impression of that which works and lives in the plants; if we allow that to work upon our vision, it recalls the impression we received from the inner development of the fixed star.
The differences certainly become ever greater and greater. The resemblance of a human corpse after death with the totality of the moons is really very striking as regards the occult impression. This resemblance is also pronounced in the impressions made by the planetary world and the fixed star upon man. The resemblance is clearly present, but it is no longer so great as that between the discarded physical human body and the totality of the moons. But the resemblance becomes infinitely greater if we now demand from occult vision something special; namely, when we have gained an impression of a number of plant-forms, we must look away from these plants which we have observed with occult vision, look away from the physical plant-bodies and make use of those means which the practical occultist uses when he observes the etheric bodies of the plants. We thus make an additional observation. We have noted the impression we gained from the fixed star; we then seek the similar though not yet satisfactory impression which we gain from a number of plants. We go further; we abstract the external form of the plant and allow the etheric body which is within the plant to work upon us. The resemblance then increases and becomes almost as complete as that between the physical corpse of a man and the totality of the moons. Occult perception then realizes that when we look up to the fixed star, what we perceive as working in the fixed star is the etheric body of the planetary system; for we actually gain the impression of an etheric body. We understand the impression which the fixed star makes upon us when we observe the etheric body of the plants, where it works as yet unmixed with an astral body, where only the etheric body works, in cooperation with the physical body. We then gain the knowledge that when we look at the fixed star, we actually see the etheric body of the planetary system raying down from it. We can now say: In the moons we have the corpse of the planetary system, in the totality of the planets we have its body, its physical body; and in the fixed star itself, raying out from it, we have the etheric body of the planetary system. In fact, the possibility of occult vision clinging to the dead paper-mache ideas upon which all physical astronomy is based, soon ceases; for this vision everywhere recognizes that the whole planetary system is permeated by life, and is a living organism. Indeed a continual stream of etheric life flows from the fixed star to the outermost boundary of the system, and back again. We have continually to do with life-forces (as in living animal and plant bodies) which appear centered — I say that now by way of comparison — centered in the fixed star — as the life of the animal is centered — let us say — in the heart; or as plant-life is centered in the various organs which regulate the rising and failing of the sap. In short, we have to do with a center of the planetary system, which we must seek in the fixed star.
After this we can also direct our attention to the comets, to cometary life. Now I do not doubt that if the characteristics of the planetary system, which we have just discussed, were heard in external science, this would be regarded as a very special folly; but that does not matter at all: Nevertheless with regard to cometary life things become particularly difficult — because the opportunity of observing cometary life is such that a certain impartiality of occult vision is necessary in order to observe this peculiar life in the planetary system.
It must not for a moment be supposed that in the whole planetary system there is nothing besides that which we have now called corpse, physical body, and etheric body; for of course every part is permeated by the beings of the various hierarchies. Naturally there are spiritual-psychic forces everywhere and we need only grasp the fact that within the system are the Spirits of the Age, the Archangels and the Luciferic Beings; they all belong to it. We have now discovered in the planetary system the corpse, the physical body, and the etheric body. From what we have now heard we can, of course, say that everywhere within the system there is also astral substance, which is organized into beings; for there is astral substance even in the beings of the higher hierarchies.
If we describe man — the microcosm — as he passes before us, we say: Man consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, etc. If we describe a planetary system, we must only add something else to its lowest principle, and we must say: A planetary system consists of its moons (which are its corpse), its planets (which are its physical body), and of everything of which the fixed star is the director (which is its etheric body). The astral body we can find there of itself; we learn to know of it by the fact that the beings dwell in it. Just as man dwells in his sheaths, so do the beings of the higher hierarchies dwell in the sheath of the corpse, in the physical sheath, and in the etheric sheath of the planetary system. We need not at first trouble about the astral body, for we already have that by means of the esoteric-occult vision which is directed inwards. Yet even if you consider human life upon the Earth, you will admit that by means of this human life — as you know from elementary spiritual science — there arise a number of astral beings, of astral forms, which are actually harmful, hindering to life. From man himself stream forth continually, erroneous, base, evil thoughts; these are, as we know, realities, which pass out into the astral world and continue to exist there; so that the astral sphere of a planet is filled not only by the normal substances of its psychic being, but also by this outpoured astral substance. If we should only investigate all the harmful forces brought forth by the various Luciferic spirits, we should find an enormous mass of harmful, astral substances in a planetary system. And in a curious way, the occult vision which for a time has had the opportunity of observing cometary life shows us that everything of a cometary or meteoric nature is ever striving to collect round itself all the harmful astral products, and to remove them out of the planetary system. We shall see further in the course of these lectures how this affects in particular the harmful astral products of humanity; but we see that the noxious Luciferic evils are carried away through the comets out of the planetary system. Before concluding this lecture I should like to give you an idea of how this is done.