|1st Hierarchy:||World-creation.||Creation of Beings.||Spirits of the Rotation of Time.|
|2nd Hierarchy:||Self-creation.||Stimulation of Life.||Group-Souls.|
|3rd Hierarchy:||Manifestation.||Being filled with Spirit.||Nature-Spirits.|
Rudolf Steiner, Helsinki, Finland, April 7, 1912:
There we must completely lose the feeling that we exist as a separate being in any one part of the world. We must reach the point not only of pouring ourselves into the other being and standing beside it, retaining our own separate experience, but we must actually feel the foreign being as our self. We must completely pass out of ourselves and lose the feeling that we are standing beside the other being. If we thus dive down into a foreign being, we succeed in looking upon our self — as we were previously, as we are in ordinary life — as another being. For example, suppose a student at the higher stage of clairvoyance plunges down into some being of the kingdom of nature; he does not then look upon this being from within himself; he does not merely immerse himself in it as at the second stage of clairvoyance, but he knows himself to be one with this being, and he looks back upon himself from within it. Just as formerly he looked upon a foreign being as outside himself, so now at the higher stage of clairvoyance he looks out from within the foreign being, and sees himself as a foreign being. That is the difference between the second and higher stages. Only when this third stage is reached do we succeed in perceiving other beings in our spiritual environment besides those of the Second and. Third Hierarchies. The spiritual beings of whom we are then aware also belong to three categories. The first category we perceive chiefly when, in the manner described, we plunge down into the being of other men or of the higher animals, and by that means educate ourselves. The essential thing is not so much what we perceive in other human beings or in the higher animals, as that we should educate ourselves by that means and perceive behind the human beings and animals the spirits belonging to one of the categories of the First Hierarchy: the Spirits of Will or, according to Western esotericism — the Thrones. For we then perceive beings we cannot describe otherwise than by saying that they do not consist of flesh and blood, nor even of light and air, but of that which we can only observe in ourselves when we are conscious that we have a will. In so far as their lowest substance is concerned, they consist only of will. Then if we educate ourselves in the manner described and now also fix our gaze on the lower animals and their life — or if we plunge into the plant-world, considering it not merely according to its gestures or its mimicry, as described yesterday, but become one with the plant, and from the plant look out upon ourselves — then indeed we attain an experience for which there is no real comparison within the world as we know it.
At the most, we can attempt to find a comparison for the qualities of those beings to whom we then ascend — the beings of the second category of the First Hierarchy — if we allow such feelings to work upon our soul as may be aroused by earnest people of great worth; people who have applied the many experiences of their life to the gaining of wisdom — who after many applied years of rich experience have gathered so much wisdom that we say to ourselves: “When they express an opinion, it is not their personal will speaking, but that life which they have accumulated for decades, and by means of which they have in a certain sense become quite impersonal.” They make upon us the impression that their wisdom is impersonal, and is the blossom and fruit of a mature life. Such persons call forth in us a feeling, though but a faint one, of what influences us from our spiritual environment when we press forward to the stage of clairvoyance of which we must now speak. In Western esotericism this category of beings is called the Cherubim. It is extremely difficult to describe the beings of this higher category, for the higher we ascend the more impossible does it become to make use of any qualities of ordinary life wherewith to arouse an idea of the loftiness and greatness and sublimity of the beings of this Hierarchy. We can perhaps to some slight extent describe the Spirits of Will, the lowest category of the First Hierarchy, by saying: “We become familiar with Will, for Will is the lowest substance of which they consist.” But this would be impossible if we were only to regard the will which we encounter in man or animals in normal life, or the ordinary feelings and thoughts of man. And it would be impossible to describe by what is usually accepted as human thought, feeling, and will the beings of the second category of the First Hierarchy. For this we must turn to the life of special persons who, in the way described, have built up an overwhelming power of wisdom in their souls. When we realize this wisdom of theirs, we feel somewhat as the occultist feels when he stands before the beings we call the Cherubim. Wisdom — not acquired in decades, as is the wisdom of eminent men, but such wisdom as is gathered in thousands, nay, in millions of years of cosmic growth — this streams toward us in sublime power from the beings we call the Cherubim.
Still more difficult to describe are those beings called the Seraphim, who form the first and highest category of the First Hierarchy. It would only be possible to gain some idea of the impression which the Seraphim make upon occult vision if we take the following comparison from life. We will pursue the comparison just made. We will consider a man who for decades has built up experiences which have brought him overwhelming wisdom, and we will imagine that such a wise man speaks from his most impersonal life wisdom, that out of this most impersonal wisdom his whole being is permeated as if with inner fire, so that he need say nothing, but just appear before us. The wisdom of those decades, that lifelong wisdom, will be apparent in his countenance, so that his look can tell us of the sorrows and experiences of decades; and this look can make such an impression on us that it speaks to us as the world itself, which we experience. If we imagine such a look or imagine that such a wise man does not speak to us in words alone, but that in the tone and in the peculiar coloring of his words he can give us such an impression of all this rich life of experience that we hear in what he says something like an undertone, conveying the nature of his experiences, then again we gain something of the feeling which the occultist has when he ascends to the Seraphim. Just like a countenance matured by life which tells of the experience of decades, or like a phrase which is so expressed that we hear not merely the thoughts, but realize: “This phrase expressed with resonance has been acquired in pain and by the experience of life. It is no theory, it has been attained by struggles and suffering. It has passed through the battles and victories of life, and has sunk into the heart.” If we hear all this as in an undertone, we gain an idea of the impression which the trained occultist receives when he lifts himself to the beings we call the Seraphim.
We might describe the beings of the Third Hierarchy by saying: What in man is perception, in them is manifestation of self: what in man is inner life, waking consciousness, is in them being filled with spirit. We might describe the beings of the Second Hierarchy by saying: What in the beings of the Third Hierarchy is manifestation of self is in them self-realization, self-creation, a stamping of impressions of their own being; and what in the beings of the Third Hierarchy is being filled with spirit is in them stimulation of life, which consists in severance, in objectifying themselves. Now, what in the beings of the Second Hierarchy is self-creation we also encounter in the beings of the First Hierarchy when we look at them with occult vision — but there is a difference. This difference consists in this. What the beings of the Second Hierarchy make objective, what they create from themselves, exists only so long as these beings remain connected with their creations. Thus, note well: the beings of the Second Hierarchy can create something like an image of themselves, but it remains connected with them and cannot be separated from them. The beings of the First Hierarchy can also objectify themselves, they can also stamp their own being; it is separated from them as in a sort of skin or shell, but it is an impression of their own being. When this is detached from them, however, it remains existing in the world though they sever themselves from it. They do not carry their own creations about with them; these creations remain in existence even if they go away from them. Thus a higher degree of objectivity is attained by them than by the Second Hierarchy. When the beings of the Second Hierarchy create, if their creations are not to fall into decay they must remain connected with them. The creations would become lifeless and disintegrate if they themselves did not remain connected with them. What they create has an independent objective existence; but only so long as they remain linked with it. On the other hand that which is detached from the beings of the First Hierarchy can be disconnected from them and yet remain in existence, self-acting and objective.
In the Third Hierarchy we have manifestation and being filled with spirit. In the Second Hierarchy, self-creation, and stimulation of life. In the First Hierarchy, which consists of the Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim, we have a form of creation in which the part created is detached — we have there not only self-creation, but world-creation. That which proceeds from the beings of the First Hierarchy is a detached world, such an independent world that this world-phenomenon is a fact, even when the beings are no longer there. Now we may ask: “What then is the actual life of this First Hierarchy?” The actual life of this First Hierarchy is such that when such objective, independent, detached beings proceed from it, it realizes itself. For the inner condition of consciousness, the inner experience of the beings of the First Hierarchy, lies in creation, in forming independent beings. We may say: They contemplate that which they create and which becomes a world, and it is not when they look into themselves but when they look out of themselves upon the world which is their own creation that they possess themselves. To create other beings is their inner life; to live in other beings is the inner experience of these beings of the First Hierarchy. Creation of worlds is their external life; creation of beings their inner life.
In the course of these lectures we have drawn attention to the fact that these various beings of the hierarchies have offspring — beings split off from themselves, which they send down into the kingdoms of nature — and we have learnt that the offspring of the Third Hierarchy are the nature-spirits, while the offspring of the Second Hierarchy are the Group-souls. The beings of the First Hierarchy have likewise offspring split off from them, and as a matter of fact I have already described from a different aspect these beings which are the offspring of the First Hierarchy. I described them at the beginning of this course, when we ascended to the so-called Spirits of the Rotation of Time, the spirits governing and directing what goes on in the kingdoms of nature in rhythmic succession and repetition. The beings of the First Hierarchy detach from themselves the beings governing the alternation of summer and winter, so that the plants spring up and fade away again; that rhythmical succession through which, for instance, the animals belonging to a certain species have a definite period of life in which they develop from birth to death. Everything too which takes place in the kingdom of nature rhythmically and in recapitulation — such as day and night, alternations of the year, the four seasons of the year, everything which thus depends upon repeated happenings — is regulated by the Spirits of the Rotation of Time, the offspring of the beings of the First Hierarchy.
These Spirits of the Rotation of Time can be described from one aspect, as we did some days ago, and we can now describe them according to their origin, as we have done today. Thus we can comprehensively represent the beings of these Three Hierarchies as follows:
|1st Hierarchy:||World-creation.||Creation of Beings.||Spirits of the Rotation of Time.|
|2nd Hierarchy:||Self-creation.||Stimulation of Life.||Group-Souls.|
|3rd Hierarchy:||Manifestation.||Being filled with Spirit.||Nature-Spirits.|
In speaking of man, he is described as he reveals himself to occult vision in my books Theosophy, Occult Science and others. In considering man we say: The most external part, the part perceptible to human eyes and senses, is his physical body. Thus we look upon the physical body as the first human principle. The second, the etheric body, we already regard as something supersensible, invisible to the normal consciousness; and the astral body we regard as the third principle. These three principles approximately comprise the sheaths of man. We then come to yet higher principles. They are of a soul nature. In ordinary life we regard them as the inner soul-life; and just as we speak of a threefold external covering, so can we speak of a threefold soul: the sentient soul, the intellectual soul or mind-soul, and the consciousness soul. These principles of human nature, from the physical body to the consciousness soul, are already present today in every human being. To these may also be added a shining in of the next principle, which we designate the Spirit-Self — or, as perhaps some are accustomed to call it: Manas. The next principle, which will only really be formed in man in full measure in the future, we call the Life-Spirit — or Buddhi. Then comes that which we designate as the actual Spirit-Man — or Atman, which in fact is the innermost part of man's nature but which, as far as the consciousness of man today is concerned, is still asleep within him. It will only light up in future earthly days as the real center of consciousness. These principles of human nature are such that we speak of them as separate unities. In a certain sense the physical body of man is one unity; the etheric body of man is another; and so likewise are the other principles of human nature. The whole man is a unity, consisting of the union and combined working of these various principles.
If we wish to go further, you must picture to yourselves that there are beings so far exalted above human nature that they do not consist of principles which we could call physical body, etheric body, etc., but that the principles of these beings are themselves beings. Thus while man has his individual principles which we cannot look upon as beings, but merely as separate principles, we must ascend to beings possessing no physical body as part of themselves, but who, corresponding with the physical body of man, have something which in our study we have called the Spirits of Form. When we say that there are beings of a higher category not having a physical body as one of their principles but having among their principles a being itself, a Spirit of Form, we may then gain an idea of a being not yet described, but which we will now proceed to describe.
If we wish to do this we must make use of those concepts to which we have risen in the course of these lectures. I have already said that it is difficult to come to these ideas, but you may be able to raise yourselves to such thoughts by means of an analogy. Let us consider a beehive or an anthill, and take the individual entities, the individual bees in a beehive; it is clear that the beehive possesses a real common spirit, a real collective being, and that this being has its various parts in the individual bees, just as you have yours in your separate principles. Here you have an analogy for still higher beings than those we have already considered, beings having among their principles nothing which we can compare with the physical body of man, but instead something we must designate as itself a being, a Spirit of Form. Just as we live in our physical body, so does the life of those beings of a higher eminence consist in their having the Spirits of Form, or a Spirit of Form, as their lowest principle. Then instead of the etheric body which we human beings have, these beings have as their second principle Spirits of Motion; instead of what is to us our astral body, these beings have a Spirit of Wisdom. Instead of the sentient-soul which we as human beings have, these beings have as their fourth principle the Thrones, or Spirits of Will. Instead of the intellectual soul these beings have the Cherubim as their fifth principle; and as the sixth, as we have the consciousness soul, they have the Seraphim. Just as we look up to that which we shall only gradually attain in future Earth-lives, so do these beings look up to that which towers above the nature of the hierarchies. Just as we speak of our Manas, Buddhi, Atman — or Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, and Spirit-man — so, as it were, do these beings look up from their Seraphic Principle as we out of our consciousness soul, to a Primal Spirituality. Then only have these beings something analogous to our inner spiritual life. It is extremely difficult to arouse concepts within us concerning that which exists above the hierarchies as the spiritual nature of the highest spirits themselves. Hence in course of the evolution of humanity, the various religions and world-concepts have, as we might say, forborne with a certain reverent caution to speak in concise concepts pertaining to the sense-world of what exists even above the hierarchies.
If in order to call forth such a concept as lives in the soul of the occultist when he looks up to the Seraphim, we try to grasp such means as can only be found in analogy, in considering people with a rich experience of life; we find that even in such persons nothing in their lives can in the very least help one to characterize the Trinity, which, as it were, appears above the Seraphim, as their highest being — as their Manas, Buddha and Atman.
In the course of human evolution there has unfortunately been much dispute over the cautious surmises with which the human mind has ventured to approach that which is above, in the spiritual worlds. Unfortunately, we may say; for it would be much more seemly if the human mind were not to try to describe beings of such sublimity with the concepts taken from ordinary life, nor by means of all sorts of analogies and comparisons; it would be more seemly for man to desire in deepest reverence to learn ever more fully, so that he might be able to form more approximate concepts. The various religions of the world have tried to give approximate concepts of what is Above, in many significant and speaking ideas; ideas which to a certain extent do gain something special, in that they reach out beyond the individual life of man in the external sense-world. Naturally, we cannot by means of such ideas describe, even approximately, these exalted beings to whom we refer, but we can to a certain extent call up a conception of what is inexpressible and should be veiled in holy mystery. For one ought not to approach these matters with mere human intellectual concepts obtained from the external world. Hence in the successive religions and conceptions of the world it was sought to characterize these things approximately and by faint indications; they drew near to what is so far above man and in its very nature mysterious, by an attempt at characterizing, or rather, by a giving of names.
The ancient Egyptians have, in their giving of names, made use of the concept of Child or Son — Father and Mother, as that which towers above individual man. Christianity endeavored in the succession of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to find a name for this Trinity. We may therefore say: “In the seventh place we should have to put the Holy Spirit, in the eighth place the Son, and in the ninth the Father.” If therefore we look up to a being whose highest content disappears as in a spiritual Mystery we can say symbolically — Spirit, Son, and Father. When we look up to such a being with occult vision we say to ourselves: Just as when we look at man externally, regarding his physical body as his lowest principle, so among such beings, if we are to regard them as in any sense analogous, we have before us as their lowest principle the Spirit of Form; that is, a spirit which gives itself form, a spirit having form. We must therefore look upon that which is in this being as analogous to or resembling the physical body of man: as something which has form. Just as we have something of form in this physical body of man as his lowest principle, and as in this form, which in truth, as we encounter it, is obviously maya, lives that which is a Spirit of Form — so that which appears to us when we direct our gaze into cosmic space and there perceive a planet — Mercury, Venus, Mars, or Jupiter — is the external form of a Spirit of Form. It is that which belongs to the being of whom we have just spoken, as the physical body of man belongs to man. When we see man before us, his form expresses what lives in him as his higher principles — etheric body, astral body, sentient soul, etc. When we look at a planet its form expresses to us the work of the Spirits of Form. Just as behind the human form, behind the physical body, are the etheric body, astral body, sentient soul etc., so, behind the planet, belonging to it, are what we know as the Spirits of Motion, Wisdom, Will, Cherubim, and Seraphim etc. If we wish to visualize the complete being of a planet in the sense of spiritual science, we must say: The planet meets our perception in cosmic space when its physical being, given by the Spirit of Form, shines forth; and it conceals from us, just as man conceals his higher principles from the physical gaze, all that rules within and around it as beings of the higher hierarchies. Thus we rightly imagine such a planet as Mars or Mercury only when we first of all picture it in its physical form, and then think of it as surrounded and permeated by a spiritual atmosphere stretching out into infinity and having in the physical planet its physical form, the creation of the Spirit of Form — and as its spiritual environment the beings of the hierarchies. Only when we consider it thus do we conceive of the complete planet, as having the physical as a kernel in the center, and round it the spiritual sheaths which consist of the beings of the hierarchies. This will be considered more in detail in the following lectures, but today we may, in order to some extent to indicate the direction of our observations, give the following information revealed by occult investigation.
We have already pointed out that what we observe as the physical form of the planet is a creation of the Spirits of Form. Our Earth-form is also a creation of the Spirits of Form. Now, with regard to our Earth we know that it is never at rest; that this Earth is in a state of perpetual inner change and movement. It will be remembered from the description given in the Akasha Chronicle that the external aspect of our Earth today is quite different from what was presented, for example, at the time we call the Atlantean epoch. In this primeval Atlantean epoch the surface of the Earth-globe today covered by the Atlantic ocean was a mighty continent; while where Europe, Asia, and Africa are now situated, scarcely any continents were as yet formed. Thus the solid matter, the substance, of the Earth has been transformed by its inner motion. The Earth-planet is in a continual state of inner motion. Consider, for instance, that what we know today as the island of Heligoland is but a small part of that land which in the ninth and tenth centuries still projected out into the sea. Although the periods during which the inner changes alter the Earth's surface are comparatively great, yet without going deeply into these matters we can all say that our planet is in perpetual inner motion. Indeed, if we do not merely include the solid Earth in the planet, but also the water and the air, then daily life teaches us that the planet is in inner motion. In the formation of clouds and rain, in all the phenomena of atmospheric conditions, in the rise and fall of the water, in all these we see the inner mobility of the planetary substance. That is a life of the planet. Just as the etheric body works in the life of the individual man, so does that which we designate as the Spirits of Motion work in the life of the planet. We may therefore say: The external form of the planet is the creation by the Spirits of Form. The inner livingness is regulated by the beings we call the Spirits of Motion or Movement. Now, to the occultist such a planet is in every way an actual being, a being regulating what goes on within it, according to thought. Not only is that which has just been described as inner vitality present in the planet but the planet as a whole has consciousness, for it is indeed a being. This consciousness which corresponds to the consciousness of man, to the lower form of consciousness — the subconsciousness in the astral body — is regulated in the planet by the Spirits of Wisdom. We may therefore say: The lowest consciousness of the planet is regulated by the Spirits of Wisdom. In thus describing the planet, we still refer to the planet itself. We look up to the planet saying: It has a definite form, that corresponds to the Spirits of Form; it has an inner mobility, that corresponds to the Spirits of Motion. All this is permeated by consciousness, which corresponds to the Spirits of Wisdom.
Now let us follow the planet further. It passes through space; it has an inner impulse which drives it through space, just as man has an inner impulse of will which causes him to take steps, to walk along in space. That which leads the planet through space, which governs its movement through space and causes it to revolve around the fixed star, corresponds to the Spirits of Will, or Thrones. Now, if these Spirits of Will were only to give the impulse of motion to the planet, every planet would go its own way through the universe; but this is not the case, for every planet acts in conformity with the whole system. The motion is not only so regulated that the planet moves, but it is brought into due order with the whole planetary system. Just as due order is brought let us say, to a group of people, of whom one goes in one direction and another in another to reach a common goal — the movements of the planets are also so arranged that they harmonize. The harmony of movement between one planet and another corresponds to the activity of the Cherubim. The regulation of the combined movements of the system is the work of the Cherubim. Each planetary system with its fixed star, which is in a sense the Commander-in-Chief under the guidance of the Cherubim, is again related to the other planetary systems to which other fixed stars belong. These systems mutually arrange their positions in space with due regard to the neighboring systems, just as individual persons agree together, deliberate with one another with regard to their common action. Just as men found a social system by virtue of this reciprocity, so is there also a reciprocity of the planetary systems. Mutual understanding prevails between one fixed star and another. By this means alone does the cosmos come into existence. That which, so to speak, the planetary systems discuss with one another in cosmic space in order to become a cosmos is regulated by those beings we call the Seraphim. We have now, as it were, exhausted what we find in man, as far as the consciousness soul. Just as in man we ascend to his higher spirit-nature, to that which alone gives meaning to the whole system up to the consciousness soul, so if we ascend above the Seraphim we come to what we tried to describe today as the Highest Trinity of Cosmic Being; we come to that which governs in the Universe as the All-pervading, Divine, Threefold Divine Life, Which creates for Itself sheaths in the different planetary systems. Just as that which lives in man as Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, and Spirit-Man (Manas, Buddhi, Atman) creates sheaths in the consciousness soul, intellectual soul, and sentient soul, astral, etheric, and physical bodies: so do the fixed stars of planetary systems move through space as the bodies of divine beings. Inasmuch as we contemplate the life of the world of stars, we contemplate the bodies of the gods, and finally of the Divine in general.