Thursday, January 7, 2016

Stages of Clairvoyance and the Spiritual Hierarchies

Rudolf Steiner, Helsinki, Finland, April 6, 1912:
The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature. Lecture 4.

If we wish to know the nature of the spiritual forces and powers active in the different kingdoms of nature and in the heavenly bodies, we must first become acquainted with these spiritual beings themselves, as we have already begun to do in the three lectures which have been given. We tried to characterize the so-called nature-spirits, and then ascended to the beings which stand immediately above man and which we can find in the next higher world to our own. We will continue these considerations today, and must therefore link them to what has already been said about the way in which we can link ourselves to the beings of the Third Hierarchy. As shown in the last lecture, it is possible for man to rise above himself, to subdue all his own special ego interests in order, by that means, to rise into a sphere in which he first of all finds his own guide, who can give him some idea of those beings called, in the sense of Western esotericism, Angels, Angeloi.

We then pointed out how further progress along this path leads to knowledge of the Folk- or Nation-Spirits, of whom we have spoken as Archangels, Archangeloi; and how in the course of cultural civilization we find the so-called Spirits of the Age, the Archai. If a man follows the path roughly indicated yesterday, he gains a certain feeling of what is meant by these beings of the Third Hierarchy, but even if he goes through an occult development, he will for a long time only have a sort  of feeling. Only if he goes patiently and with perseverence through all the feelings and perceptions mentioned yesterday can he pass over to what may be called clairvoyant vision of the beings of the Third Hierarchy. If, therefore, we progress further along this way, we shall find that gradually we educate ourselves, developing in ourselves a different state of consciousness, and then we can begin to have a clairvoyant consciousness of the beings of the Third Hierarchy. When a man follows this way further he will find that he gradually trains himself to another condition of consciousness and that then a clairvoyant perception of the Third Hierarchy can begin.

This other condition of consciousness can be compared with the sleep of man, because in this condition a man with his ego and his astral body feels freed from his physical and etheric bodies. We must have a perception of this feeling of freedom. We must gradually learn what it means not to see with our eyes, hear with our cars, or think with our intellect, which is connected with the brain. Again, we must distinguish this condition from that of ordinary sleep, inasmuch as in it we are not unconscious, for we have perceptions of the spiritual beings in our environment — at first only dimly sensing them, and then, as has been described, clairvoyant consciousness lights up within us, and we get a living view of the beings of the Third Hierarchy and of their offspring, the nature-spirits. If we wish to describe this condition more accurately, we may say that he who raises himself through occult development to this condition actually perceives a sort of demarcation between his ordinary consciousness and this new condition of consciousness. Just as we can distinguish between waking and sleeping, so to him who has gone through occult development there is at first a distinction between the consciousness in which he sees with his ordinary eyes, hears with his ordinary ears, and thinks with the ordinary intellect — and that clairvoyant condition in which he has nothing at all around him of what he perceives in the normal consciousness, but has instead another world around him, the world of the Third Hierarchy and its offspring. The first achievement is learning to remember in ordinary consciousness what one has experienced in this other condition of consciousness. Thus we can accurately distinguish a certain stage in the occult development of man, when he can live alternately in his ordinary consciousness, when he sees, hears, and thinks like other men, and in the other condition of consciousness which he can, in a sense, produce voluntarily, and in which he perceives what is around him in the spiritual world of the Third Hierarchy. And then just as we remember a dream, so can he, in his ordinary consciousness, remember what he experienced in the other, the clairvoyant condition. He can talk about it, can translate into ordinary conceptions and ideas what he experiences in the clairvoyant state. Thus if a seer in his ordinary condition of consciousness himself wishes to know something of the spiritual world, or to relate something about it, he must call to mind what he experienced in the other, the clairvoyant conditions of consciousness. A clairvoyant having reached this stage of development can only know something of those beings whom we have described as the beings of the Third Hierarchy and their offspring; he can at first know nothing of higher worlds. If he wishes to know of these he must attain a still higher stage of clairvoyant vision

This higher stage is reached by continually practicing those exercises described in my bookKnowledge of the Higher Worlds and How to Attain It and especially going through those exercises there described as the observation — let us say — of the plant, of the animal, etc. If a man continues his exercises in this way, he attains a higher stage of clairvoyance. This consists not only in his having two alternate conditions of consciousness and being able to remember his clairvoyant experiences in the normal condition; but having attained this higher stage of clairvoyance, he can also perceive spiritual worlds, spiritual beings, and spiritual facts when in his ordinary condition of consciousness, looking at the things of the external world through his eyes. He can then, so to speak, carry his clairvoyant vision over into his ordinary consciousness and can see, behind the beings around him in the external world, the spiritual beings and forces everywhere more deeply concealed, as though behind a veil.

We may ask: “What has happened to a clairvoyant who is able not merely to remember the experiences of another condition of consciousness but who can have clairvoyant experiences in his own everyday consciousness?” If a man has only ascended to the first stage, he can only make use of his astral body in order to look into the spiritual world. Thus the body which a man makes use of at the first stage of clairvoyance is the astral body; at the second stage of clairvoyance, which has just been described, he learns to make use of his etheric body. By means of this he can even in ordinary, normal consciousness look into the spiritual world. If a man learns to use his etheric body in this way as an instrument for clairvoyance, he gradually learns to perceive everything in the spiritual world belonging to the beings of the Second Hierarchy.

Now, however, the clairvoyant must not stand still here, only perceiving his own etheric body, so to speak; but on attaining this second stage of clairvoyance he has a very definite experience. He has the experience of seeming to go out of himself and, as it were, of no longer feeling enclosed within his skin. When he — let us say — encounters a plant or an animal, or even another human being, he feels as if a part of himself were within the other being; he feels as if immersed in the other being. In normal consciousness, and even when we have reached the first stage of clairvoyance, we can still say, in a certain sense, “I am here; and that being which I see is there.” At the second stage of clairvoyance, we can no longer say this; we can only say “Where that being is which I perceive, there  am I myself.” It is as though our etheric body stretched out tentacles on all sides and drew us within the beings into which we, perceiving them, plunge our own being. There is a feeling belonging to our ordinary normal consciousness which can give us an idea of this clairvoyant experience; only, what the clairvoyant of the second stage experiences is infinitely more intense than a feeling; it amounts to a perception, an understanding of, an immersion in another being. The feeling to which I refer, which can be compared to this experience of the clairvoyant, is sympathy, love. What does it really imply when we feel sympathy and love in ordinary life? If we ponder more closely on the nature of sympathy and love — this was slightly touched upon yesterday — we find that sympathy and love cause us to detach ourselves from ourselves and to pass over into the life of the other being. It is truly a wonderful mystery of human life that we are able to feel sympathy and love. There is scarcely anything among the ordinary phenomena of normal consciousness which can so convince man of the divinity of existence as the possibility of developing love and sympathy. As human beings we experience our existence in our own selves; and we experience the world by perceiving it with our senses or grasping it with our reason. It is not possible for any intellect, for any eye, to look into the human heart, to gaze into the human soul; for the soul of another keeps enclosed in its innermost chamber what it has within it of joy or sorrow, and truly it should appear as a wonderful mystery to anyone that he can, as it were, pour himself into the being of other souls — live in their life and share their joys and sorrows. So just as we with our normal consciousness can by means of sympathy and love plunge into the sorrows and joys of conscious beings, so does the clairvoyant learn at the second stage of clairvoyance not only to plunge into everything conscious, into everything that can suffer and rejoice in a human way or in a manner resembling the human; he learns to plunge into everything that is alive. Mark well, I say everything living — for at this second stage one only learns to plunge into living things, not yet into that which is without life or which appears lifeless, dead, and which we see around as a mineral kingdom. But this immersing oneself into living things is connected with a view of what goes on in the inner nature of those beings. We feel ourselves there, within the living beings; we learn to live with the plants, the animals, and with other human beings, at this second stage of clairvoyance. But not only this; we also learn to recognize behind all living things a higher spiritual world, the beings of the Second Hierarchy. It is necessary that we should form a clear idea of these connections, for if one only enumerated what sort of beings belonged to the various hierarchies, that would seem but a dry theory. We can only gain a living idea of what lives and weaves behind the sense-world if we know the path by which clairvoyant consciousness penetrates it.

Now, beginning once more from man, we will try to describe the beings of the Second Hierarchy. We saw yesterday that the beings of the Third Hierarchy are characterized by the fact that in place of human perception they have manifestation of their own being, and instead of human inner life they have what we may call “being filled with the spirit.” In the beings of the Second Hierarchy we experience when we plunge into them that not only is their perception a manifestation of their being, not only do they manifest their own being, but that this manifestation remains as something independent which separates from these beings themselves. We can gain an idea of what we thus perceive if we think of a snail, which separates off its own shell. The shell — so we understand — consists of a substance which is at first contained in the body of the snail. The snail then detaches it. Not only does the snail manifest its own being externally, but detaches something which then becomes objective and remains. So it is with the actual nature, with the selfhood, of the beings of the Second Hierarchy. Not only do they manifest their selfhood as do the beings of the Third Hierarchy, but they detach it from themselves, so that it remains as an independent being. This will be clearer to us if we picture on the one hand a being of the Third Hierarchy, and on the other hand a being of the Second Hierarchy. Let us direct our occult vision to a being of the Third Hierarchy. We recognize this being as such because it manifests its selfhood, its inner life, externally, and in this manifestation it has its perception; but if it were to change its inner perception, its inner experience, the outer manifestation would also be different. As the inner condition of these beings of the Third Hierarchy changes, and their experiences vary, so do the external manifestations continually change. But if you look at a being of the Second Hierarchy with occult vision, it is quite different. These beings also perceive and experience inwardly; but what they experience is detached from them like a sort of shell or skin; it acquires independent existence. If the being of the Second Hierarchy then passes on into another inner condition, has a different perception and manifests in a new way, the old manifestation of the being will still exist; it still remains and does not pass away, as in the case of a being of the Third Hierarchy. So then, what appears in the place of manifestation in a being of the Second Hierarchy we can call a self-creation, a sort of shell or skin; it creates, as it were, an impression of itself, makes itself objective, in a sort of image. That is what distinguishes the beings of the Second Hierarchy. And if we ask ourselves what appears in these beings in the place of the “being filled with the spirit” of the beings of the Third Hierarchy, it is shown to occult vision that every time the being detaches such a picture or image of itself, life is stimulated. The stimulation of life is always the result of such a self-creation.

Thus, in the beings of the Third Hierarchy we must distinguish their external life in their manifestation, and their inner life in their “being filled with spirit.” In the beings of the Second Hierarchy we must distinguish their external side as a creating of themselves, a making of themselves objective in images, in pictures; and their inner activity as the stimulation of life, as if fluidity continually rippled in itself and congealed as it detached its image externally. This approximately represents to occult vision the external and internal fulfillment of the beings of the Second Hierarchy. While to occult vision the “being filled with the spirit” of the beings of the Third Hierarchy appears, in picture and imagination, as a sort of spiritual light, so is the fluidic life, the stimulation of life which is connected with an external separation, perceived in such a way that occult perception hears something like spiritual tone, the Music of the Spheres. It is like spiritual sound, not spiritual light as in the case of the Third Hierarchy.

Now, in these beings of the Second Hierarchy we can distinguish several categories, just as we did among the beings of the Third Hierarchy. To distinguish between these categories will be more difficult, for the higher we ascend the more difficult it becomes. We must in the course of our ascent first of all gain some idea of all that underlies the world surrounding us, in so far as the world around us has forms. I have already said that as regards this second stage of clairvoyance, we need only consider that which lives, not that which appears to us lifeless. What lives comes into consideration, but what lives has, in the first place, form. Plants have forms, animals have forms, man has a form. If clairvoyant vision is directed with all the qualities described today to everything around us in nature which has form, and if we look away from all the other parts of the being and only see the forms, considering among the plants the multiplicity of the forms, as also in the animals and in man, this clairvoyant vision then perceives from the totality of the beings of the Second Hierarchy those which we call the Spirits of Form — the Exusiai. We can, however, turn our attention to something besides the form in the beings around us in nature. We know indeed, that everything which lives changes its form, in a certain respect, as it grows. This change, this alteration of form, this metamorphosis, strikes us more particularly in the plant-world. Now if we direct not the ordinary vision but the clairvoyant vision of the second stage  to the growing plant-world, we see how the plant gradually gains its form, how it passes from the form of the root to the form of the leaf, to the form of the flower, to the form of the fruit. If we look at the growing animal, at the growing man, we do not merely consider a form as it exists at a given moment, we see the growth of the living being. If we allow ourselves to be stimulated by this contemplation of the growth of the living being — reflecting how the forms change, how they are in active metamorphosis — then the clairvoyant vision of the second stage becomes aware of what we call the category of the Spirits of Motion: the Dynamis.

It is still more difficult to consider a third category of such beings of the Second Hierarchy. For we must consider neither the form as such, nor the changes of form, nor the movement; but that which is expressed in the form. We can describe how a man may train himself to this. Of course it does not suffice to train the ordinary normal consciousness in such a way as has just been described; he must  be helped by the use of the other exercises which raise man to occult vision. He must perform these; and not educate himself by means of his ordinary consciousness but by clairvoyant consciousness. This must first train itself as to how man himself becomes, in his outer form, the expression of his inner being. As we have said, that can also he done by the normal consciousness, but in that way one would attain to nothing but conjecture, a supposition of what may lie behind the bearing, gestures, and the facial expression of the human being. But when the clairvoyant vision which has already been trained to the second stage of clairvoyance allows the physiognomy, gestures, and facial expression in man to work upon him, it produces stimulations through which he can gradually train himself to observe the beings of the third category of the Second Hierarchy. But this cannot take place — please take note of this — if he merely observes the gestures, imitative expression, and physiognomy of man; if he remains at this stage very little can really be gained. He must pass on — occult education is carried on in a most rational way in this realm — he must pass over to the plants. The animals can be left out — it is not very important to study them — but after one has trained oneself a little, clairvoyantly, to learn the inner being of his soul from a man's physiognomy and gestures, it is important to turn to the plant-world and educate oneself further by means of this. Here someone clairvoyantly trained can have very remarkable experiences; he will feel profoundly the difference between the leaf of a plant which — let us say — runs to a point (diagram a.) and the leaf of a plant which has this form (diagram b.); between a blossom which grows upwards in this way (c.) and one which opens outwards. (d.) A whole world of difference appears in the inner experience if one directs the occult vision of the second stage to a lily or to a tulip, or if one lets either a panicle of oats or a wheat or barley stalk work upon one.

Figure 2

All this becomes as livingly speaking as the physiognomy of the human being. And when this speaks as livingly as the physiognomy, the gestures, of a man speaks, when we feel how the blossom which opens outward has something of the character of a hand which turns outward with the inner surface below and the outer surface above, and when we find another blossom which closes its petals above, like the two hands folded; it we feel the gestures, the physiognomy, and the colors of the plant-world to be something like a physiognomy, then the inner vision, the occult perception and understanding, are stimulated — and we recognize a third category of the beings of the Second Hierarchy, whom we call the Spirits of Wisdom. This name is chosen by way of comparison, because when we consider man in his mimicry, physiognomy, and gestures, we see the spiritual part of him, that which is filled with wisdom, springing forth externally, manifesting itself. In this way we feel how the spiritual beings of the Second Hierarchy permeate all nature, and find expression in the physiognomy, the collective gestures, the collective mimicry, of nature. Flowing Wisdom passes full of life through all beings, through all the realms of nature; and not merely a general flowing wisdom, for this flowing wisdom is differentiated into a profusion of spiritual beings, into the profusion of the Spirits of, Wisdom. When occult consciousness raises itself to these spirits, it is at first the highest stage of those spiritual beings whom we can reach in this manner; but just as we could say that the beings of the Third Hierarchy — the Angels, Archangels, and Spirits of the Age — have offspring who separate from them, so, too, the beings of the Second Hierarchy have offspring. In the course of time there are detached from the beings of the Second Hierarchy, in the same way as we were able to describe yesterday with regard to the beings of the Third Hierarchy, other beings of a lower order who are sent down into the kingdoms of nature, just as the nature-spirits by the Third Hierarchy, who then become as it were the master-builders and foremen in miniature in the Kingdom of Nature. Now, the spiritual beings which are detached from the beings of the Second Hierarchy and which sink down into the kingdoms of nature are those designated in occultism as the group-souls of the plants and animals, the group-souls of the individual beings. So that occult vision of the second stage finds in the beings of the plant and animal kingdoms spiritual beings which are not, as in man, individual spirits in individual human beings; but we find groups of animals, groups of plants which are of like form, ensouled by a common spiritual being. The form of the lion and tiger and other forms are, for instance, ensouled by a common Soul-being. These we call group-souls, and these group-souls are the detached offspring of the beings of the Second Hierarchy, just as the nature-spirits are the offspring of the Third Hierarchy. Thus when we penetrate from below upward  into the higher worlds we find, when we look at the elements, which are of importance to all the beings of the plant and animal kingdoms and to the human kingdom, that in these elements, in solid, fluidic, and gaseous matter, there rule the nature-spirits which are the offspring of the beings of the Third Hierarchy. If we ascend from the elements of earth, water, and air to that which lives in the nature kingdoms by the aid of these elements, we find spiritual beings, group-souls, who animate and interpenetrate the beings of these nature-kingdoms, and these group-souls are spiritual beings detached from those we call the beings of the Second Hierarchy.

You can realize from this that only to the occult vision of the second stage are those beings which we call the group-souls actually perceptible. Only for those occultly developed individuals who can extend their own etheric body as tentacles is it possible to know the beings of the Second Hierarchy and also the group-soul-beings which exist in the various kingdoms of Nature. Still more difficult is the ascent to the beings of the First Hierarchy, and to those beings which are their offspring in the kingdoms of nature. We shall speak further about these in the next lecture.

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