Sunday, January 23, 2022

An overview of the human being coming into physical existence and growing into maturity


Rosicrucian Esotericism. Lecture 5
Rudolf Steiner, Budapest, June 7, 1909:

Some explanation must now be given of how the conditions prevailing in our physical world are related to the spiritual world through which man passes between death and a new birth. For anyone who concerns himself with the truths of spiritual science it is self-evident that every happening in the physical world is an expression of spiritual influences, facts, and beings. The foundations of all physical happenings are therefore to be sought in the spiritual world, in Devachan. You may now ask if, inversely, our physical world produces effects in the spiritual world. Yes, that is the case, and the best way to understand these relationships will be to study the life of a human being. Threads from soul to soul are woven here in the physical world as the result of the manifold circumstances of existence. Bonds of friendship, of love, and so on, are firmly knit, and every contact made between one human being and another has significance and reality not only for this physical world but also for the spiritual world. Indeed, it may be said that the more spiritual the relationships here have been, the more significant they are for the world of Devachan. When the individual dies, everything that is physical in these relationships of love and friendship falls away from them and only what was of the nature of soul and spirit remains. The relationship between mother and child is an example. To begin with, this relationship is founded upon nature; it becomes more spiritual as time goes on, until finally the original, natural circumstances simply provide an opportunity for a bond to be woven between soul and soul. When the human being dies, the factors provided by nature are eliminated but the bond that has been woven remains. If you try to picture the whole human race on the Earth and all the bonds of friendship and of love that have been woven, you must picture these relationships as a great network or web, which is, moreover, actually present in Devachan. When a clairvoyant gazes at the Earth from the standpoint of Devachan, he perceives this web of spiritual relationships that a human being finds again when he passes into Devachan after death. He is involved in all the spiritual relationships he himself has woven.
This is also the answer to the question: In Devachan do we see again those who were dear to us? Yes, we see them again, freed moreover from all the obstacles of space and time that here on Earth lie like veils over these relationships of the soul. In Devachan, souls confront each other directly. The relationship of soul to soul is far more intimate and inward than it is in the physical world. There can never be any doubt in Devachan about one soul recognizing the other again, even when one of them passes into Devachan before the other. Recognition of loved ones is not particularly difficult there, for each soul bears his inner, spiritual reality inscribed as it were upon his spiritual countenence. He himself proclaims his name, indeed, in a much truer form than is possible here, as the basic tone, which, as it is said in occultism, he represents in the spiritual world. An absolutely undisturbed communion is actually possible only when both souls are in Devachan. Nevertheless, the disembodied soul does not lose all consciousness of the one who is still on Earth; he can actually follow the latter's actions. The soul who is first in Devachan is naturally unable to see physical colors and forms belonging to the Earth, because in that spiritual realm he has no physical organs. But everything in the physical world has its spiritual counterpart in Devachan, and that is what is perceived by the soul already there. Every movement of the hand in the physical world, because it is preceded by an impulse of will that is either conscious or unconscious, every change in the physical human being, has a spiritual counterpart that can be perceived in Devachan by the soul whose death preceded that of the other human being concerned. Existence in Devachan is not a kind of dreaming or sleeping but in all respects a conscious life. It is in Devachan that a human being develops the predispositions and impulses that enable the bond with those whom he loved to remain closer, in order that in a later incarnation he will find them again on Earth. In many respects the purpose of incarnation on Earth is to forge bonds of ever greater intimacy. Companionship in Devachan is, to say the least, as intimate as any life here on Earth. Fellow feeling in Devachan is much more alert, much more intimate, than it is on Earth; one experiences another's pain there as one's own. On Earth, greater or less personal prosperity is possible at the cost of others, but in Devachan that is out of the question. There, the misfortune caused by someone to another human being in order to better himself would reverberate upon him; nobody could prosper at the expense of another. Adjustment starts from Devachan. It is from there that the impulse is brought to make brotherliness a reality on the Earth. A law that is a matter of course in Devachan is a task that has to be fulfilled on Earth.
A great deal more could be said about the connection between the spiritual world and the Earth. You can now think exhaustively about this and be able to answer many questions yourselves about meeting and being together in Devachan with those we love.
It was said yesterday that when the human being in Devachan has developed his spiritual archetype, the impulse comes to him to descend again to the physical plane. To express it more or less abstractly, it is rather as if a thought matures and you feel an urge to turn it into deed. What is it that actually induces the soul to descend again into the physical world, that gives it the definite impulse to do this? During the kamaloka period, when the soul gradually rids itself of the urge to cling to physical life, it is continually receiving, in the experience it undergoes, impulses that kindle the will to sweep away hindrances to evolution. The soul itself experiences the pain and harm it has caused to others. In thus experiencing the pain of the other being, there arises in the soul the temporarily ineradicable impulse that reparation must he made for this. Thus, step by step the soul takes with it from kamaloka into Devachan the impulse to rectify its faults. In the higher worlds there is even more possibility of everything remaining preserved in the suitable way. When, after the period of kamaloka, the human being lays aside his astral body as a third corpse, everything upon which the ego has not yet worked separates from him. But in the astral world there remains behind something like a web, consisting of whatever hindrances to evolution he has himself brought into the world. The human being himself paves his path through the world with all the forms that are evidence that he has caused injury of some kind to others. If the human being concerned has completed the development of his archetype in Devachan and has woven into it everything that came with him from the last incarnation as the extract of his etheric body, a kind of fecundation now takes place. The archetype is permeated by the web of its own unrequited deeds. Thus the first thing that happens to the soul after it has reached maturity in Devachan is that it is permeated with what we call karma, and this gives it the impulse to descend again to the Earth in order to make compensation for as much as possible of the harm previously caused. At the end of the period in Devachan the soul is permeated with the consequences of its own deeds. Not until then is there complete readiness for the descent into a new existence on Earth.
Everywhere in the astral world a clairvoyant sees souls who want to incarnate. Conditions of space and time in the astral world are of course different from those in the physical world. Such a soul can move with tremendous rapidity in the astral world and is impelled by certain forces to the locality where a physical and an etheric body befitting this soul are produced. Distance such as that between Budapest and New York plays no part whatever. Time factors come into consideration only insofar as the earthly possibilities of the most favorable conditions for incarnation can be achieved. From the Earth there comes to this soul, which has the form of a bell, widening from above downwards as it flies through astral space, the physical element produced by the line of heredity.
We must now speak briefly of what draws the soul down to the Earth and what it is that will incarnate. You know that procreation is connected with certain impulses of feeling, impulses of love, sympathy born of love. The process of procreation is preceded by “sympathy born of love,” which is perceived by a clairvoyant as a play, a surging hither and thither of astral forces, of astral streams, between the man and the woman. Something is alive there that is not present if the human being is alone; the companionship between the souls themselves is expressed in the play of the astral streams. But of course every process of love is individual and issues from a specific individuality. Now, before earthly fertilization, before the physical act of love, there is reflected in this play of astral forces the individuality, the being, who is coming down again to the Earth. That is the essential reality in the procreative act. So one can say that before physical fertilization, what is descending from the spiritual world is already beginning to be active. The spiritual world is also instrumental in bringing about the meeting of the man and woman. A wonderfully intimate play of forces from the spiritual world is taking place here. The being who is descending is, generally speaking, connected from the beginning with the product of fertilization. It is emphatically not the case that an individuality connects with it only after a certain time. From the moment of conception this individuality is in touch with the outcome of physical procreation. There are exceptions, of course, there, too. During the first days after conception, this spiritual individuality who is descending does not yet actually affect the development of the physical human being, but it is close by, as it were, is already in contact with the developing embryo. The actual attachment takes place from about the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first days after conception; what is descending from a higher world is then already working together with the being who is in process of coming into existence. Thus the delicate, organic texture that is necessary if the human individuality is to use the physical body as an instrument is prepared from the beginning in accordance with the earlier faculties. That the human being is an integrated unity originates from the fact that the smallest organ is in keeping with the organism as a whole, that is to say, even the smallest unit must be such that the whole structure is able to ensure that from the eighteenth to the twenty-first day after conception the ego can participate in the development of the physical and etheric bodies.
Now to what extent do the female and male elements influence the development of the being who is coming into existence? If you study what occultly and spiritually underlies the physical creation, a great deal will become intelligible to you; naturally only the essentials can be touched upon here. We shall hear presently that in earlier times, before the separation of the sexes, procreation took place without participation by the male. If it were still the same today, what would happen? If the female element alone were to participate in the process of human procreation, to what extent would it be involved? If the female element alone were to operate, the further evolution would result in the child resembling the forefathers to the highest possible extent. Beings coming into existence would all be completely homogeneous. The principle of generality, homogeneity, originates from the female element. Only through the separation of the sexes has it become possible for human individuality to develop, for it is due to the influence of the male that there are differences between the successor and his forefathers. The male element provides individuality.
Hence, not until bisexuality had been established on the Earth were successive embodiments or reincarnations possible. Not until then was man able to embody on the Earth the product of earlier existence. That there is harmony between what is executed below on the Earth and the individual entity who must evolve and be enriched from incarnation to incarnation is due to the fact that the male element and the female element work together. The human ego would no longer find a suitable body today if the principle of the “universal human” were not modified by the activity of the male element, that is to say, if the universal type were not individualized. It is essentially the etheric body that is worked upon by the female element. In the etheric body, where the permanent tendencies are rooted, the driving force of the female element is at work. The principle of generality, of the generic, is anchored in the etheric body. In the etheric body of the woman there is still present today the counterpart of what exists outwardly as the folk soul, the race spirit. Folk soul and race spirit are identical.
If we now bear in mind the spiritual reality underlying conception, we must say that conception in itself is nothing else than a kind of deadening of the living forces of the etheric body. Death, at conception, is already woven into the human body. It is a happening that hardens, as it were, and deadens the etheric body, which otherwise would multiply ad infinitum. The etheric body, which originates from the female principle and would otherwise produce copies only, is densified as a result of the male influence and thereby becomes the producer of the new human individuality. Propagation consists in the production of a copy of the etheric body of the woman; through being hardened, in a certain respect killed, it is at the same time individualized. In the deadened etheric body there lies hidden the formative force that brings forth the new human being. Thus do conception and propagation amalgamate. Thus we see that two conceptions take place: below, the physical, human conception, and above, the conception of the archetype as the result of its own karma. We said that from the eighteenth to the twenty-first day after conception onwards the ego is already working on the embryo; but not until much later, after six months, do other forces also work on the embryo, forces that determine the karma of the human being. This can be expressed by saying that the web woven out of karma there takes hold; gradually these forces come into play. Now, exceptions occur here, too, so that later on an exchange of the ego may take place. We will speak of that later. The ego is the first factor to intervene for the purpose of development.
If we want to have an approximate picture of what exists in the spiritual world and is about to descend, we must say that it is the individual who is in the process of incarnating who brings together those who love one another. The archetype wishing to incarnate has drawn to itself the astral substance that now has an effect upon the passion, the feeling of love. The astral passion surging hither and thither on the Earth below mirrors the astral substances of the descending entity. So the astral substance coming from above is encountered by the astral feeling of those who love each other, which is itself influenced by the substance of the entity descending to incarnation. When we think through this thought to its conclusion, we must say that the reincarnating individual definitely participates in the choice of his parents. According to who and what he is, he is impelled to the parental pair concerned. It is often glibly stated that if the choosing of parents were accepted as a fact, the feeling of finding a new life in one's children would be lost and that the love based upon having transmitted one's own nature to them would thereby be lessened. This is a groundless fear, for maternal and paternal love assume a higher and more beautiful meaning when we realize that in a certain sense the child loves the parents even before conception and is thereby impelled to them. The parents' love is therefore the answer to the child's love, it is the responsive love. We have thus an explanation of parental love as the reproduction of the child's love that precedes the physical birth.
It has already been said that higher beings participate in the embodiment of the new human being. You will grasp what this means if you realize that there is never a perfect correspondence between what is coming down from above to embodiment and the sheaths that this entity acquires down below. A perfect correspondence between the higher and the lower cannot take place until man has reached the goal of his evolution, when he has attained spirit man. When he has transformed the physical body into spirit man, the etheric body into life spirit, and the astral body into spirit self, man stands at the point in evolution where, with a will that is completely free, he himself chooses his final incarnation. Before this point, full accordance is not possible. As he is today, man has transformed only part of his astral, etheric, and physical bodies, and of this part alone is he master. But what he has not yet transformed must be integrated into him from outside by other beings. Two different categories of beings participate in this process: those who integrate the etheric body into him, and those who lead him to the parents. At the present stage of his evolution, man could not himself make the etheric body an integral member of his constitution. It is through the forces contained in the etheric body that the human being has the pre-vision spoken of in the lecture yesterday.
When the human being already has the etheric body and the astral body, and the physical body is added, the moment comes when the pre-vision must disappear; the etheric body must blend with the physical body. The etheric body is, of course, not only the bearer of memory but of everything to do with time, that is, remembrance and foresight. But when the etheric body passes into the physical body it becomes subject to the laws of physical existence, and these laws extinguish its power in a certain respect. Just as through the influence of the physical body a man can unfold his memory only to a certain degree, whereas after death, when the etheric body is again free, it presents the whole tableau of memories, so it is with the pre-vision; in the physical world, vision of the future is limited by the physical body. That is the normal course of incarnation. The shock mentioned previously is experienced by the soul as the result of an abnormal pre-vision of difficult circumstances in the future life.
We have now come to the point when the ego itself, the real man, begins to work upon what has been given him and with which he has been connected in the physical world. The forces of the various spiritual members of man that are at work in the period before birth are first active through the corresponding members of the maternal organism. During the period just before birth, the human being is able to live only because he is enveloped on all sides by the maternal sheath. At birth the human being thrusts away this physical maternal sheath. At first, it is only the physical body that becomes free; the etheric body — the clairvoyant sees this — is still enveloped by a maternal etheric sheath and remains protected and guarded by this sheath until the time of the second dentition. It is an important point in the evolution of humanity when the maternal etheric sheath is cast off and a second birth takes place. Then, when the etheric body has cast off its maternal sheath, the etheric body as such is born, it becomes free. This is an event of great significance for the evolution of a human being. Until the change of teeth there is still the possibility of the bodily structures remaining elastic in one direction or another, of changing in certain respects. From this time onward they will only be subject to growth. When the change of teeth takes place, the development of the bodily forms has, in essentials, been completed. It is important that this should be known. Hence, everything that from outside is to become a formative influence on the physical body, to be a permanent quality of it, must be thoroughly taken into consideration and carefully formulated until the time of the change of teeth. Every external factor — light and color, for example — that has an effect upon the human being has a formative effect upon his finer members and organs. All external factors have an essentially formative effect until the seventh year of life. Hence it is not a matter of indifference what color, what environment, the child has around it, and what he is allowed to do. If you were never to use your hands, they would atrophy. The same applies to all organs; the more delicate ones also develop through activity. The effect of red, for example, upon the finer organs in the hurnan being is different from the effect of blue. Thus the effect differs according to the color that is around the child. While there is activity, the organs develop. The eye sees by habit, certainly, but what it sees has an effect upon the whole of man's nature. For the child's development it is not a matter of indifference whether the eye is looking at red or blue. It is here that spiritual science, in a time by no means far distant, will prove to be eminently practical. Why do we put spiritual science into practice? We do this out of love for man, because it equips us even in this sphere of activity to play a useful part in such subtle matters.
At the seventh year of life, then, the etheric body becomes free. It is the bearer of memories. In regard to a child's memory, the most important thing of all is that before the seventh year of life it shall not be developed by current pedagogical methods. Only from the seventh year onward has the time come when a true art of education should influence the training of the memory. It is often argued that nature sees to it that the child uses memory long before the age of seven. That is true, but it is the preliminary work that is accompanied by nature. The eyes of a child have been made ready by nature before birth in the mother's body, but what would happen if you were to allow the sunlight to work upon the eye of the embryo? Precisely in order that later on the sunlight can have the right effect upon the eye, the preliminary work upon it must be done by nature, before birth. The same applies to the other organs before physical birth. Nature produces them in advance but they are protected by the outer covering of the maternal sheath. So up to the seventh year of life, the child's memory should be worked upon by nature in order that then, from the seventh year onward, it can be further developed in the right way. How, from then onward, ought one to work on the child's memory? Just in the way that nature works until the child's physical birth.
The human being bears a maternal astral sheath around him until puberty in his fourteenth or fifteenth year. Then this sheath is cast aside and the astral body becomes free; a third birth, so to speak, takes place. The astral body is the bearer of the faculty of human judgment, of discrimination. The opinion that the child ought to develop the faculty of independent judgment at as early an age as possible should be abandoned. From the seventh to the fourteenth year it is essential to amass a rich store of memories for the purposes of life, in order that when the astral body is born, as ripe and rich a content of soul as possible shall be produced. Only then should the power of judgment begin to be exercised. The earlier method used in schools which let the “one times one” be learned by heart, that is, 1 x 1 = 1, and so on, being a matter of actual memorizing, is decidedly preferable to the abstract method at present in vogue of demonstrating the “one times one” with red and white beads on the abacus. This method is decidedly harmful. The same principle applies here as in the case of the young child; he understands speech a long time before he is able to speak himself. He should therefore not be encouraged to excercise judgment until he has gathered a good store of memories for the etheric body, until he has developed certain lasting inclinations and habits.
It is important to develop the life of feeling. Gratitude, reverence, and holy awe are feelings that in later life come to expression as the power of blessing, as outstreaming human love. The strongest impulses are given to the etheric body through religious experiences, through the feeling of being attached to the divine-spiritual, to the cosmic All. The faculty of abstract judgment should first be developed about the time when what flows from the etheric body has been made by the human being so pliable and flexible that the danger of forming the habit of abstract thinking lacking in piety is averted. The more the knowledge conveyed to the child is illustrated with imagery and symbols, the better. The world of feeling develops through being made acquainted with allegories and symbols, especially through the narration of the history of representative men and through intense absorption in the mysteries and beauties of nature.
How a child's questions are answered is of great importance; for example, as explanation of the birth of a human being, of death and birth, the butterfly coming into existence out of the chrysalis. This is a picture of man's soul nature emerging from the physical body. But naturally, when we tell this to the child, we must believe it ourselves, for otherwise the child will not believe it either. Facts that confirm the truth of this imagery are to be found in nature everywhere. The occultist knows that the imagery of the butterfly and the chrysalis can serve as a symbol of a process at a much higher level. We must learn to believe again in what only an abstract philosophy will stigmatize as saga and fairy tale. The fairy tale of the stork, also songs such as, “Fly, beetle, fly,” can be ingeniously interpreted. The fairy tale of the stork was not invented in days of yore in order to tell children an untruth, but it was devised by one who knew that at birth something comes down from the spiritual world. In future time it may well be declared that it is a lie that in the past there were people who were expected to believe that at the birth of a new human being the only process that takes place is the physical connection of man and woman. This is a fairy tale, the fairy tale of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. “We ourselves know better,” that is what will be said in the future. It is to be hoped that those who come after us will understand and be more lenient with our weaknesses than we are with those of our predecessors!
The symbol is the best means for working on the astral body. Ideation, mental pictures, should he cultivated until the time comes for the training of the liberated astral body, and only then should the power of judgment be developed. Why is it that so many human beings of the present age are, sad to say, crippled in their life of soul? Why is this? Because they have to say “Yes” and “No” to things at much too early an age. In the period until puberty they should learn to revere the great prototypes, the great processes in nature; only between the fourteenth and twenty-first years should the power of judgment come to maturity. Fewer voluble authors would then be let loose upon humanity. The outcome of premature forming of judgment in immature, though literary-minded men, is the shallow materialism of our present age. This veiled materialism is far more sinister than the scientific kind. An opinion has weight only when it is supported by what the soul has genuinely experienced. Human beings must learn how to form judgments; opinions are so deeply at variance because they have been formed at far too early an age. It is not until the twenty-first year that the ego is born, and only from then onward can there be any question of the individual being able to judge the world correctly, because it is only now that he confronts the world as a truly independent being.
Further, from about the twenty-first to the twenty-eighth year the development of what is called the sentient soul takes place, then the mind soul and the consciousness (or spiritual) soul in periods each of seven years duration. Hence it is an occult law that no individual before his thirty-fifth year is in the position of being capable of imparting or attaining anything in the field of occultism. The thirty-fifth year is particularly important. Let me remind you of Dante, of his vision of the spiritual world; if you can calculate it you will find that he had the vision in his thirty-fifth year.
Where occult tradition survived it was known that such cycles also occur in the lives of individuals. It was known how the spiritual forces of the human being who is descending work, where they take hold, and how long they need for their proper development. It was known that all life is one great whole and that community in human society must be formed on the basis of this insight. Theosophy should teach us that wisdom must pass into deed, into social deed and into the daily round of life. The value of theosophy is that the greater it is, the less it remains abstract wisdom and the more forcibly it streams through the soul into the dexterity of the hands. Manual skill is then a kind of physical expression of the spirit of the world, a material expression of the spiritual.


Turn Turn Turn


"I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, 
but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, 
standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up."

                                  — Thoreau

Around and Around and Around We Go


Washed in the Blood of the Lamb are We
Awash in a Sonburst Sea
You—Love—and I—Love—and Love Divine:
We are the Trinity

You—Love—and I—We are One-Two-Three
Twining Eternally
Two—Yes—and One—Yes—and also Three:
One Dual Trinity
Radiant Calvary
Ultimate Mystery


Saturday, January 22, 2022

The Structure of The Lord's Prayer [Manas, Buddhi, Atman]



Rudolf Steiner, Karlsruhe, Germany, February 4, 1907:

All the formulae of a devotional or petitionary character, wise saws, aphorisms, and the like will be found at all times to contain much that touches upon the hidden mysteries of existence. But we must realize that all the different religions practiced prayer, but differed in one particular aspect in that some practiced prayer more in the form of so-called meditation, while Christianity and a few other religions practiced true prayer in the sense we know it today. On the whole, meditation is characteristic of the Oriental religions. Meditation implies identification with some specific spiritual theme or object so that the meditator finds union with the divine Ground through this spiritual theme or object with which he is identified. Let us be quite clear that there are religions which, for example, prescribe for their members exercises in meditation, definite formulae of a devotional character on which they concentrate their mind, and as they concentrate upon these formulae they feel that divine spiritual life permeates their soul and that the individual, at this moment, is merged with the divine Ground. These formulae, however, belong to the mental realm. Fundamentally Christian prayer is no different except that its content is associated more with the emotional nature and feeling part of man. The Christian merges with the all-pervasive divine Being more through his emotions and feelings.
One should not imagine however that Christian prayer was always understood in this sense, nor indeed should it be understood in the manner in which it is frequently understood today. Now, there exists an original, archetypal Christian prayer in which Christ Jesus Himself has indicated in the clearest possible way what attitude of mind the Christian should adopt toward prayer. And the injunction of this original prayer is simply this: “O my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou willt.” Now let us look closely at these final words. We are first of all faced with a definite request — Christ asks to be spared the cup of suffering; but at the same time we are asked to surrender to the Divine Will: “Not as I will but as Thou willt.” This frame of mind which, when we pray, allows the Divine Will to pervade us, wills nothing for itself, but allows the Godhead to will in us, this frame of mind, this attitude of surrender must form the undercurrent, the keynote of prayer, if prayer is to reflect the Christian spirit.
So long as this spirit of humility prevails it is clear that it is impossible to practice petitionary prayer. And there are additional reasons why it is impossible to pray to God for the gratification of one's desires: one person would pray for rain, another for sunshine, and both would be motivated by self-interest. Or take the case where two armies are facing each other. Before the battle is joined each side prays for victory. But it is obviously impossible to grant both requests. But if the spirit in which one asks is “Not my will but Thine be done”, then the petition is irrelevant — one surrenders to the divine Will. If I wish to make a particular request I leave it to the divine Being to decide whether my request should be granted or not.
This is the predominant spirit of Christian prayer and it is this spirit that gave birth to that universal, all-embracing prayer of Christian tradition, the Lord's Prayer, which according to Christian tradition was taught by Christ Himself. This prayer must, in fact, be reckoned among the most profound of all prayers. Today we cannot really measure the full depth and dimensions of the Lord's Prayer as revealed by the original language in which it was taught. But the thought-content is so powerful that it could lose nothing of its effectiveness in translation into any language.
When we turn to the prayers of other peoples, we find, wherever religions have reached their high-point, prayers such as I have described to you. But when the various religions declined, these prayers inevitably lost something of their true character. They have become magical formulae, instruments of idolatry, and in the epoch when Christ Jesus taught His followers to pray, many of these magic formulae — all of which had their particular significance in their place of origin — were in common use. These magic formulae were always associated with worldly desires, with personal demands of a self-interested nature. Jesus taught that petitionary prayer, asking for oneself, was contrary to the Christian idea of prayer. Such prayers were secular in intention. When the Christian prays he should withdraw into his inner chamber, into the inner recesses of the soul where he can unite with the divine, spiritual Being. We must realize that in each of us dwells a spark of the Divine, that we partake of the Divine nature. But it would be wrong to assume that the creature is therefore commensurate with the Creator. When we say that man partakes of the Divine this does not imply that man himself is divine. A drop of water from the ocean is of the same element as the ocean, but is certainly not the ocean. So too the human soul is a drop from the ocean of the Godhead, but it is not God. Just as the drop can unite with its own element when returned to the ocean, so, as a drop from the Godhead, the soul unites spiritually in prayer or meditation with its God. This union of the soul with its God is called by Christ entering into the inner chamber.
Now that we have described the nature of Christian prayer and what is demanded of the Christian in prayer we shall be able to turn our attention to the content of the Lord's Prayer itself. I stated that the Lord's Prayer is the most all-embracing prayer. Therefore, in order to understand the Lord's Prayer, it is necessary to begin by widening the scope of our enquiries; we shall need to make many a detour in order to grasp its full meaning. We must study the being of man from a certain angle. As you know, we follow the traditional method which spiritual investigation has practiced over thousands of years. Let us briefly recall the nature of man's being.
First there is the physical body. Its substances and forces are identical with the mineral kingdom and the whole of inorganic nature. This physical body however is not, as the materialist imagines, simply an object in space, but it is also the lowest member of the human being. The next member is the etheric or life-body which man shares in common with the plants and animals, for every plant, animal, or human being must call upon the chemical and physical substances so that they are galvanized into life, since of themselves they would remain inert. The third member is the astral body, the bearer of joy and sorrow, of impulses, desires, and passions, and the normal impressions of daily life. All these are the province of the astral body. Man shares this astral body only with the animal kingdom, for the animal also is subject to joy and sorrow, impulses, desires, and passions. To sum up, therefore: man shares the physical body in common with inorganic nature, the etheric with all that grows and propagates, with the entire plant kingdom, and the astral body with the animal kingdom. In addition there is a fourth member of his being which raises him above these kingdoms of nature and makes him the crown of Creation.
Such is the conclusion we arrive at after a little reflection. Now, there is a name which differs from all others, the “ I ”, which can only refer to oneself. To everyone else I am a “thou”, and everyone else is a “thou” to me. As a name for the identity of the individual, the “ I ” can only arise within the soul itself; it cannot be experienced from without. The great religions have always been aware of this and therefore they said: when the soul recognizes itself as an “ I ”, then the God in man begins to speak, the God who speaks through the soul. The name “ I ” cannot be experienced from without, it must be experienced within the soul itself. This is the fourth principle or member of the human being.
The occult science of the Hebrews called this “ I ” the ineffable name of God. “Jahve” signifies simply “I am”. Wherever interpretations may be given by external scholarship, it really meant “I am”, namely, the fourth principle of the human being. Man consists of these four principles and we call them the four principles of man's lower nature.
Now, if we wish to understand the being of man as a whole, we must look back into the history of human evolution. We can trace in retrospect the many and diverse peoples who precede us: the old Teutonic and Central European civilization, the Graeco-Latin and Chaldean peoples, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Hebrews, the Persian peoples, even as far back as the Indian people from whom our present civilization stemmed. And in their turn the Indian people could look back to their forebears who dwelt in Atlantis, the continent which now forms the oceanbed between Europe and America. Atlantis was destroyed by a series of deluges and vanished beneath the waters. The memory of this catastrophe has survived in the myths and legends of all peoples as the story of the Flood.
But even this civilization is not the oldest on Earth. We can look back to still earlier times when man inhabited a continent that was situated approximately between the present Indo-China, Australia, and Africa: ancient Lemuria, a continent of immemorial antiquity where totally different conditions from those of today prevailed. Usually we are not sufficiently aware of the vast and sweeping changes on Earth in the course of human evolution. Now at this time the lower principles in man were already in eminence, and this continent was inhabited by beings consisting of the four principles, physical body, etheric body, astral body and the ego-nature. These beings were more highly organized than the highest animals of today, but had not reached the human stage. They were animal-men, yet different from the existing animals of our time. The latter are degenerate descendants which have evolved from these animal-men as a result of retardation and degeneration. The Lemurian beings, therefore, living at that time underwent a quite specific modification.
At that time they were ready to receive a certain force, the force of our higher soul today. There took place what we may describe as the union of the lower human nature with the human soul. Up to this time this human soul rested in the bosom of.the Godhead, was an integral part of the Godhead Himself. Above, therefore, in the realm of the spiritual, we have the divine-spiritual Being; below, the human envelopes consisting of four principles which had evolved so far that they were able to receive “drops” of this Godhead. We can illustrate what took place at that time by the following analogy. Picture a glass full of water. Let us imagine a number of sponges each containing a drop of this water. The drops which had previously formed an integral part of the water are now distributed among the sponges. This is a simple illustration which serves to show how the process of ensoulment took place at that time. Hitherto the soul had been one with the divine First Cause, just as the drop had been one with the water. These physical human envelopes behaved exactly as the sponges. These spiritual “drops”, separated from the common divine substance, became individualized. When they became souls they were like drops within the envelopes and from that moment actively began to fashion man as a physical and spiritual being such as he is today. These souls incarnated for the first time in the Lemurian epoch, then passed through innumerable incarnations and developed their physical body to its present stage. Thus parts of the Godhead were united with the lower principles of man's being. With each embodiment these souls progressively evolved; with each embodiment they became more perfect in order to attain a higher stage of being in the future.
This part of the higher nature which at that time was united with the lower nature and transformed it, and in the process of this transformation raised itself to a higher level, we call the higher principle of man's being: Spirit Self (Manas), Life Spirit (Buddhi), and Spirit Man (Atman). These are the aspects of the divine Essence by means of which man transforms in gradual stages his lower nature into the higher nature. By means of the force working within Manas he transforms his astral body, through the force of Buddhi he transforms his etheric body, and through that of Atman the physical body. Therefore in order to attain the goal of his evolution he must transfigure and spiritualize these three bodies. Formerly, man consisted of the four lower principles — physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego  to which was added at that time the germ of higher development which in reality is an emanation of the highest spiritual principle, namely the higher Triad, the divine Essence, the spiritual potentiality of man. Now, we can look at this higher aspect of human nature from two standpoints: on the one hand as the higher nature of man which he is to evolve in the course of evolution, or on the other, as an aspect of the divine Being from which he has emerged, as the Divine aspect in man. Christ takes the second point of view first. We shall follow the same course and enquire into the nature of these higher forces in human nature. We shall start from the highest principle, the force of Atman working within man.
I would now like to characterize for you the true nature and essence of this higher principle of human nature rather than to offer you some kind of superficial definition. That which becomes the force of Atman is, in so far as it is a force emanating from the Godhead, of a volitional nature. If you pause to reflect upon your own power of volition, upon your willpower, then you have a pale copy, a pale reflection of that which proceeds from the force of Atman, from the Godhead. Will is the power or force which is least developed today. The will, however, has the potentiality to grow increasingly in strength until a time will come when it reaches its maximum potentiality, when it will be able to attain its goal, which the religions call the “Great Sacrifice”.
Now imagine you are looking into a mirror. Your reflection is a faithful copy of your physiognomy, imitates your every gesture, resembles you in every respect, but it is a lifeless image of yourself. You stand before the mirror as a living being and are faced with your lifeless image, which resembles you in every detail, but is without the living reality, the essential self. Imagine that your will had developed to the point when it was able to make the decision to sacrifice your own existence, your own being, or to surrender it to your reflected image. You would then be in a position to sacrifice yourself wholly in order to endow your reflected image with your own life. Of such a will we say: it emanates, it pours out its own nature. What Christianity terms “the divine Will of the Father” is the highest expression of the will.
Today, therefore, the human will is the least developed member of the soul forces. It is however in the process of developing such strength that it is able to consummate the “Great Sacrifice”. Volitional nature, in so far as it is an outpouring of Divinity, is the true nature of that which can develop as the power of Atman.
Let us now consider from the Christian standpoint the second principle of man's higher nature, Buddhi or Life Spirit, as an outpouring of the Godhead. You will have no difficulty in understanding this if you do not concentrate on the force radiating from itself in order to lend life to the reflected image, but upon the reflected image itself. The reflected image is an exact repetition of the original entity. It is the same — and yet not the same — when you apply this idea to the entire universe, showing how the divine Will as a center is reflected in all directions.
Imagine a hollow globe whose inner walls are reflecting surfaces. A center of illumination inside this globe is reflected in myriad sequins on the walls: everywhere the universal Will in endless multiplicity, everywhere reflected images, single aspects of the Godhead.
Consider the Cosmos in this way — the Universe as a reflection of the infinite Divine Will. The Divine Will is not present in any single being, but expresses itself in infinite diversity. The reflection of the Godhead — where the Godhead occupies the central position and yet at the same time by virtue of the “Great Sacrifice” pours life into every reflected image of Himself — is called in Christian terminology “the Kingdom”. And this expression, “the Kingdom”, is identical with the Buddhi in man. When we contemplate the creative and productive principle in the Universe, the principle that issues from the Divine First Cause, then the next higher principle associated with Atman is Buddhi, a vital spark of this creative principle. In the form of “Kingdom”, Buddhi is universal and cosmic.
Let us now turn our attention to the individual aspects of the “Kingdom”. So far we have only considered it as a whole. Let us now look into the separate entities. How do we distinguish between them? By what is called in Christian terminology “the Name”. Each separate entity is invested with a name, and thus we distinguish respectively the manifold and the particular. By “the Name” the Christian understands what is often called the “representation”, that which is characteristic of an object. Just as the individual is distinguished from his neighbor by the name, so too the name is felt to reflect at the same time a part of the divine Being. The Christian responds to this name in the right way when he realizes that every member of “the Kingdom” is an outpouring of the Divine, that every morsel of bread he consumes is an outpouring, a mirror and a part of the Godhead. The Christian must realize that this is true of the smallest things. In human nature man owes it to the individual Spirit Self that he becomes an individual over against the others. What in “the Kingdom” is “the Name”, man possesses in his individual Spirit Self or Manas through the fact that he is a special part of the Godhead, that he has his own particular name, the name which in the individual passes from incarnation to incarnation.
Thus this threefold nature is seen to be a manifestation of the Supreme Being and from this point of view Atman is “the Will” of the Godhead, Buddhi or Life Spirit “the Kingdom”, and Manas or Spirit Self “the Name”.
Let us now look at the four lower principles of human nature, starting from the lowest, the physical body. This body is composed of the same substance and forces as external nature, substances and forces which the body continually transforms. It is only through the processes of anabolism and catabolism in the physical organism of man that life is maintained. He can only continue to exist because he is continually renewed by the transformation of these physical substances. He is an integral part of the whole of physical nature. A finger cannot preserve its identity if severed — it withers the moment it is separated from the body; it keeps its identity because it is an integral part of the whole organism; in the same way the physical body cannot preserve its identity if detached from the Earth. Thus man only preserves his identity when he is intimately related to the elements of the Earth. It is only through the metabolic processes that his fundamental being is maintained. Such is the nature of the physical body.
The second principle is the etheric or life-body. We must realize that it is this body which activates the physical substances and forces. It is not only the bearer of growth and propagation and of biological phenomena in general, but also of all those qualities in man which are of a more permanent nature than the transient impulses, desires,and passions. In what respect does it differ from the astral body? If you wish to understand wherein this difference lies then you need only look back to the time when you were only eight years old. Think of all that you have learnt since that time, of the vast store of concepts, ideas, and lessons won from those experiences which have enriched your life. Then think how painfully slow are the changes in your etheric body. Think how choleric you were as a child and ask yourself if you are not still prone to fits of anger on frequent occasions. Think of how your tendencies or your temperament have largely remained unchanged. They have not changed so much as your personal experiences. All that we experience, all that we learn from experience, can be compared to the minute hand of a clock and the changes in character, temperament, and habits to the hour hand. This difference then is explained by the fact that the astral body is the bearer of the former, while the etheric body is the bearer of the latter. A change in your habits implies a change in your etheric body. The lessons learned from experience imply a change in the astral body.
The training of the student in true occultism does not depend on what he outwardly learns; all spiritual training modifies the etheric body. Therefore you have done more for your real occult development if you have succeeded in transforming a single deep-rooted trait than if you have acquired unlimited external knowledge. Accordingly we distinguish exoterically that for which the etheric body is the vehicle, and esoterically what the etheric body needs. The etheric body is also the vehicle of the faculty of memory, but not of memory as conscious recollection. Any strengthening of the memory, for example, is associated with a transformation of the etheric body; any weakening of the memory implies a change in the etheric body, a change in the power to remember. And there is an additional factor of vital importance. Man lives today on two levels. He is a member of a family, of a clan, a nation and so on, and he also possesses certain characteristics which he shares in common with others and which bind him to that relationship. The characteristics of the Frenchman are quite different from those of the German, and these again are different from those of the Englishman. They all share certain characteristics of their descent. At the same time every man has his own individual characteristics through which he transcends the limitations of his nation and through which he establishes his particular identity. One is a member of a community by virtue of certain qualities or characteristics of the etheric body. It is these characteristics which determine one's membership of a nation, a race, and especially of a community. That which makes it possible to transcend the limitations of this community originates in the astral body. The astral body determines man's individual tendencies.
Therefore it is important for man's life in the community that his etheric body should harmonize with the etheric bodies of those with whom he has to associate. If he cannot make this adjustment it is impossible for him to live with them: difficulties arise and he is rejected by the community, he becomes an outcast. The task of man's etheric body therefore is to adjust itself to the etheric bodies of others. The astral body determines man's individual tendencies; it must live in such a way that the individual does not commit personal sins. Personal sins are the consequences of errors on the part of the astral body, are in effect defects of the astral body. Failure to achieve harmony with the community is the consequence of defects of the etheric body. In the esoteric teachings of Christianity the correct term for the defects of the etheric body was “debt”, that which disturbs harmonious relationship with others. A defect of the astral body, a defect which stems from individuation, was called in Christian esotericism “succumbing to temptation”. It is the impulses, passions, and desires of the astral body which lead man into temptation. The astral body errs through its own inner defects. In this way Christian esotericism distinguished between “debt” and yielding to temptation.
Let us now turn to the fourth principle of the human being, the ego. We have already described the physical body which is continuously recreated by means of metabolic processes, the etheric body which may be burdened with “debt”, and the astral body which may succumb to temptation. The fourth principle, the ego, is the primal source of selfishness, of egoism. It is through the efforts and operation of the ego that what was a unity in the Godhead is now diffused among the many. The defection from the divine unity into individualized existence is the work of the ego. Hence Christian teaching attributed to the ego the real origin of self-seeking and egoism. So long as the separate entities were united in the Godhead, conflict could not exist among them. Conflict could only arise when they became individualized, i.e. separate egos. The mutual development through conflict, which is tantamount to egoism, is called in Christianity the transgression of the ego, and Christian tradition indicates very precisely the moment when this soul became incarnated in the body through the Fall into sin, the eating of the apple in Paradise. The real “sin” or transgression of the ego is designated by the term “evil”. Evil therefore is the defect or transgression of the fourth lower principle. Only the ego can succumb to evil, which arose through the eating of the apple. In Latin, “malum” means both evil and apple.
To sum up: the physical body and the physical elements of the environment are of the same nature. The physical body is sustained by the processes of metabolism, the continuous interchange of forces and substances. The etheric body is that which holds the balance between the different members of the community and may incur “debt”. Finally we have the astral body, which must not fall into sin, and the ego which must not become the victim of egoism, of evil. This lower Quaternary unites with the higher Triad, the divine Essence,
   (Will)  (Kingdom)  (Name)
Now think of prayer as a union of man, who has withdrawn into his inner chamber, with the Godhead itself. In the original teaching of Christianity the soul is portrayed as divine, as a drop from the ocean of the Godhead. And the soul in its separateness must pray to be reunited with the immanent and transcendent Godhead. The origin of the divinity in man is given the name of the Father. And the goal of the soul's destiny, where the soul will be united with the Father, is Devachan or heaven.
And now let us recall the nature of the primal or archetypal prayer. It is an appeal by the alienated soul to be united with the divine Fatherhood.
The purpose of this prayer was to beseech God for the consummation of the three higher principles, to pray that the Will, the highest manifestation of the Divine, may be realized in man; that the second higher principle, the Kingdom, shall take possession of the soul; and that the third higher principle, the Name, shall be felt as holy. This prayer therefore would refer to the three higher principles of the divine in man. In respect of the four lower principles he would ask: may my physical body be granted the substances necessary to sustain it; may the etheric body strike a balance between its own debt and the debt of others; may man live in harmony with his neighbor. May the astral body not fall into temptation, and may the ego not succumb to evil, the true outcome of what we ordinarily mean by egoism.
You should pray for union with the Father in the words of a primal or archetypal prayer. And you should pray in such a way that, as you pray, you meditate upon the single principles of your sevenfold being.
“Our Father which art in Heaven.” First you invoke the Father, then you prefer your petitions which are related to the three higher principles:
“Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Then follow the four petitions which refer to the four lower principles:
“Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses (our debts) as we forgive them that trespass against us (as we forgive our debtors).”
This implies reconciliation with our fellow men.
“Lead us not into temptation” — refers to the astral body, and “Deliver us from evil”, i.e. from all manifestation of egoism or self-interest — to the ego.

Thus the meaning of the evolution of the seven-principled being of man is incorporated in the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer. The Lord's Prayer, as a Christian prayer, is offered to Christians from out of a deep understanding of the being of man and it incorporates the sum of theosophic teaching concerning the nature of man. Prayers that are not of merely transient effect, but which possess the soul and rejoice the heart for thousands of years, are the fruit of deepest wisdom. Such a prayer could never have arisen through an arbitrary collocation of beautiful or sublime words. It is only because these words have been drawn from the deep well of wisdom that they possess the power to influence the soul of man for thousands of years.
To maintain that the simple-minded have no understanding of this wisdom is not a valid objection. They have no need of understanding, for the power of the Lord's Prayer stems from this wisdom and is effective even when there is no understanding of the wisdom content. It is important to have a right understanding of this. When we look at a plant we are captivated by its beauty. And the most simple-minded will also be captivated, though he may know nothing perhaps of the divine wisdom concealed in the plant. And the same is true of prayers that answer our deepest needs. One need know nothing of the wisdom they embody, and yet such prayers possess nonetheless the power, the wisdom, the exaltation, and the sanctity of prayer. If a prayer is born of the highest wisdom, it is not essential that we know of this wisdom. What is of importance is that we experience personally the power of that wisdom.
Only in our present epoch is it possible once more to throw light upon what Christ Jesus contributed to prayer and to discover afresh the power He has infused into it, especially the Lord's Prayer. And because this prayer has issued from the fountainhead of wisdom concerning man himself and his sevenfold being it not only exercises a powerful and lasting influence upon the most untutored mind, but is all the more edifying for those who are able to discover its deeper meaning. And at the same time it loses nothing of that power which it has always exercised, a power that overwhelms yet exalts, for the whole of theosophy, of divine wisdom, is found in the Lord's Prayer.
Christ often spoke to the multitude in parables. When He was alone with His disciples He expounded the parables to them. From this wisdom-filled exegesis of the parables the disciples were to derive that power through which they could become His messengers and could learn how Christ Himself had attained that magic power through which His mission is destined to continue acting upon mankind for thousands of years.
In this way we come to understand the meaning of the Lord's Prayer.

The Esoteric Lord's Prayer


The Esoteric Lord's Prayer, by Rudolf Steiner


You who were, are, and will be in our inmost being:

May your name be glorified and praised in us.

May your kingdom grow in our deeds and in our inmost lives.

May we perform your will as you, Father, lay it down in our inmost being.

You give us spiritual nourishment, the bread of life, superabundantly in all the changing conditions of our lives.

Let our mercy toward others make up for the sins done to us.

You do not allow the tempter to work in us beyond the capacity of our strength.

For no temptation can live in your being, Father, and the tempter is only appearance and delusion, from which you lead us, Father, through the light of knowledge.

May your power and glory work in us through all periods and ages of time. 


Vater, der Du warst, bist und sein wirst
in unser aller innerstem Wesen!
Dein Wesen wird in uns allen verherrlicht und hochgepriesen.
Dein Reich erweitere sich in unseren Taten und in unserem Lebenswandel.
Deinen Willen führen wir in der Betätigung unseres Lebens so aus,
wie Du, o Vater, ihn in unser innerstes Gemüt gelegt hast.
Die Nahrung des Geistes, das Brot des Lebens,
bietest Du uns in Überfülle in allen wechselnden Zuständen unseres Lebens.
Lasse Ausgleich sein unser Erbarmen an anderen für die Sünden an unserem Wesen begangen.
Den Versucher lässt Du nicht über das Vermögen unserer Kraft in uns wirken,
da in Deinem Wesen keine Versuchung bestehen kann;
denn der Versucher ist nur Schein und Täuschung,
aus der Du, o Vater, uns durch das Licht Deiner Erkenntnis sicher herausführen wirst.
Deine Kraft und Herrlichkeit wirke in uns
in den Zeitenläufen der Zeitläufe!
vor 1913
aus «GA 268»; S.341
Eine kommentierte Version dieser Vaterunserform findet sich in «Wer war Ita Wegman? - Bd.2»; S.374f