Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Astral World. Part 2

An Esoteric Cosmology. Lecture 10 of 18.
Notes of an audience member of a lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in Paris on June 6, 1906:

The occultist will never dream of imposing dogmas. He is one who tells what he has seen and tested in the astral and spiritual worlds or what has been revealed to him by trustworthy and reliable teachers. He does not desire to convert but to quicken in others the sense that has awakened in him and to enable them to see likewise.
Here we shall consider man as an astral being as he is revealed by clairvoyant vision. The astral being of man includes the whole world of feelings, passions, emotions, and impulses of the soul. To inner sight these are changed into forms and colors. The astral body itself is a cloud-like, ovoid form, permeating and enveloping man. We can perceive it from within.
In man as a physical being, we have to consider the substance and form of the body. The astral substance entirely changes in the course of seven years, but the form remains. Behind substance is the constructive, upbuilding principle — the etheric body. We do not, in the ordinary way, perceive it; we only see its accomplished work, in the physical body. The eye of sense only sees what is finished, not what is in the state of becoming.
The contrary is the case when we are able to see the astral body — that is to say, our own astral body. We become aware of it from within through our desires and the various movements of the soul.
Seership consists in learning to see from without that which in ordinary life we feel from within. Feelings, desires, and thoughts then become living and visible forms, constituting the aura around the physical sheath.
The etheric body builds and molds the physical body; the astral body is made up of desires. Every human aura has its own individual shades and predominating colors. There is one fundamental color in which the others play. The aura of a man with a melancholic temperament, for example, is of a bluish hue. But so many impressions coming from without flow through it that the observer may easily be deceived, above all if he is looking at his own aura. The clairvoyant sees his own aura reversed, as it were, the outer as the inner, the inner as the outer, because he is observing it from outside.
All the great founders of religions have been possessed of clairvoyant sight. They are the spiritual  guides of mankind, and their precepts are precepts of the moral life based on astral and spiritual truths. This explains the similarities in all the religions. There is a certain similarity, for instance, between the Eightfold Path of the Buddha and the Eight Beatitudes of Christ. The same underlying truth is that whenever man develops one of the virtues, he unfolds a new faculty of perception. Why are eight stages mentioned? Because the seer knows that the faculties which may be transmuted into organs of perception are eight in number.
The astral organs of perception are called in occultism the ‘lotus-flowers’ (sacred wheels, chakras). The lotus-flower with sixteen petals lies in the region of the larynx. In very ancient times this lotus-flower turned from right to left — that is to say in the opposite direction to the hands of a clock. In the man of today, this lotus-flower has ceased to turn. In the clairvoyant seer it begins to move in the opposite direction — from left to right. In earlier times, eight of the sixteen petals were visible, the others undeveloped. In future ages they will all be visible, for the first eight are the result of the action of unconscious initiation, the other eight of the conscious initiation attained by dint of personal effort. The eight new petals correspond to the Beatitudes of Christ.
Another lotus-flower (with twelve petals) is situated in the region of the heart. In earlier times, six petals only were visible. The acquisition of six virtues will, in times to come, develop the other six. These six virtues are: control of thought, power of initiative, balance of the faculties, optimism which enables a man always to see the positive side of things, freedom from prejudice, and finally, harmony in the life of soul. When these virtues have been acquired, the twelve petals begin to move. They express the sacred quality of the number twelve which we have in the twelve Apostles, the twelve knights of King Arthur, and again in all creation, in all action. Everything in the world develops according to twelve different aspects. We have another example in Goethe's poem Die Geheimnisse, which expresses the ideal of the Rosicrucians. According to the explanation given by Goethe to certain students, each of the twelve Companions of the Rose Cross represents a religious creed.
We find these virtues expressed again in signs and symbols, for symbols are not arbitrary inventions — they are realities. The symbol of the Cross, for instance, as well as that of the Swastika, represents the four-petalled chakra in man. The twelve-petalled flower is expressed in the symbol of the Rose Cross and the twelve Companions. The thirteenth among them, the invisible Companion who unites them all, represents the truth that unites all religions.
This truth underlies the rites and ceremonies of the various religions. Divine wisdom speaks through the rites and cults which have been founded by seers. The astral world expresses itself through them in the physical world. As in a reflection, the rite represents what is happening in higher worlds. This fact appears again in masonic ritual and in certain Asiatic religions. At the birth of a new religion, an initiate gives the foundations upon which the ritual of the outer cult is built. As evolution proceeds, the rite — a living picture of the spiritual world — tends towards the domain of Art. Art, too, comes from the astral world; the rite becomes beauty. This came to pass notably at the time of Greek civilization. Art is an astral event of which the cause has been forgotten.
We have an example in the Mysteries and Gods of Greece. In the Mysteries, the hierophant retraced the development of man in its three stages: man the animal, man the human, man the God (the true Superman, not the false Superman of Nietzsche). The hierophant projected these three supersensible types as living images into the astral light, where they were visible to those who had been initiated into the Mysteries. At the same time they were expressed in poetry and sculpture by three symbols: (1) the Satyr, or bestial type; (2) the human type: Hermes, or Mercury; (3) the divine type: Zeus, or Jupiter. Each of these figures, together with everything around them, represents a cycle of human evolution. That is the way in which the disciples of the Mysteries carried over into Art what they had seen in the astral light.

* * * *

The zenith of the earthly life of man is reached at about the age of thirty-five. Why is this so? Why does Dante begin his journey at the age of thirty-five, the middle point of human life? Before this moment, man's activity has been concentrated on the development of the physical body, but he can now begin his ascent to the spiritual worlds and apply his forces for the unfolding of seership. Dante became a seer at the age of thirty-five. It is the age when the physical forces cease to forestall the influx of Spirit; liberated from the body, these same forces can be transformed into clairvoyant faculties. Here we are touching upon a deep mystery: the law of the transformation of organs. Transformation of the organs constitutes man's evolution. The highest in him is the product of what once was the lowest and which has been transfigured.
At the time of the separation of the sexes, the astral body of man divided: the lower part producing the sexual (physical) organism and the higher part giving rise to thought, imagination, speech.
In days of yore, the sexual organs (the procreative forces) and the organ of the voice (the word creative) were united. Two poles have appeared in man's being, where formerly there was but one single organ. The negative pole (animal) and the positive pole (divine) were once united and have separated.
The third aspect of the Logos is the creative power of the word (as expressed at the beginning of the Gospel of St. John), of which the words of human speech are the reflection. In the old myths and legends this truth was represented in the figure of Vulcan, the cripple. His mission was to guard the sacred fire. He is crippled because, in initiation, man must lose something of his lower, physical forces; the lower part of the body is a product of the past. Raised to the heights of initiation, the lower nature must fall away, to rise thereafter to a yet higher stage. Thus in the course of his evolution man has divided into a lower and higher nature.
In certain mediaeval pictures, the human body is divided into two parts by a straight line; the head and left upper part of the body are above, the right upper part and the lower part of the body are below the line. This division is an indication of the past and the future of the human body.
The two-petalled lotus-flower lies beneath the forehead, at the root of the nose. As yet it is an undeveloped astral organ which will one day unfold into two antennae or wings. The symbol of them can already be seen in the horns traditionally represented on the head of Moses.
Viewed from above downwards, head and sexual organ, man is synthetic and one. All this is the product of the past. Left and right he is symmetrical, representing the present and the future. These two symmetrical parts, however, have not the same value. Why is man usually right-handed? The right hand which is the more active of the two today, is destined subsequently to atrophy. The left hand will survive when the two ‘wings’ on the forehead have developed. The heart will be the brain of the chest — an organ of knowledge.
Before man assumed the upright posture there was a time when he moved on all fours. Such is the origin of the riddle of the Sphinx: ‘Who is the being who in infancy walks on four legs, in middle age on two, in old age on three?’ Oedipus answers that this being is man, who when a baby crawls on all fours, and in old age leans on a stick. In reality, riddle and answer refer to the whole evolution of humanity, past, present, and future, as it was known in the ancient Mysteries. Quadruped in a previous epoch of development, man walks today on two feet; in the future he will ‘fly’ and will indeed make use of three auxiliary organs, namely the two wings developed from the two-petalled lotus which will be the motive organ of his will, and for the rest, the organ arising by a metamorphosis of the left half of the chest, and the left hand. Such will be the organs of movement in the future.
The present organs of reproduction will atrophy, as well as the right side and the right hand. Man will give birth to his like by the force of the word; his word will mould ethereal bodies like his own.

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