Saturday, June 13, 2015
The four kinds of ether and the seven planes; relationship between our passive and active organs
Foundations of Esotericism. Lecture 5
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, September 30, 1905:
It is always stressed that in order to progress in occult matters one should be as positive as possible and as little as possible negative; that one should speak less about what is not, than about what is. When this is practiced in ordinary life it is a preparation for work in the sphere of the occult. The occultist must not ask: Has the stone life? but: Where is the life of the stone? Where is the consciousness of the mineral kingdom to be found? That is the highest form of non-criticism. Particularly in regard to the highest questions this is the attitude of mind that must be cultivated.
In ordinary life we differentiate three bodily conditions: the solid, the fluid, and the gaseous or airy. The solid must be distinguished from the mineral. Air and water are also mineral. Theosophical writings add to these, four other finer conditions of matter. The first element which is finer than the air is the one which causes it to expand, which always increases its spatial content. What expands the air in this way is warmth; it is really a fine etheric substance, the first grade of ether, the Warmth Ether. Now follows the second kind of ether, the Light Ether. Bodies which shine send out a form of matter which is described in Theosophy as Light Ether. The third kind of ether is the bearer of everything which gives form to the finest matter, the formative ether, which is also called the Chemical Ether. It is this ether which brings about the union of oxygen and hydrogen. And the finest of all the ethers is that which constitutes life: Prana, or Life Ether.
Science throws together all four kinds of ether. Nevertheless it will gradually distinguish them in this way. Our description tallies with that of the Rosicrucians, while Indian literature also speaks of four different grades of ether.
To begin with, let us take everything that is solid. What is solid has apparently no life. When one transposes oneself into the life of the solid, which becomes possible through living in waking consciousness in the condition described as the dream world, and when one then seeks to discover the solid, for instance by entering into a rocky mountain landscape, then one feels in oneself that one's own life is altered, one feels life rippling through one. One is not there with consciousness, but with one's own life, the etheric body; one is then at a place, in a condition, which is called the Maha-para-nirvana plane. On this Maha-para-nirvana plane the life of the solid is to be found. This plane is the other pole of the solid. Through life on the Maha-para-nirvana plane one acquired another means of perception. When one returns one has experienced the activity of beings in the Maha-para-nirvana plane. It is there that the solid stone has its life.
Secondly there follows what is fluid, water. When in the dream condition one transposes oneself into the sea, then one becomes imbued with the life of the fluid, on the Para-nirvana plane. Through this procedure one learns to know something of the different planes.
Thirdly, when one transposes oneself in dream into the air-forming element, one finds oneself on the Nirvana plane. Nirvana means, literally, ‘to be extinguished’, as one extinguishes a fire. When one seeks for life in it, one is with one's own life on the Nirvana plane. Man breathes in the air. When he experiences in himself the life of the air, then that is the way to reach the Nirvana plane. This is the reason for the breathing exercises of the yogis. No one can attain to the Nirvana plane if he does not actually practice breathing exercises. They are only Hatha-Yoga exercises when they are carried out on the wrong level. Otherwise they are Raja-Yoga exercises. One actually inhales life: the Nirvana plane.
Fourthly, below the Nirvana plane is the Buddhi or Shushupti plane. There warmth has its life. When Buddhi is developed in man, all Kama is transformed into selflessness, into love. Those animals which develop no warmth are also without passion. At higher levels man must again achieve this passionless condition, because he has his life on the Shushupti plane.
Fifthly comes the Devachan or Mental plane; hence the inner connection between wisdom and light. When in dream consciousness one experiences the light, one experiences wisdom within it. This was always the case when God revealed himself in the light. In the burning thorn bush, that is to say, in the light, Jehovah appeared to Moses in order to reveal wisdom.
The sixth is the astral plane. On this plane the chemical ether has its life. A somnambulist perceives on the astral plane the qualities of the chemicals, the chemical characteristics, because here the chemical ether actually has its life.
The seventh is the physical plane. There the life ether lives in its own element. With the life ether one perceives life. This ether is also called the atomic ether, because on this plane it has its own life, its own central point. What lives on a particular plane has on this same plane its central point.
As an actual fact everything we have around us contains the seven planes. We must only ask: Where has each element — the solid, the gaseous, etc., — its life?
We have now heard that warmth has its own life on the Buddhi or the Shushupti plane. Thus between all things, definite relationships exist. Very striking is the relationship between the ear and speech. In evolution the ear was present much earlier than speech. The ear is the receptive organ; speech is the organ which produces sound. These two, ear and speech, essentially belong together. Sound as it manifests is the result of vibrations in the air, and each single sound arises from a particular vibration. When you study what exists outside, outside yourself, as sound, then you are studying the arithmetic of the air.
Undifferentiated space would be soundless. Space which is arithmetically organized produces sound. Here we have an example of how one can look into the Akashic Record. If one can rise to the perception of the inner arithmetic which is preserved from sound in space, then at any time one can hear again a sound which someone has spoken. For instance one can hear what was spoken by Caesar at the crossing of the Rubicon. The inner arithmetic of sound is still present in the Akashic Record. Sound corresponds to something we call Manas. What the ear experiences as sound is the wisdom of the world. In the perception of sound one hears the wisdom of the world. In the act of speaking one brings forth the wisdom of the world. What is arithmetical in our speech remains in the Akashic Record. When he hears or speaks, man expresses himself directly in wisdom. At the present time thinking is the form in which man can bring his will to expression in speech. Today it is only in thinking that we can unfold the will. Only later will it be possible for man, rising above the level of thought, to unfold the will in speech.
The next step is connected with warmth. Man's activity is to be sought in what streams out from him as inner warmth. Out of what proceeds from warmth — passions, impulses, instincts, desires, wishes, and so on — karma arises. Just as the parallel organ to the ear is the organ of speech, so the parallel organ to the warmth of the heart is the pituitary gland, the hypophysis. The heart takes up the warmth from outside, as the ear does sound. Thereby it perceives world warmth. The corresponding organ, which we must have in order to be able to produce warmth consciously, is the pituitary gland in the head, which at the present time is only at the beginning of its development. Just as one perceives with the ear and produces with the larynx, so one takes up the warmth of the world in the heart and lets it stream forth again through the pituitary gland in the brain. Once this capacity has been achieved, the heart will have become the organ it was intended to be. There is a reference to this in words from ‘Light on the Path’: ‘Before the soul can stand in the presence of the Masters, its feet must be washed in the blood of the heart.’ Then our heart's blood streams out, as today our words stream out into the world. In the future, warmth of soul will flood over mankind.
Somewhat deeper in evolution than the warmth organ stands the organ of sight. In the course of evolution the organs of hearing, warmth, and sight follow in sequence; the organ of sight is only at the stage of receiving, but the ear already perceives, for instance in the sound of a bell, its innermost being. Warmth must flow from the being itself. The eye has only an image, the ear has the perception of innermost reality. The perception of warmth is the receiving of something that rays outward. There is an organ which will also become the active organ of vision. This is today germinally present in the pineal gland, the epiphysis, the organ which will give reality to the images which today are produced by the eye. These two organs, the pineal gland and the pituitary gland, as active organs, must develop into the organ of vision (eye) and the organ of warmth (heart). Today fantasy is the preliminary stage leading to a later power of creation. Now man has at most imagination. Later he will have magical power. This is the Kriya-shakti power. It develops in proportion to the physical development of the pineal gland.
In the reciprocal relationship between ear and larynx we have a prophetic model (Vorbild). Thinking will later be interpenetrated with warmth, and still later man himself will learn to create. First he learns to create a picture; then to create and send forth radiations; then to create beings. Freemasonry calls these three forces wisdom, semblance (beauty), and power. (See Goethe's Fairy Tale.)
Warmth has its life on the Shushupti plane. To make conscious use of this is possible for one who understands and controls the life of warmth, as in a certain sense man today controls the life of the air. In his development man must now approach the forces of the Shushupti plane (Buddhi-Manas). The Fifth Sub-Race has mainly the task of developing Kama-Manas. One finds Manas in everything which is placed in the service of the human spirit. Our age has placed its highest powers at the service of these needs, whereas the animal is satisfied without such achievements.
Now however Buddhi-Manas must also begin its development. Man must learn something beyond speech. Another force must be united with speech, such as we find in the writings of Tolstoi. It is not so much a matter of what he says, but that behind what he says stands an elemental force that has in it something of Buddhi-Manas, which must now enter into our civilization. Tolstoi's writings work so powerfully because they are consciously opposed to western European culture and contain something new and elemental. A certain barbarism which is still contained in them will later be brought into balance. Tolstoi is just a small instrument of a higher spiritual power which also stood behind the Gothic initiate Ulfilas. This spiritual power uses Tolstoi as its instrument.