The Influence of Spiritual Beings Upon Man. Lecture 7
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, April 20, 1908:
I should like to speak to you today about something that to a certain extent falls out of the series of our present course of lectures. In another respect, however, it forms a supplement to them, recapitulating much that has been said and shedding more light on it.
We know indeed that man has only reached his present condition in the course of a long evolution, that he has developed to his present heights through different planetary stages. We know too that he will lift himself to higher stages of evolution in the future. Now we are also aware that when the human being was still in quite a dull state of consciousness on ancient Saturn, there were beings already in existence who stood as high as man stands today. There were beings too who at that time stood far higher than man stands today. We also know that there are beings today who have already attained a stage of evolution which man will only attain in the future. So we can look up to hierarchies — as they are called in occultism — of beings set over man whose various ranks are ranged one above the other.
The beings who stand next above man are called in esoteric Christian terminology “Angels,” Angeloi. The Angels are therefore beings who in the Moon-evolution, the planetary forerunner of our Earth, had already attained human consciousness and who stand today one stage higher than humanity. In the Jupiter-evolution man will himself have the consciousness which is possessed today by the beings whom we call Angels, Angeloi. This then is the first stage of beings standing above man, and from certain other connections we know of the subsequent stages.
Passing upwards beyond the Angels we have the Archangels, Archangeloi; then the rank of the “Original Forces” whom we also call Archai; and then the “Revelations” or Powers, Exusiai; the so-called Mights or Dynameis; the Dominions or Kyriotetes; the Thrones; the Cherubim, and the Seraphim. Then only, beyond the Seraphim, should we speak of what in the Christian sense one calls the actual “Godhead.” Genuine occultism, true spiritual science, cannot share the usual trivial notion that man can look up direct to the highest Divinity; we have the whole ladder of beings whom we call Angels, Archangels, and so on, standing between. In a certain respect it is a sign of indolence to say — as we can often hear today — “Well, why do we need the whole succession of beings? Man can quite well come to a direct relationship to the Godhead.” The student of spiritual science cannot share this indolence, for the beings are absolutely real. And today we will say something of their qualities and their tasks.
We will first try to form an idea of the nature of the Angels. We shall most easily form an idea of their consciousness if we think of the physical consciousness of man and how it includes the four kingdoms of nature. He can perceive mineral beings, plant beings, animal beings, and the human kingdom itself. We can therefore describe the human consciousness as one having for its contents these four kingdoms perceptible to the outer senses. Everything that man perceives through the senses, no matter what it is, belongs to one of these four kingdoms. If we now ask: What is the consciousness of the Angels? we receive as answer: In a certain respect it is a higher consciousness since it does not reach down to the mineral kingdom; the Angel's consciousness does not reach down to where the stones, rocks, minerals are. On the other hand it includes plant, animal, and human beings together with its own kingdom of Angels, which there plays the same role as the human kingdom does for us. We can say then that the Angels are also aware consciously of four kingdoms: the kingdoms of plant, animal, man, and the kingdom of the Angels.
That is the peculiarity of the Angel beings: they have no physical body and therefore no organs of the physical body such as eyes, ears, and so on. Hence they do not perceive the physical world. As their lowest being they have the etheric body and hence have a certain relationship with the plants. Their consciousness can descend as low as the plants and they can perceive them. On the other hand, where there is mineral they perceive a hollow space — just as during the devachanic condition, man, as we described, will also perceive as a hollow the space filled up here on earth by a mineral. So that wherever the physical kingdom is here, the Angels perceive a hollow space. On the other hand, their consciousness projects up to where as yet man's consciousness does not reach.
But we know too that men bear a certain relationship to each other; there are those who lead and those who are led. I wish to allude only to children and grown-up teachers: children must be guided until they are as mature as the teachers. Men are growing in their present development into the Jupiter consciousness, which will be similar to what the Angels possess today. The Angels today are therefore actually the leaders of men, their guides, preparing them, and there exists an intimate connection between what gradually develops in man and the task of these Angel beings. What then is forming in man during the rest of his earth existence? It is something of which we have often spoken. We have said that man has a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body, and an ego, and that he is now occupied in transforming his astral body so that it gradually becomes spirit-self. He is working on his other members as well, but the essential task of earthly existence consists in the full development of the spirit-self. The Angels have developed it already; they had developed it when Earth-existence began, and thus the Angels in the hierarchies of evolution are the spirits which guide this task of man — the transforming of the astral body into the spirit-self.
Now we ask how they do this. — Let us remember here what happens after a man's death and how he has around him at first what we have called the memory panorama of the just completed life. This lasts for two or three days; it differs somewhat for individual persons. It lasts as a rule for about the length of time that the person could hold out without sleep. Different people vary very much in this: one is accustomed to sleep after every twelve hours and then his eyes close; another on the contrary could keep awake for four to five days. The memory-tableau lasts as long as the person can keep himself from sleeping. Then the etheric body dissolves and only an extract of it remains — the life-fruit of the past life. This is taken with him for the whole of the time that follows, is incorporated into his being and forms the basis for the upbuilding of the physical body in the next incarnation. He is enabled to build up his next body more perfectly, because he can make use of the fruits of his past life. Thus man has this life-essence and forms his next body out of it in the life that follows.
Now we know too that man not only forms this body but that in Devachan he is by no means inactive. It would be a false idea to think that man had only to occupy himself with himself. The world is not built up on such egotism. In every situation of life the world requires man to share in working on the earth, and during his stay in Devachan he shares in work upon the earth's surface. We are aware of the fact that the ground on which we stand today looked quite different a few centuries ago; the earth is continually transformed. At the time when Christ Jesus walked upon earth there were mighty forests here, there were quite other plants and animals. Thus the face of the earth is continuously changed. Just as men labor with physical forces in building cities and so on, so from Devachan they work with those forces which transform the physiognomy of the Earth together with the plant and animal kingdoms. In a new incarnation therefore man meets a ground that presents quite a different picture; he always experiences something new. It is not for nothing that man is born into a new incarnation; he is to experience something new. Man contributes to the transformation of the Earth, but he cannot do it without guidance. He cannot determine the succeeding incarnations, for then he would not need to experience first what is to happen in the future. And the beings who guide man's work of transforming the earth with the forces of Devachan, who create the harmony between the different human individuals and the evolution of the earth as it corresponds to them, these spiritual beings are the Angels. On the stones, on the solid earthly crust, they cannot work, for their consciousness does not extend to the mineral, but it reaches down to the plant kingdom which the earth bears. There they can work, not indeed creatively, but transformingly. Such an Angel being works in fact with every human individual, guiding him in his task of developing the spirit-self in the astral body. In a part of Christian doctrine it speaks of man's Guardian Angel and that is a conception completely corresponding to reality. They are the beings who create the harmony between the human individual and the course of earthly evolution until man will have advanced so far at the end of Earth's evolution that he can release his Angel. He will then himself have the consciousness of an Angel.
Now you will readily understand that the Archangels have a consciousness that no longer reaches down to the plant kingdom but only to the animal kingdom. The plants, so to speak, do not exist for them; the plant kingdom is too subordinate, too insignificant. They still have points of contact with the animal kingdom and can perceive it. They have no etheric body; the astral body is the lowest member of their being. The animal has an astral body and hence the Archangels work in the astral bodies of the animals. In addition they perceive the human kingdom, the kingdom of the Angels, and their own kingdom. The Archangel kingdom is that to which they say “I,” as is for man the human “I.” These beings too have an important mission, and since they have a consciousness two stages higher than man, you can understand that the mission must be a very lofty one. The consciousness of the Archangels is so high that they have fully perfected the life-spirit, Buddhi, and they can therefore guide and lead in earthly evolution from an insight corresponding to the life-spirit. This is shown in the fact that the Archangels are leaders of whole peoples; what one calls the folk spirit, the common spirit of the people or folk, is in reality one of the Archangels. You will now find it comprehensible that those peoples who were still conscious of such a spiritual connection did not look up direct to the highest being, but that they turned their gaze to the beings nearest to them, who directed and led them.
Let us take the old Hebrew people. They revered as the highest God, Yahve or Jehovah. But for them Yahve belonged to the rank of the Revelations. He was a sublime being whom they acknowledged as their God. They said, however: He who directs and leads us as the actual arch-messenger of Jehovah is “Michael,” one of the Archangels — his name means “the one who stands before God.” In ancient Hebrew he was also called the “Countenance of God,” because when a member of the Old Covenant looked up to God he felt that Michael stood before Him and was the expression of His being, as the human countenance is the expression of man's being. He was therefore called literally the Countenance of God.
When one speaks in occultism of the folk spirit one does not speak of an incomprehensible being difficult to grasp. When in our materialistic age people speak of the folk spirit they really mean nothing; they mean by it an abstract external combination of the characteristics of a folk. In reality there is a spiritual representative, an Archangel, who leads and directs the people as a whole. This being reaches down into the animal world, and this was felt by the peoples; they felt it out of their instinct. The one folk dwelt here, the other there, and according to the different regions they occupied they had to make use of such and such animals. They felt instinctively that this was allotted to them by their folk-spirit. This spirit worked as far as the animal world, so that the ancient Egyptians, who experienced this very clearly, said: When we consider plant development, then the Angel is working into it; when we consider the animals, these are apportioned to us by the guiding spirit of the whole people. They therefore saw the power which supplied the animals to them as a sacred power and the way in which they treated the animals was an expression of this consciousness. They did not speak of Archangels but they had the same feeling about it, and it was this feeling that the Egyptians united with animal worship. Moreover, where there was a consciousness of this spiritual connection, these spirits were not represented by pictures of earthly animals, though with animal images, as for instance the Sphinx, winged beasts, and so forth, which you find in the various images of the peoples. It was as if the guiding Archangels shone in, and you can see portrayed in the different animal groups the esoteric expression of the ruling Archangels. Many of the Egyptian idols were based on the conception that the Archangel, the guiding spirit of the people, reached down as far as the animals. This is the special task of the Archangels; there is, however, still another task.
The names “Uriel,” “Gabriel,” “Michael” are still known to the modern consciousness, but as a legend from the far past, and you need only look in the Book of Enoch to find the names of yet other Archangels. So, for instance, there is “Phanuel,” an important Archangel who has not only the task of guiding some people or nation, but another task too. We are aware that initiation consists of the fact that man strives upward to an ever higher consciousness, and that even now in the course of earthly evolution he is ascending to an ever higher consciousness. Now, the people in the Mystery centers knew well that here too guiding, leading forces were necessary. They therefore brought those who were to be initiated under the protection of the Archangel Phanuel. He was the protector who was called upon by the candidate for initiation.
Other spiritual beings of this rank have yet other tasks. So, for example, the whole course of world evolution is based upon a sum of forces which are guided by certain beings. Thus there is an Archangel, earlier called “Surakiel,” whose task it is to eradicate particularly widespread vices of a city or a whole district and to transform them into virtues. To one who knows this connection it is plain that what is called in general by the abstract word “Providence” is really guided. If one has undertaken the study of the spiritual worlds one should not be satisfied with general abstractions, but go into these details. For the highest beings of whom man can form any idea guide the course of world-evolution through such intermediate beings as we have just considered. These can be denoted as the various tasks of the Archangels.
Now we come to the rank of the “Original Forces.” They are still more lofty beings, whose consciousness no longer descends to the animals. When the initiate lifts himself to intercourse with the Original Forces, he does not impart to them out of his human consciousness information about the animal forms on the earth. For their consciousness reaches down only to man; then they know the kingdom of the Angels, the kingdom of the Archangels, and their own kingdom. To themselves they say “I,” and human beings are the lowest hierarchy which they perceive. For the Original Forces man is the lowest kingdom, just as the stone, the mineral, is the lowest for man. We see from this that they guide the progress of humanity from a very lofty height. People here and there have an inkling that something exists as a kind of “Spirit of the Age,” that differs according to the different epochs. We have often spoken here of the Spirit of the Epochs. We have said, for example, that in the first culture-epoch of the Post-Atlantean Age, that of the ancient Indian people, the Spirit of the Epoch consisted in the fact that men looked back to Atlantean times when they dimly perceived higher kingdoms around them. So the Yoga system arose, by means of which they sought to rise into the higher worlds. The physical plane of external reality had little value for them; it was maya, illusion. It will seem strange to you, but it is actually true, that if the ancient Indian civilization, with its lack of interest in the physical plane, had continued, there would never have been railways, telephones, and such things as exist in the physical world today. For it would not have seemed at all important to occupy oneself seriously with physical laws in order to people the world with all that today represents the achievements of civilization.
Then came the Spirit of the Persian epoch, and man learnt through him to know matter as an opposing element which he must work upon. He united himself with the good Spirit, Ormuzd, against the Spirit of matter, Ahriman. But the Persian had an interest in the physical plane. Then comes the Spirit of that epoch which found expression, on the one hand, in the civilizations of Babylon, Assyria, Chaldea, and on the other hand of Egypt. Human science was founded; it was sought through geometry to make the earth suited to man. One sought to know the meaning of the motion of the stars in astrology, astronomy, and one arranged earthly affairs in conformity with this motion. Eygptian social life was especially directed according to the passage of the stars. What was read there as the secrets of the stars was the basis of human conduct. The ancient Indian sought the way to the Gods by turning his attention completely away from outer reality; the Egyptian studied the laws which rule in order to find how the will and spirit of the Gods were brought to expression in the laws of external nature. That was again a different epoch. So you have for each epoch a definite spirit, and the evolution of the Earth comes about through one Spirit of the Epochs being relieved by another — that is the case in detail. People rise to the conception of Ages, but they do not know that behind this whole progress of the Ages, Spirits of the Epochs stand, nor do they know that to bring to expression the Spirit of their epoch they are only the instruments here on earth of Spirits standing behind them. Just think of Giordano Bruno. If Giordano Bruno had been born in the 8th century, he would not have become what he became in the period ruled by the Epochal Spirit whose expression he then became. He was the instrument of the Time-Spirit, and the same applies to other outstanding human beings. And conversely, the Epochal Spirit would not have been able to find such an expression as it found in Giordano Bruno if Giordano Bruno had been born in the 8th century. By such things we see how men are the instruments of the Epochal Spirits who are the guiding beings of the great epochs and also of the Spirits of the “meanings and conceptions” of the smaller epochs. They are the Original Forces; they extend their consciousness down to man. They have no directing influence over what brings man together with other nature-kingdoms, for their consciousness does not reach the animal kingdom. How men conduct their lives according to the spirit of the time, how they found states, found sciences, cultivate their fields — everything of human origin, the progress of civilization from beginning to end, stands under the guidance of the Original Forces. They lead man in so far as he has to do with others.
I have drawn your attention at various times to the fact that certain beings from each spiritual hierarchy stay behind, they have not risen as high as the others, but have stood still, so to speak, in world-evolution. You will be able to realize that there are beings who should have risen during the Moon-evolution to the rank of the Revelations or Powers, but who have only reached the Original Forces. They are different from those who have ascended to that stage in the normal course of evolution. Hence there are on earth Original Forces who are really immature Powers. We are now learning to know from another aspect many things of which we have heard already. Concealed behind the Original Forces, therefore, are some who could actually be Powers, and among the Original Forces who have really no right to be there is that being whom one is right in calling “Satan” — Satan, the “Unlawful Prince of this World.” This is a truth, however, only to those who look at things from the aspect of spiritual science. The Lawful Prince is one of the “Powers,” Yahve or Jehovah; the unlawful belongs to the ranks of the Original Forces. He expresses himself by continually bringing confusion into man's relation to the Time-Spirit, by bringing men to contradict the Epochal Spirit. That is the true nature of the Spirit who is also called the “Spirit of Darkness,” or the Unlawful Prince of our Earth, he who claims to be the actual guide and leader of men. You will now grasp what a deep meaning lies in the fact that the Christ appeared in order through His mission to throw a light upon the whole succeeding evolution, and that He must wage war against this Unlawful Prince of this World. The very deepest wisdom lies behind what is expressed in this remarkable passage in the Gospel.
It stands to reason that a certain view is held not among materialists alone but also by people who are haunted by old conceptions which they misunderstand — for Satan has for a long time been spoken of somewhat scornfully! And even people who are ready to acknowledge the other spiritual beings are not willing to concede reality to Satan; they deny him. This dates back to the Middle Ages, when men had very curious views on Satan. They admitted that he was actually a backward Spirit of the rank of the Powers. But where are the Spirits of the Powers? They express themselves in what is revealed in the world as spirit. Satan was called a Spirit of Darkness; people thought: Darkness is a negation of light, light is real, but darkness is not real — and they made that apply spiritually. They ascribed reality to the Spirits who manifest in light, but to Satan who manifests in darkness they denied reality. That is just about as clever as if someone who has listened to a physicist were to say: Cold is only a lack of warmth, it is not real in itself; if we make the warmth less and less, it gets colder and colder, however much warmth we take away; cold is not a reality — so do not let us think of winter! But in spite of cold's being only a negation of warmth, it can nevertheless very well be felt when there is no heating — so is Satan very well a reality even if he is only the negation of light.
We have now raised ourselves to very lofty Spirits, and we come next to the hierarchy who are called “Revelations,” Exusiai. To them, for instance, belongs the being whom we have come to know in other connections as Yahve or Jehovah, together with his companions, the Elohim. The Spirits of Light belong to the order of the Powers or Revelations. We know that Yahve had six companions who separated off the sun. Yahve himself went with the moon which reflected the sun's light to the earth, but he is a companion of the other Elohim. If you now try to determine the consciousness of the Revelations on the analogy of what has gone before, you will realize that they do not concern themselves about the individual. Individual human beings are guided by the Angels, Archangels, Original Forces, up to those we have called Epochal Spirits. The whole structure in which man is embedded, the guidance of the planet and what occurs on it, is the affair of the Revelations or Powers. For the whole present evolution of humanity could not have gone on without, on the one hand, the accelerating sun forces, and, on the other, the hindering moon forces. The Revelations or Powers have nothing to do with separate men but with groups of men. They guide the external powers and beings who give the planet its configuration and whom man needs in order that he may go through his evolution.
And so finally we look up to a lofty Being Who surpasses all that we have just described, the Christ Being Himself. Christ brings something to earth which is not concerned with the individual man, but with the guidance of all mankind. And to the Christ man must find his way himself; for it is only the Original Forces who constrain man to find them; to the Christ he must come of his own free will.
Thus we have formed some conception of the lowest ranks of the hierarchies set above man, the Angels, Archangels, and a slight idea too of the Original Forces and Powers. Only with a faint divining could we look up to a still higher Being, the Christ. On another opportunity we can consider what is to be said about the Thrones and so on. Today I wished to relate something of the spiritual structure into which man is interwoven, in so far as Angels, Archangels, Original Forces, and Powers participate in it.