Friday, July 31, 2020
Planetary Evolution: the Saturn and Sun Stages of the Earth; the Spirits of Personality and the Archangels
The Spiritual Hierarchies and the Physical World. Lecture 3 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Düsseldorf, April 13, 1909:
Some questions may have arisen in many souls toward the end of yesterday's lecture about the so-called lowest realm of the hierarchies. And this is only natural, for according to modern ideas much of what has been said must appear doubtful and inexplicable, but the following lectures will throw light on many points. One thing must be made clear today to enable you to gain the proper orientation of mind to deal appropriately with the subject. Someone might ask, for instance: ‘Even if through thinking and concentrating over a stone, you really do raise a bewitched spirit out of it, after having set that spirit free, what remains in the stone? Is the being still in it, and what happens to the stone? Another may follow me and go through the same process; what comes of it?’ This question might arise in many minds. As I have said before; some of these questions will be answered in these lectures; but if the understanding of them has to depend only upon such qualifications for thinking as the Earth gives to man, these questions cannot really be grasped at all. For everything is veiled upon Earth, everything is covered by maya, and human thought sees things quite differently from what they are in reality — but it is not the fault of the facts that these questions remain unanswered. The questions are put in the wrong way, but in time we shall find the standard by which we can put our questions correctly. Things change essentially for us when the whole matter does not remain so veiled in illusion. Upon the Earth all things are, so to speak, jumbled together, and through this the thoughts of man are continually led astray. We get a clearer idea of things when we go back into more ancient times. Just as man passes from one incarnation to another, one metamorphosis to another, so all the beings in the universe pass through reincarnations, from the smallest to the greatest; even such a being as our Earth — a planetary being — passes through reincarnation. Our Earth did not appear at first as Earth; it passed through a different condition. This has always been much spoken of in anthroposophical circles. Just as man in this life is the reincarnation of a previous life, so the Earth is also the reincarnation of another planet which was its forerunner. We call that former planet Moon, but we do not mean by it our present Moon, which is only a part, a residue, of the ancient Moon — we mean a former condition of the Earth, which existed once upon a time and then passed through a spiritual state called pralaya, in the same way as man passes through a spiritual condition after death. Just as man reincarnates, so this lunar planet is a reincarnation. That which we have characterized as the lunar planetary condition was the reincarnation of a still earlier planetary condition, which we call Sun. This is not the Sun of today, but quite a different being; it was the reincarnation of the first planet to which we look back when speaking of incarnations of our Earth: the very ancient Saturn. Thus we have four successive incarnations; Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth.
We have also often said that each planetary condition has a special task. What is the task of our Earth? It is to make human existence possible for man as man. All the activities of the Earth are such that through them man may become an I-being, an ego-being. This was not the case in the former conditions it has passed through. Man has only become human, in the present sense of the word, on Earth. The former planetary conditions which the Earth has passed through had a similar task. Other beings became human on those other planets, and now stand at a higher stage than man. Perhaps you will remember in my book Christianity as Mystical Fact that an Egyptian sage gave to Solon the Greek a remarkable hint regarding the truth of the Mysteries: he told him that it was a truth of very great importance that the gods were once men. This was one of those truths which the pupil of the Mysteries had to accept in ancient times: that the gods who today are above in the spiritual heights were not always gods, but that they had risen to those heights, and also that they were once men and had once passed through the human stage. A dangerous truth, because as a natural consequence the pupil of the Mysteries drew the inference that he too would become a god some day. It was also possible for man to say to himself: ‘A man can only become a god when he is ripe for it, and if he imagines for one moment that he is a god before he is ready for it, he will not be a god, but a fool.’ And so two roads are open to man: to live in patience, as Dionysius says, till the time of his deification; or else to imagine himself already a god before the time. The one road leads in truth to deification, the other one leads to folly, to madness. Misunderstandings often arise about the sayings of the ancients, for at the present day one differentiates no longer between the various degrees of divine beings. The Egyptian sage who spoke of the gods did not mean only one degree of the gods, but he meant the whole sequence of spiritual divine beings. Dionysius the Areopagite and the Western sages have always differentiated between those different degrees of divine spiritual beings. It is the same thing whether to speak of angels or of Dhyan-Chohans, for those who realize the unity of cosmic wisdom knew that these were merely different names for one and the same thing, but in this realm we must also know how to differentiate. The beings who are the first to be invisible and who stand immediately above man are called angels in Christian esotericism, angeloi, messengers of the divine spirit-world. Those who stand yet one degree higher, therefore two stages higher than man, are called archangels, archangeloi, also spirits of fire. Those who stand still higher than the archangels, when they pass through their normal development are called the Spirits of Personality, archai, or Primeval Beginnings.
Thus we have three degrees of beings who stand above man. These three degrees of spiritual beings have all passed through the human stage; once they were all men. The beings who are Angels today, if one considers it from the point of view of universal time were human not so very long ago, for they were men upon the old Moon; and just as you, because of earthly conditions, inhabit the Earth as men, so did the Angels inhabit the Moon during their human stage. The Archangels passed through their human stage on the Sun, and the Archai, or spirits of personality, did the same on ancient Saturn. These beings have risen by degrees from their human stage; they are higher beings today, in higher grades of hierarchies than man. If we reckon the sequence of degrees in the kingdoms of the world in a spiritual sense we arrive at the following: On the Earth we have the visible mineral kingdom, the vegetable and animal kingdoms, the human kingdom, and then we pass into the invisible, into the kingdom of Angels, the Archangels or Spirits of Fire, the Archai or Spirits of Personality. While these beings in accordance with their own inner nature were progressing and developing, rising from man to divinity, or to messengers of the divine (the correct description of those beings), while they were thus rising in their evolution, the conditions of the planet, on which and for the sake of which they lived, gradually changed. If we look back at ancient Saturn, on which the Archai or Spirits of Personality passed through their human stage, we find it very different from our Earth.
Yesterday, we spoke of the four elements which we distinguished on Earth as earth, water, air, fire. The three first elements did not exist as yet upon ancient Saturn. Of the four there was only fire, or warmth, on Saturn. The materialistic philosopher of today will say: ‘But warmth can only come about, only be perceived, by means of external objects; there are warm bodies, warm water etc., but warmth cannot exist of itself.’ That is the materialistic philosopher's belief, but it is not true. If you could have observed ancient Saturn with your present-day senses, what would you have found?
Let us take it as a hypothesis that you might have flown through universal space to ancient Saturn. You would have seen nothing where the ancient Saturn used to be; one thing only you would have felt, and that was warmth.
If you had flown through the body of ancient Saturn, you would have felt as if you had flown through a heated baking oven. You could not have drawn a breath of air, you could not have swum, for there was neither air nor water; you could not have stood, for there was no earth. Your hand could not have touched anything, for there was a mere ball of warmth. The whole of ancient Saturn consisted only of warmth. In its first metamorphosis our Earth's existence began as a planet of warmth, and thus you can see how right ancient Herakleitos of Ephesus was when he said: ‘Everything has come from fire.’ Yes, indeed! As the Earth is nothing but ancient Saturn transmuted, so everything on Earth has been created out of fire. Herakleitos knew of this truth from the ancient Mysteries, and he hints at this when he says that the book in which he wrote of this was dedicated to the Goddess of Ephesus and that he placed it on the altar there, meaning that he was conscious of owing the knowledge of this truth to the Mysteries of Ephesus, where the teaching of primeval Saturnian fire was proclaimed in all its purity. You can see now that those beings we call Archai, Primal-Beings, or Spirits of Personality passed through their human stage in quite different conditions from the man of today. Man can at present receive into the bodily constitution of his bone and blood system,solids, liquids, and gases. The man of Saturn, the Spirit of Personality, had to build his body out of warmth. I told you yesterday that warmth has, so to speak, two sides to it. One side is what we can feel inwardly, as inner warmth; we feel that we are either cold or warm without having to touch our surroundings, as in the case when we contact the solid element; but we can also feel warmth outwardly, when we grasp a warm object. The peculiarity of the Saturn evolution is that it gradually passed from this inner warmth, which could be felt only inwardly, to the external warmth, to a warmth which, toward the end of its evolution, became more and more external, more realizable from outside. If you had undertaken your voyage through space during the first stage of the Saturn evolution, you would not have felt any warmth on your skin, but you would have felt yourself warm inside; you would have said, ‘I feel comfortably warm.’ Something resembling what you would call soul's warmth today could have been felt by you if you had made this voyage during the very first stages of ancient Saturn. You can imagine the experience you would have had, if you consider the following: You know that there is a difference for you when you look at something red or at something blue. Red gives a warm feeling; and blue gives you a feeling of cold. Imagine that the feeling which is liberated in the human soul by the impression of something red did not exist as yet, but you might have felt something warm and comfortable. Toward the end of the Saturn evolution you would have felt not only inner warmth, but also as if warmth came toward you from outside. The inner warmth would have gradually changed to warmth which was outwardly realized. This is the way Saturn has developed; from an inner soul's warmth it changed to a warmth which was realized outwardly, to that which we call external warmth, or fire. One might say: ‘Just as a child grows up to manhood and has many different experiences, so did the Spirits of Personality grow up on ancient Saturn; first they felt themselves inwardly warm, comfortably warm, then gradually they felt this warmth being exteriorized, made real, yes, we might even say incarnated.’ What happened then? If you want to imagine it you must represent it to yourselves thus: At first we have the inner warming process of the globe of Saturn. It is then first possible for the Spirits of Personality to incarnate. While they are incarnating, that which we call external warmth is produced. If you had undertaken your voyage during the later stages of Saturn you could have differentiated outer impressions of warmth and also of cold. And if you made a drawing of the self -contained bodies of warmth you would find nothing but eggs of warmth clustering on the surface of Saturn, forming its outer crust. If you could have seen it from outside, it would have looked like a blackberry or raspberry. What were these eggs? They were the bodies of the Spirits of Personality, and it was precisely through their inner warmth that the Spirits of Personality built the external warmth of these Saturn eggs. It might be truly said of this condition: The Spirits brooded over the warmth, they actually brought forth the first fire bodies. If we may so express it: within that region of warmth, the external eggs of warmth coagulated from out of their inner warmth. Out of universal space the first fire bodies were hatched. The Spirits of Personality, or Archai (they are also called Asuras), were incarnated in these fire bodies. Saturn consisted only of that element of fire.
During the Saturn evolution it was possible for the Spirits of Personality to transmute external warmth into inner warmth. The process was not stiff or hard, but was one of inner movement. In fact, the Spirits of Personality were continually producing these eggs of warmth and letting them dissolve again. And now we shall be able to imagine the process more exactly. Let us suppose that you made that journey over and over again; you would have noticed that there were times when there was no outer warmth to be felt, only that inner feeling of comfort; then again times when those eggs of warmth appeared. You would have realized something like a breathing of the whole being of ancient Saturn, but it was a breathing of fire. You would have thought: ‘Sometimes I am within this ancient Saturn in such a way that I feel that all external warmth has turned inward, has withdrawn, and I experience only that feeling of inner comfort.’ And you would have said: ‘Now Saturn has in-breathed all the warmth.’ And coming back another time and finding all those eggs of warmth you would have said: ‘Now Saturn has breathed out his inner warmth; all is external fire.’ You must understand that the ancient holy rishis gave this idea to their pupils; they transported themselves in spirit back to the times of ancient Saturn, and made their pupils realize how a whole planet was able to produce something that resembled an expansion and contraction in breathing. They evoked in their pupils the conception that fire when it flows out forms countless bodies of warmth and when the fire is sucked in, it becomes the inner Self, an Ego, of the Spirits of Personality. Therefore they compared the life of this planet to an in- and out-breathing, but on ancient Saturn it was only a breathing of fire. Air as yet did not exist.
Now let us suppose that all those Spirits of Personality on ancient Saturn had remained at the stage of their normal evolution and had continually inhaled and exhaled warmth. They would have accomplished their regular Saturn evolution, and the consequence would have been that in the course of time all would have been withdrawn again into inner warmth, and Saturn as an external planet of fire would have been received again into the spiritual realms of the cosmos. This might have happened. We should then never have had the Sun, Moon, and Earth conditions, for then all that had been breathed forth would have returned to inner warmth, would have been received again into the spiritual world. I shall now make use of a trivial expression which will make this more comprehensible. It pleased certain of those Spirits of Personality better to draw in again only a part of that exhaled warmth; it pleased them to leave some of it behind, so that when inhaling, some of those Saturn eggs did not disappear completely, but remained. Thus two states or conditions developed gradually on Saturn: inner warmth, and alongside of it outer warmth incarnated in the Saturn eggs. Not all of it was drawn in. The Spirits of Personality left some of that out-breathed warmth to take care of itself, as it were; they left it outside. Now why did they do that? They had to do it; if they had not they would never have become men on Saturn. What does it mean to become men? It means to attain consciousness of self. You cannot do this unless you can differentiate yourself as ‘I’ from what is outside you. Only through this are you an ‘I,’ an ego: there, you say, is the flowering branch, here am I. I differentiate myself as ‘I’ from the objects around me. The Spirits of Personality would have allowed their ‘I’ merely to dream out eternally if they had not left something outside that could offer resistance to them. ‘There is another outside of me; I differentiate myself from the element of warmth which has been made objective.’ The Spirit of Personality became Egos, attained consciousness of self, through having pushed a part of the Saturn essence outside into an existence of merely outer warmth. They said to themselves: I must allow something to stream out of me, and leave it outside, so that I am able to differentiate myself, so that my self-consciousness may be lit by that external element. Thus they created another kingdom near to them, created a mirrored image of their inner life in that outward life. Thus it came about that when the life of Saturn had run its course, the Spirits of Personality were not in a position to allow Saturn to disappear. This would have happened if they had inhaled all the fire; but they could not breathe in again that which they had exhaled out of themselves. The field which had offered them the possibility of gaining consciousness of self had to be left to itself. No condition of pralaya could have arisen for Saturn through the Spirits of Personality alone. Higher spirits had to come into action in order to dissolve Saturn so that a pralaya, or state of transition, of disappearance and of sleep, might take place. Higher spirits, the Thrones, of which we will only give the name at present, had to dissolve all this, so that, as the life of Saturn reached its end, the following process was carried out. The Spirits of Personality had attained self-consciousness, had breathed in again a part of the warmth, had realized the Self as the center of their being, and left behind them a lower kingdom. Now entered the kingdom of the Thrones and dissolved that which had been left behind, and Saturn entered into a sort of planetary night. Then arose the planetary morning. Everything had to wake up again, through laws which we shall learn later. If the whole of Saturn had disappeared through the inbreathing of the whole warmth, there could have been no awakening, for the whole of Saturn would have been taken up into the spiritual world. The Thrones could now for a season dissolve that which the Spirits of Personality had left behind, those eggs of warmth, but they could do so only for a time. These had to be given over as it were to a lower existence for their further development. Through this a planetary morning dawned: the second metamorphosis of Saturn — the Sun condition!
What was it that actually came to life in this new Sun condition? The Spirits of Personality, having now self-consciousness, passed to it from ancient Saturn after the planetary condition of sleep; they were no longer required to pass through any similar condition to that which they had already passed through: they had breathed out certain eggs of warmth which had emerged again gradually, and differentiated themselves from the general mass; the consequence was that the Spirits of Personality were bound to that part of themselves which they had formerly left behind. If they had taken everything with them into the spiritual world they would not have been tied to the Sun, they would not have needed to come down again; but they had to do so, because they had left behind them a part of their own essence, their own being. They had to concern themselves with it; it drew them downward into a new planetary existence. This was the destiny of Saturn, world karma, cosmic karma. Because the Spirits of Personality on ancient Saturn had not taken everything into themselves, they had prepared that karma for themselves which obliged them to return. They found down below as an heirloom from ancient Saturn what they themselves had brought to pass. What happened when the Spirits of Personality now took up the karma which they had created? That happened which I explained yesterday. The warmth divided itself, into light on one side, and into smoke on the other. In the reborn Saturn (the Sun) the eggs of warmth reappeared as gas-air — or smoke, as we have called it — on one side; and on the other side appeared light, because the warmth returned, so to speak, in a higher condition. Inwardly in the transformed Saturn there was smoke, gas, air, and on the other side light! If traveling through space you had now reached the place where this ancient Sun was, you would have perceived from afar that which had formed itself into light, because behind it was smoke. If not the light itself, you would yet have perceived a shining ball, just a you perceived a ball of warmth on Saturn. You would have encountered a shining ball, and if you had come in touch with its surface, if you had penetrated that ball, you would have felt not only warmth but wind, air, gas, streaming from all sides.
Thus your ball of warmth has transformed itself into a shining orb; a Sun has come into being. One is fully justified in calling it a Sun; the orbs that are Suns today are now passing through this same process: inwardly they ate masses of streaming gas, and on the other side they cause that gas to turn into light; they shed abroad light through space. Thus, light was really first formed in the transmutations of our Earth, light appeared then for the first time. In the warmth of ancient Saturn the Sprits of Personality had first the possibility of becoming human; in the light which now streamed from the Sun those beings of the spiritual hierarchies whom we call Archangels or Archangeloi could become human. In fact, if you could have approached the Sun then, not only as a man of today but as a clairvoyant man, you would not only have perceived light streaming from it — not light only — but also the actions of the Archangels would have streamed toward you with the light. But the Archangels had brought with them something in exchange, as it were. The ancient Spirits of Personality had found on Saturn pure warmth. The Archangels, who were first able to become human on the Sun, found there gas or smoke, also. What had they to do in order to secure a footing on the Sun, to establish a dwelling-place there? They formed their own souls, they wove their inner being, their soul-bodies, out of warmth into light, and they joined to these soul-bodies the gas that was there, an external body. As you have today a body and a soul, so the Archangels as men had an inner life of warmth which rayed forth light, and an outer physical body which consisted of gas and air. As the man of today has a body consisting of earth, water, air, and fire, so did those Archangels consist of air, and inwardly they consisted of light. The fire element they of course brought over with them: for this was the element which developed into smoke and light. The whole of their being consisted of light, warmth or fire, and smoke or air. By means of the light they let their shining force stream out into universal space; by means of fire they lived their inner life, they experienced the comfort of warmth. Through the life they led in their gas bodies they lived in the Sun planet itself. They could now differentiate their own body of gas from the general substance of the Sun planet. They jostled against each other, and through this contact developed a kind of consciousness of self. This self-consciousness Archangels could develop further and further only because it pleased the Archangels better, if one may so express it, to dwell in their bodies of gas and smoke, or at any rate to leave them in the general Sun substance. For these Archangels during alternating conditions of the ancient Sun had inhaled all the gas, all the smoke which was around them; they had taken it into themselves. We have now a process of real breathing. You would have felt those currents of gas on the ancient Sun as a process of breathing. You would have found there certain conditions when there was an absolute stillness and you would have thought that the Archangels had now breathed in all the gas. Then the Archangels began to breathe it out again; inner currents began to flow and at the same time light came forth. The interchange of conditions on the Sun was as follows: the Archangels inhaled gas and stillness followed, darkness also — it was the Sun's night ... They exhaled and the Sun was filled with streams of smoke, at the same time it sent forth its light outward — it was the Sun's day. Thus there was a process of real breathing of the whole body of the Sun. Exhalation: — the Sun's day, illumination of the surrounding world. Inhalation: — the Sun's night, oncoming darkness in the world. You have here the description also of the difference between the ancient Sun and the Sun of today. Our present Sun shines always, and darkness is produced only when some object is placed in front of its light. This was different with the ancient Sun. It had in itself the power to produce the interchanges of light and darkness, illumination and obscurity, for that was its process of exhalation and inhalation. Let us now vividly imagine how one would see those happenings externally. Let us take the condition of exhalation. Light is then shed around, but at the same time the Sun is filled with smoke. These forms and currents of smoke are like regularly recurrent pictures: they are imprinted on the substance of the Sun with every exhalation. That which formerly was only egg-shaped, the eggs of warmth, changed into all sorts of regular images. Quite distinct smoke pictures with an inner life and inner regularity were produced. If I may use the expression: the eggs were hatched. That was really to what this solidifying process might be compared. Just as the chicken comes out of the egg, so were those eggs of warmth split in two, and regular forms came out of them, figures of smoke which were the densest bodies of the Archangels. They inhabited the Sun in bodies of gas, smoke, and air. Thus they moved about as men on the Sun. We have now the spiritual idea of a fixed star, of a Sun world, which is a Sun through its own power, which can produce the interchange of day and night by its own power. Like an exhalation and inhalation it produces the interchange of light and darkness. For at that time the Sun was a sort of fixed star. Everything in our universal space that shines of itself sends out into that space together with light the life of spiritual messengers, the Archangels. What, then, have the primal Archai, the Spirits of Personality, accomplished through their own evolution, what have they established? It is mainly through them that the Sun appeared. While otherwise only a Saturn existence would have appeared in evolution, while otherwise only the Archai, who had filled Saturn with warmth, would have existed, now, because the Archai had surrendered the external eggs of warmth, Saturn was transformed into Sun, on which the Archangels found it possible to pass through their human stage. They were the heralds who announced to the world: ‘The Primal Beginnings or the Spirits of Personality were our forerunners. As messengers, we proclaim to the universe, in rays of light, the former existence of Saturn, of warmth-filled Saturn. We are the messengers, the heralds of the Archai.’ Angel means Messenger, Archai means the Beginnings. The Archangels were nothing else than the heralds of the deeds of the Primal Beginnings or Archai of former times. Therefore, they are called Angels of the Beginnings, ‘Archai-Angels,’which, has become Archangels. These Archangels were the men of the Sun.
Rudolf Steiner: An Esoteric Lesson given in Hannover, September 24, 1907. From the notes of a participant.
Christ is a Sun-spirit, a fire-spirit. It's his spirit that reveals itself to us in sunlight. It's his breath of life in the air that sweeps around the Earth and presses into us with every breath. His body is the Earth on which we live. He actually feeds us with his flesh and blood, for all the food we eat is taken from the Earth, from his body. We breathe his breath of life that he streams to us through the Earth's plant-cover. We see in his light, for the sunlight is his spirit-radiation. We live in his love, even physically, for the Sun's warmth that we get is his spiritual force of love, that we perceive as warmth. And our spirit is drawn toward his spirit, as our body is fettered to his body. That's why our body must be consecrated, because we walk on his body. The Earth is his holy body that we touch with our feet. And the Sun is the manifestation of his holy spirit to which we are allowed to look up. And the air is the manifestation of his holy life that we are allowed to take into us.
So that we could become aware of our self, our spirit, so that we could become spirit-beings ourself, this high Sun-spirit sacrificed himself, left his royal abode, descended from the Sun and took on physical raiment in the Earth. Thus he is physically crucified in the Earth. But he spiritually embraces the Earth with his light and his love power, and everything that lives on it belongs to him. He's only waiting for us to want to belong to him. If we give ourselves to him completely then he'll not only give us his physical life, but also his higher spiritual Sun-life. Then he streams through us with his divine light-spirit, with his warming waves of love, and with his creative God's will.
We can only be what he gives us, what he makes out of us. Everything about us that corresponds to the divine plan is his work. What can we do in addition to this? Nothing but to let him work in us. It's only if we resist his love that he can't work in us. But how could we resist this love? resist him who says “I have always loved you and have drawn you to me out of pure goodness”? He has loved us since the Earth's very beginning. We must let his love become a real being in us. Real life, spirit, and bliss are only possible if this life becomes real life for us, becomes Christ's life in us. We can't become pure and holy by ourselves, but only through this Christ-life. All our striving and wrestling is in vain as long as this higher life doesn't fill us. It alone can wash everything out of our nature that's still unpurified, like a clean, pure stream. This is the soul-ground from which this purifying light-life can ascend. There we must seek our dwelling, at his feet and in devotion to him. Then he will transform us himself and stream through us with his divine love-life until we become illumined and pure as he is, become like him. Until he can share his divine consciousness with us. Our soul must become pure and wise through his light — then it can unite with his life. This then is the union of Christ and Sophia, the union of Christ's life with the human soul that has been purified by his light.
Thursday, July 30, 2020
An increase in our feeling of responsibility is the finest and most important of all the things we gain from spiritual science.
Rudolf Steiner: "The deeds of human beings represent an interchanging activity between the spiritual world and the world of man's own inner being. The problem of humanity first becomes important for us when we know that in all we do, even in our moods, we influence a whole cosmos, and that this small world of ours is of infinitely far-reaching importance for all that comes to pass in the macrocosm. An increase in our feeling of responsibility is the finest and most important of all the things we gain from spiritual science. It teaches us to grasp the true meaning of life and to realize its importance, so that this life which we cast on the stream of evolution may not enter that stream void of meaning."
The Spiritual Hierarchies and the Physical World. Lecture 2 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Düsseldorf, April 12, 1909:
The teaching which came from the holy rishis during the first post-Atlantean period of civilization was a knowledge that sprang from purely spiritual sources of existence. What is so important in that teaching and in the investigations of those times is that it entered so deeply into the processes of nature and realized so well the activity of the spirit in those processes. In reality we are always surrounded by spiritual activities and by spiritual entities. When during the time of that ancient holy teaching mention was made of the phenomena of the world surrounding us, one was always referred to as being the most significant, the most important of all these: this was considered (by that ancient spiritual science) to be the phenomenon of fire. In all explanations of what exists and happens upon the Earth, the central point of importance was always given to the spiritual investigation of fire. If we want to understand what we may call the Eastern teaching about fire, which was of such far-reaching importance in those ancient times for the acquisition of the knowledge and understanding of all life, then we must look around us at the other phenomena and occurrences of nature and see how these were considered by that very ancient teaching, which can still be useful nowadays for the purposes of spiritual science. All that surrounds man in the world was then referred back to the so-called four elements. These four elements are respected no longer by the materialistic science of today. You all know that these four elements are called Earth, Water, Air, Fire. But where spiritual science flourished the word ‘earth’ had not the same meaning as it has nowadays. It stood for a certain state in the material realm: the state or condition of solidity. All that is solid was called ‘earthy’ by the spiritual science of those times. So whether we take the solid earth of a field, or a piece of crystal, or lead, or gold, anything that is solid was then called earth. Everything liquid, not only the water of today, was characterized as watery, or as water. If for instance you take iron, pass it through heat to the point of melting so that it can flow, then that liquid iron would have been called water by spiritual science. All metals when liquid were described as water. Everything that has the character of air for us today, no matter whether it was the condition we call gas, or oxygen, or hydrogen, or other gases, was called air. Fire was considered the fourth element. Those of you who remember elementary physics will know that modern science does not see in fire anything that could be compared with either earth, water, or air: the physical science of today sees in it only a certain condition of movement. Spiritual science sees in warmth or fire something which has in it a still finer substance than air. Just as earth or solidity changes into liquid, so does all air-substance change gradually into the condition of fire — according to spiritual science — and fire is so fine an element that it interpenetrates all other elements. Fire interpenetrates the air and makes it warm, the same with water and earth. The other three elements are, so to speak, separated from each other, but we see the element of fire interpenetrating them all.
Both ancient and modern spiritual science agree that there is yet another still more remarkable difference between what we call earth, water, air, and what we call fire or warmth. How do we come to the cognizance of earth or solidity? Through touching it. We realize the solid through touching it and feeling its resistance. It is the same with watery substance. This gives way, it is not so resistant, still we realize it as something external that offers resistance. And it is the same with the element of air. We recognize it also as something external. With warmth it is different. Here we find something which modern science does not consider important, but which must become important for us if we want to study the real problems of existence.
We can realize warmth without coming in contact with it externally. What is essential is that we can realize warmth by touching a body which has a certain degree of warmth: we can perceive it externally in the same way as we realize the three other elements, but we also feel it in our inward conditions. Therefore ancient science says (and did so already at the time of the old Indians) that earth, water, air can be realized only in the outer world, but warmth is the first element which can also be felt within oneself. Thus fire or warmth has, so to speak, two sides to it: an outer, which it shows when we take cognizance of it in the outer world; and an inner, when we feel that we ourselves are in a certain state of warmth. Man feels his own condition of warmth; he is hot, or he freezes; but consciously he is not much concerned with the gaseous or liquid or solid substances — the air, water, or earth — which are in him. He begins to ‘feel’ himself in the element of warmth. The element of warmth has an inner and an outward side. Therefore both ancient and modern spiritual science agree that warmth or fire is that wherein matter begins to become soul. And so in the true sense of the word we may speak of an outer fire which we realize in the other elements, and of an inner psychic fire within our soul.
In this way spiritual science always considered fire as the link between the outer material world on the one side and the realm of the soul on the other, which can be known by man within his inner being. Fire or warmth was placed in the center of all observations of nature, because fire is, so to speak, the portal through which we may pass from the outer into the inner. In all truth, fire is like a door in front of which one stands. One sees it from outside; one opens it and can observe it from within. Such is fire among the objects of nature. One touches some object and becomes acquainted with fire, which streams toward us from outside like the three other elements: one realizes one's own inner warmth and feels it as something belonging to oneself; one stands inside the portal, one has entered into the realm of the soul. Thus was the science of fire described. In fire was seen the interplay of soul and matter. We have now placed before our souls an elementary lesson of primeval human wisdom.
The ancient teachers may have spoken thus: ‘Look at that burning object. See how the fire destroys it. Thou seest two things in that burning object.’ In those ancient times one was called smoke, and it may still be so called nowadays, and the other was called light, and the spiritual scientist saw the fire in the middle between light and smoke. The teacher said: ‘Out of the flame are born simultaneously light on the one side, smoke on the other.’ Now we must for once put very clearly before us a very simple but very far-reaching fact, which has to do with the light, which is born of fire. It is most probable that many people when asked whether they see the light would answer: ‘Yes, of course.’ And yet this answer is as false as possible; for, in truth, no physical eye can see light. Through light one sees objects which are solid, liquid, or gaseous, but the light itself one does not see. Imagine the whole of universal space illuminated by a light the source of which was somewhere behind you, where you could not see it and you were to look into the world spaces illuminated through and through by that light. Would you see the light? You would see absolutely nothing. You would first see something when some object was placed within that illuminated space. One does not see the light; one sees the solid, the watery, the gaseous, by means of the light. One does not see physical light with the physical eye. This is something which comes before the spiritual eye with particular clearness. Spiritual science says therefore: light makes everything visible, but is itself invisible. This sentence is important: light is imperceptible. It cannot be perceived by the outer senses: one can perceive what is solid, liquid, or gaseous, finally one can perceive warmth or fireoutwardly. This one can also begin to feel inwardly; but light itself one can no longer perceive outwardly. If you believe that when you see the Sun you see light, you are mistaken: you see a flaming body, a burning substance out of which the light streams. It could be proved to you that you have there gaseous, liquid, and earthy substances. You do not see light, you see that which is burning. But spiritual science says we pass in ascending order from earth to water, from air to fire, and then to light; we pass thus from the outwardly recognizable world, from the visible world, into the invisible, into the etheric-spiritual world. Fire stands on the border between the outwardly visible, material world, and that which is etheric and spiritual, which is no more outwardly visible or recognizable. What happens to a body that is destroyed through fire? What happens when something burns? When something burns, we see on one side light appear, which is outwardly imperceptible and which is operative in the spiritual world. Something that is not merely outer material gives forth the warmth, and when it is strong enough to become a source of light it yields something invisible, something which cannot be recognized any more through the outer senses — but it must pay for this in smoke. From what was formerly translucent and transparent it has to bring forth something not transparent — something of the nature of smoke. Thus you see how warmth or fire becomes differentiated, how it divides. On one side it divides itself into light, with which it opens a way into the supersensible world; and in payment for that which it sends up as light into the supersensible world, it must send something down into the material world, into the world of non-transparent, visible things. Nothing one-sided comes forth in the world. Everything that exists has two sides to it. When light is produced through warmth, then turbid, dark matter appears on the other side. That is the teaching of primeval spiritual science.
But the process we have just described is only the outer side, the physical, material process. At the foundation of this physically material process there lies something essentially different. When you have only warmth in some object which as yet does not shine, then this warmth which you perceive is itself the outer physical part, but within it is something spiritual. When this warmth grows so strong that it begins to shine and smoke is formed, then some of the spirit which was in the warmth must go into the smoke. That spiritual part which was in the warmth and has passed into the smoke, which being gaseous and belonging to air is a lower element than warmth, that spiritual part is transmuted, bewitched, as it were, into smoke. Thus with everything which like a turbid extract or a materialization is deposited by the warmth, there is also associated what might be called the bewitching of some spiritual being. We can explain it still more simply. Let us imagine that we reduce air to a watery condition. Air itself is nothing but solidified warmth, densified warmth, in which smoke has been formed. The spiritual part which really wanted to be in the fire has been bewitched into smoke. Spiritual beings, which are also called elementals, are bewitched in all air, and will even be bewitched, banished, so to speak, to a lower existence, when air is changed into water. Hence spiritual science sees in everything that is outwardly perceptible something that has proceeded from an original condition of fire or warmth and which has turned into air, smoke, or gas, when the warmth began to condense into gas, gas into liquid, liquid into solid. ‘Look backwards,’ says the spiritual scientist, look at any solid substance. That solidity was once liquid; it is only in the course of evolution that it has become solid; and the liquid was once upon a time gaseous and the gaseous formed itself as smoke, out of the fire. But a transmutation, a bewitching, of spiritual being is always connected with these processes of condensation and with the formation of gases and solids.
Let us now look around at our world: we see solid rocks, flowing streams of water, we see the water changing into rising mist: we see the air, we see all the solid, liquid, gaseous things, and we see fire, so that at the foundation of all things we have nothing but fire. All is fire — solidified fire: gold, silver, copper are solidified fire. All things were once upon a time fire; everything has been born out of fire. But in all that solidified realm, some bewitched spirits are dwelling.
How are those spiritual, divine beings who surround us able to produce solid matter as it is on our planet — to produce liquids, and air substances? They send down their elemental spirits, those which live in the fire: they imprison them in air, in water, and in earth. These are the emissaries, the elemental emissaries of the spiritual, creative, building beings. The elemental spirits first enter into fire. In fire they still feel comfortable — if we care to express it by images — and then they are condemned to a life of bewitchment. We can say looking around us: These beings, whom we have to thank for all the things that surround us, had to come down out of the fire element; they are bewitched in those things.
Can we as human beings do anything to help those elemental spirits? This is the great question which was put by the holy rishis. Can we do anything to release, to redeem, all that is here, bewitched? Yes! We can help them. Because what we humans do here in the physical world is nothing else than an outward expression of spiritual processes. All we do is also of importance for the spiritual world. Let us consider the following. A man stands in front of a crystal, or a lump of gold, or anything of that kind. He looks at it. What happens when a man simply gazes, simply stares with his physical eyes, upon some outer object? A continual interplay occurs between the man and the bewitched elemental spirits. The man and that which is bewitched in the substance have something to do with each other. Let us suppose that the man only stares at the object and takes in only what is impressed on his physical eyes. Something is always passing from the elemental being into the man. Something from those bewitched elementals passes continually into the man, from morning till night. While you are thus regarding objects, hosts of these elemental beings, who were and are being continually bewitched through the world-processes of condensation, are continually entering from your surroundings into you. Let us take it that the man staring at the objects has no inclination whatever to think about those objects, no inclination to let the spirit of things live in his soul. He lives comfortably, merely passes through the world, but he does not work on it spiritually with his ideas or feelings or in any such way. He remains simply a spectator of the material things he meets with in the world. Then these elemental spirits pass into him and remain there, having gained nothing from the world's process but the fact of having passed from the outer world into man. Let us take another kind of man, one who works spiritually on the impressions he receives from the outer world, who with his understanding and ideas forms conceptions regarding the spiritual foundations of the world, one who does not simply stare at a metal but ponders over its nature and feels the beauty which inspires and spiritualizes his impressions. What does such a man do? Through his own spiritual process he releases the elemental being which has streamed into him from the outer world; he raises it to what it was before, he frees the elemental from its state of enchantment. Thus, through our own spiritual life we can, without changing them, either imprison within us those spirits which are bewitched in air, water, and earth, or else through our own increasing spirituality free them and lead them back to their own element. During the whole of his earthly life, man lets those elemental spirits stream into him from the outer world. In the same measure in which he only stares at things, in the same measure in which he simply lets the spirit dwell in him without transforming them, so, in like measure as he tries with his ideas, conceptions, and feeling for beauty to work out spiritually what he sees in the outer world, does he release and redeem those spiritual elemental beings.
Now, what happens to those elemental beings which, having come out of things, enter into man? They remain at first within him. Also those which are released at first remain; but they stay only until his death. When the man passes through death a differentiation takes place between those elemental beings which have simply passed into him and which he had not led back to their higher element, and those whom he has through his own spiritualization led back to their former condition. Those whom the man has not changed have not gained anything from their passage from the outer world into him, but others have gained the possibility of returning to their own original world with the man's death. During his life man is a place of transition for these elemental beings. When he has passed through the spiritual world and returns to Earth in his next incarnation, all the elemental beings which he has not released during his former life flock into him again when he passes through the portals of his new birth, they return with him into the physical world; but those he has released he does not bring back with him, for they have returned into their original element.
Thus we see how man has it in his power, by the way he acts and feels towards outer nature, either to release those elemental spirits which have been necessarily bewitched through the coming into existence of our Earth, or to bind them to the Earth still more strongly than they were before. What does a man do when in looking at some outer object he releases from it an elemental being by elucidating it? He spiritually does the opposite of what has been done before. Previously, smoke had been brought forth out of fire, but man spiritually forms fire again out of that smoke; only after death does he release this fire. Now think for a moment of the endless depth and spirituality of the ancient ceremonies of sacrifice, as seen in the light of primeval spiritual science! Imagine to yourselves the priest at the sacrificial altar in those times when religion was built on the real knowledge of spiritual laws; think of the priest lighting the flame, and the rising of the smoke, and as the smoke rises a real sacrifice is offered, for it is followed upward by prayers — What happens then? What happens during such a sacrifice? The priest stands at the altar where the smoke is produced. Where something solid comes out of the warmth, a spirit is being transmuted, bewitched. But because the man follows the whole procedure with prayers, he at the same time receives that spirit into himself in such a way that after death it rises again into the higher world. What did the teacher of ancient wisdom say to those who had to understand this? He said: ‘If thou lookest upon the outer world in such a way that thy spiritual process does not stop at the smoke, but rises to the element of fire, then after thy death thou dost free the spirit which is bewitched in the smoke.’ Yes! The teacher who knew the fate of the spirit, which after being bewitched in the smoke had passed into man, spoke thus: ‘If thou leavest that spirit as it was when it was in the smoke, then it must be reborn with thee and cannot rise into the spiritual world after thy death; but if thou hast released it and restored it to the fire, then after thy death it will rise again into the spiritual worlds and will not need to return to the Earth at thy rebirth.’
Now we have explained one part of that profound sentence from the Bhagavad Gita of which I spoke in my last lecture. It does not speak here at all of the human ego, it speaks of those nature spirits, of these elemental beings which enter into man from the outer world, and it says there: ‘Behold the fire, behold the smoke: that which man through his spiritual processes turns into fire are spirits which he liberates with his death.’ That which he leaves as it is, in the smoke, must remain united to him at his death and must be reborn with him when he returns to Earth. It is the destiny of the elemental spirits that is here described; through the wisdom which man develops, be continually liberates at his death these elemental spirits; through lack of wisdom, through the materialistic attachment to the mere things of the senses, he ties those elemental spirits to himself and forces them to follow him into this world, ever to be born again with him.
But these elemental beings are not only associated with fire and with what is connected with fire: they are the emissaries of higher spiritual divine beings in all that takes place in the outer sense world. There never could have been that interplay of forces in the world that produce the day and the night, for instance, if numbers of such elemental being had not worked suitably at the rotation of the planet through the universe, so that precisely this interchange of day and night could come about. All that takes place is the result of the activity of hosts of lower and higher spiritual entities belonging to the spiritual hierarchies. We have been speaking of the lowest order, of the messengers. When night becomes day and day night, elemental beings live also in that process, and so it is that man stands in an intimate relationship with the beings of the elemental world which have to take part in working at the day and the night. When man is idle and lets himself go, he affect those elementals who have to do with the day and the night quite differently than when he has creative force, when he is active, diligent, and productive. When a man is lazy, for instance, he unites himself with a certain kind of elemental, and he also does so when he is active, but in a particular way. Those elementals of the second class, just named, who are active during the day, are then in their higher element. As fire elementals, those of the first class, are bound in air, water, and earth, so certain elemental being are also tied to darkness; and day could not turn into night, day could not be divided from night, if these elementals were not so to speak imprisoned in night. That man is able to enjoy daylight, he has to thank divine spiritual beings who have driven forth elemental spirits and have chained them to the night-time. When man is lazy these elementals flow into him continually, but he leaves them as they are, unchanged. Those elemental spirits which at night are chained to darkness he lets through his idleness remain in the same state; those elemental who enter into him when he is active and industrious and filled. with working power, he leads back into daylight. Thus he continually releases these elementals of the second class. Throughout the whole of our lifetime we bear within us all those elemental spirits which have entered into us either during our hours of idleness or during those of active work. When we pass through the gates of death those beings whom we have led toward daylight can now return into the spirit world; those we have left chained to the night through our idleness must return with us in our new incarnation. With this we arrive at the second point in the Bhagavad Gita. Again it is not the human self but those elemental beings which are indicated with the words: ‘Behold the day and the night. That which thou hast thyself released by turning it from a being of the night into a being of the day through thy diligence, that which comes forth out of the day, enters when thou diest, into the higher world; that which thou takest with thee as beings of the night, thou forcest to reincarnate with thee again.’
And now you will see clearly how the matter proceeds. As it is with the phenomena of which we have just spoken, so it is on a larger scale with our month of 28 days, with the changes of the waxing and waning Moon. Whole flocks of elemental beings have to come into activity to direct the motions of the Moon so that our lunar periods can come about as they do with all the influences they bring with them upon our visible Earth. For this purpose certain of the higher beings had again to be bewitched, doomed, chained. Clairvoyant vision sees how, with the waxing Moon, spiritual beings of a lower kingdom ever rise into a higher. But, so that order should exist, other spiritual elemental beings must again be transformed into those of lower realms. There are also those elementals of a third realm who stand in relationship with men. When man is serene and bright, when he is pleased with the world, when he has feelings of gladness toward all things, he continually releases those beings which are chained to the waning Moon. These beings enter into him and are continually set free, through his soul's peaceful attitude, through his inner contentment, through his harmonious feelings and ideas toward the whole world. The beings which enter into man when he is sullen, peevish, morose, discontented with anything, when everything depresses him — when he is pessimistic — these spirits remain in the condition of bewitchment they were in at the time of the waning Moon. Oh! There are men who through the harmonious condition of their soul, through the bright way they look upon the world, release and set free great numbers of these bewitched elemental beings. The man of harmonious and optimistic feelings and who feels inner satisfaction with the world is a deliverer of elemental spiritual beings. The pessimist, he who is morose, sullen, and discontented, becomes through his depression the jailer of elemental spirits which could have been released by his cheerfulness. Thus you see that the conditions of mind and soul have not only a personal importance for this man, but also that he works either at the liberation or the imprisonment of spiritual beings; either deliverance or fetters proceed from him. The conditions of soul that a man experiences go out in all directions into the spiritual world. We have here the third point of that important teaching in the Bhagavad Gita: ‘Behold what man does through the feelings and conditions of his soul, how he sets spirits free, as they are set free by the growing Moon.’ When the man dies, these released spirits can return to the spiritual world. If through his depression and hypochondriacal moods he calls to him the elemental spirits which are around him and then leaves them as they are, as they have to be in order to bring about the orderly courses of the Moon, then these spirits remain chained to him and must reincarnate with him into this world.
And last of all we have a fourth degree of elemental spirits, those who have to work at the annual course of the Sun, so that the summer Sun may shine upon the Earth to awaken and fructify it, so that spring can appear and be succeeded by autumn. In order that this may come to pass certain spirits must be fettered to winter-time, must be bewitched during the time of the winter Sun. And man acts upon these spirits in the same way as we have described his acting on the other grades of spirits. Let us take man who at the beginning of winter says to himself: ‘The nights are getting longer, the days shorter, we come to that time of the Sun's yearly course when the Sun withdraws his fructifying forces from the Earth. The outer Earth dies; but with this deadening of the Earth I feel it my duty to be all the more spiritually awake. I must now take more and more of the spirit within me.’ Let us take a man who acquires a more and more religious mood appropriate to the season as Christmas comes on, who learns to know the significance of Christmas and to know also that when the outer world of the senses is dead the life of the spirit must now grow stronger. This man lives through winter until Easter. He remembers that with the awakening of the outer world is combined the death of the spiritual: he lives through the Easter festival comprehending its meaning. Such a man has not only an outer religion; he has religious understanding of the processes of nature, of the spirit which rules it; and through his piety, his spirituality, he releases numbers of that fourth class of elemental beings which continually stream in and out of him, which are connected with the course of the Sun. But the man who is not pious in this sense, who denies or does not understand the spirit and is always muddling through a materialistic chaos, into him these elementals of the fourth class flow, but remain unchanged. At death it happens again: these elemental spirits of the fourth degree are either set free in their own element, or else are bound to the man and have to return with him at his next incarnation. Thus the man who uniting with the winter spirits does not change them into summer spirits, does not redeem them through his spirituality, dooms them to rebirth, whereas they might have been freed and not have had to return with him. Behold the fire and the smoke! If you so unite with the outer world that the activity of your soul and spirit is like that of fire, from which smoke comes forth, so that you spiritualize things through knowledge and through right feeling, you help certain spiritual elemental beings to rise; but if you unite with the smoke, you condemn them to rebirth. If you associate yourself with the day, you then set free the corresponding spirits of day and so on. Behold the light! Behold the day! Behold the waxing of the Moon and the sunny half of the year! If you act so that you lead the elemental spirits back to the light, to the day, to the waxing Moon, to the summer-time of the year, you then at your death release these elementary spirits which are so necessary to you. They rise to the spiritual world. If you associate yourself with the smoke, if you only gaze at the solid things of the Earth, if through laziness you unite yourself with the night and with the spirits of the waning Moon, and if through your depression you unite yourself with those spirits who are chained to the winter Sun, then through your lack of spirit, your godlessness, you condemn these elementary beings to be reincarnated with you again!
Now we know for the first time what this passage in the Bhagavad Gita really means. If anyone thinks that man is here spoken of, he does not understand the Bhagavad Gita; but those who know that all human life is a continual interplay between man and the spirits who live bewitched into our surroundings and who must be released again — those know that these sentences speak of the ascension or of the reincarnation of four groups of elemental beings. The mystery of this lowest kind of hierarchy has been preserved for us in these sentences in the Bhagavad Gita. Yes! When one has to bring forth out of primeval wisdom what is presented to us in the documents of ancient religion, one sees how grand these are and how wrong it is to understand them superficially and not in all their profundity. They are only considered in the right way when one says to oneself: ‘No wisdom is exalted enough to discover the mysteries herein contained.’ Only when these ancient documents are interpenetrated by the magic of real devotional feeling do they become what in the true sense of the word they must be: self-ennobling and purifying forces for human evolution. They point frequently to fathomless abysses of human wisdom, and only when that which springs from the sources of the occult schools and the mysteries streams forth from now on to all mankind, only then will these reflections of the primeval wisdom (for they are but reflections) be seen in all their greatness. We have had to show, by means of a comparatively difficult example, how in the times of primeval wisdom the cooperation of all those spirits which are everywhere around us was well known, how it was also known that the deeds of men represent an interchanging activity between the spiritual world and the world of man's own inner being. The problem of humanity first becomes important for us when we know that in all we do, even in our moods, we influence a whole cosmos, and that this small world of ours is of infinitely far-reaching importance for all that comes to pass in the macrocosm. An increase in our feeling of responsibility is the finest and most important of all the things we gain from spiritual science. It teaches us to grasp the true meaning of life and to realize its importance, so that this life which we cast on the stream of evolution may not enter that stream void of meaning.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
The Spiritual Hierarchies and the Physical World. Lecture 1 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Düsseldorf, April 12, 1909:
This course of lectures will take us into the high spiritual regions. We shall be led from the Earth, where we live, not only into the wide physical spaces of our universe, but also be uplifted to those spiritual worlds from which this whole physical universe has derived its origin.
Such a course will show us that the fundamental object of all knowledge and all wisdom is to solve the greatest problem of all — the problem of humanity. In order to make the human being understandable, explanatory facts have to be brought from far away. Above all it is necessary that those who wish to follow this course should be acquainted with the fundamental conceptions of Anthroposophy; although it is true that all Anthroposophists are acquainted with them in a general way. In these lectures we may rise in spirit to very exalted spheres, but we shall always endeavor to bring those facts which lie so far afield near to you and make them as comprehensible as possible.
When we have to speak of what we call the spiritual hierarchies, it means that our souls' gaze must rise to those beings who, in the sphere of our Earth, have a higher existence than man. In the visible world we can only progress to beings that represent four degrees of one hierarchy, i.e., the mineral world, the plant world, the animal world, and the human world. Above man begins a world of invisible beings, through the knowledge of the supersensible world, and man is able (as far as it is possible for him) to rise a certain distance toward those beings and powers which are the continuation in the invisible world of the four grades found within the realm of the Earth. The knowledge and investigation which lead us into those regions has not, as you all know, come into existence only at our present time in evolution. There is what we may call a primeval world-wisdom; all that man can fathom, all that he can know and realize, all that he has gained in ideas and conceptions, all that he has attained through clairvoyant imagination, inspiration, and intuition — all has been lived before, and known before, by those beings who are higher than he. He only follows, so to say, in their track. To make use of a trivial example: the watchmaker has first the idea, then he makes the watch according to the idea. A watch is made after the maker's ideas which preceded the watch; afterwards everyone can study and observe for himself from what ideas the watch was made, he can follow up the thoughts of the watchmaker. At the present point of evolution it is indeed only this kind of connection that man can have with primeval world-wisdom and with the spiritual beings that stand above him. Spiritual beings had first those imaginations, inspirations, intuitions, those ideas and thoughts according to which the world, as we see it, was formed. Man finds these thoughts and ideas in the world again; when he rises to clairvoyant vision, he finds the imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions, by the help of which he can penetrate into the world of those spiritual beings. We can, therefore, say that before our world came into being there already existed the wisdom of which we are going to speak: it is the PLAN OF THE WORLD.
How far must we go back, while still remaining within the limits of reality, if we want to come into touch with that primeval world-wisdom? Must we go back to some time or other in the historical past, when some great teacher was teaching? We can certainly learn a great deal if we do; but to come into touch with true primeval world-wisdom we must go back to the time when there was no outwardly visible Earth, when no world visible to the outer senses was as yet in existence. It was from out of that wisdom itself that the world came forth. But this wisdom, out of which spiritual beings formed our world, was imparted to man later. Man with his thoughts could see behind those thoughts, could realize the thoughts according to which spiritual beings have built the world. After this primeval wisdom, this wisdom of the creators of the world, had worked through many forms, it appeared in a form known to many of you: after the great Atlantean period it appeared in those ancient holy rishis, the great teachers of India, during our first epoch of civilization. With these sublime rishis the primeval wisdom expressed itself in a form which the man of the present day can but little understand. The human capacities of feeling and thinking have greatly changed since the times when the great teachers of India taught man in the first epoch of civilization after Atlantis; and if the words which came from the rishis were simply repeated as they were said, there would be hardly one soul in the whole Earth who could hear anything more in them nowadays than just words and again words. One has need of other capabilities of feeling than those at present existing, in order to understand the wisdom which was given to humanity in the first epoch after Atlantis. For all that is found in the best books regarding primeval world-wisdom is but a faint echo of what this really is which in many ways is but a deceptive, obscured wisdom. However grand and sublime the Vedas appear to us, however beautiful the songs of Zarathustra sound, and however magnificent the language in which the ancient wisdom of Egypt speaks, so that we can never sufficiently admire it — still, all that has been written down gives us but a dim, dull reflection of the wisdom of Hermes, of the grand teaching of Zarathustra, or of the sublime knowledge which the ancient rishis proclaimed. This sublime wisdom has been preserved and guarded for humanity; it was always to be found in certain very limited circles of people who watched over what is called the knowledge of the Mysteries. In the Mysteries of India, Persia, Chaldea, Egypt, and in the Christian Mysteries, all the primeval wisdom of humanity has been safely preserved up to our times. Up to a short time ago it was only in those narrow circles that not book-wisdom but living wisdom could be found. For certain reasons which will be made clear in this course of lectures, our time has been chosen for extending to larger masses of people that which has been kept alive by those little groups. The original wisdom of the rishis, for instance, has never lost life. It permeated, like the fountain of youth, the age which we regard as the beginning of our era. The very holy wisdom which the rishis gave to man was continued through Zarathustra and his pupils, through the Chaldean and Egyptian teachers. It also flowed in the words of Moses, and it came forth again with an altogether new impulse, as from the fountain of life, with the appearance of the Christ upon Earth. It then became so deep, so intrinsically internal, that it could only gradually flow again into humanity. Thus we see that since the outward declaration of Christianity, the primeval world-wisdom has penetrated but slowly and gradually into humanity from most elementary beginnings. Its messages are there, they are to be found in the Gospels and in other Christian writings which include the wisdom of the holy rishis, in a new form — like a new birth out of a new fountain. But how could these messages be understood at the beginning of the era for whose purification Christianity had been created? Through the Gospels it was least of all understood; they only attained very gradually to further comprehension — and in many ways to a still further obscuration — and today the Gospels are, in truth, the most sealed of all books for the larger part of humanity — books which will only be first understood by a future age which will have refreshed itself at the source of the original world-wisdom. But the treasures hidden in the Christian revelation have been preserved, treasures no other than those of the Eastern wisdom, but renewed by means of fresh forces. They have been guarded in narrow circles which were the continuation of Mystery societies, like the Brotherhood of the Holy Grail, and finally in the Brotherhood of the Rose Cross. These treasures of truth have been kept well hidden and have been accessible only to those who through severe trials had prepared themselves for the living wisdom. Thus the treasures of the Eastern and Western wisdom, through all the centuries of evolution from the beginning of our era, were made almost inaccessible to the larger mass of humanity.
Only a little trickled through here and there to the outer world: the most part remained a secret of the new Mysteries. Then came a time when some of the contents of primeval wisdom, treasured in narrow circles, was allowed to be given out to larger masses of humanity in a language comprehensible to them. Since the last third of the nineteenth century or thereabouts one can speak of this world wisdom in a more or less unveiled form. It is only because certain things have taken place in the spiritual worlds that the guardians of the Mysteries received permission to allow some of the ancient wisdom to penetrate to the outer world. All of you, my dear friends, know the course of development of the Anthroposophical Society. You know how the ice in which its development was bound was, so to say, broken by those words of wisdom, revealed in a way which I am not going to enter into now: the Stanzas of Dzyan. Those Stanzas of Dzyan, of the secret teaching, contain in truth some of the deepest and most important wisdom; they have in them much of that which coming from the teaching of the holy rishis has flowed through the sanctuaries of the East. They contain also much of what has streamed into Western Europe since the Christian rejuvenation. For the Stanzas of Dzyan do not include only the wisdom which had to be kept exclusively for the East, but also a great deal of that which streamed as a clear light through the centuries of our time, through the Middle Ages into the Mystery schools of the West. Much that is to be found in the Stanzas of Dzyan will only be gradually understood in all its depth. It may well be said here that the wisdom of the Stanzas of Dzyan is of such a kind that it cannot yet be understood in the widest anthroposophical circles, or fathomed with the exoteric capabilities of the present day.
After the first ice had been broken in this way, the time came when one could speak more openly from the sources of Western occultism, which is no other than the occultism of the East transplanted and continued in a way that has adapted itself to new circumstances and conditions of physical and spiritual life.
The time has come when one can speak from those ever-living sources of occultism which have been faithfully treasured in the Mysteries of the Rose Cross. There is no wisdom of the East which has not streamed into Western occultism and into the teaching and investigations of the Rose Cross; in them is to be found absolutely all that the great teachers of the East ever had in their keeping. Nothing, nothing whatever, of that which is to be found in the Eastern wisdom is lacking in the wisdom of the West. The only difference — if it can be called a difference — is that Western occultism has to include the whole of the Eastern wisdom and teaching and, without losing anything, to blend it with the light which has been kindled in humanity through the Christ Impulse. When one speaks of Western occultism, of that which has its derivation from the hidden Western rishis (whom certainly no eye hath seen), it is impossible to say that in it is wanting one single iota, one single shred, of the Eastern wisdom. Only it had all to be brought forth again fresh and new from the fountainhead of the Christ Impulse. All the great treasures of wisdom which were first revealed by the holy rishis regarding superhuman worlds and supersensible existence resound in the description we have to give of the spiritual hierarchies and their reflection in the physical world. Just as the geometry of Euclid has not become something different from what it used to be because one teaches and learns it with new human capabilities, just as little has the wisdom of the holy rishis changed because we learn and teach it with the new capabilities which have been kindled in us by the Christ Impulse. Therefore much of what we have to say about the spiritual worlds can be called Eastern wisdom. There must not be any misunderstanding in these things — and misunderstandings happen so easily. Those who will not free themselves of a misconception in order to come to understanding can very easily misinterpret what, for instance, was said yesterday at the Easter lecture. They might assert about the so-called truths of Buddha that I had said that the Buddha had taught and revealed the truths about life and life's pain as follows: ‘birth is pain, illness is pain, old age is pain, death is pain; to be separated from those one loves is pain, not to be united with what one loves is pain, not to have what one desires is pain’ and that I said: ‘Let us look at those who, in the times after Christ, really understood the Christ Impulse; for all the holy truths of the Buddha about the pain of life have no more their full importance; something has been created by the Christ Impulse that is like a cure for the pain of life.’ The Buddha taught: ‘Birth is pain’; but those who understood the Christ would answer that through birth we enter into a life shared with the Christ, and through the Christ's share in it the pain of life will be extinguished. Illness will also be extinguished through the healing power of the Christ Impulse, and there is no more pain in illness for one who understands Christ, and death also has no more pain for him who understands Christ. Yet someone might reply to this ‘Yes, but I could point to the Gospels to show that also there you will find it said that illness is pain, life is pain’: and one might superficially come to the conclusion: ‘We have those modern religious documents, but what they contain can also be found in Buddhism; therefore religions are not making progress, there is no evolution in them. All religions say the same things, but you have spoken of a progress, you expounded to us how, with the help of Christianity, the old truths of Buddhism would not be true any more.’ If anyone were to say this he would be guilty of a very serious misunderstanding. For that was not said: everything indeed was said with the exception of the last sentence. It is very important that this very subtle question should be rightly understood. A fanatic can never understand with precision, but a man who is objective can. No one who speaks with knowledge of Rosicrucian wisdom will ever expound anything that would be against any of the writings of the great Buddha, or say that anything in them is untrue. Every man who speaks from the sources of Rosicrucian wisdom shares the conviction of Buddha; no one denies it. ‘Yes,’ such a man says, ‘what thou, great Buddha, through thy inner illumination, hast seen of the great truths about pain and life is exactly true, it is true to its last iota.’ Nothing, absolutely nothing, will be taken away from it. All of it remains as it was. And it is just because all of it remains as it was, because all is true of what the Buddha said about the pain of life, of illness, of old age, and of death, just because of this, the Christ Impulse is such a powerful and important saving help to us, for it is just this which lifts the pain — because it is true that pain would be there if the world could not be lifted beyond and above it through that great Impulse. Why could the Christ work effectively? Because the Buddha had spoken the truth. Humanity had to be brought down out of the spiritual heights where the primeval world wisdom is active in its purest form; man had to be led to independence through physical existence, with which life's pain and illness are bound up, and the great healing help had to oppose those unavoidable facts in the course of further evolution. Does that man deny the reality of facts who, while declaring that these realities exist, holds at the same time that remedy has been given us by which the facts, about which those truths have been said, can be brought to a salutary development; does he who says this deny any existing reality? Oh! in those heights of existence where we must look for the spheres of the spiritual hierarchies — there Buddhism is not opposed to Christianity, nor Christianity to Buddhism; there the Buddha gives his hand to the Christ, and the Christ to the Buddha. But every misconception regarding human evolution, every misconception as to its ascending development, is a misconception also of that spiritual act in our earthly evolution which is the Act of Christ.
Thus nothing is denied of the wisdom of the East, the wisdom which has brought down to us the teaching of the holy rishis, and with it the primeval world-wisdom, which through such long epochs of time has ever been streaming into humanity. But, all through those very long epochs, large masses of humanity could not penetrate to the sources of that wisdom, could only understand it with great difficulty; it was precisely the understanding of it which came with such difficulty. In ancient Atlantean times, before the great catastrophe, when the masses of humanity were still clairvoyant with the thin ancient clairvoyance, they beheld something quite different when they looked upward to the spaces of heaven, to the spiritual hierarchies, from what they saw in the times after Atlantis, when the larger part of humanity had lost its clairvoyance and so could gaze only with its physical eyes into the physical distances of the heavens. Therefore in the times before the Atlantean catastrophe it would have been quite senseless to speak to them of the heavenly bodies spread out in space as they are today. The clairvoyant human eye gazed into heavenly distance and saw the spiritual worlds. In those times there would have been no sense in speaking of Mercury or of Neptune or of Saturn, etc., as our astronomy speaks. The way astronomy speaks of the spaces of the world and what they contain is merely a reflection of what is seen by our own physical sight when it looks into the depths of the sky. This did not exist for the ancient clairvoyant humanity of Atlantis; when they looked upwards, they did not see physically limited stars; what the physical eye sees today is but the outer physical expression of the spiritual realities which people then beheld. When looking today with one's physical eye through a telescope at the place where Jupiter is, one perceives a physical globe surrounded by moons. What was seen by the man of Atlantis when he lifted his clairvoyant gaze to that same point which we look at today with our physical eyes? The Atlantean's eyes would have seen as little of what our sight sees today as we should if we looked at a light through a thick autumn fog. The eye of the Atlantean would not have seen the physical star Jupiter, but he would have seen that which is also united with Jupiter today, which the man of the present day does not see: the aura of Jupiter, a totality of spiritual beings, of which the physical Jupiter is only the external expression. Thus did the gaze of man, before the Atlantean catastrophe, sweep round the spaces of the world, seeing everywhere its spiritual content. He could speak only of the spiritual, for it would have had no meaning to speak of physical stars when the physical eye was not yet opened as it is today. Looking into the spaces of the universe, man saw spiritual beings — the spiritual hierarchies. He actually saw beings. We can compare the changes that took place with further evolution in this way: let us suppose that we are going out into a thick fog; we do not see separate lights, everything is surrounded by aura or fog. The fog lifts and disperses, the separate lights are visible, but their aura becomes invisible ... This is only a physical process which must serve for an example. But the ancient eye saw the aura of Jupiter, it saw spiritual beings in that aura which at certain points of their evolution were united to Jupiter. Humanity then developed further, to the attainment of physical sight. The aura remained: men could no longer see it, but the physical body in the center became ever clearer and clearer; spiritually it was lost to sight as its corporeal part became visible. But the knowledge of the spiritual, the knowledge of the beings surrounding the star, was kept and guarded in the holy Mysteries.
All the holy rishis speak of that knowledge. In the times when men already saw only in a physical way, the rishis spoke to them of the spiritual atmospheres, of the spiritual inhabitants of those spheres which are spread out in the spaces of the world.
Consider what the situation then was. In the centers of knowledge, spiritual beings were spoken of which surround the spheres of the universe. Outside where the physical eye was growing always sharper, physical matter was spoken of more and more. When the ancient rishis said the word "Mercury" (they did not use that word, but we take it as an example), did they mean by it the physical orb of that name? No! — even the ancient Greeks did not use it in that sense; what they meant was the totality of spiritual beings belonging to that planet. Spiritual world and spiritual beings were spoken of when, in the centers of secret knowledge for instance, the word Mercury was pronounced. When the disciples of that sacred knowledge spoke of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, pronouncing these words in their different languages, they expressed the gradations of spiritual beings. When those names are used today, only the coarsest part is meant of that which was originally understood by Moon, Mercury, Venus. The principal part is just what is omitted today; the ancient teacher of wisdom said the word "Moon" and with that word he evoked the idea of a great spiritual world. When he, pronouncing the word ‘Moon,’ pointed to the place in heaven where the Moon was, he felt in his consciousness that it was the lowest stage of the spiritual hierarchies, but the man to whom he was showing it, who was getting ever further from that spiritual sight because humanity was growing more and more physical, saw only the physical Moon, and called it ‘Moon.’
One single word for two things which, though they certainly belong to each other, call forth quite different ideas in man. It was the same when the sages of the sacred knowledge pointed to Mercury, Sun, or Mars. Thus we see that the two currents grew always further apart in humanity, the spiritual one describing something quite different from the material current. In the sacred Mysteries these words — which later became the mere names of physical planets — were always understood as descriptions of spiritual worlds and gradations of spiritual realms. The outer world always understood it materially up to the time of modern mythology — I use the word purposely — which is called astronomy. And as Anthroposophy has recognized the full worth of all the other mythologies, it has also, as you will understand, given full value to that mythology which is called modern astronomy, which sees only space and in it, the physical world-spheres as physical orbs. But to him who knows, modern mythology is only a special phase of all mythologies. What the ancient inhabitants of Europe said in their myths about gods and stars, what the Romans gave in their mythologies, and what appeared as the obscured mythology of the Middle Ages, lead up in a straight line to the wonderful and admirable discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. A future will come when modern mythology will be spoken of somewhat in this way: ‘There was a time when people found it right to place a material Sun as the middle point of an ellipse and let the planets rotate within it, and spin round themselves on their own axes in different ways; they arranged a world system in that way, as people of earlier times also did. Today’ — so will that future age think — ‘all that is only legend and fairy tale.’ Yes, that future age will come, although the man of the present who laughs at former mythologies thinks it impossible that one could ever speak of Copernican mythology. But this consideration will make clear to us how through the same words something ever more different may be meant. In spite of this the true primeval wisdom has always been cultivated and has always continued; it has however always been less understood exoterically and its spiritual side less seen, the more it has been materially explained.
In the beginning of our era, when there was a rejuvenescence of primeval wisdom (in order that humanity should not lose all touch with that ancient wisdom), it was said. in sharp, clear words, that when man looks at the outer space of the world and his physical eye sees only what is physical, the space is filled with spirit. It was the most intimate pupil of St. Paul, Dionysius the Areopagite, who said in clear-cut words: ‘There is not only matter out there in space; there is, for the soul which rises consciously into the spaces of universal existence, the spiritual part, which stands above man in the evolution of existence.’ And he used words which sounded different from the old ones, for if he had used the old words everybody would have understood them in the material sense. The rishis spoke of the spiritual hierarchies; they expressed in their language what the Greek and Roman wisdom still described when speaking of the ascending scale of worlds: of the Moon, of Mercury, Mars, and Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. Dionysius, the pupil of the Apostle Paul, had the same worlds in his mind as the rishis; he repeated in clear-cut words that here one had to do with spiritual realms, and he used words which he could be certain would be understood in their spiritual sense: he spoke of Angels, Archangels, Archai, Powers, Mights, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim. For now humanity had completely forgot what it once knew. Had it still been able to understand the connection between what Dionysius and the rishis had seen, it would have grasped, while hearing on the one side of the Moon, and on the other side of the Mysteries of the Angels, that these were one and the same thing. It would have heard the word Mercury on the one hand and Archangel on the other, and would have known they were the same. The word ‘Archai’ spoken by the one, and ‘Venus’ by the other, were the same. And men. would have understood that with the words ‘Sun’ and ‘Powers’ the same worlds were meant. With the name ‘Mars’ they would have felt that they had to rise to the Mights (Dynamis). When they heard Jupiter mentioned, they would have known that it was the same as when in the school of Dionysius, Dominions were described. Saturn corresponds to ‘Thrones’; but in wider circles this was not known any more, it could not be known. Thus there was on the one side a science of matter, which became ever more material, and the old names, which once signified spiritual forces, were now used in a material sense. And on the other side, there was a spiritual life which spoke of Angels and Archangels, etc. which had lost its connection with the physical designations of these spiritual beings.
Thus we see how the primeval wisdom enters through Dionysius into the school which Paul had inaugurated, and how this new inauguration had to be penetrated by the ancient spirit. It is the task of modern Spiritual Science, or Anthroposophy, to form once more the bond which must unite the physical to the spiritual, the bond between the Earth and the spiritual hierarchies. It is impossible for those who do not know where their ideas about the outer world of the senses come from to realize the other, the spiritual side of knowledge. This will he particularly noticeable when we have to deal with those writings which, although they are but a faint echo of the primeval cosmic wisdom, can still be understood in the light of that wisdom.
Let me show you an example of the difficulty there is in understanding writings which come down to us from that primeval wisdom. It is an example out of the Song Celestial, the Bhagavad Gita, where a sentence throws a very significant light on the connection between human life and the hierarchies. It is the following: (8th Chap. beginning with 23rd verse) ‘I will explain unto thee, O man seeking for truth’ (it is thus generally translated) ‘under what circumstances those who know the Eternal leave the Earth through the gate of death, to be later reborn or not. I will tell thee: Behold the fire, behold the day, behold the time of the waning Moon, behold the half year when the Sun is high — those who die at that time, who die in fire, in the day, in the time of the waxing Moon, those enter through the gates of death into Brahma, but those who die in the sign of the smoke, in the night, when the Moon is waning, in the half year when the Sun stands low, these when they leave the world and pass through the gates of death enter only into the light of the Moon, and return again to the world.’ Here you have, my dear anthroposophical friends, a sentence from the Bhagavad Gita, in which it says that the condition of man's progress and of his reincarnation depends on whether he dies in the sign of the light, by day, with the waxing Moon, during the half year when the Sun stands high, or whether he dies in the sign of the smoke, by night, when the Moon wanes, and when the Sun is low. It is said that this refers to the material Sun. Of those who die in the sign of the fire by day, with the Moon waxing, and during that half of the year when the Sun is high, it is said that they do not need to return. Those who die in the sign of the smoke, by night, with the Moon waning, and when the Sun is low, must return into the world. This sentence out of the divine song of the East presents the greatest difficulty to all those who want to explain it within the limits of exoteric life. It can be explained only when it is illuminated by the light of spiritual knowledge, by the light in which it was received and written, the light which streams out of the Mystery schools, which can be increased, which has known its rejuvenescence through Christianity, and which shows us how to find the link which binds the names Moon to Angels, Mercury to Archangels, Venus to the Archai, and so on. With its help we shall find the key to such sentences as the one we gave as an example. Our course of studies will start from the explanation of this sentence in the Bhagavad Gita, a thing which is impossible in exoteric life; and after we have found the key to it, we shall pass on to further explanations of the spiritual hierarchies.