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.