Saturday, August 1, 2020
The Work of the Spiritual Hierarchies and the Zodiac
The Spiritual Hierarchies and the Physical World. Lecture 4 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Düsseldorf, April 13, 1909:
When considering the conditions of Saturn which are still transparent and less immersed in maya, we glance back a little at what was said this morning; we shall be able to understand in what way the liberation or imprisonment of certain beings can be brought about — the liberation of those beings of which we spoke yesterday in relation to that most significant and incisive passage of the divine Gita. Remember it has been said that if the Spirits of Personality in ancient Saturn had each time absorbed those egg-shaped bodies of warmth without leaving anything behind, then at the end of its evolution the whole of Saturn would have been reabsorbed into the spiritual world. As was stated, this did not happen, but the Spirits of Personality impressed their mark on the whole of Saturn in a much more intense way than they would otherwise have done; they impressed it through those remnants they left on Saturn, for they did not take everything away with them; they left those outwardly perceptible bodies of warmth behind them.
What is the power that rules in the Spirits of Personality on ancient Saturn? It is no other than that which we know in modern man as the power of thought. For in reality, the Spirits of Personality did nothing else on ancient Saturn but exercise the power of their thoughts. They brought about the formation of these eggs of warmth, because they conceived the idea of them. Thus it is the power of conception in the Spirits of Personality which has, however, a much stronger potentiality than is the case with modern humanity. What is the power behind the force of ideas, or concepts, in modern humanity? When one formulates an idea today, it is formed only in the astral; the conception penetrates only a far as the astral. And so the permanence of that form cannot be distinguished in the outer physical world. On ancient Saturn the Spirits of Personality were powerful magicians. They formed those eggs of warmth on Saturn by the force of their thoughts, and through that same force they also left them behind. So in reality it was the power of those Spirits of Personality which caused the residue of ancient Saturn to be left behind, and this appears again and again, and still appeared even during the Sun evolution.
It is perfectly comprehensible that an entity who is really human should take on form from his surroundings (for the eggs that were formed there were constructed out of the surroundings of Saturn) and those eggs were bewitched, or chained to a further existence. Today this is presented to you in a more general sense, for the conditions we spoke of yesterday had not as yet become so complicated.
At this point we might say: Behold the Saturn fire, behold that which is always spiritualized anew by that ancient fire, that which is ever withdrawn again as inner soul's fire, as comfortable warmth which rises upward into higher worlds. But if only this had been there, Saturn would have disappeared into higher worlds. That which is perceptible as outer warmth, which has condensed into external warmth, must be born again, must appear again, and does appear next on the Sun, as has been described.
Now let us glance at the other things we have described in the previous lecture. We have made it clear that those beings of the spiritual hierarchies whom we call Archangels, or Fire Spirits, passed through their human stage on the ancient Sun; that there the element of warmth condensed on the one side to smoke, or to gas, so that the Sun became a ball of gas, and that on the other side the gas burned in such a way that light streamed out into the world; and it is the Archangels or Fire Spirits who lived in the outstreaming light, who inhaled it and poured it forth and had their being in the light. As I have already said, if you could have then taken a voyage through the universe to the Sun, you would have seen that ancient Sun shining before you in the distance. In the interior you would have seen various streams and currents of gas; you would have perceived it as the breathing process of the whole body of the Sun.
Let us now call up once more before our minds this ancient Saturn and ancient Sun. We have seen that in both of these planetary bodies life and activity reigned, that something was happening there. We have been able to describe ancient Saturn, the egg formations, which were always built up there anew and again dissolved, with the exception of those remnants which remained behind. Anyone observing this inner activity of Saturn would have said to himself: ‘Saturn is really a living being. It is in truth exactly as if it were a living being. It lives: it lives in itself; it continually builds up forms out of its own life.’ In a still higher degree is this the case with the ancient Sun. It presents itself as a unit, as a totality, in the changing conditions of its Sun's night and Sun's day, of the inhalation and the exhalation of light. If it could have been observed it would have given the impression of a heavenly body which was not dead but was full of life.
Now, everything that lives, that has that sort of activity, is inwardly living and inwardly in motion because spiritual beings govern and guide that motion. We have indeed said that the Spirits of Personality built those egg forms through their thought power. Yes, but first something must exist, out of which the substance of those eggs can be taken. The Spirits of Personality, those primeval ‘beginners’ or Archai, cannot produce that substance. That is the first principle we must put before our minds: that something must be there which provides the substance, that is the undifferentiated warmth, the fire itself. The spirits of Personality are only those who mould that substance. But the warmth — they must receive from elsewhere. Whence does the total world of Saturn — and whence before all others do the Spirits of Personality — get that warmth substance, that warmth or fire element?
It comes from spirits essentially higher, spiritual beings who have passed through their human evolution so very long ago that on the ancient Saturn they were already far beyond that stage.
In order to form an idea of such sublime beings, and why they were necessary to the outgiving of the fiery warmth of ancient Saturn, we must by way of a comparison recall to our minds the development of man himself, for man will also someday become a divine being.
We know that the man of today, as he stands before us, consists in his human nature of four parts which are the key to all spiritual science — that the man consists of the physical, etheric, and astral bodies, and of the ‘I.’ We know how a man develops these further, that the ‘I’ works from within outward, that in the first place the astral body is changed in such a way as to bring it completely under the dominion of the ‘I.’ Now when the astral body is so far transmuted that the ‘I’ has complete power over it, we say: this astral body has become of such a nature that it can contain the Spirit-self, or Manas. It is the same with the etheric body. When the work of the ‘I’ becomes still more effective, it masters also the resisting forces of the etheric body, and the transmuted etheric body is the Life-spirit, or Buddhi. And last of all, when the ‘I’ becomes ruler of the physical body, when it overcomes the strongest of the resisting forces, the forces of the physical body, then the man has in him the Spirit-man, or Atman. So he should be a seven-membered man when he has transmuted his physical body to Atman or Spirit-man. Externally the physical body is seen just as a physical body, but internally, it is completely dominated by the ‘I,’ it glows with the ‘I;’ such is the body which is physical body and Atman at the same time. The etheric body is at the same time etheric body and Life-Spirit or Buddhi; the astral is astral body and Spirit-self or Manas; the ‘I’ has now become the general Ruler. Thus man pushes onward to higher stages of development, thus he transforms himself, and works at his own godliness, at his deification, as is said by Dionysius, the Areopagite, the friend and pupil of the Apostle Paul. But arriving at this point, development is not yet finished. When the man is so far advanced that he has completely conquered and absolutely dominated the physical body, he has still higher stages of development before him. This rises ever higher and higher, and we gaze upward into spiritual heights, to super-human beings, and these become ever mightier and mightier. In what really does the continual increase in the power of those beings consist, how is it expressed? It consists in this, that in the first place they are in need of something, they want something, they demand something from the world, and that later on they develop to the point where they themselves have something to give. Fundamentally the whole meaning and spirit of evolution rests on the fact that we pass from taking to giving. You have an analogy for this in human evolution in our life here between birth and death: the child is helpless, it must receive the help of those about it. It grows more and more out of this helplessness, and at last itself become a helper in its turn. So too in the great universal evolution of the human race.
On ancient Saturn, man existed only as the earliest human physical germ. There he had to content himself with receiving the first foundations of his humanity; and so it continued all through the Sun and Moon period. On the Earth he acquired his ego, and now he is gradually preparing himself to let his ego act upon his astral and etheric bodies and his physical body. Through this he will gradually grow into a being who will be able to give, cosmically. This being grows gradually in cosmic, universal giving; from taking he grows to giving.
You have an example of this indeed in those beings of whom we have spoken already: the Archangels or Archangeloi. In a certain sense they already developed on the Sun to the point when they could give out light to universal space.
Thus evolution progresses from taking to giving. In the case of giving, the thing goes very far indeed. Let us take some being who can give only his thoughts; that, speaking truly, has not as yet much to give; for he who gives thoughts — even if he has given ever so many thoughts, when he goes away things remain as they were. He has not given anything visible or tangible, in the higher sense. But a time comes when beings do not only give thoughts and the like, a time comes when they are able to give much more, when for instance they will be able to give just that which the Spirits of Personality had need of on ancient Saturn: the substance of the warmth-fire.
Who was at such a high stage of development that they could then let that warmth of ancient Saturn stream out of their own bodies? They were the beings whom we call Thrones, or Spirits of Will.
Thus we see that ancient Saturn took form through the fact that from the surrounding universe the Thrones concentrated on one point in space. They did in great measure what in a lower sphere of existence is done by the silkworms, when they spin threads of silk out of their bodies. The Thrones spun the substance of warmth out of themselves, sacrificed themselves on the altar of Saturn.
We have to regard the life of the Spirits of Personality on Saturn in such a way that these Spirits of Personality or Archai actually imparted personality, ego-consciousness, to the warmth. The substance of the fire-warmth streamed together from out of the universe, the Cosmos; it streamed forth from highly exalted beings: the Thrones.
We now know what those eggs of warmth that arose on Saturn consisted of : they were spun out of the bodies which the Thrones offered up as a sacrifice.
But that would not have sufficed; the cooperation of the Spirits of Personality had the power to give form to the substance of warmth, but they could not do it alone. To produce that inner life and activity other spiritual beings were necessary, who had also had to inhabit ancient Saturn, beings inferior to the Thrones but higher than the Archai or Spirits of Personality. To their share fell the task of helping the Spirits of Personality. We can form an idea of that help if we think of the Angels, who are the first immediately above us, then of the Archangels, then of the primeval Beginnings, or Spirits of Personality: Archai. These beings belong to the hierarchy which stands next above us. The Thrones do not come immediately above the Spirits of Personality. There are intermediate stages between the Spirits of Personality and the Thrones, and it is there that those beings stand whom we call Powers, or Exusiai, according to Dionysius the Areopagite; Powers is the name (also Spirits of Form). The Powers are one stage higher than the Spirits of Personality. They hold the same relation to the Spirits of Personality which the Angels do toward us. Yet a stage higher than these Powers are those beings we call Mights, or Spirits of Motion, or Dynamis. These were related to the Spirits of Personality on ancient Saturn in the same way as the Archangels are to us today. A stage higher still than the Spirits of Motion are those beings we call Spirits of Wisdom, or Dominions, or Kyriotetes. They were to the Spirits of Personality on ancient Saturn what the Spirits of Personality or Archai are to us now. Then after these come the Thrones, or Spirits of Will.
Thus on ancient Saturn we have an ascending scale of beings: the Spirits of Personality, the Archai, who awaken and bring about the ‘I’ consciousness; the Thrones, Spirits of Will, who stand four stages higher than the Spirits of Personality and who give out the fire substance; and in between, to order and guide all the life on ancient Saturn, we have, naming them from below upward: the Powers, or Spirits of Form; the Mights, or Spirits of Motion; the Dominions, or Spirits of Wisdom — in Greek: Exusiai, Dynamis, and Kyriotetes. These were, if one may so call them, the inhabitants of ancient Saturn.
While the ancient Saturn is evolving into the Sun — as we have described in the last lecture — those beings who have just been named are also evolving each one stage higher, and the Archangels enter upon the human stage. Externally — we might say physically — the warmth condenses into gas. The Sun is a gaseous body. While ancient Saturn was a dark warmth-body, the Sun now begins to shine outwardly; but it alternates, so to speak, from Sun days to Sun nights. It is particularly important to take notice of those interchanges from Sun days to Sun nights. For an enormous difference between the life of the days and the nights obtains on ancient Sun. If nothing else had intervened but what has been described in the third lecture, the Archangels, who are the men of the ancient Sun, would during the Sun days hurry with the rays of light out into the universe, would expand to the universe and would have to return to the Sun during the Sun's nights. It would be an inhaling and exhaling of the light, together with all the creatures weaving their existence within it. But it is not so.
I should like once more to describe these Archangels, in a simple, I might also say trivial, way. It pleased them too much, when they soared out into the universe; the flowing outward, the soaring up to the spirits of the universe, pleased them more than the contracting, or drawing of themselves together again. The latter seemed a narrowing, inferior existence. Life in the light-ether pleased them better. But they never could have extended this life in the light-ether further than a certain limit if something had not come to their help. If those beings on the ancient Sun had been left to themselves it would have been quite impossible for them to do anything else than bravely to return to the Sun, in the Sun night. Yet they did not do it; they lengthened the time of their stay outside in the universe always more and more, they remained longer and longer in the spiritual world. Who helped them to do this?
Let us imagine that the small circle is the ball of the Ancient Sun; the Archangels strive to get out into the spaces of the world from all sides of that ancient Sun ball, they spread out their presence spiritually into the universe. The Archangels were helped in this outspreading by the fact that there were beings out in the universe who came to meet them. Just as earlier the fire elements of the Thrones streamed toward ancient Saturn, so now other beings come to meet the outstreaming Archangels, beings who are still higher than the Thrones, and these help them to stay longer out in the universe than they otherwise could have done.
Those beings who came out of spiritual space to meet the Archangels we call Cherubim (the Spirits of Harmony). They are beings of an exceptionally sublime nature; they have power to receive the Archangels, so to speak, with open arms. When the Archangels spread outward, the Cherubim came to meet them, out of the Universal All. Thus, all round the globe of the ancient Sun we have the approaching Cherubim. If I may use the comparison: just as our Earth is surrounded by its atmosphere, so was the ancient Sun surrounded by the realm of the Cherubim, for the benefit of the Archangels. When the Archangels went out into the universal spaces, they beheld their great helpers.
In what way did those great helpers meet them, and what appearance had they? This can naturally only be stated by clairvoyant consciousness as read in the Akasha Chronicles. These great universal helpers revealed themselves in quite definite etheric shapes or figures. Our forefathers, who through their traditions were still conscious of these most important facts, represented the Cherubim as those strangely winged animals with differently formed heads — the winged Lion, winged Eagle, winged Bull, winged Man. The fact is that the Cherubim made their approach from four sides, in forms afterward represented in the way the Cherubim are known to us. In the schools of the first post-Atlantean initiates these Cherubim, approaching the Ancient Sun on four sides, were given names, which later became the names Bull, Lion, Eagle, Man.
The aspect presented by the ancient Sun was that of its human inhabitants, otherwise called Archangels, passing out into universal space, and the four kinds of Cherubim coming from four sides to meet them. On account of this the Archangels were enabled to stay in the spiritual region which surrounded the ancient Sun longer than they otherwise could have done. For the influence of those Cherubim upon the Archangels was vivifying in the highest degree, in the spiritual sense. But as the Cherubim came into the vicinity of the Sun, their influence was active also in another way. They acted in the way described, on those Sun beings who had evolved up to the element of light, who knew how to live in that element. But this element of light could be influenced only during the Sun days, when light streamed out into universal space. But there were also the Sun nights, when light did not stream out. The Cherubim were then also in the skies. During this time, when the Sun planet was darkened, only warmth-gas was there; the illuminated warm gases streamed within the Sun ball. Round about it were the Cherubim sending down their influence, which was active now within the dark gas. When the Cherubim could not act in a normal way upon the Archangels, they sent their influence into the dark smoke and gas of the Sun. While on ancient Saturn influences were exercised upon the warmth, influences were now exerted out of cosmic space on the condensed warmth, or gas, of the ancient Sun. To this action we must ascribe the fact that out of that Sun-mist was built the first foundation or germ of what we call today the animal kingdom. Just as the earliest foundations of the human kingdom arose in the physical human body on ancient Saturn, so on the Sun, out of its smoke and gas was formed the first germ of the animal kingdom. Out of the warmth of ancient Saturn was formed the first germ of the human body; on the ancient Sun was formed the first germ of the smoke-like changing animal bodies, created through the mirroring of the forms of the Cherubim in this Sun-gas.
Thus we find spread abroad in space surrounding the Sun that totality of exalted beings, the Cherubim, who receive the Archangels as it were with open arms — and we find also, evoked as by magic out of the Sun-gas during the Sun's nights, the earliest germinal beginnings of the animal kingdom. The animal kingdom in its first physical foundation grew out of the Sun-mist. Therefore those of our forefathers who from the Mysteries had knowledge of these deeply important things out of spiritual cosmology called the beings, who, acted upon the ancient Sun from all sides of space: the Zodiac, the Animal Circle. That is the primeval significance of the Zodiac. On ancient Saturn the germinal beginnings of humanity were first laid down, and the substance which today is in the physical body was poured out, sacrificed, by the Thrones. On the Sun was laid down the earliest beginnings of the animal kingdom, through the forms of the Cherubim being mirrored in, and conjured forth from, the gas which had condensed from the warmth substance of the earlier planet.
Thus the animals were in the first place reflected Sun-images of the Zodiac. There is a real inner relation between the Zodiac and the animals which were coming into existence upon the Sun. Truly it is not for nothing that such names have been given to those things. One must never think that in those ancient times names were chosen at random. Today when a new planet is discovered out of the planetary chain, what does the astronomer do who has had the luck to discover it? He opens a lexicon, finds a Greek mythological name which is still unappropriated, and sticks it upon the star. In the times when in names people looked for the expression of the things represented, in the times when the Mysteries were still powerful, names were not given in that way; but in the names then given you could always find the deeper meaning of the thing itself.
The forms of our animals, even although today they are degenerated into caricatures, have been brought down from the encircling universe, from the figures of the Zodiac, as they then existed.
It may strike you that we have mentioned only four names of the Zodiac. These are the principal expressions for the Cherubim; for in reality each of those Cherubic forms has to left and to right a sort of follower or companion. Think of the form of each Cherubim having two companions and you will have twelve forces and powers encircling the Sun, certain indications of which already existed on ancient Saturn. We have twelve such powers belonging to the kingdom of the Cherubim, who have to perform their task in the universe in the way we have just described.
You may now ask: What relation has this to the ordinary names of the animal circle or Zodiac? We shall say a word about this during the next few days. For the sequence of the names has somewhat changed. One generally begins to count with Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo. Then comes Virgo the Virgin and Libra the Scales or Balance. The Eagle, through a later transformation, has had to be named Scorpio, for a definite reason. And then the two companions: Sagittarius, Capricorn. The Man, for reasons which we will hear later, is called Aquarius the Waterman. Then Pisces the Fishes. You still see the true form out of which the Zodiac originated in the Bull (Taurus), in the Lion, and a little in the Man, which in the ordinary exoteric nomenclature is called the Waterman. We shall explain in the next few days why the Zodiac has passed through this transformation. High spiritual beings, high hierarchies, the Thrones, gave out of their own substance the fire of ancient Saturn. Still higher beings, whom we characterize as Cherubim, took into themselves the light which sprang from the fire and glorified its existence, uplifted it. But each time that an uplifting process happens in the universe, a lowering process must also step in to create the relative balance or adjustment. In order that the Archangels should have the opportunity of extending their spiritual existence during daytime, the Cherubim were obliged to continue their activity by night, and bring forth the animal beings which are lower than humanity, forms evoked out of that warmth-substance which had condensed into mist, gas and smoke.
You have thus been given the first idea, in the sense of the primeval wisdom, of the way in which certain spiritual beings of the universe act in unison with our own planetary body; and at the same time you have been shown how in the outward, physical world everything can always be traced back to spiritual beings. That which we call so materially the Zodiac today (from the Greek word which implies figures), animals and living beings originated in the kingdoms of the Cherubim, who, from the encircling universe, sent down their influence upon the ancient Sun and allowed their forces to stream forth into this universe as a force of light.
With this we have introduced an important conception of the Animal Circle or Zodiac, and we shall continue this study tomorrow; we shall gradually be able to rise to the comprehension of other universal bodies, and have more and more light thrown upon their relationship with the spiritual hierarchies.