Rudolf Steiner, Helsinki, Finland, April 5, 1912:
In the course of the two lectures already given, we have become acquainted with certain spiritual beings which occult vision can encounter when it is directed towards the spiritual life of our planet. Today it will be necessary for us to follow another path in order to ascend into the spiritual world, for we can only form a correct conception of the nature of the spiritual beings of which we have spoken, even of the Planetary Spirit itself, when we have observed them from another side. It is always extremely difficult to describe in the words of any language these spiritual beings visible to occult perception, because human languages — at least those of the present day — are only suited to the facts and phenomena of the physical plane. It is therefore only by a description from various aspects that one can hope to arrive at anything approaching what is meant when allusion is made to spiritual beings. It will be necessary for this purpose to begin to-day from the nature of man himself and to make clear certain attributes of human nature, and we can then proceed to describe the higher beings we meet with in the higher worlds. One attribute of human nature shall be brought into very special prominence to-day, and that can be described in the following way. Man is endowed with the possibility of leading an inner life which is quite independent of his external life. This possibility confronts us every hour of our waking life. We know that as regards what we see with our eyes or hear with our ears, we have something in common with all other beings which also use their senses. As man we have a common life with other men, and perhaps also with other beings. Everyone, as we know only too well, has his own special sorrows, his special joys; his troubles and cares, his hopes and ideals; in a sense these form a special kingdom not immediately visible to the physical sight of other men, and this a man carries through the world as an independent inner life. When we are in the same space as another man, we know what he sees with his eyes and hears with his ears. We may even perhaps have an idea of what takes place in his soul by what is expressed, in his face by his gestures, or his speech; but if he wishes to keep his inner life as a special world for himself alone, we can penetrate no further.
Now if we look with occult vision into the world hidden behind the first veil of the external world, we meet there with beings quite differently organized, particularly with respect to these qualities. We meet with beings not able to lead such an independent inner life as man leads. We meet as a first group with those which, when they lead an inner life, are immediately transferred through this inner life into a different state of consciousness from the one they possess in the life they lead in and with the external world. Let us try to understand this. Suppose a man so lived that should he desire to live in his inner being and not to direct his gaze to the external world, he would, simply by means of his Will, immediately have to pass over into another state of consciousness. We know that man, without his will, does pass over into a different state of consciousness in his normal life when he is asleep. We also know that sleep is the result of his astral body and his ego separating from his physical and etheric bodies. Thus we know that something has to take place in a man if he is to pass over into another form of consciousness. For instance, if a man says, “Here before me is a meadow covered with flowers; when I look at it, it gives me joy,” he does not simply on that account enter another state of consciousness; he experiences his joy in the meadow and the flowers together with his association with the outer world. Now those beings which occult vision meets with as the next category in a higher world change their state of consciousness each time they turn their perception and their action from the external world to themselves. Thus, in them there need be no separation between the different principles of their being, they simply bring about in themselves just as they are, by means of their will, another condition of consciousness. Now the perceptions of these beings, of which we are speaking as the next category above man, are not like the perceptions of man. Man perceives, because an external world appears before his senses. He surrenders himself, so to speak, to this external world. These beings do not perceive an external world in the same way as man does with his senses; they perceive it (though this is only a comparison) rather as man perceives when, for instance, he speaks, or makes a movement of the hand, or in any way externalizes his inner being in mimic art; when, in short, he gives expression to his own nature. Thus in a certain sense for these beings of a higher world of whom we are speaking, all their perceptions are at the same time a manifestation of their own being. I want you to bear in mind that when we ascend to the higher category of beings no longer perceptible to man externally, we have before us beings which perceive whenever they manifest, when they express what they themselves are; and they really perceive their own being only as long as they wish to manifest it, as long as in any way they express it outwardly. We might say they are only awake when manifesting themselves. And when of their own will they are not manifesting themselves, not entering into connection with the world around them, another condition of consciousness arises for them — in a certain sense they sleep. Only, their sleep is no unconscious sleep like that of man, it signifies for them a sort of diminution, a sort of loss of their feeling of self. They have their feeling of self so long as they manifest themselves externally, and in a certain sense they lose it when they cease to manifest. They do not sleep then as men sleep, but something arises in their own being like a manifestation of spiritual worlds higher than themselves. Their inner being is then filled by higher spiritual worlds.
Thus, mark well: When man directs his gaze outwards and observes, he lives with the outer world; he loses himself in it. In our planet, for instance, he loses himself in the various kingdoms of nature. But when he diverts his gaze from outside, he enters his own inner being and lives an independent inner life, and he is then free from this external world. When these beings of which we speak as a first category above man, are active externally, they then manifest themselves; they have their feeling of self, their actual self-expression in this manifestation; and when they enter their inner being they do not enter into an independent inner life, as does man, but a life in common with other worlds. Just as man enters such a life when he perceives the external world, so do they perceive other spiritual worlds above them when they look into themselves; they then enter this other condition of consciousness, in which they find themselves filled with other beings higher than themselves. So, as regards man we say that when he loses himself in the external world, he has his perceptions; when he withdraws from the external world, he has his independent inner life. The beings belonging to the next higher category — we call them, speaking generally, the beings of the so-called Third Hierarchy — instead of perception have manifestation, and in this manifestation or revelation they experience themselves. Instead of an inner life, they have the experience of higher spiritual worlds, that is to say, they are filled with Spirit. This is the most essential difference between man and the beings of the next higher category.
|Third Hierarchy:||Manifestation:||Being filled with Spirit:|
We might, by means of a crude comparison from life, define the difference between man and these beings. When a man is in a position of having inner experiences which do not coincide with what he experiences or perceives externally — in the crudest case the result is a lie. In order to make this clearer, we can express a possible peculiarity of man by saying: He is capable of perceiving something and yet of arousing contrary ideas in his inner being and even of giving vent to them externally, although they do not coincide with the perceptions. Through this peculiarity man can contradict the external world by means of an untruth. This is a possibility which — as we shall hear later in the course of these lectures — had to be given to man, in order that he might come to the truth by his own free will. When we consider man as he really is in the world we must, however, fix our attention on this quality, namely, that he can form ideas in his inner life and also externalize them, which do not coincide with his perceptions or with facts. This quality is not a possibility to the beings of the higher category spoken of here, so long as they retain their nature. The possibility of untruth does not exist in the beings of the Third Hierarchy, if they retain their nature. For what would be the result if a being of this Hierarchy wished to lie? Then, in its inner being, it must experience something which it transmitted to the external world differently from the way in which it experienced it. Then, however, the being would no longer be able to perceive this; for everything these beings experience in their inner life is revelation, and it immediately passes over into the external world. These beings must live in a kingdom of absolute truth if they wish to experience themselves at all. Suppose these beings were to lie, that is, had something in their inner being which in their revelation they would so transform that it would no longer coincide with it; they would then not be able to perceive it, for they can only perceive their inner nature. They would, under the impression of an untruth, immediately be stupefied, transferred into a state of consciousness which would be a darkening down, a lessening of their ordinary consciousness, which can only live in the revelation of their inner life. Thus we have above us a class of beings which must of their own nature live in the realm of absolute truth and sincerity. Every deviation from truth would render these beings less conscious. If they are to be observed by occult vision, the occultist must first of all find the right way in which he can meet them. I will try to describe how the occultist can find them.
The first inner experience which one who goes through an occult development must have, is the striving, in a certain sense, to subdue the inner life of ordinary normal consciousness. What we experience in our inner being we describe as our egoistic experience, as that which we wish to have from the world for ourselves alone, so to speak. The more the occultly developing student can bring himself to be passive with regard to what only concerns himself, the nearer he is to the entrance to the higher worlds. Let us take an obvious case. We all know that certain truths, certain things in the world, simply please or do not please us; that certain things affect us sympathetically, or antithetically. Such feelings with regard to the world which we only cherish for our own sake, must, by him who would develop himself occultly, be rooted out of his heart; he must, in a certain sense, be free from all that concerns only himself. This is a truth which is often emphasised, but which, in fact, is more difficult to observe than one usually thinks; for in normal consciousness man has extremely few footholds through which he can become free from himself, and overcome what concerns himself alone. Let us consider for a single moment what it actually means “to be free from oneself.” Probably to become free from what we call usually egoistic impulses is not so difficult; but we must remember that in the one incarnation in which we live, we are born at a certain time and at a certain place; that when we direct our gaze to what surrounds us, our eyes rest upon quite different things from those seen by a man, for instance, who lives in a different part of the world. There must be quite different things in his surroundings to interest him. Thus just because we are born as physically embodied human beings at a certain time and at a certain place, we are surrounded by all sorts of things which call forth our attention, our interest, which actually concern ourselves, and are different for other men. Because we, as men, are differently distributed over our planet, we are, in a certain sense, placed under the necessity of each having his separate interests, his special home upon the earth. In what we are able to learn from our direct environment we can never, therefore, in the highest sense, experience that which sets us free from our special human interests and attractions. Thus, because we are human beings in physical bodies, and in so far as we are such, we cannot possibly through our external perception, reach the portal which leads into a higher world. We must look away from all that our senses can see externally, all that our intellect can connect with the things of the external world, everything that belongs to our own special interests. But now, if we look at what we generally have in our inner being, our sorrows and joys, our worries and cares, our hopes and aims, we shall very soon become aware how dependent our inner world is on what we experience externally; and how, in a certain way, it is coloured by our experiences. Nevertheless, a certain difference exists.
We shall be willing to admit that each one of us carries his own world in his inner being. The fact that the one is born in one part of the earth at one time, and another in another at a different time does in a sense color our inner world; but we also experience something quite different besides, in regard to this inner world. It is certainly our special, in a sense, our differentiated inner world; it bears a certain coloring; — but we can also experience something quite different. If we go from the place where we are accustomed to be active through our senses, to a distant place, and there meet with a man who has had quite different experiences and perceptions from our own, we can nevertheless understand him, because he has passed through certain troubles which we similarly ourselves have passed through; because he can take pleasure, in a certain sense, in the things which please us. Many people have experienced that they may perhaps find it difficult to understand someone they encounter in a distant region or to agree with him about the external world to which they both belong, yet it may be easy to sympathize with one another concerning what the heart feels and longs for. Through our inner world, we human beings are much nearer one another than we are through the external world, and truly there would be little hope of carrying our spiritual science to the whole of humanity, were it not for the consciousness that in the inner being of every man, no matter to what part of the earth he may belong, lives something which can bring him into sympathy with us. Now, however, in order to arrive at something quite free from our own egoistic inner life, we must lay aside even that coloring of inner experience which is still influenced by the external world. That can only be when a man is able to experience something in his own inner being which does not in any way come from the external world; something which corresponds to what we may call inner suggestions, inspirations and which grows and thrives only within the soul itself. He can so transcend the special inner life that he feels something revealed in his inner being which is independent of his special egoistic existence. This is felt by men who assert again and again that over the whole earth-sphere there can be mutual understanding of certain moral ideals, or certain logical ideals which no man can doubt, and which can illuminate every man; for they are imparted to humanity, not by the external world, but by the inner world.
One province — it is, to be sure, but an arid, prosaic province — all men have in common as regards such inner manifestation. It is the province of numbers and their relation; in short, of mathematics, numbers and calculation. The fact that three times three makes nine we can never experience from the external world, it must be revealed to us through our inner being. Hence there is no possibility of disputing this in any part of the globe. Whether a thing is beautiful or ugly can be very greatly disputed all the world over; but if the fact has once been revealed to our inner being that three times three is nine, or that the whole is equal to the sum of its parts, or that a triangle has 180 degrees as the sum of its angles, we know that it is so, because no external world can reveal this, only our own inner being. In dry, prosaic mathematics begins what we may call inspiration. Only as a rule, people do not notice that inspiration begins with dry mathematics, because most people take dry mathematics for something dreadfully tedious, and are therefore not very willing to let anything be revealed to them by this means. Fundamentally, however, the same thing applies to the inner revelation of moral truths. If we have recognized something as right, we say, “This is right and the contrary is wrong, and no external power of the physical plane can make us see that what is revealed to us as right, could be wrong in our inner being.” Moral truths also reveal themselves in the highest sense, through the inner being. If a man directs his spiritual gaze to this possibility of inner manifestation, with feeling and receptivity, he can educate himself in this way. Indeed education through mere mathematics is very good. For instance, if a man constantly devotes himself to the thought: “I may have my own opinion as to whether a thing is good to eat, but someone else may be of a different opinion. That depends upon the freewill of the individual, but mathematics and moral obligations do not depend on such freewill. I know of these that they may reveal something to me which, if I refuse to accept it as true, I prove myself unworthy of humanity.” This recognition of a revelation through the inner being, if accepted as feeling, as inner impulse, is a powerful educative force in the inner life of man, if he devotes himself to it in meditation. If he first of all says to himself, “In the sense-world there is much that can only be decided by freewill; but out of the spirit, things are revealed to me as to which my freewill has nothing to say, and which yet concern me and of which I, as a man, must prove myself worthy;” — if he allows this thought to become ever stronger and stronger, so that he feels overpowered by his own inner being, he grows beyond mere egoism, and a higher self, as we say, gains the upper hand; a higher self which recognises itself as one with the Spirit of the World conquers the ordinary arbitrary self. We must develop something of this sort as a mood if we wish to succeed in reaching the portal which leads into the spiritual worlds. For if we frequently devote ourselves to such moods as have just been described, they will prove fruitful. They prove especially fruitful if we bring them as concretely as possible into our thoughts and especially if we cherish and accept the thoughts which reveal themselves to us as true, and which nevertheless are in contradiction to the external sense-world. Such thoughts may at first be nothing but pictures, but such pictures can be extremely useful for man's occult development.
I will tell you of one such picture. I will show you by such a picture how a man can raise his soul above himself.
Take two glasses, in the one is water, in the other none. The glass with water should he only half-full. Suppose you observe these two glasses in the external world. Now if you pour some of the water from the half-filled into the empty glass, the latter will be partly filled, while the other then has less water in it. If a second time you pour water from the glass which was half-filled into the glass which was at first empty, the first glass will have still less water in it; in short, through the pouring-out there is always less and less water in the glass which was at first half-full of water. That is a true presentation as regards the external physical sense-world. Now let us form a different conception. By way of experiment, let us form the contrary idea. Imagine yourself again pouring water from the half-filled glass into the empty one. Into this latter there comes water, but you must imagine that in the half-filled glass by means of this pouring out of water there is more instead of less, and that if you poured from it a second time, so that again something passed over into the previously empty glass, There would again be more and not less water left in the glass that was at first half-filled. As the result of the out-pouring, more and more water would be in the first glass. Imagine yourself picturing this idea. Of course everyone who at our present time counts himself among the thoroughly intelligent, would say. “Why, you are picturing an absolute delusion! You imagine that you are pouring out water, and that by so doing more water comes into the glass from which you are pouring!” Of course if one applies this idea to the physical world, then, naturally, it is an absurd idea; but — marvelous to relate — it can be applied to the spiritual world. It can be applied in a singular manner. Suppose a man has a loving heart, and out of this loving heart he performs a loving action to another who needs love. He gives something to that other person; but he does not on that account become emptier when he performs loving actions to another; he receives more, he becomes fuller, he has still more, and if he performs the loving action a second time he will again receive more. One does not become poor, nor empty, by giving love or doing loving actions, on the contrary, one becomes richer, one becomes fuller. One pours forth something into the other person, something which makes one fuller oneself. Now, if we apply our picture (which is impossible, absurd, for the ordinary physical world), if we apply our picture of the two glasses to the outpouring of love, it becomes applicable; we can then grasp it as an image, as a symbol of spiritual facts. Love is so complex a thing that no man should have the arrogance to attempt to define it, to fathom the nature of love. Love is complex; we perceive it, but no definition can express it. But a symbol, a simple symbol — a glass of water which, when it is poured out becomes ever fuller — gives us one quality of the workings of love. If we thus imagine the complexity of loving actions we really do nothing else than what the mathematician does in his dry science. Nowhere is there an actual circle, nowhere an actual triangle, we must only imagine them. If we draw a circle and examine it a little through a microscope, we see nothing but chalk or small specks; it can never have the regularity of a real circle. We must turn to our imagination, our inner life, if we wish to imagine the circle or the triangle or something of that kind. Thus, to imagine something like a spiritual act — such as love, for instance — we must grasp the symbol and hold fast to an attribute. Such pictures are useful for occult development. In them we perceive that we are raised above ordinary ideas, and that if we wish to ascend to the spirit, we must form ideas just the opposite of those applicable to the sense-world. Thus we find that the forming of such symbolical conceptions is a powerful means towards ascending to the spiritual world. You find this treated fully in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and How to Attain It. By this means a man succeeds in recognizing something like a world above him, a world which inspires him, one which he cannot perceive in the external world, but which penetrates him. If he devotes himself more and more to these conceptions, he finally recognizes that in him, in every man, lives some spiritual being higher than he himself, the human being with his egoism in this one incarnation. When we begin to recognizes that there is something above us ordinary human beings, that there is a being guiding us, we have the first form in the ranks of the beings of the Third Hierarchy, those beings we call Angels, or Angeloi. When a man goes out beyond himself in the manner described, he first experiences the working of an Angel-Being in his own being. If we now consider this being independently, so that it has the qualities which have been described as revelation, and spiritual enfilling: if we consider this being which inspires us, as an independent being, we rise to an idea of the beings of the Third Hierarchy, standing immediately above man. We may therefore describe these beings as those which lead, guide, and direct each individual human being:
In this way I have given you a slight description of the way in which man can raise himself to begin with to the first beings above him, so that he can gain an idea of them. Just as each individual, in this way, has his guide, and when we rise above ourselves, above our egoistic interests, occult vision draws our attention to this fact: “Thou hast thy Guide —” so it is now possible to direct our vision to groups of men, to races, and peoples. Such groups of men who belong together have also a guidance, just as individual man has his, in the manner described. These beings, however, who lead whole peoples or races, are even more powerful than the leaders of individual men. In western esotericism, these leaders of peoples or races, who live in the spiritual world, who have revelation as their perception, and spiritual enfilling as their inner life, and who find expression in the actions performed by whole peoples or whole races, are called Archangels or Archangeloi. When a man progresses further in occult development, not only may the Angel who specially leads him be revealed to him, but also the Archangel who leads the common group to which he belongs. And then when our occult development goes still further, we find beings as leaders of humanity who are no longer concerned with individual races and peoples, but are leaders in successive epochs. If the occultly-developed man studies, for instance, the period in which lived the ancient Egyptian or Chaldean, he will see that the whole stamp, the whole character of the period is under a definite leadership. If he then looks with occult vision upon what follows the Egyptian-Chaldean period, and directs it to the age in which Greece and Rome gave the tone to the western intellectual world, he will see that this leadership changes and that above the individual peoples, mightier than the Archangels who are leaders of the peoples, rule Spirits who direct whole groups of peoples connected with each other at a particular time, and that these beings are then relieved after a definite time by other Time-leaders. Just as the individual realms of the Archangeloi who guide contemporary but individual groups of men, are distributed in space, so do we find, if we allow our vision to sweep over passing time, that the different epochs are guided by their definite Spirits of the Age, more powerful than the Archangels and under whom many different peoples stand at the same time. This third category of the Third Hierarchy we call the Spirits of the Age, or Archai in the terminology of western esotericism.
All the beings belonging to these three classes of the Third Hierarchy have the attributes described to-day; they all have what has here been described as manifestation or revelation and being inwardly filled with the Spirit. Occult vision becomes aware of this when it is able to raise itself to these beings. Thus, we may say that when we observe what surrounds man in the spiritual world, and is, as it were, around man as his own individual leader; when we there observe what lives spiritually and rules invisibly, instigating us to impersonal actions and impersonal thinking and feeling, when we see this, we have there first of all the beings of the Third Hierarchy. Occult vision perceives these beings. To the occultist they are realities; but normal consciousness also lives under their, sovereignty, although it does not perceive the Angel, it is under his leadership, even though unconsciously. And so do groups of men stand under their Archangel, as the age and the men of the age stand under the leadership of the Spirit of the Age.
Now these beings of the Third Hierarchy described to-day are found in our nearest spiritual environment. If, however, we went back in the evolution of our planet to a definite point of time, about which we shall learn more in the following lectures, we should find more and more that these beings, who really only live in the process of man's culture are continually bringing forth other beings from themselves. Just as a plant puts forth seed, so do the beings of the Third Hierarchy, which I have just described, bring forth other beings. There is, however, a certain difference between what the plant brings forth as seed — if we may use this comparison — and the beings which separate themselves off from the beings of the Third Hierarchy. When the plant brings forth a seed, it is, in a sense, of as much value as the complete plant; for out of it can again arise a complete plant of the same species. These beings put forth others which are separated from them just as the seed from the plant, they have offspring, so to speak, but they are, in a sense, of a lower order than themselves. They have to be of a lower order because they have other tasks which they can only accomplish if they are of a lower order. The Angels, Archangels, and Spirits of the Age in our spiritual environment, have put forth from themselves certain beings, which descend from the environment of man into the kingdoms of nature; and occult vision teaches us that the beings we learnt about yesterday as the nature-spirits, are detached from the beings of the Third Hierarchy, of whom we have learnt to know to-day. They are offspring, and to them has been allotted other service than service to mankind, namely, service to nature. Indeed, certain offspring of the Archai are the beings we have learnt to know as the nature-spirits of the earth; those separated from the Archangels and sent down into nature, are the nature-spirits of water; and those detached from the Angels we have recognized as the nature-spirits of the air. With the nature-spirits of fire or heat we have still to become acquainted. Thus we see that in a sense, through a division of the beings which represent as the Third Hierarchy our union with the world immediately above us, certain beings are sent down into the kingdoms of the elements, into air, water, earth — into the gaseous, fluid, and solid — in order there to perform service, to work within the elements, and in a sense to function as the lower offspring of the Third Hierarchy — as nature-spirits.
Thus we can speak of a relationship between the nature-spirits and the beings of the Third Hierarchy.