The Foundations of Esotericism
Berlin, 30th October 1905
The course of evolution in the world appears to us on three levels: consciousness, life and form. 73Rudolf Steiner had explained these concepts to a part of his audience in lectures of October/November 1904 especially 22.10.1904 in Notes on 13 Lectures (Typescript), and 25.10.1904 in History of the Middle Ages (Typescript). Similar presentations are to be found later in lectures 15.9.1907 Occult Signs and Symbols and 17.6.1909 Evolution, Involution and Creation out of Nothing (also contained in The Being of Man and his Future Evolution). Consciousness in its different manifestations finds its expression in the seven Planetary evolutions: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, Vulcan. On each Planet there are seven Kingdoms of Life and each Kingdom goes through seven Conditions of Form.
Our physical Earth is such a Condition of Form, the fourth Condition of Form or Globe, in the fourth Kingdom of Life, of the fourth Planet, or Condition of Consciousness. We think of the Earth as it now is and ask ourselves: What are we doing here? We take things from outside in space, mainly from the mineral kingdom, and out of them construct artifacts. This is a process of combination; out of separate things we construct a whole, a creation within a form. Now there are other ways in which something new can arise, for instance in a way similar to that in which stalk, leaves and blossoms arise out of the root of a plant. A blossom cannot be put together like a machine, through combination, but it must grow out of what is already there. This is a process within the realm of life. Out of what is there something new is created.
In the case of the third kind of production, out of consciousness, something arises in such a way that we can say: previously there was in fact nothing there — a nothingness.
Let us transfer ourselves to the primal beginning of such a planetary evolution, at the very beginning of Saturn. What is to be observed there? There was as yet no physical planet, not even in the finest Arupa-form was a planet present, we are there even before the moment when Old Saturn entered into its first beginning. Nothing of our series of planets existed; certainly however there was the entire outcome of the preceding planetary chain, in much the same way as when we wake up in the morning, having as yet done nothing, and only the memory of what we did on the previous day is contained in our mind. So when we thus transfer ourselves completely into the beginning of the Saturn evolution, we have in the spiritual beings then in manifestation, the memory of a previous planetary chain and its happenings.
Now let us transfer ourselves to the end of the planetary chain, to the time when the Vulcan evolution will have come to an end. Whereas the chain of planets has gradually come to manifestation as creation, the tendency to it was already there in the beginning as inherent consciousness. So we have to begin with an outpouring of consciousness; out of the content of the earlier, out of memory, consciousness creates the new. At the end therefore something is present which was not there at the beginning: that is, all experiences. What was there at the beginning has flowed out into astral things and beings. At the end a new consciousness has come about with a new content of consciousness. It is something which has come forth from nothingness, out of experiences. When we observe something new we must say to ourselves: to make this possible a seed had to be there. The new condition of consciousness however, at the end of a planetary evolution, has in fact come forth out of nothing, out of experiences; for this no foundations are necessary, something is created which arises out of nothing. When one personality looks at another, it cannot be said that he has taken something from the other one, when as a result he bears within him the memory of the other personality. This memory has come forth out of nothing. Thus the three ways of creating are as follows:
Combining of existing parts: Form
Formations with new Life content out of existing foundations: Life
Creating out of nothing: Consciousness
Here we have three definitions of Beings who bring about, who underlie a planetary chain. They are called the three Logoi. The Third Logos produces by means of combining. When out of one substance something else having new life comes into being, this is brought forth by the Second Logos. Everywhere, however, where we have to do with a coming forth out of nothing, we have the First Logos. This is why the First Logos is also often called the One who is immanent in things, the Second Logos the One who in the quiescent substance in things creates life out of the living, the Third Logos the One who combines everything existing, who puts the world together out of things.
These three Logoi always manifest in the world in and through one another. The First Logos also experiences both the inner wisdom and the will. In the creative activity of the First Logos there is experience, that is to say, the gathering of thoughts out of nothing and then creating once more in accordance with these thoughts out of nothing. Creation out of nothing is however not meant in such a way as if nothing at all had been there. On the contrary, in the course of evolution experiences are made and in the course of becoming the new is created, so that what is there melts away and out of experience there is the creation of the new.
This creation may be compared with the following: Somebody sees another person and observes his appearance. If he were creatively gifted like the First Logos he would be able to say: Yes, I have seen N and I also have a concept of the reversed N. I can also form a complementary picture of him, i.e. white where there is black and vice versa. In this way, out of the experience of the object and its negative, he has created a completely new form. This he could imbue with life. It would be a completely new creation that was not previously there. Let us assume that somebody did this with a number of people and that these people were to perish: then, from his experiences, the observer would be able to create a new world.
In contemplating the world one continually sees the interaction of the three Logoi. Let us form within the framework of our planetary system, a mental picture of the working of the three Logoi in regard to man. Let us think of the very beginnings of the Saturn evolution, when as yet nothing at all was there. What is it that then happens? Then everything that was present previously drips down as it were. All the things that were there earlier stream out. What arises in this way is to become the very first outpouring of substance from the sum of earlier experiences. Therein is contained the substance out of which man developed later,. This substance is to begin with simply there as substance. This out streaming must then be continually worked upon and combined together. The combining of the out streaming substance is a new creation. This is above all a creative activity of the Third Logos. It happens after the out streaming of substance and therefore is a creative activity of the third Logos.
What does this signify for man? For man it signifies that in the first place all the parts are combined which then form his physical body. At that time, on Saturn, the human being was a veritable automaton. If one had spoken a word into him, he would have spoken it out again. Forms of beings are fashioned. This is called the work of the Third Logos and it continues into the Sun epoch, when man also receives his etheric body and with it life. This is the work of the Second Logos. Now let us continue into the Earth Epoch. There man himself acquires a consciousness, that is to say, the possibility of gathering experiences out of nothingness. This is the work of the First Logos. On Saturn man received from the Third Logos what in him is form. On the Sun he received what in him is life from the Second Logos. On the Earth he received what in him is consciousness, from the First Logos.
The concept of consciousness must become a little clearer to us. We must work out fully the concept of consciousness on a particular plane. Man is conscious, but we have to know where his consciousness is. Now he is conscious on the physical plane when we are speaking about waking consciousness. But waking consciousness could also be on the astral plane. When in the case of a creature, life is on the physical plane and consciousness is on the astral plane, then this creature is an animal.
In human beings, thinking is localised in the head. With the animal, for instance the tiger, consciousness is on the astral plane. Outside the head what may be called a focal point is formed through which the tiger is affected. When the tiger feels pain this goes over on to the astral plane. With the tiger the organ for this is in front of the head, at the place where the brow is in the case of man. With man this place is already enclosed within the head and it is filled with the frontal brain; consciousness has been imprisoned through the brain and the front part of the skull and is therefore on the physical plane. In the case of the tiger, and indeed of all animals, the focal point of consciousness lies in front of the head, in the astral: from there it goes into the astral world. In the case of the plant things are again different. Could we follow its consciousness, going from above downwards, we would always come out at the tip of the root. If then we were to follow the line of growth, we would come to the centre of the earth. There is the collecting point of all the sensations, the suction point of the consciousness of the plant. It is in direct connection with the mental world. The entire plant world has its consciousness on the mental plane.
The consciousness of the entire mineral world is in the highest regions of the Mental World, on the Arupa plane. The consciousness of stones is such that if we wished to seek its focus we should find it as a kind of Sun-atmosphere. When on the Earth we work upon the mineral world, when we break stones, each single action is in a certain relationship to this Sun-atmosphere. There one perceives the work that man does here. Thus we have a range of beings on the physical plane whose consciousness however lies on different planes.
Human beings and animals differ from each other through the fact that they have their consciousness on different planes. Now there are also other beings besides minerals, plants, animals and human beings. There are beings who have their consciousness on the physical plane and their body in the astral. Such a being is, as it were, an animal in reverse. Such beings actually exist; they are the elemental beings. In order to make their nature comprehensible let us be clear about what belongs to the physical plane.
Physical is: Firstly the solid earth, secondly water, thirdly air, fourthly ether (warmth ether, light ether, chemical ether, life ether). Let us keep to the four lower forms of our physical plane and separate the etheric world from them.
States of consciousness can lie in all four forms of the physical plane while the body of such a being lies in the astral. We must think of the consciousness in the solid Earth, the body in the astral; or a being that has its consciousness in the water and its body in the astral; then such a being with its consciousness in the air and its body in the astral and one with its consciousness in fire and its body in the astral. Present-day man knows but little of such beings; in our time it is only through poetry that they are known. Miners (of minerals) however know such beings very well. A gnome is only visible to someone who can see on the astral plane, but miners frequently possess such an astral vision; they know that gnomes are realities. Thus, on our Earth there exist various forms of consciousness, and what the natural scientist today calls laws of nature are the thoughts of beings who think on the physical plane but have their bodies on the astral plane. When in physics we have to do with laws of nature we can say: these are the thoughts of a being who has its body on the astral plane. The forces of nature are creative beings and natural laws are their thoughts.
In the Middle Ages the alchemist tried to make use of these spirits. Goethe knew this very well; Faust wished to have fire air; this was to be produced by the salamanders which have their body on the astral plane. Thus we have around us beings who actually have their consciousness in fire, to whom we cause pain when fire is kindled, for by so doing we actually cause a certain alteration in the body of the being in question on the astral plane. When one kindles fire one alters this astral being. In the same way when one brings about alterations in other spheres of the elements and the forces of Nature one alters something in these astral beings. When we do this or that we are continuously peopling the astral plane. If we think these thoughts through clearly, we have the meaning of church ritual: that is, not to make use of any kind of substances on the physical plane, except such as have meaning, whereby meaningful beings arise on the astral plane. When for instance one kindles the smoke of incense one does something which has purpose; one burns a particular substance and creates beings of a particular kind. When one passes a sword through the air in four directions one creates a definite kind of being.
It is the same with the priest, when he makes definite movements with his hands, to accompany definite sounds o, i, u, intensified by repetition: Dominus vobiscum. The sound is regular, the air is brought into definite vibrations intensified by definite movements of the hand, and a sylph is called into existence. Sign, grip and word of the freemasons also bring about definite forms which manifest in accordance with definite laws in the physical world. Through a purposeful use of these words a link is formed from one person to another, one is enwrapped in an astral substance which is created through sign, grip and word.
Naturally man continually does all this in ordinary life, but he does it in an unsystematic way, creating contradictory beings. Art consists in working harmoniously upwards from the physical to higher planes. In rituals, through definite acts, the aim is to produce not contradictory but harmonious beings. At present man is not in a position to bring these things into harmony. But for everything man creates in this way on the astral plane there are certain directing beings. So we have a world of elemental beings around us with a king. Among the Indians the king of the gnomes is called Kshiti, the highest of the gnomes; the highest being among the undines: Varuna; the highest being among the sylphs: Vayu, and everything having its consciousness in fire is directed by the king of fire: Agni. In all activity connected with fire, water and so on we have to do with these particular Deva-beings. All the fire we have here on Earth is the substance that is woven out of the beings which belong to Agni. Ceremonial magic is the lowest kind of sorcery and consists in making use of certain specially devised tricks on the physical plane in order to create definite forms and beings on the astral plane. Schools exist today in which ceremonial magic is still exercised. Such usages cause great attraction towards the astral world and very frequently result in suicide, because then a person is almost exclusively active in the astral world and has become unaccustomed to using the physical world for its rightful purpose. He has developed a partiality for the other world and the physical body is often a hindrance.
Now you will also comprehend the connection with fire worship which has appeared in the history of religion. The followers of Zarathustra sought, through the sacrificial fire of the priests, actually to create definite forms on the astral plane. On the Earth today everything takes place physically. But from what has been said, one can see that astral beings are continually created under the influence of our deeds. All deeds are accompanied by astral beings. These are our Skandas which bring about our Karma. But also all physical deeds leave astral beings behind on the astral plane. For instance Cologne cathedral corresponds to a definite being on the astral plane. Through everything that happens on the Earth, when all physical matter is worked over and the Earth has dissolved, through this the next astral Globe will arise of itself. It will simply be there as astral beings, as the effects of all the earlier physical processes. This is why man must continually work with Karma. In his next life he must put right again the grotesque astral beings that he has bungled, otherwise they would produce meaningless creatures for the next Globe. This is Karma that he must rectify. What takes place on a large scale on the Earth, takes place in a small way in man. Let us think of a child. He is wrongly brought up, spoiled with sweets and so on. This not only brings about processes in the physical body but continually imparts them to the astral, so that in fact the astral body also is changed. What one gives physically to the infant goes over into his astral body, it is present in the shape of definite forms. What is thus worked in, is however gradually worked out again. In advanced age the sins against the child take their revenge. These sins remain throughout the whole life and have great importance particularly in the final years. After the middle period a sort of reversal takes place; the astral then works into the physical plane.
In childhood the foundation of what man will have in old age is implanted into the astral. When a person perceives how he has been sinned against and works upon himself with this in view, then he can eliminate the damage in the astral body, otherwise he will break down in old age under the weaknesses of his childhood. Only what man works into it consciously has a balancing effect on the astral body. If later in life the opposite qualities are not called up consciously, one cannot rid oneself of the failings.