The Spiritual Hierarchies
Düsseldorf, April 15, 1909, Morning
We saw yesterday how the facts of the Cosmos proceed from the spiritual life of Beings who stand above man. Especially such a phenomenon as the one we introduced towards the end of our last lecture, the fight in heaven, which has left, so to speak, so many ‘corpses’ on the field of battle between Jupiter and Mars, which as planetoids are still being discovered by physical science in ever-increasing numbers; such a phenomenon must be of particular importance to us, and we shall have to return to it again: We shall see how this event is also reflected in certain processes of the earth's evolution, and how precisely in the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita we find the earthly reflection of this fight in heaven.
But to-day we shall continue our studies so as to describe, though in a sketchy way, those other beings of the spiritual Hierarchies, whom we have indicated already, but whom yesterday we omitted. These are the Beings who, counting upwards, stand nearest to man, and are called in Christian Esotericism: Angels, Archangels, Primeval Beginnings or Primeval Forces; also Angeloi, Archangeloi, and Archai. In theosophical literature the Archangels are also called Spirits of Fire, and the primeval Beginnings, spirits of Personality.
These Beings who stand, as it were, in between man and those others to whom we referred yesterday as reaching up to Jupiter, Mars, etc., naturally stand in a nearer relation to man on the earth itself. First we have the Angels or Angeloi. They passed through their human stage during the evolution of the ancient Moon, and are fundamentally speaking, only as far on during our present earth evolution as man will be during the Jupiter evolution. They stand one stage higher than man. What is the task of these Beings? Their task can be realised when we take into account the development of man upon earth.
Man develops from incarnation to incarnation. Our human evolution as it is now, reaches back through the ancient Atlantean time, through the Lemurian time and really begins in the ancient Lemurian time. This evolution through all these incarnations will continue for a long time yet, till towards the end of earthly evolution when other forms of human development will have come in. Now you know that what we call the eternal nucleus or kernel of the human being, the individuality, continues from incarnation to incarnation. But you also know that the greater number of people have to-day no recollection, no consciousness, as yet of their incarnations, and men do not as yet remember what happened to them during their former incarnations. Only those who have developed a certain degree of clairvoyance can look at their past incarnations.
What sequence would there be between a man's incarnations upon earth when he cannot remember his former incarnations, if certain beings were not there to connect the separate incarnations, and watch the progress of the individual from one incarnation to the other? We have to assign one of these Beings to each man, a being who, being one stage higher, can lead the individuality over from one incarnation to the other. These are not the beings who rule Karma [but] preserve the memory from one incarnation to the other, so long as the man is not himself aware of it. These Beings are the Angels. Each man is a personality in each incarnation, and over each man a being watches, who has a consciousness which passes from one incarnation to the other. This makes it possible that in certain inferior grades of initiation, man is able, even if he does not himself know anything about his past incarnations, to ask his Angel about them. This is quite possible for certain lower degrees of initiation. The Beings who, as Angels, are one stage higher than men, have to keep watch over the whole human thread of life, which is spun for each single individuality from one incarnation to another.
Now, we pass on to the next group of Beings, to the Archangels — Archangeloi or Fire Spirits. These do not occupy themselves with separate men, with the single individual, but have a wider task; they bring single lives into harmonious order with the life of larger human groups, as, for instance, nations, races, etc. Within our earth's evolution the Archangels’ task is to bring into certain harmonious relationship each single soul with the national or race-soul. For those who penetrate into spiritual knowledge, the souls of races are something quite different from what they are for the lovers of the abstract in the science of to-day, or for present day culture in general. On a certain territory, (let us take Germany, France or Italy) live so and so many people, and because the physical eye sees only so many external human forms, such lovers of the abstract can imagine what is called the Soul of a nation or Spirit of a nation only as a comprehensive general idea of a nation. For the lover of abstractions the separate man only is real, not the soul of the nation, not the spirit of the nation. For one who truly sees into the inner working of spiritual life, that which is called the nation's soul or spirit, is a reality. In the soul of a nation there lives and weaves what we call a fire-spirit or an Archangel; he regulates, so to speak, the relation between separate men and the nation or races as a whole
Then we rise to those beings whom we designate the Spirits of Personality, primeval beginnings, primeval forces, or Archai. These are still loftier Beings, who have a still higher task in the continuity of human existence. Fundamentally speaking, they regulate the earthly relations of whole human generations on earth, and they live in such a way that, on the waves of time, from epoch to epoch, they transform themselves at certain definite periods, they assume other spiritual bodies. Here again, you all know something of that which for the lovers of the abstract, is merely an idea, but which is a reality for those who can look into actual spiritual existence; it is that which is given a truly ugly name — the spirit of the time. You have here to do with that which represents the meaning and the mission of an epoch of humanity; picture to yourselves that we could describe the meaning and the mission of, for instance, the first thousands of years immediately after the Atlantean catastrophe. This ‘Spirit of the Age’ comprises something which reaches beyond single nations, beyond single races. Such a spirit is not limited to this or that nation, it goes beyond the limits of nations. That which one really calls a ‘Zeit geist’ or Spirit of an epoch is the spiritual body of the Archai or the Primeval Beginnings or Spirits of Personality. It is to these Spirits of Personality that one has to ascribe the fact that within certain epochs, certain definite personalities appear on our earth. You understand, do you not, that earthly tasks have to be solved by earthly personalities; in a definite epoch, some epoch-making personality has had to appear. A strange muddle would come into the evolution of the earth if it were all left to chance, and Luther or Charlemagne were placed within any epoch, no matter which. This must be thought out first, the connexion with the whole evolution of humanity over the whole earth, has to be thought out; the right soul has to appear in harmony with the meaning of the whole earth's development. This is regulated by the Spirits of Personality, the Archai or primeval origins.
And when we get beyond the Archai, we reach to those Beings whom we touched on yesterday, the so called Powers, — Exusiai, whom we also call the Spirits of Form. Here we have to do with tasks that reach beyond the earth. We differentiate in the course of human development a Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan evolution. We have now seen how all that happens within the earth itself is regulated by the Angels as regards the individual men, by Archangels as regards the relation between individuals and the large masses of humanity, and by the Spirits of Personality for the whole development of man, from the Lemurian period up to the period when man will again be so largely spiritualised that he will hardly belong to the earth. But something else has yet to be regulated. Humanity will have to be guided from one planetary condition to another. Spiritual Beings must also exist, whose care it is during the whole earth evolution to see that when that evolution will have come to an end, humanity may pass in the right manner through a Pralaya and find its way to the next goal, to the Jupiter goal. These are the Powers or Spirits of Form; yesterday we characterised their task from above downwards, now we characterise them from below upwards. The spirits whose care it is to see that the whole of humanity should be led from one planetary condition to another, are the Powers, Exusiai or Spirits of Form.
We must now make a certain disclosure about the Cosmic position of these Beings. In spiritual science, in that which it is desired to continue to-day in Anthroposophy, and which is at bottom [of] the Wisdom of the Mysteries, these different Beings of the heavenly Hierarchies have always been spoken of as we have spoken of them to-day. We heard yesterday that the present Saturn represents the limit up to which reached the action of the Thrones or Spirits of Will; Jupiter, the limit up to which the Dominions, Spirits of Wisdom, acted; and Mars, the boundary line up to which reached the influence of the Mights, Dynamis or Virtutes, or Spirits of Motion.
We may now characterise in a similar way how the Beings we named to-day divided specially the realms over which they held sway within our solar system. We must here touch on something which will perhaps call forth a certain amazement, even in you, who are already in a certain way schooled Anthroposophists, but which is absolutely in accordance with the truth. In the school curriculum of the present day, it is indicated that once upon a time, in grey antiquity, before Copernicus, there had been a conception of our Solar system which is known as the Ptolemaic System. People then believed that the earth stood in the centre of our system, and that the planets coursed round it, as they appear to do to our ordinary physical sight. Since Copernicus one knows — at least so people say — what people did not know formerly, that the Sun stands in the middle and that the planets circle around it, in their respective ellipses. But that which ought to be made quite clear and precise to people by such a description of our solar system, if one sincerely and honestly expounds it in the present day sense, is still something quite different. One ought to say: up to Copernicus, people knew only certain forms of movement in Universal space, and according to these, they judged how it could be with our solar system. What Copernicus did is not that he, so to speak, took a chair and gazed into space to see how the sun stands in some point of a circle or ellipse and how the planets turn around it; but he made a calculation, and this calculation explains what is seen in a simpler way than the former calculation did. The Copernican world system is nothing but the result, the product, of thought. Let us look at it once from the point of view of the Ptolemaic. Let us consider that the Sun stands in the middle, let us calculate where the places of the planets must be, and then search whether it coincides with experience. Certainly, for mere physical observation, it coincides at first completely. Certainly one has built upon it all sorts of world systems, the Kant-Laplace system, for instance; but there one reaches a point where there were continual discoveries, a point which is no more scientifically quite honest. For later on, by purely physical observation, two planets have been added to it — we have not touched on them yet, but later we will show what they signify for our system — these are Uranus and Neptune. When one describes this world system one certainly should turn people's attention to the fact that in reality these two planets Uranus and Neptune, very much impair the truth of the calculation. If one accepts the Kant-Laplace system, then, according to it, Uranus and Neptune should move with their moons as the other moons move around the other planets. But they do not; we even have among those outer planets, these two lately discovered planets, one which behaves in a very strange way. In reality, if the Kant-Laplace system is correct, somebody must, after having split off the rest of the planets, [have] turned the axis in such a way that it revolved at 90°, for its course is different from that of the other planets. These two differ greatly from the other planets of our solar systems. We shall see later how it is with them, but now we simply call attention to the fact that with the Copernican system we have only to do with a calculation, with something established as an hypothesis, as an assumption, at a time when man had gone completely adrift from the perception of spiritual co-relations and of what lies spiritually at the foundation of external happenings. But the old Ptolemaic system is not merely a physical system, it is one which was still derived from spiritual observation, when one knew that planets are boundary marks for certain realms where the higher Beings held sway. We must design our whole solar planetary system in a different way if we are to characterise these realms of control correctly. I shall draw this planetary system for you as it was expounded in the Mystery Schools of Zarathustra. We could just as well turn to other Mysteries for counsel, but we shall specially select this system for the explanation of our solar system with its planets, in respect of the spiritual Beings who are active within.
[In order to make this paragraph of use to the ordinary student it has been necessary to depart from the version as it stood in the reported text. The difference lies in the calculation of the dates. The conclusion to be drawn is approximately the same. We know Christ came during Pisces, which began 270 B.C. Add 2150 years and we get the following: —
- 2420 B.C. as the beginning of Aries,
- 4570 B.C. as the beginning of Taurus,
- 6720 B C. as the beginning of Gemini.
Since our year 1881 we are under Aquarius. In other words:
- Gemini begins 6720 B.C. down to 4570 B.C.
- Taurus begins 4570 B.C. down to 2420 B.C.
- Aries begins 2420 B.C. down to 270 B.C.
- Pisces begins 270 B.C. down to 1881 A.D.
In the System of Zarathustra something was accepted which differs from our observation of the heavens. You know that one can observe a certain progress of the Sun — call it apparent or otherwise: — through the Zodiac during the course of long years. It is generally said — and it is correct — that from about the year 270 B.C. the sun in spring rose at the first point of spring in the Zodiacal sign of Pisces. But every year the sun advanced a little further, so that in the course of long, long epochs of time, it traverses, as regards its point of rising through the whole of one Zodiacal sign. Before 270 B.C. it did not rise in Pisces but in Aries, with its rising point in spring-time, it travelled through the whole sign of Aries during 2150 years. Before that, Taurus had been the Zodiacal constellation in the spring during the previous period of 2150 years. And if we go back to five or six thousand years B.C., we find the spring-point in the Zodiacal sign of Gemini. That was the time in which the Mystery Schools of Zarathustra flourished.
Far back into hoary antiquity these Schools flourished and, when speaking of the appearance of the heavens, they calculated everything according to the constellation of Gemini, so that if we wanted to draw the Zodiac in the way we characterised it yesterday, we should have to place the constellation of Gemini here at the top. Then one would have to draw, in direct connection with the Zodiac, that which bounds the realm of the Thrones or Spirits of Will, the boundary of which is Saturn. Then we come to the boundary limit of the realm of those spiritual Beings whom we call the Spirits of Wisdom — the utmost boundary being Jupiter. Then we reach the limit of the realm of the Spirits of Motion of which the limit is Mars. We have seen that between these lies the battlefield which the fight in Heaven has left behind. Now if we want to divide the realms of power correctly, we must draw the boundary line of the Sun. Thus, just as we draw Mars as the boundary point up to which is the domain ruled by the Mights and Spirits of Motion, we must draw the Sun itself as marking the
limit to which the Lordship of the Powers or the Spirits of Form extends. And then we come to the boundary which we designate with the sign of Venus. The realm of the Spirits of Personality or Archai reaches to Venus. Next we come to the boundary of the realm, the limit of which is marked by the sign of Mercury, and is the realm of those Beings, whom we call Archangels or Fire Spirits. And now we come very near the earth. We can now designate the realm which has the Moon for a landmark, and here we draw the earth.
You must look on the earth as the Starting Point surrounded by a region under the dominion of certain Beings which reaches to the Moon. Then comes a region extending as far as Mercury, then one extending to Venus, and then one to the Sun.
You may be astonished at the sequence in which I have placed the planets. When the earth is here, and the Sun there, you would have thought that I should draw Mercury in the vicinity of the Sun, and Venus here. But no! For these Planets have had their names interchanged, in later Astronomy. That which is called Mercury to-day was called Venus in all ancient teachings, and that which is called Venus was called Mercury. Thus, note it well, one does not understand the ancient writings when one takes that which in them is called Venus or Mercury for the Venus or Mercury of the present day. That which is said about Venus has to be applied to the Mercury of to-day, and what is said about Mercury to Venus. For those two designations were later interchanged. On the occasion when man turned the world system topsy-turvy, when the earth was deprived of its central position, the perspective was not only changed, but the designations of Mercury and Venus were also changed.
Now you will very easily bring into harmony what is drawn here with the physical or Copernican theory. You need only think: here is ☉, the Sun; around it turns Venus; further around it circles Mercury. Then the Moon turns round the earth. Then Jupiter revolves around it, then Saturn. You must think of the physical movements of each planet revolving round the Sun; but you can imagine such a position when the earth ♁, so to say, stands here and the other planets have revolved so, that on their way they find themselves behind the Sun. Thus if I drew it, it would be so; we draw our usual physical system, we draw the Sun as the one burning point, and let Venus, Mercury and the Earth with her Moon revolve round it. These are Earth, Venus, Mercury, according to the ancient designation. The next following is Mars, then after the Planetoids comes Jupiter, then Saturn. Now imagine it so that whilst ♁, the earth stands below, and Mercury and Venus follow, that then Mars ♂, stands there above, Jupiter ♃, there, and so on. Now you have the Sun, and Mercury, and the Venus of to-day ♀, here. It is plausible, that if those planets can take all sort of positions towards each other, they might also have once stood thus. This is how the Copernican system is drawn, only a point of time is chosen, when the Earth, Mercury and Venus are on the one side of the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, the other planets, on its other side.
This is what I have drawn, and nothing else. Here are Earth, Mercury, Venus, on the one side, and on the other side, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. Thus, we have to do only with a change of perspective. This system is quite possible but only when this constellation was there. It is a fact that it was there at a certain epoch, when Gemini was above Saturn. Then one could observe clairvoyantly with particular exactness the connections between the regions in which the Spiritual Hierarchies hold sway. It was then revealed that around the Earth, up to the Moon, was the sphere of the Angels. In fact when one does not use the physical system as a foundation, one gets around the earth up to the Moon, the sphere of the Angels, up to Mercury the sphere of the Archangels, up to Venus that of the Archai or Spirits of Personality, and lastly up to the Sun is the realm of the Exusiai or Spirits of Form. Then comes the sphere — as I characterised it yesterday — of the Virtutes or Mights, then the sphere of the Dominions, and then that of the Thrones.
When one speaks of the Copernican and of the Ptolemaic systems, one must have it clear in one's mind that in the Ptolemaic system something still remains of the constellation of ruling Spirits, and there the Earth must be taken as the starting point of the perspective. A future will come when this world system will again be the correct one; because Man will again know about the Spiritual World. It is to be hoped that men will be then less fanatical than they are to-day
To day, it is said: ‘Before Copernicus, people all talked nonsense, they all had a primitive world system. Since Copernicus we at last know what is right. All else is false, and because the Copernican system is the right one it will be taught in all ages, even if it were for millions of years.’ This is more or less the talk of the day. There hardly ever existed such superstitious folk as are the modern astronomical theorists; and there hardly ever was such fanaticism as there is in this domain of science. It is to be hoped that future generations will be more tolerant and that they will say: ‘From the fifteenth or sixteenth century men ceased to be conscious of the existence of the spiritual world, and that one must have other perspectives in the spiritual worlds, that there, one must arrange the heavenly bodies into a different order than when one observes in a merely physical way.’ Formerly that was done, but the time came when men considered the order and regulation of the heavenly bodies only from the physical point of view. ‘We can do this also,’ will cry the men of the future, and from the sixteenth century onwards it was quite correct. ‘Men had for a time to overlook the spiritual world but then people bethought themselves again and recollected that there was a spiritual world, they then returned to the original spiritual perspective.’ It is to be hoped that the men of the future will comprehend that there also was once an astronomical Mythology, and will not look upon our times with the same disdain with which the men of the modern superstitions look upon their forefathers.
We see that the Copernican system became different, simply because merely physical standpoints were taken into account in relation to it. Before that, in the Ptolemaic system, there were still remnants of a spiritual point of view. Only through taking into consideration the other system, can one form any idea of the rulership and the action of the spiritual Beings within our solar-planetary-system. We keep to physical conditions when we say: Up to the Moon the Angels exercise their power, up to Mercury the Archangels, to Venus the Spirits of Personality, up to the Sun the Powers, as far as to Mars the Mights. Then come the Beings we call the Dominions, and here lastly the Thrones. We need only draw in other lines to designate the physical system, then we have in these lines the limits of the realms of power of the Hierarchies. As regards spiritual activities it is not our Sun at all which stands in the centre of the system, but the earth. Therefore, all the ages which have regarded spiritual development as the most essential part, have said: Certainly the Sun is a far nobler heavenly body, Beings have evolved upon it who stand higher than man; but that with which evolution is concerned is man, who lives upon the earth. And when the Sun withdrew from the Earth, it did so in order that man should develop in the right way. If the Sun had remained united to the earth man could never have been able to progress at the right tempo. This was possible only because the Sun withdrew along with those Beings who could bear quite different conditions. It left the earth to itself, so to speak, so that man might find his tempo for his own development. A world system grows into this or that according to the point of departure — the perspective chosen. If one asks, where is the centre of our world system, seeing in it only what the purely physical senses can observe, then it is found in the Copernican system. If one asks about the arrangement of our solar system as it depends on the regions ruled over by the spiritual Hierarchies, we must place the earth as its centre, we then get other boundary lines; the planets then become something quite different, they become limits for the region over which each spiritual Hierarchy holds sway.
And now you will easily be able to see the correspondence between what has been just said about the spacial distribution of each sphere of influence, with that which has been said about the task and mission of each group of Beings.
The Beings who are nearest to the earth, who hold sway in the immediate surroundings of the earth up to the Moon, are the Angels. From that region they guide the life of each single Individual as it progresses from incarnation to incarnation.
But something more is needed in order that whole masses of nations may be distributed in accordance with their mission upon earth. A little thought will reveal that co-operation with the cosmos is here necessary. It really depends on cosmic, not earthly conditions, whether a nation has one sort of character or another. Only think how a race with different qualities, for instance in hair and in skin, acts otherwise than another race would do; here we have the interactions of conditions which must be regulated from heavenly spaces. This is done from a region whose lordship extends up to Mercury, to the boundary of the Archangel's sphere of action.
Further, when the whole of humanity as it develops upon earth has to be guided and led, this has to be effected from still wider heavenly spaces, from that which extends as far as to Venus by the Archai.
When further, the task of the earth itself has to be led and guided, this must be done from the centre of the whole system. I have said that our humanity evolves through Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. The Beings of the spiritual Hierarchies, who direct the mission of humanity carrying it on from one planet to another, are the Powers, the Spirits of Form. They must dwell in a very special place, they are of such a nature that their sphere of power reaches up to the Sun. The Sun already existed as a special, a particular globe alongside the ancient Moon; it is now near the earth, in the future it will be near Jupiter. Its realm of power extends beyond the single planets. Therefore the existence of the Sun must be bound up with those spiritual Beings whose realm of action also extends beyond the single planets. The Sun is a very special and perfect globe for this reason, that up to it extends that realm of power which stretches beyond the single planets.
Thus you see that in reality we do not find the outer spheres or dwelling places of the Hierarchies so much on the single planets as in the regions which are limited by the orbits of the planets. If you think of the whole surrounding space from the earth up to the Moon, it is filled with Angel-activities; and if you think of the spheres from the earth to Mercury, it is filled by the activities of the Archangels, and so on.
Thus we have to do with the spheres of space; and the planets are the landmarks for realms of the spacial activities of the higher Beings. We see that a continual, progressive line of perfection is to be sought from man upwards. Man himself is chained to the earth. That eternal part of him which goes from incarnation to incarnation is guided by Beings who are not bound only to the earth, but who traverse the surrounding air and that which lies beyond it up to the Moon. And so on further.
Now, man has been engaged on his evolution upon earth since primeval times, and his relationship towards his whole evolution upon earth, is exactly similar to the relationship between the small child and the grown-up person. The latter teaches the small child. It is the same as regards the Hierarchies in the cosmos. Man, who is chained to the earth, only gradually struggles through to the knowledge he needs, to the cleverness which is necessary to him upon earth. Higher Beings must teach him. What must happen so that this object can be gained? In the beginnings of the earth's existence, Beings who were otherwise not bound to the earth, had to come down from higher spheres. And that really happened. Beings who otherwise needed only to live in the surroundings of the earth had to come down so as to communicate to men what they already knew as the older, more perfect members of the Hierarchies. They had to incarnate into human bodies, not for their own development, for they did not need it, just as a grown-up man does not study the A.B.C. for his own progress, but so as to teach it to these small children. Hence, we look back into old Atlantean and old Lemurian times, when Beings descended from the surrounding realms of the earth to which they belonged and incarnated in human bodies and became the teachers of mankind. These are Beings who belonged to higher Hierarchies, to Mercury and Venus. The sons of Venus and of Mercury descended from above and became the teachers of young humanity, so that these men, wandering in the midst of that young humanity, really represented Maya or illusion. There have been such men. Let us suppose, in order to explain it more precisely: some normally developed man of the Lemurian times met such a man. Externally he did not appear very different from others, but a spirit had entered into him whose realm extended as far as Mercury or Venus. Thus, the exterior of such a man represented in reality Maya, an illusion. He looked like other men, but he was something quite different: he was a son of Mercury, or of Venus. In the early dawn of humanity there were such apparitions. The sons of Mercury or of Venus came down and wandered among men, so that they now received within them the character of the Beings of Mercury and Venus. We have said that the Beings of Venus are the Spirits of Personality. Such Beings walked the earth as men, being outwardly limited to narrow human personalities, but who with their mighty power guided humanity. These were the great conditions of lordship in Lemurian times, when sons of Venus guided the whole of humanity. The sons of Mercury guided parts of humanity. They were as powerful as those are now whom we call spirits of nations or of race.
Maya or illusion does not only exist in the world but also as regards men. A man as he stands before us can have an external appearance which is a truth, which corresponds precisely to his soul; or else it may be a Maya; he has in reality a task, which corresponds to the task of the sons of Mercury or of the sons of Venus. This is what is meant, when it is said, that fundamentally the great guiding individualities of ancient times as they walked the earth with their ordinary names, represented a Maya, and that was what H. P. Blavatsky meant when she pointed out that the Buddhas represented Maya. You can find this very word in the Secret Doctrine. These things are derived in every respect from the teachings of the holy Mysteries: we have only to understand them.
We are now obliged to ask: How does it happen then that such a son of Venus descends to us? How does it happen that a Bodhisattva can live upon earth? The Being of a Bodhisattva, the Being of a son of Mercury, forms an important chapter in the evolution of our earth which has to do with its connexion to the Cosmos itself. Therefore, to-morrow we shall have to consider the nature of the sons of Mercury and of Venus, of the Bodhisattva or Dhyani-buddhas.