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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Awareness - Life - Form
GA 89

Special note on evolutional metamorphoses based on the principle of number

To round out the contents of this volume, reference may be made to some further important references Rudolf Steiner made to the cosmic alphabet with the help of which it is possible to read the cosmos, the great book of nature.

In a lecture given in Dornach on 1 August 1924aSteiner R. Karmic Relationships vol. 3. Tr. G. Adams. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1977. he looked back on how for him there had been a kind of shibboleth (test word, motto) for the anthroposophical movement from its beginning to enable people to read the great ‘book of nature’ again in the spirit, to find the spiritual background to the world of nature again. For this, he said, was one of the most important impulses for the new Michael age which had started in 1879. He showed how one can read the book of nature by comparing it with printed books. These involve a specific number of letters, and so does the writing in the book of nature, except that there the letters are categories, archetypes, cosmic thoughts. These make up the alphabet of cosmic alphabet. Just as someone who sees only the individual letters—a, b, c, etc.—and does not know how to combine them properly, is unable to appreciate the greatness of Goethe’s Faust, for instance, so, Steiner said, all that is active and moving in the cosmos, and the way the human being is connected with this, can only be read by someone who knows how to combine the letters of the cosmic alphabet.

In the same sense, he once said with reference to Occult Science: ‘What does it actually say in this Occult Science? [...] Thoughts are written in it, but these are not ordinary thoughts. They are the thoughts which do creative work in the world out there. [...] I may call the powers I have described in it the world-creative powers or cosmic thoughts.’ (Dornach, 24 March 1922, [in German] in GA 211.)

We can understand that the letters of the cosmic alphabet cannot be found with logical or philosophical conclusions but are gained from vision in the spirit. In the course of human evolution, people have again and again sought to read the great book of nature. This is why there are different alphabets, or rather different names given to individual letters in the cosmic alphabet. Rudolf Steiner emphatically referred to Aristotle’s ten categories and the ten sephiroth of the Jewish cabbala as such alphabets. (Dornach, 10 May 1924).bSteiner R. From Beetroot to Buddhism. Answers to Questions GA 353. Tr. A. R. Meuss. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1999. The same applies to the book of ten pages to which the French philosopher Saint-Martin referred as late as the 18th century.

The Rosicrucians also know of a ten-letter cosmic alphabet. (See German text on the ten metamorphoses of the Sun Logos according to the Rosicrucian chronicle in GA 88; also the discussion of the Rosicrucian words ‘One who is able to understand well the work of numbers, will see how his world is made ...’, [in German] in esoterische Stunden, Berlin, 12 February 1908, GA 266/1.) In his report on the theosophical congress in Munich in 1907 Rudolf Steiner referred, clearly not without purpose, to the fact that the letters E. D. N.—1. C. M.—P. S. S. R. in the programme were ‘the ten initial letters of the words expressing the goal of true Rosicrucianism: ex deo nascimur, in Christo morimur, per spirituatn sanctum reviviscimus.'

A number of statements Rudolf Steiner made show that the results of his spiritual scientific investigations were also due to the ability to read the cosmic alphabet. He said this most clearly in a lecture given in Dornach on 22 April 1924 (in GA 233a).cSteiner R. The Easter Festival. Tr. G. Adams. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1968. Considering Aristotle’s categories, he said: ‘Basically everything anthroposophy has given us and will ever be able to give, is experienced the way anything read in Faust is experienced from the letters [in the book]. For all the secrets of the physical and the spiritual world are contained in these simple ideas which make up the cosmic alphabet. [...] So you see how in ten concepts, the inner power of light and influence needs to be unveiled again, one had what for millennia had been a tremendous, instinctive revelation of wisdom.’

20 years earlier, in the lecture on the Cabbala (Berlin, 18 March 1904, in this volume) he was quite specific about this: ‘You will find it said in my Theosophy that the occult teaching [in the Cabbala] agrees with the things taught in theosophy.’

He put it even more definitely in a lecture given in Dornach on 19 September 1922 ([in German] in GA 344): ‘If we consider the whole human being as I have presented the subject in my Theosophy, in his nine parts, we find that from above down they are spirit human being, life spirit, Spirit Self, spiritual soul, rational soul, sentient soul, sentient body, ether body and physical body. These are nine. They would not connect with earthly life in the right way if there were not also a synthesis, which is the tenth. This gives us ten, and these also appear in the sephiroth of pre-Christian times, though in a form that was right for that time, when I-awareness did not yet wholly exist.’ See also the two undated sketches by Rudolf Steiner (archive Nos. 685 and 712) which follow below.

As the nine becomes the seven which determines all evolution, and as ultimately everything goes back to the three, which in turn must be seen as the two and the one—since everything can only manifest in polarities, with the one as the oneness behind them—all this can be seen from the notes made for J. Peelen and E. Schuré (in this volume).

A look at his cosmological investigations connected with the secret of numbers permitted the following to be said in a lecture given in Stuttgart on 29 August 1906:dIn At the Gates of Spiritual Science GA 95. Tr. E. H. Goddard, C. Davy. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1976. ‘There are thus seven planets with seven times seven states each, which is written as \(777\) in occult writing. In occult writing, the seven in the unit position indicates the globes, the \(7\) in the tens the rounds, and the one in the hundreds the planets. These numbers have to be multiplied with one another. Our planetary system thus has to go through \(7 \times 7 \times 7 = 343\) transformations.’ He then referred to a ‘strange passage’ in Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine, the content of which Steiner said was largely inspired by one of the most sublime spiritual figures: ‘But the great initiates always expressed themselves with great caution; they only gave pointers. Above all they always let people do some work for themselves. The passage is therefore full of riddles. H. P. B knew this. The teacher did not speak of consecutive incarnations, he merely said: Learn to solve the riddle of \(777\) incarnations. He wanted that one should learn that these are \(343\) [states of transformation]. The task is given in The Secret Doctrine, not the solution. This has only been found quite recently.’

The solution was evidently found by Rudolf Steiner himself. It may be found in the fragment written in 1903/04, where he used completely original German terms for the 7 metamorphoses gone through in states of conscious awareness, life and form. In the lectures on planetary evolution (in this volume), he also pointed out that the sum of the digits in these 343 states in the whole of evolution is 10. What does the number 10 signify?

Ten was the number given as the basis of cosmic order even in the occult knowledge of antiquity. The Pythagoreans considered it to be the all-encompassing, all-limiting mother, for it is the sum of the first four numbers: \(1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10\). And the four is the sign of the cosmos or of creation, since Earth is in its fourth embodiment—everything we find on our Earth, including the fourth principle in the human being, depends on the fact that this creation is in the fourth state of its planetary evolution (Stuttgart, 15 September 1907, in GA 101).eSteiner R. Occult Signs and Symbols from GA 101. Tr. S. Kurland. New York: Anthroposophic Press 1972. As the sum of the four is ten, we speak of ten creative or cosmic thoughts.*Why it is ten and not twelve, seeing that the number of the macrocosm is really twelve, may be seen from the lecture on the Cabbala. It ‘distinguishes twelve principles in the world, the first and last of which remain secret because they cannot be put into words at all. Only the other ten are put in words.’

It is evident from the material presented in this volume that Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual scientific alphabet is differentiated into three and seven letters, the three main letters conscious awareness - life - form, in theosophical terms first, second and third Logos, in Christian terms Father, Son and Spirit, and their possible relationships, of which there are only seven. In the 12th lecture on planetary evolution in this volume, Rudolf Steiner added the terms used in the sankhya philosophy founded by the Indian sage Kapil: sattwa, rajas, tamas, the three gunas, also with seven possible ways of combining them. These are the foundation of the sankhya system (shankya = number). Here it is enlightening to read what Rudolf Steiner said in the lectures he gave at the end of 1912, when the Anthroposophical Society was founded (GA 142).fSteiner R. The Bhagavad Gita and the Epistles of Paul GA 142. Tr. L. D. Monges, D. M. Bugbey. New York: Anthroposophic Press 1971.

In 1924, the last year of his lecturing work, Rudolf Steiner had been asked by the Christian Community priests to talk to them about Revelation. Once more the fundamental significance of the principle of number in occult investigation emerged on a grand scale. This completed a great sequence which had begun with Christianity as Mystical Fact in 1902.gSteiner R. Christianity as Mystical Fact GA 8. Tr. A. Welbum. Hudson: Anthroposophic Press 1997. In the chapter on Revelation, he showed the route, as it were, which he had to follow to reveal ‘the cosmic thoughts which are the basis of all things, the ‘fundamental ideas of creation’. Immediately after this—in 1903—he began to work on the unveiling of those cosmic thoughts in writing Theosophy, and the spiritual scientific cosmology which remained a fragment, progressively developing the theme more and more strongly.

H. W.

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