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The Foundations of Esotericism
GA 93a

Lecture VI

Berlin, 1st October 1905

Today we will take as our subject the different ranks of beings to which man belongs. Man, as he is at present is a developing being who was not always as he is now. There are not only stages of development lying before and behind him, but also beings co-existent with him, just as the child today has the old man beside him who is at another stage of development. Today we will deal with seven ranks of beings, and in this connection we must clearly differentiate between receptive and creative beings.

Let us take as an example a colour which we perceive with our eyes, for instance red or green. In this respect we are receptive beings. The colour must however first be produced in order that we may perceive it; we must therefore be confronted with another being who produces the colour, for instance red. Through this we recognise the different stages of beings. If we put together everything which approaches our senses, there must also be a soul to receive it; but conversely something must also be present in order that the sense impressions may be brought to us. There are beings who can manifest. These have a more god-like or deva-character. Beings whose nature is more adapted to receiving have a more element[al] character. God-like beings are of a manifesting nature. Elemental beings are of a receptive nature.

Here, in this domain, we have the creative wisdom which manifests outwardly, and the wisdom which is received by the human soul. Wisdom is in the light and discloses itself in all sense impressions. Behind what is revealed we must assume the revealers, beings of will nature; wisdom is that which is revealed.

Man is both receptive and creative. On the one hand, for instance with regard to all sense impressions, he is receptive, with regard to thinking however he is creative. Nothing gives rise to thoughts unless he first produces perceptions. Thus he is on the one hand a receptive being and on the other hand a creative being. This is an important difference. Let us imagine that man were to be in a position to create everything he perceives, sounds, colours and so on, just as today he creates thoughts. Today he is only creative in one sphere, in thinking, and in order to have perceptions he needs creative beings around him. In bringing forth his own being he was at first creative. In the beginning he himself created his own organism. For this he now needs other beings. Now man must incarnate in a bodily form determined from outside. Here he is closer to the elemental beings than to the sphere of perception and thinking.

Let us imagine for once that man were able to bring forth sounds, colours and other sense perceptions and also his own being. Then we should have the human being as he was before the Lemurian race, who is called the “pure” man. Man becomes impure through the fact that he does not produce his own being, but incorporates something other into his nature. This pure man was called Adam Cadmon. When at the beginning of Genesis the Bible speaks of man, it speaks of this pure human being. This human being had as yet nothing kamic (astral) within him. Desire first appeared after he had incorporated other elements into himself. Thus there arose the second stage of humanity, the kama-rupic man (man with an astral body). The higher animal is to be seen as at a lower stage of this development. Without warm blood no beings can possess an independent Kama-rupa (astral body). All warm-blooded animals are derived from man.

Thus to begin with we have the pure man who up to the Lemurian Age actually led a super-sensible existence and brought forth out of himself everything that lived and was part of him.

Present day cold-blooded animals and the plants have developed in a different way from the warm-blooded animals. Those which exist today are remnants of strange, gigantic beings. Some of these can be verified by science. They are decadent animals which are descended from those which the pure man made use of in order to incarnate in them, so that he might have a body for what is kamic (astral). At first the pure man had found no means of incarnating on the earth. He still hovered above what was manifested. From among these huge, powerful beings (animals) man made use of the most developed in order to incarnate in them. He attached himself to these beings and thereby he was in a position to bring into them his own Kama (astral body). Some of these beings developed further and then became the animals of Atlantis and present day humanity. However it was not possible for all of them to adapt themselves. Those who failed became the lower vertebrate animals; kangaroos for instance are such attempts as proved unsuccessful on the way to becoming man—like pottery vessels which are rejected and left behind.

Now man tried to introduce Kama into the animal forms. Kama is first to be found in the human form, in actual fact in the heart, in the warm blood and in the circulation of the blood. Attempts were made again and again and in this way there was an ascent from stage to stage. We see unsuccessful attempts for instance in the sloths, the kangaroos, the beasts of prey, the monkeys and apes. All these remained behind on the way. The warm-blooded animals are unsuccessful attempts to become human forms endowed with Kama. Everything in them which is of the nature of Kama, man also could have within himself; but he unloaded it into them, for he was unable to use this kind of Kama. There is an important occult axiom: Every quality has two opposite poles. So we find, just as positive and negative electricity complement one another, so we have warmth and cold, day and night, light and darkness and so on. In the same way every Kamic quality also has two opposite aspects. For instance man has cast rage out of himself into the lion, and this, on the other hand, when ennobled by him, can lead him upward to his higher self. Passion should not be annihilated, but purified. The negative pole must be led upwards to a higher stage. This purifying of passion, this leading upwards of its negative aspect was called by the Pythagoreans catharsis. At first man had within him the rage of the lion and the cunning of the fox. Thus the kingdom of the warm-blooded animals is a comprehensive picture of Kama qualities. Today the opinion is commonly held that the ‘Tat twam asi’ (‘That art thou’), is to be understood as something general and undefined, but one must conceive something quite definite underlying it. Thus in the case of the lion man must say to himself: That art thou. We have therefore in the kingdom of the warm-blooded animals spread out before us the kama-rupic human being. Previously there only existed the pure man: Adam Cadmon.

The philosopher of natural science, Oken, who in the first half of the 19th century was a professor in Jena, was acquainted with all these ideas and expressed them in a grotesque way in order to nudge people to attention. Here we find an example which points to a still earlier stage of human development, before man separated off from himself the kingdom of the cold-blooded animals. Oken connected the cuttlefish with the human tongue. In this analogy of the tongue with the cuttlefish one can find an occult significance. Now we also have beings who for the first time are, as it were, being conjured up as by-products. Man has ejected from himself the cunning of the fox and retained its opposite pole. In the fox's cunning however the germ of something else is beginning to develop, for example something similar to the way in which the black shadow of an object has a secondary shadow when light enters it from outside. We incorporated cunning into the fox out of our inner being. Now spirit is directed towards him from the periphery. The beings which in this way work from the periphery into what is kamic are elemental beings. What the fox has received from us, is in him animal; what coming from outside attaches itself to him from the spirit, is elemental being. On the one hand he originated through the spirit of humanity and on the other hand through an Elemental being.

Thus we differentiate: firstly, elemental beings, secondly, the kama-rupic man, thirdly, the pure man, fourthly, the man who in a certain respect has overcome the pure man, who has taken into himself what is outside and around him and is creatively active. He has contacted and taken into himself everything which is around him in earthly existence. This gives him the plans, the directions, the laws which create life. Once man was perfect and he will become so again. But there is a great difference between what he was and what he will become. What is around him in the outer world will later become his spiritual possession. What he has won for himself on the Earth will later become the faculty of being creatively active. This will then have become his innermost being. One who has absorbed all earthly experiences, so that he knows how to make use of every single thing and has thus become a creator, is called a Bodhisattva, which means a man who has taken into himself to a sufficient degree the Bodhi, the Buddhi of the earth. Then he is advanced enough to work creatively out of his innermost impulses. The wise men of the earth are not yet Bodhisattvas.24See: The Christ Impulse and the Development of the Ego Consciousness, lecture 1, 25.10.1909 and From Buddha to Christ 21.9.1911. Even for such a one there always remain things to which he is still unable to orient himself. Only when one has absorbed into oneself the entire knowledge of the Earth, in order to be able to create, only then is one a Bodhisattva; Buddha, Zarathustra, for example, were Bodhisattvas.

When man ascends still further in evolution, so that he is not only a creator on the Earth, but possesses forces which reach out above the Earth, only then is he free to choose either to use these higher forces or to work further with them on the Earth. In this case he can bring into the Earth something coming from higher worlds. Such an epoch occurred before man began to incarnate, in the last third of the Lemurian Age. The human being had developed his physical, etheric and astral bodies. He had brought these members of his being with him from an earlier Earth evolution. The two next impulses, Kama and Manas, he could not have found on the Earth; they do not lie in its evolutionary sequence. The first new impulse (Kama) was only to be found as a force on Mars. It was added shortly before man incarnated. The second impulse (Manas) came from Mercury in the fifth sub-race of the Atlanteans, with the original Semites. The stimulus of these new principles had to be brought to the Earth from other planets through still higher beings, through the Nirmana-kayas. From Mars they added Kama, from Mercury Manas. The Nirmana-kayas are yet another stage higher than the Bodhisattvas. The latter are able to order evolution which has continuity; but they cannot bring into it what comes from other regions, this can only be done by the Nirmana-kayas. [In] yet another stage higher than the Nirmana-kayas, stand those beings who are called Pitris. Pitris = Fathers. For the Nirmana-kayas can indeed bring something coming from other regions into evolution, but they cannot sacrifice themselves, sacrifice themselves as substance, so that on the following planet they can bring forth a new cycle. This can be done by the Pitris, beings who had evolved on the Moon and had now come over; they became the activating impulse towards Earth evolution. When man has gone through every possible experience, then he is in a position to become a Pitri. The next and even higher stage, the last that it is possible to mention, is that of the Gods themselves.

Thus we have seven ranks of beings: Firstly the Gods, secondly Pitris, thirdly Nirmana-kayas, fourthly Bodhisattvas, fifthly pure human beings, sixthly human beings, seventhly elemental beings. This is the sequence of which Helena Petrovna Blavatsky speaks.

Now we can add the question: What kind of organ is it which has made man kama-rupic? It is the heart with the veins and the blood that pulsates through the body. The heart has a physical part and an etheric part. Aristotle25Here Rudolf Steiner is presumably referring to the minor scientific writings (Parva naturalia) ‘On Youth and Age, Life and Death’. speaks about this, for in earlier times it was only the etheric man which was held to be important. The heart has also an astral part. The etheric heart is connected with the twelve-petalled lotus flower. Not all the physical organs have an astral part; for example the gall bladder is only physical and etheric, the astral is lacking.