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The Foundations of Esotericism
GA 93a

Lecture IX

Berlin, 4th October 1905

We will try to understand the physical body somewhat more exactly. At the present time we distinguish within the constitution of man four members: physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego. In studying the physical body we must now enter into greater detail. Man was already something when he came into the Old Saturn existence from a far-distant past. The physical body is the oldest and most developed member at present possessed by man. It is fourfold, which is not the case with the other bodies. On Old Saturn the groundwork was already laid as a germ. The etheric body was first added on the Old Sun. There the physical body evolved a stage further. The astral body was added on the Old Moon and the physical body underwent a still further stage of development. On the Earth the ego was now added, and the physical body went through a fourth stage. So we may say that the physical body is, as it were, in the fourth grade, while the etheric body is in the third, the astral body in the second and the ego in the first.

This is why it is only the physical body as such that has self-awareness, not the other three bodies. In the moment when man closes his physical sense organs in sleep, awareness of self ceases: when he opens them to what is outside, self-awareness returns. Man gains consciousness of self because his organs enable him to observe his surroundings. Only the physical body is so far advanced that it is able to open its organs to what is outside. If the etheric and astral bodies were able with their organs to observe their surroundings, man would attain self-awareness in them also. But for this, organs are necessary. The physical body has self-awareness only through its organs. These organs of the physical body are the senses.

Let us consider the senses in their successive stages. There are in fact twelve senses.34See The Wisdom of man of the Soul and of the Spirit. The Twelve Senses and the Seven Life Processes (Golden Blade 1975). Of these, five are already physical and two others will become physical during the further development of the Earth.

The five senses which we already have are smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing. In time man will develop two other senses into proper physical senses. These two are located in the pituitary gland (hypophysis) and the pineal gland (epiphysis). These will develop the two future senses in the physical body which will then have seven senses. To understand the successive stages of the senses we must make it clear that in so far as man is a being conscious of self, he is on a descending curve. So though the body is on an ascending curve, the senses are on a descending curve.35Theosophy teaches that all development proceeds in cycles, first on a descending curve from spiritual to material and then back on an ascending curve from material to spiritual. In a lecture to the same audience in Berlin 17.10.1904 Rudolf Steiner says ‘Theosophical writings have described certain evolutionary developments as ascending and descending ... during the descent development is slowed down while during the ascent it becomes ever faster. This accelerated development does not apply to the whole physical plane but only to individual beings.’ In a lecture in Berlin 27.1.1908 there is a further clarification: ‘... so that when we are at a particular moment of our development we can always say: Yes, there are certain forces there that draw into man and pass out of him, forces that descend and forces that rise. For every such force there is always a moment when it changes from a descending to an ascending force. All forces that become ascending forces have been at first descending. They descend down to man, so to speak, and in man they achieve the strength to rise’.
In this sense ‘when the body is on the ascending curve the senses are on the descending curve’ should be understood as meaning that the physical body in general is on the rising curve because it has passed the deepest point of its material densification, while the senses are on the descending curve since there are two senses which still have to develop as physical senses.

Of the higher principles in man, Atma developed on Old Saturn, Buddhi on Old Sun and Manas on Old Moon. There was a time when the Monad assembled itself bit by bit, and then in the Lemurian Age entered into its self-constructed house. Now the Monad has descended to the fourth stage, Atma, Buddhi, Manas, Kama-Manas. This descending curve is expressed in the development of the senses. Actually, in the beginning, on Old Saturn, only one sense was present, the sense of smell. The senses that developed later had to descend from higher to ever lower regions.

In Nature we differentiate the solid, the fluid, the gaseous, the warmth ether, light ether, chemical ether and the life ether. These are the seven stages of matter. In his descent man experienced these stages from above downwards. At the beginning of evolution the first human life-germ could only manifest itself in the Life Ether. What corresponds to this stage as sense, is the sense of smell. Then man possessed the first sense, that of smell, of which only an after effect is present today. The solid has its life, as we saw a few days ago on the Maha-para-nirvana plane, the fluid on the Para-nirvana plane, the gaseous on the Nirvana plane, the Warmth Ether on the Buddhi plane, the Light Ether on the Mental plane, the Chemical Ether on the astral plane, the Life Ether on the physical plane. We can therefore also speak of the atomistic ether.

Correspondences of the Planes

Conditions of Matter

The Senses

1. Physical plane

Life ether


2. Astral plane

Chemical ether


3. Mental plane

Light ether


4. Buddhi or Shushupti plane

Warmth ether


5. Nirvana plane

Gaseous, Air


6. Para-nirvana plane


Pituitary gland

7. Maha-para-nirvana plane


Pineal gland

An object can only be smelt when it impinges on the organ of smell, comes into contact with it. The organ of smell must unite itself with the material. To smell means to perceive with a sense that enters into a relationship with the material itself.

As second stage we have the Chemical Ether. Here the sense of taste develops. This depends on dissolving what is to be tasted. We have to do, not with matter itself, but with what is made out of it. This is a chemical, physical process through which matter is changed into something different. The tongue can do this: it can first dissolve and then taste.

The third stage is to be found in the Light Ether. There sight develops. Now we do not perceive what is broken down by chemical, physical processes, but we perceive a picture of the object which is brought about by the external light.

The fourth is the Warmth Ether. In this, the sense of touch is developed. Here one no longer perceives a picture. Warmth is a passing condition of the body, a condition experienced only in the moment. We are speaking here of the sense of touch as the perception of warmth and cold; it is in fact a ‘Warmth sense’.

Fifthly we have what is of the nature of air. This corresponds to the sense of hearing. Here we no longer perceive a condition of the body in question, but what the body says to us. Now we enter into the inner nature of the body. At the sound of a bell it is not the bell itself that interests us, not the outer form, the matter, but what it has to disclose of its inner nature. Hearing is a uniting with what reveals itself as the spiritual in matter. At this stage the life of the senses goes over from the passive to the active. The passively received sound becomes in man active in speech. Through speech man gives utterance to his soul being.

As the sixth stage we have the fluid element. The sense organ corresponding to the fluid is the pituitary gland. This is situated in the brain in an elongated cylindrical form.

As seventh stage we have the solid. The appropriate sense organ is the pineal gland.

As now, when man speaks he influences the air, so later he will gain an influence over what is fluid.36For further clarification of this passage see lecture 12.6.1907 Occult Seals and Pillars (typescript). The ‘I think’, and thought in general, will express itself in the air and indeed in forms, for example as crystals. At the next stage feeling will also be involved with thinking. Development will work backwards. The warmth of the heart will then express itself in oscillations, and flow outwards together with thought. And the last stage will be achieved by man when he will create actual beings which remain; when through the word he will externalise what he wills. The expression of feeling is merely a transition. When man becomes creative through the will, then the beings which he brings forth will have actual existence.

In times to come man will bring forth into his surroundings what he feels. This will be imparted to the fluid element. The entire fluid element of the planet which will follow next (the future Jupiter) will be an expression of what people feel. Today man sends out words; they are inscribed into the Akasha. There they remain, even though the airwaves vanish. Out of these words the Future Jupiter will later be formed. When therefore today man uses evil, blasphemous language, then on Jupiter terrible formations will be brought about. This is why one should be so very careful of what one says, and why it is so immensely important that man should be master of his speech. In the future man will also send out his feelings; the conditions of the fluids on Jupiter will be a result of feelings on the Earth. What man speaks today will give Jupiter its form; what he feels will engender its inner warmth; what he wills determines the separate beings inhabiting Jupiter. The Future Jupiter will be constructed out of the basic powers of the human soul.

Just as today we can trace the rock formation of the Earth back to earlier conditions, so will the rock formation of the Future Jupiter be the result of our words. The ocean of Jupiter, the warmth of Jupiter, will arise out of the feelings of present-day humanity. The beings of Jupiter will arise out of human will. Thus the inhabitants of a previous planet create the basic conditions for its successor. And beings who today still [Gap in text ...] hover over the earth, as was once the case with the Monads, will enter into incarnation on the Future Jupiter. There will then exist a kind of Jupiter-Lemurian race. Beings will be there which we have created as the Pitris did. Just as we inhabited the grotesque forms of the Old Moon, so these beings will inhabit the forms which we develop by means of our pineal gland.

We are building the house for future Monads. A similar procedure took place when the development of the human being led over from the Old Moon to the Earth. This makes absolutely clear how everything external is actually created from within outwards.

It is difficult to distinguish the pure physical body from what has been formed through human error. A hunchback owes his deformity to the astral, to Karma. The external form, the physiognomy and so on, are dependent on Karma. Modifications of the physical body are therefore dependent on the higher bodies. When one eliminates everything that depends on Karma we find that the physical body is in fact wisely ordered. All forms of illness are errors which find their expression in the physical body. All illnesses have been wrong-doing in the past, all wrong-doing will be illness in the future. When human beings become truly worthy, the bodies of the beings they create will be equally imbued with wisdom.

All wisdom, feeling and will, in the next evolution, will actually be present as form and being. The physical body is called a temple in all ancient religions because its structure is so filled with wisdom. It is not correct to speak of the physical body as the lower nature, for what is lower in man does in fact lie in the higher bodies which today are still in infancy.

Here we can consider an important karmic connection. We live in a materialistic age and this is the result of a preceding age. This materialistic age has accomplished much, not only outwardly but also inwardly. We may think for instance of the decrease in mortality through hygienic measures. This is actually a step forward, brought about by hygienic means. Such external progress is always a karmic result of progress which earlier has been made inwardly. These steps forward in the physical are the result of inner steps forward in the Middle Ages. Today therefore it would be quite wrong to look back on the ‘dark’ Middle Ages. Our most significant materialists have been educated idealistically; for instance, Haeckel, Büchner, Moleschott. This is why their systems are thought out so admirably; but this they owe to their idealistic education. Present day materialism is actually the outer expression of the preceding idealistic period.

Now too we must work in preparation for the future. Just as the karmic result of the earlier idealistic period made its appearance in materialism, so again a new beginning must be made in regard to Idealism and spiritual impulses. It was in accordance with this law that the leading personalities acted when they called the Theosophical Movement into life.

The 14th century was the time of the creation of towns. Within a few hundred years independent towns had developed in all civilised European countries. The burgher is the founder of materialism in practical life. This comes to expression in the Lohengrin myth.37The Lohengrin figure first appears in Eschenbach's ‘Parzifal’ as a knight of the Grail and son of Parzifal. The saga was further developed in a poem in middle high German dating from the end of the 13th century. A simpler form is Conrad von Würzburg's Schwanenritter. See also Rudolf Steiner's lecture 29.3.1906 on Parzifal and Lohengrin (Typescript). Lohengrin, the emissary of the Grail Lodge, was the wise leader who took hold in the Middle Ages and prepared the way for the establishment of towns. The swan was his symbol; the initiate of the Third Grade is the Swan. Consciousness is always represented as something feminine. Elsa of Brabant represents the consciousness of the materialistic civic sense. The spiritual life had, however, to be saved; this happened through the fact that Christian Rosenkreuz38See: The Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz lecture 1912-13. founded the Rosicrucian Order. Spiritual life remained in the Mystery Schools. Today materialism has been driven to uttermost extremes. This is why in our time something new must break in. At that time the same movement took hold which today through Theosophy makes popular the elementary teachings of spiritual life in order to create once again a new inner impulse that will later be able to reveal itself outwardly. The inner always comes later to outer expression. An illness is the karmic result of earlier wrongdoing, for instance, lying. When something of this kind becomes outer reality, it manifests as illness. Epidemics can be traced far back to the misdeeds of a people. They are something imperfect which from being inward has been exteriorised. The sixth sense is the Kundalini light radiating warmth;39see lecture 18.10.1904 in History of the Middle Ages (Typescript) the seventh is the synthesizing sense.