Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Foundations of Esotericism
GA 93a

Lecture XIV

Berlin, 9th October 1905

Again and again we must make clear to ourselves that this sojourn in Devachan is nowhere else than where we ourselves are in physical life. For Devachan, the astral and the physical world are nothing other than three interpenetrating worlds. We can form the most correct idea of Devachan if we think of the world of electric forces before electricity had been discovered. There was a time when all this was contained in the physical world, only it was then an occult world. Everything that is occult has at some time to be discovered. The difference between life in Devachan and that in the physical world is that man in his present epoch is endowed with organs enabling him to perceive the physical world but not with organs that enable him to behold the phenomena of Devachan.

Let us imagine ourselves in the soul of someone living between two incarnations. He has given over his physical body to the forces of the earth and relinquished his etheric body to the life-forces. Furthermore he has given back that part of his astral body into which he himself has not worked. He then finds himself in Devachan. He no longer has as personal possession what the gods had worked into his etheric and astral bodies; all this has been cast aside. He now possesses only what he himself has achieved in the course of many lives. In Devachan this remains his own. All that man has done in the physical world serves the purpose of making him more and more conscious in Devachan.

Let us take the relationship of one person to another. It can be said that this is simply a natural one, for instance the relationship between brothers and sisters who have been brought together through natural circumstances. It is however only partially natural, for moral and intellectual factors are continually playing in. Through his Karma man is born into a particular family; but not everything is conditioned by Karma. The natural relationship, into which nothing else is intermixed, we have in the case of the animals. In the case of human beings there is always a moral relationship also, through Karma. The relationship between two people can however also exist without this being conditioned by nature. For instance a bond of intimate friendship can arise between two people in spite of outer hindrances. As a rather extreme case let us assume that they were at first mutually somewhat unsympathetic to one another and that they found the way to each other on a purely intellectual and moral basis, soul to soul. Let us contrast this with the natural relationship between members of a family. With the relationship of soul to soul we have a powerful means of developing devachanic organs. In no way can devachanic organs be more easily developed at present than by such relationships. Such a relationship is unconsciously a devachanic one.

What a person develops in his present life in the way of soul faculty through friendship of a purely soul nature, in Devachan is wisdom, the possibility of experiencing the spiritual in action. To the extent to which someone enters livingly into such connections he is well prepared for Devachan. If he is unable to form such relationships he is unprepared; for just as colour escapes a blind man, so does soul experience escape him. To the degree to which man fosters purely soul relationships do organs of vision develop in him for Devachan. So that the statement holds good: Whoever lives and moves here in the life of the spirit, will over there perceive just as much of the spiritual as he has gained here through his activity. Hence the immeasurable importance of life on the physical plane. In human evolution no other means of awakening the organs for Devachan exists other than spiritual activity on the physical plane. All this is creative and comes back to us as devachanic sense organs for the devachanic world. As preparation there is nothing better than to have a purely soul relationship with other human beings, a relationship whose origin is in no way based upon natural connections.

This is why people should be brought together into groups, in order to unite on a purely spiritual basis. It is the will of the Masters to pour life in this way into the stream of humanity. What takes place with the right attitude of mind signifies for all the members of the group the opening of a spiritual eye in Devachan. One will then see there everything which is on the same level with what one had united oneself with here. If on the physical plane one has attached oneself to a spiritual endeavour, this actually is among those things which retain their existence after death. Such things belong just as much to the dead as to the one who has survived him. He who has passed over remains in the same connection with the one still on earth and is indeed even more intensely conscious of this spiritual relationship.

Thus one educates oneself for Devachan. The souls of the dead remain in connection with those who were dear to them. The earlier relationships become causes which have their effects in Devachan. This is why the devachanic world is called, the world of effects and the physical world the world of causes. In no other way can man build his higher organs than by implanting the seeds for these organs on the physical plane. For this purpose man is transferred to earthly existence. What the much quoted phrase, ‘To overcome separate existence’ means, will now become clear to us. Before we descended to physical existence we lived with the content of our astral body which was brought about by a Deva. In earlier times sympathy and antipathy in the human being were stimulated by the Devas; he himself was not responsible. Then at the next stage man said to himself: Now I have entered into the physical world as a being who must find his own way. Formerly I was not able to speak the word ‘I’, now I have become for the first time a separate entity. Previously I was indeed a separate entity, but also a member of a devachanic being. On the physical plane I am a separate entity for myself, an ego, because I am enclosed in a physical body.

The higher bodies flow into one another: for instance Atma is in truth a one-ness for the whole of humanity, like an atmosphere shared in common. Nevertheless the Atma of the single human being is to be understood as if each one were to cut a piece for himself out of the common Karma, so that, as it were, incisions are made in it. But the separateness must be overcome. This we do when we form human attachments of a purely soul nature. By so doing we do away with the separateness and recognise the unity of Atma in everything.

By establishing such human relationships I awaken sympathy within me. I then undertake the task of selflessly fitting myself into the world plan. Through this the Divine is awakened in man. That is why we look out into the world.

Today we are surrounded by physical reality, by sun, moon and stars. What man had around him in the Old Moon existence, he has today within himself. The forces of the Moon now live within him. Had man not existed on the Old Moon he would not have possessed these forces. This is why the Egyptian occult teaching in esoteric centres called the Moon Isis, the Goddess of Fertility. Isis is the soul of the Moon, the precursor of the Earth. Then all the forces lived in the environment which now live in plants and animals for the purpose of reproduction. As now fire, chemical ether, magnetism and so on are around us and surround the Earth, so the moon was surrounded by those forces which enabled man, animal and plant to propagate. The forces which at present surround the Earth will in the future play an individualised role in man. What now constitutes the relationship between man and woman was on the Old Moon external physical activity, such as volcanic eruptions are today. These forces surrounded man during the Moon existence and he drew them in through his Moon-senses, in order to evolve them now. What man developed on the Old Moon through involution emerged on Earth as evolution. What man developed after the Lemurian Age as the sexual forces, is due to Isis, the soul of the Moon, which now lives on further in man. Here we have the relationship between the human being and the present moon. The moon has left its soul with man and has therefore become a mere slagheap.

While we are gaining experiences on the Earth we are gathering the forces which during the next Planetary Evolution will become our own being. Our present experiences in Devachan are the preparatory stages for future epochs. Just as man today looks up to the moon and says: ‘You have given us the forces of reproduction,’ so in the future he will look up to a moon that has arisen out of our present physical earth and as a soul-less body of slag will circle round the future Jupiter. On Future Jupiter man will develop new forces which today on the Earth he takes into himself as light and warmth and all physical sense perceptions. Later he will ray out everything which he had previously perceived through the senses. Whatever he had taken in through his soul will then be reality. So the theosophical conception does not lead us to underrate the world on the physical plane, but to understand that we must draw out of the physical plane what we need to have, experiences which will later radiate outwards. The warmth of the earth, the rays of the sun, which now stream towards us, will later stream out from us. As at the present time the sexual forces emanated from us, so it will be with these new forces.

Now let us make clear to ourselves the significance of the Devachan conditions which follow one another. At first Devachan is only short. But ever more and more spiritual organs are being formed in the Mental Body, until at last when his comprehension has embraced the wisdom of the Earth, man will have completely fashioned the organs of the devachanic body.

This will come about for the whole of mankind when all the World-Rounds are completed. Then everything will have become human wisdom. Warmth and light will then have become wisdom. Between the Earth Manvantara and the following Planetary Evolution man lives in Pralaya. Outwardly there is nothing whatever, but all the forces which man has drawn forth from the Earth are within him. In such a Life-Period the outer turns inwards. Everything is then present as seed and its life is carried over to the next Manvantara. Broadly speaking this is a similar condition to that in which we, in the moment of retrospect, forget all that is around us and only remember our experiences in order to preserve them in memory and later make use of them. So in Pralaya mankind as a whole remembers all experiences in order to put them to use once more.

There are always such intermediate conditions which, as it were, consist of memories, and so the devachanic state is also an intermediate one. The initiate already now sees before him those facts which man only gradually has around him in Devachan. It is an intermediate condition. All similar conditions are of an intermediate nature. The initiate describes the world as it is on the other side, in Devachan, in the intermediate state. When he gets beyond Devachan and reaches a still higher condition he again describes an intermediate state.

The first stage of initiation consists in the pupil learning to penetrate through the veil of the external world and to look at the world from the other side. The initiate is homeless here on the earth. He must build himself a home on the other side. When the disciples were with Jesus ‘on the mountain’, they were led into the devachanic world, beyond space and time; they built themselves a ‘tabernacle’—a home. This is the first stage of initiation.

At the second stage of initiation something similar occurs, but on a higher level. At this stage the initiate has a state of consciousness corresponding to the intermediate period between two conditions of form (Globes), a state of Pralaya that comes about when everything is achieved that can be achieved in the physical condition of form and the Earth is metamorphosed into a so-called astral condition of form (Globe).

The third stage of initiate-consciousness is that which corresponds to the intermediate state between two Rounds, from the old Arupa-Globe of the previous Round to the new Arupa-Globe of the following Round. The initiate is in the Pralaya between two Rounds when he raises himself into the third stage. He is then an initiate of the Third Degree. So we can now understand why Jesus had to reach the third stage before he could place his body at the service of Christ. Christ stands above all the spirits who live in the Rounds. The initiate who had raised himself above the Rounds could place his body at the service of Christ.

The human ego-consciousness was to be purified and healed through Christianity. Christ had to raise and purify the self-centred ego, so that when it has reached self-consciousness it may die selflessly. This he could only do in a body which had become one with ... [Gap in text ...]. Thus only an initiate of the third grade could sacrifice his body for the Christ.

In our time it is extraordinarily difficult to attain to a complete awareness of these lofty conditions. The profoundly wise Subba Row47His teachings appeared published as Esoteric Writings. had his own knowledge; he describes three such stages of discipleship.

We see the moon as the lifeless residue of ourselves and we ourselves have in us the forces which once gave the moon its life. That is also the reason for the special sentimental mood in all poets who sing the praises of the moon. All poetical feelings are faint echoes of living occult streams deeply hidden in man.

A being can however become entangled in what should actually remain behind as slag. Something must remain behind from the Earth that is destined to become later what the moon is today. This must be overcome by man. But someone can have a liking for such things and so unites himself with them. A person who is deeply bound up with what is purely of the senses, of the lower instincts, connects himself ever more strongly with what should become slag. This will come about when the number 66648See Rudolf Steiner The Apocalypse of St. John lecture 11 (1908). is fulfilled, the number of the Beast. Then comes the moment when the Earth must draw away from further planetary evolution. If however the human being has connected himself too strongly with the forces of the senses, which should now detach themselves, if he is related to them and has not found the way to attach himself to what is to pass over to the next Globe, he will depart with the slag and become an inhabitant of this body of slag, in the same way as other beings are now inhabitants of the present moon.

Here we have the concept of the Eighth Sphere.49More details in The Occult Movement in the 19th century and its relationship to World Culture (1915). Mankind must go through Seven Spheres. The Seven Planetary Evolutions correspond to the seven bodies.

Old Saturn corresponds to the physical body
Old Sun corresponds to the etheric body
Old Moon corresponds to the astral body
The Earth corresponds to the Ego
Future Jupiter corresponds to the Manas
Future Venus corresponds to the Buddhi
Future Vulcan corresponds to the Atma

Beside these there is an Eighth Sphere to which everything goes that cannot make any connection with this continuous evolution. This already forms itself as predisposition in the devachanic state. When a human being uses the life on earth only to amass what is of service to himself alone, only to experience an intensification of his own egotistical self, this leads in Devachan into the condition of Avitchi. A person who cannot escape from his own separateness goes into Avitchi. All these Avitchi men will eventually become inhabitants of the Eighth Sphere. The other human beings will be inhabitants of the continuing chain of evolution. It is from this concept that religions have formulated the doctrine of hell.

When man returns from Devachan, the astral, etheric and physical forces arrange themselves around him according to twelve forces of karma which in Indian esotericism are called Nidanas:

They are as follows:

1. avidja


2. sanskara

the organising tendencies

3. vijnana*


4. nama-rupa

names and form

5. shadayadana

what the intellect makes of things

6. sparsha

contact with existence

7. vedana


8. trishna

thirst for existence

9. upadana

a sense of comfort in existence

10. bhava


11. jati*

the urge towards birth

12. jaramarana*In the Sanscrit words j is pronounced as dj.

what frees from earthly existence

In the next lecture we shall study these important aspects of karma in more detail.