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Popular Occultism
GA 94

I. Introduction

28 June 1906, Leipzig

The aim of these lectures is to be an introduction to the theosophical world-conception and its connections. We shall have to deal with problems such as the cause of death, the cause of suffering, the origin of evil, and so forth. By setting out from man, from the nucleus of his being, we shall study the great law of reincarnation and karma, and also the origin of man, of the Earth and of the solar system. Moreover, of the way in which the great truths come to expression, especially in Christianity and in the different religions.

Occultism, the wisdom of the hidden beings, looks upon man in such a way that the visible part of his being, the physical body, constitutes the first member. As a material form, it is looked upon like other lifeless objects.

The second part or member is the etheric body, which is invisible and finer than the physical body. We may therefore say: in the upper parts of man's being, the etheric body is the image of the physical body, but it takes on a different form in the lower parts. A blind-born person considers the description of a seeing person for fantasies; the descriptions of those who perceive the etheric body clairvoyantly are treated in the same way. At present there are about three or four hundred people and all who have this clairvoyant capacity. But it lies dormant in every human being; for this reason things will present a very different aspect in a hundred years. In the near future there'll be a gigantic progress, also in the technical field.

Modern theosophy is only the elementary part of occultism. To-day it is not possible to teach more. The faculty of spiritual vision develops through an inner schooling. Those who are endowed with clairvoyance see the etheric body as follows: first of all, they must deviate their attention completely away from the physical body, they must—so to speak—suggest it away completely. Suggestion, hypnotism, abnormal soul-conditions, a lowered state of consciousness, positive and negative suggestion which harm the person on which it is practiced, all this has nothing to do with theosophy as it is meant here. Those who develop their higher soul-forces are able, by their will-power, to throw out of their field of vision the whole sensory reality of a human being or object of stands before them. The same space occupied by the physical body will then be occupied instead by a form resembling man, consisting of an inwardly luminous form of forces which is very much like the human being of the present time except that the etheric body slightly projects above the head. In plants, animals and children projects greatly by the physical head.

The third member or part of man is the astral body. At first, it should be studied more from the inner aspect. When a person stands before us we can touch his physical body with our hands. Let us now leave aside the etheric body. Where muscles, bones and nerves exist in the physical body, there are also a certain amount of instincts, pains, joys, ideals, and passions. They are all as real as the former. This is the astral body seen from within. Seen from the outside, the astral body does not exist at all as far as the power of vision of ordinary people is concerned. But when we pass through training of the soul we learn to know also the astral body as it appears to us as the soul-part of man. The astral body is designated as the aura.

A wild unchecked passion is like a dull red cloud that passes through the astral body; a pure ideal sends out white-gold rays. The painters of past times, who were still more closely connected with clairvoyance, used to paint this aura in many different ways. People who have a great deal of sympathy and love for their fellow-men are surrounded by a greenish aura; religious feelings, religious fervor, sends out blue rays. The aura is simply the external expression of inner instincts, passions, and so forth. The external form of the aura is quite different from that of the physical body and it surrounds man, and enwrapping him in a kind of oval form. This form of light soars around the human being and sends out rays.

In a few decades these truths will be of immense value in education, in pedagogy. Much will be gained when spiritual science will be included in our educational system. It is of immense importance in external life.

Let us now study the child in regard to these three bodies. They do not develop simultaneously in the child. From the first to the seventh year the physical body unfolds; the other two bodies are not free and they influence the physical body from within. Consequently, during this period, the only way of educating a child is to work upon his physical body, for the other two members of his being have still have to unfold. A sound education will therefore refrain from influencing the etheric body and astral body prematurely. From the first to the seventh year the child needs visible, perceptible images, examples, and so forth. The child's visible environment should therefore be a pure one, and this even applies to the thoughts of the people around him. For a child is able to feel good and evil thoughts. We should endeavor to sharpen and develop the child's senses. His fantasy should be stimulated. Consequently, a child should not be given beautifully finished things to play with. He should instead make something for himself, a form, etc. This rouses and awakens the child and develops the forces of his physical body. Therefore abolish beautiful toys! ...

A special change takes place in the child during his seventh year, for a part of the etheric body becomes free, and for this reason we should now begin to exercise an influence upon the etheric body. In what way can we exercise an influence upon the etheric body? Observe, to begin with, the process which takes place when we die. Only the physical body lies there, while the etheric body and astral body separate themselves from it and ascend. It is not the same when we are asleep. When we are asleep, the etheric body is still connected with the physical body lying on the bed, and only the astral body separates itself from them. But at the moment of death something very strange takes place in man: his whole past life lies spread out before his memory and goes past him. Sometimes this may happen in moments of great danger, for example when a person is drowning or suddenly precipitates from a great height, and afterwards regained consciousness. At such moments his whole past life rises up before his soul. What has really occurred? His etheric body was more loosely connected with the physical body. Something similar takes place when a part of the body “falls asleep”, or when we underbind, tie off extremity. When a finger is underbound a clairvoyant perceives that the finger's etheric body is hanging down, it is loosened. In a hypnotized person this condition is very dangerous, for his etheric brain is hanging down limply at both sides of his physical head. Since the etheric body is the carrier of memory, the memory-tableau rises up before us after death. When the etheric body emancipates itself from the physical body, it can follow its own movements and memory is more free than ever. Normally, the etheric body fills the physical body like a dense cloud of light. And until death, the physical body obstructs the finer influences and forces of the etheric body.

From the seventh year onward the forces of the child's etheric body are free and from the seventh to fourteenth year we should therefore work upon his memory and develop it. Since the etheric body sets forth everything in the form of images, the child should be given images in parables and we should work upon him with the aid of fairy tales and beautiful stories. During this period the child accepts everything on the authority of his parents as teachers.

The astral body emancipates itself wholly from the fourteenth to the 21st year. It begins to unfold with puberty, consequently a little sooner in girls than boys. The astral body is the carrier of reason, of the conscious judgment. During this period we shall be able to influence the astral body by developing the power of judgment. If this is attempted sooner, we sin against a child, it would be of the greatest harm to him. A time will come to which the science of the spirit will be applied in pedagogy.

Man shares his physical body with everything mineral, his of etheric body with all plants, his astral body with all the animals. But man rises above all these things through his self-consciousness, through the little word “I” which is unique in its kind. For “I” is the only name which each one can only give to himself.

This is a greatly significant fact. In the ancient Hebrew religion, the occult word “I” could only be uttered by the highest initiate, by the High priest. This was a solemn cultic moment. The whole congregation waited for the utterance of the word “Jahve” (meaning “I”), and a shudder of holy awe ran through the assembled people, who were filled with reverence. Jahve is the God who speaks within man ... and the word Jahve (Jehovah) was looked upon as the “unutterable name”. It is the voice by which God begins to speak in man. Never can this word enter into us from outside. In the word “I” the eternal touches the transient.

We have thus learned to know the four members of man's being: the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body and man's nucleus, the “I”, or Ego. At the moment of death, the etheric body, the astral body and Ego separate from the physical body. The etheric body and astral body gradually dissolve, until the Ego enters Devachan, where it remains until it begins a new life on Earth.