Our bookstore is now open. Shop today →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Nature and Spirit Beings
Their Effects in Our Visible World
GA 98

Part I

I. The So-called Dangers of Occult Development

5 November 1907, Vienna

Speaking about occultism and the occult development of the human being, one must first and foremost clarify how the cultivation of occult development relates to actual theosophical work in the world. The latter has, since its inception, performed its task precisely by making a certain number of occult truths accessible to mankind. These truths about the super-sensible worlds, which can be learned from the theosophical literature and lectures, are essentially ancient. However, until the last third of the 19th century, it was neither usual nor necessary to share these truths publicly with the world in the form in which they exist today as theosophical truths. The cultivation of these truths was a matter of the so-called secret schools and secret societies.

One who wanted to learn some of the ancient truths about the inner world, had to be, so to speak, an accepted student, a student of the great teachers of mankind. That someone would have travelled around, as we do nowadays, to share certain elemental truths with the world, wasn't done back then. One who was admitted had to provide certain proofs of his character, his intellectual and other abilities, and within the school, there was a very strict division by degree. It was impossible, for example, to reveal to someone who had just been accepted, secrets of higher degrees. In short, everything was strictly ordered, and the world outside did not know anything about the existence of such a secret science, although this is the only true occultism.

Who were those who found their calling there? Usually, they were not known. One was a smith, one a shoemaker, a privy councillor, a carpenter. What was known was only what he represented in the world. One did not know that these people were wise ones, able to deeply look into the spiritual and super-sensible world. This changed in the last third of the 19th century. Today it is necessary that at least the elementary parts of the secret sciences reflected in theosophical texts, lectures and other writings, be made public. That this is possible and why this is so, we will see right away.

First, we must take a look at this past age, which really basically lasted into the 14th century, and also partly into the last third of the 19th century. What is happening now, the publication of certain elemental teachings of occultism had been prepared by the occult movement. This movement was founded in the 14th and 15th centuries by a high-ranking individual who became known to the world under the name of Christian Rosenkreutz. 1Christian Rosenkreutz: Not recognised by public history as a real historic figure of the 14th/15th century, Christian Rosenkreutz became legendarily known from two anonymous Rosicrucian texts Fama Fraternitatis, ot the Discovery of the Brotherhood of the Highly Laudable Order of R.C., Kassel 1614, and Confessio Fraternitatis or Confession of the laudable Brotherhood of the highly honourable Rose Cross, Kassel 1615. According to this, he was a German of noble birth who lived from 1378 to 1484. The name appears for the first time in a text handwritten and as such distributed in 1604, and in 1616 anonymously published in the text The Chymical Wedding of Christiani Rosencreutz, Anno 1459. Rudolf Steiner presented the author of this text, Johann Valentin Andreae, as the carrier of inspiration of Christian Rosenkreutz. Refer to Rudolf Steiner, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz in Philosophy and Anthroposophy. Collected Essays 1904-1923, GA 35. The essay is also contained in the translation of The Chymical Weddinginto New High German by Walter Weber, Basel 1978., According to Rudolf Steiner, Christian Rosenkreutz was a real historical personality. Compare also, The Esoteric Christendom and the Spiritual Leadership of Humanity, GA 130. What ‘Christian Rosenkreutz’ is, or who hides behind it, only the initiates know. One thing only is certain, he belongs to the most developed individuals of the modern era, who had to shape the occult knowledge of the Middle Ages in such a way, that it would fit into modern life.

In the last third of the 19th century, some were meant to go out to announce to humanity, what it needs to know today. Theosophy is nothing else but the elementary doctrine of occultism.

If we now look back at those distant times when occultism was practised in secret, there were three avenues by which a human being could come into contact with the super-sensible worlds: First as an initiate, second as a clairvoyant, third as an adept. In the old days, these three methods were kept strictly apart, and if we really want to understand what the occult development of man is all about, then we must clearly understand these three terms.

It is actually known what is meant by a clairvoyant. I specifically note that the more important one is the clairvoyant because he, after all, possesses higher senses. It is very easy to explain what a clairvoyant is. In every human soul, hidden abilities lie dormant. These can be developed, enabling the human being to look into the world hidden from the ordinary senses. There are such secret scientific methods. If a human being practises these himself, then he will no longer be as unconscious during sleep as an ordinary human being. Practising these methods make it possible that his astral body, when it pushes itself out with the Ego, perceives the spiritual world in his surroundings. Initially perceived like flooding light, like light- and colour-phenomena, he then begins to hear during the night.

This is a real experience the human being has of himself: that he, for the time being in a transitional state, is surrounded by a spiritual world as well as by a physical one. This is the beginning of actual clairvoyance.

One who really wants to achieve the state of clairvoyance, must be able to carry across into his day-consciousness what he now sees at night, because it would only be a half-measure if one could only look at night into the astral world. Once he is able to really tune in, so that he sees not only what exists for the physical senses in humans, animals and so on, but also perceives as shining aura that which the human being and the animal feels and experiences, then the state of modern clairvoyance is reached. Therefore, a clairvoyant is someone who can really see into the spiritual world and speak about it.

Let’s assume, there was an area where people have never seen a railroad and someone from there moves to an area where there were railroads. Then he would learn about it through his own experience. He would be able to talk about it at home based on his own experience, just as the clairvoyant can testify about the spiritual world.

But someone who is such a clairvoyant, is not yet what could be called an adept, nor could he be called an initiate. If a man who, according to the example above, has become familiar with a railway by personal experience, now returns home, he would not be entrusted with the task of building a railway. The same applies to the clairvoyant. He is not able to do what someone else can do who has gained practical and scientific knowledge in the super-sensible world. This is how the clairvoyant, who has only seen what exists in the higher worlds, is in comparison to the adept.

Still different is the Initiate. Here is another comparison: Imagine a human being who can see all colours and lights, and another one who is quite short-sighted. The first one doesn’t know anything about the laws of the world of light, the other one, who can’t see far, but as a trained physicist and scientist knows all the laws well. There are people, who are initiated to a high degree, despite them not being clairvoyant; at least this is applicable to all the old schools, but not to the same degree nowadays. In the old days it was possible to work like this, because don’t forget that to teach clairvoyance or train initiates is a lengthy process. Some require many incarnations to achieve this.

Such cooperation of clairvoyants and initiates is now no longer entirely possible; for this reason the Rosicrucian School no longer keeps these things strictly separate. The selflessness, that used to operate in the secret schools, can hardly be comprehended by people today. Especially, in the Egyptian secret schools individuals worked together in this way. Today, the requisite trust no longer exists, and modern man cannot imagine this anymore. This is why initiates and clairvoyants in the Rosicrucian schools were only developed to a certain degree. In contrast, one has to deal very carefully with adeptship as one could only harm the world. Because people are very disinclined to believe that spiritual powers influence everything. A storm would be unleashed and the consequence of this would be that the preparatory understanding would be jeopardised. First, it is necessary for clairvoyants and initiates to teach the occult knowledge, and only then adepts will gradually appear.

What is an adept? They exist in all areas. Observe man himself. Man consists by his nature of a physical, an etheric, and an astral body and an ego. The various limbs of human nature develop quite differently at certain ages. This is a very important consideration. Because, for the occultist a human being is born repeatedly, first physically out of the physical mother. There the physical body is enclosed by the mother’s physical body; different blood circles and juices are moving from mother to child. Once it is physically born, the mother’s physical body is detached from the child completely. This is the first birth. At this point in time the etheric body has not been born. The second birth only happens after the second dentition begins in the seventh year of life. Until then the etheric body is enclosed by the etheric shell, which does not really belong to the specific etheric body of the child. Only in the seventh year of life will the etheric body really be born. The shell will be pushed back, and the outer expression of this process is the appearance of the adult teeth, which the human being will keep. The clairvoyant sees, how, to the extent in which the teeth appear, the etheric body is being born out of his mother’s shell. Until sexual maturity, the human being is still enclosed by its astral mother, who is there from the beginning and will remain also after the seventh year of life. Then the astral mother will be pushed aside, and only now the astral body will be born, like earlier the physical and the etheric body were born. The reaching of sexual maturity means for man, the birth of the astral body. From age twenty-one to twenty-eight only, the ego will be fully born.

Once people realise how this development proceeds, it will become clear what kind of impact this will have on education. I have given a description of this in my paper The education of the child from the perspective of the science of the spirit. 2The Education of the Child from the perspective of Spiritual Science, first published in 1907. This brochure contains all the rules that need to be taken into consideration in this context. Now, you see, a teacher, who has mastered this system, would be an adept in the area of education.

This practical work appearing from the spiritual worlds is adeptship. Until age seven a kind of hardening (solidification) of forms is happening inside the human being. All forms of the brain, and the bone structures (skeleton) will be created by the seventh year of life. They will continue to grow, but what doesn’t develop by age seven is irretrievable. So something irretrievable can be neglected by education. From then onwards the etheric body becomes free. Now it becomes obvious how the teeth that a human being gets are an expression of proper solidification and formation processes of the etheric body, which is just being born, and show whether they are in correct proportion to each other. These two things are related, the emergence of the teeth and the emergence of the etheric body. Everything that is concerned with growth and reproduction is connected with it. If one of these is not correct, then the other one will not be correct either. This illustrates how the science of the spirit explains how the teeth and the etheric body are connected. For example, women who have bad teeth, are more likely to have been affected by childbed fever.

Something of the principle of solidification and something of the principle of softening must exist—these hardening and softening principles need to exist in balance. Rickits, for example, occurs when the softening principle is stronger. Let us assume that the hardening principle is predominant, then the germs are laid for tuberculosis, for arteriosclerosis.

The moment in which the human being, by applying super-sensible principles, is able to guide the development of the etheric and physical body, he will be an adept in the area of child education, just like Paracelsus, 3Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, called Paracelsus, 1493-1541, doctor and philosopher. who is no longer understood, was an adept, as he could perceive in any moment the invisible principles. Now you can imagine the kind of storm that would break out if you would approach a university with such teachings. Humankind must be prepared step by step, and then it will come to a point where it will demand that spiritual leaders back up their teachings with works from the spiritual world. The reason for the existence of initiates is, that the spiritual world can be researched and found according to its prevailing laws by means of clairvoyance. However, when one has found it and talks about it, then all things that a clairvoyant says can be understood by common sense, and if someone maintains that he cannot understand these, then the reason is not that he isn’t clairvoyant, but that he does not want to use his common sense enough.

Thus, one can be an initiate, without being clairvoyant, but then one has to rely on the clairvoyant. In a certain respect, the theosophical movement aims to help by requiring that all their public teachings are based on clairvoyants’ experience. What do you then want an audience for? In a way, one wants to turn them into Initiates, who comprehend without being clairvoyant themselves.

This is the mission of the theosophical movement. It is also the correct relationship between the teachings that are being given and the way these are made available to the wider audience. Now, this in-depth penetration of the super-sensible world is based on very particular methods. Here, I have already once mentioned specifically the Rosicrucian method, 4Refer to note 1(Chapter 1) above. Obviously, the deliberations of Rudolf Steiner at this point have been only fragmentarily captured by the note taker. For better comprehension it is referred to the presentation in the lecture dated 15 September 1909; Lecture 1 in The Luke Gospel cycle, GA 114. therefore I will only add a bit.

To raise a human being up into the higher worlds, to turn him into a clairvoyant, requires him to first develop strengths which are already in him: thinking, feeling and willpower. This already includes a lot of the difficulties experienced in the first elementary grades, which are talked about if one intends to alert of dangers. Clairvoyance is for certain people a far too beautiful thing, and those who hear something about Theosophy are keen to achieve clairvoyance. They are not very thrilled when they are told it is necessary to learn something before one gets results.

The first thing one must do is to develop one’s thinking, thoroughly develop it, and certainly prior to becoming a clairvoyant. It is extraordinarily difficult nowadays, to explain what is meant by ‘develop the thinking”. If you can see into the higher world through the opening of the higher senses, you will see that these worlds look very, very different from what you have imagined here. Normally, someone who cannot yet look into them can hardly imagine what one can experience, what kind of impressions there are, and even less so in relation to the world of clairaudience, the harmony of the spheres. One thing, however, remains constant through all worlds: logical thinking. If you have learnt this here, then it is a safe guide in the astral and spiritual worlds. The impressions are totally different, but logic remains the same. This only begins to change in the highest worlds.

What is offered in the theosophical works and books is sensory-free thinking. If one doesn’t learn to do that, then one exposes oneself to a certain danger. One can enable someone else to look into the astral world, but it should not be forgotten, that, if one is not completely standing on the solid ground of healthy thinking, it is extraordinarily difficult there to tell truth from illusion. One who can’t differentiate is simply deranged, he is not spiritually or mentally healthy and thus exposes himself to the danger of losing his balance when the astral world overwhelms him.

One learns to grasp the astral world gradually, by working on one’s feelings, and this happens through imagination. I will show you how this approaches the human being, teaches him, and introduces him to the astral world. This is facilitated by way of converting all ideas a human has, which are normally expressed as dogmas and abstract concepts, into pictures which appear visually. What we are thinking and talking and learning are abstract concepts, thus initially there is speculation. This will lead no one into the higher worlds. Only when the concepts are transformed into pictures does the human being gradually gain access to the higher worlds.

How is this transformation of thoughts into pictures achieved? In the Rosicrucian school, a teacher would say to the student: Look at this plant. With its roots it strives into the ground, its stem rises up straight, on the top is the bloom and the fruit. And now compare the plant with the human being. Superficially thinking one could be tempted to compare the bloom with the human head, and what is down below in the plant with the feet of the human being. In reality, the head of the plant is the root, and what the plant holds chastely up towards the light are its fertility organs. This is exactly the opposite of what is the case with humans.

The bloom has turned these organs towards the light. Imagine this whole thing exactly — if you wouldn’t turn the plant’s fertility organs up towards the light, but down towards the centre of the earth, then they would be penetrated by desire and passion. Thus, we find in a human being a reversed plant, at once pervaded by desires and passions. Thus, the human body is flesh whilst the plant body, the chaste one, is a body that has not yet developed into flesh.

And now look at an animal: It stands between plant and human. Plant, animal and the human being upwards form the cross that extends throughout the whole of nature. Now the student is told: Look at the plant, how it turns its calyx upwards, is kissed by the sun, by the beam of light called the holy lance of love. The human being had to exchange the plant body with the one of flesh pervaded by desire, but he has a high ideal in front of his eyes.

Here we must observe the human heart and the larynx. There are two types of organs in a human body, those, which are on the path to imperfection, and which will incrementally fall away, and others that are only in the stage of formation. All the lower organs, the sexual organs will fall away. Heart and larynx, on the other hand, are organs which will only be perfected in the future, and will only then be developed.

I am speaking to you. My thoughts are within me. I put these into words that originate from my larynx, and create sound vibrations, and in this way, my thoughts communicate with your soul. The voice box is the apparatus to produce airwaves and bring out that which is in the soul. If someone would invent a device through which these waves could be solidified, then you would be able to pick up my thoughts, and my words. In the future, the larynx will not only produce words, but one day it will become the creative, reproductive organ, and will create future beings similar to humans.

During certain times the plant-like nature of the human was not yet penetrated by the lusting passionate nature of the flesh. Those specific organs, which were the latest to develop out of the animal nature, will first disappear again. These are the reproductive organs. These remained for a long time as plant organs after the human being had already appeared in flesh. For this reason, there exist pictorial collections where pictures of hermaphrodites 5Beings who have male and female gender characteristics. with plant organs are on display. When the Bible tells about Eve’s fig leaf, in reality, this is a symbol of the fact that these organs were the last to develop in the flesh. In this way, the religious texts must be interpreted. The sexual organs are declining organs, whilst the larynx is in a process of complete transformation, and once the human being has become chaste again, the larynx will turn itself again towards the spiritual sun. The calyx of the plant developed into the form of the flesh filled with passionate desires, and then the larynx will once again become a chaste, pure calyx, fertilised by Spirit, which will be raised up towards the holy lance of love. This is also the symbol of the Holy Grail, its high ideal.

Compare this, try to feel and re-experience all the shivers those images aroused; then you will have only one of those images which are given to a Rosicrucian student. And while you are wandering through these, then you will realise bit by bit that your feelings become facts for you. You will perceive that these feelings radiate light. It always radiates, but the lower human being doesn’t see it. One who experiences this mystical part of imagination learns to see his feelings. This is the beginning.

Not magic, but an intimate process of imagination happens at the beginning of the rise to clairvoyance. But here one thing needs to become clear because from that moment onwards you will see everything emanating from yourself. When one actually starts to transform the inner life into light, one has to be able to bear what is then seen. This requires a strength of character which hardly anyone can imagine. For example, if you, not being clairvoyant, tell a lie this is bad enough. But if you are clairvoyant and tell a lie, and you then see how the lie becomes visible and what it means on the astral plane, then you will understand why it is said that there a lie is murder. And this is so. Just assume you have seen an event happening, and have formed an idea about it, and then tell something that is incorrect, i.e., something that is a lie. Then from the object emanates the correct and from you the false stream and these two will collide and cause a terrible explosion; and each time you do this, you attach a hideous creature to your karma that you can't get rid of until you have made good what you have lied about.

Everyone who wants to become clairvoyant needs to develop three virtues, which are crucial for him. First, self-confidence is needed to be sure of oneself. Second, self-awareness is needed so one is never allowed to shy away from recognising one’s mistakes. And third, presence of mind is needed since one will encounter many things on the astral plane that, while present around us all the time, are something else to see. For this reason these characteristics must be developed first and foremost, and it is really nonsense that some sort of schools or societies train people to become clairvoyants without guiding them in this way.

If now in a different way, a student will be taught namely through occult texts, he will be guided upwards into the spiritual Devachan world to hearing. There one must immerse oneself into those pictures which exist for the development of the human being. I will place one such picture as an example in front of your soul.

Think of the ancient times, when the human being had just come into existence in his current form. In those days Earth was a warm, glowing fireball, and all metals and minerals were melted in the glowing Earth. The physicist would say human beings could not exist there. In those days the human being climbed down from the Godhead and formed himself in the glowing matter. This transformation was a lengthy process. If you were able to see what the clairvoyant can perceive, you would see that he had wrapped himself into a body of fire.

Where has the fire that was burning on the Earth now gone? Where is it? It is in your blood. All the warmth that has been inside the human beings and the animals was and is the fire glow of the Earth. And once you will be able to transform your blood again, so that it shines — and this will be the case when the human larynx will be transformed into the Holy Grail — then the human beings will once again send out an abundance of light. If someone now immerses himself into a picture like this one, then he can achieve clairvoyance, clairaudience. I wish to point to the introduction to the Apocalypse of John which states: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, that God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.” These are pictures that have been used for development in Rosicrucian schools. The clairvoyant must learn to decipher such pictures. The development of the Earth will be the Word, and the Word will be with man, and man will create human beings through the Word.