Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

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 II

X. The Relationship between Worlds and Beings

29 April 1908, Munich

Today, we want to talk about some things that might be outside the normal sphere of deliberation but that will clarify, from a different perspective, some of the material that we have heard about in earlier lectures. The overall message discussed today is meant to shed light on much of what we’ve heard before and will hear in the future. Today, we will talk about the hierarchy of beings that exist in the world and are above the human being. We have occasionally mentioned such beings in the context of the Earth’s evolution. Now we will look at them in a different context, namely from the perspective of those beings’ characteristics, their purpose, and their work.

Nowadays there is a certain convenience in terms of world-view, as many people do not want to put any other beings between themselves and the Godhead. It is so incredibly comfortable to imagine a mineral kingdom, a plant kingdom, an animal kingdom, and a human kingdom, and then, without much ado, to climb up to the all-pervading God, about whom one believes to have a more or less correct consciousness or feeling. For the real Science of the Spirit it is not that convenient—between humans and the entity, about which we have a presentiment that it might be the Godhead of the world, it needed to insert beings at the most diverse stages of perfection. This hierarchy has been repeatedly hinted at. In Christian Esotericism1Refer to Dionysius Areopagita: The Hierarchies of the Angels and the Church, Barth Publishing House, Munich 1955. Dionysius Areopagita was a student of the Apostle Paul, by whom he was initiated into Christian esoteric. Initially his teachings were conveyed only verbally, and were written down only in the 5th/6th Century, probably by Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch. Compare the introduction in the referenced volume, pages 13-14. they have the following names: Angels, Archangels, Primordial Forces, Powers, Virtues, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubims, Seraphims. These are nine different kinds of beings, to which man is connected right at the bottom of the hierarchy. Only if we look upwards beyond the realm of the Seraphim can we divine what we address as the Godhead.

Do not believe that it is insubstantial and meaningless if it is said that it is a convenience of the worldview to simply ascend from the human being to the Godhead without involving these beings. If human beings had not forgotten to study and acknowledge them, then the aberrations of materialism would not have occurred. Although it is possible to combine some sort of religious feeling, a kind of dark religious sentiment, with the immediate ascent from human being to deity, but it is never possible to arrive in this way at a real understanding of the world; a true picture of the evolution of the world can never be combined with this. For this reason, humanity has now lost its understanding of the world. There is an aspect in religion that is based only on feelings and vague emotions that will always allow itself to be denied in the face of materialistic ideas. The Theosophical world-view re-opens an understanding of the world by teaching mankind again about these beings. In this way, a reference point is created in order to counter the denial of a higher world. People who today struggle against acknowledging this world are increasingly preparing the ground for the most banal, disastrous materialism. The materialists themselves are really the victims—the real perpetrators are those who, out of convenience, do not want to know anything about what exists between mankind and the Godhead.

Now that you know the reason why we must talk about these higher beings today, we will look at their characteristics in a free aphoristic way. First, we will examine the angels, the Angeloi, the divine messengers, who stand closest to human beings. They differ from human beings mostly through their faculties of perception and recognition. A human being perceives and acts out his deeds within a world that consists of the four realms of nature; namely among the minerals, plants, animals and human beings. This is the nature of his perception; these are his acts of will.

The angels, who stand one stage above the human beings, differ from them in that the mineral realm does not exist for their perception. Their perceptive faculty begins with the plant kingdom and then progresses further to the animal, the human, and to their own angel kingdom. Within these four kingdoms the life of the angels takes place. What the human being perceives as a mineral filling a spatial area is for these beings empty space, blank space. If you remember how in my book Theosophy I’ve described how, in Devachan, man perceives the mineral world, namely as empty space, then you roughly understand the kind of perception these beings have, who live permanently in such a world. The minerals do not present an obstacle for them—they are able to walk through them; they are not interested in them. The mineral realm is too far beneath them. Their awareness only begins with the plant kingdom and extends to their own realm.

AAs angelic beings, they call themselves “I”. By being so constituted they will, through their actions, make something clear to us that we already know. When the human being goes through the portal of death, he will first encounter the curious experience of the memory picture. It presents itself thus: When the human being dies, he first gets the feeling that he will grow and grow increasingly, and this enlargement is accompanied by the appearance of the memory picture. Once the picture ends, something like a kind of extract—like a fruit of life—remains. This will create a type of germinal force for the construction of the human being in his next incarnation. This is a kind of etheric, internally structured essence that remains with him as the essence of all his experiences in the etheric body and will accompany him through the eternities. If we also remember that the human being, after having passed through the Kamaloka, takes this essence with him to Devachan, and that he is not passive there but has his essential tasks to fulfil, then the deeds of those beings who are standing one level above us will become quite clear. The human being only reincarnates once he can experience something new, once he can take a new fruit into himself. The Earth goes through many transformations. Therefore, it is wrong that it is not necessary to come repeatedly as some people believe. A human being can always experience something new that he will take with him into eternity.

What is causing the transformation of the Earth’s surface? Who is working on the transformation of the Earth? How does it happen that a completely different picture of the plant world emerges in a particular area, with completely different living conditions? Just imagine, for example, how the area where Munich is located now must have looked 3,000 years ago and how human beings on the physical plane continuously change the face of the Earth with their physical powers. But because man only changes the mineral kingdom, you can imagine that other changes have to arise from Devachan. And from there, once again, it is the human beings who, coming from the spiritual, consistently transform the Earth. But they could not do it by themselves. They would not know what the face of the Earth should look like, or what condition it should be in. They are only able to do this under the leadership of higher beings. Those higher beings who guide and lead them are the beings that we call angels. They deal with what exists in a human being during the presence in Devachan in a different form. They guide and lead the eternal Ego of man. And because they, due to their nature are able to reach down into the world of plants, they can achieve the transformation of the Earth.

Now it will be easy to comprehend that these beings are always leading, guiding beings for the human Ego. They do not even interrupt their leadership when the Ego gets incarnated again. The Ego is regulated and led by such entities. Therefore, the naive belief that a protective being exists for the higher Ego is not unfounded. We know however, that the entities we call angels were still human beings when they were on the Moon. From human beings, they have evolved higher. Knowing this it is easy to understand that man also is on the way to becoming such a higher being himself and will be one on Jupiter. Thus, there is something in man, that works today towards a higher existence and is on the way to become such a being. He will then be of a nature similar to such angelic beings. Here we are looking deeply into the spiritual development of the world. However, what we have in front of us as a list of names, these should not be considered to be something permanent—but a description only of hierarchical levels.

When we now focus higher up on the archangels, we arrive at beings that once again have a different faculty of perception and a different type of activity. For them, even the plant world is not of interest, as it is not perceptible. Their perception only begins with the animal world. This is their lowest realm—followed by the human, angel and archangel realms—these are the four realms of these beings. Thus, we can say we are looking up to such sublime beings who reach down with their deeds only as far as the animal kingdom. They live in the animal and human kingdoms and so on, but their deeds do not reach down into the plant kingdom.

These facts were known to the earlier consciousness of human beings. We are allowed here to look deeply into the emotional life of earlier peoples and times. Just as our ancestors still felt aware of the deeds of angels in plants, they felt aware of the deeds of archangels in animals. For this reason, ancient people, such as the Egyptians, worshipped certain animals. This was an expression of the knowledge of mankind. Whoever looks at the curious figures, the subject of Egyptian animal worship, will stand in awe of the deep wisdom of those people. Not without reason did they connect these animals with higher beings and mankind. Let us keep in mind how the life of humans was always connected to the life of animals, how progress on Earth is connected to animals—certain aspects of man’s development depend on animals—then we will comprehend the deep foundation of animal worship.

What is the responsibility of the archangels? Nowadays, some people are still saying that something like a Folk Spirit exists. But for most people, this has become just empty talk, something abstract. Most people do not know a lot about the fact that a nation is actually led by a real Folk Spirit. This Folk Spirit is an archangel, for whom the whole nation is one body, just as a human body is for the human spirit. The Folk Spirits are the tribal spirits. Whilst the angels guide and lead individual people through their incarnations, the archangels lead the lives of whole groups, entire nations. Now we will understand why the Egyptians felt that the deity gave them certain animals as companions. It is because the lives of whole groups of people are deeply connected to the lives of certain animal species. They correctly saw the deeds of the Folk Spirit in this. They worshipped the power of the Folk Spirit, who had sent the animal companion to them.

You might ask me, if one could imagine a being that perceives all the separate organs of a human being but is unable to perceive him as a whole entity; such being would be unable to comprehend that these organs form a whole. So you could say, certainly, maybe today with his current perception man does not directly perceive the angels and archangels, but he might perceive what their organs, their ears, and their eyes are. Or, we might imagine that angels perceive plants, animals, humans and angels. What then are their sense organs? Maybe people could even perceive the sense organs of angels? Where are these? They exist and they can be perceived by human beings. Man just doesn’t know this.

The sense organs of the angelic beings will become understandable when I tell you that man himself has two eyes to see the mineral world with, but can not see the his eyes directly on himself. The sense organs are made for perception, but they do not perceive themselves. Thus, it is with the angels in the mineral world. Their sense organs can be found in the mineral physical world, but they do not perceive that world themselves. The sense organs of the angels are our precious gemstones. These are mysterious tools for angelic beings to perceive with. Thus, these organs lie within the mineral world. In the same way that the human being has his sense of feeling and his sense of touch, these beings possess their sense of feeling, which expresses itself in the carnelian; and their facial sense in the chrysolite. They simply do not perceive within the mineral world because their sense organs are in it. Even in this regard, we can find some dim consciousness amongst the ancient people who ascribe particular properties to certain precious stones. These properties derive from the presence of angels in them.

Therefore, what we mean by Folk Spirit is a very real presence within the beings who we call archangels. Let us now focus on the Primordial Forces, who are even one level higher. What is their responsibility with regard to the evolution of mankind? When looking at their faculties of perception, we have to say that the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms are non-existent for them. The lowest realm that they perceive is the human realm. Including this, their perception stretches over four kingdoms—the human realm, the angel realm, the realm of the archangels, and their own realm. They reach down only as far as the level of human beings. Let us visit their activities. Again, we find an expression to which man has no real connection: the Spirit of an Epoch, of a Time. Each epoch has its own unique characteristics. For example, think of our post-Atlantean time. In five Epochs, the Spirit of Time has changed. Among the Indians, the Zeitgeist (the Spirit of Time) did not want to acknowledge the physical world, considering it to be Maya. This was immediately after a dawning clairvoyance had sunk in and the human being had stepped into the physical world. From then onwards, we see how man conquers the world bit by bit.

During the second epoch, amongst the Persians, man becomes aware that the Earth is a field of his work. He realises that he has to imprint his spirit on the material world. He confronts the benevolent spirit Ormuzd as a servant—time overcomes the evil Ahriman.

Then follows the third epoch, the Egyptian-Chaldaean-Babylonian time, where the spirit continues to work. The sciences appear. The human being not only understands the world as his working field, but he searches for its laws. The Egyptians discover geometry. The Chaldean is searching in outer space for a pattern of the movement of the stars, the world in its material substantiality, is thought to be pervaded by laws, that is, by spirit.

In the fourth epoch, the Greek era, man conquers one more piece of this other world through art. Greek art is something special because here the human being imprints his own “I-form” onto the material matter. Then, once again, a new epoch followed. We can continue to move on step by step, and would see how the Spirit of the Time changes itself. Just like the face of the Earth is transformed by the angels who are guiding the human “I”, and the archangels are leading the people of nations, so the consecutive epochs are determined by the Primordial Forces. Those beings that are standing behind the processes are incredibly important to observe. Separate human individuality is something different—and its work under the influence of the Spirits of the Epoch is something else again. Think of Giordano Bruno.2Giordano Bruno, 1548-1600, Italian Philosopher. What has happened through him, has not been done by him alone. Had he incarnated three centuries earlier or later, he would have been an equally gifted individual, but he would have had to do something quite different, led by the Spirit of his Time. The Spirits of Time, who are an expression of the Primordial Forces that reach down into the human being, are positioning these people in the places where they belong. If you look at the individual human being as a tool of the Primordial Forces, as material of these Spirits, then you will understand their work. Wherever man appears in a large or small position, they have to be judged accordingly, for man is to the Primordial Forces what the minerals are to us. For all those concerned with the Science of the Spirit, the question always arises to what extent this or that personality is the material of the Spirits of the Epoch. One can gain deep insight into the workings and weaving of evolution when one observes how people are placed in the appropriate positions in the world.

Let us now ascent to the Powers, for whom man as such is no longer there at all. We can then imagine in a different way what is involved in the development of the forces of nature. The lowest realm that would possibly be accessible by the Powers’ perception is that of the angels. Angels are to these highly sublime beings what the mineral kingdom is to us. On other occasions, we have already pointed out the workings of these Powers: Everything that goes beyond the individual human being, that is connected to the affairs of the whole planet, are the deeds of these Powers. If we trace our Earth back to the time when it, and with it the human being, emerged as a gradually forming entity, then we return to the Primordial Forces.

But if we wish to look at the life and emergence of the Earth itself, then we have to return to the Powers. They have nothing to do with individual human beings, but rather with the planetary genesis. We find these Powers in the Sun and Moon forces within ourselves. We know that humanity as such stands under the influence of these Sun and Moon forces. If the Sun forces only would work, the warm, fiery, light-giving Sun forces, then the human being would develop very fast—he would rush through one life. The delaying force is the force of the Moon, compelling him to take on form. If only these forces were at work, man would live only once, have only one incarnation, then he would die and mummify in his form. Earth would be covered by statues. If solely the Sun forces were at work, man would also go through only one incarnation, but in this incarnation he would live through all that he would otherwise go through in countless incarnations.

The collaboration of both forces establishes the right balance so that the human being can develop the way he does. The Moon on its own would cause mummification. Now the Moon rules the one incarnation; the Sun rules the subsequent incarnations from the outside, whilst the angels work from the inside. The nature and weaving of the Powers is revealed to us here. They are quite correctly described in the Bible as the Spirits of Light or Elohim, who existed before the Earth was created. One of them is Yahweh, who forces the human beings into form. In the working and weaving of the Powers, we see what is connected to the life of the whole planet. Here we have an opportunity to gain deep insight into the foundation of our world’s evolution.

However, we have also already heard that certain beings always remain behind in their development. The current Powers were previously Primordial Forces on the Moon. But there are Primordial Forces of the Moon that did not complete their set tasks and who came onto the Earth as Primordial Forces. They had not developed fast enough, although they were candidates to become Powers. The most outstanding of these Primordial Forces, who could actually be at the level of the Powers, is the entity commonly called Satan. Thus, he is at the rank of the Primordial Forces and could even be a Power. Amongst the Spirits that move the world forward, this Epochal Spirit works against the others. He is such a force on Earth as would have fitted on the old Moon, and he is still intimately connected with the forces of the old Moon. He is the Master of all obstacles and inhibitions that are placed in the path of the progressive Epochal Spirits. You will comprehend what it means when it was said that, in his life, Jesus Christ had to first overcome Satan, the Opponent of Progress, just at the moment of the greatest progress. Christ wanted to lead mankind in a mighty step forward, but first he had to overcome this adversary as the inhibitor and disruptor of this development, who wanted to prevent the Primordial Forces of our Earth from advancing further. Christian Esotericism calls these unlawful Primordial Forces Satanic Powers.

What is often called Providence presents itself quite definitively in detail as a group of beings. If man would once again be able to research the connection between sensory appearances and spiritual beings, he would understand many things better. Everything that appears to us in this world is an expression of spiritual beings.

You know, for example, that the planets, the celestial bodies, perform certain movements around themselves and around others. Why does this happen? The movement of the Earth around its axis was not always there. Why did it come about? The reason is that the human being at its present stage of development needs the alternation between day and night, between sleeping and waking. The macrocosm is most intimately connected to the microcosm—through the division of time, life is being regulated. During the time of the old Moon, it was quite different. There was a completely different time allocation, a quite different alternation between day and night, because the old Moon moved entirely differently. Those beings who nowadays direct these movements, have prepared these already in their own lives. Spiritual beings are behind those movements which are their deeds. In the future, mankind will recognise a deep wisdom in those movements.

A deep wisdom lies in the so-called “orbit” of the Earth around the Sun. Man will one day realise that something incredibly significant is happening there. Aren’t you surprised that I am saying “so-called” orbit. What is today taught in schools about the way the Earth moves around the Sun, is only the result of a mathematical example. It is not absolutely true. One day this explanation will also take on quite different forms. Even from a historical perspective people could inform themselves that it is not like that. It is quite a strange issue with the system of Copernicus.3Nicolaus Copernicus, 1473-1543, astronomer, founder of the modern heliocentric view of the cosmos. He founded his beliefs on three basic principles, of which only two were adopted by today’s science, and the third one was dropped under the table. In reality, the Sun races with high speed through space towards the constellation of Hercules. A movement, as it is usually described, is only feigned by the fact that the planets also move along. The true path of the Earth forms a corkscrew line4See also to the more detailed description, of later years, of this topic inCorrespondences between Microcosm and Macrocosm. Man—Hieroglyph of the Universe, GA 201, and in The Relation of the different Branches of Natural Science to Astronomy, GA 323. . What is called theobliquity of the ecliptic is the gravity line between Sun and Earth. One has forgotten that the Earth turns once a year around the axis of the ecliptic, and this rotation combines itself with the corkscrew turn. Copernicus still differentiated between those two things, but nowadays it is not done anymore. The movement with the ecliptic was dropped. Therefore, it is not compatible with the facts when one says that the Earth turns around the sun. In reality, it is a corkscrew movement.

If the corkscrew line were a straight line, then progress would be immensely faster—Earth would have to travel along its path with incredible speed, and that would be exactly what the human being couldn’t cope with.

If the Earth would really pass through those spaces in a straight line, then man would become old immediately. As it is, the movement was amended in a wise way by the leading Spirits. The absolute progress is being delayed through a different way of movement. As you can see, there lies deep wisdom in the cosmos—this wisdom is the expression of the leading Spirits. We have been given angels and archangels as governors of our evolution. The forces that are working from incarnation to incarnation, that push man further, so that he will not become mummified, these are the governors of the future rotation times of Jupiter. Such Spirits that are standing above the human being and regulate his life, are therefore called the “Spirits of the Rotation of Time”, because their deeds will find expression later in the rotation times of the celestial bodies. The way the stars move today can be seen as the results of what higher beings have done in former times. In today’s humanity you can already recognise the future times of rotation. With this a tremendous spiritual life enters the celestial space, when we learn to look at it in this way.

Today, we only wanted to look at the characteristics of beings up to the Powers. We can imagine how the external is the expression of something internal. When what is said here fills humanity again, then much will change. We have now an immense low in academic education. The external progress is incompatible with the spiritual life. This would lead to a tremendous low if such truths were not made known and used to enlighten the science. People no longer know where to go with their materialistic science. Recently, a psychology book5em>Outline of Psychology, Leipzig, 1908, by Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909), Professor of Philosophy in Halle, Leipzig. Ebbinghaus’ views, that Rudolf Steiner summarised, can be found in his book, page 37, in the section headed Interaction and Parallelism. He says there, “Since about one decade.... the preservation of energy in higher beings, for example in dogs, yes, recently also in humans, has been proven by experiments..... the source of the energy flow lies in the food consumed”. Ebbinghaus’ presentation culminates in the sentence, “Also in the organism of the human being there is consequently no space for the free activity of independent souls”. was published—one should not think that such a book has no effect just because the author is still unknown. The book explains that the law of the conservation of forces also applies to the soul, and that the inner manifestations of the soul consist only of a transformation of food. He roughly says, “For 10 years, it has been known with certainty that the so-called law of the conservation of forces is identical with the effects of the nervous system. One can prove that all that man absorbs in the form of energy from the consumption of food, is completely identical to that which he produces in work. Since one can prove exactly the same thing happens inside man as elsewhere in the world, there can, therefore, be no soul being. We are only dealing with the conversion of food into energy, which is given off again to the outside.”

This is a very smart conclusion. Just as well one could say: In front of a Bank are two people counting money that is carried in and out. The amounts are equal, therefore inside the bank there are no staff. But is not staff needed to manage everything? This example is on the same level as the psychologist’s opinion and a large part of what figures as science today. Everyone who even somehow considers this matter can imagine what a spiritual culture that thinks so little would lead to. It is necessary to possess spiritual knowledge, for only here the single real impulse is given to the development of humanity. If the human being does not find out what is behind the manifestations, then the world cannot be understood. One must arrive at the great, far-reaching, all-embracing laws, at the relationships of beings and worlds.