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Universe, Earth and Man
GA 105

Lecture III

The Kingdoms of Nature. Group-egos. The Centre of Man. The Kingdoms of Higher Spiritual Beings.

6 Aug 1908, Stuttgart

If we are to bring the relationship of Universe, Earth, and Man before our minds in the following lectures, it will first be necessary to gather together many things that will furnish us with some kind of foundation. At the same time we must remember that if we only use our external senses and the intellect that is bound up with these, we shall see very little; this applies to the Earth as well as to man, and in a still higher degree to the Universe. We must realize that the greater part of what is most essential is hidden from the outer senses, and also from external intellectual observation. Therefore to begin with we will point out a few things appertaining to the beings that surround us, but which are hidden from view. Much will have to be said which many of you know already, but in order to grasp our vast subject thoroughly it will be necessary to recapitulate to a certain extent. We must in the first place consider the planet on which we live, and which forms the centre of our studies.

Yesterday we considered one portion of the earth's evolution in connection with the whole.

We saw how beings have been active in various ways, from the time when earth and sun still formed one body up to our own day. We saw also that in the various ages of the Post-Atlantean epoch man has repeated in knowledge and in religious consciousness all that the earth has passed through in the course of its evolution.

We will now go more deeply into the various conditions on this our earth. We are surrounded in the first place by the four kingdoms of nature; the mineral, vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms. Man is not the mere material physical being of which the outer senses inform us, and which the scientific intellect describes and explains but he is a complicated being made up of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. All this we know. When we allow our gaze to sweep over the beings of the other kingdoms of the earth we must be fully aware that the expressions physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego are by no means meaningless in respect of them also. When dealing with the physical world we have to allow that of all earthly beings man alone possesses an ego-nature; he alone in this physical world has a self-conscious ego. With animals it is quite different; the ego of animals is not in the physical world in the same way man's ego is.

If we consider the difference between animals and man we must acknowledge that whereas every human being has its individual “I” enclosed as a single individuality within its skin, not every animal has an “I,” but that certain groups of similarly formed animals have one “I,” or ego, in common. For example, all lions, or all bears, have a common ego, hence we call such an ego belonging to the animal kingdom a group-ego. The human ego is found in the physical world; although we may not see it with our eyes it is present within the skin of every human being. This is not the case with animals. We do not find their group-ego in the physical world. In order that you may form an idea of such a group-ego imagine that there is a partition before me, and in this partition ten holes. I put my ten fingers through the holes and move them. You see my fingers but not myself, and without much deep thought you say that these ten fingers do not move of themselves, but something hidden must be causing the movement; in other words you think of a being that belongs to the fingers. This comparison brings us to the group-nature or soul-nature in the case of animals.

The various lions on the physical plane are beings which, in a certain sense, have also something hidden behind them. Just as the central being belonging to the ten fingers is hidden by the partition, so something is also hidden which is common to all lions. It is hidden because it is not present at all in the physical world. The same ego-nature which in the case of man is present in the physical world is to be found in the case of animals in the astral world. The group ego of animals is in the astral world. From each single animal there stretches a sort of continuation of its being into the astral world, there these continuations meet together and form the garment or covering for the animal-ego. These group egos live as single individuals on the astral plane, just as human individual egos do here on the physical plane. When the clairvoyant enters the astral plane he encounters the various animal egos as separate beings which stretch forth their principles into the physical world. One must not merely picture this diagrammatically, but must accustom oneself to picture these egos in their reality. It must be clearly understood that we do not have to go into another region to enter the astral world; the astral world permeates our physical world. It is only a case of our being able to look into it with opened astral senses.

You may now ask what do the group-egos of animals look like? The group-ego of one of the higher orders of animals appears to the clairvoyant somewhat as follows: Along the spine of the animal he sees what resembles a brightly shining line. As a matter of fact our atmosphere is permeated not only by the material currents generally recognized, but also in every direction by astral currents, and in these currents the clairvoyant recognizes the group-egos of animals.

A second question might now be asked: Have lower beings, such as plants for example, an ego? Yes, they have an ego. When the clairvoyant examines a plant he finds that the part visible in the physical world is nothing but a combination of the physical and etheric bodies of the plant. Imagine the surface of the earth on which plants grow, picture the root of a plant, the stem, the leaves, and flowers. That which grows has not in the physical world, like man, a physical body, an etheric body, astral body, and ego, but only a physical and etheric body. We must not conclude from this that the astrality with which we are filled, and which is active also in animals, is not active in the plant. To the opened eyes of the clairvoyant the plant is surrounded by a glow, and this comes from astral substances. It is this also which cooperates in the development of the flower. While the plant grows from leaf to leaf through the influence of the etheric body its growth terminates above in a flower through being surrounded by astral substance.

The clairvoyant sees every growing plant thus surrounded by astral substance, but there is something else connected with the plant, namely its ego. If we wish to locate the ego of a plant we must seek it in the centre of the earth. There the ego of all plants is to be found; this is an important and essential truth. Whereas we see the egos of animals in the circumference of the earth, we must turn to the centre of the earth for the egos of plants. In fact, when clairvoyant vision has attained to such a view of the plant creation the earth, which otherwise confronts man merely as a material structure, expands to an organism having its ego in the centre; this ego includes all plant egos.

The earth is ensouled by an ego and in the same way as your head is covered with hairs which grow from out your being, so plants grow from out the being of the earth, and belong to the whole organism of the earth. When one tears a plant up by the roots it hurts the whole earth, the soul of the plant experiences pain. This is a fact. On the other hand one should not think that the earth feels pain when a flower is plucked; exactly the reverse is the case. For example, when in autumn a reaper cuts corn the clairvoyant sees great currents of a feeling of well-being pass over the earth. Objections to this from the moral standpoint do not hold good. One might for example ask: Is it then a more trifling sin when a child plucks all sorts of plants uselessly than when a man transplants one carefully and with good intention? The fact remains the same: If a plant is uprooted the earth feels pain; if a plant is cut the earth feels pleasure. For the earth has pleasure in yielding up what it bears on its surface; also when animals pass over the earth grazing upon its plants the earth has a sensation of pleasure; much the same as a cow has when her calf draws milk. This is an absolutely occult fact. The sensation of the earth when plants spring from it and are beamed upon by the astral body is the same as that of animals when they yield their milk. These are not merely comparisons, but are actual facts. Anyone who with clairvoyant vision can see into the astral world still sees nothing of the ego of plants; to do this a higher clairvoyance is required, that by which it is possible to see into the devachanic world.

We can say, therefore, that the group-ego of animals is in the astral world, whereas the ego of plants is in the devachanic world.

The next question that naturally presents itself is: How is it with the mineral world? How is it with so-called lifeless minerals? Have they anything resembling an ego, or some other higher principle? If we observe a stone clairvoyantly we find that in the physical world it has only a physical body; the etheric body of minerals surrounds and envelops this on all sides. Take, for example, a rock crystal; you must imagine this entire form as hollowed out, that it resembles a hollow space, and that only where the physical substance ends does the etheric begin. Just as the upper part of a plant is woven round by the astral, so the mineral is surrounded by the etheric. This etheric is at home in the astral world. Mark this well—we have an etheric that is at home in the astral world.

Things are really more complicated than is generally supposed. It is not the case that in the astral world everything is astral; this is as little the case as that in the physical world everything is physical. For example, in the physical world you have the etheric body, the astral body, and even the ego of man; and the clairvoyant also sees the etheric body of minerals in the astral world.

Now, let us ask: where is the astral body of minerals? This looks like peculiarly formed rays. Picture to yourselves forms of light, or rays, broadening out more and more, and piercing into the etheric body of the mineral. Astral rays stream thus from every mineral. They have no end, but stream out indefinitely into space. When a rock crystal is observed you see first the space which is filled out physically; clairvoyantly you see this physical form surrounded by the light of the etheric body, and this again as if pierced by all kinds of ray-formations which extend endlessly in all directions into space. Vision is led from each point of space that is filled by some substance into the infinite. There is no point of space that is not connected with the Universe, it is as if every single thing in the world hung on thousands and thousands of threads of spiritual light which stretch into infinite space, and you can imagine, if these extended more and more, how they would all ultimately mingle.

In fact, when a mineral is examined clairvoyantly something like the following is presented to view: the physical part is seen rayed round by the light-forms of the etheric body, these rays of light appear to broaden and radiate continually into space till they ultimately disappear as if into a hollow globe. You can think of every mineral as being the centre of such a hollow globe, and that these are present everywhere in the world. These hollow globes interpenetrate each other, and if we can picture clairvoyant power enhanced more and more to where these rays unite we arrive at where the egos of the minerals stream towards us from every direction of space. These egos reveal themselves to clairvoyant capacity when it enters the higher regions of the devachanic plane. Whereas the rays which compose the astral body are in the lower regions, the ego is in the higher devachanic world.

You have here been given a panoramic view of the different kingdoms. The ego of man is on the physical plane, that of animals on the astral plane, that of plants in the lower regions of the devachanic world, and the ego of minerals is in the higher regions of the same world.

Therefore the minerals are in the opposite position to man. Man has his ego within him, it is enclosed within his skin; each human being is a centre in himself, a “man-centre.” Plants form a wider centre; taken together they form an “earth-centre”; and the egos of minerals form the circumference of the earth-sphere. Wherever a man is found the human ego is always the centre; the mineral ego is always in the circumference—exactly the opposite of man. You will now find it comprehensible when I tell you that the mineral soul is in an entirely different position to the human or to the animal soul.

When a mineral is broken up it does not feel pain, on the contrary it feels pleasure, it has a sensation of well-being. Great currents of pleasurable feeling stream forth from a quarry where stones are broken to pieces; on the other hand were you to put all the broken pieces together again it would cause very great pain. The same fact may be observed in another process. Imagine that you have a glass of warm water into which you throw a piece of salt. When the salt dissolves not only does the substance dissolve, but feelings of well-being fill the warm water, feelings of pleasure on the part of the mineral at being dissolved. Again, if you cool the water so that the salt crystallizes, the process is connected with a feeling of pain. Initiates have always known these things and have told them to man; he has but to learn to understand what they say.

One great Initiate spoke about this in a very significant manner.

Let us picture how things were at one time in the earth's development. Today we walk on solid earth, but it was not always thus. When we trace the evolution of the earth backwards we find that it becomes ever softer and softer till at last its condition is fluidic or even vapoury. That which is solid today, namely, the mineral part, has crystallized from out the erstwhile fluidic earth. It had to become solid in order that man might walk upon it. It was necessary for human existence that the earth, as regards its mineral nature, should suffer infinite pain—for infinite pain was connected with the solidification of the earth. Paul said, referring to this: “The whole creation groaneth in pain awaiting the state of adoption,” meaning that the earth has to endure pain in connection with solidification, and formation of the mineral earth, in order that man may be adopted as the child of God.

We need never lose respect for the writings of true Initiates when we come to understand them; every line of the inspired Biblical record fills us with profound awe when we learn its meaning with the help of Spiritual Science. Cosmic secrets are hidden in the saying of Paul quoted above. It is true that such truths as these will only again become fruitful for humanity when they enter into and affect men's feeling. They must not be only comprehended intellectually, but must be embodied in feeling if they are to become true knowledge.

Let us turn now to the consideration of plants; let us think how their physical body grows, how the glow of the astral body surrounds this, and how the ego is in the centre of the earth. Let me point out once more what is essential in this. What does the astral body really do when it develops the flower from outside? It does something of great importance in the life of the plant, and we shall understand this if we go a little more deeply into the spiritual structure of our earth.

In the last lecture we learnt that there was a time when the earth and the sun formed one body. Man was already there though he lived under entirely different conditions from those of today. He possessed a dim clairvoyant consciousness; and his organism was such that he could live in that earth-sun body. Today he is so organized that, when a sunbeam falls on his eye he “sees,” that is, he sees the sunbeam which penetrates to him from outside, and he sees by means of this sunbeam. This was not the case at the time when man was still one with the earth, in the sun. He then saw the sunbeams from within; he saw the soul-forces which permeated the sunbeams. What were these soul-forces? The forces permeating the sunbeams are the same as the forces within our astral bodies. Physical light is but the external body of the astral light which radiates from the sun, and the astrality gleaming about the upper part of the body of a plant is connected inwardly with the astral outpourings coming from the sun. You have wishes and impulses of will, because you possess an astral body. In the case of plants it is desire, feeling, and will that play round the blossoms.

What does that which plays round the plant desire? It desires to absorb the soul of the sunbeam, and with the soul its purest part—its ego; and it is this purest part which passes through the plant to the centre of the earth. The activity of the plant's ego is expressed in the activity of the spiritual content of the sunbeam which passes through it to the centre of the earth. Thus earth, plant, and sun work together. The spiritual powers of the sun are in fact continually being led to the earth. And how? By means of the astral body playing round them; the blossoms, which long to absorb the soul of the sunlight, allow to sink through their bodies into the earth. That which is brought about outwardly in the physical world through the beams of the sun is but one side of its activity; the other works psychically in the plant, which longs for the soul of the light that streams to earth in the rays of the sun.

Let us now try to understand the practical result of these things. Imagine a man of a far distant future who perceives in every plant what I have just told you of its longing to absorb the soul of the sun. This man will have, at a higher spiritual stage, something that the animal has at a lower stage—when grazing in a meadow it chooses the plants that are of use to it and leaves others alone—an unconscious instinct, but really it is higher spirits who guide the animal. The man of the future will approach plants that are of use to him consciously; not as now when he reflects on which yield the best substances for his body; he will then have a vital relationship to every plant, for he will know what it is they have absorbed, and what passes from them to him. Eating will not be to him a mean occupation, but an act consummated with soul and spirit, for he will know that everything he eats is the external form of something spiritual. In our immediate age, when men know little about the vital inward relations between themselves and the world, all kinds of substitutes are made use of. Why have the Initiates of all ages urged people to say grace before eating? The grace should be a token of the recognition that, together with the food, something spiritual enters into man.

We have seen how sensation and feeling alter when man acquires true wisdom. With a certainty as sure as the instinct of animals at a lower stage man will know with shining clearness what he should do; he will know because he will recognize the soul of that which he absorbs into himself. Down to everyday details such as these we can trace the practical value of Spiritual Science for the future.

Thus we can now consider the world with entirely different feelings; for we regard the earth not only as a body shone upon by the rays of the sun, but as a living being which absorbs the soul of the sun through the astral mantle of plants, and we see the entire Universe permeated by the egos of minerals, we see how all these things are ensouled and filled with spirit.

We have now dealt with the four kingdoms of nature, the mineral, vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms, but the series does not end here; it goes farther. These are only the kingdoms which man can see in his normal development. We have already pointed out, however, that in the Atlantean epoch man was the companion of Beings who as their densest form had only an etheric body. Those figures which have remained as a memory in the legends of various peoples, the figures of Zeus, Apollo, etc., were actual to the ancient Atlanteans; they dwelt with them during sleep. Such Beings were to be found everywhere who had not descended so far as to embodiment in the flesh.

Looking from man upwards to higher kingdoms, we have to begin with three kingdoms which interest us. In accordance with Christian esotericism, we call the kingdom immediately bordering on the human the realm of the Angels; they are also called Spirits of Twilight. Then there is a second kingdom, higher than the Angels, the kingdom of the Archangels; they are also called the Spirits of Fire. Lastly there is a still higher kingdom, that of the Archai (Original Forces or First Beginnings), called also the Spirits of Personality. These are the three kingdoms next above man.

I will try to tell you a little about the life of these kingdoms; they play a very positive part in our life. Just as man plays a part in the life of plants when he tills the ground, so these higher kingdoms influence the human kingdom. We shall best understand this if we consider the following: Man has at the present time an ego, an astral body, an etheric body, and a physical body. How does further development come to pass? Through working continually upon himself. Today the ego of man is still in many respects powerless to affect the other principles of his being, he is in many ways unable to control his passions, but is therefore ruled by them, that is, by his astral body. There is a great difference between human beings in this respect. Compare a savage who eats his fellow men with a European and then think of a high idealist such as Schiller or Francis of Assisi. You see here an advancing development which consists in man learning more and more to control his astral body by his ego. A time will come when the ego will do this completely; it will irradiate the astral body completely. Man will then have formed a higher principle, this principle we call Manas, or Spirit-Self. It is nothing but the astral body, which has been transformed by the ego.

When we observe a man of the present day clairvoyantly we see that his astral body really consists of two parts, namely, the part that is already under the control of the ego and the part he is not yet able to control. This latter is still filled with lower forces and impulses, and when the ego drives these out all kinds of powers are added to the astral body. In order that the astral body should not be destroyed by the lower forces it must always be permeated and suffused by higher beings who control it in the same way that man will control it in the future when he has attained the goal of his evolution. The beings whose task it is to control that part of the astral body which is still uncontrolled by man are one stage higher than he is, they are the Angels, or Spirits of Twilight. In fact one such Spirit watches over every human being, and this Spirit has power over the astral body; it is therefore no childish idea, but profound wisdom, to speak of guardian angels. These guardian angels have a great duty to perform.

Let us consider the course of a human life in its entirety. We know that it passes through many incarnations. At a given time—at a certain point in earthly evolution—man began to live as a soul, as an ego, in his first incarnation on earth. He then died, there was an interval, then a new incarnation, and so it has gone on from incarnation to incarnation; and these will only come to an end at a far-off period of human evolution. Man will then have passed through all his incarnations, and he will also have attained power to control his astral body perfectly. This can not be done till he has passed through all his incarnations, at least not in normal evolution.

Now, an Angel accompanies the inmost part of man's being and guides him from incarnation to incarnation, so that he may truly fulfil his mission on earth. It is, in fact, as if the human being had been able, since the beginning of his life on earth, to look up to an exalted Spirit who was his prototype, who could completely control his astral body, and who said to him: “Thou must be like unto me when in future thou passest out of this earthly evolution.” It is the task of Angels to guide the incarnations of men and whether we say that he looks up to his higher self, whom he must come to resemble more and more, or that he looks up to his Angel as his great pattern, it is exactly the same in a spiritual sense.

As man works further upon himself he will transform the etheric body into Buddhi, or Life Spirit; one day he will do this consciously, even now he is working on it unconsciously. So even higher Spiritual Beings have to work today in all human etheric bodies; this is the task of the Fire Spirits. Now, human etheric bodies are not individually so different as are human astral bodies. Every man has his own particular virtue or vice, but in things connected with the etheric body there is a certain similarity. This can be seen in the qualities peculiar to a race or nation. Because of this we see that each individual human being does not have an Archangel in connection with his etheric body, but that whole nations and races are guided by higher or lower Spirits of Fire. The peoples and races of the earth are indeed guided as a whole by Archangels. Here our view expands to something which to many persons is entirely abstract, but for those who are able to see into the Spiritual world it is entirely concrete. If anyone today mentions a national spirit, or a national-soul, this is considered an abstraction. It is not so to the occult observer. To him the whole nation is as if embedded in Spiritual substance and this Spiritual substance is the body of a Fire-Spirit. From hoary antiquity until now our evolution has been led and guided from people to people, from race to race, by the Spirits of Fire, whose bodies are the souls of nations, and whose mission it is to guide the course of human evolution through the various races of the earth.

There is, however, something else which is independent of tribe, nation, and race. In studying our present age we find much that is independent of such communities, yet that manifests itself simultaneously in many. For example, if we look back to the twelfth century we see how certain similar spiritual tendencies occurred in all the peoples of Europe, something that goes beyond the national-spirit. A word has been coined for this, it has been called the “Spirit of the Age.” This Spirit of the Age really exists, it forms the body for still Higher Beings, namely, the Spirits of Personality, or Archai.

From all that has been said you can see that our earth is embedded in a spiritual atmosphere. From a mineral foundation plants spring forth, and animals and human beings walk on it; enveloping all this are exalted Spiritual Beings who guide individual men, and other spirits who are the leaders of communities of people and races; and, further, there are other Beings who guide the “Spirit of each Age” over from one epoch to another.

In this lecture we have tried to give a panoramic view of our earth, of what it is also in a spiritual sense, and of man's connection with it all. At the same time a foundation has been laid on which we can build usefully what we have to say in the following lectures on the relationship between Universe, Earth, and Man.