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The Spiritual Hierarchies
GA 110

Lecture III

13 April 1909, Düsseldorf

Questions will have arisen in your minds at the end of the last lecture about the lowest realm of the Spiritual Hierarchies. That is quite natural. According to contemporary thinking, much of what has been said can at first only appear problematical and incomprehensible. In the course of these lectures light will be shed on a number of points, but, to enable you to deal with such matters, one thing should be made clear at this stage.

A man of today might ask, “If I do, in fact, release an enchanted being from a stone by means of my thinking, what remains in the stone? Does the being remain in the stone? What has happened to the stone? Suppose a second person comes along and goes through the same process. What is the result in that case?”

Such questions can easily arise. Some of them will be dealt with in the course of these lectures, but it should be borne in mind that earthly thinking is quite incapable of grasping matters of this kind. Everything on earth is veiled and cloaked in maya, and reality is different from what it appears to be to our thinking. We need not blame the things in themselves that such questions remain unanswered. The questions are wrongly put. In time, we shall acquire a vantage point from which to put the questions correctly.

Matters are seen to be radically different, however, as we gain insight into situations that are not so deeply shrouded in illusion. On earth things are jumbled together, and as a result our thinking is continually being led astray. Purer concepts can be gained by looking back into ancient times.

Just as man passes from one incarnation to another, from one metamorphosis to another, so all the beings of the universe, small or great, go through re-embodiments. The earth, a planetary being, also passes through incarnations. In the beginning of its existence our earth did not appear in its present form; other conditions preceded it. This subject has often been dealt with in our circles. Just as man has gone through previous incarnations, so the earth, too, represents a reincarnation of a previous condition of our planet. We call that former planet, Moon, but we do not mean by it our present moon, which is only a part, a residue of the ancient Moon. We mean a former condition of the earth that existed in the past and which then went through a spiritual state termed, pralaya, in the same way that man passes through a spiritual condition after death. Just as man reincarnates, so this lunar planet reincarnated. What we have characterized as the lunar planetary condition is the reincarnation of a still earlier condition, which we call Sun. This is not the present sun but quite a different one; it is the reincarnation of the first planet to which we look back when speaking of the incarnations of our earth—the primeval planet Saturn. Thus, we have four successive incarnations: Saturn, Sun, Moon and Earth.

Each planetary condition has a special task. What is the task of the earth? It is to make man's existence possible. All activities on earth are such that through them man may become an ego-being. This was not the case during previous planetary conditions. Man has only become human in the present sense of the word on earth. Former planetary conditions of the earth had similar objectives. Beings who now stand above man reached their human condition on these earlier planets.

You may recall that in my book, Christianity as Mystical Fact,1Christianity as Mystical Fact, by Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophic Press, Inc., New York. I mentioned the strange hint given by an Egyptian sage to Solon the Greek, about a fact known in the Mysteries. He told him that the gods had formerly been human beings. In ancient times a pupil of the Mysteries had to accept the truth that the gods who dwell in exalted regions had not always been gods, but had once been human beings who had risen from that condition to their present lofty heights. A dangerous truth, for the pupils of the Mysteries naturally drew the inference that at some time in the future, men, too, would become gods. A dangerous thought indeed, unless it is linked to another—that a man can only become a god when he is ripe for that condition. If he imagines he can find the god within before having reached the necessary stage of maturity, he does not become a god but merely a fool. Therefore, only two paths are open to man. Either he can live patiently in anticipation of what Dionysius calls his deification, or he can imagine prematurely that he is already a god. The one path leads to a true deification; the other leads to folly and madness.

In our time, misunderstandings of the sayings of the ancients are prevalent because we no longer differentiate between the various degrees of divine spiritual beings. The Egyptian sage who spoke of the gods did not mean only one degree of gods but whole sequences of divine spiritual beings. Dionysius the Areopagite and the wise sages of the East always differentiated between the various degrees of divine spiritual beings. It matters little whether we speak of Angels or Dyan-Chohans. Those who grasp the unity of cosmic wisdom are well-aware of the fact that they are but different names for the same beings. In Christian esotericism invisible beings who stand immediately above man are called Angels, Angeloi or messengers of the divine spiritual world. Beings who stand one stage higher, that is, two ranks above man, are called Archangels, Archangeloi or Spirits of Fire. Beings who stand yet a further stage higher, when they have accomplished their normal development, are termed Spirits of Personality, Archai or Primeval Beginnings. Thus, we have at the outset three ranks of beings who stand above men. They were once men and have all gone through a human stage.

Beings who are Angels today, when seen from the aspect of universal time, went through their human stage relatively recently; they were men on the Moon. Just as we are able to inhabit the earth as men because of conditions here, so the Angels were able to pass through their human stage on the Moon. The Archangels went through their human development on the Sun, and the Spirits of Personality, or Primeval Beginnings on ancient Saturn. These beings have risen above the human stage and belong to various degrees of the hierarchical world. The sequence of the different degrees within the cosmic realms, seen from a spiritual aspect, is as follows. Visible on earth are mineral, plant, animal and human kingdoms, and above them are the invisible realms of the Angels, Archangels and Archai. In the course of the spiritual ascent of these beings, through their development from men to gods—or, more exactly, to Messengers of the Gods—the conditions of the planets on and for which they lived, changed also. If we look back to ancient Saturn when the Archai were men, we find that conditions were totally different from those pertaining to the earth.

In the last lecture, we spoke of the four elements that we distinguish as earth, water, air and fire or heat. The first three elements did not exist on ancient Saturn. Only fire or heat existed. The modern materialistic philosopher will object that we can only become aware of heat through outer objects—warm solid bodies, warm water, etc,—but that heat cannot exist by itself. That is not true. If we could have observed ancient Saturn with our present senses, what would we have experienced?

Let us assume—that is, of course, hypothetically that you could have flown through universal space during the time of Saturn. You would not have seen where ancient Saturn was; there was nothing to see. You would only have been aware of heat. Flying through ancient Saturn would have felt rather like flying through the heated space of a baking oven. There would not have been the slightest draught of air. You would not have been able to swim because air and water did not exist. You could not have stood up because there was no earth. Your hand could not have touched anything; there was only one huge ball of heat. The whole of ancient Saturn consisted only of heat. The metamorphosis of our earth began as a planet of heat, and this shows how correct Heraclitus was when he said, "Everything is derived from fire." Yes, indeed! The earth is but a transmutation of ancient Saturn; everything on earth has arisen out of fire. Heraclitus knew of this truth from the ancient Mysteries. This is hinted at in that it is said that his book, which contained this truth, was dedicated to the Goddess of Ephesus, and that he placed it on the altar there. This means that he acknowledged he owed this truth to the Mysteries of Ephesus, where the teaching of the primeval fire of Saturn was proclaimed in all its purity. You will also have deduced that the beings called Primal Beginnings, Archai or Spirits of Personality, passed through their human stage under quite different conditions from the man of today. In his bodily constitution, in his blood and bony system, the man of today is able to assimilate solids, liquids and gases. The man of Saturn, the Spirit of Personality, had to build the whole of his body out of fire. That is exactly what he did; he had a body of fire on Saturn.

I told you in the last lecture that there are two sides to warmth. One we feel inwardly. We feel warm or cold without entering into contact with solids of the outer world. We can also become aware of outer warmth when, for example, we take hold of a heated object. Now the characteristic development of Saturn lies in the fact that the warmth that was inner at the beginning, gradually turns to an outwardly perceptible. warmth. If you had travelled through Saturn during the early phase you would not have been aware of any outer warmth touching your skin, but you would have felt inwardly warm; you would have sensed a comfortable feeling of inner warmth. Something of what we call an inner warmth of soul today would have been your experience as you travelled through Saturn during its early phase of evolution.

You can imagine the experience you would have had on Saturn if you consider the following. You know that there is a difference between a red and a blue surface. Red, when you look at it, produces a feeling of warmth; blue, a feeling of cold. Imagine the feelings released in the soul when you see something red. Of course, that would not have been possible on Saturn. There you would have had a comfortable feeling of warmth similar to what we experience when we behold a red surface. At the end of the Saturn period, you would not only have sensed this pleasant inner warmth, but also something resembling outer warmth coming toward you. Inner warmth gradually transformed itself into an awareness of outer warmth. The evolution of Saturn goes from an inner soul warmth to an outwardly perceptible warmth, or fire. One might say that just as the child grows up to adulthood and experiences many stages, so the Spirits of Personality grew on Saturn. To begin with they sensed an inner, comfortable warmth, and then gradually became aware of how this warmth was being externalized. Yes one might even say, embodied. What happened then?

You must imagine first the inner warming process of the globe of Saturn. This enables the Spirits of Personality to incarnate. During their incarnation, outer warmth gradually comes about. Had you undertaken a journey through Saturn during the later phases of its development, you would have been able to distinguish between warmer and colder outer areas. Now, if you had made a drawing of these self-contained bodies of warmth, you would have produced a picture in which, at the surface of Saturn, you would have found clusters of warmth-eggs forming the outer crust, which thus resembled a blackberry or raspberry. What were these eggs? They were the bodies of the Spirits of Personality and, by means of their inner warmth, the Spirits of Personality produced the outer warmth of the Saturn eggs. It might be said of this condition that, as the spirits brooded over the warmth, they really brought forth the first bodies of fire. One might say that the outer eggs of warmth coagulated from the inner warmth. On ancient Saturn the Spirits of Personality, the Archai, also called A suras, were incarnated in these bodies of fire.

It was possible for the Spirits of Personality during the Saturn evolution to transform the external warmth into inner warmth once again. The process was by no means rigid, but was inwardly mobile. In fact, the Spirits of Personality were continually producing warmth-eggs and letting them dissolve again. In order to picture the process more exactly, imagine that you had travelled for some time through these regions. You would have noticed that there were times on Saturn when no outer warmth was perceptible but only a comfortable feeling of inner warmth. This would have been followed by periods when the warmth-eggs appeared. You would have become aware of a kind of breathing on ancient Saturn, a breathing of fire. You would have thought, “I am within ancient Saturn and feel as if all outer warmth has become inward, as if everything were only a feeling of inner well-being.” Then you would have said, “Now Saturn has breathed in the warmth." On another occasion you would have come across the many warmth-eggs, and you would have felt, "Now Saturn has breathed out its inner warmth and is all external fire.”

You see, the Holy Rishis conveyed such pictures to their pupils. They were transported back spiritually to ancient Saturn and made to experience how the whole planet accomplished something similar to our present breathing out and breathing in. They showed them that when the fire flowed out, it produced countless bodies of warmth, and that when the fire was sucked in, it became the inner ego-hood of the Spirits of Personality. Therefore, the life of the planet was compared to a breathing out and a breathing in. There was, however, only a breathing of fire, air was not yet present. Now let us imagine that all the Spirits of Personality would have continued to breath fire in and out. They would then have gone through their regular Saturn development, and the result would have been that after a certain period everything would have been gathered up again into inner warmth. The external fire planet, would have disappeared to be taken up into the spiritual world once more. This could have occurred, but in that case there would not have been Sun, Moon and Earth conditions because everything that had been breathed out would have been gathered up into inner warmth again and returned to the spiritual world.

Let us characterize with a trivial expression what actually happened. Certain Spirits of Personality preferred to take back only a portion of the warmth breathed out. Something continually remained behind so that, when there was a breathing in, all the Saturn eggs did not disappear. As a result, a duality arose on Saturn and inner warmth and external warmth incorporated in the eggs. The Spirits of Personality left a part of the breathed-out warmth to take care of itself, so to speak. They left it outside. Why did they do that? They had to do it because they otherwise would never have reached their human stage on Saturn.

What does it mean to become man? It means to attain ego-consciousness. You cannot do so unless you are able to distinguish yourself from your surroundings. Only because of this are you an “I,” an ego. The bouquet of flowers is there; I am here; I differentiate myself as “I” from the objects around me. Had the Spirits of Personality not left something that offered resistance outside, they would have allowed their "I” to stream out eternally. They came to their egohood, or self-consciousness, because something was outside them, and they differentiated themselves from the warmth element that had thus been made objective. They pushed a part of the Saturn beings outside into a condition of external warmth and said to themselves, “I must allow something to stream out of myself and leave it there so that I can differentiate myself from it, and kindle my ego-consciousness by means of this external part." Thus, they created a realm beside their own; they produced a reflection outside of their inner life. As a result, when the Saturn existence came to an end, the Spirits of Personality were unable to let the planet disappear. It would have disappeared had they breathed in all the fire, but they were not in a position to breathe in what they had previously externalized. They were unable to intervene in the sphere that had offered them the possibility of self-consciousness.

A condition of pralaya could not have arisen for Saturn through the Spirits of Personality alone. Higher beings had to intervene to dissolve Saturn again and bring about pralaya, a state of transition, of disappearance, of sleep. Higher spirits, the Thrones, of which we will only mention the name at this stage, entered into play and dissolved everything that had existed. Thus, as the life of Saturn drew to a close, the Spirits of Personality had attained self-consciousness and had absorbed a part of the warmth again, developing at their center a consciousness of self by means of a lower realm that they abandoned. Now the Thrones dissolved what they had left behind and Saturn entered into a kind of planetary night. This was followed by planetary dawn when everything was to awaken again by means of laws that we shall get to know later. Had ancient Saturn disappeared through an in-breathing of the total warmth, the whole of Saturn existence would have been gathered up into the spiritual world. In that case an awakening would simply not have occurred. Now, the Thrones could only dissolve for a time what the Spirits of Personality had externalized as eggs. They had to be given over to a lower stage of existence for further development. As a result, the planetary dawn ensued and the second metamorphosis of Saturn, the Sun condition, arose.

What came to life in this Saturn condition? The Spirits of Personality, who had attained self-consciousness and no longer needed to go through what they had previously experienced, came over from ancient Saturn after the planetary sleep. The warmth-eggs that they had exhaled now differentiated themselves again out of the general mass. The Spirits of Personality were now, so to speak, bound to what they had previously left behind. Had they been able to gather everything up into the spiritual world, they would not have been bound to the Sun existence; they would not have had to descend. But they had to do so because they had left a part of their own previous being behind. They had to concern themselves with it; it drew them down into a new planetary existence.

That was the destiny of Saturn; it was world karma, cosmic karma. Because the Spirits of Personality had not taken everything into themselves on ancient Saturn, they prepared the karma that obliged them to return. Down below, they found as a heritage what they themselves had brought about. What happened as the Spirits of Personality took up the karma they had created? I characterized these results in general terms yesterday when I explained that warmth divided itself into light and smoke. There arose out of the warmth-eggs on the reborn Saturn a new planet similiar to gas, air or smoke on one side, and light appeared on the other because heat returned to higher conditions. So, on the one hand, we have smoke, gas and air inwardly on the transformed Saturn, and, on the other hand, light.

Had you now travelled through the universe and arrived at the place of the old Sun, you would have been aware from afar of the light that had formed itself because behind it there was smoke. You would not have seen the light, but a shining globe, just as you would have perceived a globe of heat on Saturn. You would have encountered a shining ball and had you penetrated under the surface, you would not only have experienced warmth but also winds, air and gases blowing in all directions. The globe of heat had transformed itself into a globe of light. A sun had come into being. One is fully justified in calling it a sun. The orbs that are suns today are passing through the same process. Inwardly, they are streaming masses of gas and on the other side they cause the gas to turn into light; they ray light forth into the universe.

Thus light appeared in the course of the transformations of our planet; light appeared for the first time. The Spirits of Personality could become man in the heat of ancient Saturn, and in the light that streamed from the Sun the beings of the Spiritual Hierarchies called Archangels, or Archangeloi, could attain their manhood. If you had looked at the Sun, not as man does today but with clairvoyant faculties, you would not only have seen a shining radiance but you would have beheld the deeds of the Archangels streaming toward you in the light.

The Archangels, however, had to take something into the bargain, as it were. The old Spirits of Personality still found pure fire on Saturn. The Archangels, who could only become man on the Sun, found a gas-like smoke condition on the planet they now had to inhabit. What did they have to do in order to gain a firm foothold on the Sun and make their abode there? They formed their souls, the inward part of themselves, out of light and incorporated it into an outer body of gas. Just as you today have a body and a soul, so the Archangels who attained their manhood on the Sun, consisted of an inner being able to ray out light and of an outer body of gas or air. Just as today the body of man is made up of earth, water, air and fire, so the Archangels consisted of air, and inwardly of light. They had, of course, brought over the fire element with them for it was precisely this that they developed into smoke and light. Thus, they also contained fire. Their total organization consisted of light, smoke and fire. You would have encountered the Archangels in bodies woven of gas, fire and light. The light enabled them to have an outer existence and they streamed a shining force into the universe. Through the fire, they had an inner life and experienced the well-being of warmth. Because they dwelt in a gaseous body they were able to live on the Sun planet as such. They could now differentiate their own gaseous body from the general substance on the old Sun. They collided with this general substance, and this kindled a kind of consciousness of self. But this consciousness could only be developed to higher stages because the Archangels preferred to remain connected, so to speak, to their gaseous, smoke-like bodies, or to leave them behind in the Sun substance. For in the changing conditions on the old Sun, the Archangels would have been able to absorb all the smoke, all the gas of their surroundings.

Now we have a real breathing process! You would have experienced the currents of gas on the old Sun as a breathing process. You would have found conditions of absolute stillness when you would have thought that the Archangels had inhaled all the gas. But then the Archangels began to exhale again. Inner currents began to flow and at the same time light appeared. These were the alternating conditions on the Sun. The Archangels inhaled the sum-total of gas; stillness and darkness, the Sun's night, ensued. They exhaled; the Sun became filled with streams of smoke and shone forth. The Sun's day had begun. The whole of the Sun's body went through a real breathing process, that is, during exhalation, the Sun's day, there was illumination of the surrounding world; during inhalation, the Sun's night, the oncoming of total darkness occurred.

Here you have the difference between the old Sun and the present sun. Our present sun is always shining and darkness is only produced when an object is placed in front of the light. That was not the case on the old Sun. It had the power to produce alternating conditions of light and darkness that consisted of a breathing out and a breathing in.

Let us imagine quite vividly what happened outwardly. Take the condition of exhalation, that is, when the light rays out and at the same time the Sun fills itself with smoke. These forms of smoke, these currents of smoke have a regular configuration. At each exhalation a sum of regular forms are imprinted upon the substance of the Sun. What had previously been mere egg-shaped bodies of warmth became transformed into various regular structures. Quite remarkable structures of smoke containing an inner life and regularity now arose. It was as if the eggs hatched, which might be compared to a process of solidification. Much as the chicken comes out of the egg, so had the eggs of warmth been split asunder; regular smoke forms emerged, which were the densest bodies of the Archangels. They inhabited the Sun in bodies of smoke, gas and air, and thus moved about as men. This gives us the spiritual idea of a fixed star, of a universal sun that produces the alternation of day and night by virtue of its own inherent power. Light and darkness came about through breathing out and breathing in because at that time the old Sun was a kind of fixed star. Everything that shines forth of itself into our universal space sends the life of spiritual messengers, the Archangels, out with the light.

What have the original Archai, the Primal Beginnings, the Spirits of Personality accomplished through their own development? They have made it possible for a Sun to appear. If it were not for them, there would only have been a Saturn stage in evolution, but because the Archai left external eggs of warmth on Saturn the metamorphosis into a sun could be achieved. On the Sun the Archangels had the opportunity to pass through the stage of man. They became the heralds of the cosmos who proclaimed that the Primal Beginnings, the Spirits of Personality had preceded them. uWe proclaim as messengers of the universe in radiating light the former existence of the warmth-permeated ancient Saturn. We are the messengers, the heralds of the Archai." Messengers means Angeloi, Archai means Beginnings. The Archangels are, in fact, the messengers of the deeds of the Primal Beginnings or Archai in ancient times. That is why they are called the Angels of the Beginnings, Archai or Angeloi, which gave rise to the English Archangels. These Arch-messengers achieved their manhood on the Sun.