The Spiritual Hierarchies
16 April 1909, Düsseldorf
I should first like to make an observation in connection with the end of yesterday's lecture. I have noticed that some of you have attached a certain amount of importance to the fact that in the diagram. (figure 1) I made, each planet stood in line with the sun so that a kind of common conjunction was depicted. I would like to emphasize that this is of no importance whatever in connection with what we are considering here. We shall need such concepts later and it is important that we should not get erroneous ideas.
First, we draw the sun according to the Copernican system, then Mercury (the esoteric Venus), then Venus (the esoteric Mercury). This is followed by the earth with its moon, then the orbits of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. This represents the Copernican cosmic system.
Now, as I said yesterday, I would like to put before you the system taught in a Zarathustran school. You should not imagine that Zarathustra himself was always the teacher in such schools; we are referring rather to elementary truths that were current in the schools of Zarathustra. Here is the constellation of the Twins. I simply took the points that lie on the line from the Twins to the sun. Connect the sun with the constellation of the Twins, irrespective as to whether such a conjunction existed or not. The positions of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars do not matter. I have only drawn the diagram to show the orbits. They mark out the boundary of the various hierarchies.
If we wish to designate the realm of Saturn, we shall have to imagine the earth and not the sun at the center. We shall have to draw a circle—it is not really circular but egg-shaped—with the earth at the center. We proceed in a like manner for the other heavenly bodies. I beg you to discount aspects of secondary importance in this drawing and to concentrate on what really matters. The aim is to gain a picture of the various realms of influence of the different hierarchies.
Today, we shall consider the nature of the hierarchical beings immediately above man more in detail. The easiest way is to start with man. For only by becoming absolutely clear about what has repeatedly been said about the nature of man and his development can we rise to the nature of the members of the higher hierarchies.
We know that man, inasmuch as he dwells and has evolved on earth, consists essentially of four members. They are the physical, etheric and astral bodies, and the ego. Let us depict them in a diagram. We represent the physical body by a circle, likewise, the etheric and astral bodies, and finally the ego by the smallest circle. But you know how evolution proceeds. In the course of earthly evolution, man begins to work on his astral body with his ego.
In general, we can say that Manas, or the Spirit Self, represents the part of the astral body that has been transformed by the ego, the part that has come under the rulership of the ego. In fact, as has often been stressed, Manas or Spirit Self should not be thought of as a new factor that enters man but simply as the product of the transformed astral body. What is here being described applies only to the human being. We should pay heed not to generalize but to realize that the beings of the universe are very different from one another.
We now draw the fifth member, Manas, the transformed astral body (it should really be drawn inside the astral body) as a separate circle. Likewise, we draw the transformed etheric body, the part that has become Buddhi or Life Spirit (when the etheric body has been completely transformed it is entirely Buddhi) above it. Similarly, the physical body will be transformed into Atman, that is, if we consider man in his ultimate perfection, a stage that can be attained in evolution through Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. Thus, when the human being will have reached the highest goal of perfection, we can represent him diagramatically as follows: Atman, Buddhi, Manas, ego, astral, etheric and physical bodies. The significant point about this diagram is that the seven members form a whole, that they interpenetrate one another. That is important.
Such is not the case when we turn to the next hierarchy, to the Angels. We can apply this diagram to the human being but not to the angelic beings. In the case of the angel, he has developed a physical body, an etheric body, and an astral body in such a way that they form a totality. But we shall have to draw his ego, Manas, Buddhi, Atman as separate from the rest. To picture the nature of an angel correctly, you must imagine that the higher members he has developed (actually only Manas has been completely developed, the other two will follow later) hover in the spiritual world above the part that exists physically. An angel does not, as is the case with man, have an ego that dwells in a body on earth. Nor does he develop his Manas in the present stage of evolution on the earth. That is why one would hardly think that that part of an angel that is present in the physical world belonged to a spiritual being. When one meets a human being, it is obvious that he carries his members within him, everything is differentiated organically. If you wish to find an angel, you must bear in mind that his physical aspect down here is merely a reflection of his spiritual principles that are visible only in the supersensible world. You will find the physical bodies of angelic beings in flowing, running water, in the haze rising from evaporating stretches of water, also in the wind and in the lightning flashing through the air, and other occurrences of this kind. One of the first stumbling blocks is that one is firmly convinced that a physical body must have a definite boundary. The human being finds it difficult to realize that in rising and falling mists, in evaporating streams, in the blowing of the wind, in the flashing of lightning through clouds, we behold the revelation of angelic beings, and behind the physical body, which is not as limited as that of man, one has to seek the spirit.
The human being must develop his members as a self-enclosed entity. That is why he cannot imagine that a physical body can be so blurred and hazy that it need not have definitely outlined contours. You must imagine, for example, that eighty angels may have the densest part of their physical nature in one stretch of water. We should not imagine that the physical body of an angel needs to be limited in any way. One sheet of water here and another stretch far distant may belong to the same angelic being. Briefly, we see that everything that surrounds us as water, air and fire must be so pictured as to contain the bodies of beings belonging to the hierarchy immediately above man. Clairvoyant sight in the astral world is needed to behold the ego and Manas of angelic beings; they look down upon us from higher worlds. To find angelic beings we must investigate the realm of the solar system that extends as far as the orbit of the moon.
Matters are comparatively simple with regard to the angels. If, for instance, we have down here the physical body of an angel in a sheet of water or something similar, and we investigate this mass of water or gust of wind clairvoyantly, we shall discover within it an etheric and an astral body. That is why we have drawn these three members so that they are connected with one another. Of course, what we find in the rushing wind, in flowing or evaporating waters, is not only the material image seen by common perception; the etheric and astral bodies of angelic beings dwell in the most varied ways, in everything that belongs to water, air and fire. But if you wish to find the soul-spiritual nature of the beings of these angels, then you must investigate the astral realm clairvoyantly.
The next stage, that of the archangels, is again different. Their astral body, as we have drawn it here, is in no way connected with the physical and etheric bodies. We must now draw their lowest members as physical body and etheric body, which are separate from the principles that dwell above in higher worlds. To gain a total picture of an archangelic being, we must look in two places; it is not as with man in whom everything is united into one being. In the case of an archangel, we have a spiritual part above and a reflection of the spirit down below. A physical body and an etheric body can only be united if the physical body consists only of air and fire. In other words, you could not sense the physical body of an archangel in the rushing water, for instance. You could only perceive it in wind and fire, and you would have to seek the supersensible counterpart clairvoyantly in the spiritual world. That part is not even united with the physical, etheric body.
We now come to those beings whom we designate as Archai, Primal Beginnings, Primal Powers or Spirits of Personality. Here below we can only draw the physical body; all the rest is above in the spiritual world. Such a physical body can only live in fire. The physical bodies of the Archai can only be perceived in flames of fire. When we see the flashing fire of lightning, we can say that there we have something of the Archai, but above in the spiritual world we can find clairvoyantly the spiritual counterpart that is separate in this case from the physical body.
With regard to the Archai, supersensible perception can investigate them with comparative ease. The Spirits of Personality dwell within a realm that extends up to the astronomical Mercury (Venus according to the Mysteries). Let us assume that someone has developed the capacity to observe what happens up there in the sphere of Mercury; he would then be able to behold the highly developed beings known as Spirits of Personality. Suppose he gazes clairvoyantly up to Venus in order to observe the choir of the Spirits of Personality and then turns to the lightning flashing through the clouds. He would see in the lightning the reflection of the Spirits of Personality, for it contains their physical bodies.
So we reach the more exalted spiritual beings who extend their influence to the orbit of the sun. These Powers or Exusiai will concern us less today. It should merely be pointed out that the Venus and Mercury beings are the instruments through which they act—the Venus beings who have their physical bodies in fire, and the Mercury beings who have theirs in fire and wind. You must imagine that the beings who dwell in the sun make use of the Venus spirits in the flaming fire and the Mercury spirits in the roaring wind as lower organs of their influence. “And God makes the flames of fire into his servants and the winds into his messengers.” Sayings such as this that are to be found in ancient religious documents are taken from spiritual facts and correspond with what can be observed by means of clairvoyant perception.
We have thus seen that the three hierarchies that are immediately above us are closely connected with our own existence. Man is the being he is because he partakes in some measure of the solidity of the earth. This separates him from all other beings; it makes him into a self-contained entity, a being composed of separate members. On the Moon, man was still a being like others; there he went through transformations that were very much like water masses in a constant state of flux. It was on the earth that man was caught in his skin for the first time, so to speak. He became a self-contained being consisting of a physical, etheric and astral body, and an ego. This occurred comparatively recently.
Looking back into ancient Atlantean times, we find human beings who did not experience their egos fully within them88 selves. They were still waiting to receive their egos into themselves. If we go back still further in earth evolution, we find human beings who can only be said to consist of a physical, etheric and astral body. Going back to Lemurian times, we find that man had no more of a physical, etheric and astral body on earth than the angels have here below. From this point of time, with the growth of the ego through the Atlantean epoch, the union begins. In Lemurian times, men walked the earth who consisted only of a physical, etheric and astral body. They were not human beings in the present sense of the word, beings who could think and develop humanly as we understand it today.
Then something remarkable happened. Lemurian human beings were helpless; they could not manage their existence on earth; they did not know what they were here for. Heavenly beings, the inhabitants of Venus, who had an affinity with the physical body, now descended to those who dwelt on earth and permeated their soul substance. So, we have among the mass of Lemurian humanity a few who went about in quite a remarkable manner for they had different physical bodies from the others. A man so exceptionally endowed did not have an ordinary physical body. His was permeated, ensouled by a Venus spirit, a Spirit of Personality. As a result, he had a powerful influence on his surroundings. Outwardly, such Lemurians could not be distinguished fundamentally from their contemporaries, but because a Spirit of Personality worked into their physical body, such chosen individuals exerted an almost magical influence on their surroundings. They were the object of reverence, of awe, of obedience, the like of which could not be found anywhere today. Such beings, permeated by Spirits of Personality, were the leaders of the great migrations undertaken on the face of the earth to populate particular areas. Neither words nor signs were needed, and speech did not yet exist. The very presence of such a personality sufficed. When it was felt to be necessary to move large groups of human beings from one place to another, the masses simply followed without thinking about it. The capacity of thinking also did not exist then; it developed only later.
Thus, the Spirits of Personality came down to earth as Venus spirits in ancient Lemurian times. The Venus messengers who had taken on human countenance on earth—countenances as they were then—were of special significance for the whole of the universe. Cosmically, they reached up to Venus and their deeds were of significance for the whole cosmic system. They were able to lead humanity from one place to another because they had insight into the connections known to those acquainted not only with the earth itself but with its cosmic surroundings. The development of humanity progressed. The necessity arose for Archangels, Mercury Spirits, to intervene in evolution. It was now their turn to ensoul and permeate what was to be found below on earth. This occurred mainly during the Atlantean period. Spiritual beings from Mercury, Archangels, descended who were able to ensoul and permeate the physical and etheric bodies of certain human beings. So we also find among the Atlanteans human beings who could not outwardly be distinguished appreciably from others but who were ensouled by an archangel in their physical and etheric bodies. Now, if you recall that it was said yesterday that archangels have the task of guiding whole peoples, you will understand that a person who carried an archangelic being in himself was simply able to impart to a whole Atlantean tribe the appropriate laws inscribed in the heavenly world.
The great leaders of ancient Lemurian times, when it was necessary to act more generally, were ensouled by spirits from Venus. Those whose task it was to direct groups of people were ensouled by archangels. The priest-kings of Atlantean times were really a maya; they were not what they outwardly appeared to be. An archangel dwelt in their physical and etheric body and this was the actual acting agent. Going back to ancient Atlantean times, we can find the hidden centers of these leaders of humanity. They worked from hidden places from which they investigated the mysteries of the universe. We may give the name, "Oracle,” (though the word originated in later times) to what was investigated and directed from those ancient Atlantean Mystery centers. The great teachers of mankind worked and taught from these centers so that others might also become servants and priests of the Oracles.
It is important to know that in Atlantean times there were human beings who bore an archangel in their physical and etheric body. Clairvoyantly, one would have seen a physical human being but behind him a gigantic form rising far above, losing itself in indefinite regions—the figure of the inspiriting archangel. Such a personality had a twofold nature. At the death of such a being, the physical body was destroyed, according to Atlantean practice. The physical body, which had been ensouled by the archangel, dissolved, but the etheric body did not dissolve. There are demands of spiritual economy that run counter to the general truths of spiritual science. We usually say, and in general it is correct, that when a man dies, he lays aside his physical body and after a certain time also his ether body; apart from an extract that remains, it dissolves. This, however, is only generally the case. There is an enormous difference between the etheric body of an initiate of the Atlantean Oracles, which was permeated by an archangel, and an ordinary one. Such a valuable etheric body could not be lost; it was preserved in the spiritual world. The seven most important etheric bodies of the great founders of the Oracles were preserved by the mightiest leader of the Atlantean Oracles. These etheric bodies had been woven through by archangelic beings who at death had naturally returned to higher worlds. Something was preserved (not in boxes, of course, but according to spiritual laws).
The Atlantean Initiate of the Sun Oracle is none other than Manu, who led the remainder of the Atlantean population over to Asia in order to establish the post-Atlantean cultures there. He took a handful of people with him and led them across to Asia. He trained people through generations and when the suitable seven had been bred and educated sufficiently, he wove into their own etheric bodies the seven etheric bodies that had been preserved and permeated by archangels on ancient Atlantis. The seven, sent down by the mighty leader to found the first post-Atlantean culture, were the Holy Rishis of ancient India. They bore within their sheaths the etheric bodies of the great Atlantean leaders, who, in turn, had received them from archangelic beings. Thus, past, present and future came together. You would have found the seven Holy Rishis to have been simple people, for their astral bodies and egos had not reached the development of their etheric bodies. Their real capacities were woven into their etheric bodies, which were at times taken hold of by inspiration. Then they revealed the profoundest mysteries of our solar system and of the universe as a whole.
Even in post-Atlantean times, mankind had not advanced sufficiently to dispense with ensoulment from above. We have seen that in Lemurian times it took place through the fact that a Spirit of Personality permeated the physical body; in the Atlantean period the physical and etheric bodies were ensouled by archangelic beings; in post-Atlantean times the great leaders of humanity were ensouled by angelic beings who had descended into their physical, etheric and astral bodies. The mighty leaders of the first post-Atlantean periods did not only have human physical, etheric and astral bodies; each leader was permeated by an angel. This enabled them to look back into their former incarnations. The ordinary person is not able to do so because he has not yet developed his Manas; he must first become an angel.
These leaders born of ordinary people again represented a maya. They were totally different from what they outwardly appeared to be. They were personalities in whom an angel dwelt, who inspired them with what they needed to be the teachers and leaders of mankind. The great founders of religion were such men possessed by angelic beings. Angels spoke through them.
Although the course of world development may be described as a process of absolute regularity, things are constantly overlapping. What is described as a process of perfect regularity does not work out in fact with perfection. In the main what has been said is valid. In Lemurian times, Spirits of Personality spoke through human beings; in Atlantean times, through archangels, and through angels in post-Atlantean periods. But during post- Atlantean periods, we still find human beings permeated in their physical bodies by Spirits of Personality and, although they lived in post-Atlantean times, they were in the same position as beings in Lemurian times through whom Spirits of Personality were speaking.
Mankind needed such leaders and so in post-Atlantean times we encounter human beings who, though they bore the outer characteristics of the people to whom they belonged, harbored a Spirit of Personality in themselves. Furthermore, there were men in post-Atlantean periods who bore an archangel, a Mercury spirit, in their physical and etheric bodies. Finally, there was a third category of human beings; men who were inspired in their physical, etheric and astral bodies by angelic beings. They were, in fact, men through whom angels spoke.
In accordance with the traditions of the East, such human beings received particular names. Thus, one who outwardly appeared like a human being of the post-Atlantean period but bore a Spirit of Personality in his nature and was ensouled right down to his physical body by such a spirit, is known in the teachings of the Orient as a Dhyani-Buddha. Dhyani-Buddha is a generic name for such individualities. Beings ensouled down to the etheric body by an archangel in post-Atlantean times are known as Bodhisattvas. Carriers of an angel, beings ensouled in their physical, etheric and astral bodies, are called human Buddhas. Thus we have three degrees: the Dhyani-Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas and the human Buddhas. That is the true teaching relating to the various degrees of Buddhahood. We have to consider this in connection with the manner in which the hierarchies manifest themselves and fulfill their appointed tasks.
We cannot but marvel as we look back to early undeveloped humanity that there were men through whom the mighty hierarchies were able to speak to the planets, and that the spirits of the upper hierarchies, who were active before the appearance of the earth, gradually emancipated planetary men, human beings who dwelt down here, in accordance with the degree of their maturity. Here we gaze into profound depths of wisdom, and it is of prime importance that we should gain insight into the wisdom imparted to humanity in ancient times.
In referring to the Buddhas—and in eastern lore there are various Buddhas who have achieved different degrees of perfection— you should bear in mind that when a Buddha walked on earth, a Bodhisattva was behind him and even a Dhyani- Buddha. It might also occur in a particular instance that the Dhyani-Buddha and the Bodhisattva did not penetrate sufficiently deeply to ensoul the physical body; the Bodhisattva ensouled the etheric body only, so that we can picture a being not able to penetrate sufficiently deeply to ensoul and inspire the physical body but only the etheric body. Such a Bodhisattva, who was physically invisible since he appeared only in an etheric body, could as a higher being inspire the human Buddha in a special manner. Thus, we might have a human Buddha inspired by an angelic being who still could receive into his etheric body the inspiration of an archangel.
We gaze here into the profound complexities of the human being, and that is of capital importance. Many individualities of former ages can only be understood when we realize that they represent focal points for a number of beings who work and express themselves through man. For, indeed, many a period does not possess a sufficient number of great men able to be inspired by the spirits who have to be active. It is, therefore, often the case that various beings of the Higher Hierarchies have to ensoul one single personality on earth. Sometimes we have not only the inhabitants of Mercury, but of Mercury and Venus combined, who speak to us through one person.
You see, such concepts lead us to an understanding of human evolution. We learn to recognize the true nature of personalities who, when we meet them in their physical form, merely represent a maya.
Tomorrow we shall concern ourselves with the origin of the various physical planets, which until now we have only considered as boundary marks. We shall then gain an understanding of them as the dwelling place of spiritual beings.