The Spiritual Hierarchies
Düsseldorf, April 14, 1909
We have had the activity of higher spiritual Beings within our Cosmos, brought before our souls by means of two examples, that on ancient Saturn and that on the ancient Sun, which is the reincarnation, or the production of Saturn. It will now be necessary to explore the spiritual realm itself in which these higher spiritual Beings are, and consider their action and influence from still another point of view. During the first half of these lectures some things will have to be said which many of you have already heard. But even apart from the fact that there are many listeners here who have not yet heard some of the things which may be called introductory, it is necessary to repeat them, because we have to rise in these lectures to very high regions of spiritual life.
From what has been said you will have seen that spiritual Beings of the most different kinds have to be active within a cosmic system which is in process of development. What in reality, is this ancient Saturn? Let us make a precise image of it. Of course ancient Saturn has nothing to do with the Saturn of the present day. You can easily imagine that in ancient Saturn were already included the germs of all that belongs to-day to the whole of our solar system; our Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and so on, all these bodies were within ancient Saturn and have evolved out of it. Imagine to yourselves a globe, or heavenly body which would have the sun as its central point and would reach so far outwards that the Saturn of to-day was contained in it, this globe, larger than our present solar system, would give you a correct idea of ancient Saturn. Our whole solar system came forth, out of ancient Saturn. One might even compare it — not exactly but approximately — with the general Kant-Laplace universal primeval mist, out of which, according to the opinion of many modern people, our solar system has formed itself. But the comparison is not quite accurate, for the majority imagine that a sort of gas was the starting point of our solar system, whereas we have seen that it was a body of warmth, not of gas. Ancient Saturn was a giant body of warmth.
And so we heard yesterday, that when that ancient Saturn had transformed itself into the later Sun, the Cherubim began to be active from the surrounding circumference of the Universe. You have now to realise that those Cherubim, who were active, in the periphery of the Sun, were also already present in the periphery of ancient Saturn. Only they were not as yet called on to play their part — to put it trivially, they had not yet reached the stage when they could undertake something important, but they were present in the environment of Saturn. Still other Beings were around ancient Saturn, Beings of a degree still higher and still more sublime than the Cherubim, namely, the Seraphim, (Spirits of Love). The Thrones also came from the same region. But the Thrones, who are one grade lower than the Cherubim, let their substance flow downwards to form the warmth-substance of Saturn, as we have already shown. Thus we can imagine Saturn as a giant globe of warmth, surrounded by circles of spiritual Beings who are of a supremely high, sublime nature. Christian Esotericism calls them Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim. They are the Dhyanic Beings of the Eastern Teaching.
Whence do these circles of sublime Beings come? Everything in the world, everything in the Universe has evolved. And if we want to form an idea of the place whence come the Cherubim, the Seraphim and the Thrones, we shall do well to turn our thought into our own solar system and to ask ourselves: What will some day become of our solar system? We wish now to give you a short sketch of the development of our solar system.
We know that it has come forth out of ancient Saturn, Saturn transformed itself into the ancient Sun, which again changed into the ancient Moon. In the time when the ancient Sun was Moon, a particular development began. This Moon for the time went forth out of the Sun. In the ancient Moon we have the first heavenly body, which is outside and separate from the Sun. The Sun was able to evolve higher, because it cast from it the coarser substances. The whole system then developed towards our present earth. Our earth came into being because, along with all the remaining Moon and Earth, it divided from the Sun the coarser substances and beings belonging to it. But evolution goes further. The beings who have now to dwell upon the Earth, separated from the Sun, and who have been thrown out of the Sun, although excluded from it are developing ever higher and higher. They have to pass through yet another condition, that of Jupiter. But through all this, they are gradually maturing towards re-union with the Sun. And when the condition of the Venus-development will have come, all the beings who now live and move upon our earth will be re-absorbed into the Sun, and the Sun itself will have reached a higher stage of development, just because it will have again redeemed all the beings it had formerly excluded. Then will come the Vulcan development, the highest state in the development of our system. These are the seven stages of evolution of our system: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. In the Vulcan development, all those Beings who have evolved out of the small beginnings of the Saturn existence, will be spiritualised in the highest degree, they will have grown not only as far as the Sun, but even higher than the Sun. Vulcan is more than Sun, and with this it has reached the maturity of sacrifice, the maturity necessary to self disintegration.
The course of evolution is this: a Sun, which from the beginning is included in such a system, has at first to throw off its planets, being too weak to develop further without excluding them. It grows strong, absorbs its planets again, and grows into a Vulcan. Then the whole is dissolved, and from the Vulcan globe is formed a hollow globe which is something like the circles of Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, etc. The Sun will thus dissolve in space, sacrifice itself, send forth its Being into the Universe, and through this will itself become a circle of Beings like the Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, which will then advance towards new creation.
Why are the Thrones enabled. to give out of their substance what Saturn needs? Because they have prepared themselves in an earlier system, through seven conditions like those our solar system is now going through. Before a system of Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim can be evolved, it must have been a solar system at an earlier stage; which means, that when the Sun has got so far as to be reunited with its planets, it becomes itself a circle — a Zodiacal circle. That which we have come to know in the Zodiac, those great, sublime Beings, are the results that have come over to us from an earlier solar system. That which has formerly evolved within a solar system can now send down its influence out of universal space, and produce a new solar system, created out of itself. The Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones are for us the highest Hierarchy among divine Beings, because they have already passed through their solar system evolution and have risen to mighty cosmic deeds of sacrifice.
Hence it is that these Beings have come into the actual direct vicinity of the highest Godhead of which we can speak at all: the Trinity, the three-fold Divinity. Beyond the Seraphim we have to see that highest Divinity of which we find mention by almost all nations as the threefold Divinity — as Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, as Father, Word, and Holy Ghost. From out [of] this highest Godhead, this most exalted Trinity, stream forth the plans for a new cosmic system. Glancing back at ancient Saturn we say to ourselves: before any of this ancient Saturn came into Being, the plan of it had grown within the divine threefold Unity. But the threefold Unity has need of Beings to execute its plan. These Beings must first prepare themselves for the task. The Beings who, are so to speak, nearest God Himself, who, as is beautifully expressed in Christian Western Esotericism, ‘bask in the light of God's countenance,’ are the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. These take up the plans of a new cosmic system streaming from the divine threefold Unity. This is naturally expressed more figuratively than it really is, for we have to express in human words such sublime activities, for which, in truth, this human language has not been created. No human words exist to express such sublime activity as that, for instance, when the Seraphim, in the beginning of our solar system received the highest plans of the divine Threefold Unity containing the evolution which our solar system has to pass through, namely Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. Seraphim is a name which for those who understand it in its true sense, even in that of ancient Hebrew Esotericism, has always signified that the task of the Seraphim was to receive from the Trinity the highest ideas and aims for a system of worlds. The Cherubim, the next lower rank of the Hierarchies, had the task of building up in wisdom the aims and ideas which they received from the higher gods. Thus the Cherubim are spirits of highest wisdom, who understood how to transpose into workable plans, the inspirations given to them by the Seraphim. And the Thrones, the third grade of the Hierarchies, counting from above, had the task — naturally very figuratively expressed. — of putting things into action, so that what had been thought out in Wisdom — these lofty cosmic thoughts which the Seraphim had received from the Gods, and which the Cherubim had pondered over, should be transformed into active reality.
We actually see, if we do but try to see with the soul, how the first realisation of the divine plan occurs with the down-flow of the fire-substance of the Thrones. Thus the Thrones appear to us as those Beings who have the power to transform into a primary reality that which has been first thought out by the Cherubim. This takes place because the Thrones allowed their own substance to flow from them, the substance of the primeval original world-fire, into the space, which had been chosen for the new world-system. If we speak very figuratively we can express it thus: An old solar system disappeared and died away. Within that ancient solar system the ranks of Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones had evolved to the highest perfection. They then sought out, according to the inspiration received by them from the highest Threefold Unity, a Sphere within Universal space and said: ‘We will begin here.’ When the Seraphim took up the aims of the new world-system, the Cherubim worked out these aims, and the Thrones poured out of their own Being the primeval fire into that space. Thus we grasp the beginnings of our world-system.
Other Beings, however, were also present in a certain way, in the former solar system, of which ours is the successor. But these Beings did not rise so high as the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; they stopped on lower Stages, they had come over in a condition when they still had to pass through a certain development, before they could be creatively active, before they could offer sacrifice. These Beings are those of the Second threefold Hierarchy. The First threefold Hierarchy we have just been considering. The Beings of the Second threefold Hierarchy are: the Kyriotetes or Dominions or Spirits of Wisdom; then the so-called Mights, Dynamis (or, as Dionysius, the Areopagite, and after him the Teachers of the West call them, Virtutes, Virtues), or Spirits of Motion, and the Spirits of Form, who are also called by the Teachers of the West — Potentates, which mean Powers.
We must now ask ourselves: When we glance back at ancient Saturn and see the first threefold Hierarchy surrounding it, where then are the Beings of that second threefold Hierarchy? Where can we search for the Dominions, Mights, and Potentates? We must look for them inside ancient Saturn. If the Thrones have reached, so to speak, to its boundary, we must look for the Dominions, Mights and Potentates, or the Spirits of Wisdom, Motion and Form, inside Saturn. Inside ancient Saturn, within the mass of it, again three ranks of Beings are active, — the Dominions, Mights and Potentates. They are spiritual Beings operating inside the Saturn substance.
Now we must for once come to an understanding with the extraordinary fantastic modern theory of the origin of the world, and turn our minds again to the Kant-Laplace theory. It has put a mass of fog as a starting point for our solar system, and then has imagined that the whole of this giant mass of gas has begun to revolve. It finds it extraordinarily simple that with the rotation the outer planets gradually split off. At first there are rings. These then contract. The Sun remains in the middle, and the others rotate around it. They picture it quite mechanically. A very nice experiment is shown in the schools to make the thing clearer. It is shown how a solar system is formed in a small way, by taking a vessel full of water, throwing in a large drop of oil, then cutting a piece of paper, representing the equator, and putting a pin into it from above. Then the drop of oil is set into rotation. Small drops of oil split asunder and circle round, and the demonstrator shows it to pupils — sometimes quite old pupils — saying: ‘Now, you have here in small the formation of a world system.’ And the whole thing is made most illuminating. For what can illuminate one more than when one sees with one's own eyes how such a solar system is formed. Why should one not see that there was once upon a time a gigantic cosmic fog which in its rotation loosened the Planets around it, like those little drops, and made the miniature Mercury and Saturn loosen themselves from the large drop of oil. One must marvel at such a naive proceeding. For the man who tries to make the Kant-Laplace System so clear forgets one thing — sometimes it is very good to forget, only in this case it wont do — he forgets himself, he forgets he stood by and made the thing rotate. This is incredibly naive, but the simple-mindedness of modern, materialistic mythology is very great, greater than that of any other mythology. This will be realised in future times. There is someone who starts the whole thing, who makes it rotate. It is necessary if one can think at all, if one has not been forsaken by all the good Spirits of Logic, it is necessary to presume that spiritual powers are occupied out there with the rotation of the universal globes. Apart from the error in placing a primeval gas instead of a primeval fire at the outset, one cannot assume that that mass of gas began to whirl round of itself. One must ask: Where are the forces and powers which put movement into that mass which for us is of primeval fire, so that something begins to happen inside it? We have just enumerated them.
Spiritual forces work from without and from within our system. Those Beings who surround it, and who acquired their faculties in earlier systems, work from outside. Inside are Beings of less maturity, who differentiate the internal mass, who bring about what we had in our minds when we spoke of the shapes of warmth formed inside Saturn. They are Beings of highest intelligence who regulate all that happens there.
What then is the task of the first Beings of the second threefold Hierarchy? The Spirits of Wisdom or Dominions, or Kyriotetes take that which the Thrones or Spirits of Will bring down out of Universal space, and regulate it so that a harmonious co-relation can come about between the single globe which is originating — between Saturn and the whole Universe. In the interior of Saturn everything has to be so regulated that it corresponds with what is outside. What the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, bring down to Saturn from the hand of God, must be so appointed that within Saturn these commands can be carried out, and these impulses become realities. The Spirits of Wisdom or Kyriotetes receive from the circumference of Saturn that which comes down through the mediation of the highest Hierarchy, so that they may transform it and make it harmonise with what is in the interior of Saturn.
What is received by the Spirits of Wisdom, is further worked on and elaborated by Mights or the Spirits of Motion. And while the former inside Saturn hold, as it were, the highest command, the latter undertake the carrying out of these directions. Then the Powers or Spirits of Form — later we shall explain this more in detail, now we are characterising it only in a general way — provide that what is being formed according to the intentions of the Universe, should have duration, so long as it is needed, that it should not be destroyed again at once. These Powers or Spirits of Form are the maintainers — the supporters.
Thus the Dominions or Spirits of Wisdom are the directors inside Saturn; the Mights or Spirits of Motion are those who execute their directions; and the Powers or Spirits of Form are the supporters, the upholders of that which the Mights have built.
To day, we shall omit how the third threefold Hierarchy works, (we have spoken of them before) the Spirits of Personality, the Archangels or Fire Spirits and the Angels. We shall turn our attention to-day, with our newly acquired knowledge, to the transition from ancient Saturn to ancient Sun. The most essential proceedings were explained at the last lecture. What happens when ancient Saturn becomes Sun, is that the primeval fire changes into a condition of gas or air, so that the ancient Sun consists of what is called the residue of the primeval fire. The primeval fire is intermingled with, and forms the basis of, what has thickened into gas or smoke. Thus two substances are to be found there: primeval fire and a part of that fire which has condensed to gas or smoke — call it what you will. This is the essential characteristic of the old Sun. We shall see that our Sun has grown into something different, through transitory conditions up to the present day; it has developed into something different, although there are people who imagine that the interior of our Sun to-day is also merely a sort of gas.
If you enter into all the various theories at which our materialistic natural science arrives, you will, if you think, certainly be astounded. There is, for instance, a popular little book, which is much bought because of its cheapness, which claims that our present Sun has in its centre nothing solid, but only gas. Only, this gas — one could not believe it really, but it stands there in a little popular writing — this gas is as thick as honey or tar. The man who soars to such ideas that gas under conditions of pressure can become like honey or tar, I will willingly allow to wander about in such a sluggish land where the air is of the consistency of honey, but I would not wish him to have to move in an air that is a thick as tar! Materialistic theories have such excrescences as these.
We are not speaking now of our present Sun, but of that ancient Sun which really consists of primeval fire and of what is called fire-mist or fire-air. You find this expression used in Faust, for Goethe knew it well, and you find the expression fire-mist also used in theosophical literature. We must think of the ancient sun as of a mixture of these two substances. This did not, however, happen of itself. Universal bodies do not condense of themselves; spiritual Beings have to bring about this process of condensation.
Which are the Spiritual Beings who carried over the condensation of the substance of ancient Saturn to the ancient Sun? These Beings whom we call the Dominions, or Spirit of Wisdom. It is they who now press inwards from outside and who originally pressed together the mighty mass of Saturn so that it grew smaller. The Dominions brought pressure to bear upon it, until the ancient Sun became the size of a globe, the mass of which, if you place the Sun in its centre, you must imagine as reaching out to Jupiter. Thus Saturn was a gigantic world-globe, which having our Sun in its centre would have reached as far as to the present Saturn, an enormous globe, as large as our present solar system. The Sun of which we have just spoken was a world-globe which stretched a far as the Jupiter of to-day. This point marks the boundary of the ancient Sun-world. You will do well if you picture those outer planets as boundary marks for the limits of the ancient Worlds. You see that we are gradually approaching the theory of the planets, being led thereto through the activity of the hierarchies,
Let us go further. We know that the next condition is again one of condensation. The third condition of our World system is that of the Ancient Moon. Those of you who have given attention to the communications from the Akashic Record know that the ancient Moon had come into being because the Sun substance had condensed still more, as far as to the condition of water. The Moon contained no solid earth as yet, but was composed of fire, air and water. It had so co-ordinated the watery element. Gas or air was condensed in it to the element of water. Who effected this? That Hierarchy of spiritual Beings brought this about, whom we call Mights, Virtutes, or Spirits of Motion. Thus it happened through the Virtutes, that the mass of the ancient Moon contracted to the limits of the orbit of the present Mars. Mars is thus the boundary showing the size of the Moon. If you imagine a globe with the present Sun for its centre, and for its limit the orbit of the present Mars, you have the size of the ancient Moon. We have reached the point when we must remember that when the ancient Moon was formed out of Saturn and Sun, something quite new took place. A part of the dense substance was now thrown out, and two globes came into being. One of the two took up the finer substances and Beings and became a finer Sun, the second became a denser Moon. This third condition of our planetary system developed in such a way that, for a time, it remained one single planet; then it threw off a planet from itself, which remained in its vicinity. At first, so long as it formed one single body, the Moon extended to the orbit of the present Mars; then the Sun contracted, and was encircled by another body; approximately in the place where the present Mars has its orbit, was more or less the periphery of the original single body.
Through what did this division take place? Through what influence did a single globe split in two? It happened in the time of the domination of the Spirits of Motion, Mights, or Dynamis. For those who have already followed me in this domain, it is not new to hear that [in] the Cosmos things happen very much in the way they happen in ordinary human life. Where beings are evolving there are some who advance and others who remain behind, as many a father knows, who complains that his son in college lags behind whilst others are making good progress. We are concerned, therefore, with a difference in the ‘tempo’ of development. It is the same in the Cosmos. And through certain causes, which we shall learn later, now that the Mights or Virtutes have entered on their Mission, something came into play which is called in all Esotericism, and in all Mysteries, the ‘fight in Heaven.’ This ‘fight in Heaven’ forms an essential, and integral part of all Mysteries; it contains also the primeval Mystery regarding the origin of Evil. At a certain point of the Moon evolution the Mights or Virtutes had reached very different degrees of maturity. Some of them aspired to rise spiritually as high as possible; others again had remained behind, or at least had progressed normally in their development. Some of the Mights on the ancient Moon had progressed much further than their companions. The result of this was that these two classes of Mights divided. The more advanced ones drew out with the body of the Sun, and the others formed the Moon revolving around it.
We have now given a sketchy description of the fight in Heaven, the rending asunder of the ancient Moon, so that the planet accompanying the ancient Moon comes under the domination of those spirits of Motion or Might or Virtutes which had remained behind, and the ancient Sun under the domination of the advanced Virtutes.
Something of this fight in Heaven still sounds in the first sentences of the divine Gita, where symbolically at the beginning of the battle can still be heard echoes of that mighty fight of the heavens. O, it was a mighty field of battle! From the time when the Dominions or Kyriotetes brought about the formation of the ancient Sun, up to the time of that of the ancient Moon, when the Mights or Dynamis took up their mission, all was a mighty field of battle; a gigantic fight reigned in Heaven. The Dominions had contracted the whole mass of our solar systems to the boundary of Jupiter, then the Virtutes or Mights contracted it to the boundary of the Mars of to-day. Between these two planetary frontiers in the heavens lies the great battlefield of the fight of Heaven. Look at that heavenly battlefield! Only in the nineteenth century has the physical eye discovered again, so to speak, the devastations produced by the Fight in Heaven. You have a host of small Planetoids scattered in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. These are the wreckage of the battlefield of the fight in Heaven which was fought between the two points of Cosmic time when our Solar System was contracted first as far as Jupiter, then to Mars. And when our Astronomers direct their telescopes towards the heavenly spaces and still discover other planetoids, these are still the wreckage of that great battlefield, of that fight in Heaven between the advanced Virtutes and those who were less advanced, and which also brought about the severing of the Moon from the Sun.
Thus, we see, when we consider the actions of the divine spiritual beings, how external things appear to us as the expression, the outward physiognomy of those divine spiritual beings.