Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Spiritual Hierarchies
GA 110

Lecture VII

Düsseldorf, April 16, 1909

I should like to make an observation to-day at the beginning of this lecture in connection with the end of yesterday's lecture. I have seen that some of our respected listeners have given a certain importance to the fact — and one can very well understand it — that, in the sketch which I made each planet stood in a line with the Sun, that a sort of general relationship had been drawn, but I must expressly observe to you that this has no importance, and has nothing to do with that which concerns us here. It will be considered later on. We must not get wrong ideas.

First, we draw the Sun, in accordance with the Copernican system; then, that which is called Mercury to-day — but which is esoterically called Venus; then Venus — which is Mercury in the esoteric sense. Then (according to the Copernican system), comes the earth, with its moon. Then comes the orbit of Mars, of Jupiter, ending up with the orbit of Saturn.

This then would be the world system of Copernicus. Now, as I have said, I should like to put the thing before you as it was taught in a school of Zarathustra. Zarathustra however was not always himself the teacher; these are elementary truths which were taught in the Zarathustra schools. If we suppose that here is the constellation Gemini, we take these points which simply lie in this line (from x or Gemini, to the Sun), and join the Sun with the constellation of Gemini, whether there is such a conjunction or not does not matter. I have drawn this here only to show the orbits of the planets, not the points where they stand. These are the boundary marks for the different Hierarchies. Now, if we want, for instance, to designate the realm of Saturn, we must think of the earth and not the Sun as the centre, and we must draw a sort of circle — which in reality is not circular but egg-shaped, so that the earth becomes the centre point. We must do the same with the other heavenly bodies. I beg you not to take the things of secondary importance in this drawing for the chief thing. The chief thing consists in getting into your minds the figures, which agree with the corresponding realms of power, of the Hierarchies.

To-day we shall consider more in detail the nature of those members of the Hierarchies, standing immediately above man. It is good to study this and to begin for once with man. For only if we have quite clearly in our minds all that has been repeatedly said about the nature of man and of his developments, can we rise to the consideration of the nature of the members of the higher Hierarchies.

We know that man, as he first appeared upon earth, and as he has developed, consists essentially of four parts. These four members are the physical, the etheric, the astral body and the ‘I.’ We will draw these schematically to-day, as we have need. First we draw the human physical body as a circle, the same with the etheric body, the astral and lastly the ‘I’ or Ego as a small circle. You know how the development of man proceeds. During the course of his earthly evolution man begins to work on his astral body, with his Ego.

Generally speaking we may say: as much of his astral body as man has developed by the help of his ‘I’, so that this refashioned part of his astral body is completely ruled by the ‘I’, so much of it is called Manas or Spirit self, this — as has been often said — must not be looked upon as something new that has entered man, but simply as a transformed product of the astral body. It must be carefully noted that all that has just been said applies to man only. It is important that we should not generalise, but make it clear to ourselves that the Beings of the universe differ very much from each other. Let us then draw the fifth part of man the transformed astral body, that is to say Manas, as a separate circle: in reality it ought to have been drawn inside the astral body. In the same way we must draw above it the transformed etheric body. The transformed part of the etheric body, we designate Budhi or life spirit: when the whole of it is transformed it becomes completely Budhi. In the same way the physical body is transformed into Atma, when we consider man in his perfected state, which he will attain in the course of his development through Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. Thus when man will have reached his highest perfection in the Vulcan condition, we might make a schematic drawing of him in the following way: we could say that we have here his Atma, Budhi, Manas, the ‘I’ or Ego, the astral body, the etheric and the physical body. And we would see in Diagram I that the most characteristic thing we have to observe in man is, that with his seven principles he is an entire being, that these seven principles are all within each other. This is the most important thing.

When we now turn to the members of the next Hierarchy, the Angels, the case is different. This scheme applies to man, but not to the angels.

Here, in Diagram II, we must say that the Angel has developed physical body (1) etheric (2) and astral body (3). But now the Ego (4) must be drawn as separated from these, then come Manas (5) Budhi (6) and Atma (7). If you want to be clear about the nature of an Angel you must think that his higher parts to which he seeks to develop himself float above that part of him which is in the physical world; at first he has really only Manas completely developed, the other two parts he will develop later. If one wanted therefore to study the nature of an Angel one would have to say that the Angel has not an Ego which dwells on earth as the man has. Nor is he developing his Manas present stage of evolution upon earth. Therefore, that which there is of him upon earth, does not look as if it belonged to a spiritual Being. When you meet a man and you look at him, you see he has his principles in him, therefore all his parts are organised within him. If you want to look for an Angel, you must keep in mind that his physical part is something like a mirrored reflection of his spiritual principles, which are to be found only in the spiritual world. In flowing and running water, in mists dissolving into water, also in the winds and the lightning flashing through the air, in all these, you have to look for the physical body of Angelic beings. The difficulty for man consists in his fixed idea that a physical body must necessarily have a definite outline. It is difficult for a man to say to himself: I see fog rising, I see a stream of water dissolving into spray, I stand in the blowing wind, I see lightning dart from the clouds, and I know that all these are revelations of Angels; behind this physical body, which is by no means so limited as the human one I have to recognise the spirit. Man has to develop all his principles enclosed within him; because of this he cannot realise that a physical body can be so liquid and evanescent that it does not even have to be enclosed or outlined with precision. You must realise that eighty Angels may be associated with and have the most solid part of their physical body in some one sheet of water. The physical body of an Angel need not be understood as having any boundary; one piece of water may belong to it here, and far away another piece. In short, all that surrounds us as the water, fire, and air of the earth, we have to imagine as containing the bodies of the Hierarchy which stands next above man. One has to look clairvoyantly into the astral world in order to perceive the Angel's Ego and his Manas that gazes down on us from the higher world.

The realm of the solar system which we must investigate when we seek the Angels, is that whose limits are marked by the Moon. With the Angels, investigation is still comparatively easy, for their condition is such, that if for instance, we have an Angel's physical body in a piece of water or the like, and we consider that water or that wind clairvoyantly, we find within it an etheric or astral body. Hence, in the drawing these three are represented together. Of course, we must not only see the material image in the rushing wind, the flowing or broken water, which common perception sees; the etheric and astral parts of the Angels live in the most varied way in water, air, and fire. But if you want to look for the spiritual being, the soul of the Angel, you must seek it in the astral realm, you must seek it clairvoyantly.

The next stage, that of the Archangels, is again different. That which we have drawn here as the astral body is, in the case of the Archangels, not at all united with the etheric and physical bodies. The lowest part of them which we can find, we must draw like this: physical body, etheric body (Diagram III – 1,2); this they have separated off, and all the higher principles are above in the higher worlds, so that we can only have a complete image of the Archangel when we look for it in two places, and realise, that it is not the same as with man who unites all in one being. The spiritual part is above, and at the same time it mirrors itself below. A physical and etheric body can only unite when the physical consists of air or fire. For instance you could not perceive the physical bodies of these Archangels rushing along in the water; you could recognise them only in air and in fire, and you would have to find clairvoyantly, and only in the spiritual world, the spiritual counter-part of that rushing wind and that fire. This is joined neither to his physical, nor to his etheric body.

And then we come to those Beings whom we designate as Archai, Primeval Beginnings or Spirits of Personality. Here below, we can draw only the physical body (Diagram IV); all the rest is above in the spiritual world. Such a physical Body can live only in fire; only in flames of fire can you recognise the physical body of the Archai. Whenever you see the flashing fire of the lightning you may say to yourselves: in it is contained something of the Archai; but in the spiritual world above I shall find the spiritual counter-part which, in this case is separated from its physical body.

It is specially in the Archai or Spirits or Personality that the clairvoyant can accomplish this with comparative ease.

These Spirits of Personality have a realm which reaches up to the astronomical Venus (Mercury in the occult sense of the Mysteries). Let us imagine that someone has progressed so far that he is able to observe what is evolving up there on Venus. (Occult Mercury). There he can recognise these highly evolved Beings, the Spirits of Personality. When he directs his clairvoyant vision to Venus so as there to observe the assembly of the spirits of Personality, and then sees the lightning flash through the clouds, he sees in that flash of lightning the reflection of the Spirits of Personality, for in it they have their physical body.

Now we come to yet higher spiritual Beings, to those who reach up to the Sun. These Powers, these Exusiai, or Spirits of Form interest us less at the present time; only it must be kept in view that the beings of Venus and of Mercury are their organs of execution, the beings of Venus who have their physical body in fire, and those of Mercury who have it in air. Translate this so that you say: the Beings who live in the Sun make use of the spirits of Venus (occult Mercury) in the fire flames, and the spirits of Mercury (occult Venus) in the rushing wind as their executive. ‘And God makes flames of fire into his servants and winds into his messengers.’ Sayings such as these found in ancient religious documents are taken absolutely from spiritual facts, and correspond with what the clairvoyant is able to observe.

Thus we see that the three hierarchies who stand next above us are closely attached to our own existence. Man is the being he is, because he has partaken of solidity from the earth. This separates him from other Beings, it makes him into a self-contained being composed of separate organs. On the Moon, man was still a being like others; there he passed through transformations, just as the masses of water do which have a body that is ever in a state of transformation. On the earth man was for the first time imprisoned, as it were, within his skin; and became a self-contained being, so that it is possible to say, man is composed of a physical, etheric, astral body and an Ego. This isolation really originated not so very long ago. If we return to the first epoch of old Atlantean times, we find a man who did not yet feel his Ego completely within him, who was still waiting to receive his Ego. And if we go still further back in earthly evolution we find that what there is of man down on earth consists as yet only of a physical, etheric and astral body. And if we go back to Lemurian times, we find a man who in his way has no more of a physical, etheric and astral body down here upon earth than the Angels have. From this point of time, with the growth of the Ego the union begins, and continues through post-Atlantean times. In Lemurian times men walked the earth who had only a physical, and etheric and an astral body. But these were not men who could think, in the sense of to-day, or who could develop humanly — in the sense of to-day.

And now something very remarkable happened upon earth. Those men of Lemuria who had only physical, etheric and astral bodies were helpless, they could not help themselves, they did not know what they had to do on earth. From heavenly regions the inhabitants of astronomical Venus first came down to the earth, to these helpless beings; because they had a certain relationship, to the physical body, they were enabled to send their light through, and ensoul the physical body of the first inhabitants of the earth. Thus, we find some among the Lemurians, who passed among the mass of humanity in quite a remarkable way; they had a different physical body to the others. A man, so particularly graced, had not an ordinary physical body, but a body ensouled by a spirit of Venus, a Spirit of Personality. Because that man of ancient Lemuria moved about with a spirit of Venus within his physical body, he had a powerful influence on all his surroundings. Such Lemurians did not appear different from their companions externally; but because a Spirit of Personality was translated into their bodies, these selected individuals acted suggestively, in the highest sense of the word, upon their surroundings. To-day, there is nothing to compare to the obedience, the reverence and awe that was felt for them. All the attempts at colonisation which were undertaken, to people the different regions of the earth, were led by such Beings, into whom a Spirit of Personality had descended. No speech was needed — for there was no speech then — no signs were needed, but the fact alone that such a Spirit of Personality was there, sufficed. And when it was held necessary that large masses of people should be led from one place to another, those masses simply followed without thinking about it. Thought did not exist, it only developed later.

Thus the Spirits of Personality came down to earth, as Spirits of Venus, in ancient Lemurian times. And we can say, that the distinctive features of these messengers from Venus — such as the human countenances of that time could wear — signified something quite new with regard to the whole Universe. If we take their cosmic significance, it reaches as far as Venus, and their actions had a meaning, an influence on the whole concatinations of the Solar System. They could lead the people from one place to another, for they knew the connections that can only be known by those, who are acquainted with the surroundings of the earth, and not only with the Earth itself.

The development of humanity progressed further. The necessity arose that Archangels, spirits of astronomical Mercury, should act upon the human development. These were now obliged to ensoul and give life to that which dwelt below upon earth. This was principally in Atlantean times. At that time the Archangels, or Spirits of Mercury descended upon earth, and inspired the physical and etheric bodies of the men of that period. So in Atlantis there were also men who were not outwardly very different from the others, but whose physical and etheric bodies were ensouled by an archangel. And if you remember what was said yesterday, that the Archangels have the task of directing whole nations, you will understand that a man who had an Archangel within him could actually give to the whole Atlantean race those laws which he received directly from heaven. The great leaders of old Lemurian times, when it was still necessary to act much more generally, were ensouled by Spirits from Venus. Those who, in Atlantean times had to direct smaller masses of people, were ensouled by Archangels. Those who are called the priest-kings of Atlantis, were in truth — Maya. They were not at all what they outwardly appeared to be. An Archangel lived in their physical and etheric bodies, he was the real active agent..

If we go back to Atlantean times, we can seek out the secret stations of these leaders of mankind. From these hidden centres they worked, there they investigated the mysteries of Space One might ascribe the name of ‘Oracle’ to what was investigated, and commanded from those ancient Atlantean places of the Mysteries, even though this word originated in later times. The name ‘Place of the Oracles’ is quite suitable to these centres of instruction, and government. From them the great teachers worked, so that others might there be trained to become priests and servants of men.

It is important that one should know that there were men in ancient Atlantis who in reality were Archangels, bearing an Archangel incarnated within their physical and etheric bodies. If such a man had been seen by someone endowed with clairvoyance, the latter would in fact have seen a physical man and behind him an enormous figure, rising high above him, and losing itself in indefinite regions — the figure of the inspiring Archangel. Such a personality was of a two-fold nature, as if behind the physical man, growing out of indefinite Space, was the inspiring Archangel. When such men died, the physical body was destroyed according to the laws of Atlantis. That physical body, which had been naturally ensouled by the Archangel, dissolved, but the etheric body did not dissolve. There is a spiritual economy which demands exceptions to the general truths expounded by Anthroposophy. We 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 etheric body, which dissolves with the exception of an extract. But this is only generally the case. There is an enormous difference between an etheric body like that of the Initiates of the Atlantean Oracles, which was permeated by an Archangel, and an ordinary etheric body. Such a precious etheric body is not lost, but is preserved in the spiritual world. In the first place, the great leader of the Atlantean Oracles preserved the seven most important etheric bodies of the seven great initiators of these Oracles. These ether bodies were originally built up through being inhabited by Archangels, who, at their death, naturally returned to the higher worlds. Such things are certainly not preserved in boxes, but according to spiritual laws. The Atlantean Initiate of the Sun-Oracle is no other than Manu, who has been often mentioned, and who guided the remnant of the Atlantean nation over to Asia to establish the new post-Atlantean civilisation. He took his little handful of people with him and led them over to Asia. He trained the people through generations, and when the seven most adaptable ones had been bred and educated sufficiently, he wove into their individual etheric bodies the substance of the seven preserved etheric bodies, which had been woven by Archangels in ancient Atlantis. Those seven, who were sent down by the great Leader, to lay the foundation of the first Post-Atlantean civilisation, were the seven holy Rishis of ancient India; they bore within their etheric garment, the etheric bodies of the great Atlantean Leaders, who had themselves acquired these bodies through the Archangels. Thus the past, the present, and the future acted in harmony. Those seven men who are called the holy Rishis would have appeared to you as simple people, for with their astral body and their Ego, they had not reached the height of their etheric bodies.

All that they were capable of was interwoven with their etheric bodies. There were certain hours during which inspiration acted within their etheric bodies, and then they spoke of things which they themselves could never have known. Then from their lips flowed that which had been inspired into their etheric bodies. Thus they were simple, plain people when they were left to their own understanding; but in their hours of inspiration, when the etheric body was active, they spoke of the greatest mysteries of our solar system and of the whole universe.

In the post-Atlantean times men had not yet advanced so far that they could do without help from above, inspiration was still necessary; and a sort of ensouling still took place from above. We have seen how such ensouling occurred in Lemurian times, because a spirit of Personality ensouled the physical. body; in the Atlantean times the physical and the etheric bodies were ensouled by Archangels, and now the great leaders of the post-Atlantean times were ensouled through an Angel descending into their physical, etheric and astral bodies. The great leaders of humanity in the post-Atlantean times did not possess merely a physical, etheric and astral body, but an Angel also lived within them. Therefore, these great leaders could look back into their former incarnations. The ordinary man cannot do so as yet, because he has not yet developed. his Manas; he must himself first become an Angel. These leaders, who were born out of the ordinary inhabitants, carried an Angelic Being within their physical, etheric and astral bodies, who ensouled and, interpenetrated them. This is again Maya, again we have Beings who are something different from what they appear to be on earth. The great leaders of humanity of grey antiquity were quite different from what they outwardly seemed to be. They were personalities in whom an Angel dwelt and gave what they needed, so that they might become Teachers and Leaders of men. The great founders of religions were men possessed by Angels. Angels spoke through them. The affairs of the world have to be described indeed as entirely regular, but the processes of development always slide one within the other, they overlap. That which we describe as exhibiting complete regularity does not work itself out with such regularity. It is certainly true that, as a general principle, Spirits of Personality did speak through human entities in the Lemurian times, Archangels in the Atlantean, and Angels in the post-Atlantean times. But such beings arose, also even in the post Atlantean times, who were penetrated by a Spirit of Personality down to their physical body, who, therefore, were in the same position, although they lived in the post Atlantean times, as were those beings through whom in Lemuria the Spirits of Personality spoke. Thus it was possible to have men also in the post-Atlantean times, who bore externally all the characteristics of their nation, but who, because humanity still needed such great leaders, carried within them a Spirit of Personality — and who were the external incarnation of such a Spirit. Then there were also men in the post Atlantean times who had an Archangel, a Spirit of Mercury, within them, who ensouled their physical and etheric bodies. And lastly, a third category of men was ensouled, inspired in their physical, etheric and astral bodies by an Angel Being, one through whom an Angel spoke. In the spirit of the Eastern Teaching such personalities received particular names. Thus a personality who outwardly resembles a man of our post-Atlantean times, but who really is the bearer of a Spirit of Personality, who is ensouled by that Spirit down to his physical body, is called Dhyani-Buddha in the Eastern Teaching. Dhyani-Buddha is a generic name for human individualities in whom the Spirits of Personality are active, even as far as their physical body.

Those personalities who are ensouled down to their etheric body, who were bearers of Archangels in the post-Atlantean times, are called Bodhi-Sattva And those who are the bearers of an Angel, who are, therefore, ensouled in their physical, etheric and astral bodies, are called human Buddhas

Thus we have three degrees: that of the Dhyani-Buddha, the Bodhi-Sattva and the human Buddha. This is the true teaching of the Buddhas, of the classes and categories of Buddhas, which we have to recognise in connexion with the whole manner and means by which the Hierarchies fulfil their ends. This is the marvel which meets us, when we look back to earlier undeveloped men, that among these men we find those, through whom the Hierarchies speak The great Hierarchies speak out of the Cosmos downwards into the Planets, and only by degrees do these Spirits of the higher Hierarchies, who were active before the appearance of our earth, emancipate the planetary men who live down here, when they have reached the necessary degree of ripeness. Here we gaze into unfathomable depths of wisdom. And what is of extraordinary importance is, that we understand this wisdom exactly as it was taught in all the ages, when primeval wisdom was taught to men.

Thus, when you hear of the Buddhas, for they do not speak of the one Buddha only in the Eastern teaching, but of many, among whom there are naturally different grades of perfection — give attention to the fact: a Buddha walks on earth, but behind the Buddha, was the Bodhi-Sattva and even the Dhyani-Buddha.

Matters, however, might be so, that the Dhyani-Buddha or the Bodhi-Sattva did not reach so far as to ensoul the physical body, but that the Bodhi-Sattva descended only as far as to be able to ensoul the etheric body, so that you can imagine a Being who does not reach so far as to ensoul and inspire the mans physical body, but only the etheric body. It can, however, happen when such a Bodhi-Sattva is not physically visible (for when he appears only in an etheric body he is not physically visible, and there were such Bodhi-Sattva who were physically invisible) that he can, as a higher Being, inspire quite exceptionally the human Buddha. So that we have the human Buddha, who is already inspired by an Angelic Being, being further inspired in his etheric body by an Archangel Being. It is essential that we should look into this wonderful complexity of the human nature. Many Individualities to whom we look back into former times can only be understood, when we accept them as the meeting point of different higher Beings, who proclaim and express themselves through the man. For, in truth, many periods do not possess a sufficient number of great men to be inspired by the Spirits who have to be active. Thus sometimes one single personality has to be ensouled by different individualities of the higher Hierarchies. And sometimes it is not only the inhabitants of Mercury who speak with us, when we have a certain personality standing before us, but the inhabitants of Venus also.

Such ideas lead us to the understanding of human evolution, so that we may recognise the true nature of those personalities who, when met as physical men, represent merely Maya. To-morrow we shall begin by trying to comprehend the origin of each individual planet, which up to now we have considered only as boundary marks, and then we shall gain an idea of them as the dwelling-places of the corresponding spiritual Beings.


A Spirit of Personality enters the Physical and the entity is called a Dyani-Buddha in Post-Atlantis.

An Archangel enters the Physical and Etheric and the entity is called a Bodhi-Sattva in Post-Atlantis.

An Angel enters the Physical, Etheric and Astral and the entity is called a human Buddha in Post-Atlantis

But there are different degrees of each, and it is possible for a being to be inspired by all three Spiritual Beings. The student should avoid making hard and fast rules. There is much overlapping and also some departure from diagrams.