Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Effect of Occult Development Upon the Self and the Sheaths of Man
GA 145

Lecture IV

23 March 1913, The Hague

The more the etheric body of the student alters under influence of his esoteric development, the more does he obtain what may be called a feeling for time. By this feeling for time is to be understood a feeling for the experiences of the consecutive order of facts and events, in time. In ordinary life a man does not usually possess this distinct feeling for time. Now, I have already given a hint of how this feeling for time is aroused, even through the alteration in the physical body, in that through an esoteric or theosophical development the student grows more sensitive with respect to summer and winter; but through the alteration in the etheric body the perception of the external progress of events becomes much more alive and sensitive. And the student who for some time has earnestly tried to bring his soul forward will perceive a distinct difference between the various seasons of the year; indeed, even between part of the seasons; he will gradually learn to feel inwardly a great difference between summer and winter, between spring, summer, and autumn, and he will also feel other shorter divisions of them in the course of the year. Time in its progress becomes in a sense living. He gradually notices that differentiated life can be perceived in the course of time. Just as in the physical body, the various organs are differentiated, just as they become more alive inwardly and more independent of one another, so do the various parts of the forward march of time become to a certain extent more independent of each other. This is connected with the fact that with the development of his own etheric body the student experiences the life in the outer ether which surrounds us everywhere. We are surrounded not only by air, but also by ether; and this ether lives a real life in time. The surrounding ether is, in a certain sense, a sort of living being, and lives with consecutive differences, just as a man's life is different at different ages. The student learns to feel the progressive life of the outer ether. He thus acquires more and more feeling for what the life of the life-ether outside is when spring comes or when summer approaches, when summer has reached its zenith, when summer declines, when autumn is approaching, and when it is actually there. He learns to feel in harmony with this external course, he notices a distinct difference between the life of summer-spring, summer-autumn, and the true winter life.

This difference becomes more and more distinctly perceptible, so at length he can actually say: in its ether the earth lives an independent life, and, inasmuch as a man lives in time, he is actually immersed in and forms part of the alternating life of the ether. At midsummer the student most clearly feels that he with his etheric body is, to a certain extent, thrown back upon himself, and that he and the earth then live separate lives, so that the earth then affects him but little, inwardly; his attention is then, as we have said, directed to himself, as it were, and he gradually forms an idea of what the occultist means when he says: the summer is really the sleeping time of the earth. We here come to a matter which, on account of the external maya by which mankind is continually surrounded, is quite wrongly estimated. In the external life, which is affected by maya, people like to compare spring to the morning, summer to midday, and autumn to evening. This comparison is inaccurate. If we really wish to compare the external course of the earth with something in ourselves, we must compare spring, summer, and autumn in their consecutive order with the sleeping-time of the earth, and autumn, and winter, and spring in their consecutive order with the waking period of the earth. And when we speak of a Spirit of the Earth, we must conceive that in that half of the globe where summer reigns the Spirit of the Earth is during that time in the same condition, so to speak, as we human beings are during our sleeping state. Of course, it is different in the case of the earth: man alternates absolutely between waking and sleeping; this is not so with the earth, where waking and sleeping pass, as it were, from one half of the globe to the other; fundamentally the Spirit of the Earth never actually sleeps, but when waking activity is dormant in one hemisphere, it is then transferred to the other half. But we need not pay much attention to this just now. We will consider the experience man has in common with the earth. Only one hemisphere really comes into consideration here. We have to conceive that during summer the Spirit of the Earth separates in a certain way from its physical body, which in that sense is the earth itself, and that as regards its physical earthly body, this Spirit of the Earth lives the same life in summer as a human being lives during sleep, in relation to his physical body. During the time of sleep the physical body and the etheric body lie on the bed; they live a purely vegetative life.

To occult vision it appears that in the sleeping human body something is unfolded like a delicate vegetation, comparable to a sprouting forth of purely vegetable life, and that the forces which during the waking state become exhausted are again replenished by this vegetative life; so that while a man is asleep he really has his summer-time. And if he were to look at the life of his sleeping physical body when with his astral body and his Ego he is outside the physical body, he would see this sleeping life of the physical body budding and sprouting, just like the plant-life on the earth in spring and summer. He would observe in his physical body during sleep a vegetative summer life budding and sprouting.

But as the part of the earth that we inhabit has its sleeping time during summer, man himself with his etheric body is then to a certain extent thrown more on his own resources, and the consequence of this is that in his esoteric development the student—if he has acquired the capacity of being able to perceive this—can perceive his own etheric body better and more clearly during summer than during winter. He perceives the independence of his etheric body, as it were, and, in our age above all, the independence of the etheric part of the head, that etheric part underlying the brain. It is a very peculiar sensation when through feeling the life of the ether of the earth in summer—the student gradually begins to acquire a sort of inner feeling for that particular part of the human etheric body underlying its most important part, that is the head, and to feel this inner experience as different in spring, different in summer and again different towards autumn. The distinctions in this inner experience are so clearly felt that, just as in the case of the physical body, we speak of a differentiation of its parts, so now we may really speak of varied lives we live through in the course of summer, clearly distinct from one another. The life that unfolds inwardly in spring is different from that which unfolds inwardly in summer, and that in autumn is again different. In speaking of the etheric body, we must in reality make a division, which we shall make to-day; we must, as it were, divide off a particular etheric part, which underlies the head.

It is this which I will sketch with a few strokes. If we imagine a human being diagrammatically (in rough outline) we may think that this etheric body of which I have just spoken can be so perceived—upwards less and less perceptible losing itself in indefiniteness—that it is coincident with time. And we may even learn gradually to feel quite clearly that in this part of our etheric body certain beings were active, creative, replacing one another, as it were, in the various seasons passed through from spring to autumn; it can be observed that the seasons have worked upon this brain-portion of our etheric body, so that our etheric brain is in certain respects a complicated organ. It has been fitted together, as it were, by different Spiritual beings who develop their powers in consecutive periods of time. We now obtain an idea of a very important teaching, and gradually we learn to perceive the truth of this teaching, a teaching cultivated especially in the Zarathustrian schools. This held that the etheric part of the human brain was gradually created from out the Spiritual cosmos by Spiritual beings called the Amshaspands. These Amshaspands worked in such a way that they ruled, as it were, during summer: and indeed they still rule to-day, in succession, the first ruling in early spring, the second in spring, etc., up to the sixth and seventh. Seven—or relatively speaking, six—such Spiritual beings work consecutively in time; and these are the creative Spirits who—precisely by working consecutively, so that when one has finished his activity the next sets to work—construct a principle as complicated as the etheric body, and especially the human brain. Thus into our brain six or seven Spiritual beings are consecutively at work, and the physical brain of man can only be understood when we are able to say: ‘There works a Spirit who can be specially felt in spring: he sends forth his forces which are principally etheric forces; then in later spring comes a second Spirit who in turn sends forth his forces.’ (See drawing.)

The etheric forces of this second Spirit then stream into the same space. The third Spirit in turn sends in his etheric forces, and thus is this etheric part of the human brain developed; the Spirits who follow one another in consecutive periods send their etheric forces into the same space.

Now we must clearly understand that we can only feel certain connections of that which in our brain is related to these Spirits who to-day develop their etheric forces outside us; for Occultism teaches us that what I have just described had taken place during the ancient Moon period; so that we must not think that perhaps these Spirits who as we may say—rule the summer, are still at work to-day and are perhaps formative powers. The rudiments which were really rayed in by these Spirits during the ancient Moon period man brought over with him into his earthly existence; but as he thus bears them within his own etheric body, he can even to-day, when these Spiritual beings no longer have a direct influence on the inner etheric body of our brain, still trace his relationship to them, and this he feels in summer. In early spring the first of these Spirits can be felt, who to-day has a different task outside in the ether; but the student feels that from him comes that which he bears within him, and has received in the ancient Moon period; he becomes conscious of the relationship.

This is the stupendous discovery the pupil can make in the course of his esoteric development; that as time goes on he experiences within himself something like an image of active Spiritual Beings, who to-day have quite a different task from what they had in the past when they were amongst the Spirits working together creatively on our own being. During the development of the earth the physical brain appeared as the image, the impression of what had developed as a kind of etheric archetype even during the ancient Moon period, through these Spiritual cosmic influences. I have depicted this part of our etheric body as being open above, because this is what it is really felt to be. It is so felt that as soon as the pupil perceives it within himself, he has the feeling: ‘Thou open'st thyself to the Spiritual worlds; thou art in connection with Spiritual worlds that are always above thee.’

There is another feeling that is gradually developed in esoteric life regarding this part of the etheric body. It is usually not at all easy to discuss these matters, but I hope that if I try to express them clearly we shall be able to understand them. When a student begins to feel his etheric body, he actually feels himself floating in the stream of time. But as regards this etheric part of the head the student feels in a sense as though he were taking time with him, as if he not only floats in flowing time, but takes it with him. It is in fact the case that we carry with us a great deal belonging to an earlier age in this etheric part of the head, for instance, we carry the ancient Moon period within it; for the most essential part of it arose during the ancient Moon period, and in the etheric body of the brain we carry with us the stream of the ancient Moon-time. And when a student begins to feel this, it is like a remembrance of the time on the ancient Moon. One who forms an idea of the inner experiences which were spoken of in the last lecture as the experiences of temperament, can also understand when it is said that the occultist who thus learns to feel the inner nature of the etheric body of the head, when he specially concentrates upon this etheric part, he always feels this concentration to be connected with a melancholy frame of mind which comes over him; he feels in his esoteric development as if a melancholy mood were poured into his head: from which mood there gradually develops in his inner feeling the understanding of the things presented to our friends in the occult description of the ancient Moon.

Esoteric development must, of course, go much further if one would really describe all the various conditions on the Moon; but from this you will see the rise of what may lead to such a description. You see that in the student himself there appears something that may be described as the melancholy of his head, and within this frame of mind gradually emerges something like a vision of memory into a primeval past, into the ancient Moon period. And it would be desirable if from descriptions such as have just been given, you were to judge how esoteric development really proceeds, how beginning from some particular experience, the student first learns to recognise this experience (in this case as a remembrance of a primeval past, which he has carried along the stream of time with him into the present), and learns to unroll again, as it were, that which has once been lived through. Judge from this that the occultist is truly not speaking of visionary fancies when he sets forth that construction of the universe which goes back to the ancient periods of Moon, Sun and Saturn, but that if the hearer will only wait patiently, he will be able—through the analysis of the discovery of these things—to gain an idea of how it is possible gradually to live into those great, mighty cosmic pictures which truly belong to a far-distant past, but can be called forth again from the life of the present; we need only reach the point of development at which we can experience and then unfold the past phenomena of time which are involved, wrapped up within us.

The part of the etheric body which belongs to the middle part of the human being is experienced in a different way. Proceeding outwardly feeling ceases; inwardly it is perceived approximately in such a way that it may be said: The portion in the middle, which has a sort of oval shape, is felt separated from the rest. If we were to separate this middle portion of the etheric body as a particular experience we should have to say: He who through his esoteric development comes also to experience in himself the differentiated life of this middle portion of man, has the feeling that essentially in this part of his etheric body he floats exactly with the stream of time. And in this part of the etheric body is clearly felt the living in harmony with the etheric life of the earth which has become differentiated in the sequence of time.

A student whose esoteric development has made yet further progress feels in this particular part that in early spring other Spirits work upon him than those of midsummer or autumn. It is a sort of living in harmony with these, as though actually floating along in their company. This part of his etheric body is thereby separated from the other, and, if we are able to go into such matters the feeling we have in this middle portion of the etheric body alternates between the phlegmatic and sanguine moods. It takes on the greatest variety of shades between these two. For example, this part of the etheric body feels itself accompanying the stream of time in spring—in the physical body this is expressed quite differently—and towards autumn it feels more as though it were resisting and repulsing the stream of time.

The third part of our etheric body is felt to fade away below into the indefinite, and though expanding widely, to disappear into the earth. These are the three parts of the etheric body which can, as disconnected one from the other, now be felt; this represents the inner sensation, the inner feeling of the etheric body; it would not present itself in this way to the seer if he were to observe the etheric body of another human being, for this is an inner experience of the etheric body. This experience again is materially modified by the existence of a fourth part of the etheric body, clearly outlined as a sort of oval, which really includes the human being within it. From the various feelings experienced as regards this part of the etheric body, a feeling is gradually acquired, an inner impression of the etheric body, as of an external form.

And then the etheric body appears as though of various hues, and in this part an impression arises of being in a sort of bluish or blue-violet aura. This part which corresponds to the head, is bluish, or violet-blue according to the nature of the person, but gradually fades away below to a greenish colour. The middle portion is a distinctly yellow-red—when one perceives the colour—and the lower part shades from distinctly reddish to deep-red, but rays out and often extends far.

Now the forces working in these four parts differ distinctly so that the inner sensations they produce are not very definite; but on looking at this outermost aura clairvoyantly from outside, the forces in it appear to compress the upper part; and looking at it from outside the impression is given that the etheric part of the head is exactly of the same form, only a little larger. This applies also to the middle part. The further we go down, the less is this the case. But through the forces working one upon another, seen from without the impression is that the etheric body is a sort of foundation-form of the physical body, but projecting for a certain space beyond it. In the lower part the feeling of the similarity of the physical body and etheric body is gradually lost.

Thus you bear in mind that the inner experience of the etheric body is different in character from the etheric body manifested outwardly to the observation of the seer. This must be borne clearly in mind. When later in esoteric development you learn to regard the mood, according to the fundamental temperaments founded in the etheric body and described in the last lecture, it will appear that with respect to the lowest part of the etheric body the feeling there is perceived to be of a choleric nature. Thus the several temperaments are to be distinguished in the various parts of our etheric bodies. The upper part of the etheric body is of a melancholy nature, the middle part alternates between phlegmatic and sanguine, and the lower has a choleric tone. And I beg you definitely to notice that this description applies to the etheric body. Not to consider this carefully, brings easily a fall into error if these matters are taken externally. But the student who takes this carefully into consideration will be greatly struck by the agreement of what has been adduced with certain phenomena of life. Let us for a moment study a choleric person—it is highly interesting so to do.

According to what has just been said, in the case of the choleric person the lower part of the etheric body would be conspicuous; it would predominate over the other parts. Thereby the person is shown to be choleric. The other parts are also developed, of course; but the lower part would be particularly prominent. Now when the lower part of the etheric body, as etheric body, is particularly developed and has its strong forces there, something else is always evident, that is, the physical body receives short measure in these parts, it manifests a certain lack of development in the parts which underlie this portion of the etheric body. The result of this in pronounced choleric cases, those, for example, who are true to type, is that the anatomic state of certain organs which correspond to this part of the etheric body comes off badly. Please read about the anatomic condition of Napoleon, and you will be struck by the proof it presents of what I am telling you. Only when we begin to study these hidden sides of human nature shall we really learn to comprehend it.

You might now ask the question: How does what was said in the last lecture agree with what has been said to-day? It agrees perfectly. We then spoke of the four temperaments; these are predetermined by the forces of the etheric body. And, in fact, the life of the etheric body is related to time in the same way that the division into members, the differentiation, is related to space. The physical body becomes more keenly alive in space, differentiating its several members as it were; the etheric body becomes more alive, as its parts differentiate themselves in time; that is, as the time-life in its consecutive order is sympathetically experienced in its independent parts and members. The fundamental characteristic of the melancholic person is that he always carries within him something he has experienced in time, a past. He who is able to understand the etheric body of the melancholic finds that it always has within it the after-vibrations of what it experienced in bygone times. I do not now mean what was here referred to in the case of the human brain, which relates to primeval times, but to what is usually called melancholy; the etheric life of the head is particularly stirred at some definite time, in youth, let us say; and then having been thus stirred, it is so strongly influenced, that in late life the melancholic still carries with him in his etheric body the vibrations which were imprinted in his youth, while with the non-melancholic these vibrations soon cease. In the case of either a phlegmatic or sanguine person, there is a sort of floating with time; but in the phlegmatic person there is, as it were, a perfectly uniform floating with the stream of time, while the sanguine person oscillates between a quicker or slower inner experience with respect to the externally flowing stream of time. On the other hand, the choleric person resists—and that is the peculiarity—the approaching time which flows to us, as it were, from the future. The choleric person in a sense repulses time, and quickly rids himself of the vibrations which time calls forth in his etheric body. Hence the melancholic person carries within him the greatest number of after-vibrations of past experiences, the choleric person the least. If you take the somewhat grotesque illustration of the well-inflated ball, which was compared with the etheric body of the choleric, you may also use that illustration here. The ball is only with difficulty impressed by the consecutive events; it repulses them, and therefore does not allow the events which come in the stream of time to leave strong vibrations within it. Hence the choleric does not carry them for long within him. The melancholic person who allows the events to work very deeply into his etheric body, has for a long time to bear the vibrations which he carries with him into the future from the past.

In order to understand the etheric body and the physical body, it is well to conceive that the physical body is pre-eminently a space-body, and the etheric body pre-eminently a time-being. We do not at all understand the etheric body if we consider it only as a space-being. And such a drawing as that before you is really only a sort of pictorial representation in space of the life of the etheric body, flowing in time and having its existence in time. As the life of the etheric body itself runs its course in time and is a time-life, for this reason we also feel time with our etheric body, that is, we experience the external stream of events in time.

When a man goes through an occult development, he also experiences another stream of events in time. In ordinary life this stream of events is scarcely perceived; but it is soon perceived as the soul develops higher. That is, the course of the day. For in a certain way the Spirits of the yearly course also work with lesser forces in the course of the day. It is the same sun that conditions the course of the year and that of the day! He who has gone through an esoteric development will soon find that there is such a relationship between his etheric body and what goes on in the external ether that his attitude towards the Spirits of the morning, the Spirits of mid-day and those of evening is different in each case. The Spirits of the morning so affect us that we feel stimulated in our etheric body to an activity which inclines more to the intellect, to the reason, which can think over what has been experienced, which can work more with the judgment upon what has been observed and still remains in the memory. As mid-day approaches, these powers of judgment gradually decline; a man then feels impulses of the will more active inwardly. Even though towards mid-day the student begins to be less capable of work as regards his external forces than he was in the morning, yet inwardly the forces of his will are more active. And towards evening there come the productive forces which are connected more with fancy. Thus the Spiritual beings who send their forces into the conditions of the life-ether of the earth differ as regards the duties they have to perform.

We may feel convinced that the more we overcome the materialistic sentiments belonging to our age, the more we shall realise that we must learn to take into account the adapting of the etheric body to the sequence of time. There will come a time when it will be considered curious that in school a subject should be studied in the morning which makes special claims on the powers of the imagination. In the future this will be considered just as strange as it would be to-day if anyone should put on a fur coat in August and a thin coat in mid-winter. It is true, we are still a long way off this to-day; but it will come sooner than people really think. There will come a day when it will be the usual custom (there will again be a difference between summer and winter), a time will come when people will see that it is foolish to organise school-hours otherwise than to arrange for several hours' work in the morning, leaving several hours free in the middle of the day, and then devoting several hours again to work in the evening. Perhaps this may not be considered practical according to our present division of time: but it will be some day when attention is paid to the requirements of human nature. The morning hours will be devoted to mathematics, the evening hours to poetry. We are now living in an age when—by reason of the materialistic view which is now at its height—the understanding of these things is completely overwhelmed; so that at the present time that which one day when the whole nature of man is borne in mind, must appear to be the most reasonable thing, now seems to be most foolish.

Another result will be that during winter we shall through esoteric development feel more and more that we are not so shut up in ourselves, in our inner etheric body, as we are during the summer, but that we come more into connection with the direct Spirit of the Earth. The difference is so felt that during the summer we say: ‘We are now living with the Spirits who have worked upon us from primeval times, whose work we bear within us, whilst the direct Spirit of the Earth is farther from us.’ In winter the inner vibrations, which from ancient times we have carried with us, especially in the head, will become more silent; we shall feel ourselves connected with the Spirit of the Earth; we shall learn to understand that the Spirit of the Earth is awake in winter. As in summer He sleeps, so in winter He awakens. During summer the Spirit of the Earth sees the budding and sprouting plant-life come forth, in the same way that the sleeping man sees the vegetative forces shoot forth in his own body. During the winter they withdraw, just as, when man is awake, these vegetative forces in the human body withdraw. In winter the Spirit of the Earth is awake; the earth is united, as it were, with the waking Spirit, just as a human being during his waking period is united with his waking Spirit. The consequence is—that when through his esoteric life the student becomes sensitive to it—he learns to feel that in summer he must think, he must work out his thoughts, but not his inspirations. These come from what is within, from the independent etheric body. In winter one is, however, more easily inspired with thoughts than in summer, so that human thought in winter works more as an inspiration than in summer. In a particular sense human thought flows so easily in winter that it comes of itself, in a certain way. Of course, these conditions are variously combined. They may take a quite individual form in certain people, so that if a person is more inclined to think thoughts tending towards the super-sensible, this may be reversed. Through the fact that during summer it is easier to produce these thoughts of the super-sensible, exactly the reverse may come about. But as regards the experience of the etheric body, what I have just said holds good.

This particular living in sympathy with the external etheric principle becomes more perceptible the more the student progresses in his esoteric development. And if he wishes to develop his etheric body in the right manner, he must gradually—in the same way that he had first to suppress the sensible perception—shut off his thoughts also; he must especially shut off his abstract thinking and gradually pass over to the concrete, picture-like thinking; from thinking he must pass over to thought, and then he must cease to think at all. But when he presents an empty consciousness, and allows all thought to cease, in the manner described in the second part of my book, An Outline Of Occult Science, he feels the thought that lives within him disappearing, and what he has previously by his efforts produced as his thinking melt away; and in its place he feels himself wonderfully animated by thoughts that stream into him as though from unknown worlds for his special benefit. It is a transition in the life of the human soul which may be described by saying—I beg you not to misunderstand the expression—that the pupil ceases to be clever and begins to grow wise. A very definite idea may be connected with this. Cleverness, which is inwardly acquired through the power of judgment, ability—an earthly possession—disappears. The student's inner attitude is such that he does not value it particularly highly, for he gradually feels shine within him a God-given wisdom! I beg you not to misunderstand the expression; for this experience enables one to use the expression without arrogance, to use it in all humility and modesty. With respect to the God-given wisdom, the student constantly becomes more and more humble. We can really only be proud and arrogant about self-attained cleverness, and so-called ability, but when one passes through this experience one gradually feels as though this wisdom, this God-given wisdom, streams into one's etheric body and fills it. This is a very important experience to have, for it affects the student in a peculiar manner; he then feels life going away, floating away on the stream of time. And the stream of wisdom is something that comes towards him, something which—as he swims on with time—pours into him like an advancing stream; and he really feels this influx—this is pictorially described—as streams, but streams flowing against the course of time, which come in through the head and pour themselves into the body and are caught up by it.

What I have just described gradually develops into a very definite experience. The student no longer feels himself in space; for he learns to feel the etheric body, which is a time-being; he learns to move forward in time, and continually to meet, as it were, the Spiritual Beings who come toward him from the other side of the cosmos, who come toward him from the future and bestow upon him wisdom. The feeling of receiving this wisdom can only be attained when the esoteric or occult development has been so directed that one has unfolded a feeling which the soul brings to bear in a special manner upon all future events; when one has developed composure with respect to what the future may bring us, that is, what constant experience brings us. If we still approach what experience brings us with strong sympathy and antipathy, if we have not yet learned to take Karma earnestly; that is, if we have not learned to accept what Karma brings and bear it patiently, then we are not yet •;able to have that special perceptivity for the wisdom that streams towards us; for only from the experience that is calmly undergone does there differentiate within our being the shining, inflowing stream of wisdom. This perceptivity betokens a very definite point in our esoteric experience, the point to which we come, and which we can really only attain when in devoted thankfulness and tranquillity we receive each experience that comes to us. The changing of our etheric body which takes place in a true esoteric development enables us to do this, for among other requirements for development it is also expected that we should acquire tranquillity, and a true understanding of our Karma, so that we do not through sympathy and antipathy attract what is to come, or resist what concerns us, but learn to bear our Karma as a steady stream of experience. This learning to bear our Karma forms part of our esoteric development, and it is this which makes it possible for us so to transform our etheric body that it gradually learns more and more to perceive the outer etheric life surrounding it.