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 X

29 March 1913, The Hague

We have seen that as the result of serious theosophical training, or esoteric occult development, changes come about in the four principal parts of the human being; and you may have observed that in the descriptions we have given the principal stress has been laid upon the inward change in these four parts of human nature, or the changes which are, to a certain extent, experienced inwardly. But we have to distinguish clearly between this change to be experienced inwardly, and the description of the outer changes manifest to the vision of the seer, which is, of course, quite different. In true esoteric development it is very important to know what takes place within man, and what is in front of him, when he goes through occult development. Interesting, also, although perhaps not so important, is the change outwardly visible to the seer. To sum up in a few words, we might say: that which is perceived inwardly as a sort of ‘becoming more mobile’ and ‘becoming more independent’ of the various parts of the physical body, manifests itself to the clairvoyant vision, which does not experience the changes in the physical body from within, but looks upon them from without, in such a manner that the physical body of a person undergoing occult development is seen to split up, to divide, in a certain sense; and because of this splitting-up, clairvoyant-vision feels it to be separating. To clairvoyant vision the physical body of a person who is steadily advancing in occult development is actually seen to grow. And we may say that if at one time we meet a person who is undergoing a true occult development, that which the clairvoyant vision sees at a definite time as the physical body has a definite size; if we meet him again a few years later his physical body has grown; it has become decidedly larger. Thus there is such a thing as the growth of the physical body beyond the normal physical size, but with this is connected the fact that it becomes more shadowy. Thus we notice that as the person develops, his physical body is seen to become larger and larger. It consists, however, of various parts, as it were, and these manifest themselves in what in occult life is called ‘Imagination.’ The physical body of a person undergoing occult development manifests more and more as a number of imaginations, of pictures which are in a sense inwardly alive and active, and are, or rather become, more and more interesting; for they are not just anything we please. When the person is beginning his development the pictures are not specially significant; and they are least so when the clairvoyant vision observes the body of a person who has not yet developed in occultism. In this latter case a number of pictures, a number of imaginations are perceived. To clairvoyant vision the physical substance disappears, and in its place appear imaginations: but these are so pressed together that instead of the pleasing inwardly shining aspect of a person engaged in occult development, they manifest as in an opaque substance. Even, however, in the case of a person who is not yet developed they are to be seen, and indeed as parts and each part signifies something in the macrocosm. Essentially one can distinguish twelve parts, each of which is really a picture—a painting of one part of the great cosmos. When all twelve are assembled together, the impression is given that some unknown painter has produced miniature pictures of the macrocosm, twelve in number, and from these has formed the physical human body. Now, when the individual is engaged in occult development, this picture grows larger and larger, and also appears inwardly more and more pleasing, radiant from within. This is because, in the case of an individual not engaged in occult development, the macrocosm is only reflected in its physical aspect; but in the case of one undergoing an occult development the spiritual content more and more manifests itself; the pictures of the spiritual essence of the macrocosm are to be seen. Thus occult development also shows us that a person engaged in an occult development, from being merely a physical microcosm, becomes more and more a spiritual one, that is, he manifests within himself more and more, not merely the pictures of planets and suns, but of entities belonging to the Higher Hierarchies. That is the difference between persons engaged and others not engaged in occult development. The more a person presses forward in occult development the more exalted are the Hierarchies manifesting within him. And thus we learn the structure of the world, as it were, by clairvoyantly observing the physical human body.

The human etheric body of one who is not undergoing occult development manifests the progressive course of the world, that which follows consecutively in time; it shows how planets and suns, even the human civilisations on earth, and the individual human beings alter in the course of their incarnations, and how they appear in consecutive stages of growth. Thus the etheric body may truly be called a narrator; it recounts the story of the growth of the world. While the physical body of man is like a sum-total of pictures painted by an unknown artist, the etheric body proves to be a kind of story-teller who narrates in its own inner happenings the story of the world itself. And the more deeply a person is engaged in occult development, the wider the range of the stories. The etheric body of a person who has undergone comparatively little occult development manifests to the clairvoyant vision perhaps only a few generations which have preceded him in physical ancestry—for this development is still also shown in the etheric body of man. But the further a person carries his occult development, the more possible it becomes to see in his etheric body the various civilisations of humanity, the various incarnations of this or that individuality; yea, even to ascend to cosmic development and see the share of the Spirits of the Higher Hierarchies in it.

The astral body of man—which to ordinary observation can only be seen, as it were, through its inner reflection, through experiences of thought, will and feeling—becomes more and more an expression of the value of man, with respect to his essential entity in the cosmos. I want you to consider this description, this presentation, as being of very special significance. The astral body of a human being undergoing an occult development becomes more and more the expression of his value in the cosmos. In a previous lecture we showed how we discover that the astral body, in its original nature, is a sort of egotist, and that this has to be overcome in occult development, raising the personal interests to those of the world. Observing the astral body of a person engaged in higher development one can see from it, according to whether it appears dark and dull or has an inner illumination, according to its revelation of itself in shrill dissonances or in harmonious melodious tones, whether the person in question has so conducted his development that he is still entangled in his personal interests, of which we have spoken, or whether he has really made the interests of the world his own. This is what can be seen from the astral body of a human personality engaged in higher development: when the development goes on in a true, occult, ethical manner, we see in him how wonderful man becomes through extending the horizon of his interests from those that are personal to those that are universally human, and into the common aims of the world. The astral body becomes more radiant, shines more and more like a radiant sun, as the human being learns to make the affairs of all humanity and the world his own.

The further the human being progresses in his development, the more the Self manifests the tendency to split up, to divide. It sends out, as it were, the contents of its consciousness, and these make ‘messenger paths’ in the world. If, for example, a human being wishes to learn to know a being belonging to the Hierarchy of the Angels, it is not sufficient for him to exercise the ordinary forces of perception; if he really wishes to know this being he must be able to transfer his consciousness; that is, he must be able to separate the forces of his Self and transpose a part of his self-consciousness into the being of the Angel. Whatever sort of being we wish to know, we can only do it by transposing our self-consciousness into this being. It is the impulse of the Self to go out of itself, to transpose itself into the other being and allow that which at first lived only in oneself to enter the life of the other being. At a lower stage in the development of the human being, at the stage of ordinary human existence, this manifests as a certain impulse to remove its consciousness out of itself; this can be seen in the need for sleep. And that which psychically drives man to sleep is exactly the same that in higher development directs the consciousness, not into the unconscious world of sleep, but into the consciousness of the Angels or the Spirits of Form or still Higher Hierarchies. Thus one might be paradoxical by inquiring: What does it imply when a man becomes acquainted with one of the Elohim, one of the Spirits of Form? It means that he has developed so far that he is able to sleep over into the consciousness of the Elohim and to awaken within the Elohim, possessing the consciousness of this Spirit of Form, of this spirit belonging to the Higher Hierarchies. This is recognition of a higher being: consciousness must be resigned as in sleep, but so resigned that by reason of the higher forces awakened within, it reawakens and radiates towards us as the consciousness of the higher being. Thus, an astral body under true occult development becomes like a sun which radiates its world-interests; but when the Self is more highly developed it becomes like the planets which circle round the sun of the astral body, and which, in their circling through the world, meet other beings, and by means of this bring messages from them to the perceptive nature of man. Thus the astral body and the Self of a human being undergoing occult development present the picture of a sun—which is the astral body—surrounded by its planets—that are a number of multiplications of the Self, sent out into other beings in order that the student through that which his multiplied Self rays back to him from these other beings may know their nature.

The feeling we have when becoming acquainted with the inner nature of the members of the Higher Hierarchies (we learn to recognise their external being through the physical body and the etheric body; and to recognise them inwardly through the astral body and the Self, we come into communication, as it were, with these beings who belong to the Higher Hierarchies through the astral body and Self)—the feeling we have is as though we had to make our self in our astral body into a sun and to separate from oneself, a Self capable of active participation in the nature of the Hierarchy of the Angels; another Self which has that gift as regards the Hierarchy of the Archangels; and yet another Self which has the gift with regard to the Hierarchy of the Spirits of Form. A fourth Self participates in the nature of the Hierarchy of the Spirits of Motion, a fifth in that of the Hierarchy of the Spirits of Wisdom and of Will, a sixth Self or Ego in that of the Hierarchy of the Cherubim, and a seventh in that of the Hierarchy of the Seraphim. It is possible for a person, when he develops the four parts of his being and continues this development to a high stage, actually to attain to the experience we have just described. This is possible; and in addition to this development of his Self in the manner I have just indicated, he can attain to a still higher development of his Self.

For through the separation of seven selves from the eighth Self, this eighth self, which remains behind, undergoes a higher development. Consider the matter in this way: We have the original Self of man, which is given to him before he undergoes occult development. He then undergoes this, and thereby sends forth from himself seven Selves. In order that the Self originally given him may be able to send forth seven Selves he has to exercise an inner force, the result of which is that the Self rises a stage higher. But now I want you to reflect that the process which I have described in its most extreme development, as it were, only comes about gradually. A person undergoing occult development does not, of course, at once become a perfect Sun in—the astral body, surrounded by the planets of his Selves, but he first attains to an imperfect Sun existence, and imperfect developments of his planetary Selves; all this takes place gradually. And, at the same time, the development of the ordinary Self into the Higher Self takes place slowly and gradually. When this development has reached a definite stage, when the Self has reached higher and higher attainment, then gradually comes the power to look back at former incarnations. This is the stage which gives one the power to look back to previous incarnations; it is the development of the Self beyond itself, the attainment of forces beyond itself, which give it at the same time power truly to understand higher Hierarchies. We might say that, to clairvoyant vision, a person, through occult development, with respect to his Self and his astral body, becomes star-like—similar to a starry system.

In the above I have briefly described what is presented to another person who is becoming clairvoyant, whereas in the previous lectures I spoke more of the inward experiences. There is still something important which I have to lay before you, which is to amplify an indication already made. When the student develops his astral body and his Self he attains, as you have heard, to observation of a world, previously empty, now filled with the beings of the Higher Hierarchies, Angels, Archangels, Archai, etc.

The question might now be asked: Do the kingdoms of nature around man also change? Yes; the kingdoms of nature do very materially change. I have already mentioned that, to the vision of a clairvoyant, the physical body, even of an ordinary person, presents the appearance of a number of paintings, and these shine more and more within the more the person progresses. Now, how does the case stand with the animals? When with clairvoyant vision we look at an animal its physical body also changes into Imaginations, and then we know that these animals are not what they appear to be in maya, but are imaginations: that is, they are imaginations, conceived in a consciousness. Who, then, conceives the animals as imaginations? Whose imaginations are they? Animals, also plants in their outward forms—though plants less than animals, and least of all minerals—are imaginations of Ahriman. Our physicists seek for the material laws in the external kingdoms of nature; but the occultist comes more and more to the knowledge that the external kingdoms of nature, as far as they present themselves as material beings, are imaginations of Ahriman. We know, indeed, that behind the animals, for example, are the Group-Souls. The Group-Souls are not imaginations of Ahriman, but the separate individual animals in their external forms are imaginations of Ahriman. Thus, if we take the lion-tribe; the group-soul of this species belongs to the good spiritual beings, as it were, and the war of Ahriman against the good spiritual beings consists in his pressing their group-souls into the separate individual forms of the animals and imprinting upon them his own imaginations. The separate lion-forms, as they move about outwardly in the world, are forced out of the group-souls by Ahriman. Thus the external world which surrounds us also changes gradually into something quite different from its appearance in maya.

Now, in order that you may have something on which you may range as on the steps of a ladder the thoughts which have been opened to us in the course of these lectures, I will give you a sort of diagram.

Here on the left I will represent what we may call the constitution of the ordinary man: Physical body, Etheric body, Astral body, Sentient soul, Intellectual soul, Consciousness soul, Spirit Self, Life Spirit and Spirit Man. We know this as the constitution of man. I will represent this only by lines. The inner being would be the Sentient soul, the next, the Intellectual or Mind soul, the next, the Consciousness soul, the next would be Spirit Self. The higher parts may be left out of account, as we do not need to consider them to-day. This constitution of man so manifests itself externally that the bodily part consists of the three lower principles; that which is experienced in the soul, of the three middle ones; the Spirit Self is not present in man, except as a perspective of the future, as it were. Now, when a person undergoes occult development the first thing to be done is to suppress certain things in the soul itself. We have seen that it is particularly important for the student to be able to lay aside the external sense impressions. It is, indeed, the first requirement of true occult progress that the student should lay aside external sense impressions. Now through this laying aside of external impressions of the senses, that principle of the soul which is chiefly developed under the influence of these impressions, namely, the Consciousness Soul, changes inwardly. It must be clearly understood that the Consciousness Soul is at present undergoing its chief development, because so much value is now attached to the external impressions of the senses. You must not confuse the fact that the Consciousness Soul generally is inwardly strengthened by the impressions received through the senses, with the fact that these sense impressions are transmitted through the Sentient Soul. When we are dealing with occult development we must notice under what sort of influences the Consciousness Soul is most strengthened, and we find these to be the external sense impressions. When these are laid aside the Consciousness Soul is then suppressed, so that in the one who is undergoing occult development it is the Consciousness Soul which must first of all retire into the background. (Here, on the right, I will draw that which in the occultly developing man corresponds to the several parts of the soul.) We are speaking of that which in ordinary life leads a person to emphasise his ‘ego,’ which above all leads him to lay stress upon his ego in all sorts of directions. In our age special stress is laid upon this ego or ‘I’ in the direction of thought. One hears nothing more often said than—this is my standpoint, I think this or that—as though the opinion of this or that person had any significance compared with the truth. It is true that the sum of the three angles of a triangle is 180 degrees, and it is immaterial how a person regards it. It is true that the Hierarchies, counting from man upwards, are divided into three times three, and it is quite immaterial how this truth is regarded. Insistence upon the ego retires into the background, and in its place the Consciousness Soul, which previously served principally for the development of the ego, is gradually filled with what we call ‘Imaginations.’ We may simply say that when a person develops his Consciousness Soul is changed into the Imaginative Soul.

We also know from what has been said in the previous lectures that thinking itself, which is developed principally in the Intellectual or Mind Soul, must also be changed. We have heard that thinking must more and more give up developing its own thoughts, that it must more and more suppress personal thinking; the human personality suppressing its own thought. When the student is able to suppress that which in his ordinary life he has made of his Intellectual or Mind Soul, then in the place of that which exists in him as ordinary thinking, as reason, and also as the ordinary mental life on the physical plane, comes Inspiration. The Intellectual or Mind Soul changes into the Inspirational or Inspired Soul. The inspired works of culture have been received in the transformed Intellectual Soul as Inspiration.

The sentient soul is chiefly laid aside by overcoming the astral body, by making the world-interests one's own, and thereby rising more and more above personal feelings; the sentient soul thereby changes; and all the inner impulses, »•;inner passions and emotions, change into Intuitions; and in the place of the Sentient Soul appears the Intuition Soul. So that here on the right (see diagram I.) we may sketch the developed human being, of whom we say: He consists of astral body, etheric body and physical body but inwardly of the Intuitional Soul, the Inspirational Soul, and the Imaginative Soul which then changes into Spirit Self. And now from this diagram, which reflects truly the facts of occult observation, you may gather from the results of these lectures how a person influences his occult development by the degree of his moral development. For what is a person who is still absolutely filled with personal emotions and passions, and who acts under the impressions of what we might call human instincts? Such a person still lives entirely in his Sentient Soul; he does not moderate his instincts by means of intellectual ideas, or by means of the development of his consciousness; he has only developed, as it were, as far as the Sentient Soul here, if I might now indicate the moral development in the middle (small arrow in diagram). Thus we may have the case of a person who has only developed as far as the Sentient Soul; that is to say, he is ruled entirely by his personal passions, impulses, etc. Now let us suppose that such a person were forced on by occult development. The consequence would be the transformation of his Sentient Soul into his Intuitional Soul, and he would have certain intuitions; these intuitions would, however, represent nothing but the transformations of his own personal impulses, passions and instincts.

A man who in his moral development has progressed to the Intellectual Soul, that is, one who has acquired pure conceptions, more general universal ideas, whose inner feelings include feelings of interest in the whole world, such a one will at least transmute his Intellectual or Mind Soul into the Inspirational Soul, and he can arrive at certain inspirations, although his clairvoyant power may not be always quite pure as yet. But it is only when a person has really penetrated with his ego as far as the Consciousness Soul that he arrives at the transformation of his Consciousness Soul into Imaginative Soul, and the rest follows as a self-evident consequence, because he has passed through the other stages. Hence in our age, in order to arrive at true clairvoyance, the student must be given the task of so working at his moral development that he shall first take away from his impulses, passions, etc., all that is personal, and raise himself to the standpoint of making the interests common to the whole world his own. Then the endeavour must be made to teach him really to comprehend himself as ‘I;’ but he must feel this in the Consciousness Soul. Then the Sentient Soul, the Intellectual Soul and the Consciousness Soul may be transformed into the Souls of Intuition, Inspiration and Imagination without any danger. When we consider the ordinary consciousness on the physical plane the Sentient Soul is the richest Soul. For what a number of instincts and impulses does not such a human Soul conceal, however low its stage! Of what impulses and passions is not such a human soul capable! The human soul is somewhat poorer as regards the contents of intellect and its more cultivated feelings, poorest of all as Consciousness Soul, shrivelled up to the consciousness of the self, as though to one point. One might say that the figure which represents the human soul in its natural condition on the physical plane would be a sort of pyramid (see diagram II.). In the lower part, at the base, the sum total of impulse, desires and passions; at the top, at the summit, the point of consciousness. A reversed pyramid represents the developed soul of the true clairvoyant, a pyramid having its base above, that is, all possible kinds of imaginations which can be formed, which express all that can reflect for us the contents of the cosmos; here below as the point, that which results as the higher individual consciousness of man.

This diagram is a standard, to a certain extent, in another sense. In the new edition of my book Theosophy I have said that the Sentient Soul is, as it were, the provisionally transformed astral body, so that we may sum up thus: Below is the physical body, then the etheric body, then the astral body. The astral body on its way to transformation is the Sentient Soul on the physical plane; the etheric body so proceeding is the Intellectual or Mind Soul, and the physical body the Consciousness Soul.

Thus in our present cycle of humanity we have the Consciousness Soul localised in the physical body; that is to say, it makes use of the physical instrument. The Intellectual Soul is in the etheric body; that is, it makes use of the etheric movements. The Sentient Soul, containing the impulses, desires and passions, makes use of the forces localised in the astral body. The Soul of Intellect or Mind, which contains the forces of inner feeling, of sympathy, makes use of the etheric body; the Consciousness Soul uses the brain of the physical body.

As in this sense the Sentient Soul is transformed into the Intuitional Soul, we must also correspondingly imagine that the Intuitional Soul uses the astral body of man as its instrument. The Inspirational Soul is the transformed Intellectual or Mind Soul; its instrument is the etheric body of man. And the Imaginative Soul, the transformed Consciousness Soul, has as its instrument the physical body of man. And now, if you compare what I have presented here in diagram with what I have said previously, you will become aware that in this diagram you have a memory picture. I mentioned that to clairvoyant vision the physical body is transformed into imaginations, which are pictures of the macrocosm. In this diagram you see that the Imaginative Soul fills up the physical body. The Imaginative Soul actually enters into the physical body and permeates it, so that when a developed human being is observed by clairvoyant consciousness, the parts of the physical body are seen to be permeated with higher and higher imaginations, according to the degree of his development; these are impressed into the physical body by the inner being of this personality. In an ordinary individual there are a number of imaginations imprinted in the various principles of his body by higher spiritual beings; in a more highly developed man there appear in the various parts of his physical body, in addition to the imaginations originally there, others which he imprints into the parts of his body from his own inner being, so that the organs in the physical body of a developed human being become richer and richer.

In this diagram I wished to give you a sort of précis which sums up what I have described at length in these lectures. I specially draw your attention to this: that this diagram may always remind you that the Sentient Soul, the Intellectual or Mind Soul and the Consciousness Soul are reversed, so that the Consciousness Soul does not become the Intuitional Soul but the Imaginative Soul; and the Sentient Soul does not become the Imaginative Soul but the Intuitional Soul. In this you have a sketch of what could be given in the course of these lectures under the title of: The changes in the human sheaths and the human self in the course of a seriously conducted theosophical development, or an esoteric occult development—which, indeed, fundamentally may coincide.

You will have observed that we began with the tiny, almost imperceptible, changes in the physical body, which the student who is developing at first perceives but faintly: the various parts of the physical body become more and more inwardly living, while usually only the whole physical body of man appears to us as a living thing. We then saw how certain changes take place, presenting the mighty facts of the inner life, changes in the astral body and the Self providing those mighty imaginations through which we may feel ourselves transposed to the beginning of our earthly human development; yet even further back, for they lead to the Imaginations of Paradise, and of Cain and Abel. You have seen how, in fact, there arises as a reality in the physical body a sort of force which enables it to divide, as it were—but still it holds together; it does not give way, because here, in our present cycle of humanity, occult training may not go so far as to lead to the injury of the physical body—still there is, however, a degree of occult development which leads to the possibility that the physical body and the etheric body may draw to themselves inwardly destructive forces; and this danger is always present when a person meets the Guardian of the Threshold. This meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold is not possible without being confronted by the danger of implanting destructive forces in the physical and etheric bodies; but every true occult development provides the remedies at the same time, and these remedies are given in that which you find described in my book, Occult Science, as the six auxiliary occult exercises: Concentration of thought; that is, strenuous exertion of thought, the concentrated gathering together of thoughts; the development of a certain Initiative of Will; a certain Equilibrium of joy and sorrow, a certain Positivity in relation to the world, a certain Impartiality. The student who endeavours to develop these qualities in his soul parallel with his occult development, on the one hand certainly produces in himself a sort of effort to break the physical and etheric bodies to pieces, that is, under the influence of occult development to take in the seed of death; but to the same extent that this develops it is annulled, so that it is never really active when a person develops the qualities mentioned, or when through his moral development he already possesses the qualities equivalent to these six. It has been my endeavour to give you more than a mere description of what occult development is, namely, to rouse in your hearts a feeling of what it is, and what manifold changes it produces in a human being. You may have been able to divine and feel that a person has to meet much that is terrible and also much that is dangerous when he goes through occult development; but side by side with much that, even in this theoretical manner of considering the matter may have produced a certain amount of dread, we must always call to mind the thought which dispels all dread, can take away all fear of danger, simply arousing enthusiasm and strength of will within our souls—the thought that by developing ourselves further we are thus working actively at one part of the evolution willed by the Gods. A man who knows how to grasp this thought in all its greatness, and take into himself its stimulus and feel it with enthusiasm, and who forms this thought in such a manner that it presents evolution, or occult development in its most beautiful sense, as his duty, he is one who feels the beginning of that which, side by side with all danger, all fighting, all entanglements, all hindrances, is connected with all development, namely, the approach towards the beatitude of the spiritual worlds. For when he feels this thought of the enthusiasm-producing power of the ideal of development he may already begin to feel the bliss of development; but this means to recognise the development, the occult progress as a necessity. The future of such spiritual, esoteric movements as ours will be that the spiritual development of human souls will be regarded more and more as a necessity, and that the exclusion of spiritual development and the adoption of a hostile attitude towards it will signify a union with the earthly dross, which is cast out through its own weight, a union with what has fallen away from the God-willed evolution of the universe.