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Planetary Spheres and Their Influence on Mans Life on Earth and in the Spiritual Worlds
GA 218

IV. Life in the Spiritual Spheres and the Return to Earth

12 November 1922, London

You will remember that on the last occasion when I was able to speak to you here, I gave you a description of the experiences of the soul during sleep. Today I would like to carry the subject a little further. It will, I am sure, already be clear to you that one whose knowledge of human life confines itself to daytime existence, knows only half the life of man; for things of the very greatest importance take place during sleep. There is no need for me here to explain first the methods by which one comes to know these things; I assume from the outset that you receive what I say as coming from the exact clairvoyance which you will remember I described in my lectures here in London, a few months ago. [Knowledge and Initiation and Knowledge of the Christ through Anthroposophy. Two lectures, London, 14 and 15 April, 1922.]

When man passes from day-consciousness into sleep-consciousness—which is for the man of the present time unconsciousness—he is not in his physical body, nor in his etheric body. During sleep he is a purely spiritual being. On my last visit I gave you a description, from one aspect, of the experience man undergoes as soul and spirit between the times of falling asleep and awaking. Today I want to describe this experience from another side.

You will remember how in sleep man goes out into the cosmic ether, and feeling himself in the midst of a vast and vague unknown is at first overcome with anxiety and apprehension; then you will also remember how in this moment something awakens in the soul which one can call—borrowing the expression from conscious life—a yearning for the Divine. And we went on to speak of how in the second stage of sleep man experiences a reflection of the movements of the planets, and how, for one who has already a relation to the Mystery of Golgotha, Christ then appears, to be his Guide through the otherwise chaotic experiences that come to him while he is living his way through a kind of reproduction or copy of the life of the stars and the planets. For now comes the experience of the fixed stars. Man goes forth, from the planetary spheres—we mean of course the copy of the planetary spheres—and enters upon an experience of the constellations of the fixed stars. So that between falling asleep and awaking, man actually covers the whole cosmic existence beyond the Earth. I told you moreover that it is the forces of the Moon (the spiritual counterpart of what reveals itself to us in the various lunar phenomena) that bring man back again in the morning—or whenever he wakes up—bring him back into his physical and into his etheric body.

And now I should like, as I said, to describe these experiences from another angle. Unless we have allowed ourselves to become completely involved and imprisoned in the materialistic ideas of modern times, the conscious life that we lead in the daytime has for us a moral and also a religious foundation. We have our knowledge of Nature; but we cannot help feeling that we have in us something more than knowledge and science, that we have as well, moral duties, moral responsibilities, and we feel moreover that our whole being is grounded in a spiritual world. This latter realisation may be described as a religious consciousness. It is, however, only because he is in the physical body, that he is able to have this religious consciousness. It is, however, only because he is in the physical body, that he is able to have this religious consciousness in waking life. For you must understand that in his physical body man is not alone, but with him are spirits of higher cosmic rank; in his physical body, man lives together with higher spirits. And man lives, in his ether-body, with the moral purposes of these higher spirits. Thus, the religious consciousness of man is dependent on his life in the physical body, and his moral consciousness on his life in the etheric body. And this leads us to distinguish two parts in the cosmic ether, from which, as you know, our own ether-body is derived. One part is warmth, light, chemical ether, life ether. But behind all this, behind the warmth and light and chemical processes and life, is a moral element—the moral essence of the cosmic ether.

Now this moral essence of the cosmic ether is present only in the neighbourhood of stars and planets. If you are living on the Earth, then you are not only within the cosmic ether, but also within its moral essence, although by day you do not know it. And when you wander through the cosmos, then whenever you are in the environment of a star, you are in the moral essence of the cosmos ether. But in between the stars, the moral element is driven out of the ether by the action of the sunlight. Note that I say the sunlight, not the Sun, which is a cosmic body within which is contained the very source and origin of the moral ether; but when the Sun shines, then by means of its light it drives away the moral essence of the ether. And so it comes about that when we look out through our eyes on to the world, we see flowers, we see springs and brooks, we see the whole face of Nature, but without any moral element discernible within it; the sunlight has killed out the moral element. And when we fall asleep and leave our physical and etheric bodies, then we take with us what we have acquired in this way during waking hours on Earth by beholding Nature; but strange as it may sound, we leave behind us our religious feeling and our moral feeling, we leave them behind with the physical and with the ether-body, and our soul and spirit live as an a-moral being during the time of sleep.

This has an important consequence for us. We are living during this time in a world that has been irradiated by the light of the Sun. This means that the moral ordering of the world has gone out of the ether. Consequently the Ahrimanic Being has access to the ether in which we find ourselves as soon as we fall asleep. And this Ahrimanic Being speaks to man while he is asleep. And what he says is most mischievous, for he is rightly called the father of lies; he makes good appear bad to the sleeping human being and bad good.

Reference has been made in the newspapers recently to questions that are being investigated by scientists, as to why criminals sleep well, while moral people with a good conscience often sleep badly. The matter is explained when you consider what I have been telling you. In the case of a highly conscientious and devout man, who has a fine moral feeling, his moral sensibility enters so deeply into his soul that he takes it with him into sleep; with the result that he sleeps badly, believing as he does that he has been guilty of many misdeeds. A bad man, on the other hand, whose moral sensibility is very little developed, will carry with him into sleep no such pangs of conscience,—and this will mean of course at the same time that he will have, spiritually speaking, an open ear for the whisperings of Ahriman who makes evil appear good. Hence the quiet and contented sleep of the criminal! People say, it is not fair that criminals should sleep well, while good people often have poor and disturbed slumber. The fact is to be accounted for in the way I have shown.

The enticement to evil to which man is exposed during sleep is, in truth, exceedingly great, and it can easily happen that in the morning he brings over with him from sleep terrible demonic forces of temptation. Only when he has come down again into his physical and etheric body, will a man who is not very good and upright begin to feel pricks of conscience,—not before. There is thus abundant possibility for, man to fall a victim to Ahriman during the time of sleep.

The danger has by no means always been so great as it is today. In the course of the centuries it has gradually come about that men are so gravely exposed during sleep to the seductions of demonic powers, which make evil appear good. In earlier times of the evolution of mankind things were different. Man had then, as I have often explained to you, nothing like so strong an ego-consciousness as he has now. In the daytime, when he was awake, his ego-consciousness was weaker; and that meant also that during sleep he did not sail so smoothly into evil as he does today. He was protected. The fact is, we are living today in a time that is bringing us to a certain crisis in evolution. It behoves men to arm themselves against the powers of evil that approach them when they fall asleep. In older times men were protected through the fact that when they went to sleep, they entered more into the group-soul. During sleep man lived in the group-soul. We today still live to a certain extent in the group-soul during our waking hours; we feel we belong to a particular nation, often even to a particular clan; or perhaps we are inclined to put on aristocratic airs, and like to feel ourselves as members of a certain family. But sleep takes us right out of the group-soul feeling. It is hardly possible for the man of today to be an aristocrat in sleep. Yes, sleep is a great educator, more than you would think; on the one hand it educates man, it is true, in evil, as we have seen; but on the other hand, it educates him in democracy. The man of olden time passed into the group-soul when he fell asleep; and when he awoke and returned to his physical and to his etheric body, he brought with him a strong feeling of belonging to his group.

There you have the one side of man's life,—what he is during sleep. Man, of course, carries in him all the time the part of his nature that is exposed in sleep at the present day to the temptations of demonic forces, he has it in him continuously. Only, when he is awake, he has to let it merge into the moral and religious consciousness. The religious side of man is given to him, as we saw, by the powers that live with him in his physical body, and the moral side by the powers that live with him in his ether-body.

The man of an older time, who during sleep lived strongly, as we have seen, in the group-consciousness—it was with the Mystery of Golgotha that all this became changed for the further evolution of mankind—the man of an older time, when he dived down again, on awaking, into his physical and his etheric body, began to live then more in himself, But here we discover another difference between him and us. For when he was waking up and coming down again into his physical and ether body, before he was quite awake, he had a clear consciousness of the life he had lived ere he descended to Earth. And he had the same clear consciousness again just before falling asleep. Whilst, therefore, on the one hand he developed a strong group-consciousness, he had at the same time also a strong feeling of belonging to the life that is beyond the Earth. He knew quite well that he had come down from the spiritual world, had passed through the world of the stars, and had chosen for himself a physical body here on Earth. As time went on, this consciousness became darkened. In compensation, men became ‘clever’—as we understand the word today. They developed powers of judgment and discrimination. This kind of faculty has evolved only in the course of time. It is our physical body that gives us the power of judgment,—and this is the reason we are able to exercise the power best during the morning hours. We enter more deeply in these days into our physical and etheric bodies than men did in olden times. Consequently, while they had a consciousness of their life before birth, we have a consciousness rather of earthly existence. We establish ourselves firmly in our physical and etheric body. They did not do so. They might be said to ‘carry’ their physical and etheric body, they carried it round with them, feeling it as something external to themselves, rather as we feel the clothes that we wear. We have quite lost this feeling. We no longer say as they did, when they were going through a door: I carry my physical being through the door. That was for them an entirely natural way of speaking. We would never say that; we say: I walk through the door. We press our I, our ego, right into the physical body; it is therefore perfectly natural for us to express ourselves in this way. And in consequence of this development, we have lost also the consciousness of our connection with the spiritual world and with the world of the stars. The man of an earlier time knew that he was connected with the world of the stars. He knew quite well that he was connected with the world of the stars, and also with the spiritual world that is behind the world of the stars: he knew that he had descended from these worlds to earthly existence.

Modern man will say: In order to live, I need meat, vegetables, eggs, etc. He needs, that is, products of the physical world, and with these he must concern himself from birth to death. Please do not imagine for a moment dear friends, that I mean to speak scornfully or slightingly of the food we eat. It is good in itself and belongs to life; let that be fully recognised. I want only to point out that the men of olden time[s] knew that in order to have strength to live, man needs more than the forces of the Earth that reside in beef and cabbage and egg, he needs also Jupiter and Venus and Saturn, They knew for a fact that just as man, when he is here on Earth, needs to eat eggs, so too has he need to have received, before he came down to Earth, the strength of Jupiter and of Venus; otherwise he could not be earthly man at all. Modern man feels united with the Earth and is very much concerned about what he must eat to keep his body in health. The man of an older time felt a need to be in right relationship with the stars. He said to himself: If I suffer, here on Earth, from some inability or lack of skill, it must be that I did not acquit myself well while descending into the world of the stars; I must put that right next time I make the journey from death to a new birth.

It is indeed so that in those times man evolved what might be called a spiritual diet. In the Mysteries there were leaders and guides who were not unlike our modern doctors of medicine. The modern doctor gives his advice about man's body. That is quite understandable, and no reproach is intended. But the leaders in the Mysteries, who were also physicians, would for example, if a man suffered from some physical infirmity, give instruction as to how he could better his relationship to Venus, or it may be to Saturn. It was thus advice for the soul that these leaders in the Mysteries gave. Let us suppose a physician of this kind found that the person who had come to him for healing was too strongly attracted to his physical body. Instead of feeling his body merely as a garment for his soul, he was firmly bound to it, rather like a man of the present day who persisted in sleeping in his clothes. The physician would say to such a person: When the Moon is full, try going out for a walk in its light, when it is rising in the evening; and while you walk, repeat a certain mantram.

Why did the physician of the ancient Mysteries give this advice? Because he knew that when a person goes for a walk in the light of the Moon, repeating the while certain mantrams, that will counteract the Saturn force, and so it will come about that Saturn has less power over him. For, you see, this physician of olden times knew that the clinging to the physical body, the being so closely knit with it, was due to the fact that the person in question had held on too strongly to Saturn when he was passing through the world of the stars, on his way from the spiritual world into earthly life. This excessive attraction to the life of Saturn had given him the infirmity from which he was suffering. But now the two heavenly bodies, Moon and Saturn, tend to counteract one another. In order, therefore, to cure an affliction due to the Saturn forces, the physician would have recourse to the forces of the Moon. He would, in effect, prescribe a spiritual diet.

We have today a physical diet and that is quite right and suitable for us. In the olden times man felt the need for a diet of a more spiritual kind, and we must now learn to add to our physical diet also a spiritual diet. That is the mission of the present age; we have our physical diet, and we must regain a feeling for the importance of a spiritual diet as well. If we can do this, it will enable us to achieve the tasks that call for fulfilment at this present moment in earth evolution.

This is what I wanted to put before you in the first part of my lecture.


It is a satisfaction to me, my dear friends, that I shall be able to give you two more lectures after today, and so I do not need to hurry—as I would otherwise be obliged to do—but can go more fully into that which lies on my heart to say to you on the occasion of this visit.

Vision of the pre-earthly life, of the life man lived in the spiritual world before he united himself here on Earth with a physical and an etheric body, was possible to the men of old, for they possessed an elemental clairvoyance. To attain such vision today we need the help of anthroposophical science. When with this help we have learned to look with the consciousness of Inspiration upon the time we pass through before we descend to Earth, we behold how we live for a long while in an entirely spiritual world, a world where there is no mineral kingdom, no plant kingdom, no animal kingdom,—a world where there are not even the stars that we see shining far away in the encircling heavens, a world, where we have around us spiritual beings, beings of the higher hierarchies. Throughout this period of the time between death and a new birth, we live among spiritual beings. And then we begin to travel through the starry heavens on our way back to Earth, passing—now with more, now again with less, sympathy—through the various starry spheres. And this is the time when we prepare our coming earthly life. For according as we relate ourselves to the starry spheres through which we pass, so will be our life on Earth. Let me give you an example of how this preparation takes place.

Coming forth from the world that is purely spiritual, we pass first through the sphere of the fixed stars. Of these I will not speak just now; that will come in the next lecture. Then we pass through the spheres of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, through the Sun sphere, and through the spheres of Mercury, Venus and Moon, and so by gradual stages come down to Earth. You will realise from the description that we approach the spheres of the stars from the other side. When you stand on Earth and look at Jupiter, you are seeing Jupiter from one side. And when a being—in this case, a human being—is descending from the spiritual world and passes, on his way to Earth, through the spheres of the stars, then at the time when we, looking from the Earth, see Saturn, this being, as he approaches Saturn, will be seeing it from the other side. It will be the same with all the stars. Coming from the spiritual world, he approaches the stars from behind, as it were, and sees the reverse of what men see on Earth with physical sight. You will not of course imagine that the human being who is making his journey to the Earth ‘sees’ in the way we do. He has no eyes as yet, he will only get eyes when he has a physical body. What he sees is spiritual. He sees Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, in their spiritual aspect; Venus also, then Mercury and Moon. And according to the measure of the sympathy or antipathy with which he passes through the one or other sphere, so will be the forces he receives in the course of his descent from each sphere in turn,—forces of Saturn, forces of Jupiter, and so on.

Let us imagine a particular case. In consequence of the way in which he lived his former life on Earth, a human soul may have the feeling, when the time comes to descend to a new life: It will be good if this time I come to Earth as a woman; if this time I incarnate in a female body.

It is an important question for the descending human soul to decide, whether it shall become man or woman. Its whole destiny on earth depends on the decision; for it is by no means a matter of indifference whether in one particular incarnation we go through our life as a man or a woman. But it is not enough for the soul simply to come to the conclusion: I will be a man, or, I will be a woman. Due preparation has to be made. If the soul desires to be a woman, it will approach the Earth at the time of Full Moon. When we, looking from the Earth, see the Moon full, the soul that is approaching from the spiritual world will see it dark. Now what the soul sees is of course, the spiritual aspect of the Moon. Seeing it dark, the soul sees it ‘peopled,’ as it were, with certain beings. And these beings it is who will prepare the soul, so that, when it comes on Earth, it shall be attracted to a female body. On the other hand, when we, looking from the Earth, see New Moon—which means, we cannot see it at all—then the soul that is descending and sees the Moon from the other side, will see it lit up, will see the light that rays forth from it out into cosmic space,—that is, of course, the spiritual in the light. In this case, the soul can become a man. Whether it receives the forces that bring it to a male or to a female incarnation depends, you see, on the manner of the soul's journey through the spheres of the stars.

And now, in addition to passing through the sphere of the Moon, the soul has also to go, for example, through the spheres of Mercury and Venus. While the manner of its journey through the sphere of the Moon determines whether the soul is to become man or woman, by its passage through the sphere of Venus the soul is endowed with greater or less sympathy for a particular family. For the soul could, of course, be man or woman in this or that or any other family. This attraction to a family is determined in the following way.

A human soul may be descending, for instance, at a time when Venus is right on the other side of the Earth, and the soul may thus be able to disregard the Venus sphere. Such a soul will then have no great connection with his family. Or the soul may, on the other hand, go past Venus, and it can do so in a variety of ways. It will then elect to take the path through the Venus sphere that guides it to some particular family. For the soul has this possibility; it can prepare itself for belonging to a particular family by choosing, as it were, the ‘ray’ that goes from Venus to this family. Coming down from the other side, the dark side, of Venus, the soul then draws near to Earth and finds its way to that family,

The same kind of thing may happen in regard to the Mercury sphere. The sphere of Mercury leads the soul to find its way into a particular folk or people. When the region inhabited by this people is receiving rays of Mercury, then the soul, coming from the other side and approaching the dark side of Mercury, will be helped to find its way to this people.

Thus are human souls prepared for life on Earth. Through the influence of the Moon—and when we speak of these heavenly bodies, it is always the spiritual in them that we have in mind—through the influence of the Moon, preparation is made for the soul to become man or woman; through the influence of Venus, for the soul to belong to some family; through the influence of Mercury, to belong to some folk or people.

The whole life of man on Earth depends, as you see, on the relationship he establishes with the spheres in the course of his descent from the spiritual world. The knowledge of this has been lost. We must regain it. We are accustomed to think of ourselves as composed of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, sulphur, etc. But we must come also to feel—quite simply and naturally—that we are composed and are created out of the world of the stars. For we are not just physical human beings made up of protein and a few other substances. All the forces of the universe have combined to form us. These forces of the universe work upon us while we are descending. When we come to Earth, we have them within us,—and something of a memory of this remains to us in sleep. Memory is however always, as you know very well, weaker than the actual experience. When someone who is dear to you has died, think how the memory of the event grows less vivid and powerful as time goes on. And it is the same with the memory we still have in sleep, of how it was with us when we had living and present experiences of the spiritual world, and of the world of the stars. The memory grows dim; and that is why man is exposed now in sleep to the temptations I described earlier in today's lecture. Thus a dim and feeble after-image in sleep—a weak cosmic memory—is all that is left of the experience we had with the spiritual world and with the stars during the time between death and our last birth.

This, dear friends, is what I wanted to say to you today byway of introduction. We shall continue with it next time we meet.