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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Awareness - Life - Form
GA 89

Planetary Evolution III

22 October 1904, Berlin

There are three terms we want to consider. We have to imagine that every spirit in the universe consists of three principles, as does the human being. We need not know the three principles for the other spirits, but they definitely exist:

  1. conscious awareness
  2. life
  3. form.

When we consider the entities that exist on our Earth we find that all of them take their form from the mineral world, as we call it. There is no other form principle for the human being within the Earthly world. This form of the mineral world can only be taken to a higher level by giving it life. A life form can only gain a centre by life coming to conscious awareness. Form, life and conscious awareness are therefore the three principles which every entity has. The human being thus consists of body, soul and spirit. We know that the soul extends into the body, creating the soul body. This is filled, as it were, with sentient soul. The higher principle always integrates itself into the lower. The soul has conscious awareness because the spirit integrates itself into the spiritual (or consciousness) soul. Because of this, the human being has threefold nature—form, life and conscious awareness.

Bringing the different spirits in the world before the mind’s eye, we can divide them into three kinds by using this definition:

  1. those where form predominates over the other two, life and awareness
  2. awareness may prevail over life and form
  3. all three may be in equilibrium.

For the present cycle we refer to

  1. Spirits where awareness is predominant—‘dhyani’. They have a powerful conscious mind.
  2. Spirits where conscious awareness, life and form are in equilibrium—called ‘substances’ in esoteric terms.
  3. Spirits where form is prevalent—the ‘elementals’. 55See note 13. In the lecture given in Berlin on 27 October 1905 (Foundations of Esotericism, note 13), the terms ‘planets (states of consciousness), rounds or elemental worlds (life), globes (conditions of form)’ are equated with the Christian terms ‘power, kingdom and glory’.

For the ‘substances’, some connection exists between dhyani and elementals. Human beings were in the substance state when they emerged from the elemental spirit state and combined with the soul. They were merely models, or forms, at that time. Human beings were beautifully luminous orbs at that time, with their souls floating around them. They were ‘substance’ in the middle of the Lemurian age. Today they have gone beyond the level of being at mere ‘substance’ level. They are in the process of dhyanic evolution. In esoteric terms the principle which was ready to take possession of those bodies in Lemurian times is called 'human'.

We now ask: What are these three kinds of spirits able to do? Firstly let us consider the entities where conscious awareness predominates. Their conscious awareness is more all-encompassing than their own life and their own form. They are therefore able to have power over other life and other forms. In Christian esoteric terms such spirits are called angels of the orbital periods. What makes a planet able to orbit the Sun? The fact that it has an angel of orbital period which is able to make it move in orbit. These are the planetary dhyani or spirits. The Earth thus has its own angel of orbital period, its Earth dhyan. Let me remind you of the ‘Earth spirit’ in Goethe's Faust . Its body is the whole astral matter of the Earth.56Spirits of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd elemental worlds. See Note 6.

The human being is in the process of becoming a planetary spirit. At present he is image of the godhead only in mineral terms, for he must still develop his astral, rupa-mental and arupa-mental nature. Then, at the end of the seventh round, he can become an angel of orbital period. The highest of the dhyan chohans will then say to him: ‘All animals and plants are given into your care.’ This will thus happen on the 7th day of creation. The human being will then be a dhyan chohan, a dhyanic cosmic spirit (chohan = cosmic spirit).

Secondly the spirits in whom form, life and conscious awareness are in equilibrium have power over form and are themselves guided by their conscious awareness. Spirits of this kind, which we know, are human beings who are at a certain level. They continue to develop and free themselves more and more of being under the control of their form, their lower nature. They seek to achieve something higher, which is awareness.

Thirdly, in the elemental spirits, form is mightier than life and conscious awareness, and their form thus needs to be controlled by conscious awareness and by life. They are the exact opposite of the dhyanic spirits. These can control more than just their form and life. In the elemental spirits form is more all-encompassing than life and conscious awareness. They therefore need a different life and a different conscious awareness to control their form. This means that elemental spirits have to lodge themselves in another kind of life and another kind of conscious awareness so that they may use it for themselves. They therefore retard the life and conscious awareness of others. The elementals are thus the spirits which hold evolution back. All parasitic life forms are governed by such elemental spirits. For us humans these life forms had already come to completion according to their kind in the lunar period, which is why form is predominant in them. They are now in decline, with their evolution in descent.

Animals with external skeletons, for example, have gone beyond evolution. Their inner development has dissolved, and they surround themselves with a horny layer on the outside (beetles, insects). They are preparing to subside into the eighth sphere. The ancient Moon also had an eighth sphere, a satellite Moon. Those life forms reached completion then, going beyond their evolution, and are now like overripe fruit. Spiders belong to the eighth sphere, for instance, and among plants, the mistletoe. Goethe therefore attributed the world of spiders and flies to Mephistopheles.57Goethe’s Faust I, ‘god of flies’, ‘lord of flies’. Anything parasitic is an outer reflection of elemental spirits living on the astral plane.

Before that the human being was also an elemental spirit. Not everything that is physical in him is destined to be redeemed. A cinder remains. This cinder, which remains there, is always present in the human being; because of it, the human being is under the influence of those astral elementals; the elemental nature which goes with it clings to him. Because of this, the human being is always connected with the principle which is inimical to his development, inhibiting and disrupting it. The spirits that cling to the human being are called 'Alben' in German mythology [elves, sprites, goblins, old English mære;—translator]. They appear vaguely in what are called 'nightmares', dreams where one thinks a spirit is sitting on one's chest. When you gain astral visions, you first of all see these spirits. (The 'dweller on the threshold' in Bulwer Lytton's Zanoni.)58Edward George Bulwer, Earl of Lytton (1803–1873). Zanoni; The Dweller of the Threshold, Book 4. It is a reflection of the human being’s astral knowledge of his mare, trying to fend off the enemy, a projection of an astral spirit in ourselves. It is the [lesser] guardian of the threshold. Someone unable to overcome his fear of the enemy within will usually turn back at the gate of initiation.

In the higher region of the astral plane, the [image of the] sphinx needs to be cast into the abyss before you are able to move ahead. The human being, who must develop, moves towards this moment. This is a developmental stage which people do not need to go through in the same way. It is possible for an individual to be guided through it with his eyes blindfold, as it were. If you are able to take moral nature to a higher level first, before you gain astral vision, the guardian of the threshold will appear less fearsome.

In the Atlantean race, it was above all the Turanians who gave themselves up to black magic and gained the greatest familiarity with the world of the elementals. Occult schools now put the main emphasis on practising the virtue of devotion, of selflessness and on moral development to equip people more effectively for the struggle. All occultists who continue to be ambitious, vain or self-seeking, get to know these retarding powers in evolution in a truly dreadful way, with these powers influencing them all the more strongly. We must love the teaching, be modest, humble and dedicated if we want to be sure of winning through. Evolution is retarded, held back by the elemental spirits, whereas it is accelerated by the dhyanic spirits.