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Souls of the Nations

Souls of Nations: Fifth Lecture


This lecture is a kind of inclusion in the whole course, since it tells more of the great forces of Nature — of how the Earth within the Universe is formed by all the Hierarchies together — than in much detail of the folk-souls, Time-spirits and so on. It is of course a preparation for what follows. It happens to be, of all Dr. Steiner's lectures, one of the most dear to the present writer. For in my special line of work, in my attempted contributions to the new Natural Science which is arising on the ground of Spiritual Science, this was among the lectures that most helped and guided me. And it will help all those who look for clear and fundamental understanding of Anthroposophy in its more cosmic aspects.

Dr. Steiner begins once more, after what was said in the last lecture, with the reminder that what is here being told about the peoples, races and so on can only rightly be received in the mood of Spiritual Science. A counter-balancing force as against any narrower feelings or prejudices that might arise lies in the basic teachings of Karma and Reincarnation. “We may be sure that in our inmost being we do receive in turn and in due course the bounties of all races and all peoples, being incarnated now here, now there. ...”

Proceeding now to the main subject of this lecture, Dr. Steiner enumerates the spiritual Hierarchies. Beyond the Angels, Archangels and Archai, we have in their due order: the second Hierarchy:

Spirits of Form — Powers (Exusiai),
Spirits of Movement — Mights (Dynamis),
Spirits of Wisdom — Dominions (Kyriotetes);

and then the first or highest Hierarchy:

Spirits of Will — Thrones,

In this enumeration the highest Spirits have of course been written last. Indeed it happens that• as he comes to them last in order, having already spoken much about the lower ranks of Beings: Angels, Archangels and Archai, in preceding lectures, Dr. Steiner in this lecture calls the highest Hierarchy (Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim) ‘the third’; the Angels, Archangels and Archai on the other hand ‘the first.’ This may be a source of difficulty if we do not notice it at once, since Dr. Steiner almost invariably in later years named the highest Hierarchy ‘the first,’ the lowest of the three ‘the third.’ We are therefore accustomed to this latter, in any case more natural way of speaking, and I shall retain it here, though I be thereby at variance with the actual text of this lecture.

How do these higher Beings work in the outer world? Where, in the realm of Maya or illusion, is their working manifested? In answer Dr. Steiner speaks, to begin with, of the apparently solid, material surface of the Earth — the granite rocks of Norway for example. This is the outer Maya. The underlying reality is that two kinds of spiritual forces are at work and are meeting here. From below, from within the Earth, are spiritual forces raying outward. These are the forces of the Thrones — ‘Spirits of Will.’ Forces of spiritual Will, we may truly call them. The other kind are inward raying, in-streaming forces from the Universe. These latter forces proceed from the Dynamis, Spirits of Movement (i.e. from out of the second Hierarchy). Now where the forces of the second Hierarchy, coming inward from the Universe, meet with the forces of the first Hierarchy raying outward from within the Earth, there arises the apparent surface of the material Earth upon which we tread. This indeed is the reality underlying the outer Maya.

But now not only the Thrones and the Spirits of Movement are involved. For in the first place the surface of the Earth is not in constant movement. It would be so if the Spirits of Movement alone were encountering the Thrones, and so it was to some extent in pristine ages, when the Earth-planet was still in a fluctuating, semi-fluid state. Dr. Steiner illustrates it by referring to the Alps — geologically speaking, a comparatively young formation, far younger for example than the less lofty eminences of the Bohemian plateau. These Alpine mountains are like waves dammed up, breaking against a shore, and then solidified.

It was the Spirits of Form — ‘dancing upon the waves,’ as Dr. Steiner puts it — who brought the ever-moving forms to rest. Hence they deserve their name, as the creators of more lasting form. They too, like the Spirits of Movement, work primarily inward from the cosmic sphere, yet they unfold their forces in both realms — that of the Thrones as well as that of the Spirits of Movement. Where these two realms of forces meet, the Spirits of Form, since a certain period of Earth-evolution, have brought the ever-moving forms to rest.

Behind the Spirits of Form and those of Movement, also the Spirits of Wisdom — third and highest rank among the second Hierarchy — are working in from the surrounding Cosmos. Likewise the Thrones, as they work upward from below, are in their turn assisted by the Cherubim and Seraphim. Now Dr. Steiner characterizes more precisely the physical and ethereal elements in which these different Beings work. Namely, to summarize: —

the Thrones work in the Water-element (though by this ‘Water’ we should understand rather the primal, semi-fluid magma of the planet as a whole than the very liquid, mobile water we see about us on the surface of the Earth to-day);

the Cherubim work in the Air-element;

the Seraphim in Fire.

These are the more material, physical elements — ‘Fire’ or warmth being at the borderline between the material and immaterial. The Beings of the second Hierarchy on the other hand work in the more ethereal, imponderable elements — in the three Ethers. To summarize once more: —

the Spirits of Form work in the Light-ether;

the Spirits of Movement in the Sound-ether (or chemical ether — the Pythagorean ‘music of the spheres’ — formative sound of the great Universe);

the Spirits of Wisdom in the Life-ether — or, as Dr. Steiner here describes it, “the Life of the universal Ether, raying in on to the Earth. For Life is pouring in on to the Earth from cosmic spaces and is received by living creatures here. It comes from the Spirits of Wisdom.”

It is in the Sun that, to begin with, these threefold forces of the second Hierarchy — “in-pouring Life, weaving Sound, formative Light” — are concentrated for our spiritual vision. Yet they are working in reality from the whole sphere of the celestial Universe, while from beneath — forth from the centre of the Earth — come the out-pouring forces of the first Hierarchy: Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. We must imagine the ‘surface of the Earth,’ the meeting-place of the two sets of forces, to be not only on the watery and solid Earth beneath our feet but also in the outer regions of the atmosphere — there where the air- and warmth- or fire-mantle of the Earth, wherein the Cherubim and Seraphim are working, meet the surrounding cosmic spheres of light and spiritual sound and life.

Finally, when the manifold surface of the Earth has been thus brought about by this great cosmic encounter of the two highest Hierarchies, the third — Angels, Archangels and Principalities or Archai — work in the intermediate realm thus engendered: the horizon in effect, the meeting ground of forces from the heights and depths, which is the scene of human life, civilization-epochs, nations, destinies of men. In the first Hierarchy, says Dr. Steiner, summing up, “we therefore have those forces of Nature which we must call the strongest — the Nature-forces of the deep, belonging to the fastnesses of Earth beneath us. In the second Hierarchy we have the cosmic forces which live and weave around us and about us, in the ethereal element.” And in the third, in that we call the Angels, Archangels and Archai, we have “what works more intimately into human souls, ... what lives and moves more gently throughout our own being.”

The whole of the lecture down to here is a remarkable expansion of what the reader will find again condensed into the Leading Thoughts (No. XXIV, page 64, in our edition). The third Hierarchy, says Dr. Steiner there, “lives and moves in all that man experiences in the soul, in his inner life.” The second “works in the etheric ... does not reveal itself directly in the physical; its power extends only to etheric processes.” Lastly, “the first and strongest Hierarchy reveals itself to be the spiritually active principle within the physical. ...”

The lecture now leads on to another, again a most beautiful aspect. The spiritual Beings worked already in ancient Saturn, Sun and Moon, and in a specific way in each of these planetary epochs. Each of the epochs had its special mission. Man now consists, as to his outer sheaths or vehicles, of the physical, etheric and astral bodies; as to his inner life, of the powers of Thinking, Feeling and Willing. He owes his physical body and his life of Will to Saturn; his ether-body and his Feeling-life to Sun; his astral body and his life of Thought to Moon. This saying must however be understood in a deeper way. The physical body is nothing else than Will — Will that is seen from without. The very stuff of it is Will, created as it was, we shall remember, by the Thrones, who are the Spirits of Will. The Saturn universe was necessary to achieve “that skilful interweaving of outer Will — namely our physical body — and of inner Will” which is thus given to us. Moreover the old Saturn element works on whenever we express ourselves in Will, to this day. Likewise old Sun, Spirits of Wisdom being then the chief creators, was necessary to endow us outwardly with the ether-body and inwardly with Feeling — “the inner element of Wisdom,” as Dr. Steiner calls it here. And a third universe, the old Moon had to be, for our endowment with the astral body and the inner life of Thought.

Such were the missions of the three former cosmic epochs. What then of the mission of the fourth, the Earth? It is to bring about the harmony of the three from within! Our inmost, individual being — our ‘I’ or Ego, given to us by the Spirits of Form in Earth-evolution — voices itself in the three modes of thinking, feeling and willing. To create harmony between these three out of the very core and centre of our being: this is the mission of the ‘I’ and therewith of all Earth-evolution. The harmony we thus achieve from within is no mere adjustment; it is creation. A fourth is added to the three. It is the element of Love. To make the Three into the Four is therefore an occult formula for the Earth's secret. Rudolf Steiner here brings in the geometrical symbol of the equilateral triangle with its centre.

The inmost being of Man “becomes the substance of Love.” That Love should be thus described as the outcome of balance or harmony between the Three, will give us deeply to think; it will shed light above all on ever so much that has been given to us for the esoteric path.

The Spirits of Form — creators of the ‘I’ of Man — may therefore also rightly be named, Spirits of Love. We may here mention in passing: there are two other Hierarchies to whom at one time or another Rudolf Steiner has assigned this latter name. One are the Seraphim, the highest; the other is the hierarchy of Man himself, when he achieves what is predestined for him.

The end of the lecture takes a sudden turn, to speak of Maya or illusion not only on the physical plane but on higher planes also, reached by clairvoyant experience. The warning here expressed is, I am sure, of very actual importance with regard to what is happening in the world in our own time, and every word must be weighed so as to read it with the right inner balance, with all the background of what has gone before to help us. Rudolf Steiner speaks of a very network, or web and woof of Love, that is being woven through and through Earth-evolution. The normal Spirits of Form spin the main threads. The abnormal Spirits then weave in what makes the different races. The Time-Spirits and Archangels both normal and abnormal, the Angels too, weave in their several contributions; “so is the mighty tapestry of Love being woven.” Yet of this only the Maya, only the outer reflection is visible on Earth. To see the spiritual Beings we must raise our consciousness to higher planes. The next higher is the Astral; then come the planes of lower and higher ‘Devachan.’ Upon the astral plane the Beings normally working from the depths — Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones — are not yet visible. Yet there is one rank of Beings who are there visible, who indeed — especially for those who rise into clairvoyant vision by irregular or mistaken methods — make their appearance with their attendant spirits even before the Angels, etc., who should normally appear on the astral plane. They are the abnormal Spirits of Movement working as Spirits of Form, to whom the races are due. Whereas the second Hierarchy in the normal course work inward from the celestial spheres, not outward from within the Earth, these Beings — belonging as they do, in a certain sense, to the necessary sphere of Darkness — have transposed their sphere. They work now in the nether sphere, from within the Earth. And, being quickly visible on the astral plane, they have an immense power of attraction for all that in man which is earth-bound, which belongs to the propagation of race and the like. “Many a one who has entered into the occult realm prematurely or in wrong ways has had to pay for it dearly by his encounter with this throng of spiritual Beings, without the harmonizing presence of the other Beings.”

This is the end of the lecture. While speaking of the retinue, the attendant spirits of these Beings, Dr. Steiner mentions in passing who are the attendant Nature-spirits of the normal Beings of the first Hierarchy. They are:

for the Thrones, the Undines;
for the Cherubim, the Sylphs;
for the Seraphim, the Salamanders (Fire-spirits).

Somehow the reader will feel that the abnormal Spirits of Movement are spoken of in a very different aspect here from what they were before. In a former lecture we were told we must be thankful for their sacrifice, for that they remained behind; here they are said to appear “like a kind of ugly spiritual Beings on the astral plane”; moreover, for the first time in this lecture-course the epithet ‘fallen’ is applied to them. In bringing these two aspects together we may get some conception of how deep a subject Occultism is, and how the understanding of it calls for reticence and inner silence. The Spirit takes its leave of trivial, ready-made formulations thrown about in the surface-mind.

We may note that in the one place Dr. Steiner was speaking of what these Beings are in their own essence, in their eternal, cosmic destination. Here on the other hand he is describing what appears of them — also a kind of Maya — in the astral world. At this point it will help us to recall a very fundamental passage in the Spiritual Hierarchies lectures of 1909 (Cycle VII). What I refer to occupies almost the whole of the last lecture in this cycle; two or three pages about the Spirits of Movement in old Moon evolution at the end of the fifth lecture may be referred to if the last lecture does not explain itself. It is here that Dr. Steiner speaks of future humanity as of the tenth Hierarchy, Beings of spiritual Freedom, Spirits of Love. This too is one of the memorable passages where he explains, as he did from so many points of view at different times, the picture of St. Michael and the Dragon.

Dr. Steiner tells in effect how in old Moon evolution those of the Spirits of Movement who, so to speak, took the lower path, could do no other. They acted in obedience to the Divine behest. For the Divine, plan needed a stronger force of resistance — a bigger load, as it were, for Gods and men to pull. “These Spirits of Movement (Dynamis, Mights) did not in the first place become evil; we need not think of them as evil powers, nay we are even justified in saying that they made a sacrifice in putting hindrances in the way of evolution. ... Once more: they were not evil in themselves; on the contrary, by dint of opposition they were great benefactors of evolution. And yet again they were begetters of evil, for through their opposition evil by and by came about.” Then we are told of how some of the Angels — i.e. the human beings, in a sense, of old Moon evolution — of their own free choice followed these Spirits of Movement on to the lower way; and how these Angels in their turn, known as the ‘Luciferic’ Angels, influenced man in his astral body during the early periods of Earth-evolution. Evil, says Dr. Steiner at this place, that is deliberate opposition to the Gods, could not begin among the Hierarchies at any higher level than the Angels, who were at their human stage in old Moon evolution when the ‘war in Heaven’ first began. Evil appears among the children of men, and at the very earliest among the Angels who are next above man.

It is most helpful, I think, to recall this passage, because precisely the fallen Spirits of Movement play so great a part in the Folk-Souls lectures. How much, indeed, of present conflicts in our spiritual history takes place upon this level, where man must find his way between the normal Spirits of Form — those who would give man freedom; who work purely in the ‘I’; who are to us one aspect of the Being of Christ Himself — and the abnormal, the determiners of race and racial heredity: forces that bind us and divide, yet also not to be cast away without respect!

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