Soul in the World around Us
As I said yesterday in
the introductory lecture, the intention in this course is to give a
picture, a kind of review of the theosophical world conception. It will
be necessary to speak of a number of subjects with which many in the
audience are already familiar. But only by learning of these truths
from their very foundations will it be possible later on to consider
Before beginning the actual
theme, I want to speak of a matter of exceptional importance. Why is it
that we must concern ourselves with theosophical ideas and theories before
we can ourselves actually experience anything in the spiritual world?
Many people will say, “The results of clairvoyant investigation are
made known to us, but I myself cannot yet see into the spiritual world.
Would it not be wiser if, instead of the results of investigation being
communicated to us, I were told how I can myself develop clairvoyance?
Each individual would then be able to undertake the further development
Those who are unacquainted
with the principles of occult investigation may believe that it would
be better if such facts had not previously been made known. But in the
spiritual world there is a definite law, the significance of which we
will make clear by an example. Suppose that in a certain year some properly
trained clairvoyant had perceived this or that in the spiritual world.
Now imagine that ten or twenty years later, another equally trained
clairvoyant could see the same thing even if he had known nothing whatever
about the result obtained by the first clairvoyant. If you were to believe
that this could happen, you would be making a great mistake, for the
truth is that a fact of the spiritual world that has once been discovered
by a clairvoyant or by an occult school, cannot be investigated a second
time if the would-be investigator has not first been informed that it
has already been discovered. If, therefore, in the year 1900 a certain
fact had been investigated and in the year 1950 another clairvoyant
reaches the stage of being able to perceive the same thing, he can succeed
only if he has realized that someone has already investigated and fathomed
it. Therefore, already known facts in the spiritual world can be perceived
only when their import has been consciously grasped as communications
already made. This is the law that establishes for all epochs the
foundation of universal brotherliness. It is impossible to penetrate into
any domain of the spiritual world without a link having first been made
with what has already been fathomed by the Elder Brothers of humanity. The
spiritual world sees to it that nobody can become a law unto himself,
saying, “I am not concerned with what is already there. I shall
investigate only for myself.” None of the facts communicated in
spiritual science today could be perceived by individuals, however highly
developed and advanced, if they had not been previously known. Because a
link must be there with what has already been discovered, the theosophical
movement had also to be founded on this basis.
In a comparatively short
time from now, many individuals will become clairvoyant, but they would
be able to see only unreality, not truth, in the spiritual world if
they had not heard of what had already been investigated. First one
must have knowledge of these truths, such as is given by theosophy,
or the science of the spirit, and only then can they be actually perceived.
Even a clairvoyant must get to know what has already been discovered,
and then, after conscientious training, he can perceive the facts himself.
It may be said that the divine beings fertilize a faculty of seership
only once in a human soul and if this single, virginal fertilization
has been achieved, then other human beings must pay attention to what this
first soul has discovered in order to have the right to see it themselves.
This law lays the foundations of an inner, universal brotherliness,
a true brotherhood of men. From epoch to epoch wisdom has passed through
the occult schools and been faithfully harbored by the Masters, and
we, too, must help to preserve this treasure and maintain brotherliness
with those who have already achieved something if we wish to make our
way into the higher regions of the spiritual world. What is striven
for on the physical plane as moral law is natural
law in the spiritual world.
Theosophy teaches us that
everything physical or material is born out of the spiritual. But in
our epoch it behooves us not to be satisfied with this bare realization
of a spiritual world. That behind everything material, everything physical,
there is the spiritual, is an essential, but abstract, consciousness
of spirit. What is necessary is to develop definite concepts and ideas
of how the spiritual becomes manifest in each domain. Today one can
only guide some other individual by conscientiously ensuring that he
takes all the steps leading from the external into the spiritual world.
The first kingdom to be
observed among the physical kingdoms around us, is that of the minerals,
the world of stones. The kingdom of the minerals is distinguished from
the human kingdom, for example, by the fact that a man knows that if
he has given someone else a hard blow, the latter feels pain. There
is no outer evidence that a mineral feels pain from a blow. From this
the conclusion is drawn that in man there is a soul that feels pleasure
and suffering, but not in the mineral. We will not at the outset insist
that the mineral also has a soul, because there we must already take
note of the results of clairvoyant investigation. The stone as it lies
before us has in it nothing of the nature of soul. But what is essential
in a spiritual world conception is that observation shall be directed
to the right place and not to a false one. Think of a tiny animal observing
a human being but actually able to see only his fingernails. It would
say that these fingernails are objects on their own, for the tiny animal
cannot realize that the nails belong to and are part of an organism.
When it is able to survey and see the whole, then its observation will
be true. The same principle applies to the spiritual investigator and
the mineral world. If you regard the stone as being something complete
in itself, you are in the position of the tiny animal that takes the
fingernails or the teeth to be the whole man, a complete being.
Think of the rocks on
the earth. They can only be conceived as having grown out of the whole
organism of the earth. But where is the being of which these rocks are
parts, to which all these rocks belong? There are spiritual beings to
whom the whole world of stones belongs. These beings feel happiness
and pain, pleasure and suffering just as does the human soul, so that
we can properly speak of a mineral soul. You must not, however, judge
on the basis of mere analogies, because that might lead you to think
that when a stone is smashed the mineral soul feels pain, but that is
not the case. A man feels pain if one of his fingers is crushed, but
in similar circumstances the mineral soul feels contentment and pleasure.
The being belonging to the mineral experiences great happiness when
stones are crushed, and pain when the fragments are put together again.
Because in the external world, mineral fragments are constantly being
separated off and put together again, pleasure and pain are continually
being felt in the souls of the beings who belong to the mineral kingdom.
Suppose we have salt here and a glass filled with warm water. What happens
if we drop the salt into the water? To clairvoyant observation the grains
of salt do not only dissolve in the water but feelings of well-being
arise; actual pleasure becomes evident when the salt permeates the water
in the glass. Then, when the water cools and a cube of salt crystallizes
out, this causes suffering to the mineral soul. In mountain ranges where
rocks have formed this is what has happened. When crystals form in the
earth the process is accompanied by suffering and pain for the beings
belonging basically to the mineral kingdom.
When a planet is born,
collects into a coherent mass and condenses, this process causes pain
and suffering to the spiritual beings involved in it. When a planet such
as our earth comes into existence, the process is accompanied by pain and
suffering. You may now ask me where then these beings are that the eye
does not see, that feel pain and suffering, well-being and happiness,
when, for example, stones are broken up by workmen in a quarry. Where
are these beings? In a comparatively lofty spiritual world! The mineral
substance seen by the eye is only a shadowy image of these beings. They
live in a world we call the world of formlessness. Spiritual beings
live in our whole mineral world-in the world of formlessness according
to occult investigation. Why do we use this expression, “world
of formlessness?” This will be understood at once when we turn
to the world of plants.
The plant, too, is the
expression of certain beings of soul. Here again we will study the results
of spiritual investigation. This tells us that when, for example, in
the autumn, the corn is mown and the scythe cuts through the stalks,
no suffering is felt by the soul-beings whose bodies are the plants.
No indeed! We must not think of suffering here because whole streams
of joy and contentment weave over the area. Equally, when the animal
is turned out to graze, it means happiness for the plant souls, not
pain. It can be compared with the feeling experienced by a mammal when
its offspring sucks its milk; this gives a feeling of bliss. What our
planet furnishes on its surface in the way of nourishment for the beings
inhabiting it, is, so to speak, milk for the beings that belong to the
planet and have their habitation in the center of the earth. You may
ask if all of them are able to find a place there. Certainly they are,
because of the prevailing law of permeability. Their self-surrender,
when a certain degree of maturity has been reached, means bliss for
the plant soul. Pain is caused when plants are torn out of the soil.
Now you. may say: Yes, but when mischievous boys and girls uselessly
tear off flowers how can that possibly cause happiness to the plant
soul? Would it not be much better to root out the plant altogether?
How can that cause it pain? From the point of view that is valid for the
physical world you are certainly right in saying this. But it must not be
forgotten that these points of view are by no means always authoritative
for the spiritual worlds. A person may look more handsome when he has
torn out the first grey hairs that have appeared on his head but pain
is caused nevertheless. It is all a matter of the point of view concerned
and we cannot struggle against the occult world with moral considerations.
Beings, souls — they also belong to the plants — beings
and souls for which the plant world supplies the bodies. We will now
try to form an idea of how happiness and suffering take their course
in the plant world.
The plant world is a shadow
of the spiritual world. Where, then, are the beings that belong to it?
In the world of form. They are also known by different names. The spiritual
beings belonging to the mineral kingdom inhabit a spiritual realm, the
realm of formlessness; the spiritual beings belonging to the
plants live in the realm of form.
Realm of Formlessness,
Arupa or Upper Devachan.
Realm of Form, Rupa or
The souls of the minerals
belong to a definite region of the spiritual world, indeed, to its upper
region. This must not surprise you, for the higher the realm in which
the souls live, the more thoroughly they conceal themselves. Why is
the one realm called the realm of formlessness and the other the realm
When a crystal is smashed
it is its form alone that is destroyed. This can, however, be reconstructed
somewhere else, independently of the form that was destroyed. When a
salt crystal comes into existence in nature it need not necessarily
do so out of another crystal. It can only arise from the substance of
salt and disappear again as form. That is the characteristic of formless
substance. In the case of the plant, the form cannot come into existence
in the same way, out of substance, out of the formless. The plant —
this is its essential characteristic — must develop out of a parental
plant. The form must pass over from progenitor to offspring in the case
of the souls of the beings in the realm of form; procreation takes
place as the result of transmission of the form. The form alone, nothing
else, is contained in the seed.
It is a superficial belief
of science that there is no great difference between plant seed and animal
egg. In the animal egg, form and life are transmitted from progenitor
to off-spring: Life is transmitted. In the seed of the lily
nothing except the form is preserved and it is transmitted
to the new lily. What happens in the mineral is that the forces that,
so to speak, implant the form arise in the higher realm of Devachan.
In the case of the crystal, the formlessness shoots as it were into
the form confronting the eye. We must, therefore, say that the whole
planet upon which plant life unfolds is surrounded by collective life
containing the impulse that enables the life of the plant to arise from
it, and from the plant seed only the form. From the life of the old
lily nothing passes over to the flower bed or flower pot in which the
seed is lying. That the new lily is imbued with life is due to the fact
that the seed has been received into the. universal life of our earth.
Here we come to the
transition to the animal kingdom. The form alone is passed on through the
seed; life arises because the seed is received into the universal life of
our earth. The quality of soul in the animal is visually perceptible
and it is therefore self-evident to speak of happiness and suffering,
joy and pain in this case. If we are to be clear about what happiness
and suffering mean in the plant kingdom, we must turn to the study of
other beings because happiness and suffering are felt outside
single plants; the whole organism of the earth feels them, just as when
you cut a finger the pain is not in the finger itself but is led over
to the whole organism. If you want to understand what pain is in the
plant, you must turn to the earth as a whole in order to contact the
soul of the plant there. The essential difference lies in the fact that
if an animal is wounded, the pain is situated inside its skin, as is
also the case with the animal nature of the human being. Here we are
coming ever nearer to individualization; the higher the evolution of
the kingdoms of nature ascends, the nearer we come to beings whose center
is within themselves. We study the plant rightly only when we study
it in connection with the earth as a whole. The animal has a soul and
admittedly feels happiness and suffering within the limits of its skin. We
do not actually see this soul because it is in the realm we call the astral
world. The animals are creatures that have a center in themselves and
their souls live in the astral realm. Thus there is a certain systematic
order in our idea of the world. The mineral conceals its soul deeply,
the plant less deeply and the animal less deeply still; the animal has
its center in itself, in the realm that is invisible. We must look for
the souls of the animals in a world other than the physical.
Thus we distinguish four
kingdoms. Firstly, the realm of the visible forms of minerals, plants
and animals, the physical world. Secondly, the realm where the invisible
nature of the animal is to be found, the astral world. Thirdly, the
realm of the plants, the souls of which are hidden in lower Devachan.
Fourthly, the realm of beings whose souls are hidden in upper Devachan.
The differentiation is obvious even from observation of the external
world. We will now, however, turn to the results of clairvoyant
In the space occupied
by the mineral as such, nothing of the nature of soul is present. This
space is void of soul, black, but round about and outside it luminosity
begins; further away this luminosity increases in strength. What is
it? It is the etheric body of the mineral that originates in the cosmos,
drawn from a part of the ether where no actual mineral exists. The cosmic
soul forces of the mineral experience joy and sorrow in the space where
the etheric body of the mineral is present. There suffering begins,
or happiness, perhaps, anticipates the severance of stone from a quarry
like a spiritual ray of light. The etheric body of the mineral encircles
its physical body. It could be said that where the mineral exists as
such, the etheric body has densified to such a degree that it has become
physical. The difference between mineral and plant arises through the
fact that the etheric body of the plant is within it, permeating
every single part. The green pervading the plant is the substance described
previously as being the etheric body of the mineral outside it.
But if all that could
be said about the plant were that it is permeated by an etheric body,
it would not blossom but only produce green leaves. When the plant begins
to blossom, clairvoyant consciousness sees something spreading over
and playing around it. This is the astral life, which brings about the
crowning of the growth. The green plant grows and finally something
new, the astral element, spreads over and plays around it but never
penetrates into it.
The animal has spiritually
within it what hovers around the plant. When what hovers around the
plant is inside the skin, the being is an animal. What hovers above the
plant, the astral element, surrounds the whole earth. It is the collective
astrality of the earth that hovers like smoke above the plant when it
is about to flower. Happiness and suffering are not seated within the
plant itself but are felt by the earth. The animal itself experiences
happiness and suffering; the astral body within the animal weaves and
is astir in the whole astrality of our earth. The mineral kingdom is
as though embedded in an etheric world and has its etheric body around
it. The plant is permeated by an etheric body and because the plant world
is embedded in an astral body that is part of the collective astrality
of the earth, pain and happiness are experienced outside the plant itself.
The being that is not only swathed by the astral element but can actually
take it into itself, is the animal.
Thus we have now surveyed
the three kingdoms of the world surrounding us and their connection
with the higher worlds.
Man is a little world
in himself, the product of all that surrounds him. What we have discovered
today we will use tomorrow in order to comprehend the structure of the