Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib
An Esoteric Cosmology
Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document
An Esoteric Cosmology
Schmidt Number: S-1335
On-line since: 15th January, 2001
THE ASTRAL WORLD
The occultist will never dream of imposing dogmas. He is one who tells
what he has seen and tested in the astral and spiritual worlds or what
has been revealed to him by trustworthy and reliable teachers. He does
not desire to convert but to quicken in others the sense that has
awakened in him and to enable them to see likewise.
Here we shall consider man as an astral being as he is revealed by
clairvoyant vision. The astral being of man includes the whole world
of feelings, passions, emotions and impulses of the soul. To inner
sight these are changed into forms and colours. The astral body itself
is a cloud-like, ovoid form, permeating and enveloping man. We can
perceive it from within.
In man as a physical being, we have to consider the substance and form
of the body. The astral substance entirely changes in the course of
seven years, but the form remains. Behind substance is the
constructive, upbuilding principle — the etheric body. We do not,
in the ordinary way, perceive it; we only see its accomplished work,
in the physical body. The eye of sense only sees what is finished, not
what is in the state of becoming.
The contrary is the case when we are able to see the astral body — that
is to say, our own astral body. We become aware of it from within
through our desires and the various movements of the soul.
Seership consists in learning to see from without that which in
ordinary life we feel from within. Feelings, desires and
thoughts then become living and visible forms, constituting the aura
around the physical sheath.
The etheric body builds and moulds the physical body; the astral body
is made up of desires. Every human aura has its own individual shades
and predominating colours. There is one fundamental colour in which
the others play. The aura of a man with a melancholic temperament, for
example, is of a bluish hue. But so many impressions coming from
without flow through it that the observer may easily be deceived,
above all if he is looking at his own aura. The clairvoyant sees his
own aura reversed, as it were, the outer as the inner, the inner as
the outer, because he is observing it from outside.
All the great Founders of religions have been possessed of clairvoyant
sight. They are the spiritual Guides of mankind, and their precepts
are precepts of the moral life based on astral and spiritual truths.
This explains the similarities in all the religions. There is a
certain similarity, for instance, between the Eight-fold Path of the
Buddha and the Eight Beatitudes of Christ. The same underlying truth
is that whenever man develops one of the virtues, he unfolds a new
faculty of perception. Why are eight stages mentioned? Because the
seer knows that the faculties which may be transmuted into organs of
perception are eight in number.
The astral organs of perception are called in occultism, the
‘lotus-flowers’ (sacred wheels, chakra). The lotus-flower
with sixteen petals lies in the region of the larynx. In very ancient
times this lotus-flower turned from right to left — that is to
say in the opposite direction to the hands of a clock. In the man of
today, this lotus-flower has ceased to turn. In the clairvoyant seer
it begins to move in the opposite direction — from left to right. In
earlier times, eight of the sixteen petals were visible, the others
undeveloped. In future ages they will all be visible, for the first
eight are the result of the action of unconscious initiation, the
other eight of the conscious initiation attained by dint of
personal effort. The eight new petals correspond to the Beatitudes of
Another lotus-flower (with twelve petals) is situated in the region of
the heart. In earlier times, six petals only were visible. The
acquisition of six virtues will, in times to come, develop the other
six. These six virtues are: control of thought, power of initiative,
balance of the faculties, optimism which enables a man always to see
the positive side of things, freedom from prejudice, and finally,
harmony in the life of soul. When these virtues have been acquired,
the twelve petals begin to move. They express the sacred quality of
the number twelve which we have in the twelve Apostles, the twelve
knights of King Arthur, and again in all creation, in all action.
Everything in the world develops according to twelve different
aspects. We have another example in
poem, Die Geheimnisse, which expresses the ideal of the Rosicrucians.
According to the explanation given by Goethe to certain students, each
of the twelve Companions of the Rose Cross represents a religious
We find these virtues expressed again in signs and symbols, for
symbols are not arbitrary inventions — they are realities. The symbol of
the Cross, for instance, as well as that of the Swastika, represents
the four-petalled chakram in man. The twelve-petalled flower is
expressed in the symbol of the Rose Cross and the twelve Companions.
The thirteenth among them, the invisible Companion who unites them
all, represents the truth that unites all religions.
This truth underlies the rites and ceremonies of the various
religions. Divine wisdom speaks through the rites and cults which have
been founded by seers. The astral world expresses itself through them
in the physical world. As in a reflection, the rite represents what is
happening in higher worlds. This fact appears again in masonic ritual
and in certain Asiatic religions. At the birth of a new religion, an
Initiate gives the foundations upon which the ritual of the outer cult
is built. As evolution proceeds, the rite — a living picture of the
spiritual world — tends towards the domain of Art. Art, too, comes from
the astral world; the rite becomes beauty. This came to pass
notably at the time of Greek civilisation. Art is an astral event of
which the cause has been forgotten.
We have an example in the Mysteries and Gods of Greece. In the
Mysteries, the hierophant retraced the development of man in its three
stages: man the animal, man the human, man the God (the true Superman,
not the false Superman of
The hierophant projected these
three super-sensible types as living images into the astral light,
where they were visible to those who had been initiated into the
Mysteries. At the same time they were expressed in poetry and
sculpture by three symbols: (1) the Satyr, or bestial type; (2) the
human type: Hermes, or Mercury; (3) the divine type: Zeus, or Jupiter.
Each of these figures, together with everything around them,
represents a cycle of human evolution. That is the way in which the
disciples of the Mysteries carried over into Art what they had seen in
the astral light.
The zenith of the earthly life of man is reached at about the age of
thirty-five. Why is this so? Why does Dante begin his journey at the
age of thirty-five, the middle point of human life? Before this
moment, man's activity has been concentrated on the development of the
physical body but he can now begin his ascent to the spiritual worlds
and apply his forces for the unfolding of seership. Dante became a
seer at the age of thirty-five. It is the age when the physical forces
cease to forestall the influx of Spirit; liberated from the body,
these same forces can be transformed into clairvoyant faculties. Here
we are touching upon a deep mystery: the law of the transformation of
organs. Transformation of the organs constitutes man's evolution. The
highest in him is the product of what once was the lowest and which
has been transfigured.
At the time of the separation of the sexes, the astral body of man
divided: the lower part producing the sexual (physical) organism and
the higher part giving rise to thought, imagination, speech.
In days of yore, the sexual organs (the procreative forces) and the
organ of the voice (the word creative) were united. Two poles have
appeared in man's being, where formerly there was but one single
organ. The negative pole (animal) and the positive pole (divine) were
once united and have separated.
The third aspect of the Logos is the creative power of the word (as
expressed at the beginning of the Gospel of St. John), of which the
words of human speech are the reflection. In the old myths and legends
this truth was represented in the figure of Vulcan, the cripple. His
mission was to guard the sacred fire. He is crippled because, in
initiation, man must lose something of his lower, physical forces; the
lower part of the body is a product of the past. Raised to the heights
of initiation, the lower nature must fall away, to rise thereafter to
a yet higher stage. Thus in the course of his evolution man has
divided into a lower and higher nature.
In certain mediaeval pictures, the human body is divided into two
parts by a straight line; the head and left upper part of the body are
above, the right upper part and the lower part of the body are below
the line. This division is an indication of the past and the future of
the human body.
The two-petalled lotus-flower lies beneath the forehead, at the root
of the nose. As yet it is an undeveloped astral organ which will one
day unfold into two antennae or wings. The symbol of them can already
be seen in the horns traditionally represented on the head of Moses.
Viewed from above downwards, head and sexual organ, man is synthetic
and one. All this is the product of the past. Left and right he is
symmetrical, representing the present and the future. These two
symmetrical parts, however, have not the same value. Why is man
usually right-handed? The right hand which is the more active of the
two today, is destined subsequently to atrophy. The left hand will
survive when the two ‘wings’ on the forehead have developed.
The heart will be the brain of the chest — an organ of knowledge.
Before man assumed the upright posture there was a time when he moved
on all fours. Such is the origin of the riddle of the Sphinx:
‘Who is the being who in infancy walks on four legs, in middle
age on two, in old age on three?’ Oedipus answers that this being
is man, who when, a baby crawls on all fours, and in old age leans on
a stick. In reality, riddle and answer refer to the whole evolution of
humanity, past, present and future, as it was known in the ancient
Mysteries. Quadruped in a previous epoch of development, man walks
today on two feet; in the future he will ‘fly’ and will
indeed make use of three auxiliary organs, namely the two wings
developed from the two-petalled lotus which will be the motive organ
of his will, and for the rest, the organ arising by a metamorphosis of
the left half of the chest, and the left hand. Such will be the organs
of movement in the future.
The present organs of reproduction will atrophy as well as the right
side and the right hand. Man will give birth to his like by the force
of the word; his word will mould ethereal bodies like his own.