Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib
An Esoteric Cosmology
Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document
An Esoteric Cosmology
Schmidt Number: S-1337
On-line since: 15th January, 2001
THE DEVACHANIC WORLD
Devachan (abode of the Gods) corresponds to the heaven of the
Christians, the spiritual world of the occultists.
These regions of existence are beyond the range of our physical
senses, although they are intimately connected with this world. In
attempting to describe them, we must have recourse to allegories and
symbols. The words of human language are only adapted to express the
world of sense.
There are seven distinct stages or degrees of Devachan. The seven
stages are not definite ‘localities’ but conditions or
states of the life of soul and Spirit. Devachan is everywhere present;
it envelops us as does the astral world, only it is invisible. By dint
of training, the Initiate acquires, one by one, the faculties
necessary for beholding it.
At the first stage of clairvoyance, greater order enters into dreams;
man sees marvelous forms and hears words that are pregnant with
meaning. It becomes more and more possible to decipher the meaning of
dreams and to relate them to actuality. We may dream, for example,
that a friend's house is on fire and then hear that he is ill. The
first faint glimpses of Devachan give the impression of a sky streaked
with clouds which gradually turn into living forms.
At the second stage of clairvoyance, dreams become precise and clear.
The geometrical and symbolic figures employed as the sacred signs of
the great religions are, properly speaking, the language of the
creative Word, the living hieroglyphs of cosmic speech. Among such
symbols are: the cross, the sign of life; the pentagram or
five-pointed star, the sign of sound or word; the hexagram or
six-pointed star (two interlaced triangles) the sign of the macrocosm
reflected in the microcosm, and so forth. At the second stage of
clairvoyance, these signs — which we today delineate in abstract
lines — appear full of colour, life and radiance on a background
of light. They are not, as yet, the garment of living beings, but they
indicate, so to say, the norms and laws of creation. These signs were
the basis of the animal forms chosen by the earliest Initiates to
express the passage of the Sun through the Zodiacal constellations.
The Initiates translated their visions into such signs and symbols.
The most ancient characters employed in Sanscrit, Egyptian, Greek and
Runic scripts — every letter of which has ideographic meaning
— were the expressions of heavenly ciphers.
At this stage of his seership, the disciple is still at the threshold
of Devachan. His task is to penetrate into Devachan, to find the path
leading from the astral world to the first stage of the devachanic
world proper. This path was known to all the occult schools and even
during the first centuries, Christianity contained esoteric teaching
of which traces can be found. The ancient methods of Initiation,
however, were abandoned from the beginning.
In the Acts of the Apostles, mention is made of Dionysius the
Areopagite. He was an initiated disciple of St. Paul and taught an
esoteric Christianity. Later on, at the Court of Charles the Bald in
the ninth century, John Scotus Erigena again taught the esoteric
doctrines. Esoteric Christianity was then gradually obscured by dogma.
When the Initiate has penetrated into Devachan, however, he finds that
the descriptions given by Dionysius of this world are correct.
The rhythmic breathing practised in Yoga was one of the methods by
means of which man was enabled to penetrate the world of Devachan. A
certain sign that this entrance has been made is a conscious
experience indicated in Vedic philosophy by the words: tat twam
asi (Thou art That).
In dream, man beholds his own bodily form from without. He sees his
body stretched on the couch but merely as an empty sheath. Around this
empty form shines a radiant, ovoid form — the astral body. It has
the appearance of an aura from which the body has been eliminated. The
body itself seems like a hollow, empty mould. It is a vision where
everything is reversed as in a photographic negative. The soul of
crystal, plant and animal is seen as a kind of radiation, whereas the
physical substance appears as an empty sheath. But it is only the
phenomena of Nature that so appear — nothing that has been made
by the hands of men. At the first stage of Devachan, we are contemplating
the astral counterparts of the phenomena of the physical world.
This region has been spoken of as the ‘continents’ of Devachan
— the ‘negative’ forms of the valleys, mountains and
If he enters into deep meditation while the breath is held, man
reaches the second stage of Devachan. The moulds which represent
physical substance are seen to be filled with spiritual currents
— the currents of life universal. This is the ocean of
Devachan. At this stage the Initiate enters the well-spring of all
life. This life has the appearance of a network of vast streams with
their tributaries. At the same time there is a strange and new
experience of living within the metals. Reichenbach, the author
of L'Od, speaks of this phenomenon in connection with sensitive
subjects who were able to detect different metals wrapped in paper.
The Beings living in the region which becomes perceptible at the
second stage of clairvoyant vision are called by Dionysius the
Areopagite, the Archangels. [In German, Erzengel, — Erz = ore,
mineral.] They represent the living soul of the minerals.
To attain the third stage of Devachan, thought must be freed from
bondage to the things of the physical world. Man can then live
consciously in the world of thought, quite independently of the actual
content of thought. The pupil must experience the function of
pure intellect, apart from its content. A new world will then be
revealed. To the perception of the ‘continents’ and
‘waters’ of Devachan (the astral soul of things and the
streaming currents of life) will be added the perception of its
‘air’ or ‘atmosphere.’ This atmosphere is
altogether different from our own; its substance is living, sonorous,
sensitive. Waves, gleams of light and sounds arise in response to our
gestures, acts and thoughts. Everything that happens on Earth
reverberates in colours, light and sound. Whether it be in sleep or
after death, the echoes of Earth can be experienced in these
‘airs’ of Devachan. It is possible, for example, to
experience the effects of a battle. We do not actually see the battle,
nor hear the cries of the soldiers and the booming of the cannons.
Strife and passions appear in the form of lightning and thunder. Thus
Devachan does not separate us from the Earth, but reveals it to us
from outside, as it were. We do not experience sorrow and joy as if
they were arising in ourselves; we behold them objectively, as a
spectacle. Devachan is a school of apprenticeship where we learn to
regard sorrows and joys from a higher point of view, where we strive
to transmute suffering into joy, failures into renewed efforts, death
This has nothing in common with the passive contemplation and more or
less egotistic bliss of heaven conceived of by certain writers on
religion who think that the sufferings of the damned are part of the
bliss of the elect. Devachan is a living heaven, where the
overwhelming urge to sympathy and action contained in the human soul
is faced with a boundless field of activity and a vista of infinity.
At the fourth stage of Devachan, the archetypes of things
arise — not the ‘negatives’ but the original types. This is
the laboratory of the Cosmos wherein all forms are contained, whence
creation has proceeded; it is the home of the Ideas of
the ‘Realm of the Mothers’ of which
speaks in Faust in connection with Helena. In this realm of Devachan,
the Akashic Record of Indian philosophy is revealed. In our modern
terminology we speak of this Record as the astral impression of all
the events of the world. Everything that passes through the astral
bodies of men is ‘fixed’ in the infinitely subtle substance
of this Record as in a sensitive plate. To understand the images which
hover in the astral nimbus of the Earth, we must have recourse to
analogies. The human voice pronounces words which set up waves of
sound, penetrating by the ears into the brains of others, where images
and thoughts are evoked. Each of these words is a wave of sound with an
absolutely definite form which — if we could see it — is distinct
from all others. Let us imagine these words congealing somewhat as water
congeals to ice by sudden, intense cold. In such a case the words
would descend to Earth as congealed air and we could recognise each
word by its form.
And now, instead of a process of densification, let us imagine the
reverse. We know that matter can pass through the most solid to the
most rarified states: solid, liquid, gaseous. Matter can be subtilised
to a point at which we are led over to ‘negative’ matter
— Akasha. Events on Earth impress themselves into this akashic
substance and can be rediscovered there even those which occurred in
far remote ages of the past.
Akashic pictures are not static and immobile. They unroll before the
eye of the seer as living tableaux where objects and persons move and
even speak. The astral form of Dante would speak as he spoke in his
own milieu. It is almost invariably this kind of image that is seen in
spiritualistic séances, where it is thought to be the spirit of the
Our task is to learn how to decipher the pages of this book of living
images and to unroll the innumerable scrolls of the
‘Chronicle’ of the universe. This can only be done if we are
able to distinguish between appearance and reality, between the human
sheath and the living soul. Daily discipline and long training are
necessary if false interpretations are to be prevented. Definite
answers to questions, for example, might be received from the form of
Dante thus perceived. But they do not emanate from the
individuality of Dante, for the individuality continues to
evolve; they emanate from the ancient figure of Dante,
‘fixed’ in the etheric milieu of his time.
The fifth realm of Devachan is the sphere of heavenly harmony. The
higher regions of Devachan are characterised by the fact that all
sounds have a greater clarity, brilliance and richness. In a mighty
harmony we hear the voice of all beings. This harmony was called by
the ‘Music of the Spheres.’ It is the living,
Cosmic Word. To the clairvoyant who has now become
clairaudient, each being communicates his true name in a
definite sound or tone. In Genesis, Jehovah takes the hand of
Adam and Adam gives all beings their names. On Earth, the individual
is lost among the crowd of other beings. In the highest sphere of
Devachan, each being has his own particular sound; yet at the same
time the Initiate is united with all beings, becomes one with his
The Initiate who has attained to this degree is called the
‘Swan.’ He hears the sounds through which his master speaks
to him and then communicates them to the world. The singing swan of
Apollo brings to the ears of men the tones of the Beyond. The swan is
said to come from the land of the Hyperboreans — that is to say
from the world where the Sun sinks to rest, from heaven.
At this point, the Initiate passes to a sphere beyond the world of
stars. He no longer reads the Akashic Records from the side of the
Earth but from the side of the heavens. The Akashic Record becomes the
occult script of the stars and the Initiate experiences the primal
source of the universe, of the Logos.
In the myths, we find indications of this degree of the Swan, notably
in the Middle Ages in the Grail stories which give expression to
experiences in the devachanic world. All the exploits there described
are by knights of the Grail, who represent the great spiritual
impulses given to mankind by command of the masters.
The time when the legend of the Grail was composed, under the
inspiration of high Initiates, is the age when the reign of the
Bourgeoisie began and when the movement connected with the freedom of
great cities had its rise, coming from Scotland into England and
thence to France and Germany. When he is a free citizen, man aspires
unconsciously to truth and divine life. In the legend of Lohengrin,
Elsa represents the soul of man in the Middle Ages, striving to
develop what is always expressed in occultism by a female figure.
Lohengrin, the knight who comes from an unknown country, from the
Castle of the Holy Grail, to deliver Elsa, represents the master who
is the bearer of truth. He is the messenger of the Initiate and is
borne by the symbolic swan. The messenger of the great Initiates is a
“Swan.” None may ask his true name nor whence he comes. His
authority may not be doubted. By his words he must be believed; by the
truth shining in his countenance he must be recognised. He who has not
this faith is incapable of understanding, unworthy to listen. That is
why Lohengrin forbids Elsa to ask his name and whence he comes. The
Swan is the chela who bears the master.
The disciple who has reached the fifth degree of initiation is sent by
the master into the world. The legend of Lohengrin is a description of
events occurring in the higher worlds. The light of the Logos —
the solar and planetary Word — shines through the myths and
legends of the ages.