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Theosophy, by Rudolf Steiner, [1910], at


The formations of the Soul World and the "Spirit-land" cannot be the objects of external sense perception. The objects of this perception

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are to be added to the two already described as a third world. Man lives during his bodily existence simultaneously in the three worlds. He perceives the things of the sensible world and acts upon them. The formations of the soul world act on him through their forces of sympathy and antipathy; and his own soul excites waves in the soul world by its inclinations and disinclinations, its wishes and desires. The spiritual being of things, on the other hand, mirrors itself in his thought world and he himself is, as thinking spirit being, citizen of the "Spirit-land" and participant of all that lives in this region of the universe. This makes it clear that the sensible world is only a part of that which surrounds man. This part stands out from the general surroundings of man with a certain independence because it can be perceived by senses which leave disregarded the soul and spiritual parts which belong just as much to the surrounding world. Even as a piece of ice floating on the water is of the same matter as the surrounding water but stands out from it owing to particular qualities, so are the things of the senses matter of the surrounding soul and spirit

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worlds; and they stand out from these owing to particular qualities which make them perceptible to the senses. They are, to speak half metaphorically, condensed spirit and soul formations; and the condensation makes it possible for the senses to acquire knowledge of them. In fact, as ice is only a form in which the water exists, so are the objects of the senses only a form in which soul and spirit beings exist. If one has grasped this, one can also understand that as water can pass over into ice, so the spirit world can pass over into the soul world, and the latter into that of the senses. Looking at the matter from this point of view leads us to the reason why man can form thoughts about the things of the senses. For there is a question which everyone who thinks would have to ask himself, namely, in what relation does the thought which a man has about a stone stand to the stone itself? This question rises in full clearness in the minds of those persons who look especially deeply into external nature. They feel the consonance of the human thought world with the structure and order of nature. The great astronomer Kepler, for example, speaks in a beautiful

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way about this harmony, "True it is that the divine call which bids man study astronomy is written in the world, not indeed in words and syllables, but in the very fact that human conceptions and senses are fitted to gauge the relationships of the heavenly bodies and their conditions." Only because the things of the sensible world are nothing else than condensed spirit beings is the man who raises himself through his thought to these spirit beings able by thinking to understand the things. Sense objects originate in the spirit world; they are only another form of the spirit beings. And when man forms thoughts about things he merely looks up from the sensible form to the spiritual Archetypes of the things. To understand an object by means of thought is a process which can be likened to that by which a solid body is first liquefied by fire in order that the chemist may be able to examine it in its liquid form.

The spiritual Archetypes of the sensible world are to be found (pp. 131 et seq.) in the different regions of the "Spirit-land." In the fifth, sixth, and seventh regions these Archetypes remain in the condition of living Germ

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points; in the four lower regions they shape themselves into spiritual formations. The human spirit perceives a shadowy reflection of these spiritual formations when, by thinking, he tries to gain understanding of the things of the senses. How these formations have condensed until they form the sensible world is a question for him who strives toward a spiritual understanding of the world around him. For human sense perception this surrounding world is divided into four distinctly separated stages, the mineral, the plant, the animal, and the human.

The mineral kingdom is perceived by the senses and comprehended by thought. Thus when one forms a thought about a mineral body one has to do with two things, the sense object and the thought. In accordance with this, one is brought to the conception that this sense object is a condensed thought being. Now one mineral being acts on another in an external way. It impinges on it and moves it; it warms it, lights it up, dissolves it, etc. This external kind of action can be expressed through thoughts. A man forms thoughts as to the way in which mineral things act on each

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other externally and in accordance with their laws. By this means his separate thoughts expand to a thought picture of the whole mineral world. And this thought picture is a gleam, a reflection of the Archetype of the whole mineral world of the senses. It is to be found as a complete whole in the spirit world.

In the plant kingdom there is added to the external action of one thing on another, the phenomena of growth and propagation. The plant grows and brings forth from itself beings like itself. Life is here added to what man meets with in the mineral kingdom. A simple recollection of this fact leads to an expression which is enlightening in this connection. The plant has in itself the power to give itself its living shape, and to reproduce this shape in a being of its own kind. And in between the shapeless kinds of mineral matter, as we meet them in gases, liquids, etc., and the living shape of the plant world, stand the forms of the crystal. In the crystal we have the transition from the shapeless mineral world to the plant kingdom, which has the capacity for forming living shapes. In this externally

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sensible formative process in both kingdoms, the mineral and the plant, one sees condensed to its sensible expression the purely spiritual process which takes place when the spiritual Germs of the higher regions of the "Spirit-land" form themselves into the spirit shapes of the lower regions. The process of crystallization corresponds to its Archetype in the spirit world, the transition from the formless spirit Germ to the shaped formation. If this transition condenses so that the senses can perceive it, it exhibits itself in the world of the senses as the process of crystallization.

Now there is in the plant being a shaped spirit Germ also. But here the living, shaping capacity is still retained in the shaped being. In the crystal the spirit Germ has lost its constructing power during the process of shaping. It has exhausted its energies in the shape produced. The plant has shape and, in addition to that, it has the capacity of producing a shape. The characteristic of the spirit Germs in the higher regions of the "Spirit-land" has been preserved in the plant life. The plant is therefore shape, as is the crystal, and, added to that, shaping or formative force.

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Besides the form which the Primal Beings have taken in the plant shape there works at the latter yet another form which bears the impress of the spirit being of the higher regions. Only that which expends itself on the produced shape of the plant is sensibly perceptible; the formative Beings who give life to this shape are present in the plant kingdom in a way not perceptible to the senses. The physical eye sees the lily small to-day, and after some time grown larger. The forming force which elaborates the latter out of the former cannot be seen by this eye. This formative Force Being is that part of the plant world which acts imperceptibly to the senses. The spirit Germs have descended a stage in order to work in the kingdom of shapes. In Theosophy, Elementary Kingdoms are spoken of. If one designate the Primal Forms, which as yet have no shape, as the First Elementary Kingdom, then the sensibly invisible Force Beings, who work as the craftsmen of plant growth, belong to the Second Elementary Kingdom.

In the animal world sensation and impulse are added to the capacities for growth and

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propagation. These are externalizations of the soul world. A being endowed with these belongs to the soul world, receives impressions from it and reacts on it. Every sensation, every impulse, which arises in an animal is brought forth from the foundations of the animal soul. The shape is more enduring than the feeling or impulse. One may say the sensation life bears the same relation to the more enduring living shape that the self-changing plant shape bears to the rigid crystal. The plant to a certain extent exhausts itself as the shape-forming force; during its life it goes on constantly adding new shapes to itself. First it sends out the root, then the leaf structure, then the flowers, etc. The animal possesses a shape complete in itself and develops within this the ever-changing life of feeling and impulses. And this life has its existence in the soul world. Just as the plant is that which grows and propagates itself, the animal is that which feels and develops its impulses. They constitute for the animal the formless which is always developing into new forms. Their Archetypal processes when traced to their primal source are found in the highest regions of

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[paragraph continues] "Spirit-land." But they carry out their activities in the soul world. There are thus in the animal world, in addition to the Force Beings who, invisible to the senses, direct growth and propagation, others that have descended into the soul world, a stage still deeper. In the animal kingdom formless Beings, who clothe themselves in soul sheaths, are present as the master builders, bringing about sensations and impulses. They are the real architects of the animal forms. In theosophy one calls the region to which they belong the Third Elementary Kingdom.

Man, in addition to having the capacities named as those of plants and animals, is furnished also with the power of working up his sensations into ideas and thoughts and of controlling his impulses by thinking. The thought which appears in the plant as shape and in the animal as soul force makes its appearance in him in its own form as thought itself. The animal is soul; man is spirit. The Spirit Being, which in the animal is engaged in soul development, has now descended a stage deeper still. In man it has entered into the world of sensible matter itself. The spirit

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is present within the human sensible body. And because it appears in a sensible garment, it can appear only as that shadowy gleam or reflection which the thought of the Spirit Being affords. The spirit manifests in man through the apparatus of the physical brain mechanism. But at the same time it has become the inner being of man. The animal feels and moves as it chooses, but exhibits no thoughts. Thought is the form which the formless Spirit Being assumes in man just as it is shape in the plant and soul in the animal. Consequently man, in so far as he is a thinking being, has no Elementary Kingdom constructing him from without. His Elementary Kingdom works in his physical body. Only in so far as man is shape and sentient being, do Elementary Beings work at him in the same way as they work at plants and animals. The thought organism of man is developed entirely from within his physical body. In the spirit organism of man, in his nervous system which has developed into the perfect brain, we have sensibly visible before us that which works on plants and animals as supersensible Force Being. This brings about the fact that the

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animal shows feeling of self, but man consciousness of self. In the animal, spirit feels itself to be soul; it does not yet comprehend itself as spirit. In man the spirit recognizes itself as spirit, although, owing to the physical apparatus, merely as a shadowy gleam or reflection of the spirit, as thought.

Accordingly, the threefold world falls into the following divisions: 1. The Kingdom of the Archetypal formless Beings (First Elementary Kingdom); 2. The Kingdom of the Shape-creating Beings (Second Elementary Kingdom); 3. The Kingdom of the Soul Beings (Third Elementary Kingdom); 4. The Kingdom of the Created Shapes (crystal forms); 5. The Kingdom that becomes perceptible to the senses in shapes, but in which the Shape-creating Beings are working (Plant Kingdom); 6. The Kingdom which becomes sensibly perceptible in shapes, on which work the Shape-creating Beings, and also the Beings that expend all their activities in the soul life (Animal Kingdom); 7. The Kingdom which becomes sensibly perceptible in shapes on which work the Shape-creating Beings and also the Beings that expend all their activities

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in soul life, and in which the spirit itself takes shape in the form of thought within the world of the senses (Human Kingdom).

From this can be seen how the basic constituents of the human being living in the body are connected with the spiritual world. The physical body, the ether body, the sentient soul body, and the intellectual soul, are to be regarded as Archetypes of the "Spirit-land" condensed in the sensible world. The physical body comes into existence in that the Archetype of man is so condensed that it can manifest itself to the senses. For this reason one can call this physical body also a Being of the First Elementary Kingdom, condensed to sensible perceptibility. The ether-body comes into existence in that the shape that has arisen in this way has its mobility retained by a Being that extends its activity into the kingdom of the senses but is not itself visible to the senses. If one wishes to characterize this Being fully, one must say it has its primal origin in the highest regions of the "Spirit-land" and then shapes itself in the second region into an Archetype of life. It works in the sensible world as such an Archetype of life. In a similar

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way the Being that constructs the sentient soul-body has its origin in the highest regions of the "Spirit-land," forms itself in the third region of the same into the Archetype of the soul world and works as such in the sensible world. But the intellectual soul is formed in that the Archetype of thinking man shapes itself in the fourth region of the "Spirit-land" into thought, and as such acts directly as thinking human being in the world of the senses. Thus man stands within the world of the senses; thus works the spirit on his physical-body, on his ether-body, and on his sentient soul-body. Thus comes this spirit into manifestation in the intellectual soul. Archetypes in the form of Beings who in a certain sense are external to man work upon the three lower components of his being; in his intellectual soul he himself becomes a (conscious) worker on himself. The Beings working on his physical-body are the same as those who form the mineral nature. On his ether-body work Beings living in the plant kingdom, on his sentient soul-body work Beings who live in the animal kingdom imperceptible by the

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senses, but who extend their activity into these kingdoms.

Thus do the different worlds combine in action. The universe in which man lives is the expression of this combined activity.

When a person has thoroughly grasped this view of the sensible world he gains also an understanding of Beings of another kind than those that have their existence in the above mentioned four kingdoms of nature. One example of such Beings is what one calls the Folk Spirit, or National Spirit. This Being does not manifest himself directly in a sensibly perceptible way. He lives and carries on his activities entirely in the sensations, feelings, tendencies, etc., which one observes as those common to a whole nation. He is therefore a Being that does not incarnate physically, but forms his body out of the matter of the soul world, even as man forms his body out of sensibly visible matter. This soul body of the National Spirit is like a cloud in which the members of a nation live. The effects of his activity come into evidence in the souls of the human beings concerned, but he does not originate in these souls themselves. The National

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Spirit remains merely a shadowy conception of the mind without being or life, an empty abstraction, to him who does not picture it in this way. And the same may be said in reference to what one calls the Spirit of the Age (Zeitgeist). The spiritual outlook, in fact, is through this, extended over a variety of other beings, both lower and higher, who live in the environment of man without his being able to perceive them with his bodily senses. But those who have powers of spiritual sight perceive such beings and can describe them. To the lower kinds belong those designated by the spiritual investigator, as salamanders, sylphs, undines, and gnomes. It is quite to be understood that anyone who is inclined to admit the validity of physical vision only, regards such beings as the offspring of a wild hallucination and superstition. They can of course never become visible to the physical eye for they have no physical bodies. The superstition does not consist in regarding such beings as real, but in believing that they appear in a way perceptible to the physical senses. Beings with such forms coöperate in the building of the world, and one comes into connection with

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them as soon as one enters the higher regions closed to the bodily senses. Mention must also be made of those beings who do not descend to the soul world, but whose vestment is composed of the formations of the "Spirit-land" alone. Man perceives them and becomes their companion when he opens his spiritual eye and spiritual ear to them. Many things at which without these organs man can only gaze uncomprehendingly, become, when he has brought them into use, understandable to him. It becomes bright around him, he sees the Primal Causes of that which is working itself out as effects in the world of the senses. He comprehends what he either denied entirely when he had no spiritual eye, or in reference to which he had to content himself with saying, "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in thy philosophy." People with fine—with spiritual—feelings become uneasy when they begin to have a glimmering, become vaguely aware of another world than the sensible one around them, and one within which they have to grope about as the blind grope among visible objects. Nothing but the clear

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vision of these higher regions of existence and a thorough understanding and penetration of what takes place in them can really fortify a man and lead him to his proper goal. Only through insight into that which is hidden from the senses does the human being understand the world and himself.

Next: 6. Thought-Forms and the Human Aura