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Theosophy, by Rudolf Steiner, [1910], at


It has become evident that the formations of any one of the three worlds can have reality for a man only when he has the capacities or the organs for perceiving them. A man perceives certain occurrences in space as light phenomena only because he has a correctly-constructed eye. It depends on the receptivity of a being how much of what really is, reveals itself to it. Never therefore may a man say that only what he can perceive is real. There can be much that is real, for the perception of which he has no organs. Now the soul world and the spirit world are just as real as the sensible world, indeed they are real in a much higher sense. No physical eye can see feelings and ideas; but they are real. And as man

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by means of his outer senses has the corporal world before him as an object of perception, so do feelings, impulses, instincts, thoughts, etc., become objects of perception for his spiritual senses. Exactly as occurrences in space can be seen with the sensible eye as color phenomena, the above-named soul and spiritual occurrences can become, by means of the inner senses, perceptions which are analogous to the sensible color phenomena. To understand perfectly in what way this is meant is only possible for one who has trod the path of knowledge described in the following chapter and has thereby developed his inner senses. For such a one the soul phenomena in the soul region around him and the spiritual phenomena in the spiritual region become super-sensibly visible. For him, feelings ray out from the feeling being as light phenomena; thoughts surge through the spiritual space. For him, the thought of one man about another is not something imperceptible but a perceptible occurrence. The thought streams out as an actual reality from one human being and flows to the other. And the way in which this thought acts on the other person becomes

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similarly a perceptible occurrence in the spiritual world. Thus the physically perceptible human being is only part of the whole man for him whose spiritual senses are unfolded. This physical man becomes the center of soul and spiritual outpourings. It is impossible to do more than faintly indicate the richly varied world which discloses itself here to the seer. A human thought, for example, appears as a spiritually perceptible color phenomenon. Its color corresponds with the character of the thought. A thought which springs forth from a sensual impulse in a person has a different color from a thought conceived in the service of pure knowledge, noble beauty, or the eternal good. Thoughts which spring from the sensual life course through the soul world in red shades of color. A thought by which the thinker rises to higher knowledge appears in beautiful light yellow. A thought which springs from devoted and unselfish love rays out in glorious rose pink. And just as the content of a thought comes into expression in its supersensibly visible form, so also does the greater or less degree of its definiteness. The precise thought of the thinker shows itself as

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a formation with definite outlines; the confused idea appears as a wavering, cloudy formation.

In this way the soul and spirit being of man appears as the supersensible part of the whole human being.

The color effects which the "spiritual eye" can perceive raying out round the physical man and enveloping him like a cloud (somewhat egg-shaped) are called the human aura. The size of this aura differs in different people. But one can form an idea of it by picturing that the whole man is in the average twice as long and four times as broad as the physical man.

The most varied tones of colors surge in the aura. And this surging is a true picture of the inner life of the man. Single color-tones are just as changing. But certain permanent qualities, such as talents, habits, traits of character, express themselves in a foundation of permanent color-tones.

The aura varies greatly according to the different temperaments and dispositions of people; it varies also in accordance with the stages of spiritual development. A man who

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yields completely to his animal impulses has an entirely different aura from one who lives much in the world of thought. The aura of a nature with a religious tone differs essentially from one that expends itself on the trivial experiences of the day. In addition to this, all varying moods, all inclinations, joys and pains, find their expression in the aura.

One has to compare the auras of different human types with each other in order to learn to understand the meaning of the color-tones. Take, to begin with, people who have strongly marked passions. They may be divided into two kinds; those who are impelled to these feelings by the animal nature chiefly, and those with whom these passions take a more subtle form in which they are, so to speak, strongly influenced by thought. In the first kind of person brown and brown-red streams of color in every shade surge through the aura in definite places. In persons with more subtle passions there appear in the same places tones of brighter red and green. One can notice that as intelligence increases the green tones become more and more abundant. Persons who are very intelligent, but who quite

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give themselves over to the satisfying of their animal impulses, have much green in their aura. But this green will always have more or less of an admixture of brown or brownish red. Unintelligent people show a great part of their aura coursed through by brownish red or even by dark blood-red streams.

The auras of quiet, deliberate, thoughtful people are essentially different from those of such passionate natures. The brownish and reddish tones become less prominent, and different shades of green come out. With thoughtful natures the aura shows a pleasing green undertone. This is to an especial degree the appearance of those natures of whom one can say, "They know how to adapt themselves to every condition of life."

Blue tones of color appear in natures full of devotion. The more a man places his Self in the service of a thing the more pronounced become the blue shades. In this class, also, one finds two quite different kinds of people. There are natures with a mediocre power of thought, passive souls who, as it were, have nothing to throw into the stream of events in the world but their "good nature." Their aura

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glimmers with beautiful blue. One observes the same in the auras of religious and devotional natures. Compassionate souls and those who find pleasure in giving themselves up to a life of benevolence have similar auras. If such people are intelligent in addition to this, green and blue currents alternate, or the blue itself perhaps take a greenish shade. It is the peculiarity of the active souls in contrast to the passive, that their blue saturates itself from within with bright color-tones. Richly inventive natures, such as have fruitful thoughts, ray out bright tones of color as if from an inner point. This is the case in the highest degree with those persons whom one calls "wise," and especially with those full of fruitful ideas. Generally speaking, all that implies spiritual activity takes more the form of rays which spread out from within, while everything that arises from the animal life has the form of irregular clouds which surge through the aura.

Auric formations show colorings which differ according to whether the conceptions which spring up in an active soul are placed at the service of the person's own animal

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impulses or of an idealistic interest outside of himself. The inventive person who applies all his thoughts to the satisfaction of his sensual passions shows dark, blue-red shades; he, on the contrary, who places his thoughts selflessly at the service of an interest outside of himself, shows light reddish-blue color-tones. A spiritual life combined with noble devotion and capacity for sacrifice shows rose pink or light violet colors.

Not only does the fundamental disposition of the soul show its color surgings in the aura but also transient passions, moods, and other inner experiences. An anger that breaks out suddenly creates red streams. Feelings of injured dignity which expend themselves in a sudden welling up can be seen appearing in dark green clouds. Color phenomena, however, do not appear only in irregular cloud forms but also in distinctly defined, regularly shaped figures. A fit of terror, for example, shows the aura lined from top to bottom by undulating stripes of blue color suffused with a reddish shimmer. In a person who expects with anxiety some particular event, one can see continuous red-blue

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stripes like rays streaming from within the aura to the circumference.

Every sensation which a man receives from without can be observed by one who has developed a faculty of exact spiritual perception. Persons who are greatly excited by every external impression show a continuous flickering of small reddish spots and flecks in the aura. In people who do not feel intensely, these flecks have an orange yellow or even a beautiful yellow coloring. So called "absentminded" people show bluish flecks more or less changing in form.

A highly developed spiritual seer can distinguish three species of color phenomena within the aura, radiating and surging round a man. First there are the colors which bear more or less the character of opaqueness and dullness, although if we compare them with those that our physical eyes see, they appear in comparison fugitive and transparent. But within the supersensible world itself they make the space which they fill comparatively opaque; they fill it like mist forms. The second species of colors consists of those which are, as it were, light itself. They light up the

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space which they fill so that it becomes itself, through them, a shining or lighted space. The third kind of color phenomena is quite different from these two. They have a raying, sparkling, glittering character. They fill space not merely with light but with glistening, glittering rays. There is something active and inherently mobile in these colors. The others are somewhat quiet and lack brilliance. These on the contrary continuously produce themselves out of themselves, as it were. By the two first species of colors, the space is filled up with a subtle fluid which remains quietly in it. By the third it is filled with life ever enflaming itself anew with never-resting activity.

Now these three species of colors are not ranged, as it were, strictly alongside each other in the human aura; they are not each enclosed in a separate section of space. On the contrary, they interpenetrate and suffuse each other in the most varied ways. One can see all three species playing through each other in one region of the aura, just as one can simultaneously hear and see a physical body such as a bell. The aura thereby becomes an

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exceedingly complicated phenomenon, for one has, as it were, to do with three auras within each other and interpenetrating each other. One can, however, overcome the difficulty by directing one's attention to the three species alternately. One then does in the supersensible world something similar to what one does in the sensible, for example, when one closes one's eyes in order to give oneself up fully to the impression of a piece of music. The "seer" has, as it were, three different organs for the three species of colors. And, in order to observe undisturbed, he can open or close to impressions any one of the organs. As a rule only the one kind of organ can at first be developed by a "seer," namely for the first kind of colors. A person at this stage can see only the one aura. The other two remain invisible to him. In the same way a person may be accessible to impressions from the two first but not the third. The higher stage of the "gift of seeing" consists in a person's being able to see all three auras and, for the purpose of study, to direct his attention to the one or the other.

The threefold aura is the supersensibly

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visible expression of the being of man. The three members, body, soul, and spirit, come to expression in it.

The first aura is a mirror of the influence which the body exercises on the soul of man; the second signifies the life of the soul itself, the soul that has raised itself above what affects the senses directly, but is not yet devoted to the service of the eternal; the third mirrors the lordship which the eternal spirit has won over the transitory man. When descriptions of the aura are given, as here, it must be emphasized that these things are not only difficult to observe but above all difficult to describe. No one, therefore, should see in a description like this anything more than a stimulus to thought.

The "seer" therefore can judge the stage of development of a person by the nature of his aura. When an undeveloped person approaches him, one who is given up entirely to his impulses, passions, and momentary external incitements, he sees the first aura in the loudest colors. The second, on the contrary, is only slightly developed. He sees in it only scanty color formations, while the third is barely indicated. Only, here and there, a

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small, glittering spark of color shows itself, indicating that even in this human being the eternal already lives as a germ, but that it will require a long course of evolution, extending over many incarnations, before it can gain a predominating influence on the outer life of its bearer. The more the man puts from him his lower impulses, the less obtrusive becomes the first part of the aura. The second part grows larger and larger, filling the color body within which the physical man lives, ever more and more completely, with its illumining force. And the highly developed persons, "Servants of the Eternal," show the wonderful third aura, that part which bears witness how far the human being has become a citizen of the spiritual world. For the divine Self rays through this part of the human aura into the earthly world. Persons in whom this aura is developed are the flames through whom the Divine illumines this world. They have learned to live not for themselves but for the eternally True, the nobly Beautiful and Good; they have wrung from their narrower self the power to offer themselves up on the altar of the great World Work.

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Thus there comes to expression in the aura what the man has made of himself in the course of his incarnations.

All three parts of the aura contain colors of the most varied shades. But the character of these shades changes with the stage of development of the man. One can see in the first part of the aura of the undeveloped man of impulse all shades from red to blue. With him these shades have a dull, dirty character. The obtrusive red shades point to the sensual desires, to the fleshly lusts, to the passion for the enjoyments of the palate and the stomach. Green shades appear to be found especially in those lower natures that incline to obtuseness and indifference, greedily giving themselves over to each enjoyment but nevertheless shunning the exertions necessary to satisfy them. Where the desires are passionately bent on any goal beyond the reach of the capacities already acquired, brownish-green and yellowish-green colors appear. Certain modern modes of life actually breed this kind of aura.

A personal conceit which is entirely rooted in low inclinations, that is to say the lowest stage of egoism, shows itself in tones from

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dirty yellow to brown. Now it is clear that even the animal life of impulse can take on a pleasing character. There is a purely natural capacity for self-sacrifice, a high form of which is to be found in the animal kingdom. This development of an animal impulse finds its most beautiful consummation in the natural mother love. These selfless natural impulses come to expression in the first aura in light reddish to rose-red shades of color. Cowardly fear and timidity in the face of external causes show themselves in the aura in brown-blue and gray-blue colors.

The second aura also shows the most varied grades of colors. Brown and orange colored formations point to strongly developed conceit, pride, and ambition. Inquisitiveness also announces its presence through red-yellow flecks. A bright yellow mirrors clear thinking and intelligence, green expresses understanding of life and the world. Children who learn easily have much green in this part of their aura. A green yellow in the second aura seems to betoken a good memory. Rose-red indicates a well-meaning affectionate nature. Blue is the sign of piety. The more

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the piety approaches to religious fervor, the more does blue pass over into violet. Idealism and an earnest view of life in a higher sense one sees as indigo blue.

The fundamental colors of the third aura are yellow, green, and blue. Yellow appears here if the thinking is filled with lofty, wide-reaching ideas that comprehend the details as part of the whole of the divine World Order. If the thinking is intuitive and is also completely purified of all conceptions springing from the world of the senses, the yellow has a golden brilliance. Green indicates love toward all beings; blue is the sign of a capacity for selfless sacrifice for all beings. If this capacity for sacrifice is brought to the height of the strong Willing, which devotes itself to the active service of the world, the blue brightens to light violet. If pride and desire for honor as last remnants of personal egoism are still present in a more highly developed person there appear beside the yellow shades others verging on orange. It must, however, be remarked that in this part of the aura the colors are very different from the shades one

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is accustomed to see in the world of the senses. It displays to the "seer" a beauty and an exaltedness with which nothing in the ordinary world can be compared.

Next: Chapter IV. The Path of Knowledge