|detail of a drawing dated August 3, 1924 illustrating
THE REALM OF THE ANGELS -
"It is so, that from the relatively singular realm of the angels a split realm arises. One part tends upward into the heavens, the other down to Earth."
from Rudolf Steiner - blackboard drawings
back to Rudolf Steiner main page
Just as, Steiner asserts, there is the sequence mineral-plant-animal-man,
so there are nine more stages (three triads) of evolution before
Godhead, these being referred to as the "Spiritual Hierarchies".
The current Spiritual Hierarchies had evolved to their present office through
previous eras. These Spiritual beings, the nomenclature for which
Steiner takes from the Christian Neoplatonist Dionysius,
are the creative beings who shaped the world and human consciousness.
Thrones or Spirits of Will
|SECOND HIERARCHY||Spirits of Motion
Spirits of Wisdom
Spirits of Form, Creators
|THIRD HIERARCHY||Spirits of the Age (Zietgeist)
Archangels (Spirits of Races)
Angels (Guiding spirits)
Of course, the idea of a succession of hierarchies of Divine beings is an old and widespread idea; prominant in Buddhism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism (Iamblichus and Proclus), Suhrawardi, Kabbalah, and Theosophy, to give just a few examples.
Steiner differed though in his evolutionary or ascending emphasis. And here again we see his Theosophical, and ultimately crypto-darwinian, heritage. He considered that the spiritual hierarchies were stages of evolution from the physical (i.e. the next stage beyond the human is the "angel"), rather than stages of emanation or descent, as all the other sources unanimously assert. But if we ignore this eccentricity, we find that his description of the actual spiritual hierarchies themselves is pretty much in keeping with the consensus "perennial philosophy". In fact, perhaps the most detailed and comprehensive account of the angelic or creative Demiurges available in English at least is to be had from Steiner's teachings. Drawing from the writings of the 5th/6th century Christian Neoplatonist Dionysus the Aeropagite, Steiner spoke of three hierarchies, each of which is divided into three sub-hierarchies. Sometimes he would add a fourth triad, which he called "the Godhead", above these three, although this highest triad was not given any part to play in the scheme of cosmic (or Solar Systemic - for Steiner's cosmology rarely extended beyond this solar system) evolution.
The following tables summarise Steiner's angelology.
|Hierarchy||Objective Consciousness||Subjective Consciousness|
|First||World-creation||Creation of Beings|
|Second||Self-creation||Simulation of Life|
|Third||Manifestation||Being filled with Spirit|
A few words of explanation from Steiner are necessary regarding some of these categories:
With Steiner's spiritual hierarchies in the celestial spheres we see an obvious identify to Suhrawardi’s "Lords of Species" who "move the heavens through love and guard all the creatures of the Earth " And his cosmic Christ, as the composite of the six solar Spirit of Form and central pivot in his cosmology, as well as being the occult being behind the human Christ, is clearly no different to the Master of Ishraqi's Gabriel, the archetype of humanity, identified with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, and thus also with the function of revelation as such, being the supreme revealer of all knowledge. This compatibility between these two spiritual teachers, who lived in very different cultures and times, is made all the more remarkable by the fact that Steiner had obviously never heard of Suhrawardi, or of the Ishraqi tradition he founded.
"When man directs his gaze outwards...,he lives with the outer world...of nature. But when he diverts his gaze from outside, he enters his own inner being and lives an in-dependent inner [i.e. subjective] life....(With) the beings of the Third Hierarchy - instead of perception they have manifest, and in this manifestation they reveal themselves. Instead of inner life they have the experience of higher spiritual worlds, that is to say, they are filled with Spirit.
What in the beings of the Third Hierarchy is manifestation of self, is in [the beings of the Second Hierarchy] self-realisation, self-creation, a stamping of impressions of their own being; and what in the (former)...is being filled with spirit, is in them stimulation of life, which consists in severance, in objectifying themselves....The beings of the First Hierarchy can also objectify themselves, they can also stamp their own being; it is separated from them as in a sort of skin or shell....(But) a higher degree of objectivity is attained by them than by the Second Hierarchy. When the beings of the Second Hierarchy create, if their creations are not to fall into decay, they must remain connected with them....What they create has independent objective existence; but only so long as they remain linked with it. On the other hand that which is detached from the beings of the First Hierarchy...remain in existence, self-acting, objective.
In the First Hierarchy...we have a form of creation in which the part created is detached - we have not only self creation, but world creation. That which proceeds from the beings of the First Hierarchy is a detached world, such (as)...this (physical) world-phenomenon is....(T)he inner experience of the beings of the First Hierarchy lies in creation, in forming independent beings...To create...(and) live in other beings is the inner experience of the...First Hierarchy. Creation of worlds is their external life - creation of beings their inner life."
Rudolf Steiner, The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and the Kingdoms of Nature - ten lectures, Helsinki, 3-14 April 1912 (Steiner Book Centre, N. Vancouver, 1981)
Concerning the lowest member of the Spiritual Hierarchies, the
Steiner says that when people pray to God - god help me with this
or with that - they are really praying to their personal Angel, who
follows them through birth and death. As we have seen, the idea of
a higher or guardian daimon first became prominent in the later Hellenistic
period. Plotinus refers
to it, and so do Iamblichus
and the other Neoplatonists.
Steiner's conception though is shallow and superficial, especially in relation
to the ayan
thabitha of Ibn
Arabi, or the Holy Guardian Angel of Aleister
A PICTURE of the LIVING SPIRIT - Rudolf Steiner -
London, 2nd September, 1923
THE WORK OF THE ANGELS IN MAN'S ASTRAL BODY - Rudolf Steiner - Zurich, 9th October, 1918
The Etheric Plane
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