By Kim Graae Munch.

Spirits of Form

The development of the earth can only be understood correctly when it is realised that in it the same laws are at work as in the evolution of the individual human being. The planet visible to the senses is, in the view of Spiritual Science, only the body of the spirit dwelling in it. This spiritual Being goes through repeated incarnations just as man does.

Spiritual research recognises three incarnations before the earth reached its present condition. By this we do not mean to say that it had not already gone through other incarnations before, but even to the highest clairvoyant only three preceding and three following incarnations can be known. These, together with the present incarnation, make seven. When we use this number seven we are under no superstition. When a person stands in the open country he sees equally far in all directions. It is the same with the clairvoyant; he, too, sees equally far in time both forwards and backwards.

In Spiritual Science these seven incarnations of the Earth are called: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. These names signify only conditions of one and the same Being. ~Rudolf Steiner, Gospel of Saint John

Humanity goes through seven development cycles, and each of these are again split in seven cycles, and so on. In what’s called the old Saturn Æon, the Father created the physical body and the seed to Spirit Body, Atma. In the next period, the Sun Æon, the Son created the Etheric Body and the seed to Life Spirit or Buddhi. The etheric body is joined with the physical body to create a plant-like human being. In the third period, the Moon Æon, the Holy Spirit created the Astral Body and the seed to Spirit Self or Manas. Here the astral body was added to the plant body, creating animal-men.

In each period all of the created bodies are developed further. In the Mars Æon the Soul is is added to the animal-man, creating the human being. In the Mercury Æon Spirit Self or Manas is developed and added to the soul-man, creating the angel-man. In the Jupiter Æon Life Spirit or Buddhi is developed and added to the angel-man, creating the archangel-man. And in the Venus Æon the Spirit Body or Atma is developed and added to the archangel-man, creating archai-man.

This seven step development plan ends with the start of the Vulcan Æon. The Æon’s go from the middle of one planetary period to the middle of the next.

From Rudolf Steiner's The Influence of Spiritual Beings on Man, Lecture IV

Saturn

All the other beings which are on the earth today animals — plants — minerals — were not in existence on Saturn.

Planetary Seals Rudolf SteinerSaturn at that time consisted solely of human germs which were clustered together like the tiny berries which form a blackberry. In this way the Saturn-globe was a great berry made up purely of tiny berries which were the human beings.

If we were to examine the surroundings of Saturn somewhat as we test our earth's surroundings and find a mantle of air in which are structures of mist, clouds etc., we should find nothing of a material nature.

We should find in the Saturn mantle spiritual substance, spiritual beings, and these were at a much higher level than man in his first rudiments.

We will now occupy ourselves with a definite order of beings who were linked with the Saturn existence. There we find the Spirits of Will, then the Spirits of Wisdom, Spirits of Movement, Spirits of Form, Spirits of Time and Personality, and so forth.

To-day we will turn our attention especially to the Spirits of Form for the reason that they have played an important role in the beginning of our evolution.

From the whole ranks of spiritual beings who were present in the atmosphere and environment of Saturn, we will therefore select the Spirits of Form and be clear that they have gone through an evolution up to today, just as all beings go through an evolution.

As man received his etheric body on the Sun, his astral body on the Moon, his 'I' on the Earth and has become more and more perfect, so have the Spirits of Form passed through their evolution.

These Spirits of Form had no physical body on Saturn, their lowest member was an etheric body which one can compare with the etheric body of man; thus we should have to think away completely the physical body in the Spirits of Form, and think of the lowest member of their being as the etheric body. [They were Angels]

Then these beings had an astral body, an 'I', spirit-self or Manas, life spirit or Budhi, spirit man or Atma and an eighth member which is a stage higher than man can reach in the course of his evolution through the Earth's embodiments.

These Spirits of Form therefore act externally on Saturn through their etheric body as man on Earth works externally through his physical body.

They possess no hands through which they can work, no feet with which they can walk, for these are members of the physical body.

But their etheric body manifests in such a way that they continuously ray in fructifying life-saps from the Saturn atmospheric mantle, which are of very rarefied matter.

We can picture Saturn as we have described it, and from the environment — continuously and from all sides — fructifying life-saps streaming down like rain from the etheric bodies of the Spirits of Form.

The nature of Saturn was such that it did not retain these fertilizing life-saps but rayed them back like a mirror.

In this way arose the mirror pictures of Saturn of which I have spoken in earlier lectures, but now more exactly.

You can picture the warmth sub-stance of Saturn perpetually receiving the rays of the etheric body of the Spirits of Form and raying these back again.

We can form a rough picture of it, if we remember how the rain drips from the clouds down to earth, collects in the earth and rises up again as misty vapors.

We must not however imagine this as having an interval of time, but picture the process as a continuous one; the rank luxuriant life-saps stream in and are reflected, so that the rudimentary physical bodies appear like mirror-pictures.

They actually consist of mirror-pictures. You can form an idea of what was present on Saturn as the physical germ of man, if you imagine a person standing before you and you look into his eye; you send your light into the eye of the other, and your picture comes back to you rayed out of his eye.

So it was with the Spirits of Form in the environment of ancient Saturn. They sent their life-bestowing saps down into the warmth masses of Saturn and their own form, their likeness, was reflected; this mirror likeness was the first rudiments of the human physical body.

Man was thus, even on ancient Saturn, in the most literal sense a likeness of his Godhead.

Sun

If we now go on to the Sun which arose out of old Saturn, the advance was made through the fact that the Spirits of Form no longer have need of an etheric or life-body; they give up the etheric body.

They no longer ray down the life-giving saps, they relinquish their etheric body and in this way the first physical germs of man were permeated with an etheric body.

The etheric body which the human beings received on the Sun was formed, to begin with, from the etheric body of the Spirits of Form, — a portion of the etheric body of the Spirits of Form. … If you could endow with life the reflection which rays to you from the eye of your fellow man, make it independent, so that it had its own life and could step out of the eye, then you would have a deed which the Spirits of Form accomplished in the transition from ancient Saturn to the Sun. This was a significant advance for our cosmic evolution. … On ancient Saturn the life-giving forces streamed in, were reflected and taken up again by the mantle, the atmosphere of Saturn.

In the old Greek myth the warm globe of Saturn was called Gaea and the atmosphere Chronos. Now consider the myth: the life-giving forces of Chronos rayed in continually upon Gaea and were reflected and absorbed. It is Chronos continually swallowing his own children! … As the lowest member of their being they now have the astral body and their higher development means that they have not only one member above spirit-man or Atma, but a still further one.

We must now describe their being as consisting of astral body, ego, spirit-self, life-spirit, spirit-man, an eighth and a ninth member which are beyond what man can attain in his completed seven-membered development. What do the Spirits of Form present as an “outside”?

The Spirits of Form have “trickled,” so to speak, the life-rain down on to Saturn.

On the Sun they manifest through instincts, desires and passions raying into the Sun, through all that is anchored in the astral body.

If someone had sat there and looked out into cosmic space, he would not have seen lightning flash or heard thunder pealing, but round him in the astral light he would have perceived the passions of spiritual beings — everywhere, all around him, passions, and you must not at all imagine only lower passions.

These passions and emotions now worked creatively on the planet from without. If we consider the myths further we see the creative Titans within our earthly evolution, the creative passions which worked from out-side, from the spiritual airy circles of the Sun when this was a planet.

Moon

Now we advance to the Moon — the Sun is metamorphosed into the Moon.

In the course of evolution this signifies that the Spirits of Form now lay aside their astral body also and that their lowest member is the soul, the 'I'.

To describe their nature we should say: as the human being has the physical body for lowest member, so these Spirits of Form in the environment of the Moon have the 'I' as lowest member, then they have spirit-self, life-spirit, spirit-man, an eighth, ninth, and a tenth member. Thus they present their ’I’ to the outer world.

It is very remarkable, but so it is: they present externally pure ‘I’s; they simply displayed sheer ‘I’s to the outside world.

The whole activity in the surroundings of the Moon was as if one met with beings who revealed their whole character and individuality — and this was from the Moon's atmosphere inwards.

Just imagine all your ‘I’s which are here in your physical bodies being suddenly freed from that and from etheric and astral body, imagine only your ‘I’s there as the lowest member, and that they could manifest them-selves through space.

Think of yourselves on the old Moon and your ‘I’s outside in the universe, but in such a way that they were embedded in the spiritual substances, only the lowest members of the Spirits of Form working in out of the air, then you will have a picture of how the Spirits of Form express themselves as sheer ‘I’s out of space.

They have given up to the human beings the astral body which they still had on the Sun, so that on the Moon man now consisted of physical body, etheric body and astral body.

Earth

Let us now follow evolution on the Earth itself: at the beginning man has the rudiments of his physical body, then his etheric, and astral bodies.

The Spirits of Form came over from the Moon. Their lowest member is the I or soul.

This they now sacrifice as well and with it fructify the human being in his rudimentary stage, so that the ’I’, as it appears on Earth, is a fertilizing force which streams out from the Spirits of Form, and these beings have now Spirit-Self or Manas as their lowest member.

If we wish to describe them we must say: Above us in the Earth's atmosphere there rule the Spirits of Form, their lowest member is Spirit-Self or Manas; in this they live and weave and they have sacrificed what they still possessed on the Moon — the ’I’ working towards all sides, that ‘trickled’ down and fertilized the human being.

We will now follow the progress of man on the Earth itself. There one can point to the spot in man where the 'I' was trickled in, but today we will consider it only schematically.

Man receives his ’I’. It comes in contact first of course with the astral body which surrounds him like an auric sheath, there the ’I’ first flows in, interpenetrates the astral body.

This takes place in what we call the Lemurian Age, in the middle of earthly evolution. In the Lemurian Age, in the course of long periods of time, different for each different human being, the ’I’ drew into the astral body and fructified it. Let us picture this developing human being.

The physical body at that time did not consist of flesh and blood as it does today; it was a quite soft structure, even without cartilage, and was penetrated as if by magnetic currents.

Then there was the etheric body and then the astral body which was fructified by the 'I'.

We must imagine this fructification as being something like an indentation which occurred in the astral body, like a turned-in aperture.

That is what actually took place, something like an opening arose at the top of the astral body through the inflowing of the 'I', an opening as far as to the etheric body. (Fig. 1.)

This was of great significance and produced an important result; the consequence was that the first dim perception of a physical outer world appeared.

In earlier conditions man had perceived nothing but that which lived in him inwardly; he was as if hermetically sealed towards the outside. He was aware only of himself and what went on in him internally.

Now for the first time there opened to him the sight of a physical outer world. But man was not yet quite independent, much was still regulated for him by other divine beings with whom he stood in connection.

He could not immediately see all that was around him, as we do now; since only his astral body was opened he perceived only with that body.

It was a quite dim clairvoyance, and when in this ancient primeval time the human being moved over the earth he perceived what was outside his body, he perceived if this were sympathetic or unsympathetic, beneficent or harmful.

He perceived a color picture when he so moved about, a glaring-red, for instance, that arose as an auric color-picture, for it was his astral body that first opened. He knew that when a red picture appeared there was a being in the neighborhood that was dangerous to him. If a blue-red color met him, he knew that he could go towards it; thus he took his direction from these dim clairvoyant perceptions.

He perceived only the soul elements, he could not perceive, for instance, what is present in the plants of today. He perceived only the soul-nature in the other human beings and in the animals, and the Group-souls, too. That was the first fertilizing with the ’I’.

The ’I’ was gradually further developed and the fructifying element that entered the astral body began to permeate it more deeply so that the ’I’ was increasingly present in the feelings of likes and dislikes. According as the ’I’ expanded in this way in the astral body there arose what has been called in the book Theosophy the sentient soul.

It is as if the fructifying ’I’ spread its forces over the whole astral body, thereby producing the sentient soul. Here we still have to incorporate an important fact.

We have now seen a fairly normal advance of evolution. We have seen how the Spirits of Form on the Moon rayed in their lowest member, the ’I’, and how, when the Earth had arisen out of the Moon condition, they gave up the ’I’ and fructified man with it.

Now we know that certain beings on the Moon remained behind, beings who did not complete their development. What does that mean? It means that they had not advanced to the stage where they could let their ’I’ stream out and fructify the human being. That they could not do.

They still stood at the old Moon stage, when they worked with their ’I’ into the atmosphere of the earth. There were laggard beings around man who worked on the earth as the Spirits of Form had done on the Moon.

Man was surrounded in the earth's atmosphere by ’I’-beings who had not yet relinquished their ’I’s. These beings now strove to accomplish on the earth what they had failed to do finally on the Moon.

Man was thus exposed to influences that were not in the normal course of his evolution.

These influences of the ’I’-spirits rayed into his astral body. While his astral body was molded through the in-trickling ’I’ of the Spirits of Form, the ’I’-spirits, who were not at the stage of the Spirits of Form, rayed lower forces to him at the same time, lower than should have entered him in normal evolution.

These lower forces brought it about that man divided into a higher and a lower part. Thus from the Spirits of Form an ’I’ was instilled with the propensity to selflessness, whereas the laggard ’I’-spirits instilled into man the ’I’ with the propensities towards selfishness, egotism. That is the ’I’ which will still not free itself from instincts, desires, and passions.

They press into the astral body and interpenetrate it — so that in man's astral body there is a twofold nature: selfless impulses that aspire to rise higher and those passions which are imbued with selfishness and have entered man through the influences of the 'I'-spirits and have anchored themselves in him.

Jehovah and the Elohim

Now, I have already stated that the Beings who at first sent their own forces down from the sun to the earth, thus bringing about the evolution of humanity, are the Spirits of Form. They are the Beings nearest to earthly evolution.

After the separation of the sun the leader of the Spirits of Form remained with the earth, and later departed from it with the moon. We can therefore speak of a moon-deity; he is that deity who in the Biblical records is called Jehovah, and the Sun Powers, those who sent light to earth from outside, are called in the Bible the Elohim, or Spirits of Light.

Under the influence of the Elohim on one hand and Jehovah on the other, balance was maintained in the evolution of man. You have learnt that not only man goes through development, but that all the Beings in the cosmos are undergoing development also. Those exalted Beings who sent down their forces to us with the light — the Spirits of Form — have also passed through a development; previously they were at a lower stage and have gradually struggled upwards to their present position. ~Rudolf Steiner, Universe Earth and Man.