Home > Roy Wilkinson Book > Chapter 9 "The Spiritual Hierachies"


In ordinary everyday life we live in a world that provides us with a constant stream of impressions. There are innumerable physical objects around us of which we are dimly aware but of which we can suddenly become conscious if the occasion arises. For instance, we are much more aware of the car that nearly runs us down, the kerb stone that is out of alignment, the dog that snarls or wags its tail when we approach it, or the fact that so many people exist when we are trying to get through a crowd. The physical world is made very obvious to us in all the solid objects we encounter. But there are physical objects that have less solidity, as, for instance, water and air. Like solids, our awareness of water can easily be heightened — we need only fall into the river. The volatile air is a little more remote and our consciousness of it is perhaps increased when it is polluted or rarified as in a stuffy atmosphere or up a high mountain. Light and warmth are also more noticeable in their absence or abundance.

Thus a multitude of impressions from the natural world reaches us through our senses and affects us. But we are, in addition, subject to more subtle influences of which we are less aware. On a sunny day people are inclined to feel more cheerful than on a wet one. The geological structure of the environment, too, has an effect on health.

There is also the matter of human relationships. The people with whom we come in contact influence us and we, in turn, influence them, not necessarily consciously.

We can proceed further into a less definable world. Ideas and inspirations come into our minds. We are sometimes led to actions which we would not normally perform. It is not unknown for some tragedy to be averted through a sudden and apparently inexplicable intervention. In such a case sensitive souls speak of a guiding power or a Guardian Angel.

There are people who perceive beings in nature, in the earth, in the water, in the flowers and the trees. These nature spirits or elementals are known by other names, such as gnomes, undines, sylphs and salamanders. They are the 'little folk' of the Irish. Of people with such a faculty we say they are a little 'fey', i.e. they have some primitive form of spiritual vision.

Bearing these matters in mind we can say that our normal consciousness of the world is partial. It can, of course, be developed, not only with respect to the material world but also beyond the immediate world of sense perception.

We can extend our survey. Even a cursory consideration of the natural or the human world will show that both are full of infinite wisdom. The way a plant grows, receives its nourishment, absorbs light, warmth and air, produces flower and seed, can be a never-ending source of wonder. The instinct that guides a bird to build its nest and care for its young is nothing short of miraculous. The human form is an astounding work of art and skill. Looking into the heavens we note that the movements of Sun, Moon and stars are obviously regulated. We can agree with Hamlet: 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy'.

Wonder is the gate of knowledge. A deeper contemplation of nature can reveal some of its secrets. It may call forth some response in the human soul which is akin to a religious feeling. The question may arise as to what is expressed in objects and events since these are not always immediately explicable on their own ground. We may rightly ask after an agency which reveals itself in the phenomena, and, if there is such an agency, what its nature is.

Historically, except in relatively modern times, there has always been an answer. This was God or the gods. If we look back in history for a moment, we note that the ancient peoples had quite different faculties from modern man. They were familiar with 'gods'. Their minds were more attuned to a spiritual world and less to a physical and they were aware that in the spiritual world there lived higher beings.

All primitive peoples and all past civilizations have had their gods. The Hindus had a numerous array. The ancient Egyptians recognized that at one time higher beings had led them but had withdrawn in favour of human or semi-human leaders. The Greeks and, to a lesser extent the Romans, looked up to their especial divinities. The Norsemen, the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons had theirs.

The names of the gods or divinities are as varied as the peoples and it is not proposed to list them here. But they also appear in the Christian tradition and certain of them are mentioned by name in the Bible. References to Angels are numerous. Isaiah had a vision of the Seraphim. It is the Cherubim who are set to guard the Garden of Eden. Jude refers to the Archangel Michael; St Paul speaks of Thrones, Dominions, Principalities and Powers.

In the western world the gods have receded, that is to say, with the development of thinking and its preoccupation with the material world the spiritual vision of earlier ages has been lost. (See chapter 3.) This does not necessarily mean, however, that the gods no longer exist and for those who, like Rudolf Steiner, possess extended faculties of consciousness, the world of higher beings is still accessible. If we can consider the material world as an expression of the physical, then a greater understanding is achieved when the role of these beings is understood. Not only are we surrounded and influenced on all sides by physical events and objects but we are also continually surrounded and influenced by spiritual happenings and beings.

The title of this chapter contains the word Hierarchies. In its usual worldly sense 'hierarchy' is understood as a grade or rank in priestly government. In its derivation the word means 'sacred rulership'. In the present context, Hierarchies refers to the ranks of higher or angelic beings.

Here on Earth man lives in the physical world with the three lower kingdoms of nature: the animal, plant and mineral. Above him, in the spiritual world, are three ranks of higher beings, reaching to the Godhead which is so far beyond him as to be incomprehensible in his present state of development. These beings have been active in the creation of the world and man. They have created the solar system and all that belongs thereto. They have developed Earth and man to their present state. Some have now withdrawn from active participation; others are still at work.

Each rank has three members. In the following schedule the various names are given, some of which are characteristic of the particular activity of that being.

  The Godhead
First Hierarchy Seraphim, Spirits of Love
Cherubim, Spirits of Harmony
Thrones, Spirits of Will
Second Hierarchy Kyriotetes, Spirits of Wisdom,
Dynamis, Spirits of Motion, Virtues,
Exusiai, Spirits of Form, Powers,
(In Hebrew the equivalent of Exusiai is Elohim)
Third Hierarchy Archai, Spirits of Personality, Primal Beginnings, Principalities
Archangeloi, Spirits of Fire, Archangels
Angeloi, Sons of Life, Sons of Twilight, Angels

Like man, the Hierarchies are also engaged in a process of evolution. Like man, they evolve through their work and experience. Like man, they develop at different rates. At each stage of development some members of the Hierarchies fail to reach the goal or purposely forego a normal development. There are thus a whole series of retarded beings who might be termed Spirits of Adversity. They are not evil in themselves but they provide adverse influences with which man has to deal.

The human being is, therefore, exposed to the forces of advancement and retardation, of good and evil, of God and the devil.

In the process of human development man changes from being a receiver to being a giver. As a child he receives; as an adult, he gives. The evolution of the Hierarchies follows this pattern. At first they receive; later they are in a position to give. Thus the highest Hierarchies can give of their substance to create the world and man. The lower ones work under their direction and in so doing further their own development.

The Work of the Hierarchies in Creation

Chapter 4 deals with the development of the solar system, including, of course, the Earth. The agencies behind this development are the Hierarchies, who also create man.

As in a single life-span the human being first receives, then gives, so in the whole process of evolution man's path of development is from being created to becoming a creator. In very rough outline it can be said that the Hierarchies provide substance, then impulse and stimuli to awaken activity. The activity is transformed into inner life which then proceeds under its own impetus and becomes creative. Man will become 'like God'.

An enormous flexibility and stretch of mind is necessary to grasp these matters even in an elementary way. A fundamental thought to hold in mind is that in the world around us are the preserved thoughts of the gods.

Initially, the highest members of the First Hierarchy, the Seraphim, receive the impulse from the Godhead to create man and an environment in which he can evolve, i.e. the solar system. They contemplate the world-to-be but their contemplation is at the same time a creative act that brings a world into existence in a purely spiritual form. One might look upon it as an 'idea' world. The Cherubim have the task of transforming the ideas into workable plans and bringing them into harmony with other systems in the universe. The third group of the First Hierarchy, the Thrones, puts the plans into practice and provides the initial substance.

Although it sounds somewhat trite in view of the magnificent work of creation, the members of the Second Hierarchy, i.e. the Kyriotetes, Dynamis and Exusiai, are the artisans of the solar system. The members of the First Hierarchy are so far evolved that they are in a position to be creators, i.e. to give or to sacrifice. What they give constitutes an initial stage. The Second Hierarchy takes over, to form a system according to plan, to maintain it and to begin work on the formation of the human physical body.

The members of the Third Hierarchy, under the guidance of the higher ranks, work on the human being-to-be. They mould and remould the prototype substance which will one day house an independent human spirit; they provide stimuli to awaken inner experiences such as feeling and thinking. The object is to create a being (man) whose goal of evolution is independence.

To understand this it has to be appreciated that by their very nature the higher Hierarchies merely reflect the Divinity. They have no freedom and the question of freedom does not arise. The destiny of man is different. He is to gain new and enhanced faculties by struggling with adversity caused by the left-behind members of the Hierarchies. At the same time this gives him the possibility of falling into error. It is part of the divine plan that he shall work out his own salvation, that he shall eventually evolve through his own efforts. In the course of aeons man will become the Tenth Hierarchy in his own right, because he will have earned it.

The work of creation is so remote from our present day thinking that it is very difficult to imagine. Two lines of thought may help to understand it.

One is to consider the different states of matter, i.e. solids, liquids, gases. On Earth we have a very common substance which appears in all three forms. Under the right conditions ice turns to water and water to steam. With four elements in mind we might imagine a further stage of attenuation, namely, warmth. Looking at the process the other way round, one would have a process of condensation — warmth, gas, liquid, solid. In the course of evolution an emanation of a particular kind of warmth became matter, i.e. spiritual substance crystallized into the physical.

A second consideration which might be helpful is to consider a plant. To form its roots, leaves, flowers and seeds, a plant needs physical substances; it needs light, air and water. But there is something in the plant that transcends all these, namely, that which gives it its particular form and shape but which is not ordinarily perceptible. Only one step is necessary to say that there is a spiritual entity manifesting itself in physical form.

The first stage of Earth development or the solar system is known as Ancient Saturn, or the Saturn-condition, and this can be imagined as a huge sphere of warmth in space which reached as far as the orbit of the present planet Saturn, taking the Sun as the centre. But it was not warmth in our modern sense. One might call it spiritual warmth. It was 'will' substance, poured out by the third member of the First Hierarchy, the Thrones. They provided the initial substance already referred to, but again this 'substance' did not have substantiality as we understand it today. It was into this substance of the Thrones that other beings worked in order to create a foundation for man's physical body.

Looked at purely anatomically and physiologically, the human being is a marvellous piece of work, but the physical body is the bearer of other attributes. It is endowed with a life force (etheric body); it is the physical expression of a soul (astral body); it is the instrument of the individuality (ego). In its construction, therefore, all these points must have been taken into consideration. In order that man could develop according to the ideas of the Godhead, the physical body had to be endowed with many potentialities. In fairy stories we have the picture of the fairies endowing the baby with various qualities. In the story of creation it is the Hierarchies who bestow the gifts.

In Ancient Saturn the human body was not physical as we understand it today. We can think of it as a prototype, malleable and flexible, still existing only in spirit. It had to be formed, shaped and worked into, so that it would be capable of bearing and using the gifts that it would eventually receive. Thus the various capacities were implanted into it in embryo form.

At this stage the members of the highest Hierarchy functioned from outside the globe of warmth in the region we now call the zodiac. Ancient Saturn had an 'atmosphere' of spiritual beings. One has to imagine their influence radiating in from the whole circle but differentiated according to the direction from which it comes. That is to say, the influence was modified by the forces of the different regions of the zodiac.

These hierarchical influences laid the first foundation for the form of the different parts of the body, i.e. head, throat, heart, lungs, etc. Remnants of this knowledge were still current in the Middle Ages when it was considered that Aries (the Ram) and the head were connected; Taurus (the Bull) and the throat; Leo (the Lion), the heart, etc.

The Second and Third Hierarchies were active not from the outside but within the body of warmth. From among the members of the Second Hierarchy the Kyriotetes had to translate the commands and impulses from their superiors into reality, the Dynamis provided the necessary continuity of activity and the Exusiai maintained what was achieved. They had a task with regard to man.

It was stated that the physical body had to have the possibility of bearing an etheric, an astral and an ego. The Thrones having provided the substance, it was the turn of the Kyriotetes who radiated their forces into it so that it could subsequently take up an etheric body. The Dynamis did the same for the astral and the Exusiai for the ego. These were only preliminary steps.

The beings of the Third Hierarchy had other tasks. The Archai furthered the process of differentiation that resulted in a basis for personality. The result of the work of the Archangels was to produce the germinal organs of sense while the Angels worked on the germinal organs of nutrition and bodily function.

After a time a certain stage of completion was reached beyond which no further progress could be made in the given conditions. Hence the Thrones, who were the chief guides of Ancient Saturn, now dissolved it.

A new sphere had to be created with new guidance. Before this could be constituted there was a period of rest, known as pralaya, the equivalent of sleep in human life.

To understand the next phase one might consider what happens when something burns. Heat is produced and the warmth splits into two elements. Something like this process happened to produce the next planetary development. The warmth of Saturn split into light and smoke (or gas). The reconstituted sphere was, however, smaller and forces were left outside which became the basis of the present planet Saturn. Its extent was from the present Sun to the orbit of Jupiter, and, because light was a feature of it, it is known as Ancient Sun or the Sun-condition. It was a radiant gaseous body. The Kyriotetes were the chief guides in this phase. They had been instrumental in condensing the substance of Ancient Saturn to Ancient Sun. The Spirits of Form, in their own evolution, were now able to relinquish their etheric body. The Kyriotetes worked this etheric substance, this life-force, together with a contribution from themselves, into the prototype physical bodies of man-in-the-making, having previously prepared them to receive it. One could say that at this point the human being was in a sort of plant stage. Not all the substance of Ancient Saturn had been irradiated so that in Ancient Sun there was another kingdom, the prototype mineral world.

Thus at this stage there were two kingdoms of nature but not as we now know them.

It must be borne in mind that through their activity the higher beings also evolved. They had therefore the possibility of becoming more effective. What was achieved in Ancient Saturn on the making of man now had to be modified in view of the new conditions and the bestowal of the etheric. Thus all the potentialities that were implanted in the Saturn stage were now transformed to a new level.

Again there was a withdrawal period and again a re-awakening. The Dynamis transformed Ancient Sun to Ancient Moon and they were now the chief agencies. The gaseous substance of Ancient Sun was condensed to something of a liquid consistency. The contracted sphere extended as far as the orbit of Mars and it is known as Ancient Mars or Ancient Moon. Again a residue of forces were left outside which manifested later as the planet Jupiter.

(In speaking of gas or liquid it must be borne in mind that these are not the same as our present gases or liquids. One still has to think of them as of the nature of prototypes. The use of the word 'Moon' may cause some confusion. Ancient Moon is not in any way to be equated with our present Moon. It is possible that it derives this appellation from the fact that members of the Dynamis were at different stages of evolution and a division took place in the Ancient Mars — or Ancient Moon — sphere. The more advanced members formed one colony which could be called a sort of sun and the less advanced formed another, a satellite which revolved around it. Eventually the two were united again.)

As far as the development of man is concerned, the astral was now incorporated into the combined human physical and etheric bodies. The Dynamis now gave of their own essence together with the etheric released by the evolving Exusiai and the human-being-to-be was therefore now endowed with a third principle. Again in the changed environment and with the new powers there was more work for the Hierarchies in adapting and transforming.

One could say that the human being was now at the animal stage. Not all the substance received the astral and there was therefore now a prototype plant world as well as the mineral.

After another pralaya the fourth period of development began and this brought with it further contraction and condensation. The Earth as we now know it was not in existence and the new sphere still contained what was later our present Sun, Earth with its Moon, and the minor planets. (See chapter 4.) Forces left outside the new sphere formed, in due course, the planet Mars.

A similar process to what had happened before now took place. The Hierarchies themselves had developed further, conditions had changed and all qualities and organs appertaining to the human being had to be metamorphosed. It was during this period that what was spiritual now became manifest as physical matter and that the physical organism of man was created. The totally new endowment that he received

was the ego, a gift from the Exusiai, a drop of their own substance.

Those entities not sufficiently mature to receive the ego formed the future animal world.

Before dealing with this cosmic body of combined Sun, Earth and minor planets, it may be helpful to look back at the formation of what we now see as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars.

The fact was already mentioned that certain beings do not complete their evolution. The normal Spirits of Form (Exusiai) set the boundaries of the spheres, i.e. Ancient Saturn, Ancient Sun (Jupiter), Ancient Moon (Mars), but the abnormal ones are banished or remain outside and work from outside. Thus at each stage of contraction there is a disturbance at the periphery which becomes manifest in the course of further development as a planet. This then is the home of a colony of beings who have fallen out of the normal stream.

The undifferentiated cosmic body which later split into Sun, Earth and the minor planets became denser, but for man, whose further evolution was to be through contact with a material world, it was not yet dense enough. For some beings, members of the Exusiai, the environment was unsuitable and for their further development they withdraw, together with subordinate beings through whom they act, and formed what is our present Sun. Others were not sufficiently mature to accompany them yet were too far advanced to remain within the changing conditions. They were at an intermediate stage and the two planets Mercury and Venus split off as their habitations.

There now remained a contracted sphere consisting of present Earth and Moon combined.

The Spirits of Form, the Exusiai (the Elohim of the Hebrews) are essentially connected with Earth evolution. Not only are they concerned with man but they are the ones who give the planet its configuration. It is at the beginning of the Bible that we read: 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.' But for 'God' one should read 'Elohim', as it is in the original.

Those members of the Hierarchy who had made their dwelling place in the Sun now sent down their influence from that direction but, had there been no counterforce, this would have resulted in an unbalanced development in man's evolution. To prevent this one of the Exusiai stayed with the Earth, and when, due to other adverse influences, the Earth was tending towards too great a densification, he took the grossest forces out, the result of which was the formation of our present Moon. The human being now lives in a state of balance between the promoting forces of the Sun and the retarding effect of the Moon.

(The roles of Christ and Jehovah are connected with these matters.)

At our present stage of evolution man has been endowed by the Hierarchies with physical, etheric and astral bodies, and an ego. He has been given the Earth as his work place and a cosmic setting. The world is an expression of the thoughts and deeds of spiritual beings but the beings themselves are no longer actively engaged in creation although their influence is still effective in certain areas. The world is now, so to speak, complete. Man is responsible for it and for his own further evolution but he will receive help from the higher beings if he seeks it in the right way. This means a development of his own spiritual faculties.

The Third Hierarchy, those beings more closely connected with the human being, are still with us.

The Spheres of the Hierarchies

With our Earth-bound thinking there are always difficulties in trying to visualize conditions in the spiritual world. Yet earthly concepts must be used to try to attain some understanding. A question which may arise is that concerning the dwelling place of the Hierarchies.

A short answer would be to say 'in the spiritual world'. But the spiritual world is a general term covering many regions. The regions can be equated with the planetary spheres.

In speaking of regions, however, and of spiritual beings, one must remember that space in the spiritual world does not have the same quality as in the physical. Spiritual spaces, like spiritual beings, are interpenetrating and this is something to be remembered when what is described is given in spatial concepts. Spiritual realms do not exist side by side but intermingle with one another. If a human being can attain spiritual vision, the regions become progressively perceptible as his ability increases.

With our normal consciousness we look into the apparently endless blue sky by day and interminable blackness by night in which are scattered the innumerable points of light representing stars and planets and we think in terms of physical objects. But perhaps we must call an imaginative faculty into play and picture these vast spaces inhabited by countless beings whose influence radiates down to us just as the warmth of the Sun.

Looking back a little into history we note that, at the time of the Middle Ages, a new concept of the universe came into men's minds. The centre of the universe was shifted from the Earth to the Sun and the planets revolved around it according to mechanical laws. Stars and planets became physical objects only. In still earlier times, in Atlantean or in the early cultures of post-Atlantean times (Ancient India to Greece), people had a different understanding. They were aware of spiritual beings in the cosmos, and when the names of the planets were used they were understood as centres or spheres of spiritual activity. As late as the time of St Paul, his intimate pupil, Dionysius the Areopagite, proclaimed that spiritual beings lived in space and that the soul could develop to a perception of them.

Since the time of Copernicus (1473--1543) we have come to look upon the Sun as the centre of the solar system, with the planets, including the Earth and its satellite, moving around it. The older point of view, commonly known as the Ptolemaic, is the one where the Earth is considered the centre, with the Moon, Sun and the planets circling around it. This is the apparent movement from our Earth. Thinking of the spheres of the planets in connection with the spiritual Hierarchies, the Ptolemaic view is correct. If one considers also the fact that the Earth is the present scene of man's evolution in the whole of planetary development, a central position may be accorded it.

Whether one considers the attitude of the ancient peoples or of modern initiates, to both of them the cosmos is full of perceptible beings and within the planetary orbits are the spatial dwellings of the Hierarchies. The Moon orbits the Earth, and taking the Earth as centre and the circular path of the Moon around it one can visualize a sphere in space. This is interpenetrated by the spheres of which other planets form the orbits.

Thus there are a series of concentric spheres and it is here that the various higher beings have their habitations. The orbits mark out the limits of the realms of rulership of each member of each Hierarchy.

Although a certain sphere is the home of certain higher beings, it does not mean that they only function there. For instance the Spirits of Form have a common centre in the Sun sphere but they set the boundaries of the outer planets and also work within the spheres thus enclosed.

Sphere: Inhabitated by:
Moon Angels
Mercury Archangels
Venus Archai
Sun Exusiai
Mars Dynamis
Jupiter Kyriotetes
Saturn Thrones

Beyond Saturn is the region of the Cherubim and Seraphim, in the zodiac.

(It should be noted that in the course of history the names of Mercury and Venus have been exchanged. What is called Mercury above is the present Venus and Venus above is the present astronomical Mercury.)

There are planets beyond Saturn, e.g. Uranus and Neptune, but these do not properly belong to the solar system. They were formed by beings who had already withdrawn from Ancient Saturn.

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Hierarchies, Earth and Man

In the physical world we distinguish various natural kingdoms. Below man, in descending order, are the animal, plant and mineral worlds, the three kingdoms of nature. In the spiritual world are the kingdoms of the Hierarchies. Above man, in ascending order, are the three ranks of higher beings. The nearest to man is the Third Hierarchy whose members are the Angels, Archangels and the Archai and who are essentially concerned with man's development.

One stage further developed than man are the Angels. They have no physical body and no need to incarnate. The Angels have the task of watching over man and guiding him in certain matters for which he himself as yet does not have the capacity.

One example is the fairly common experience that some unseen power seems to guide us on occasion. We do things unconsciously and yet, looking back on life, it can be felt that we were led in some particular direction that was not intended at the time. We speak of a Guardian Angel, or a Guiding Spirit.

Another is that in his present imperfect condition man is not yet master of himself. He has control of only part of his astral body, which is the seat of desires, urges and impulses. In the course of time he will transform it so that it becomes a higher member of his being and he gains a new faculty. It is one of the tasks of the Angel to help man in this work.

Normally a man is not aware of his Guardian Angel although a sense of the presence of this higher being may sometimes be discerned in the soul in particular circumstances. When, for instance, a human being fulfils a task out of pure love, entirely beyond egoistical interests, then he may become aware of some supersensible agency, which is in fact his Guardian Angel.

The Archangels are not concerned with individuals but with groups of people, e.g. nations. The expression 'folk-soul' or 'folk-spirit', although generally used in an abstract sense, can be taken to indicate a reality. The Archangels are the guiding spirits of particular nations or peoples. It is also their task to govern the relationship between individuals and the nation or people.

The next rank is that of the Archai, the Primal Beginnings, or the Spirits of Personality. Whereas Angels are concerned with individuals and Archangels with race, the Archai have the guidance of a whole epoch as their mission. The expression 'Spirit of the Times' can also be taken as a reality. The Archai have the task of guiding a particular period which is not restricted to a particular people. One can think in terms of cultural epochs such as those of Egypt/Chaldea/Babylon/Assyria or Greece/Rome. The Archai influence the incarnation of certain personalities whose presence on Earth is necessary at these particular times.

In the course of history members of the above Hierarchy have had special tasks under special circumstances.

If we think back to ancient times before man received the ego, humanity could be compared with children who need guidance. Before the Earth solidified into its present condition it went through other stages, where, in tune with its development, the human structure was less rigid than it is today. The period immediately preceding our own was Atlantis, and the one before that Lemuria. In these periods mankind was directly led by beings of the Third Hierarchy. Archai, Archangels and Angels acted through human agency. The people felt the influence of divine spiritual beings who inspired but did not directly incarnate. There were, however, other members of the Hierarchy who had fallen behind in their development and did incarnate, of which more will be said later.

In Lemuria there was no speech and no thinking as we understand it and hence no communication as we know it. Certain members of the Archai permeated particular human bodies and radiated an influence from the spiritual worlds that people accepted instinctively.

In Atlantis Archangels worked through human beings who were centred in the oracles and were the priests of the age. Manu (Noah) was such a one.

In late Atlantis and into the first periods of post-Atlantean civilizations, Angels were the main inspirers, although there are some cases of the presence of Archai and Archangels.

Although no longer active in creation, the higher Hierarchies still have tasks to fulfil. It has been described elsewhere how the Earth is one of a series of planetary developments. The Exusiai have the task of seeing that humanity passes rightly from one stage to the next. The Earth is the place where man works out his karma at present. It has a particular form. For this also, the Exusiai, the Spirits of Form, are the responsible beings. But within the form there is continual movement. In the limited period of a lifetime the relative positions of land and sea may not change greatly but over a longer period the changing relationships are to be observed. An example is the change in the configuration of the Earth from Atlantis to the present time. Water and air are in continual motion. Moisture is drawn upwards, clouds form and rain falls. The explanation of such matters as given by physics may be correct as far as it goes, but there are also more subtle influences. These continual movements in the planet may be likened to the etheric body of man. They are an expression of life and are brought about by the Dynamis, the Spirits of Motion. Behind the form and behind the movement is a sort of awareness of what must happen. This idea, this consciousness, is invested in the Kyriotetes, the Spirits of Wisdom.

The Earth, however, is not on its own. It belongs to the rest of the solar system and to the universe. It obeys certain laws and the agencies governing its path through space are the Thrones, the Spirits of Will. To harmonize its movement with the rest of the planets is the task of the Cherubim, the Spirits of Harmony, while the Seraphim, the Spirits of Love, regulate the functioning of the solar system with other systems.

At all stages there are members of the Hierarchies whose development is incomplete and man lives both under the influence of the normal beings and of those who have remained behind. These were termed Spirits of Adversity but it must be remembered that they are not evil in themselves.

As man grows in strength by overcoming obstacles, the Divinity saw fit to make his path less straightforward than it might have been in order that he should develop new qualities. Certain members of the Hierarchies were prevailed upon, or allowed, to remain behind in their development. It was a sacrifice. Their action furthered the interests of man but at the same time introduced the possibility of evil.

It is the nature of Angels to reflect the activities of higher ranking beings, and when some of these renounced further development some Angels followed their example. They received an impulse to be free, to develop an inner life themselves. They are known as Luciferic beings.

Owing to their changed condition they needed a different means of gaining experience and found that a closer connection with man could provide this. This affected man in such a way that he received astral forces which he could not entirely control. Thus although his feelings can give rise to noble endeavour they can also be devoted to selfish ends. Unless checked and guided by a higher element in his being, man's passions, urges and impulses can lead to fanaticism and to a state of mind where he is not in control of himself. The power of the Luciferic spirits is thus strengthened. They would like to rule the world.

The Luciferic beings persuaded man that he could become independent of divine powers. They gave him a new faculty and he became aware of the physical world. His eyes were opened. Prior to this he had lived in a state of consciousness of the spiritual world and thus was unconscious of bodily functions. Now he became aware of the process of propagation, aware of sickness, pain and death.

There is a purpose for man in being influenced by abnormal beings but what at a certain time is progressive for him becomes retrogressive if continued into a later period under different conditions. For humanity's wider experience and development diversity was essential. Thus at one stage the Luciferic spirits divided mankind into races. For a time that was perfectly justified but if extended beyond a certain period then negative symptoms appear such as racialism and nationalism.

It was said earlier that in Lemurian and Atlantean times beings of the Third Hierarchy permeated human bodies and were revered leaders, but there were also some who actually fully incarnated. They were the ones whose development was incomplete and they held a middle position between man and Angel. They became humanity's teachers and founders of different civilizations.

In Lemurian times speech was prompted by the normal Angels and would have been uniform throughout mankind, but Luciferic beings incarnated into particular groups of people and taught particular languages.

Contact with the physical world brought another danger to man. Besides the Luciferic beings there are others known usually by the name given to them in the Persian epoch, Ahrimanic or Spirits of Darkness.

It is not the intention here to deal with the problem of good and evil or the matter of redemption which includes the mission of the Christ, but some brief indication of these things must be given in the context of the general theme.

While the Luciferic forces would draw man away from the Earth, those of Ahriman would bind him closer to it. It is the object of the latter to persuade man that the material world is the only one that matters.

With these two powers man must contend. To help him to combat them a mighty spiritual Being came to Earth and incarnated in a human body, bringing revitalizing powers into the Earth's atmosphere whereby man can strengthen his ego forces, purify his astral and recognize the physical world as a manifestation of the spiritual. This was the Christ. He did not seek to coerce. No higher power can force man to do good. Man is to rise and be free through his own effort and eventually redeem his adversaries.

There is another very important connection between the Hierarchies and man, namely, their meeting which takes place during man's period of sleep and in the time between death and rebirth. There is, or should be, a mutually beneficial exchange of experiences.

A careful observer in these matters might discern occasionally a certain uneasy feeling on waking, something akin to a bad conscience. This may be due to an unsatisfactory meeting with the higher beings. The reason for this may lie in what has been spoken the previous day. Speech and its content are not only of importance in physical life but have far wider implications.

What has been spoken by the human being during the day re-echoes in the spiritual world in sleep and should bring joy to certain members of the Hierarchies. But slovenly speech and materialistic content bring no pleasure and this in turn inhibits the higher beings from giving certain invigorating forces. Thus the human being suffers a form of deprivation.

Furthermore, the Hierarchies themselves then suffer from a sort of undernourishment. What the human being takes into the spiritual world is of consequence for them. They cannot give if they do not receive and this is particularly important for man in his journey through the spheres after death. It is the task of the spiritual beings in the heavenly regions to transform human deeds and work the results into the new karma which will be experienced in subsequent incarnations. The Third Hierarchy is concerned with the formation of the body; the Second implants forces of attraction and aversion, which are a guide to find related human beings; the First Hierarchy helps to determine the path which leads to events and apparent happenings.

It must be remembered that what the human being says and does is not only his affair and that of the Hierarchies but it affects the world in general.

The Hierarchies in Nature

With our normal consciousness we live in a physical world, but this is only a half-existence. The physical world is a manifestation of spiritual forces. If our minds were sufficiently developed we should perceive these forces not as abstractions but as higher beings.

We speak of a physical Earth and physical effects but the Earth is subject to all sorts of influences streaming in from the cosmos. The effect of Sun and Moon are well recognized and certain planetary influences can be demonstrated, but we can now think a little further to whole ranks of spiritual beings in space who also radiate something into our Earth.

When we consider man, we see first his physical body. There is, however, something in the physical body which keeps it alive — a supersensible principle or body known as the etheric. There is something further which is the seat of urge and impulse — the astral — and beyond that the overriding guide which we call the ego.

With regard to the Earth, there is a similar arrangement but what we term principles or bodies are beings. These beings are the Hierarchies and their offspring or servants.

The Earth has an obvious physical existence. In so far as there is life in the physical, it has an etheric. Some force provides impulses and stimulation. This is the astral, and there is a certain guiding power which we can equate with the ego.

Let us consider the kingdoms of nature below man, i.e. mineral, plant and animal. The mineral is usually thought of as dead matter and from a certain aspect this is correct. But matter is something which has crystallized out of being, and if we think back to the origins of Ancient Saturn then we may appreciate that what has become matter is a part of the warmth substance that emanated from a member of the highest Hierarchy, the Thrones. In the case of the mineral the substance was not further vitalized but it still possesses form and inner being. Metals have definite characteristics; rocks are composed of various substances which give each a unique character. The plant world represents a further stage of development. It has an endless array of form and manner of growth. The animal world is further advanced and has equally a multitude of differentiations.

Once the Earth was created, it required a sustaining and maintaining element. The active forces that gave the mineral its inner being, the plant its unique shape and movement, and each animal species its particular characteristic stream down from the heavenly spheres, the dwelling places of the Hierarchies, but for their work on Earth the Hierarchies have assistants.

In the solid substance, in the rocks, in the metals are the so-called earth spirits. In the mist, cloud and spray are the water spirits. The latter are the beings whose task it is to draw the plant upward from the earth. Around the blossom and fruit of the plant hover the beings of air while a fourth category transmutes the warmth of the environment into the ripening forces.

It is the co-operation of all the nature spirits that forms the etheric body of the Earth and the nature spirits are helpers and offspring of the Third Hierarchy. As a plant puts forth seed, so the Hierarchies can produce other beings. The difference is that a plant will grow like its parent but the offspring of the Hierarchy does not attain the same status.

Behind the activity of the Third Hierarchy is that of the Second, which provides stimulus. The fact that everything has form, the world and all its inhabitants, was already mentioned. Of form there is an endless variety. Form changes, however, in the process of growth. We need only think of the metamorphosis of the plant, how seed changes to leaf, leaf to flower, flower to fruit and fruit to seed. In animal and man there is change and growth but in all these developments there is innate wisdom.

In creation the Second Hierarchy was concerned with bestowing the astral on man and the Second Hierarchy have offspring in the astral world. These are the group souls of plants and animals.

(Group soul or group ego may require a little explanation. In man we recognize an individual and attribute human individuality to the ego. Each person is an individuality in his own right but this does not apply to the plant or animal kingdom. Although a single animal may have its idiosyncrasies, we note that its nature and behaviour is very similar to every other animal of that species in fundamentals. Yet each species is individual and therefore one can speak of the individuality of a species, known otherwise as the group soul or group ego. The same applies to plants.)

Also in the astral sphere, giving directions to the nature spirits, are other beings who are the offspring of the First Hierarchy.

The First Hierarchy consists — so to speak — of directors, originators. As the human being lives in certain rhythms, for instance the rhythmical change between sleeping and waking, so does the Earth. There are forces that influence the blossoming and withering of plants, the alternation of day and night, the changing seasons, the life-span of animals. These forces emanate from the First Hierarchy but they are administered by their offspring, known as the Spirits of Rotation of Time. These beings govern everything that takes place in the rhythms of nature, everything that depends on repeated happenings.

We could summarize then the influence of the Hierarchies in nature as follows, remembering the intermediaries:

In the forces of the elements Third Hierarchy
In the form and metamorphosis Second Hierarchy
In the origins of laws and rhythms First Hierarchy

When the human being uses his senses (i.e. sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch), he becomes aware of objects in the physical world. He may make thoughts about these objects with regard to their forces, laws and even causes, but in the final instance objects have 'being' and this is a spiritual entity. At some future stage of his evolution man will develop new capacities that will give him an awareness of the Hierarchies while he is still an inhabitant of the physical world.

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Rudolf Steiner. An Introduction to his Spiritual World-View, Anthroposophy. © Roy Wilkinson 1998