Part 2 of 3
In Part 1 of this posting, I wrote about the College Imagination and Steiner’s views on the nine orders of angels. In Part 2, we are going to look at the angelic orders that Steiner refers to in the College Imagination, that is to say the 3rd Hierarchy consisting of the Archai, Archangels and Angels of the 7th, 8th and 9th orders, who are the ones closest to us as human beings. We shall also look at some of the ways in which the angels are currently seeking to advance our evolution.
As we work together with colleagues, or in any community for that matter, it is helpful to acknowledge the presence of the angels, who are always ready to support our common work. Without their help, much that we set out to do would be too difficult, painful or disheartening to carry through to completion, or too misguided to be beneficial. With their help, true social innovation is possible. The angels support the creation of social initiatives that benefit individual societies and the continuing development of humankind.
By way of context, I hope it will be helpful here to say something as briefly as possible about Steiner’s teachings on the evolution of our solar system, and how the evolution of angels and humans has developed during this process. According to Steiner, our solar system has so far had four planetary stages, which he calls, somewhat confusingly, Ancient Saturn, Ancient Sun, Ancient Moon and Earth, this last being of course our present stage. This current stage of Earth will in time develop into three further stages or planetary embodiments, which Steiner calls Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. In the meantime, our present Earth stage is due to continue until about the year 8000AD, when we shall start moving into the Jupiter planetary stage – so you can see that this is quite a long process! You can read more about Steiner’s views on these matters in his book, An Outline of Esoteric Science.
From Rudolf Steiner’s descriptions, it appears that humankind, in a variety of different forms, has participated in this evolution from the beginning. From the outset through to the very last stage, humans will have experienced a huge transformative process – from a human germ on Ancient Saturn to an angelic being, called the 10th order, in a future incarnation of the Earth.
Steiner also taught that each of the angelic orders has had the equivalent of a human stage in their own evolution, though of course their human stages were not like ours. Their evolutionary path is ahead of ours, with the angels of the 9th order being closest to us.
Angels (9th order)
Each of us – you, me, every one – has a guardian angel. Our very own dedicated guide in the spiritual world, it envelops us in unconditional love. Our angel gives us the safe space in which our higher selves can develop and eventually come into independent maturity. Impulses from our angel allow true ideas to stream into our consciousness. These guide us in our earthly tasks and relationships and give us strength to overcome the inevitable challenges we all meet along the way. Eventually, in the very distant future after a number of incarnations, we will take over this responsibility from the angels, rather like the way in which as we grow up we gradually find our independence from our parents. Until then, the angels’ unconditional love remains steadfast, guiding us along our way and helping to strengthen us.
Archangels (8th order)
Archangels unite groups of people, who have a common purpose or mission, by flowing in rhythmic motion amongst group members and their angels. They weave together mutual intentions and striving to help us form a sense of group identity, be it a community, family or nation. While angels give strength to each individual human, archangels inspire and give courage to each member of the group to work together to fulfill their common tasks. Whether forming a school, a team, a theatre company or a political movement etc., the work of the archangels helps form the group into a dynamic and viable whole. This group may well become able to receive higher spiritual intentions in order to meet challenges particular to its historical setting and time.
Steiner says that the archangels do not occupy themselves with the single individual, but have a wider task, which is to bring single lives into harmonious order with the life of larger human groups, as for instance with inhabitants of a particular nation.
Archai (7th order)
Archai, sometimes called Time Spirits, shine the light of intuition into the dynamic relationships or vessels that have been built with the aid of the archangels. The archai help us attune our efforts so as to be most fruitful at a particular time and place. We can see the results of their work in the rise and fall of various peoples and impulses over the course of human history.
Steiner says that the archai are even loftier beings than the archangels and they have a still higher task in the continuity of human existence. They regulate the earthly relations of whole human generations on earth. That which is called the Zeitgeist is the spiritual body of the archai. And Steiner gives an oddly intriguing idea here – he says that a strange muddle would come into the evolution of the earth if it were all left to chance, and pivotal figures such as Luther or Charlemagne were placed within any epoch, no matter which. This connection with the whole evolution of humanity over the whole earth, has to be thought out first; the right soul has to appear in harmony with the meaning of the whole earth’s development, and this process is regulated by the archai.
In the College Imagination, Steiner also refers to “the ruling spirit of our age”, by which he means Michael (whose name, Steiner insisted, is to be pronounced “Mi-cha-el” in three syllables, rather than the usual English pronunciation of that name), who from 1879 until around the year 2300, is acting as the spirit of the present age. Of the archai, Steiner mentions seven in particular who alternate as the serving spirits of the age. These seven archai are: Oriphiel (200BC – 150AD), Anael (150 – 500AD), Zachariel (500 – 850), Raphael (850 – 1190), Samael (1190 – 1510), Gabriel (1510 – 1879), Michael (1879 – 2300). This sequence should be understood as a repeating cycle, so for example Michael will be succeeded by Oriphiel in 2300.
In a lecture given in Zurich in 1918, Steiner asked the question: what are the angels doing in the astral bodies of human beings right now? A strange and rather obscure question you might think, but of course you have to bear in mind that Steiner’s view of the human being includes the idea that each of us has four bodies (the physical, etheric, and astral plus a fourth one, variously called the ego, I, self, entelechy or as I shall call it here, the individuality) which have evolved in us over aeons of time. We also have another three bodies in potential – the spirit self, the life spirit and spirit man – which are to come to full development in each of the succeeding planetary stages – the spirit self in the Jupiter stage, the life spirit in the Venus stage and finally the spirit man in the Vulcan stage, after which we shall no longer be in physical bodies.
At our present Earth stage and by comparison, the mineral kingdom has just one body, the physical; the plant kingdom has two bodies, the physical and the etheric; the animal kingdom has three bodies – physical, etheric and astral; while we humans have the same three bodies as the animals, plus the individuality.
We know about the work of the physical body but what is the role of these other bodies? The etheric body is essentially an energy body that contains and forms the physical. It is this etheric body which maintains the physical body’s form until death. The astral body provides us with awareness and self-awareness, our emotions and our feelings and intentions. The individuality is the immortal and inalienable core of a human being, which goes with us from one incarnation to the next.
When we go to sleep at night, the physical and etheric bodies remain in our bed, while the astral body and individuality go into the spiritual world for rest and inspiration and remain there until we wake up, when they re-enter the physical and etheric bodies. Have you ever experienced that sudden sensation of being jerked awake with a startle, just as you were dropping off to sleep? That is what happens when your astral body and individuality suddenly snap back into your physical body, because something has interrupted your process of falling asleep.
Anyway, Steiner asked the question – what are the angels doing in our astral bodies right now? And he answered that the angels of the 9th order are doing work on behalf of the angels of the 6th Order (Exusiai or Spirits of Form) by shaping images in us relating to the future evolution of humanity. And he says that:
“People may shy away from the notion that angels want to call forth ideals for the future in (us), but that is how it is. The process follows a specific principle, which is that in time to come no human being shall find peace in the enjoyment of happiness if others around him are unhappy. An impulse of absolute brotherliness, making all of humanity one, will govern social life…”
“There is also another impulse. The angels have specific objectives not only with regard to outer social life but also for the inner life. Here the aim they pursue with the images imprinted in the astral body is that in future every human being shall see a hidden divine principle in every other human being.”
“Mark you well, the intention underlying the work of the angels is that things shall change. In future we shall not consider human beings to be higher animals, considering their physical qualities in both theory and practice. Instead we are to meet every other human being with the full realisation that something of the divine foundations of the world is revealing itself in flesh and blood. To conceive humankind as an image revealed out of the world of the spirit, and to do so in profound seriousness, with all our strength – that is the impulse the angels lay into the images.”
“Once this is brought to realisation there will be a definite consequence. All independent religious feeling developing in humanity in time to come will depend on the individual being recognised in the image of God in real, practical terms and not mere theory. There will then be no need for religious compulsion, for every encounter between individuals will be a religious act, a sacrament, and there will be no more need for a church with physical buildings and institutions to maintain religious life. The church, if it understands itself rightly, must consider it to be its sole aim to render itself superfluous on the physical plane as the whole of life becomes an expression of the realm that lies beyond the senses. Such, at least, is the reason behind the work of the angels – to bestow complete religious freedom on humanity.”
And Steiner says there is a third objective the angels have, which is to enable human beings to reach the spirit through thinking, experiencing the reality of the spirit in their thinking.
The results of these three impulses will be, first: that each of us shall have a far deeper interest in every other human being than we are inclined to have today; second, that the Christ impulse means complete religious freedom for humanity and that the only true Christianity is one that makes absolute religious freedom possible; and third, that we shall gain irrefutable insight into the spiritual nature of the world.
Steiner emphasises, however, that these three results are subject to humankind’s free will, as well as the intervention of other spirits involved in world evolution, who have an interest in deflecting humankind from its proper course. These spirits are what Steiner calls the ahrimanic and luciferic spirits, who bring evil into the world. I shall be writing more about these “adversely commanded” angels and Steiner’s concept of evil in Part 3 of this posting.
6 responses to “Rudolf Steiner & Angels – The Current Work of the Angels within Human Beings”
Good article, and especially about the work of the angels in man’s astral body, and how they are forming the moral imaginations right now, during sleep. with waking consequences for our next life on earth. Thus, moral sense grows day by day, and careful self-observation detects it, especially when the forces of evil exert another day of lies, which the angels see as their potential downfall into the human kingdom. If we live and act for truth and knowledge, we uphold our angel. That needs to be understood.
The notation below needs to be clarified and expanded by saying that 8000AD is when the 7th cultural epoch is completed, with the resulting “War of All Against All”, as stated in Revelations and “Apocalypse” lectures. This is the war of the Evil vs. Good races, which is now developing, even in our present 5th cultural epoch.
“This current stage of Earth will in time develop into three further stages or planetary embodiments, which Steiner calls Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. In the meantime, our present Earth stage is due to continue until about the year 8000AD, when we shall start moving into the Jupiter planetary stage – so you can see that this is quite a long process! You can read more about Steiner’s views on these matters in his book, An Outline of Esoteric Science.”
So, expect that the 7th cultural epoch, c. 8000AD, will pass into a 6th main epoch, followed by a 7th main epoch, which will complete Earth evolution, and see it pass into the Jupiter sphere.
Thanks for your comment and, I think you’re right, I’ve seriously underestimated the start time of the Jupiter stage. I’ve had a private message from Liliana Bertoli who made the same point and said that 8000AD will take us to the end of the present 5th sub-epoch of this, the 5th major epoch (it’s complicated!). She reckons that the 6th and 7th major epochs will take about 15,000 years each plus time for minor pralayas before we get to Jupiter – so there is a much longer time to go.
I may have made another mistake in my Part 1 posting, when I said that humankind will become the 10th order of angels in the Vulcan stage. I’ve been told that this will actually happen in the Jupiter stage but to date I’ve not been able to find where Steiner might have said this. If you can help, I’d be much obliged!
“I may have made a mistake in my Part 1 posting, when I said that humankind will become the 10th order of angels in the Vulcan stage. I’ve been told that this will actually happen in the Jupiter stage but to date I’ve not been able to find where Steiner might have said this. If you can help, I’d be much obliged!”
I wrote a response that might have got lost in sending, but found an important remark from RS about how the Earth as our present abode has been undergoing destructive forces since the post-atlantean times, and must be destroyed in order to make way for the transition to the Jupiter embodiment. Our Earth, i.e., the Fourth Sphere, is effectively de-materializing as it undergoes metamorphosis to a sun-like condition that will oversee the Jupiter condition.
“Light itself is being destroyed in this post-Atlantean age of the Earth’s existence, which until the time of Atlantis was a progressive process. Since then it has been a process of decay. What is light? Light decays and the decaying light is electricity. What we know as electricity is light that is being destroyed in matter. And the chemical force that undergoes a transformation in the process of Earth evolution is magnetism. Yet a third force will become active and if electricity seems to work wonders today, this third force will affect civilisation in a still more miraculous way. The more of this force we employ, the faster the earth will tend to become a corpse and its spiritual part prepare for the Jupiter embodiment. Forces have to be applied for the purpose of destruction, in order that man may become free of the Earth and that the Earth’s body may fall away. As long as the earth was involved in progressive evolution, no such destruction took place, for the great achievements of electricity can only serve a decaying Earth. Strange as this sounds, it must gradually become known. By understanding the process of evolution we shall learn to assess our culture at its true value. We shall also learn that it is necessary for the Earth to be destroyed, for otherwise the spiritual could not become free. We shall also learn to value what is positive, namely the penetration of spiritual forces into our existence on Earth.”
I have a question: Can you elaborate on what it means for angelic beings to have gone through a “human” stage of development, beyond simply living within a previous stage of earth evolution? In other words, what essentially does it mean to be, or to have been, a “human”? Where does Steiner provide detail? Also, then, what is our kinship with the ranks of angelic beings?
I just discovered your articles. I find them very well done & helpful. Although not an Anthroposophist, I’m a long time student of Steiner’s teachings–nearly 20 years–but I’ve never been entirely clear on this human nature question.
Thanks for your consideration!
(Rev.) Lupton Abshire
Thank you for a really interesting question and I wish I could give you the answer it deserves! There may be other people reading this who know Steiner’s work better than I do and who can tell you what he said about the nature of the human stage experienced by the angels. All I can say is that Steiner said these human stages were, obviously, very different from ours – but my guess is that one common factor between all these “human” stages may be the beginning and development of ego-consciousness, i.e. the sense that one is separate from one’s surroundings, an individuality. There are a couple of lectures from the invaluable online RS Archive that you may find helpful:
Angels, Folk Spirits, Time Spirits: their part in the evolution of mankind
Future Jupiter and its Beings
Both these lectures have some very interesting passages about the higher hierarchies and their human stages but unfortunately they do not describe what these stages were actually like.
Can anyone else help us here?
Steiner’s course on “Spiritual Hierarchies and Their Reflection in the Physical World”, GA110, is the seminal place where the previous human stages were described involving Saturn, Sun, and Moon. As such, the entire Third Hierarchy as it exists today is comprised of the human evolution that occurred in these three earlier stages, before our present Earth stage, where we ourselves are evolving as humans meant to achieve free and individual ego consciousness. Lectures 3 and 4 give the very real feeling for what took place in these earlier stages. Here is from lecture 3:
“Each planetary condition has a special task. What is the task of our earth? It is to make human existence possible for man as man. All the activities of the earth are such that through them man may become an I-being, an Ego being. This was not the case in the former conditions it has passed through. Man has only become human, in the present sense of the word, on earth. The former planetary conditions, which the earth has passed through had a similar task. Other beings became human on those other planets, and now stand at a higher stage than man.”
“The beings, who are the first to be invisible and who stand immediately above man, are called Angels in Christian esotericism, Angeloi, messengers of the divine spirit-world. Those who stand yet one degree higher, therefore two stages higher than man, are called Archangels, Archangeloi, also spirits of fire. Those who stand still higher than the Archangels, when they pass through their normal development, are called the Spirits of Personality, Archai, or Primeval Beginnings. Thus we have three degrees of beings who stand above man. These three degrees of spiritual beings have all passed through the human stage; once they were all men. The beings who are Angels to-day, if one considers it from the point of view of universal time, were human not so very long ago, for they were men upon the old Moon; and just as you, because of earthly conditions, inhabit the earth as men, so did the Angels inhabit the Moon during their human stage. The Archangels passed through their human stage on the Sun, and the Archai, or spirits of personality did the same on ancient Saturn.”
“These beings have risen by degrees from their human stage, they are higher beings to-day, in higher grades of hierarchies than man. If we reckon the sequence of degrees in the kingdoms of the world in a spiritual sense we arrive at the following: On the Earth we have the visible mineral kingdom, the vegetable and animal kingdom, the human kingdom, and then we pass into the invisible, into the kingdom of Angels, the Archangels or Spirits of Fire, the Archai or Spirits of Personality. Whilst these beings in accordance with their own inner nature were progressing and developing, rising from man to divinity, or to messengers of the divine (the correct description of those beings), whilst they were thus rising in their evolution, the conditions of the planet, on which and for the sake of which they lived, gradually changed. If we look back at ancient Saturn on which the Archai or Spirits of Personality passed through their human stage, we find it very different from our earth.”