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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 Rudolph Steiner - blackboard drawings

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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.

Holy Ghost
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 Dionysius the Aeropagite, Steiner spoke of  three hierarchies, each of which is divided into three sub-hierachies.  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
Man Perception Inner Life

A few words of explanation from Steiner are necessary  regarding some of these categories:

"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) 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."

book referenceRudolph 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)

With Steiner's spiritual hierarchies in the celestial spheres we see an obvious identify to Suhrawardiís "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 clearlly 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 compatibity 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.

Concerning the lowest member of the Spiritual  Hierarchies, the Angeloi, 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 prominant 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 Crowley.

Steiner E-Library MAN AS 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

Rudolph Steiner
Rudolph Steiner

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page uploaded 24 June 1998