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Occult Science - An Outline

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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Occult Science - An Outline

Chapter IV

Man and the Evolution of the World

(Part 3)

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If we would form an idea — pictorial, but approximating to reality — of the conditions during Saturn evolution, we must bear in mind that of the things and beings now belonging to the Earth and included in the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms of Nature, virtually nothing was in existence then. The beings of these three kingdoms arose only in later periods of evolution. Of the beings of the Earth which are physically perceptible today man alone was present at that time, and of him only the physical body. But even now there are, belonging to the Earth, not only the beings of the mineral, plant and human kingdoms, but other beings too, who do not manifest in physical corporeality. Such beings existed also in the Saturn evolution, and their activity upon the scene of Saturn resulted in the Subsequent evolution of man.

If we turn, first of all, with spiritual organs of perception, not to the beginning or end but to the middle period of evolution of the Saturn embodiment of the Earth, we find a condition consisting essentially of “warmth” alone. There is nothing to be found of gaseous or liquid, let alone of solid constituents. It is only in the later embodiments that these other states emerge. Let us assume that a human being with present-day sense-organs were to approach this Saturn as an observer. Of all the sense-impressions of which he is capable, nothing would meet him there, save the sensation of warmth. Imagine him approaching ever nearer and nearer. The most he would perceive as he reached it would be that the part of space occupied by Saturn was in a different warmth-condition from the remaining spatial environment. Nor would he find the Saturn space itself uniformly warm. Warmer and cooler portions would be alternating with one another in the most diverse ways. Along certain lines, radiant warmth would be perceived. Such lines would not simply go on and on in one direction; irregular figures would be arising from the differences of warmth. Thus he would have before him a kind of heavenly body, a being in the cosmos, inwardly organized and differentiated, appearing in manifold and constantly changing states, and composed of warmth alone.

It will be difficult for man of today to imagine something that consists of warmth alone, for is not accustomed to recognize heat or warmth as existing in itself; he is accustomed only to perceive it in connection with hot or cold gaseous, liquid or solid bodies. To one who has entirely adopted the physical conceptions of our time it will appear senseless to speak of “warmth” in the way we have done. He may well reply that there are solid, liquid and gaseous bodies, but “heat” or “warmth” denotes no more than a condition pertaining to one or other of these three. When the smallest particles of a gas are in motion, he will say we perceive this motion as warmth, but where there is no gas there can be no such motion, therefore no warmth.

The researcher in spiritual science sees the matter differently. Warmth, to him, is something of which he can speak in the same sense as of a gas, or of a liquid or solid body. It is only a yet finer substance than gas. Moreover, to him the gas itself is none other than warmth condensed, in the sense in which a liquid is condensed vapor or a solid body condensed liquid. Thus the spiritual scientist speaks of warmth-bodies, just as he speaks of gaseous and vaporous bodies.

To follow the spiritual researcher into this sphere, it is only necessary to admit the existence of a perception belonging entirely to the soul. In the world that is presented to the physical senses, warmth undoubtedly appears as a condition of what is solid, liquid or gaseous. But this is no more than the external side of warmth, or we may say, its effect. And it is really of this effect of warmth alone that physicists speak, not of its inner nature. Let us try for once to look away from the warmth-effects that we receive from outside and fix out attention purely on the inner experience we have when we say the words: “I feel warm,” or “I feel cold.” It is this inner experience alone that can give an idea of what Saturn was in the above-described period of its evolution. We might have passed right through the part of space it occupied; there would have been no gas to exert pressure, no solid or liquid body from which impressions of light could be received. But at each point of space we should have felt, inwardly and without impressions from outside: “Here there is this or that degree of warmth.”

In a heavenly body of this kind there are not the conditions for the animal, plant or mineral creation of our present world. (Hence it can hardly be necessary to remark that the suggested assumption could not possibly take place in fact. A man of the present day could not, just as he is, confront Old Saturn as an observer. The suggestion had only an explanatory purpose.)

The beings of whom supersensible cognition becomes aware when observing Saturn were at a very different stage of evolution from the present, sense-perceptible beings of the Earth. Beings appear there, to begin with, who had not a physical body like the body man has today. When “physical body” is spoken of, we must beware of thinking of man's present physical corporeality. For we have carefully to distinguish between physical body and mineral body. A physical body is one that is governed by the physical laws that are observable today in the mineral kingdom. The present physical body of man is not only governed by the physical laws; it is also permeated with mineral substance. On Saturn there can bas yet be no question of physical-mineral body of this kind. There, there is only a physical corporeality, governed by physical laws — which laws express themselves solely in warmth-effects. Thus the physical body on Saturn is a delicate, tenuous, ethereal body-of-warmth. And the entire Saturn consists of these warmth-bodies. They are the first beginnings of the present physical-mineral body of man, which has evolved out of the old warmth-body by receiving into it the gaseous, liquid and solid substances that developed only at a later stage.

Among the Beings who come before the supersensible consciousness in the moment when it is confronted by the Saturn stage of evolution, and of whom we may speak as dwellers upon Saturn in addition to man, there are for instance some who had no need of a physical body at all. On the other hand they had one member beyond the members of man's being. Man has the Spirit-Man as his highest member; these Beings have a still higher one, and between etheric body and Spirit-Man they have also all the other members that we find in man: astral body, Ego, Spirit-Self, and Life-Spirit. As our Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere, so too was Saturn, only with Saturn the atmosphere was of a spiritual kind.1 For it consisted of Beings — those already mentioned, and other Beings too. And there was a continual interaction between these Beings and the warmth-bodies of Saturn. The Beings let down the members of their nature into Saturn's physical warmth-bodies. And while in these themselves there was no life, the life of the Beings that dwelt in their encircling sphere expressed itself in them. The warmth-bodies might indeed by compared to mirrors; only it was not the above-named Beings themselves that were mirrored in them, but their life-conditions. In Saturn itself one could not have discovered anything that was alive, and yet Saturn had a vivifying influence on its environment in the heavenly spaces, for it rayed back — sent back, as it were — an echo of the life which was sent down to it. The whole of Saturn appeared like a mirror of the heavenly life. Certain sublime Beings whose life Saturn rays back, may be called Spirits of Wisdom. (In Christian spiritual science they bear the name Kyriotetes, i.e. Dominions.) Their activity on Saturn does not be any means begin with the middle epoch of evolution which is here being described. Indeed in a certain sense it is by then already at an end. Before they could become conscious of the reflection of their own life, proceeding from the warmth-bodies of Saturn, they had first to make these bodies capable of bringing about such a reflection. Hence their activity began soon after the commencement of Saturn evolution, at a time when the Saturn corporeality was still chaotic substance which could not have reflected anything.

In setting out to contemplate this chaotic, undifferentiated substance, we have already transplanted ourselves in spiritual observation to the beginning of Saturn evolution. What can be observed there does not by any means bear the later character of warmth. To characterize it, we can only speak of a quality which may be compared to the human Will. Through and through, it is nothing else than Will. Here therefore we are dealing with a condition that is purely of the nature of the soul. If we look for the source of this Will, we find that it arises from the outpouring of sublime Beings who had, by stages scarcely to be even dimly divined, brought their evolution to such a height that when the Saturn evolution began, they were able to let Will pour forth from Their own being. When the outpouring has lasted for a certain time, the activity of the Spirits of Wisdom unites with the will, with the result that the Will, which up to now might be said to have no inherent properties of its own, gradually acquired the property of raying forth Life, raying it back into the heavenly spaces.

The Beings who find Their blessedness in pouring out Will at the beginning of Saturn may be called “Spirits of Will.” (In Christian esoteric science they are called the Thrones.)

When by the working together of Will and Life a certain stage of Saturn evolution has been reached, other Beings too begin to work. They also are in the surrounding sphere of Saturn. We may call them Spirits of Movement; in Christian terminology they are Dynamis or Mights. They have no physical body and no life-body; their lowest member is the astral body. When the Saturn bodies have attained the faculty of reflecting life, the life which is thus rayed back can become permeated with the properties which have their seat in the astral bodies of the Spirits of Movement. As a result, it appears as though expressions of emotion, feeling, and other soul-forces were being hurled out from Saturn into the heavenly spaces. The entire Saturn seems like a being that is ensouled, manifesting sympathies and antipathies. But these manifestations are not its own; they are but the reflection of the soul-activities of the Spirits of Movement.

When this too has lasted through a certain epoch, the activity of yet other Beings begins, whom we will call Spirits of Form. Their lowest member is also an astral body, but it is at a different stage in evolution from the astral body of the Spirits of Movement. The manifestations of feeling which the Spirits of Movement communicate to the life that is rayed back from Saturn are of a general kind, whereas the astral body of the Spirits of Form (in Christian language Exusiai or Powers) works in such a way that it seems as though manifestations are being hurled out into cosmic space from many single beings. The Spirits of Movement, we might say, make Saturn as a whole appear as an animate being endowed with soul. The Spirits of Form divide this life of Saturn into so many separate living entities, so that eventually it appears like a conglomeration of soul-beings.

Picture to yourself a mulberry or a blackberry, composed as it is of ever so many tiny berries. To the supersensible observer Saturn looks like this in the evolutionary epoch here described. It is composed of the single Saturn beings who have no life or soul of their own, but ray back the life and soul of the Beings that dwell around them.

And now at this stage in the evolution of Saturn certain Beings intervene, who again have the astral body for their lowest member, but have brought it on so far in its evolution that it works like a human I of the present time. Through them the I looks down from the surrounding spaces on to Saturn, and communicates its nature to the single “live” beings. Hence something is sent forth from Saturn into the heavenly spaces, that resembles the impression made by human personality in our present cycle of life. The Beings who bring this about may be called “Spirits of Personality” (in Christian terminology they are the Archai, First Beginnings, or Principalities.) These Beings communicate to the particles of the Saturn body a semblance of the character of personality. The Spirits of Personality have their real personality in the surrounding sphere. They cause their own being to be rayed back to them from the Saturn bodies, and this very process bestows upon the Saturn bodies the fine substantiality which was described above as “warmth.” Throughout the whole of Saturn there is no inwardness; but the Spirits of Personality behold and recognize the image of their own inwardness, in that it streams out to them as warmth from Saturn.

While all this is happening, the Spirits of Personality are at the stage at which the human being is today. They are going through their “human” epoch. To see this fact in its true light, we must be ready to conceive that a being can be a “human” being without necessarily having the form and figure man has today. The Spirits of Personality are “men” upon Saturn. Their lowest member is not the physical body but the astral body with the Ego. Therefore they cannot express the experiences of their astral body in a physical and an etheric body in the same way as can the man of today. Nevertheless they not only have an I or Ego but are aware of it, for the warmth of Saturn, by raying back this Ego, brings it home to their consciousness. They are, in effect, “human beings” under conditions differing from the earthly.

In the further course of Saturn evolution, facts of quite another kind ensue. Hitherto it was all a reflection of life and feeling that were outside; henceforth there is a kind of inner life. A life of light begins, flickering here and there within the Saturn world and dying down again. At some places a quivering of glowing light will appear, at others something more like rapid lightning-flashes. The Saturn warmth-bodies begin to glimmer and glisten, even to radiate light. The attainment of this stage affords once more the possibility for certain Beings to unfold their activity. These are the Beings who may be designated “Fire Spirits” (in Christian terminology, Archangeloi, Archangels.) They have an astral body of their own at this stage of their existence but they cannot by themselves give it any stimulus. They would be quite incapable of arousing any feelings or sensation were it not for the fact that they can work upon the warmth-bodies which have reached the stage here indicated. Working in this way makes it possible for them to perceive their own existence; they perceive it by the influence they exercise. They cannot say to themselves “I am,” rather would they have to say: “My environment enables me to be.” They have perception; indeed their perceptions consist in the above-described light-effects on Saturn. These are in a certain sense their I. This gives them a peculiar form of consciousness. We may describe it as a picture-consciousness. It may be conceived as of the nature of man's dream-consciousness; only we must imagine it far more vivid, far more animated than human dreaming. Nor is it a mere meaningless ebb and flow of pictures; the dream-pictures of the Fire Spirits and the warmth-bodies of Saturn, the seeds of the human sense-organs are first implanted in the stream of evolution. The organs whereby today man perceives the physical world light up in their first, delicate ethereal beginnings. Phantoms-of-man, revealing as yet no other outward sign than these “light” archetypes of the sense-organs, become perceptible in Saturn to the faculty of clairvoyance. Man's sense-organs are thus the fruits of the activity of the Fire Spirits. But these are not the only Spirits concerned in their creation. Simultaneously with the Fire Spirits, other Beings appear upon the scene — Beings so far advanced in evolution that they are able to make use of the seeds of the sense-organs for witnessing the cosmic processes of Saturn's life. These are the Beings whom we may designate “Spirits of Love” (In Christian language, Seraphim.) Were it not for them, the Fire Spirits could not have the consciousness above described; for they gaze upon the processes taking place in Saturn with a consciousness that enables them to transmit pictures of these processes to the Fire Spirits. For themselves they forgo all the advantage they might have through witnessing the Saturn events. They renounce every enjoyment it could afford them, every delight; they give that all up, so that the Fires Spirits may have it.

These events are followed by a new period in Saturn's existence. To the play of light another thing is added. It may well seem quite made to many people when we tell what now confronts supersensible cognition. Within the Saturn body something like sensations of taste begin to go surging to and fro. Sweet, bitter, sour, etc. are perceived at diverse places in the interior of Saturn; while in the heavenly spaces without, all this gives the impression of sound, a kind of music. And in these processes, once more, Beings find it possible to unfold their activity on Saturn. These Beings may be called the “Sons of Twilight,” or “Sons of Life” (in Christian language they are the Angeloi or Angels.) They begin to interact with the surging, eddying forces of taste in the interior of Saturn, and by this means their etheric of life-body develops an activity that we may designate as a kind of metabolism. They bring life into the interior of Saturn; processes of nutrition and excretion begin to take place there. Not that the Beings themselves bring about these processes directly; the processes arise indirectly, through their activity. And now this inner life makes it possible for yet other Beings to enter the heavenly body. Let them be called the “Spirits of the Harmonies” (in Christian terminology called the Cherubim.) These Beings transmit to the Sons of Life a kind of dim consciousness of man today. It is like the consciousness that belongs to man in dreamless sleep, which is of such a low degree that in a manner of speaking it does not “come to consciousness” at all; man remains unaware of it. Yet it is there. It differs from day-consciousness in kind as well as in degree. Our present-day plants possess this “dreamless sleep” consciousness. It affords no perceptions of an outer world in the human sense of the word, but it regulates the life-processes and brings them into harmony with those in the outer Universe. At the Saturn stage with which we are here dealing, the Sons of Life cannot perceive the regulations; but the Spirits of the Harmonies perceive it. They therefore are the real regulators.

All this life goes on in what we have described as the phantoms-of-man. These therefore appear to the spiritual eye as though they were alive; and yet their life is but a semblance of life. It is the life of the Sons of Life who as it were make use of these phantoms in order to live out their own life.

Let us now direct our attention to these phantoms-of-man with their semblance of life. During the period with which we have been dealing, they are of ever-changing form. Now they will resemble one shape, now another. In the further course of evolution the shapes become more definite, and sometimes even last for a while. This is due to their being now permeated by the influences of the Spirits who were at work in the very beginning of Saturn evolution, namely the Spirits of Will (the Thrones.) As a result, the phantom-of-man appears to be endowed with the simplest, darkest form of consciousness. We must conceive it as being yet more dim than that of dreamless sleep. Under present-day conditions, the minerals possess this consciousness. It brings the inner nature of the object or being into unison with the physical external world. On Saturn it is the Spirits of Will who regulate this unison, with the result that man appears like an impress of the Saturn life itself. What the Saturn life is on a large scale, man is now at this stage on a small. And with this the first seed is given of what is still only in the seedling stage even in the man of today, namely Spirit-man (Atman.) Inwardly — within Saturn — this dull human will manifests itself to the faculty of supersensible perception by effects which may be compared to “smells.” Outwardly — out into the heavenly spaces — there is a manifestation as of personality, a personality, however, that is not guided by an inner I, but regulated from outside like a machine. It is the Spirits of Will who regulate it.

Surveying the above, we see that form the middle condition onward the stages of Saturn's evolution could be characterized by comparing their effects with sense-impressions of the present time. Thus it was possible to say: Saturn evolution manifests as warmth; afterwards a play of light is added, then a play of taste and sound, until at length there appears what reveals itself inwardly — to the interior of Saturn — in sensations of smell, and outwardly like a human I working in a machine-like way. How is it then with the manifestations of Saturn evolution before the state of warmth is reached? They cannot be compared with anything whatsoever that is accessible to outer sensation. The warmth-condition is preceded by one which man today experiences only in his inner being. When he gives himself up to ideas which he forms for himself within his soul without the occasion being thrust upon him by any impression from outside, then he has within him something which no physical senses can perceive — something which is accessible, as a perception, to higher spiritual sight alone. The warmth-condition of Saturn is in effect preceded by manifestations which exist only for one who can perceive the supersensible. Three such conditions may be named: pure warmth-of-soul, not outwardly perceptible; purely spiritual light, which outwardly is darkness; and spiritual being which is complete in itself. Pure inner warmth accompanies the appearance on Saturn of the Spirits of Movement, pure spiritual light that of the Spirits of Wisdom, while pure inward being is connected with the first outpouring of the Spirits of Will. Thus with the appearance of the Saturn warmth, our evolution first emerges from an inner life of pure spirituality, to an existence manifesting outwardly.

One more thing must be added, with which the present consciousness may find it still more difficult to come to terms. With the warmth-conditions of Old Saturn there also first emerges what we call Time. The previous conditions are in fact not temporal at all. They belong to the realm which, in spiritual science, may be named Duration. All that is said in this book of conditions in the Realm of Duration must therefore be understood in this sense. It must be borne in mind that any expression implying time-relationships is used only for the sake of comparison and exposition. In human language even those things which, in a manner of speaking, precede time, can only be characterized with words in which the time-conception is implicit. We must remember that though the first, second and third Saturn states did not take place “one after the other” in the present-day sense of the words, we cannot, after all, avoid describing them in sequence. Moreover, in spite of their duration of simultaneity, they depend on one another, and the dependence is such as to be comparable with a succession in time.

With this reference to the earliest evolutionary states of Saturn, light is also thrown on all further questionings as to the “whence” of these conditions. In a purely intellectual way it is possible, of course, in the case of every given origin, to ask again after its origin. But in relation to the facts this will not do. We can easily bring it home to ourselves by a comparison. If we see ruts in a road we may ask, “Whence do they come?” We may receive the answer, “From a carriage.” Then we can ask again, “Where did the carriage come from, and where was it going?” Here again an answer founded on facts is possible. We can still go on to ask, “Who was in the carriage? What were the intentions of the person using it? What was he doing?” But we shall at length reach a point where our questioning is brought to a natural conclusion by the facts themselves. And if we go on asking questions beyond this point, we are departing from the purpose of the original question; we only prolong the questioning, as it were, mechanically. In cases like the one here cited as an illustration, we can readily see where the facts themselves will put a natural end to questioning. With the great questions of the Universe it is not so easy. None the less, if we think it over carefully, we shall recognize that all questions of “Whence” must come to an end with the Saturn conditions we have been describing. For we have here reached a sphere where the beings and processes are no longer to be accounted for by reference to that from which they take their origins, but by what they are in themselves.

The eventual result of Saturn evolution is to be seen in the fact that the seed of man has grown an developed to a certain point. It has attained the low, dim state of consciousness which was described above. We must not imagine that this began to evolve only in the last stage of Saturn. The Spirits of Will are working throughout all the conditions, but it is in the last period that the result of their activity is most apparent to supersensible perception. Altogether, no hard and fast line can be drawn between the activities of the several groups of Beings. When it is said: first the Spirits of will are active, then the Spirits of Wisdom, and so forth — it does not mean that they are active at that stage only. They work throughout the whole of Saturn evolution; their working is, however, most readily observed in the times thus indicated, when the several Beings have as it were their periods of leadership.

The whole of Saturn evolution thus appears as an elaboration, by the Spirits of Wisdom, Movement, Form, etc. of that which was poured out in the beginning by the Spirits of Will. The spiritual Beings themselves undergo evolution in the process. The Spirits of Wisdom, for example, after having received their life rayed back to them from Saturn, are at another stage than before. Their own faculties have advanced to a higher level, and there follows for them something not unlike what sleep is for the human being. Periods of activity on Saturn are followed by times when they are living as it were in other worlds; and then their activity is turned away from Saturn. Consequently, supersensible perception sees in the Saturn evolution here described, a rise and fall. The former lasts until the state of warmth has developed and matured. Then, with the play of light, a waning process begins. And when through the working of the Spirits of Will the phantoms-of-man have taken shape and form, the spiritual Beings have by then all gradually withdrawn. Saturn evolution dies away into itself, and disappears as such. A kind of interval of rest begins. The germ or seed of man passes as it were into a state of dissolution; not that it vanishes entirely — rather it is in the condition of a plant seed which, resting in the Earth, will ripen by and by into a new plant. So does the seed of man rest in the bosom of the world, there to await a new awakening. And when the time for its awakening has come, then the spiritual Beings have on their part acquired — under different conditions — the faculties to work still further upon the seed of man. The Spirits of Wisdom have in their etheric body attained the power to do more than enjoy the reflection of Life — as on Saturn; they are now able to pour Life out of themselves, endowing other beings with it. The Spirits of Movement are now as far advanced as were the Spirits of Wisdom upon Saturn. Their lowest member upon Saturn was the astral body; henceforth they have in addition an etheric or life-body of their own. And the other spiritual Beings too have reached a further stage in their evolution. Hence in the further evolution of the seed of man these spiritual Beings can all work in quite another way than they did upon Saturn.

But now at the end of Saturn evolution the seed of man had, as it were, dissolved; and in order that the Spirit-beings — more highly evolved as they now are — may continue where they left off before, it must briefly recapitulate the stages it went through on Saturn. And this is precisely what shows itself to supersensible perception. Emerging once more from its hidden state, the seed of man begins to unfold by its own inherent faculty — by virtue of the forces with which it was imbued on Saturn. It comes forth out of the darkness as a being-of-will, and raises itself to the semblance of life, of soul-likeness and so forth, until it reaches the manifestation of machine-like personality which belonged to it at the close of Saturn evolution.



  1. If one wanted to express more precisely the inner experience one has in spiritual investigation, one would have to say not “Saturn was surrounded by an atmosphere” but “when the supersensible consciousness becomes aware of Saturn, there also appears before it an atmosphere of Saturn,” or “other Beings appear, of such and such kind.” To translate this into the wording ”this or that is there” is assuredly permissible, for in the last resort the very same change is made in applying the ordinary usages of speech to what the soul experiences in sense-perception. This point should nevertheless be borne in mind throughout the following description. It is indeed implicitly contained in the context.


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