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detail of a drawing dated August 3, 1924 illustrating THE REALM OF THE


"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

back to Rudolph Steiner main page

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

Spirits of Motion
SECOND HIERARCHY Spirits of Wisdom
Spirits of Form, Creators

Spirits of the Age (Zietgeist)

THIRD HIERARCHY Archangels (Spirits of Races)
Angels (Guiding spirits)

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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

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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."

Rudolph 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 Suhrawardi’s "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.

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

page uploaded 24 June 1998

modified 24 March 1999
revised 23 April & 30 December

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