Astral world

From Anthroposophy

The astral world (in theosophical terminology) or 'soul land' (as it is called in Rudolf Steiner's book 'Theosophy') refers to the Earth's astral 'bodily principle' corresponding with the element 'air' (see: Four elements). It represents a girdle around the earth (terminology in Franz Bardon's PME book). Just as Man has bodily principles, so does our Earth, see also Schema FMC00.003A on Earth.

Aspects

  • the link between the regions of the astral world, and
    • sympathy and antipathy
    • the virtues
  • experience with the Human astral body
    • the nature of pain, suffering, pleasure and bliss (1908-10-27-GA107) and renunciation (1908-10-26-GA107)
    • astral senses - see also Development of the chakras
  • experience between death and a new birth - kamaloca as part of the astral world (1908-10-26-GA107)
  • contains the group souls of the animals - see Schema FMC00.142 on Overview Golden Chain
  • overlap between astral world and spirit world and mapping (planetary spheres and hierarchies)

Evolutionary perspective

Illustrations

FMC00.261 shows the 'regions' of the astral world.

FMC00.261 .jpg

FMC00.261A shows the 'layers' of the astral worlds, as mapped to more lower egotistic or higher sympathic, and also to the seven virtues. On the left is a summary of the four platonic values and the three highest values of Faith Love Hope, with corresponding lecture references.

FMC00.261A.jpg

Lecture coverage and references

Coverage

A foundation is offered by: three lectures in 1903-GA088, the 1905-GA009 Theosophy, and four lectures in 1908-GA107.

Lecture extracts

1903-11-18-GA088 – Lecture 4: The Being and Nature of the Astral World
1903-11-25-GA088 – Lecture 5: The Character of Astral Processes

1903-12-02-GA088 – Lecture 6: Kamaloca

1904-GA009 Theosophy

1904-11-10-GA053 - The soul world

[Astral regions are like different states of consciousness]

It could seem easily that the single regions of the astral world lie on top of each other like single layers. This is not the case. They are to be understood more like different states of consciousness. Not the place changes in which the human being is, but the state of consciousness changes. The soul land, the spirit-land is everywhere around us. Everywhere a soul-world and a spiritual world is around us, which like colour and light light up if the soul becomes able to use the spiritual eyes, the spiritual ears. This makes the whole physical world disappear to the soul. Just as you could see a veil and if the veil sinks you can see behind the veil, the soul experiences what takes place in the world of desires if it removes the veil of the sensory touching, seeing, and hearing. Then another world comes to the fore round it, a world which was there also round it before, but was not experienced, which is experienced now. It is another state of experience which the soul undergoes. It is a metamorphosis of the human life not a change of place or region. The human being advances step by step on his pilgrimage of life.

...

[Fourth region <-> number of incarnations]

The incarnated soul feels as a self because it is in the body. The soul in the body says to its body “I”. However, if it wants to say “I” after death, it gets to know the feeling of the body without being able to live it. If it stopped this, it learns to regard itself as a soul. The human being learns to regard itself as a soul in the fourth region, and the more often the human being has gone through this region, the longer his pilgrimage has lasted, the stronger his sense of self is developed, the more he knows also when he is re-embodied to say “I” not only to his body, but also to his soul, the more he feels as a soul-being.

This is the difference between a human being, who has gone through many, and a human being, who has gone through few incarnations. The advanced human being feels as a soul-being.

Then the human being also gets to know this higher region which we have called soul-light, soul-force and the spirit soul. There the human being settles and works. One is used to calling these highest regions of the astral world the summer land in the theosophical literature. This is that region in which the soul moves on the spheres of sympathy, on the spheres where it learns to live in pure love for the environment and in pure love for the colours.

1905-10-18-GA093a

1906-06-02-GA094 – Esoteric Cosmology – the astral world

1906-08-23-GA095

When we enter the devachanic world the astral world remains fully present; we hear the devachanic, and we see the astral, but under a changed aspect, offering us a remarkable spectacle. We see everything in the negative, as though on a photographic plate. Where a physical object exists, there is nothing; what is light in the physical world appears dark, and vice versa. We see things, too, in their complementary colours: yellow instead of blue, green instead of red.

1908-10-19-GA107 offers a few facts of the astral world

The contents of the human soul are very manifold. We will learn about a part of this soul-content today. To begin with, we will set before us certain characteristics of the soul.

We live in our soul-life in the most manifold feelings, perceptions, ideas, concepts, and impulses of will. These all take their course in our soul-life from morning to evening. If we observe man superficially, this soul-life appears to us to be something self-contained, enclosed in itself, and this view is justifiable. Observe how your life flows along with the first thoughts formed in the morning, the first feelings moving through you, the first will-impulses arising. Observe how feeling is linked to feeling, will-impulse to will-impulse, until the evening when the consciousness sinks in sleep. That all looks like a progressing stream. Observed in a deeper sense, however, it is by no means just a progressing stream, for through our thoughts, feelings and perceptions, we stand in a continual relation — to most people quite unconsciously — to higher worlds. Today let us consider this relation as regards the astral world.

[Thoughts & feelings connect us to astral beings]

When we have some kind of feeling, when joy or terror flashes through our soul, that, to begin with, is an event in our soul-life, but it is not merely that. If someone can test that clairvoyantly, it will be seen that something goes out of the soul like a current, like a shining current, which goes into the astral world. It does not go in casually, however, and without direction, but it takes its way to a being of the astral world. Let us suppose a thought arises in our soul; let us say we ponder on the nature of a table. Inasmuch as the thought shimmers through our soul, the clairvoyant can observe how a current proceeds from this thought to a being of the astral world. And so it is for every thought, every concept, every feeling. From the whole stream that flows away before the soul, currents continually go towards the most diverse beings of the astral world. It would be quite an erroneous idea if you thought that all these currents went to one single being of the astral world. That is not the case. From all these different thoughts, feelings and sensations proceed the most diverse currents, and they go to the most diverse beings of the astral world. That is the peculiarity of this fact: as individuals, we stand in connection, not with one such being, but we spin the most diverse threads towards the most diverse beings of the astral world. The astral world is peopled by a great number of beings just as the physical world, and they stand in connection with us. If, however, we want to realize the whole complexity, we must take something else into consideration.

[Multiplicity]

Let us suppose that two individuals see a flash of lightning and have a quite similar sensation. Then a current goes out from each, and now both currents go to one and the same being of the astral world. We can say, therefore, that there is a being, an inhabitant of the astral world, with whom both beings of the physical world put themselves in connection. And it can happen that not only one person, but 50, 100, 1000 human beings, having a similar sensation, send out currents to one single being of the astral world. In so far as these 1000 beings people agree on one point, they stand in connection with the same being of the astral world. But think what other and differing sensations, feelings, thoughts are possessed by the individuals who, in the one case, have the same sensation! Through these, they stand in connection with other beings of the astral world, and in this way the most diverse connecting threads pass from the astral world into the physical world.

Now, it is possible to distinguish certain classes of beings in the astral world, and it will be easier to form an idea of these classes if we take an example.

Imagine a large number of people of the European world, and let us take from the soul-contents of these people the concept of justice. These people may otherwise have the most varied experiences and thereby stand in connection in the most complex way with the most differing beings of the astral world. But since these people think similarly about the idea of justice, have acquired this idea in the same way, they therefore all stand in connection with the same being of the astral world. We can look on this being exactly like a center, a middle point, from which rays go out to all the people concerned. As often as they bring to mind the concept of justice, they stand in connection with this one being. Just as human beings have flesh and blood and are composed of them, so does this being consist of the concept of justice: it lives in it. In the same way there is an astral being for the concept of courage, of goodwill, of bravery, of revenge, etc.

Thus beings exist in the astral world for our human qualities, the contents of our souls. And in this way a sort of astral net is spread out over a considerable number of persons. All of us who have the same idea of justice, for example, are embedded in a body of an astral being, whom we can actually call the “Justice-being”. If we have a concept of courage, valor, we stand in connection with another being. Thus in everyone, there is a kind of conglomeration, for we can regard everyone as receiving currents from astral beings on all sides. We are all a confluence of currents that come out of the astral world.

[The conscious self as the center] Now we shall be able to show more particularly how human beings, who are individually in this way a confluence of these currents, concentrate them in themselves round their ego-centers. For that is the most important thing for our soul-life; we must collect all these currents round a center that lies in our self-consciousness. This self-consciousness is so important, because the self must act as a controller in our individual inner being, collecting the different currents flowing into us from all sides and uniting them in itself. For the moment the self-consciousness would slacken and give up, it could come about that a person would cease to feel its self to be a unity, and that all the different concepts of courage, valor, etc, would fall apart. People would then no longer be conscious of the self as a unity; they would feel as if they were distributed in all the different currents. There is a possibility — and there it shows us how we can penetrate into the understanding of the spiritual world through knowledge of the true, the right — there is a possibility that we can lose the directing control over what streams into us. As an individual person, you have a certain life behind you, have experienced many things, have had a number of ideals from youth on that have gradually evolved. Each ideal can differ from the others, you have had the ideal of courage, valor, etc. In this way you have come into the currents of most diverse astral beings. One can also come in another way into such a varied succession of astral beings.

..

[Our web of astral beings]

Thus in abnormal cases, what is otherwise held together through the center of self-consciousness rises to the surface. It will become more and more necessary for people to know what is at the base of the soul. For we would be infinitely poor beings if we were not able to form many such currents into the astral world, and we would also be very limited beings if we were not able gradually to become master over all these currents through the deepening of our spiritual life. We must realize that we are not confined within our skin, but project everywhere into other worlds and that other beings project into our world. A whole web of beings is spun out over the astral world.

Now we will observe a little more closely the beings standing in connection with us in this way. They are beings, who by way of comparison, present themselves to us somewhat like this:

The astral world surrounds us. Let us think that here is such a being — one, if you like, that has to do with the concept and feeling of courage. It stretches its tentacles towards all sides and they go into human souls; and inasmuch as men develop courage, the connection is established. Other men are different. All those, for instance, who develop a definite form of anxiety or a feeling of love are connected with another being of the astral world. If we make a study of these beings, we come to what we can call the constitution, the social life in the astral world. People, as they live here on the physical plane, are not merely individuals. Here, too, we are all connected in a hundred, a thousand different ways. We are connected by the law, in friendships, and so on. Our connections on the physical plane are regulated by our ideas, concepts, representations, etc.

[Social regulation/collaboration on the astral plane]

In a certain way, the social connections of those beings on the astral plane, of whom we have been speaking, must also be regulated.

Now then, do these beings live with one another?

They have no such dense physical bodies of flesh and blood as we humans have; they have astral bodies, are at most of etheric substance. They stretch out their feelers into our world; but

how do they live together?

If these beings were not to work together, our human life, too, would be quite different. In fact, our physical world is only the external expression of what takes place on the astral plane.

Now, do these beings arrange things among themselves?

One could easily be tempted to think that the social life on the astral plane is similar to the life on the physical plane. But the joint life on the astral plane differs essentially from a working together on the physical plane.

People who group the different planes above one another and characterize the higher worlds as if things were just the same there as here in the physical world, do not give a right description of the higher worlds. There is an immense difference between the physical world and the higher worlds, and this difference increases the higher up we come.

[Penetrability and conflict/contradiction]

Above all, a definite peculiarity exists in the astral world, which is not to be found at all on the physical plane. That is the penetrability of the substance of the astral plane. It is impossible here to place yourself on the spot where someone else is already standing; impenetrability is a law of the physical world. In the astral world it is not; there, the law is penetrability. And it is absolutely possible — it is even the rule — for beings to penetrate each other, and where already one being is, another presses in. Two, four, hundreds of beings can be on one and the same spot in the astral world.

But that results in something else, namely, that the logic of common life on the astral plane is quite different. You will best understand how the logic of the astral plane is quite different from the logic of the physical plane — though not, perhaps, the logic of the act, of the common life — if you take the following example.

-         Suppose that a town had decided to build a church on a definite site. Then, of course, the wise council of the town must first consider how the church is to be built, what arrangements must be made, and so on. Now let us suppose that two parties arise in the town. The one party wants to build a church on this site in a definite style and with a certain architect, etc. The other party wishes to build a different church with a different architect. On the physical plane, the two parties will not be able to carry out their intention. Before anything at all is begun, it will be necessary for one of the parties to be victorious and gain the upper hand, and that the style of the church is decided on. You know, of course, that actually far the greater part of mankind's social life is passed in such consultations and mutual arguments before something is carried out, before people come to an agreement about what is to be done. Nothing indeed would be done unless in most cases one or other party gains the upper hand and remains in the majority. But the party in the minority will not straightaway say: “We have been wrong,” but will go on believing they have been right. In the physical world it is a matter of discussing the proposals, which must be decided purely within the physical world, because it is impossible for two plans to be carried out on one and the same spot.

-         In the astral world, it is quite different. It is perfectly possible there to build — let us say — two churches on one and the same spot. Such actually happens continually in the astral world, and it is the only right thing there. One does not argue as in the physical world. One does not hold meetings and try to get a majority for this or that. In fact, it is not at all necessary there. When a city council holds a meeting here and 40 out of 45 people are of one opinion and the others of another, then the two parties may inwardly want to murder each other on account of their different opinions. That is not so bad, however, because externally the things are at once dealt with. Neither party tries without consideration of the other party to build their church immediately, because on the physical plane thought can remain a possession of the soul, it can remain in the soul.

On the astral plane, that is not so; it is like this:

When the thought has been formed, it also stands in a certain respect already there. So that if such an astral being as the one I have just spoken about has a thought, it immediately stretches out the corresponding “feelers” that have the form of this thought, and another being stretches out from itself the substance. Both now mutually interpenetrate each other and are in the same space as a newly-formed being. In this way, there is a continual interpenetration of the most varying opinions, thoughts, and feelings. In the astral world, the most completely opposite ideas can interpenetrate each other.


It must be said that when things are discussed in the physical world, contradiction prevails, but in the astral world what prevails at once is conflict. For, as a being of the astral world, one cannot keep back one's thoughts to oneself, they become deeds immediately; the objects are there at once.

Now, to be sure, churches such as we have on the physical plane are not built there, but let us suppose that a being of the astral plane wanted to realize something and another being wanted to cross it. Discussion is not possible there, but the principle holds good that a thing must be preserved! So when the two "feelers" are really in the same space, they begin to fight each other; and the idea that is the more fruitful, which is therefore right (i.e., the one that can endure), will annihilate the other and vindicate itself. So that there we have a continual conflict of the most varying opinions, thoughts, feelings. On the astral plane each opinion must become deed. There, one does not oneself fight; one lets the opinions fight, and the one that is the most fruitful routs the other from the field. The astral world is, so to say, the much more dangerous, and a great deal of what is said about its danger is connected with what has just been stated. Thus, everything there becomes deed, and all opinions must fight with each other, not discuss and argue.

I will now touch upon a matter that is doubtless shocking to the modern materialistic age, but which nevertheless is fact.

I have often emphasized that our present age grows more and more accustomed to the mere consciousness of the physical world, to the characteristics and peculiarities of the physical world. So that when discussions arise, everyone would like to annihilate the one who is not of his or her opinion, or else takes him for a fool. That is not how it is in the astral world. There a being will say, “I do not concern myself with other opinions.” The most complete tolerance obtains.

If one opinion is more fruitful than the others, it will drive them out of the field. One lets other opinions stand just as one's own, because things have to right themselves through conflict.

[Taking a step back - implications]

One who gradually becomes familiar with the spiritual world must learn to adjust oneself to the customs of the spiritual world. The first part of the spiritual world is the astral world, where such usages prevail as have just been described, so that in a person who becomes familiar, with the spiritual world, the customs, too, of the beings of that world in a certain respect take root. And that is also right. Our physical world should become more and more and image of the spiritual world, and we shall bring more harmony into our world if we make it our purpose that life in the physical world should resemble life in the astral world. We cannot, of course, build two churches on the same spot, but where opinions differ, one lets them mutually prevail as regards their fruitfulness in the world. The opinions that are the most fruitful will assuredly carry off the victory, as it is in the astral world.

So, the characteristic qualities of the astral world can extend into the physical world precisely within a spiritual movement. That will be a great field of education, which the spiritual-scientific movement will have to cultivate — to create on the physical plane an image of the astral world. However much it shocks the person who only knows the physical plane and accordingly believes that only one opinion can be advocated and that all who hold other opinions must be blockheads, yet it will become increasingly obvious to the adherents of a spiritual world-conception that an absolute tolerance of opinions must prevail, not a tolerance consequent on a sermon, but one which takes root in our soul.

This penetrability that has been described is a very important and essential quality of the astral world. And no being of the astral world will develop such a concept of truth as we know in the physical world. The beings of the astral world look upon discussion, etc., in the physical world as quite unfruitful. Goethe's words, “What fruitful is, alone is true!” hold good for them, too. We must learn to know truth not through theories, but through its fruitfulness, through the way in which it vindicates itself. Thus, a being of the astral world will never contend with another as human beings do. It will say to the other, “Fine; you do as you think, I will do as I think!” It will soon be shown which idea is the more fruitful, which idea will drive the other from the field.

If we transpose ourselves into such a way of thinking, we have also gained something of practical knowledge. One must not imagine that the growth of human beings into the spiritual world occurs in some tumultuous way; it happens inwardly, intimately. If we can pay attention to it and make our own what has just been described as the peculiarity of the astral world, then we shall increasingly come to regard such feelings as the astral beings possess as model feelings for ourselves. And if we take as our guide the character of the astral world, we shall have a hope of gradually living into the spiritual world. The spiritual worlds gradually dawn for us in this way. This is what proves to be the more fruitful for mankind in the matter.

[Double astral good & bad (due to separation Moon) vs a single devachanic]


What has been said today is in many respects to be considered a kind of preparation for what we shall deal with in the next lectures.

If we have now spoken of the beings of the astral world and their particular character, yet we must already point out that the astral world differs much more sharply from the higher worlds — let us say from the devachanic world — than one would be inclined to believe. It is true that the astral world is there where our physical world is, too; it interpenetrates our physical world, and all that we have often spoken about is always around us in the same space as physical facts and physical beings are. But there is also the devachanic world. It differs through the fact that we experience it in a different state of consciousness from that in which we experience the astral.

Now you could easily think: Here is the physical world and it is penetrated by the astral world, the devachanic, etc., but it is not quite so simple. In order to describe the higher worlds more exactly than we have done earlier, we must realize that there is yet another difference between the astral and devachanic worlds.

Our astral world, in fact, as we live in it and as it permeates our physical space, is in a certain respect a double world, whereas in a certain way the devachanic is a single one.

That is something we will mention today as a preparation.

There are, as it were, two astral worlds and their difference lies in the fact that one is, so to say, the astral world of the good, the other the astral world of evil. It would be incorrect to make such an abrupt difference in the devachanic world. If we consider the worlds from above downwards, we must say: devachanic world, astral world, physical world.

Even so, we do not consider the totality of our worlds; we must consider worlds still deeper than the physical.

-         There is a lower astral world lying below our physical world. In practice, these two interpenetrate, the good astral above, the evil below. Now the most diverse currents pass over to the beings of the astral world, and amongst them are currents from the good and evil qualities of humanity. Those that are good pass to a good being and the evil currents to a corresponding evil being of the astral world. If we take the totality of all the good and the bad beings of the astral world, we have, in a certain way, two astral worlds.

-         When we consider the devachanic world, we shall see that there, that is not the case in the same degree. Thus, there are two worlds in the astral world, mutually interpenetrating and having in the same way a relation to humanity. Above all, these two worlds are to be distinguished from each other in regard to their origin.

If we look back in the earth's evolution, we come to a time when the earth was still connected with the sun and moon. In a still earlier time, the earth was itself moon and was a body that was outside the sun in the Moon-evolution. At that time, before the earth had become our present earth, there was already an astral world. This astral world would have become the good astral world if it could simply have developed further without hindrance. Through the fact, however, that the moon had separated itself from the earth, the evil astral world has been incorporated into the general astral world, and today we are still at this stage. In the future, an evil part will be incorporated into the devachanic world, as well.

Provisionally, we must clearly keep in mind that there is not one astral world but two, one into which pass all the currents fruitful for human progress and further evolution, and one into which pass all the currents that hinder man's evolution—to which, at the same time, Kamaloca belongs. In both these worlds are beings whom we have learnt to known today in a more abstract way, how they exercise an influence on us, how they live with one another.

1908-10-21-GA107 – some characteristics of the astral world

1908-10-26-GA107 - the law of the astral plane: renunciation

.. how can one so develop and perfect oneself that one learns to know not only the part expressed in privation, the phase of feeling a lack, but that one experienced the astral world in the best sense - the part that is really brought to expression in the good, the best sense?

A human soul can come into the other part of the astral world through the development of that which is the counterpart of deprivation. Therefore, the methods that awaken the forces in a human being that are opposed to privation will be the ones that will bring the soul into the other part of the astral world. These are the forces of renunciation. Just as privation can be conceived in manifold nuances, so, too, can renunciation. With the smallest renunciation that we take upon us, we make a step forwards in the sense that we evolve upwards to the good side of the astral world on the path of sacrifice.

When one renounces the most insignificant thing, it is an inculcation of something that contributes essentially to experiencing the good side of the astral world. Hence, in esoteric traditions so much weight is laid on the test carried out by the pupil of denying oneself this or that, the exercise of renouncing. Through this, the pupil gains entry into the good side of the astral world.

What is brought about in this way?

Let us first remember the experiences in Kamaloca. Let us think that someone leaves the physical body, either through death or in some other way; then the physical instruments of the body are lacking to that person, who thus entirely lacks the power to satisfy some desire. Deprivation is felt, and this arises as an imaginative picture in the astral world. For instance, a red pentagon or a red circle appears. This is nothing but the image of what appears in the soul's field of vision and corresponds to the privation, just as in the physical world an object corresponds to what one experiences in the soul as concept of it.

If someone has very low desires, then terrible beasts confront that person when out of the body. These frightful beasts are the symbols for the very debased desires. If one has learnt renunciation, however, then in the moment when through death or initiation one is out of the body, the red circle changes into nothing, because one permeates the red with the feeling of renunciation, and there arises a green circle. In the same way, through the forces of renunciation, the beast will vanish, and a noble image of the astral world will appear.

So what is given to one objectively - the red circle or horrible animal - he or she must change into its opposite through the developed forces of renunciation and resignation. Renunciation conjures out of unknown depths the true forms of the astral world. No one must believe, therefore, that if he or she wants in the true sense to lift oneself up into the astral world, the co-operation of one's soul forces is not necessary. Without this, one would attain to only one part of that world. Renunciation is essential - even all Imagination. One who gives up claims and renounces - this is what conjures forth the true form of the astral world.

1908-10-27-GA107 - the nature of pain, suffering, pleasure and bliss

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