The eight sphere is the name for an additional sphere of downward development that stands apart from the seven normal evolutionary spheres or planetary stages of our solar system evolution.
It was created in the Lemurian epoch (see Man's higher triad or reference 1905-10-16-GA093a below) on the basis of the parts of the astral bodies that fell off when the higher triad united with the lower man. It provides shelter for astral beings which have come into existence through the fact that man has thrown something off.
There is a link with the Moon as pointed out by Sinnet and Blavatsky, and corrected by Steiner (see reference extracts below).
Schema FMC00.078 from GA089 and Planes or worlds of consciousness positions the eight sphere as outside of the normal evolution between mahapara-nirvana and the physical, and opposite of the budhi plane or world. See the lecture extract below.
Lecture coverage and references
The Eight sphere is one of the topics for which the following historical background is relevant:
In 1883, A.P. Sinnet published 'Esoteric Buddhism', a book that became a widespread bestseller despite its esoteric content. Two years later, by 1885, the book was already in its fifth edition. The book contained erroneous information, and Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine continued along such path of containing confusing or erroneous information - clearly from an angle that wanted to eradiate the teachings of the Christ Impulse.This triggered a counter-reaction. In 1893 the unknown C.G. Harrison gave six (most probably inspired) lectures with deep esoteric contents. Later on Rudolf Steiner also publicly made statements and corrections about the above.
Given the fact there is little information available about the eight sphere (and rakshasas), we quote the following extract in full, from Man: fragments of forgotten history (1885) (p. 134-135). The book is downloadable from the Evolution page.
Rakshasas (demons), souls or astral forms of sorcerers, men who have reached the apex of knowledge in the forbidden art. Dead or alive, they have, so to say, cheated Nature, and will defy the order of the general evolution until our planet goes into obscuration, when they will have to turn round and fall into the main current, and have a fresh start in the course of life. The Atlanteans are often referred to by this name in Sanscrit writings.
Most of the magical feats performed by the dabblers in black magic are performed with the help of elementals, and in rare cases also with the aid of elementaries. The more potent evil forces in Nature are known only to the regular adepts in that evil science. Some depraved persons do by the help of black magic obtain husbands and wives from the elemental beings, which, having no definite forms, will readily bring to life the ideal they find present in the magician's mind. Elementaries of suicides, or victims of accident, specially those who die by lightning, are much sought after by black magicians : the reason for this preference is obvious. Black magic also gives to its votaries the power of obsessing living men and women. This vile art was at its height during the close of the Atlantean race period, when the everlasting struggle between the black magicians and the Adepts of the Good Law raged most fiercely.
Sorcerers and black magicians, the most powerful of those vile fraternities, attain at the conclusion of a great cycle of activity, what is called Avitchi-Nirvana. At the beginning of the next period of activity they commence a nameless life of spiritual wickedness, to be ended only at the next period of rest. The name of these beings of misery and horror, the cursed alike of man and god, is never pronounced or written, but they have nothing to do with the mortals who pass through the seven spheres.
These are the habitants of the eighth sphere, which has sixteen grades [editor: see also 1908-05-16-GA102 in the Discussion section of page of Human races]. In the first fourteen of these the entity loses, after prolonged periods of suffering, its seven astral and seven spiritual senses. The mysteries of the last two grades are never communicated outside the sanctuary of initiation.
It may be stated, however, that from the last, the entity, having lost the accumulated vile energy of its past, emerges as a new individuality, to begin a new course from the lowest rung of the ladder of life.
Explaining this subject of the so-called personal annihilation our Teacher says :
" At this point the great law begins its work of selection. Matter, found divorced from spirit as far as that possible, is thrown over into the still lower worlds, into the sixth 'gate' or way of re-birth in the vegetable and mineral worlds, and also in the primitive animal forms. From thence matter, ground over in the workshop of Nature, proceeds soulless back to its mother fount, while the egos, purified of their dross, are enabled to resume their progress once more on earth. It is here that the laggard egos perish by the million. It is the solemn moment of the survival of the fittest, the annihilation of the unfit. It is but matter (or material man) which is compelled by its own weight to descend to the very bottom of the 'circle of necessity', to then assume an animal form. Of course the monad never perishes, whatever happens."
To prevent a misunderstanding it is necessary to point out that what the Master says above does not warrant the belief in a retrogression of souls. A human spirit will never inhabit the form of an animal. In its descent through the 'circle of necessity' it loses all trace of humanity, and then the colourless monad begins to reascend through the different grades. It is as absurd to accuse a man of cannibalism if he eats a turnip grown in a graveyard, as to construe the esoteric doctrine expounded by the Master into a justification of the vulgar idea of the transmigration of souls.
C. J. Harrison in The Transcendental Universe (1893)
... It will be my duty to explain, to the best of my ability, certain facts in connection with a mystery known as the Mystery of the Eighth Sphere. ... Now I am well aware that there are many occultists who say the subject ought not to be brought before the public at all, and object to the very name being mentioned, ... In reply to such persons it is due to myself to say I am breaking no oath, and violating no confidence. These lectures were advertised in the public journals, and all who choose to attend them are welcome. I regret to be obliged to differ from many persons, whom I hold in the highest respect, as to whether or not the times are ripe for mentioning these subjects. They have been mentioned — prudently or imprudently — and are familiar to all who have taken an interest in the Theosophical Movement ... The first person, however, to profane the mysteries (albeit unconsciously) was Mr. Sinnett, the author of Esoteric Buddhism, a book which made considerable sensation when it came out, but which contains nothing new that is true, and nothing true that is new. As he was the first to make public the information that there is an “eighth sphere” and a mystery connected with it of which he is ignorant, it may be as well to say that both these statements are true. But when he proceeds to say that the Eighth Sphere is the Moon, he gives utterance to one of those half-truths that are more misleading than falsehoods ... Readers of Esoteric Buddhism will remember that man is said therein to evolve on seven planets; three of which (including the Earth) are visible, and the other four composed of matter too attenuated to be visible. Also that there is an eighth planet, the moon, in which matter “asserts itself” yet more strongly than on the earth. Anything more utterly misleading it is impossible to conceive. Madame Blavatsky, who knew very well that this kind of thing was sure to be exposed sooner or later, has in her Secret Doctrine corrected some of the errors, but as she has not chosen to elucidate any portion of the mystery except such as suit her purpose, and as she is destitute, moreover, of the literary gifts of her disciple, her teaching in respect to the Seven Planets and the Eighth Sphere will be “caviare to the General”, who will continue to regard Mr. Sinnett's explanation as the genuine “Esoteric Buddhism” ..
In order to be understood, the extract below needs to be read in full context of the whole lecture 1904-11-10-GA089
.. Two planes that are in opposite positions correspond. On the astral plane, desire rules, on the para nirvana plane love, budhi. On the mental plane, perception rules, taking in the thought; on the mahapara nirvana plane the creative thought rules. The budhi plane is absolute, loving dedication to the divine. Its opposite is a state of having completely tumed away from all that is divine. Where the budhi plane is beatific, its opposite has absolute wretchedness. That is the eighth plane, the eighth sphere.
Only the first Logos is able to take up again anything which has fallen into the eighth sphere. It takes it along with the cosmic dust. To be cast out from evolution is to link one's life to something which inexorably remains behind, without fail, and to wait until evolution once again coincides with the state in question. A native of an uncilivilized wild place with the soul of such a native is relatively happy; but imagine a more highly developed spirit in the Body of such a native or even a dog—that is banishment indeed. The higher soul has taken the road to a lower manifestation. To 'go into the eighth sphere' does indeed mean to be no longer progressing in accord with evolution, to be unable to participate in the evolution of the others, but to be cast back to a lower level.
Beside these there is an Eighth Sphere to which everything goes that cannot make any connection with this continuous evolution. This already forms itself as predisposition in the devachanic state. When a human being uses the life on earth only to amass what is of service to himself alone, only to experience an intensification of his own egotistical self, this leads in Devachan into the condition of Avitchi. A person who cannot escape from his own separateness goes into Avitchi. All these Avitchi men will eventually become inhabitants of the Eighth Sphere. The other human beings will be inhabitants of the continuing chain of evolution. It is from this concept that religions have formulated the doctrine of hell.
What was then peeled off abandoned this astral body which was bound up with the form of the winged-serpent; it could no longer have any further development on the Earth. It formed, as a conglomerate substance, the astral sphere of the moon, the so-called eighth sphere. The moon actually provides shelter for astral beings which have come into existence through the fact that man has thrown something off.
1908-05-16-GA102 (SWCC) talks about the downward evolution and the segment of that does not reach the evolutionary goals. Like during the previous evolutionary phases, they give rise to the lower kingdoms (see off-springs, and how the current nature kingdoms are also a result of this process .. plants and animals did not make it through the evolutionary funnel as Man did). In the future, these will be the degenerated versions of Man that will give rise to the 'evil' kingdoms.
.. Mankind will have gone forward but they too will appear in an ever progressed form. He however who thrusts the Leader of humanity from him must reappear again and again in the same way. That is the legend of Ahasuerus, who has thrust from him the Christ, the Leader of humanity. Man has either hardened or possesses the possibility of developing to higher stages. Races would not stay behind and become decadent if there were not men who wish to stay behind and are obliged to stay behind, since they have not developed their eternal life-kernel. Older races only persist because there are men who cannot or will not move forward to a higher racial form. I cannot today speak about the whole series of possibilities, in the course of earthly evolution, for man to become one with the race, to grow together with what is the character of one race or another. Think of the Atlantean race; souls have gone through it, but not all have passed out of it. There are sixteen possibilities of becoming merged with the race. They are called the “sixteen paths of perdition.” On these paths man would merge with the material. By striving forward, however, he is drawn up from race to race to ever higher stages.
We see then that it is actually possible for a man to combine with the one incarnation in such a way that he remains behind in evolution. His other soul-brothers are therefore at a higher stage when he reappears in a new incarnation. He must then content himself with an inferior incarnation which has been left to him in a decadent race. This is something that takes place, but it need not frighten people for the present phase of evolution. No one is obliged to take all the sixteen paths and thereby fall out of evolution. We must only be aware of the possibility.
Now let us take an extreme case and imagine that a man unites too fully with what is to constitute the character of an incarnation. Let us suppose he reaches what is to be reached in sixteen incarnations; he takes the sixteen false paths. The earth does not wait for him, the earth goes forward and he finally arrives at a point where he can no longer incorporate in a human body, for none are in existence. There will be no more bodies in which souls that have grown too much involved in their bodily nature can incarnate. Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity. Just think what they will have lost. It is possible, but only in exceptional cases, that even during Earth evolution souls will be unable to incarnate because there are no more bodies bad enough. These men have gone so far that they have no other opportunity of incarnating in the normal course of evolution. Let us suppose such beings should remain on the earth — it will only be single cases. And now, since the later is the fruit of the earlier, these would then find no bodies suitable for them. They are, as it were, too good for the bodies of a subordinate order and for the other bodies they are too bad. They must therefore live a bodiless existence. They must cut themselves off entirely from the progress of evolution.
Why have they deserved this? By reason of the fact that they have not made use of life! The world is around them; they have possessed senses in order to perceive the world, to enrich the life-kernel and mold it to a higher stage. They do not advance with world evolution, they re-main behind at a certain stage. Beings that stay behind at such stages appear in a later epoch with approximately the character of the earlier age. They have grown together with it, but not in the forms of the later epoch. They appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature-spirits.
In fact the human race will furnish a whole number of such new nature-spirits in the second half of the Jupiter evolution, for man will have fully completed the fifth principle at the Jupiter stage. For those who have not used the opportunity on Earth to develop the fifth principle there will be no available form. They will appear as nature-spirits and they will appear then with four principles, the fourth being the highest. Whereas the normally advanced man will have the principles 5, 4, 3, 2 at the Jupiter stage, these men will have 4, 3, 2, 1. That would be the destiny of those who have not gradually developed their higher principles by making use of earthly life. They become nature-spirits, so to speak, of future evolutionary periods, working invisibly. Just the same occurred in the case of our present nature-spirits in the earlier periods of evolution, except in so far as there are, of course, continual changes according to the character of the different periods. Everything has now been graded, so to speak, according to moral responsibility, and because this is so, the nature-spirits that arise from the human race will have a certain morality. Upon Jupiter there will be nature-spirits which have moral responsibility.
Let us now recollect what I have said as to how Jupiter differs from our Earth. We have described the nature of the Earth as that of the planet of Love, in contrast to the nature of the Moon, the planet of Wisdom. As love has evolved on Earth so did the wisdom that we find all around us evolve on the Moon. Love in its lowest form originated in the ancient Lemurian age and becomes transformed to ever higher stages up to the highest spiritual form. When in the future the Earth planet appears as Jupiter, the Jupiter dwellers will direct their gaze upon love as men on Earth do upon wisdom. We observe the thigh bone into which wisdom is woven; the whole Earth is in a certain sense crystallized wisdom, which was formed little by little on the Moon. But wisdom was formed gradually just as on our Earth love is gradually formed. And just as we wonder at the wisdom in all that surrounds us, so he who will one day inhabit Jupiter will feel wafting towards him the love that will lie in all things. This love will stream forth from all beings and speak to us, as the wisdom speaks to us which is secreted into the Earth through the old Moon existence.
Thus the cosmos moves forward from stage to stage. The Earth is the cosmos of Love, and every condition has its special task. As a common wisdom prevails throughout our Earth, so will a common love prevail throughout Jupiter.
And as the destructive forces of wisdom originate from those beings who stayed behind on the Moon, so there will appear upon Jupiter the destructive forces of love from beings who have remained behind. Into the midst of the general tapestry of the Jupiter existence will be set the hideous forms of the retarded beings with egoistic demands for love and they will be the mighty devastating powers in the Jupiter existence. The staying behind of human beings in individual incarnations creates the destructive nature-powers on Jupiter. Thus we see how the world is woven, harmful elements as well as beneficent; we have a moral element woven into the world process.
1915-01-18-GA254 is the lecture where Rudolf Steiner spends most 'airtime' on the topic, but without going any more in depth as clearly this is another audience in another context.
This will give you an inkling that the Eighth Sphere is to be observed within the Earth Sphere. It cannot properly be drawn either above or below; to depict the reality it would have to be sketched into the Earth Sphere. I have often given a crude example to express what is here meant. Just as the physical air is around us, so is the Spiritual around us; we have to look for the Spiritual within what is actually physical in our environment. Hence it must be presumed that just as the spiritual is round about us, so we must also look for the Eighth Sphere in our environment. This means that an organ enabling man to perceive the Eighth Sphere would have to be developed, just as his physical senses enable him to perceive the material Earth. He could then experience the Eighth Sphere quite consciously; but unconsciously he is always within it just as we are always within the air, even if we are not aware of it. And if we have developed an organ for experiencing the Eighth Sphere, we are conscious of it around us. So that if the Eighth Sphere is to be described, it must obviously be described as a realm in which we are living all the time.
If the Spirits of Form had achieved everything that their own nature desires and moreover is able to achieve, when the mission of Sphere Three was fulfilled in the Cosmos, Sphere Four would have arisen quite naturally from Sphere Three. That is obvious. But we know that Luciferic and Ahrimanic spirits are at work — and they hold back for themselves something of the Old Moon substantiality, wrest it away, as it were, from the Spirits of Form. The fact that Lucifer and Ahriman do so is indicative of their essential nature. Thus as Sphere Three is advancing to a further stage, something is wrested from the Spirits of Form by Lucifer and Ahriman; into this part that is wrested away, Lucifer and Ahriman penetrate, instead of the Spirits of Form. The activities of Lucifer and Ahriman are added to those of the Spirits of Movement and, as a result, Eight arises out of Three. (Note by translator: The Eighth Sphere out of the Third Sphere.)
Let me express it schematically, as follows: On the Old Moon certain pictures were present. These should have passed over to the Earth as something everywhere perceptible. But Lucifer and Ahriman retained them for themselves. Lucifer and Ahriman wrested from the Earth certain of its constituents and made them into Imaginations, so that these Earth-substances became, not Earthly formations, but Moon formations. Into our Fourth Sphere, therefore, there has been instilled a sphere that is really a Moon-sphere, but is filled with Earthly substantiality and is therefore a bogus creation in the Universe. To the seven Spheres, an Eighth, created in opposition to the progressive Spirits, has been added. The necessary consequence of this is that the Spirits of Form must do battle on the Earth for every morsel of substantiality capable of mineralisation, lest it should be wrested from them by Lucifer and Ahriman and borne into the Eighth Sphere.
In truth, therefore, our Earth —the Fourth Sphere — is simply not what it appears outwardly to be. Were it really to consist of atoms, all these atoms would still be impregnated by formations belonging to the Eighth Sphere — which are perceptible only to visionary clairvoyance. These formations are present everywhere; so too is the spectre-like content of the Eighth Sphere which can therefore be perceived just as actual spectres are perceived. All earthly being and existence are involved here. Lucifer and Ahriman strive unceasingly to draw from the Earth's substances whatever they can snatch, in order to form their Eighth Sphere which then, when it is sufficiently advanced, will be detached from the Earth and go its own way in the Cosmos together with Lucifer and Ahriman. Needless to say, the Earth would then pass over to Jupiter as a mere torso. But man, as you realise, has his established place in the whole of Earth-evolution, for he is mineralised through and through. We are permeated by the mineralising process which is itself drawn into this battle, so that morsels of this substance can be continually wrested from it. Therefore we ourselves are involved in the battle. Lucifer and Ahriman battle against the Spirits of Form, with the aim of wresting mineral substance from us everywhere.
And everything that passes in this way into the Eighth Sphere disappears from Earth evolution, does not go forward in the right way with Earth evolution.