Sixteen paths of perdition

From Anthroposophy

The 'sixteen paths of perdition' is the term to denote how human beings can err and their development can go astray. At the same time it implies there is a developmental funnel for humanity whereby not all evolve at the same speed.

During the Earth planetary stage of evolution, the evolutionary developmental goal for humanity is to add the Human 'I' principle. This development of the I takes place between the third and the sixth epoch, and during each cultural age mankind has to incorporate a certain evolution and take a step forward. Failure to do so makes that humanity is made up of many different cohorts of souls with a whole range or spectrum of spiritual maturity. In the past, various human races linked to certain earth geographies (and spiritual influences) were a vehicle to accomodate these groups with appropriate circumstances for evolution. At a larger scale, the same principle is used in the solar system evolution where the different planets split off to represent communities for beings at different stages of evolution (examples see aspects of Overview of solar system evolution).

All human souls are thus on a developmental pathway. The fast track is levering the consciousness soul with the process of modern initiation, else the 'whip of karma' and the wheel of reincarnation makes for a slower alternative learning process for the soul and spirit.

An extreme illustration of the soul erring is to succomb to the side tracking influences of evil such as black magic, nevertheless even some of these souls stand a chance - upto a certain point - to be saved and eventually brought back to a normal development in various stages, see Manicheism and more contextual background on the pages for Evil and Eight sphere.

Relating thus to the figure 666 (see also Sorat and Book of Revelation) and the final closure on evil in the development of humanity on our solar system in the sixth CoF and sixth CoL of the Future Venus planetary stage, it can be noted that there are sixteen further cases of the occurence of 666 when considering that the first digit represents the lowest level of CoF instead of the highest (CoC): four on Earth, seven of Future Jupiter, and 5 more on Future Venus before the final 666 (see note [2] in the Discussion area below).


  • a consequence of the above is that the cohort with the highest spiritual maturity is a minority versus the rest of the population. See Discussion note [1] below. Perspective is given in: Spiritual minority in a materialistic world and Overlapping evolutionary periods
  • Ahasver, or Ahasueris, the Wandering Jew is a related symbol for those who choose not to develop, who are not interested to evolve, see coverage on: The Christ Impulse from the 1st to the 20th century
  • various terms used:
    • 'eye of a needle' (as a metaphor for a very narrow opening) and an aphorism:
      • New Testament, quote Christ Jesus saying "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God".
      • Qur'an 7:40, ".. those who deny our verses and are arrogant toward them, the gates of heaven will not be opened for them, nor will they enter paradise until a camel enters into the eye of a needle. "
      • the expression occurs several times throughout the Talmud
    • the two ways (the right and wrong, white and black, life and death)
      • in the Didache: "There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between these two ways."

Inspirational quotes

Matthew 7: 13-14

Enter with narrow gates, because the gates are wide and wide, the path leading to perdition, and many go by them, because the gates are narrow and the narrow path leading to life, and few find them.


You will see from all this that there belongs to the overall balance of the world in which we are embedded a kind of unstable equilibrium between what is good and right on the one hand, and its opposite, the effects of poisons, on the other.

If it is to be possible for what is good and right to come about, then it must also be possible to err from what is right ... To make it possible for the individual to attain to a life of the spirit, the opposite must also exist, namely a corresponding possibility to err ...

Without the one, the other is not possible. Just as you, as a human being, cannot maintain yourself without the firm foundation of the Earth beneath your feet, so it is not possible for the illumination of spiritual life to be pursued without die resistance which must be permitted to exist and which is inevitable for the higher realms of life.

For full lecture reference, see I-organization#1917-01-01-GA174B.


Schema FMC00.420 shows illustrations on the developmental journey for humanity and spiritualization or the re-ascent.

On the left, the famous 12th century icon called 'The ladder of divine ascent' (Monastery of Saint Catherine, Mount Sinai)


Schema FMC00.420A shows further illustrations of the 'heavenly ladder'.

On the left, the famous St. John Climacus document (1081 AD in Constantinople) possibly originating from the Greek Eikosiphoinissa monastery in Kormista (as per lawsuit of the Greek orthodox church against Princeton University regarding retrieval of ancient documents). In the middle: 'ladder of virtues' mural at the Sucevita Monastery in Moldavia


Schema FMC00.422A sketches a snapshot of resulting outcome of the Development of the I representative for an evolutionary period, but here as an illustration of a quote specifically for the Current Postatlantean epoch.

To relate this for your Individual self and the current and future key incarnations, see also Schema FMC00.052 on Current Postatlantean epoch. Also see related pages such as, but not limited to, Contemporary worldview war and I-less human beings.

Note: the quote about "not all reach the goal etc" is to be found in 1904-10-24-GA090A or also 1904-10-24-GA092.


Schema FMC00.425A provides a tabular overview supplementing Schema FMC00.425 on Evil, as a reference for study. It depicts in a visual way the three levels of 666 in corresponding three shades of read, and maps to the statements from Rudolf Steiner's lectures about the Book of Revelation.


Lecture coverage and references

Man: fragments of forgotten history (1885)

see also the page on the Eight sphere

.. 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. 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. ...


see also Human races

Older races only persist because there are men who cannot or will not move forward to a higher racial form. .. there is a series of possibilities in the course of 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, 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. .. .. it is possible for Man to combine with one incarnation in such a way that he remains behind in evolution. His other soul-brothers are then at a higher stage when he reappears in a new incarnation, while he must then content himself with an inferior incarnation which has been left to him in a 'decadent' (editor: fallen-behind) race. This takes place but 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.


What the human being carries in the astral body today in terms of desires and passions has come to expression in the physical body of the various animals. Each of the groups of animals developed a particular instinct, and is “congealed” or solidified in it. During the Lemurian age it was the mammals; they are human passions that have congealed into a rigid form.

What we carry within ourselves presents itself as a picture in the various animals. With human beings, the instincts have been gradually refined and we can hide them in our heart. The lowest instincts of the human being were first to fall into the physical world during eruptions of natural forces in the earlier times of Lemuria. The apes represent, so to speak, the last lower instincts to fall or be pushed into physical matter before the soul of the human being was itself hardened in matter.

There are sixteen groups of human instincts and passions and so too, are there sixteen groups of animals. Zoology will one day understand how these sixteen groups were gradually “precipitated out” of the spiritual world. We can easily say how the various parts of the mammal groups were created. The formation of hoofs, for example, occurred when, in a very special way, animal nature closed off from the outer world. Claws were created through aggression. The hoofed animals express a very different stage of evolution than animals with claws. We see just such a contradiction expressed in the forms of the centaur and the sphinx.

1916-01 - Rays from the Rose Cross

The magazine Rays from the Rose Cross (Jan 1916) also touches on the sixteen paths

at the end of the Lemurian epoch, some were different from the majority, and might be called a Race. There were seven races in the Atlantean epoch, five have been born and two more are due to make their appearance in the Aryan Epoch, and one will be born in the beginning of the New Galilee [the sixth epoch]. With the last of Sixteen Races, mankind will be again united in Love and Brotherhood .. .. there is a great danger that some may become so enmeshed in the race ideal that they fail to proceed to the next higher stage; therefore the Sixteen Races are called the “Sixteen Paths to Destruction" ..

and goes on to explain how the race spirits' took hold of Man's lungs and larynx in the Atlantean epoch.


describes in the synopsis, see FMC00.338 on Development of the I

People who lag behind evolution fill their being with a posionous phantom of formative forces, the source of emptiness of soul, hypochondria, aggressive instincts. If spiritual life is possible, it must also be possible to go astray. .. [as well as] .. examples of failure to find the spirit


[1] - Considerations on the 'development funnel'

As a consequence of freedom (instead of the direct coupled guidance by the hierarchies), arises the concept of different speeds of development for different entities. Different entities are confronted with different circumstances and make different choices .. and as a result some will lagging vs others. One can consider the concept of a statistical distribution curve to describe the population, and apply this to each of the stages in the sixteen paths of perdition.

When one considers a Gaussian distribution curve for a normal distribution of development in a cohort or population segment, and we assume that the clock or bell of this curve supposedly reaches the developmental goal of a cultural age, then this corresponds to some 68% of the population that goes through this period (more, or less, around the median of the curve). If we use this pattern for say 13 consecutive cultural ages from the last stage of Lemuria to the current fifth cultural age in the Postatlantean epoch, then each consecutive age takes 68% of the previous population that reaches the developmental goal. This small calculation exercise shows that, on a population of eg 2-10 billion people, the cohort that has àlways reached the developmental goal has become as small as 133.000-665.000 people.

Of course this little thought exercise may not have any correspondence to reality, it is just meant as an idea sketch for contemplation.

Perspective is given in: Spiritual minority in a materialistic world and Overlapping evolutionary periods

Thereby Schema FMC00.422 on Spiritual minority in a materialistic world is an illustration of the above population pie chart idea, the comments on the Schema give Rudolf Steiner's commentary to the future of Mankind. Of course this is extremely relevant for each human being individually, as discussed on other topic pages.

Furthermore see also:

  • the Book of Revelation that mentions the outcome of the selection process with the symbolic figure of 144.000 explained onD00.004 - Book of Revelation#144.000 as twelve times 12.000: at the end of the sixth epoch, there will be twelve groups of souls that have fully taken everything the third, fourth and fifth epoch could bring in terms of development, so they will have 'developed to the full'. Note again that obviously 144.000 is not a numerical figure but has to be read symbolically.
  • the statement about only a third reaching the developmental goal, see D00.004 - Book of Revelation#1904-10-24-GA092, to contemplate the 'Parable of the sower'.

Note [2] - On the figure 666


The figures 6, 66 and 666 are symbols for various key stages or milestones with regards to evil in the development of humanity in on our solar system evolution.

This is an important topic to study, as Rudolf Steiner provides insight in the various stages of the evolutionary funnel for humanity where mankind has the possibility to err, or to be recovered from evil from further evolution, upto a final stage where this is no longer possible. This final milestone is referenced with 666, the final stage on Future Venus whereby the evil will be cast in the abyss with the unredeemable moon. See also the Fall of Babylon in Rev 17-18 (1909-05-20-GA104A).

However (to our knowledge thus far), Rudolf Steiner never explicited mentioned the Cosmic fractal nature and multiple levels of occurence of 666 in all its possible ways. The intellectual interpretation below is offered only as a support for study and contemplation.

The merit of this work will be - most importantly - an overall appreciation of the gradual process of cleaning of evil in iterative stages, even though it may not be possible to derive or conclude on a exact final and single scheme. Furthermore it also provides a unique opportunity for insight in the threefold nature and redemption of evil (luciferic, ahrimanic, soratic), eg the three monsters that appear in the Book of Revelation.


Rudolf Steiner describes the meaning of these various stages as part of lectures on the Book of Revelation. However this represents a challenge as the various stages are described with references to:

  • the Book of Revelation (chapters/verses and symbolic imagery)
  • the number of evolution so 6, 66, 666
  • and how the above corresponds to the different dimensions of evolution (Conditions of Consciousness, Life and Form, epochs, cultural ages)
  • as well as how the figure was coded in ancient mysteries (eg hebrew 400-200-6-60 or 400200660, see 1908-06-29-GA104, 1907-04-22-GA104A)

A study of Rudolf Steiner's coverage shows that different descriptions or interpretations arise or are used in the various lectures. As there is no single simple or consistent description, the challenge becomes to study the differences and come to an understanding of the deeper underlying meaning that may be there.

In summary, the following differences can be observed:

  • the figure of evolution can be read as
    • [i] - the phases that have passed and are behind us (in other words the figure is N-1 if we are in evolutionary period N, see 1908-06-29-GA104), or as
    • [ii] - the actual figure representing the evolutionary period (figure N for period N)
  • the three digits can represent different 'levels' in the hierarchical dimensions of evolution (CoC, CoL, CoF, epochs, cultural ages),
    • [A] - CoF, epoch and cultural age (1908-06-29-GA104)
    • [C] - CoC, CoL, CoF are implied when the final 666 refers to the sixth CoL on Future Venus (sixth CoF and sixth CoL of the sixth Future Venus planetary stage or CoC)
    • [B] - furthermore in some places the future Conditions of Life or rounds 5 and 6, pre-runs of Future Jupiter and Future Venus during the Earth evolutionary stage, are described, thereby implying something different as A and C.

Coverage discussion

  • The variants [i]+[ii] and levels [A]+[B]+[C] allow for quite some combinatorial combinations. Therefore Schema FMC00.425 and Schema FMC00.425A on Evil depict this as an aid to navigation, it allows to place or position statements by Rudolf Steiner
  • There are sixteen cases of the occurence of 666 (see greyed background) when considering that the first digit represents the lowest level of CoF instead of the highest (CoC): four on Earth, seven of Future Jupiter, and 5 more on Future Venus before the final 666. This may be either a coincidence or a correlation with the sixteen paths of perdition.
  • The reunion of Sun and Earth is a key event representing the separation of good and evil, advanced spiritualized humanity and the 'rest'. It is stated that such separation will not only take place in the current round CoL=4 but also will repeat itself again in the next CoL=5 and CoL=6 pre-runs of the Future Jupiter and Future Venus stages (1909-05-20-GA104A).

Related pages

References and further reading