Stages of clairvoyance

From Anthroposophy

Clairvoyance describes the human faculty to perceive further than mainstream sensory perception of the physical world.

  • The largest part of the population uses seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling - and thinking about those sensory observations - as the basis for the worldview of the world they know. See also Waking Consciousness.
  • A segment of the human population however has either the latent or the active capability of astral senses through which they can also perceive the other planes or worlds of consciousness that lie embedded in our own physical reality.
  • Through exercises of initiation, as part of taking up the conscious process of Man's transformation and spiritualization, every human being has the capability to train the development of these higher (astral) senses.

Rudolf Steiner coined terms for distinguishing three states of clairvoyance:

  • imagination - as 'seeing' in the astral world
  • inspiration - as 'hearing' in the lower spirit world
  • intuition - as 'understanding' in the higher spirit world

The above can be illustrated with the image of a bandpass filter whereby a certain part of the total spectrum is visible, and the rest of the spectrum cannot pass through and thereby is invisible or non-existant. It is important to realize the spiritual realities do stream into our being all the same, but we experience them unconsciously. Only when we develop higher senses can we then perceive what is there all the time anyway.

Put differently: from a spiritual scientific perspective, we sense-perceive only the part of the elementals that we hold back, the rest streams in. Higher perception consists of 'holding back more'. See process of perception

This 'clairvoyance is related to the overall state of 'I'-consciousness that is in a continuous development. In very ancient times and earlier epochs the whole of humanity had a natural clairvoyance, but this ebbed away slowly over the course of a few millenia, and a new type of clairvoyance will slowly develop in the future centuries and millenia.

Throughout history we therefore find descriptions of the spiritual realities, often in a symbolic or esoteric or 'occult' (hidden) language (see also worldview wars: in earlier times one could be burned or murdered if one did not conform to societal mainstream views). Certain sources are written at multiple levels, whereby a text can be read at in both an exoteric and an esoteric level. At an exoteric level one reads the words and links them to the concepts known in the physical world, at an esoteric level one knows that certain terms have a much deeper symbolic meaning and therefore reads a very different and deeper meaning in the same text. Examples of such texts are for example books on alchemy, but also the gospels or most ancient religious documents.

Quite some historical figures were clairvoyant, and famous for it (or not at all), for example: Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus), Jacob Boehme, , Tycho Brahe, Rudolf Steiner, the apostles and most of all John, the author of the Book of Revelation. Certain people became clairvoyant at a certain stage of their life, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or Emmanuel Swedenborg.

Some people do not have trained clairvoyance whereby they combine normal daytime consciousness with the clairvoyant capabilities, but only have a visionary capability in certain states (such as trance). A recent example of such is Edgar Cayce.

Furthermore also certain art contains reflections of higher perception, and artists have brought down visions also without making rational sense of them, for example 'A vision' by W.B. Yeats.

Clairvoyance is a faculty that requires training in order to be able to use it as our normal sensory perception: one needs to be able to interpret the images and what one perceives. Often this is not the case, and it is only a partially developed faculty, leading to strange descriptions and visions.


  • the faculty of incarnate clairvoyance whereby the astral senses (imagination, astral world) are used for inner reading of the cosmic wisdom of the solar system, using our own etheric and physical bodies as a reflector of the spiritual reality. During incarnation Man uses
    • his etheric body as a gateway to read the cosmic knowledge of the lower mental world (as in the plant world), and
    • the physical body to hear the higher mental world (as in the world of the minerals)
    • See 1914-10-04/5/6-GA156 - see also Q00.007 as well as - for comparative purposes - the process underlying Waking consciousness
  • the principles explained in GA156 can be compared how the process during sleep is described, whereby Man's I and astral body use the astral senses called Heart-eye and Sun-eye to observe reflections in the etheric and physical bodies. (1922-08-30-GA224 on Process of waking and sleeping
  • development of the clairvoyance through the astral senses: development of the chakras, when all petals are developed the chakra starts rotating and Man becomes clairvoyant
  • three forms of clairvoyance: head, heart and stomach (1915-03-27-GA161 and 1915-05-01-GA161)
  • ancient old european clairvoyance and its remnants if Man dives back from waking consciousness in the layers of subconscious into the astral body (vision), etheric body (foreboding or prescience), and physical body (1909-05-01-GA057)
  • various well-known historical personalities with clairvoyant capabilities
  • quote by Christ Jesus (John 8:32): "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (1909-05-01-GA057)


Schema FMC00.325 connects the stages of clairvoyance to the enabled and rotating lotus flowers or chakras.


Lecture coverage and references

Marcel Proust in 'La Prisonnière' (1923), the fifth volume of the seven volume 'Remembrance of Things Past' (also known as) 'In Search of Lost Time':

The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

to quote more fully from the original source:

A pair of wings, a different respiratory system, which enabled us to travel through space, would in no way help us, for if we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe everything we could see in the same aspect as the things of the Earth. The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of the is.

1909-05-01-GA057 gives a sketch of old European clairvoyance

Which are the inheritances of the old clairvoyant state of humanity?

We can distinguish two categories there.

  • One stands, as it were, completely for itself and belongs to the divine heirlooms. This is the dream and the dream experiences.
  • The other remainder belongs to another category. The dream is not changed by the human beings but by the ongoing development itself. The other heirlooms are vision, foreboding, and deuteroscopy or the 'second face'.

... [after describing the dreams] ..

The three other remainders are different: vision, foreboding and deuteroscopy or the 'second face'. If you remember the whole development of the human being as it was often shown here, it presents itself in such a way: the human being, as he faces us today, consists of four members: the physical, etheric, astral bodies, and the I. The I is the last developmental member, and by ascending to the I, the human being has become a self-conscious being.

When did the human being have this picture consciousness? He had it, when his I still slumbered in the astral body, when the astral body itself was the carrier of consciousness. It was the astral body, which let these pictures ascend and descend. It is as if the human being emerged from the astral body and attained his modern object consciousness thereby. That explains also, why the human being had to be connected even deeper with the other members of his nature. As well as he had disappeared into the astral body in former times, he had disappeared into the etheric body and even deeper into the physical body. We have three stages of subconsciousness below the modern object consciousness.

Imagine a human being swimming under the surface of the sea, within the sea. He is able to see what is in the sea. He sees what proceeds in the seabed, what happens there, what swims or hovers there. There he has something around himself that is different from that condition when he comes up, looks up, and sees the star-spangled heaven. We can imagine the object consciousness, raised from its lower states, where the human being appreciated what astral, etheric, and physical bodies have provided to him. However, the human being is now able to submerge in certain anomalous cases again in this sea of subconsciousness. He is able to resort to it in such a way that he again takes down what he had already attained after he had emerged from the sea of subconsciousness.

Imagine a human being who has seen everything above submerges again and can now compare all that he perceives below to that what he knows from above. That applies to the modern human being: he takes that along which he has acquired above. It is not in such a way as it is with a diver who takes everything along only in memory and can compare it. To someone who submerges there, after he has been a present human being, all that is below colours with that which he has above experience. One brings along the above experienced into this subconsciousness and thereby one gets no pure image, a clouded picture, but a picture that the experiences of the object consciousness have clouded.

If the human being submerges in his astral body, he puts himself artificially back in the sphere that his consciousness took when he still lived in the astral body. The vision originates in the present sense that way. If he descended in the consciousness of the astral body without knowing anything about the modern world, he would really experience those pictures, which show the inside of the objects. Because he takes that along which he has experienced above, all things, which would appear to him in their true forms otherwise, lead him to believe in that what one can experience only here in the world of the concrete. This is the true and the delusive side of vision.

If anybody descends into the world of vision, he can always be sure that there are reasons that lie in the mental environment. However, it is sure also, that that which faces him as a vision is jugglery, that the true figures of the things do not reveal themselves to him, but are after-images of that which is seen in the upper world. That is why the visions of the human being appear mostly in such a way that they indicate what just the human beings experience in the present. One can check this until the details, even from decade to decade.

Imagine a human being submerging in that world in a time in which there was still no telegraph and no telephone. There he would also have seen no telegraph and no telephone in the underworld. However, the vision of telegraphs and telephones will become more and more frequent in our time. Hence, it also happens that a devout Catholic, who has often seen the Madonna in that figure as the object consciousness faces it, if he descends, takes this picture along and it appears to him in the vision. As a rule, those who are not devout Catholics do also not experience the Madonna in their visions. What one sees in the vision does not correspond to reality; but the human being has only taken down what dresses itself as reality. He carries down in this world what he has experienced here. We see that, indeed, the human being tinges his vision in certain ways.

If Man submerges back in the etheric body, he experiences what one calls foreboding or prescience. However, here it is even more dangerous because this state of consciousness is even more distant. There the human being is interwoven with all intertwined threads of existence from which he ascended to his self-consciousness, but he cannot figure the threads out really. Keep in mind how little the human beings survey the connections which are round them. They give thought to a small part of the world, to cause and effect, but they forget that the whole world with its circumference is intensely networked.

The human being is lifted out of all that, he surveys, as it were, an island, but this island is connected with the whole universe. In his etheric body, the human being is connected with the universe. If he descended in his etheric body, without bringing anything of the bright day consciousness with him, then he would see the germ of something that only will happen, we say, in ten years. Now you can imagine that he brings down his intellect with him. He brings his little intellect down with him. What appears as foreboding is thereby already corrupted. If the foreboding appears natural, it mostly has — as well as the vision — no big objective value.

However, when the human being disappears in the depths of the physical body, the foreboding can change over to penetrating the space. While the foreboding is still connected with time, deuteroscopy, the 'second face' can show what cannot be perceived with physical eyes. The pictures present themselves to the human being like a Fata Morgana. Anomalous phenomena, as Swedenborg reported them, for example, belong to it. You can learn from this that in the psychological field the delusions are even bigger, and nothing is to be accepted unverified.


The human being will learn by spiritual science to behold on a higher level, with free consciousness, in the spiritual world what once the initiate beheld. The human being has descended from the spiritual world as a being living in his subconsciousness to get his self-consciousness in the sensuous world. He will ascend again to the supersensible world with his self-consciousness.

The old clairvoyance was not his clairvoyance, but it was instilled into him by other beings. The clairvoyance that the human being acquires in the future is a self-conscious I-filled clairvoyance. A quotation by Christ Jesus applies to it best of all. While Christ Jesus pointed to the connection between truth and freedom, he looked at a distant future; and to this future his quotation (John 8:32) points:

"you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"

1915-03-27-GA161 three forms of clairvoyance: head, heart and stomach

Indeed, we feel, as soon as the threshold of the spiritual world is crossed, that we really enter with the whole of our being into three worlds. And we must not lose sight of the fact that after crossing this threshold, we have distinctly the experience of three worlds. In reality, we already belong to three worlds through the whole formation of our physical body. I might say that the co-operation of three worlds, which are relatively strongly independent of one another, is necessary for this wonderful structure ‘man’ which we encounter in the physical world.

  • And if we consider the formation of our head, the formation of everything that belongs to the head, we must, even if we are merely speaking of the physical head, be clear that the formative forces of our head, and also the beings active and creative in these formative forces, belong to suite another world from that
  • of the formative forces of our breast, for instance, and the formative forces of everything belonging to our heart, inclusive of the arms and hands. It is to a certain extent as if the formative forces of these material parts of man belonged to quite another world than the formative forces of his head.
  • And again, the organs of the lower body and the legs belong to quite another world than the two other members we have named.

Now you can ask: What significance has all this? It has a great significance, for fundamentally speaking, in our present cycle of humanity, one only gets the pure, true and real results from spiritual science if the soul and spirit-nature is raised out of the head. So that this (re diagram) is to some extent the clairvoyant aspect of a man, which, seen from the spiritual-scientific point of view has to be so regarded, that the spirit-soul part is here seen to be especially lifted out, and is at the same time, joined to the forces of the cosmos, as if by a spiritual electric attraction.

Thus all the parts a man — the I and astral body down to the etheric body, must be drawn out. This withdrawal is of course connected with the evolution of the so-called Lotus-flowers. But the forces which set the lotus-flowers in motion lie in this part of the spirit-soul nature of man which is, or can be withdrawn.

  • The clairvoyance thus attained is a head-clairvoyance, and this can be a result of spiritual science in our time, for the revelations of head-clairvoyance are of service to humanity.
  • Of a quite other kind is the clairvoyant results attained by raising the spirit-soul nature of the organ of the heart, arms and hands. This raising or up-lifting of these organs distinguishes itself inwardly and significantly from what takes place through what I might call head-clairvoyance.


  • The up-lifting of the material heart-organ is brought about more through meditation which is related to the life of will; it is effected through humble surrender to the march of events.
  • Whereas head-clairvoyance is effected more through thoughts, but also through ideas having an imaginative character, tinged with feeling.

It is generally the case that with reference to these two kinds of clairvoyance, the heart or breast-clairvoyance develops along with head-clairvoyance in the degree to which it should.

  • Breast-clairvoyance leads more to the development of the will, to a connection with the actions of spiritual beings of the lower hierarchies, such as those incorporated in the various kingdoms of the earth;
  • whereas head-clairvoyance leads more to vision, knowledge, perception in those higher worlds, in the sense that knowledge of these higher powers is necessary for the satisfaction of certain needs of knowledge, which must appear ever more and more in present humanity.

The more we approach the future of our evolution on earth, the less will humanity be able to live, without their soul-life drying up, if they do not receive into their cognition the results of this clairvoyance.

  • Again a third kind of clairvoyance is that which arises, when what we call the spiritual-psychic part of man is loosened, and thus raised out of the rest of his being. Here in the lower part of the diagram I indicate the outward thrusting tendency. Even if the expression is not altogether aesthetic, yet I may perhaps venture to call this kind of clairvoyance, ‘stomach clairvoyance.’ Whereas head-clairvoyance, for our cycle of humanity, leads in the most eminent sense to the attainment of results independent of man, stomach-clairvoyance leads to results connected especially with What transpires in man himself. That which takes place in man himself must naturally also be an object of investigation. In the sphere of physical investigation, there are also men who occupy themselves with anatomy and physiology. We should not think that this stomach-clairvoyance has not a certain value, in the highest sense of the word. It naturally has a value. But one must realize, that stomach clairvoyance can inform man but little of that which occurs impersonally in cosmic events; but that it informs him essentially about what man is, of what goes on - I might say - inside his skin.

With reference to what is moral and ethical, head-clairvoyance is relatively the most important. Hence I must ever speak of its opposites. Between the two stands breast-clairvoyance; between that of the head and of the stomach. As regards what is ethical, these two can be inwardly quite well distinguished. People who strive to come to a perception of higher worlds, in an impersonal way, as indicated in my book 'Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (KHW), those who are not daunted at traveling this uncomfortable but secure path, will develop something impersonal in themselves, with reference to their clairvoyance, above all they will develop a high interest for objective world-knowledge, for what occurs in the world of cosmic and of historical events.

This head-clairvoyance speaks preferably of man himself, especially in that it draws attention to how he is placed within the process of cosmic and historical development, it notes what man himself is in the entirety of this cosmic process: What arises as head-clairvoyance will always have what I must call a universal scientific character; it will contain information which has importance — I beg you to note this word — for all mankind, not merely for one man or another.

Stomach-clairvoyance will be permeated especially with all kinds of human egoism, and will very easily mislead the clairvoyant in question to occupy himself much with the occult bases of his own destiny, of his personal worth and character. This results as a self-understood tendency from what is called stomach-clairvoyance.

1915-05-01-GA161 continues after 1915-03-27-GA161 on three forms of clairvoyance: head, heart and stomach

Historical personalities with clairvoyant faculties

The states of clairvoyance of Boehme, Paracelsus and Swedenborg are compared in 1923-08-25-GA227, 1923-08-26-GA227, 1923-09-15-GA228. More on Swedenborg in 1915-09-14-GA253.

Prophecies of Nostradamus and Tycho Brahe are discussed in 1911-11-09-GA061.

Also John, Luke, Matthew, Mark wrote the gospels based on clairvoyant perception. Paul and John had the highest level of intuitive clairvoyance.



In painting see the work by Hieronymus Bosch or modern artists such as Hilma af Klint. Also look into the development of work by Mondriaan, Kandinsky and Picasso. Rudolf Steiner often takes quotes from Goethe's Faust to point to the supersensible realities they describe, see eg the concept of the Golden Chain.

Similarly it is known that classical composers such as Beethoven or Schubert received music themes by intuition, something one can also observe in improvisation as described by eg Keith Jarrett.


Certain important scientific discoveries are known to have been triggered by visions (awake or in dreams), eg August Kekulé's benzene as the foundation of organic chemistry.

Other aspects

The borderline of consciousness includes experiences such as syncronicity and premonitions.

Contemporary societal impact

The contemporary worldview based on mineral science maps to the mainstream state of sensory consciousness, and modern mainstream media such as wikipedia therefore categorize all that does not belong in that worldview as pseudo-science or even total nonsensical. Though that may be perfectly consequent, it does not offer appreciation for the higher sensory perception but basically treats it as non-existant. As a consequence, information and sources that do not fit that chosen subset of reality are sometimes treated rather unrespectfully. Similar positions are taken by official instances and governmental institutions representative of and representing the majority of the population.

Related pages

References and further reading

  • anonymous (probably Cyril Scott): 'The Boy Who Saw True' (1953)