Threefold Sun

From Anthroposophy

Contemporary science regards Sun as a star in the center of our solar system, a physical body and sort of a huge nuclear plant where nuclear fission of matter takes place.

Ancient cultures, more correctly, saw the Sun as a divine being with three aspects: a source of light, life force, and love, hence the threefold Sun.

The three aspects in more depth:

  • for contemporary mineral science, the physical Sun gives light and energy, warmth .. as Man experiences with current physical sense or waking consciousness. This physical sun is a gaseous body in the element air, which corresponds to the body of Christ who detached himself into a body in element air during the Old Sun stage. (1911-08-26-GA129)
  • the spiritual Sun is the source of the higher ethers, invisible to Man, the life force contained in the sunlight that gives life to all living things; and this is also the 'I'-engendering Sun, the origin of the I thanks the Spirits of Form who have their 'dwelling' on this spiritual Sun
  • the sun is however also the source of the spiritual essence of the cosmos: universal goodness or spiritual love. This third, still-more-spiritual Sun is the Christ principle, as the mediator of the highest spiritual forces, which unites the outer Sun forces with the inner Sun forces in Man since the Mystery of Golgotha (MoG). It is what human beings can experience within themselves as their higher spiritual Self when they truly comprehend the statement of Paul: "Not I, but Christ in me." With I.C.M. is meant exactly that Man unites with this Christ force, which is a latent buddhi spark in Man since the MoG.


Schema FMC00.267 provides a summary table from E. Vreede's letter from Dec. 1927


Schema FMC00.139 is an illustration by the clairvoyant Johanna von Keyserlingk. Some of her esoteric conversations with Rudolf Steiner are published in 'Birth of a new agriculture' (1999), see extract below.


Schema FMC00.266 shows (see 1920-12-18-GA202 below) how the spiritual Sun [1] works on Earth and Man [2], but that Man radiates this morality out into the cosmos [3], and after a certain distance is reflected: "the physical sun is only the seemingly physical appearance of a spiritual mirroring" [4]. For this radiating out [3], see also: Christ Module 7 - Cosmic dimension

Lecture coverage and references

1911-08-26-GA129 - see quote on Sun

1913-05-18-GA266/3 extract

from record A (SWCC)

First of all, there are two Suns: the physical Sun that enlivens the physical Earth through its rays of light and warmth, and the spiritual Sun that gives us the 'I'. From the spiritual Sun forces, human beings receive the 'I'-force - the consciousness of self that unites with the Moon forces, and so on - in order to bring about the whole being of the human being.

Then we must grasp a third Sun, namely the mediator of the highest spiritual forces, which unites the outer Sun forces with the inner Sun forces, and which sends its forces of grace onto the Earth, and has ever since the Mystery of Golgotha took place. This spiritual Sun is the Christ principle: it is what human beings can experience within themselves when they truly comprehend the statement of Paul: "Not I, but Christ in me." (Galatians 2:20).

This third Sun was always revealed to the candidate for initiation in the centers of Christian initiation. It was a great tragedy that Julian the Apostate (331-363), who knew about this third Sun, could not inwardly experience it completely.

from record B

.. the "I" takes hold of and grasps itself in our memory. High beings have given us the 'I' and memory. The 'I' grasping itself in the memory is like a letter that esotericists must learn, and which the gods have written in cosmic space.

The high beings who bring the 'I' have their dwelling on the Sun; they give us what goes from incarna­tion to incarnation. We received our physical bodies from forces that work down through the generations, and these forces work upon us from a circle inscribed by the Moon orbit. What goes thus from generation to generation is like a second letter. We can draw this schematically. We will draw the 'I', which becomes conscious in the memory as a point. Around this we draw a circle as the orbit of the Moon.


From the Sun, we receive the forces that strengthen our 'I'. We should not just passively observe the Sun, but allow the thought to arise: Oh, you magnificent cosmic body! Through you—through your Sun forces of grace—I received my 'I' and all the forces that are connected with it. In all-filled reverence, I thank you! We can draw the Sun forces as a second circle.


Between the collaboration of Mars and Venus is the Sun circle of the third Sun. All the Mysteries have talked about this third Sun.

  • The first [Sun] is the creative physical one that sends us its warming rays.
  • The second stands behind the physical Sun and is the spiritual Sun which bestows the I upon us.
  • The third Sun is the high bearer of the Christ principle: the Christ who grants us, with his Sun forces of grace, the higher 'I'. Since the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, a connection goes from this third Sun to the Earth. It is the Sun of which Paul spoke: "Not I, but Christ in me." It is the Christ, whom every human being can receive since [the Mystery of Golgotha]. This third Sun became manifest to the candidate during the Christian initiation. The tragic fate of Julian the Apostate is that he knew of the third Sun and could not identify it with Christ.

from record C

Let us consider such an esoteric script sign. We must first of all regard the human being as a conscious I, established in a 'self'. All human beings possess the ability to remember back to a certain point. This occurs because they are conscious of their 'I'.


We strengthen 'I'-consciousness when we bring interest to all things that confront us in the outer world. ... We may not become indifferent toward the things and facts around us; we should take everything in. ... We should look at and pay attention to everything—which includes what we don't like or find interesting. Through this the I-consciousness is increasingly strengthened.

Let us imagine that this 'I' established itself as this point in cosmic space: In order for such an 'I' to experience itself and become active in the physical body, forces must be involved. These forces can be imagined as the circle around the point O.


And when love intensifies more and more in the human soul, this love becomes warmth that flows down to us from Saturn. Between Mars and Venus is the Sun, yet not just one Sun but a threefold Sun: a physical Sun; a spiritual Sun behind the physical; and a still more spiritual Sun that we call the Christ.


As esotericists, when we see the sunlight we no longer see just the physical Sun. We know that without the sunlight, we could not feel ourselves as an I: the sunlight also contains the force which brings about the I. .. and behind the physical Sun, and the 'I'-engendering Sun, there is yet a third Sun. This is the Christ-force with which we unite ourselves: I.C.M.


.. .. the Greeks reverenced Apollo, the reflection of the Nathan Jesus-child as he had been at the end of the Atlantean time. It was out of the Hyperborean land, from the North, that Apollo came to the Oracle at Delphi. Through the Pythia, in summer, he spoke the most important things that the Greeks wished to hear. In the autumn he returned to his Hyperborean land. We connected this journey of Apollo with the journeys of the sun; but it is the spiritual sun that speaks through Apollo, and the spiritual sun goes away to the north, while the physical sun goes to the south. The myths are seen to be endlessly full of wisdom if they are considered in the light of true occultism. But in revering Apollo the Greeks did not look on the sun as his visible sign in the heavens; Apollo was not a sun god in this sense. For a god symbolised by the external sun the Greeks had Helios; it was he who regulated the course of the sun in the sky.

Even if we take only the physical sun into account, we find that its influence on earth-life is not confined to the direct effects of its rays. The sun works in the first place through air and water and water-vapour, and so through the vapours which (as we have seen) rise from the site of the Castalian spring and coil round the neighbouring hillsides like a dragon — the dragon killed by the Greek St. George. The sun works in all the elements, and after it has worked into them, inoculated them, its activity plays out from them on to human beings, through the servants whom we call elemental spirits. In the elements the Sun-Spirit is actively alive, and this is the activity the Greeks saw in their Apollo.

Thus for the Greeks Apollo was a sun god, but not the Helios who drove the chariot of the sun across the heavens and to some extent regulated the times of the day. In Apollo the Greeks saw the sun's activity in the atmosphere, and this activity they addressed as Apollo when they addressed it spiritually.

1918-08-24-GA183 - threefold sun mystery of ancient times, eg in Greece

  • spiritual essence is the universal goodness of the world and cosmos, love
  • soul aspect (Helios)
  • physical: light and energy

1920-12-18-GA202 - spiritual and physical sun

Then a time arrived when the heavenly bodies were seen as purely physical entities orbiting or standing still in accordance with mathe­matical laws, attracting and repulsing each other and so on. Yet a knowledge—more instinctive in ancient times—of how things really are was retained through all eras.  We are now in a period when instinctive knowledge is not sufficient, and full awareness is required to grasp things that were once known instinctively.

And if we ask how those who had full vision of the universe, that is, physical, soul and spiritual vision, pictured the sun, we can roughly state that they conceived it as a spirit being [1]. Initiates conceived this spirit being as the source of all morality. And when I said in The Philosophy of Freedom that moral intuitions are drawn from this source, they are drawn in fact from within the earth and shimmer forth from human beings—from what can live in us as moral inspiration [2].

How greatly is our sense of responsibility enhanced if we know that without people on the earth, who can kindle authentic morality or glowing spiritual ideals in their soul, the human race would not aid our world's further evolution. Rather than working towards a new creation,they would help the world to die away.

This power of radiance present upon earth [3] works out into the universe, so that what lives as morality in us shines out - invisibly initially for ordinary human perception.

If a sad age dawned across the globe when millions and millions of people passed their days devoid of spirituality - in which I included morality, which is indeed part of it - the earth would however still shine out in solar, spiritual radiance if only a dozen people still possessed lucid moral and spiritual enthusiasm.

What shines out in this way only does so for a certain distance, where it is then reflected back upon itself, thus mirroring what shines out from the human being.

Initiates of all ages have seen this mirroring as the sun. You see, there is nothing physical there: whereas mainstream astronomy speaks of a glowing ball of gas, in fact the sun is only the seemingly physical appearance of a spiritual mirroring [4].

You can therefore see how far removed the Copernican world-view was from initiation mysteries, how far removed from them even was ancient astrology. Huge power was possessed by those who considered such truths dangerous for the common populace to know about, not wishing them to be publicized.

We can get a sense of this in the fate of an idealist such as Julian who was given the epithet of 'Apostate'. He wanted to make these secrets more widely known, and was then killed by subversive means.

There are certainly reasons why some secret societies refuse to share universal truths with the world, since this allows them to wield power. If, in emperor Julian's time, certain secret societies had him killed, it is scarcely surprising if the guardians of particular secrets—who keep these secrets to themselves and wish to safeguard them from public knowledge in order to enlarge their power—hate it when even the least of such secrets are disclosed. And here we find part of the deeper reason why such dire hatred raises its head against what the science of the spirit feels its duty to teach humanity in our modern era. But we live now in a period when either earthly civilization will go under, or when, alternatively, humanity is given access to certain secrets. These things have hitherto been safeguarded as secrets, to which humanity once had access through instinctive clairvoyance. But they must now be reacquired through fully conscious vision not only of the physical world but also of the spirit within it.

What did Julian the Apostate really want?

He sought to awaken people to the fact that they had become increasingly accustomed to seeing the sun as only a physical entity, but that a spiritual sun exists of which the physical sun is only a reflection. In his own way he wanted to impart the secret of Christ to the world.

But there are powers that seek to conceal the connection between Christ, the spiritual sun, and the physical sun. And this is why certain figures in positions of power become most furious of all when anyone discloses the secret of Christ in relation to the secret of the sun. This leads to all kinds of slander. But the science of the spirit is an important matter in our present age, and only if we understand this, will we give it the full and serious attention it deserves.

In GA211 is the lecture: 'Die dreifache Sonne und der auferstandene Christus.' 1922-04-22-GA211 (or1922-04-24-GA211) the threefold sun (oa eating bread as a symbol of the spiritual forces of the sun in earthly food, read: the higher ethers, life power)

When we come to the age of Greece, we find that by the eighth, seventh, fifth century before the Mystery of Golgotha, man had lost all power of looking into the Mysteries of the Sun, he could see only the effect of the Sun's influence in the environment or the Earth. Man beheld the working of the Sun in the ether that fills all the space around the Earth. And this ether, that spreads out around the Earth and permeates also man himself, the Greek initiates — not the people generally, but the initiates — called Zeus.

There have been then these three stages in the cultural evolution of mankind. First there was the stage when the initiates beheld in the Sun a Divine-Spiritual Being; then came a second stage, when the initiates beheld the Sun's forces that are working there; and finally a third stage, when the initiates beheld only the influence of the Sun Being in the Earth's ether. Now, there was in a later time a man who came as near to the teachings of initiation as it was possible to come in the time in which he lived, and who was acquainted with the teaching of these three aspects of the Sun — the aspect of the Sun according to Zarathustra, the aspect of the Sun that is associated with Osiris, and the aspect of the Sun as seen and understood by Pythagoras and Anaxagoras. I refer to Julian the Apostate. Julian the Apostate was not able himself to behold the Sun in all three aspects, but he knew of the teaching; he knew it as a tradition that had come down in the Mystery Schools. And so impressed was Julian the Apostate by this teaching of the three aspects of the Sun that to him that which Christianity brought seemed small in comparison. ...

.. A study of history can, however, bring to light something else in this connection, that is of very great significance. A good deal of this threefold teaching of Zarathustra, Osiris, and Anaxagoras

  • the teaching of the spiritual Sun; of
  • the elemental Sun; and of
  • Zeus, the Sun-flooded ether environment of the Earth — found its way into the external exoteric culture of Greece


Johanna von Keyserlingk talks about a conversations with Rudolf Steiner:

We know that at the moment when Christ's blood flowed down onto the earth at Golgotha a new sun-globe was born in the earth's interior.

My search had always been directed to the study of the earth's depths, for I had seen a golden kernel light up within the earth—named by Ptolemy the primeval sun. These golden depths I could only connect with that land which Rudolf Steiner said had been hidden from the sight of man, and that Christ would open the gates in order to lead those who seek for it to the submerged fairy-tale land of Shamb-halla, of which the Indians dream.

I asked him what substance kept the primeval fire alight, for where there is fire there must first be substance, and so the primeval fire is not the beginning which produces original life out of itself.

Rudolf Steiner replied: `No, it is different—it is not so in this case. On earth there has to be material for fire to bum. But the primeval fire burns spontaneously, it is its own sub-stance and Being! Substance only came later and was added to the Fire.'

I: 'Then is the primeval sun of Ptolemy, which he perceived in the centre of the earth as the creative ground of the world, the golden fairyland Shambhalla?'

Rudolf Steiner: 'Yes—and midnight conceals it.'


I: 'And is the interior of the earth made out of that gold which comes from the hollow cavity in the sun and which is destined to return there?'

Rudolf Steiner: 'Yes, the interior of the earth is of gold.'

Central fire

Carl Huffman in 'Philolaus and the central fire' (2008) writes:

Philolaus' decision to posit an unobserved and unobservable central fire in the middle of the cosmos is one of the most puzzling moments in early Greek cosmology. The consequences of this were, eventually, epoch making. ... .. Note Aristotle does not assign the central-fire cosmology to Philolaus by name but rather to the Pythagoreans as a group. His pupil Theophrastus however later did assign this cosmology to Philolous and no one else.

Philolaus (470-385 BC), a Pythagorean philosopher and regarded by some as his successor, did away with the ideas of fixed direction in space, and developed one of the first non-geocentric views of the universe. His new way of thinking quite literally revolved around a hypothetical astronomical object he called the Central Fire. Joannes Stobaeus (5th century AD) gives the following account

Philolaus says that there is fire in the middle at the centre [...] and again more fire at the highest point and surrounding everything. By nature the middle is first, and around it dance ten divine bodies—the sky, the planets, then the sun, next the moon, next the earth, next the counterearth, and after all of them the fire of the hearth which holds position at the centre. The highest part of the surrounding, where the elements are found in their purity, he calls Olympus; the regions beneath the orbit of Olympus, where are the five planets with the sun and the moon, he calls the world; the part under them, being beneath the moon and around the earth, in which are found generation and change, he calls the sky.

In Philolaus's system a sphere of the fixed stars, the five planets, the Sun, Moon and Earth, all moved round his Central Fire. According to Aristotle writing in Metaphysics, Philolaus added a tenth unseen body, he called Counter-Earth, as without it there would be only nine revolving bodies, and the Pythagorean number theory required a tenth.

Nearly two-thousand years later Nicolaus Copernicus would mention in De revolutionibus that Philolaus already knew about the Earth's revolution around a central fire.


The Mystery of Golgotha and Christ as the center of a new cosmos of love

Various worldviews put the center of the cosmos in different places (re Pythagoras, Ptolemaeus and Copernicus). If we put a Sun as the center, than we can picture all three Suns in the drawing of Schema FMC00.139. Whereas we can see the physical, or spiritual Sun at the center .. the true future of the cosmos is to see the Christ principle, from the Mystery of Golgotha onwards, at the center of a new start and a new beginning. See Christ Modules 7, 11 and 12 (links below under 'related pages'). whereby Module 7 discusses this new beginning.

Related pages

References and further reading

  • anthrowiki page for the threefold sun
  • Elisabeth Vreede: Astronomy and Spiritual Science
  • Joachim Schultz: Rhythmen der Sterne
    • Die drei Sonnen und die Zeitgleichung (p 55-61 in 1977 edition)