Steiner on Elementals

Nature Spirits or Elementals

Steiner does not generally describe the elementals in connection with man, he prefer a more mental view through the powers of Lucifer and Ahriman, but in “The Spiritual Hierarchies” he gives a deep description of Elementals and Man, which are compatible with Daskalos, but on a deeper level:

Let me show you an example of the difficulty there is in understanding writings which come down to us from that primeval wisdom. It is an example out of the Song Celestial, the Bhagavad Gita, where a sentence throws a very significant light on the connection between human life and the hierarchies. It is the following: (8th Chap. beginning with 23rd verse)

`I will explain unto thee, oh man seeking for truth’ [it is thus generally translated] `under what circumstances those who know the Eternal leave the earth through the gate of death, to be later reborn or not.
I will tell thee: Behold the fire, behold the day, behold the time of the waning moon, behold the half year when the sun is high — those who die at that time, who die in fire, in the day, in the time of the waxing moon, those enter through the gates of death into Brahma, but those who the in the sign of the smoke, in the night, when the moon is waning, in the half year when the sun stands low, these when they leave the world and pass through the gates of death enter only into the light of the moon, and return again to the world.’ Lecture 1 

This is not easy to decipher but Steiner uses it as an entry into the question of the Elementals.

Let us imagine that we reduce air to a watery condition. Air itself is nothing but solidified warmth, densified warmth in which smoke has been formed. The spiritual part which really wanted to be in the fire has been bewitched into smoke. Spiritual beings, which are also called elementals, are bewitched in all air, and will even be bewitched, banished, so to speak, to a lower existence, when air is changed into water. Hence spiritual science sees in everything that is outwardly perceptible something that has proceeded from an original condition of fire or warmth and which has turned into air, smoke, or gas, when the warmth began to condense into gas, gas into liquid, liquid into solid. `Look backwards,’ says the spiritual scientist, look at any solid substance. That solidity was once liquid, it is only in the course of evolution that it has become solid and the liquid was once upon a time gaseous and the gaseous formed itself as smoke, out of the fire. But a transmutation, a bewitching of spiritual being is always connected with these processes of condensation and with the formation of gases and solids.

Let us now look around at our world: we see solid rocks, flowing streams of water, we see the water changing into rising mist: we see the air, we see all the solid, liquid, gaseous things and we see fire, so that at the foundation of all things we have nothing but fire. All is fire — solidified fire: gold, silver, copper, are solidified fire. All things were once upon a time fire; everything has been born out of fire. But in all that solidified realm, some bewitched spirits are dwelling.

How are those spiritual, divine beings who surround us able to produce solid matter as it is on our planet — to produce liquids, and air substances? They send down their elemental spirits, those which live in the fire: they imprison them in air, in water and in earth. These are the emissaries, the elemental emissaries of the spiritual, creative, building beings. The elemental spirits first enter into fire. In fire they still feel comfortable — if we care to express it by images — and then they are condemned to a life of bewitchment. We can say looking around us: `These beings, whom we have to thank for all the things that surround us, had to come down out of the fire-element; they are bewitched in those things.’

Can we as men do anything to help those elemental spirits? This is the great question which was put by the Holy Rishis. Can we do anything to release, to redeem, all that is here, bewitched? Yes! We can help them. Because what we men do here in the physical world is nothing else than an outward expression of spiritual processes. All we do is also of importance for the spiritual world. Let us consider the following. A man stands in front of a crystal, or a lump of gold, or anything of that kind. He looks at it. What happens when a man simply gazes, simply stares with his physical eye upon some outer object? A continual interplay occurs between the man and the bewitched elemental spirits. The man and that which is bewitched in the substance have something to do with each other. Let us suppose that the man only stares at the object and takes in only what is impressed on his physical eye. Something is always passing from the elemental being into the man. Something from those bewitched elementals passes continually into the man, from morning till night. While you are thus regarding objects, hosts of these elemental beings, who were and are being continually bewitched through the world-processes of condensation, are continually entering from your surroundings into you. Let us take it that the man staring at the objects has no inclination whatever to think about those objects, no inclination to let the spirit of things live in his soul. He lives comfortably, merely passes through the world, but he does not work on it spiritually, with his ideas or feelings or in any such way. He remains simply a spectator of the material things he meets with in the world. Then these elemental spirits pass into him and remain there, having gained nothing from the world’s process, but the fact of having passed from the outer world into man. Let us take another kind of man, one who works spiritually on the impressions he receives from the outer world, who with his understanding and ideas forms conceptions regarding the spiritual foundations of the world, one who does not simply stare at a metal, but ponders over its nature and feels the beauty which inspires and spiritualises his impressions. What does such a man do? Through his own spiritual process, he releases the elemental being which has streamed into him from the outer world; he raises it to what it was before, he frees the elemental from its state of enchantment. Thus, through our own spiritual life, we can, without changing them, either imprison within us those spirits which are bewitched in air, water and earth, or else through our own increasing spirituality, free them and lead them back to their own element. During the whole of his earthly life, man lets those elemental spirits stream into him from the outer world. In the same measure in which he only stares at things, in the same measure in which he simply lets the spirit dwell in him without transforming them, so, in like measure as he tries with his ideas, conceptions and feeling for beauty to work out spiritually what he sees in the outer world, does he release and redeem those spiritual elemental beings.

Now what happens to those elemental beings which, having come out of things, enter into man? They remain at first within him. Also those which are released at first remain, but they stay only until his death. When the man passes through death a differentiation takes place between those elemental beings which have simply passed into him and which he had not led back to their higher element, and those whom he has through his own spiritualisation led back to their former condition. Those whom the man has not changed have not gained anything from their passage from the outer world into him, but others have gained the possibility of returning to their own original world with the man’s death. During his life man is a place of transition for these elemental beings. When he has passed through the spiritual world and returns to earth in his next incarnation, all the elemental beings which he has not released during his former life flock into him again when he passes through the portals of his new birth, they return with him into the physical world; but those he has released he does not bring back with him for they have returned into their original element.

Now we have explained one part of that profound sentence from the Bhagavad Gita of which I spoke in my last lecture. It does not speak here at all of the human Ego,  it speaks of those nature spirits, of these elemental beings which enter into man from the outer world, and it says there: `Behold the fire, behold the smoke, that which man through his spiritual processes turns into fire are spirits which he liberates with his death.’ That which he leaves as it is, in the smoke, must remain united to him at his death and must be reborn with him when he returns to earth. It is the destiny of the elemental spirits that is here described; through the wisdom which man develops, be continually liberates at his death these elemental spirits; through lack of wisdom, through the materialistic attachment to the mere things of the senses, he ties those elemental spirits to himself and forces them to follow him into this world, ever to be born again with him.

But these elemental beings are not only associated with fire and with what is connected with fire, they are the emissaries of higher spiritual divine beings in all that takes place in the outer sense world. There never could have been that interplay of forces in the world that produce the day and the night, for instance, if numbers of such elemental being had not worked suitably at the rotation of the planet through the universe, so that precisely this interchange of day and night could come about. All that takes place is the result of the activity of hosts of lower and higher spiritual entities belonging to the spiritual hierarchies. We have been speaking of the lowest order, of the messengers. When night becomes day and day night, elemental beings live also in that process, and so it is that man stands in an intimate relationship with the beings of the elemental world which have to take part in working at the day and the night. When man is idle and lets himself go, he affect those elementals who have to do with the day and the night quite differently, than when he has creative force, when he is active, diligent, and productive. When a man is lazy for instance, he unites himself with a certain kind of elemental and he also does so when he is active, but in a particular way. Those elementals of the second class, just named, who are active during the day, are then in their higher element. As fire elementals, those of the first class, are bound in air water and earth, so certain elemental being are also tied to darkness; and day could not turn into night, day could not be divided from night, if these elementals were not so to speak imprisoned in night. That man is able to enjoy daylight, he has to thank divine spiritual beings who have driven forth elemental spirits and have chained them to the night-time. When man is lazy these elementals flow into him continually, but he leaves them as they are, unchanged. Those elemental spirits which at night are chained to darkness, he let through his idleness remain in the same state; those elemental who enter into him when he is active and industrious and filled. with working power, he leads back into daylight. Thus he continually releases these elementals of the second class.Throughout the whole of our lifetime we bear within us all those elemental spirits which have entered into us either during our hours of idleness or during those of active work. When we pass through the gates of death those beings whom we have led towards daylight can now return into the spirit world; those we have left chained to the night through our idleness, must return with us in our new incarnation. With this we arrive at the second point in theBhagavad Gita. Again it is not the human self, but those elemental beings which are indicated with the words: `Behold the day and the night. That which thou hast thyself released by turning it from a being of the night into a being of the day through thy diligence; that which comes forth out of the day enters when thou diest, into the higher world; that which thou takest with thee as beings of the night, thou forcest to reincarnate with thee again.’

And now you will see clearly how the matter proceeds. As it is with the phenomena of which we have just spoken, so it is on a larger scale with our month of 28 days, with the changes of the waxing and waning moon. Whole flocks of elemental beings have to come into activity to direct the motions of the moon so that our lunar periods can come about as they do with all the influences they bring with them upon our visible earth. For this purpose certain of the higher beings had again to be bewitched, doomed, chained. Clairvoyant vision sees how, with the waxing moon, spiritual beings of a lower kingdom ever rise into a higher. But, so that order should exist, other spiritual elemental beings must again be transformed into those of lower realms. There are also those elementals of a third realm who stand in relationship with men.When man is serene and bright, when he is pleased with the world, when he has feelings of gladness towards all things, he continually releases those beings which are chained to the waning moon. These beings enter into him and are continually set free, through his soul’s peaceful attitude, through his inner contentment, through his harmonious feelings and ideas towards the whole world. The beings which enter into man when he is sullen, peevish, morose, discontented with anything, when everything depresses him — when he is pessimistic — these spirits remain in the condition of bewitchment they were in at the time of the waning moon. Oh! There are men who through the harmonious condition of their soul, through the bright way they look upon the world, release and set free great numbers of these bewitched elemental beings. The man of harmonious and optimistic feelings and who feels inner satisfaction with the world, is a deliverer of elemental spiritual beings. The pessimist, he who is morose, sullen and discontented, becomes through his depression the gaoler of elemental spirits which could have been released by his cheerfulness. Thus you see that the conditions of mind and soul have not only a personal importance for this man, but also that he works either at the liberation or the imprisonment of spiritual beings; either deliverance or fetters proceed from him. The conditions of soul that a man experiences go out in all directions into the spiritual world. We have here the third point of that important teaching in the Bhagavad Gita`Behold what man does through the feelings and conditions of his soul, how he sets spirits free, as they are set free by the growing moon.’When the man dies, these released spirits can return to the spiritual world. If through his depression and hypochondriacal moods, he calls to him the elemental spirits which are around him, and then leaves them as they are, as they have to be in order to bring about the orderly courses of the moon, then these spirits remain chained to him and must reincarnate with him into this world.

And last of all we have a fourth degree of elemental spirits, those who have to work at the annual course of the sun, so that the summer sun may shine upon the earth to awaken and fructify it, so that spring can appear and be succeeded by autumn. In order that this may come to pass certain spirits must be fettered to winter-time, must be bewitched during the time of the winter sun. And man acts upon these spirits in the same way as we have described his acting on the other grades of spirits. Let us take man who at the beginning of winter says to himself: `The nights are getting longer, the days shorter, we come to that time of the sun’s yearly course when the sun withdraws his fructifying forces from the earth. The outer earth dies, but with this deadening of the earth I feel it my duty to be all the more spiritually awake. I must now take more and more of the spirit within me.’ Let us take a man who acquires a more and more religious mood appropriate to the season as Christmas comes on, who learns to know the significance of Christmas and to know also that when the outer world of the senses is dead the life of the spirit must now grow stronger. This man lives through winter until Easter. He remembers that with the awakening of the outer world is combined the death of the spiritual: he lives through the Easter festival comprehending its meaning. Such a man has not only an outer religion; he has religious understanding of the processes of nature, of the spirit which rules it; and through his piety, his spirituality, he releases numbers of that fourth class of elemental beings which continually stream in and out of him, which are connected with the course of the sun. But the man who is not pious in this sense, who denies or does not understand the spirit and is always muddling through a materialistic chaos, into him these elementals of the fourth class flow, but remain unchanged. At death it happens again: that these elemental spirits of the fourth degree are either set free in their own element, or else are bound to the man and have to return with him at his next incarnation. Thus, the man, who uniting with the winter spirits does not change them into summer spirits, does not redeem them through his spirituality, dooms them to rebirth, whereas they might have been freed and not have had to return with him. Behold the fire and the smoke! If you so unite with the outer world that the activity of your soul and spirit is like that of fire, from which smoke comes forth, so that you spiritualise things, through knowledge and through right feeling, you help certain spiritual elemental beings to rise; but if you unite with the smoke you condemn them to rebirth. If you associate yourself with the day, you then set free the corresponding spirits of day and so on. Behold the light! Behold the day! Behold the waxing of the moon and the sunny half of the year! If you act so that you lead the elemental spirits back to the light, to the day, to the waxing moon, to the summer-time of the year, you then at your death release these elementary spirits which are so necessary to you. They rise to the spiritual world.If you associate yourself with the smoke, if you only gaze at the solid things of the earth, if through laziness you unite yourself with the night and with the spirits of the waning moon, and if through your depression you unite yourself with those spirits who are chained to the winter sun, then through your lack of spirit, your godlessness, you condemn these elementary beings to be reincarnated with you again!

Now we know for the first time what this passage in the Bhagavad Gita really means. If anyone thinks that man is here spoken of, he does not understand the Bhagavad Gita; but those who know that all human life is a continual interplay between man and the spirits who live bewitched into our surroundings and who must be released again — those know that these sentences speak of the ascension or of the reincarnation of four groups of elemental beings. The mystery of this lowest kind of hierarchy has been preserved for us in these sentences in the Bhagavad Gita. Yes! When one has to bring forth out of primeval wisdom what is presented to us in the documents of ancient religion, one sees how grand these are and how wrong it is to understand them superficially and not in all their profundity. They are only considered in the right way when one says to oneself: `No wisdom is exalted enough to discover the mysteries herein contained.’ Only when these ancient documents are interpenetrated by the magic of real devotional feeling, do they become what in the true sense of the word they must be — self-ennobling and purifying forces for human evolution. They point frequently to fathomless abysses of human wisdom, and only when that which springs from the sources of the occult schools and the mysteries, streams forth from now on to all mankind, only then, will these reflections of the primeval wisdom (for they are but reflections) be seen in all their greatness. We have had to show, by means of a comparatively difficult example, how in the times of primeval wisdom the co-operation of all those spirits which are everywhere around us was well known, how it was also known that the deeds of men represent an interchanging activity between the spiritual world and the world of man’s own inner being. The problem of humanity first becomes important for us, when we know that in all we do, even in our moods, we influence a whole Cosmos, and that this small world of ours is of infinitely far-reaching importance for all that comes to pass in the macrocosm. An increase in our feeling of responsibility is the finest and most important of all the things we gain from spiritual science. It teaches us to grasp the true meaning of life and to realise its importance, so that this life which we cast on the stream of evolution may not enter that stream void of meaning.

If we live egoistically we reincarnate with four kinds of Elementals, which we will incarnate with again as Karma, but if we live spiritually sound we raise the elementals to a higher level, and they will be connected to our higher I not needing to incarnate.

The following quotes are taken from here.

What are the Ahrimanian Spirits?

The Luciferic spirits have reached a little longer than man, and is therefore a supersensible being, where Ahrimanic beings have reached nearly as long as man, and is therefore a subsensible being. The following texts from Rudolf Steiner will illustrate it:

  • The Ahrimanic impulse proceeds from a supersensible Being different from the Being of Christ or of Lucifer. Equally with `supersensible’ one can say `subsensible’ …
  • For Lucifer is a Being who detached himself from the spiritual hosts of heaven after the separation of the sun, whereas Ahriman had already broken away before the separation of the sun and is an embodiment of quite different powers.
  • In certain occult teachings the hosts of Ahriman are also called the Asuras. These are of course, the evil Asuras who at a certain time fell away from the evolutionary path of the Asuras who endowed man with personality. It has already been indicated that these are spiritual Beings who detached themselves from the evolution of the earth before the separation of the sun.
  • Lucifer had brought man under the influence of the powers connected with air and water only; whereas it was Ahriman-Mephistopheles who has subjected him to the influence of far more deadly powers and the civilizations immediately to come will see the appearance of many things connected with Ahriman’s influence.
  • In the influences of Ahriman, therefore, we have to do with powers of a much lower nature than the influences of Lucifer. Lucifer’s influences can never become as evil as the influences of Ahriman and of those Beings who are connected with the powers of fire.

When the sun system was created, the lower developed beings were separated first, that is the Elementals was separated before the Earth was separated from the Sun, man was separated  with the Earth from the Sun, and the beings of the Angeloi was separated after Earth, and as the Ahrimanian beings was separated before the Earth separated from the Sun, they are of a lesser development than man, they were part of the Elementals.

Nature Spirits

These Elementals are also known as Nature spirits and Steiner makes the connection between Ahriman and the Nature spirits here:

In so far as Ahriman lives in our etheric body we dive down with our etheric body into the sphere of the elementary Nature spirits – the Earth, Water, Air and Fire spirits. We are not cognizant of the fact because we are not able to descend fully into our etheric body with our Ego. Nevertheless it is always so. Within this etheric body not only does there live the power of the thoughts that we ourselves think, but the influences also of the Nature spirits; these enter in and make themselves felt.

As man has their lowest body in the physical world does the three elemental kingdoms have their lowest bodies deeper than the physical:

We have the physical world, the astral world, the Lower Devachan and the Higher Devachan. If the body is thrust down lower even than the physical world, it comes into the sub-physical world, the lower astral world, the lower or evil Lower Devachan, and the lower or evil Higher Devachan.The evil astral world is the province of Lucifer, the evil Lower Devachan the province of Ahriman, and the evil Higher Devachan the province of the Asuras.When chemical action is driven down beneath the physical plane – into the evil Devachanic world – magnetism arises. When light is thrust down into the submaterial – that is to say, a stage deeper than the material world – electricity arises. If what lives in the Harmony of the Spheres is thrust down farther still, into the province of the Asuras, an even more terrible force – which it will not be possible to keep hidden very much longer – is generated.

The result of Ahrimanic spirits

Karma builds on the work of these spirits, which guides man through the development.

  • Karma was thus the indirect consequence of the deeds of Ahriman.
  • The host of Ahrimanic Spirits has worked upon man since the middle of the Atlantean epoch onwards. To what did these Ahrimanic Spirits entice him? They enticed him into regarding everything in his environment as material, with the result that he does not see through this material world to its true, spiritual foundations.
  • Ahriman is a spirit of lies, a spirit who conjures illusions before men, working together with his confederates in a spiritual world. Ahriman himself is no mirage – far from it! But what is conjured before men’s eyes of spirit under his influence – that is mirage, illusion.

The three Elemental Kingdoms work in the three souls of man: Sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul:

  • Lucifer anchored himself in the sentient soul; and there he remains.
  • It was in this second soul-member, the intellectual soul – the transformed part of the ether-body – that Ahriman established his footing. From there he lures man to false conceptions and judgments of material things, leads him to error, to sin, to lying – to everything that originates in the intellectual or mind soul. In every illusion that matter is the sole reality, we must perceive the whispered promptings of Ahriman, of Mephistopheles.
  • And in the age now, approaching, those spiritual Beings known as the Asuras will creep into the consciousness soul and therewith into the human ‘I’ or ego – for the ‘I’ lights up in the consciousness soul.

The way out of this is through Christ:

Christ is verily the Light which leads out of error and sin, the Light which enables man to find the way upwards. And now let us ask ourselves: What was it that was lost to man in that he descended from the spiritual world, was ensnared in desires and passions under the influence of Lucifer, and then, under Ahriman’s influence, in error, illusion and lying in the earthly world? – He lost direct vision of the spiritual world, he lost understanding of the spiritual world.

Future Jupiter and it’s Beings

From Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom:

Now you may be anxious to know whether, in our present period of evolution, beings are being prepared to attain their human level in the Jupiter period.

This question is certainly a vital one for every feeling person, if his feelings have been inspired by spiritual science, as we have been describing. For it could be the case that human behaviour in general during the course of Earth evolution could either help, or omit to help, the beings who might attain their human level on Jupiter.

Thus we see that through our earthly morality we take a creative part in the whole cosmic order. It is indeed a creative power, and we can see that spiritual science gives us a strong impulse for moral action by telling us that we are working against the creation of Jupiter human beings, if we do not act in a moral way on earth. This gives morality a very real value and makes its existence worthwhile. Our human conduct is very strongly formed by what we acquire through spiritual science, especially as we become acquainted with real secrets regarding the cosmos.

You could now ask, ‘What about immoral behaviour?’ Immoral behaviour also comes to expression in the formation of the breath. But immoral behaviour imprints a demonic form on it. Demons are born through man’s immoral conduct. Let us look at the difference between the demons that arise through immoral behaviour and the spiritual beings — spiritual in so far as they only have a watery existence on earth — the spiritual forms that are created by moral actions.

These beings that incarnate as far as a transitory watery existence and arise from moral conduct, are the kind of beings that have an astral, an etheric and finally a physical body condensed to the level of wateriness, just as, in the Moon period, we had an etheric, an astral and a physical body, and this physical body was also only condensed to a wateriness. We were more or less like that, even if not exactly the same. And this creature, with a physical body, etheric body and astral body that arises out of moral actions, is predestined to receive an ego, just as in the Moon period our physical, etheric and astral body were predestined to receive an ego. They have the basis for receiving an ego, and beings of this kind are qualified to undergo a regular progressive evolution in the cosmos. The other beings, the demons created out of immoral actions, also have an astral body, an etheric body and a physical body, at the watery stage, of course, but they do not have the basis for developing an ego. They are born without heads, as it were. 

If we take the idea of karma seriously, we must really recognise our ego in our destiny and realise we ourselves are active in what happens to us through destiny; that we are the actual agents.

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