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Nathanic Jesus - also see Buddha; Christ; Jesus; Solomonic Jesus; Solomonic-Nathanic Jesus; Sun God; Zarthustra; Zoroaster

As described in the Bible, Nathan — who became a priest — was the third son of King David and his wife Bathsheba. According to Rudolf Steiner, a child descended from the priestly line of Nathan was one of the two Jesuses who interwove their essences to prepare a fit vessel for the incarnation of the Sun God, Christ, on Earth. The other Jesus descended from the biological line of Solomon, another son of King David. The two Jesus children were born to two pairs of parents named Joseph and Mary, Steiner said. Forces stemming from Buddha were present in the Nathanic Jesus, Steiner taught, while the spirit of Zoroaster [1] incarnated in the form of the Solomonic Jesus. (This was one of the many "corrections" Steiner offered for Biblical accounts. He claimed to gain his superior knowledge from the Akashic Chronicle. [2]) The spirituality of both Buddha and Zoroaster thus helped prepare the body into which the Sun God, Christ, incarnated.

◊ "Buddhism streamed into and worked in the personality born as the child of Joseph and Mary of the Nathan line of the House of David ... Joseph and Mary of the Solomon line of the House of David resided originally in Bethlehem with their child Jesus ... The births of the two boys did not occur at exactly the same time. [paragraph break] I shall have to say things to-day that are not found in the Gospels [3]; but you will understand the Bible all the better if you learn from investigations of the Akashic Chronicle something about the consequences and effects of facts indicated in the Gospels." — R. Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1964), lecture 5, GA 114.

◊ "Christ Jesus, as He is afterwards described in the Gospel of St. Luke, was born — or rather His physical body was born — as the Nathan Jesus of the House of David. At about his twelfth year there passed into the body of this child the Ego [4] once incarnated in the Being who had been the inaugurator of the ancient Persian civilization. [5] Thus from the twelfth year onwards, the Ego of Zarathustra was living in the body of the Nathan Jesus ... The Zarathustra-Ego had lived in the body of the Solomon Jesus until the twelfth year." — R. Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST LUKE, lecture 7. [For more, see "Was He Christian?"]

[1] Zoroaster is also known as Zarathustra (although in Anthroposophy a distinction is drawn: Zoroaster was a reincarnation of Zarathustra). A Persian prophet, Zoroaster established the religion known as Zoroastrianism. [See "Zoroastrianism".]

[2] According to mystical tradition, the Akashic Chronicle or Record is a celestial storehouse of knowledge accessible through clairvoyance. [See "Akasha".]

[3] I.e., the first four books of the New Testament, which relate Christ's life and teachings.

[4] The "ego," as Steiner employs the term here, is the spark of divine individuality possessed by a true human being. [See "Ego".]

[5] I.e., the soul of Zarathustra, which had been in the Solomonic Jesus, flowed into the Nathanic Jesus. [See the entry for "Solomonic Jesus" in this encyclopedia.]

Nathanic-Solomonic Jesus - see Solomonic-Nathanic Jesus

nation spirit - also see group soul; national missions; nations; race soul

In Anthroposophical belief, nation spirits are Archangels who oversee the development of nations. Such spirits are closely related to race souls. [See "Embedded Racism".] ◊ "Nation spirit — archangel...that leads a [human] population and endows its language ... The activities of an archangel as nation spirit are also expressed in the general character and disposition of a people, their historical destiny. [1]" — H. van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 85. ◊ "One example of [Beings that transcend the kingdoms of nature] is what is called the Folk Spirit, or Nation Spirit. This Being does not manifest directly in a material form. He lives his life entirely in the sensations, feelings, tendencies, etc., which are to be observed as those common to a whole people ... [The] soul-body of the Nation Spirit is like a cloud in which the members of a nation live, the effects of whose activity come into evidence in the souls [2] of the human beings concerned, but they do not originate in these souls themselves." — R. Steiner, THEOSOPHY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1965), chapter 3, Part 5, GA 9.

[1] I.e., their national karma. [See "Karma".]

[2] I.e., their individual souls. Their shared of "folk" soul is the nation spirit. [See the entry for "folk soul" in this encyclopedia.]

national missions - also see folk souls; group souls; missions; nations; racial missions

According to Steiner, the gods set tasks or purposes for nations and peoples. The mission of a particular nation may be part of the larger mission of a race or continent. So, for instance, "Everything that the Roman people had, under the guidance of its Folk-spirit [1], to accomplish for the collective mission of Europe, was for the purpose of giving importance to the ‘I’ of man as such. [2] Hence the Roman people was able to...found the whole system of the rights of the individual. Hence it was the creator of jurisprudence, which is built up purely on the ‘I’. The relation of one ‘I’ to another was the great question in the mission of the Roman people.” — R. Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK-SOULS (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1929), lecture 10, GA 121. [See "Races".]

Just as a nation's mission may be bound up in a larger human mission, so the mission of each representative individual ("the German," "the Frenchman", etc.) is bound up in a national mission. “[T]he German is faced by entirely different [i.e., unique] necessities if he wishes to achieve his mission. He must be educated to this mission...[which is] looking at the world from the most varied points of view. This will be the special mission of the German people." — R. Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (SteinerBooks, 1979), pp. 207-208. (Note that Waldorf education was designed to assist German children to fulfill their mission. [See "The Good Wars".] Whether Waldorf education can truly be appropriate for non-Germans becomes, then, an open question.)

[1] I.e., its folk soul, group soul, or nation spirit. [See the entries for these terms in this encyclopedia.]

[2] I.e., it centered on developing the human 'I' or spiritual ego. [See "Ego".]

national spirit - see nation spirit

nations - also see nation spirit; national missions; race; sub-races

A nation, in Anthroposophical teachings generally, is a subdivision of a race or, specifically, a subdivision of a sub-race. [1] Members of a nation generally live within a contiguous region, but they may also be dispersed. Two or more nations may combine to form a sub-race. Thus, for instance, Steiner spoke of the "Germans and Anglo-Saxons — the fifth sub-race to which we ourselves belong." — R. Steiner, FOUNDING A SCIENCE OF THE SPIRIT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 97. As with most other phenomena, Steiner ranked nations, peoples, and races, from low to high. “A race or nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type ... The evolution of man through the incarnations [2] in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation [leading to] an ideal future. [3]” — R. Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 149. [See "Embedded Racism".]

[1] See the entry in this encyclopedia for "sub-races".

[2] In Anthroposophical belief, humans lead many successive lives through the process of reincarnation. [See "Reincarnation".] When individuals live as they should, they use their successive lives to evolve toward higher and higher stages of spiritual perfection. [See, e.g., "Evolution, Anyone?" and "Matters of Form".]

[3] The "liberation" or "freedom" advocated by Steiner is a spiritual condition (freedom from X, Y, and Z), which differs from the political or individual liberty celebrated in such nations as France and the United States (freedom for A, B, or C). [See "Freedom".]

Native Americans - also see America; races; Saturn

According to Steiner, Native Americans ("Red Indians") are descended from abnormal humans [1] coming from Atlantis. [2] They are the "Saturn race," the product of powers emanating from Saturn. They are senescent — doomed to decline and die out. [3] ◊ "Those peoples whose ego impulse was developed too strongly, so that it permeated their whole being and made it a manifestation of egohood [4], these people gradually wandered to the West and became the nation the last survivors of which appeared as the Red Indians of America." — R. Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), p. 118. ◊ "If we cross over the ocean to America, where the place is at which the races or civilizations die [5], we then find the race of the dark Saturn, the original American-Indian race, the American race. [6] The American-Indian race is the Saturn race.” — R. Steiner, THE MISSION OF FOLK-SOULS (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1929), lecture 6, GA 121. [See "Races".]

In the hierarchy of races propounded by Steiner (black, yellow, white, red), Native Americans might seem to stand at the pinnacle. Just as whites are higher than blacks and yellows, reds would seem to be higher than whites. But Steiner classed reds among the colored races, lower than whites; and he treated reds as essentially negligible, a decadent population verging on extinction. ◊ "We have before us in the American race a primitive aboriginal people that has remained far, far behind ... [T]he Europeans have ascended to a higher level of culture, while the Indians have remained behind and become decadent ... [W]e have an upright evolutionary trunk as well as side branches which decay." — R. Steiner, MENSCHHEITSENTWICKELUNG UND CHRISTUS-ERKENNTNIS (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1981), GA 100, pp. 243-44. Indeed, Steiner sometimes spoke of Native Americans as if they have already become extinct. ◊ "The American Indians died out, not because of European persecutions, but because they were destined to succumb to those forces which hastened their extinction." — R. Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 76.

[1] See "Abnormal".

[2] See "Atlantis".

[3] Steiner often spoke of Native Americans as if they had already died out, although of course this is untrue.

[4] Steiner taught that developing an "I" or spiritual ego is highly important; without it, we are not fully human. However, taking egohood too far is an error, he said — one sinks into egoism or egotism, which can be deadly. [See the entries for "ego" and "egoism" in this encyclopedia.]

[5] Steiner taught that blacks are essentially child-like, Asians are adolescent, whites are mature adults, and American Indians are elderly, on the verge of death. [See "Steiner's Racism".]

[6] For more on Steiner's views concerning America, see "America".

natural clairvoyance - also see ancients; atavistic clairvoyance; clairvoyance; exact clairvoyance

Steiner taught that ancient peoples had innate, primitive powers of clairvoyance. With these, they were more directly attuned to the spirit realm than most modern people are. “A person who cannot read world phenomena [clairvoyantly] is like a cosmic illiterate where these phenomena are concerned.... In the time of ancient clairvoyance human beings were far less illiterate in the spirit.” — R. Steiner, ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 111-112. Waldorf teachers generally accept the proposition that ancient peoples had such clairvoyance, and sometimes they convey this belief to their students. "The History curriculum for fifth and sixth grades in a Waldorf school follows the thread of development of cultures through Ancient India, Persia, Egypt and Chaldea, Greece, and Rome. This provides a picture of the changing human consciousness from ancient clairvoyance to the loss of spiritual vision [i.e., clairvoyance]...." — R. Wilkinson, TEACHING HISTORY, Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000).

Humanity's lost power of natural clairvoyance was replaced by ordinary consciousness we possess today, and we were plunged into the spiritual dark age, Kali Yuga. "[W]e can indicate the exact moment when the conscious condition of physical, sensible perception began. It was the year 3101 before Christ's appearance on earth. Until that time, there existed a natural clairvoyance. Then it gradually began to disappear, and the dark epoch called the lesser Kali Yuga [1] began, in which the human soul could no longer perceive the spiritual world." — R. Steiner, THE REAPPEARANCE OF CHRIST IN THE ETHERIC (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), lecture 7, GA 118.

[1] In Hinduism and, generally, Theosophy, Kali Yuga is a recurring condition that closes each cycle of human history. We start in a golden age and gradually descend to a dark age. This "greater" Kali Yuga, occurring over and over, lasts 432,000 years each time. In Anthroposophy, a much briefer form of Kali Yuga — the "lesser" Kali Yuga — began about 3000 years before the incarnation of Christ, and ended in 1899 CE, when Steiner began delivering spiritual lectures.

natural history - also see animal kingdom; animals; biology; botany; evolution; geology; kingdoms of nature; natural science; nature; nature spirits; plant kingdom; plants; zoology

At Waldorf schools, objective study of natural history may be compromised by the faculty's rejection of standard science and the geological record. Thus, for example, according to Anthroposophical belief, animals evolved downward from humans, humans did not evolve upward from animals. [See "Basement" and "Evolution, Anyone?".] Nature and natural history are rarely seen clearly, when looking through the lens of Anthroposophy. Steiner taught that human beings are the center of creation, while plants and animals have meaning only to the degree that they are connected to human spiritual evolution. Thus, the capabilities of animals are greatly underestimated in Anthroposophy. “To attribute memory to animals is an error ... It is natural enough to think of memory when a dog recognizes its master ... Yet in reality the recognition depends not on memory ... Surely, one might [think], since the dog grieves when its master goes away, it must retain some memory of him ... [But] the animal’s behaviour implies the absence of all memory. [1]” — R. Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), pp. 46-47.

Animals embody single traits, Steiner taught, whereas humans embody the entire spectrum of traits found among animals. Steiner instructed Waldorf teachers to emphasize such anthropocentric beliefs. “The aim in animal study is to show that each animal species presents a one-sided development which is harmonised in the human being [2] ... Without laboring the point it can be shown that both with regard to external form and soul qualities what is concentrated in man is spread out over the animal kingdom.” — R. Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER ON EDUCATION (Hawthorn Press, 1993), p. 109.

Animals branched off from the human line of evolution, Steiner taught. If they had not peeled away so soon, they could have been human like us. “When we say that certain beings remained at the Bull stage, others at the Lion [stage], others at the Eagle, and so on, what does this mean? It means that if these beings had been able to wait, if they could have developed their full love for the physical world only at a much later time [3], they would have become human beings. If the lion had not willed to enter into the earthly sphere too early [4], it would have become a man; the same is true of the other animals that had split off up till then.” — R. Steiner, EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MYSTERIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), lecture 8, GA 106. [See "Basement".] To be an animal, thus, is to embody an evolutionary error, tantamount to sin. [5]


Anthroposophists publish many works intended to substantiate Rudolf Steiner's vision; such publications cover all manner of subjects, including natural history. These works generally fail in their objective, having little impact outside the tight-knit Anthroposophical community. The chief reason is that they depart so radically from established facts, scholarship, and science. They are, in other words, essentially false, as knowledgeable readers discern. [Wolfgang Schau's MAN AND MAMMALS was originally published in Germany in 1971; in 1977, the Waldorf Press issued the English translation shown here.]

[1] In actuality, many animals have prodigious memories. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Blunders".]

[2] I.e., each type of animal embodies a single quality or trait, whereas humans possess multiple, blended qualities and traits.

[3] I.e., they peeled away too soon because they became prematurely wedded to life at the physical level of existence (whereas humans remained devoted, in varying degrees, to spiritual existence).

[4] I.e., souls that became lions descended into earthly incarnation prematurely. (They loved the prospect of physical existence too much, and thus they descended into physical incarnation too soon.)

[5] See the entry for "Great Sin" in this encyclopedia.

natural science - also see materialistic thinking; natural history; nature; physical science; science; cf. Anthroposophy; Goethean science; occult science; spiritual science

Like Theosophy, Anthroposophy refers to itself as "spiritual science" — it claims to be the scientific study of the spirit realm, undertaken through the disciplined use of clairvoyance. [1] Moreover, since the natural world is deemed a manifestation of the spirit realm, Anthroposophists hold that spiritual science should yield the essential truths about the natural world. [2] For this reason, Steiner often disparaged natural sciences — that is, ordinary sciences that examine the physical universe in and of itself (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) using the physical senses instead of clairvoyance. He derided “scientific simpletons” with their “scientific trash” and their “logical, pedantic, narrow-minded proof of things.” [See "Steiner's 'Science'".]

On the other hand, Steiner sometimes said that the natural sciences would eventually confirm the findings of spiritual science, to the degree that this is possible on the physical plane. In actuality, however, precisely the opposite has happened — teachings of Steiner's that may have seemed plausible in his day have largely been controverted as mankind's stock of real knowledge has increased. [See "Steiner's Blunders".]

The study of natural sciences in Waldorf schools often suffers because of the faculty's devotion to Anthroposophy. The teachers often follow Steiner's lead and incline toward "Goethean science," in which the observer seeks to detect spirit within natural phenomena. But, in reality, such "science" is usually a subjective process amounting to the projection of one's wishes, rather than a process of objective observation. [See "Goethe" and "Materialism U.".]

[1] See "Clairvoyance", "Knowing the Worlds", and "Everything".

[2] See "Neutered Nature".

nature - also see animal kingdom; Anthroposophical medicine; biodynamics; elemental beings; Elemental Kingdoms; elements; environmentalism; human kingdom; kingdoms of nature; mineral kingdom; natural history; nature spirits; nature tables; physical plane; plant kingdom; states of elementary existence

Rudolf Steiner and his followers have often affirmed nature. They embrace green values. They promote environmental sensitivity and ecological good works. They prefer natural, organic foods. For medicines, they prefer traditional, natural remedies. For clothing, they prefer natural fabrics such as wool. For implements, household goods, and children's toys, they prefer natural materials such as wood. By and large, they advocate a low-tech, natural lifestyle shunning modern high-tech gadgetry.

But their view of nature is complex. They hold that nature is to be revered, but it also should be approached cautiously, even with trepidation. The physical realm is considered to be deceptive, illusory; it is a realm of maya. “I must emphasize this again and again, that the saying ‘the world is Maya’ is so vitally important." — R. Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 64.

The natural world is coextensive with the spirit realm, Steiner taught, and to a considerable degree nature manifests divine intentions. [1] Morality and even spirituality arise out of the natural world, properly understood. "The physical and moral do not exist side by side ... No, they are only different aspects, in itself the thing is one ... Moral world-order reveals itself out of the natural world-order." — R. Steiner, "The Connection of the Natural with the Moral-Psychical — Living in Light and Weight", lecture 2, COLOUR (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1935), GA 291.

But the natural world is also a lowly realm — physical, material, gross. It is the plane of our lowest passions and instincts. It is inhabited by (or even formed by) nature spirits, many of which have little or no moral sense. As forces within nature, these entities deceive, trick, and even harm us. [2] Consider gnomes, for instance — nature spirits that dwell within the Earth, according to Steiner. Gnomes are, at best, amoral; another name for them is "goblins." “There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth ... What one calls moral responsibility in man is entirely lacking in them....” — R. Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-63. [See "Gnomes".]

Steiner said there are four kingdoms of nature: mineral, plant, animal, and man. [3] Minerals have a physical body and nothing higher — they are wholly physical. Plants have physical bodies and etheric bodies [4], but they do not exist on the higher planes. (Plants are, in effect, the earth's hair.) Animals have physical, etheric, and astral bodies but not "I's" [5] — they lack the divine spark of spiritual selfhood. (Rather than possessing individual souls, animals share group souls. [6]) Man rises above these lower kingdoms. Man has physical, etheric, astral, and ego bodies ("I's"). Man bridges the divide between the physical and spiritual planes and belongs, ultimately, to the latter. [7]

The Anthroposophical view of nature is suggested in the title of a key Steiner text, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT. [8] The higher worlds comprise the spirit realm. Beneath that realm is the lower world, the natural world. Being born into life in the natural world is a descent from the higher, superior worlds. If one descends too far, indeed, one may fall into the abyss. [9] To the extent that the natural world has been created by the gods, we should honor it. But our wish must be to reascend from this lowly existence to the higher worlds that are our true home.


Drawing from ancient traditions, Anthroposophy teaches that these are the four kingdoms of nature. Contrary to the teachings of modern science, Anthroposophy asserts that human beings (in their primordial forms) evolved before the lower kingdoms; the lower kingdoms branched off from the upward-evolving human line.

[1] That is, spirit is omnipresent, including within nature, and the will of the gods is paramount. Nonetheless, the natural world stands to a large degree as the antithesis of the spirit realm.

[2] See "Neutered Nature" and the entry for "nature spirits," below.

[3] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "mineral kingdom", "plant kingdom", "animal kingdom", and "human kingdom."

[4] Etheric bodies are the lowest of the three invisible bodies that real human beings come to possess, according to Steiner. [See "Incarnation".]

[5] Astral bodies and "I's" (or spiritual egos) are the second and third of our invisible bodies, according to Steiner. Possessing an "I" makes one human. [See "Ego".]

[6] See the entry for "group soul" in this encyclopedia.

[7] For Steiner's teachings about higher worlds and planes, see "Higher Worlds".

[8] See "Knowing the Worlds."

[9] See the entry for "abyss" in this encyclopedia.

nature spirits - also see elemental beings; fairies; fire spirits; gnomes; goblins; phantoms; salamanders; specters; sylphs; undines

In various traditions: incorporeal beings residing in nature or in the elements of nature. Steiner said such beings are quite real. They should be properly called elemental beings, Steiner taught, because they lack real spirit. They are potentially dangerous, having little or no moral sense; some are Ahrimanic; but often they are used for good by the good gods, and some are sweet. Their chief productive function is to bring the physical world into existence (although this world is lowly, and creatures living in it may lose contact with the spirit realm), and they guide natural physical processes such as the growth of plants and the lives of animals. Nature spirits, generally, are the progeny of the Third Hierarchy, the lowest grouping of gods. [1] "[T]he offspring of the Third Hierarchy are the nature-spirits, while the offspring of the Second Hierarchy are the Group-souls ... [T]he Spirits of the Rotation of Time [are] the offspring of the beings of the First Hierarchy. [2]" — R. Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL BEINGS IN THE HEAVENLY BODIES AND IN THE KINGDOMS OF NATURE (Steiner Book Center, 1981), lecture 2, GA 136.

The primary types of nature spirits are gnomes (who dwell in the ground), sylphs (who dwell in the air), salamanders or fire spirits (who dwell in fire), and undines (who dwell in water). [See "Neutered Nature".] They are generally invisible. ◊ "It is true that the beings which we call gnomes and goblins [3] have a physical body, but they do not possess what in man we call the ego [4] ... [T]heir bodies [are] far less visible than the physical body of man." — R. Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 8, GA 102. ◊ "I have told you that those beings which we call the nature-spirits of the water [undines], work especially in the budding and sprouting plant-world. Those which we may call the nature-spirits of the air [sylphs], play their part in late summer and autumn, when the plants prepare to fade and die ... The disposition that at one time the spirits of the water, and at another the spirits of the air should work in this or that region of the earth, changes according to the different regions of the earth. [5]" — R. Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL BEINGS IN THE HEAVENLY BODIES AND IN THE KINGDOMS OF NATURE (Steiner Book Centre, 1981), lecture 2, GA 136. ◊ "The sylphs experience their self, their ego, when they see the birds flying about. [6] The fire-spirits [7] have this experience, but to an intensified degree, in regard to...the insect-world [8] ... [T]he bee is everywhere accompanied by a fire-spirit which feels so closely related to it that, for spiritual vision [9], the bee is surrounded by an aura [10] which is actually a fire-spirit.” — R. Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), lecture 7, GA 230.

Below the main four types of nature spirits are various beings Steiner denominated as "subordinate nature spirits," which manifest moral failings. If human beings degenerate, falling to lower and lower moral/spiritual levels in succeeding incarnations, they may fall out of the human race altogether and become subordinate nature spirits. This means loosing their human identities, their souls, and thus losing the ability to reincarnate further. "Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity ... [T]here are no more bodies bad enough [10] ... Beings that stay behind at such stages appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature spirits." — R. Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 70.

Other nature spirits that are divorced from morality are the beings commonly called phantoms, specters, and ghosts. Phantoms, for instance, are “beings which have been created in the physical body through the effect of lying and slander [12] ... Such flit and whirr about in our world and belong to a class that we call ‘phantoms.’ They form a certain group of elemental beings [i.e., nature spirits] related to our physical body....” — NATURE SPIRITS, pp. 83-84. Specters and ghosts likewise arise from immorality. “The accumulation in the etheric body [13] caused through these [wicked] experiences of the soul...brings about detachments from the beings working in the spiritual worlds [14] and these likewise are now to be found in our environment — they are the ‘specters’ or ‘ghosts.’” — Ibid., p. 84.

[1] For an overview of the Hierarchies, see "Polytheism".

[2] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "group souls" and "Spirits of the Rotation of Time".

[3] "Goblin" is another name for gnomes, Steiner indicated. The immoral or at least amoral character of nature spirits is suggested by this alternate name.

[4] I.e., the "I" or spiritual ego. [See "Ego".]

[5] Steiner is here describing the effect of undines and sylphs on plants growing in the soil. Undines dwell in water and sylphs in air; but they become involved in natural processes within or around the soil (the home of gnomes) when water infuses the soil and is drawn up into plants, and when air delivers its forces to the soil and the plants growing in it.

[6] I.e., sylphs see reflections of themselves in flying birds.

[7] I.e., "salamanders." In ancient times, the amphibious animals called salamanders were thought to be fireproof. The "salamanders" discussed in Anthroposophy are different beings, not amphibians.

[8] I.e., fire spirits see reflections of themselves in insects.

[9] I.e., clairvoyance.

[10] See "Auras". (Steiner here says that fires spirits serve as the auras of bees. [For more on Steiner's teachings about bees, see "Bees".])

[11] I.e., as evolution proceeds, "lower" races will die out, Steiner taught. Thus, degenerating humans, falling to lower levels, will find no degenerate or "bad" human bodies available for them to reincarnate in. [See "Evolution, Anyone?"]

[12] I.e., when we use our physical bodies to lie or slander, we create subordinate nature spirits that, as "phantoms," dwell around the Earth.

[13] This is the lowest of three invisible bodies that, according to Steiner, incarnate during the first 21 years of human life. [See the entry for "etheric body" in this encyclopedia.]

[14] Not all spiritual beings are moral; some are evil gods or demons; some "fall" from the spirit realm to the physical world. [See the entries for "evil gods", "demons", and "Spirits of Darkness" in this encyclopedia.]

nature tables - also see nature; nature spirits; Naturphilosophie

Platforms on which natural objects are displayed. In Waldorf classrooms, these displays often include candles, vessels, and/or images that express or at least imply spiritual significance. In some cases, the nature tables may serve as altars. However, the Waldorf attitude toward nature is complex, involving both reverence and rejection. The value Anthroposophists attach to nature is found not in the natural world itself but in the spirit realm that they believe hovers behind and above the natural world. [See "Neutered Nature".]


Pictured here is a Waldorf nature table topped by a candelabrum. [Photo courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.] A former Waldorf teacher recounts a ceremony she oversaw each morning in school: "I choose a come up and light the candle on the nature table. The candle is lit out of reverence ... Then the child returns to his place and we say our morning verse [i.e., a prayer] which was written by Rudolf Steiner." [See "Ex-Teacher 2".]

Naturphilosophie - also see paganism

An anti-rational philosophy of nature, especially as promulgated by F.W.J. von Schelling. It represents one minor root of Anthroposophy. Schelling taught that that nature tends toward spirit, that the existence of nature shows the existence of the divine, and that man aspires to equality with God or the gods.

Nazism - also see anti-Semitism; fascism; races

National Socialism: German fascism. In many ways, Nazism is antithetical to Anthroposophy, yet the two worldviews can be traced back, in part, to similar roots, and they share some characteristics, as in their teachings about race. Some important Anthroposophists became Nazis and/or Fascists. [See "Sympathizers?"]

"Negro" race - also see Africans; black; racism

Steiner taught that the black people of Africa stand low on the human evolutionary scale. They are childlike, he said, but they are also sexually supercharged. Negroes are not very intelligent, he said, but they have powerful instincts. ◊ "[E]verything connected to the body and the metabolism is strongly developed in the Negro. He has, as they say, powerful physical drives, powerful instincts ... [H]is whole metabolism operates as if he were being cooked inside by the sun. That is where his instinctual life comes from. The Negro is constantly cooking inside, and what feeds this fire is his rear-brain. [1]” — R. Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 55. ◊ “[A] centre [sic] of cosmic influence [is] situated in the interior of Africa. [2] At this centre are active all those terrestrial forces emanating from the soil which can influence man especially during his early childhood [3] ... The black or Negro race is substantially determined by these childhood characteristics.” — R. Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 75. [See "'Negro'" and "Races".]

[1] Steiner said that whites lead thinking lives, and they make extensive use of the "forebrain"; Asians lead emotional lives, and they rely heavily on the "middle brain"; blacks lead instinctive lives, and they rely primarily on the "rear brain." [See "Steiner's Racism".]

[2] I.e., an area where certain astrological influences are particularly strong. The forces beam down from above, are absorbed into the soil, and then radiate upward as terrestrial forces. The chief planetary influences in the particular region Steiner speaks of here come from Mercury, Anthroposophists believe. “In the interior of Africa is the point where the abnormal Spirits [i.e., backward gods] belonging to the planet Mercury concentrate their forces. The outcome of them is the Negro or Ethiopian race.” — G. A. Kaufmann, SOULS OF THE NATIONS (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1938), lecture 6.

[3] I.e., the forces arising in this region tend to make the human beings living there childlike.

Neptune - also see astrology; astronomy; planets; solar system; Uranus

a) The eighth planet from the Sun.

b) According to Steiner: a celestial object, but not a real member of the solar system.◊ "The Saturn sphere [1] is really the last one that we...enter, since Uranus and Neptune do not enter our picture. [2]” — R. Steiner, AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE: Exploring Our Suprasensory Nature (SteinerBooks, 2000), p. 74. ◊ "Uranus and much farther out and their orbits exhibit such irregularities that in reality they cannot be counted among the planets even today. [3]” — R. Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf steiner Press, 2000) , p. 290. [See "Planets" and "Oriphiel".]

c) In Greek/Roman mythology, Neptune is the god of the sea; Poseidon.

[1] I.e., the region of the solar system dominated by Saturn. Steiner taught that Saturn is the outermost planet in the solar system.

[2] I.e., Uranus and Neptune are not really planets in the solar system.

[3] I.e., ancient sky gazers had no knowledge of Uranus and Neptune, and even in modern times we must exclude those orbs from accounts of the solar system.

nerves - also see brain; nerve-senses man; nerve-senses system

In the Anthroposophical conception of humanity, nerves are not involved in thinking. They are part of our sensory equipment, responding to motions within the astral body. Like the brain to which they are bound, they are associated with decay and dying. [1] They tend to degenerate into skeletal material, Anthroposophists believe. ◊ "The nerves sense all activities in the astral body [2] ... [A]ctvities in the astral body are transferred to the ether body [3] and the physical body ... [T]he nerve represents a dying process. The nerve has a tendency to become part of the skeleton." — H. van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), pp. 85-86. ◊ “[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition.... [4]” — R. Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.

[1] “The brain is an instrument for purely intellectual apprehension. Intellectualism and materialistic thinking are one and the same ... [T]he materialistic brain represents a process of decay: materialistic thinking unfolds only through processes of destruction, death-processes, which are taking place in the brain.” — R. Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 147-148. ("Intellectual apprehension" should be compared to "actual cognition": clairvoyance.)

[2] This is the second of three invisible bodies that, Steiner said, real humans come to possess. [See "Incarnation".]

[3] I.e., the first and lowest invisible body. [See "Incarnation".]

[4] Actual cognition, according to Steiner, is clairvoyance. [See "Clairvoyance".] Steiner taught that clairvoyance is seated not in the brain and nerves but in incorporeal organs of clairvoyance. [See "Knowing the Worlds".]

nerve-senses man - also see nerves; nerve-senses system; rhythmic man

In Anthroposophic doctrine, this is the inner human being that embodies the forces of sensation and "thinking." It is one of three primary inner "men" that humans have within, according to Rudolf Steiner; they represent the three primary physiological systems described by Steiner. "[Y]ou can read about it in my books, especially in the book Riddles of the Soul and in various lecture courses; all I shall do now is to remind you that man consists of three members [1] — the nerve-senses man, that is, all that sustains man in the activity of his mind and spirit; the rhythmic man, which contains the whole rhythm of breathing, the circulation of the blood and so on; and the metabolic-limb man, in which is to be found everything that is metamorphosed by means of the different substances. [2]" — R. Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD (Anthroposophic Press/Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 7, GA 311. Bear in mind that "sustaining" mind and spirit is different from thinking, per se. [3]

[1] Steiner gave varying accounts of the human constitution. [See "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts".]

[2] I.e., everything involved in metabolic processes, especially the ingestion of food. Whether the limbs are really part of this "system" is, of course, questionable.

[3] See "Thinking" and the entry on the "nerve-senses system," below.

nerve-senses system - also see head man; head system; nerve-senses man; rhythmic-circulatory system

This is one of the three major human physiological systems as described by Steiner, and it is by far the most plausible one. The nerves and senses do indeed have essential connections with one another, and thus they may plausibly be discussed as a single system (unlike the other two systems Steiner described). Steiner located this system principally in the head. "Now if you take the physical development of the child from birth to the change of teeth [1] you will find it is specially the head-organisation, the nerve-senses organisation that is at work. The child develops from the head downwards in the early years of his life." — R. Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD (Anthroposophic Press, 1982), lecture 7, GA 311. Steiner traced our various systems and subsystems to evolutionary periods or "planetary conditions." Here is a concise summary: "Limb system from the Earth, Metabolic system from the Moon, Rhythmic system from the Sun, Nerve-senses system from Saturn." [2] — Synopsis, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), lecture 10, GA 230.

The nerve-senses system may also be described as the "head" system. The Waldorf curriculum is designed to focus predominantly on the metabolic-limb system (seat of the will) in the lowest grades, then on the rhythmic-circulatory system (seat of emotion) in the middle grades. Only toward the end of a student's school years is focus shifted to the nerve-senses system, which may be deemed the seat or at least mirror of thinking. Bear in mind, however, that Steiner said that no real thinking occurs in the head. Real thinking comes from the gods through the mechanism of clairvoyance. ◊ “[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....” — R. Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 60. ◊ "Within the brain there is absolutely no thought...." — R. Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1963), lecture 7, GA 129.

[1] I.e., the loss of baby teeth, replaced by adult teeth, at around age seven. Steiner said this event signals the incarnation of the etheric body. [See "Incarnation".]

[2] Note that Steiner usually said the limbs and metabolism are parts of a single system. [See the entry for "metabolic-limb system" in this encyclopedia.] The "planets" Steiner names here are actually stages of evolution, which he lists here in reverse order: Present Earth, which was preceded by Old Moon, which was preceded by Old Sun, which was preceded by Old Saturn. [See the entries for "Old Saturn", etc., in this encyclopedia.] Planetary conditions are incarnations of the entire solar system. "Saturn" or Old Saturn was the first such incarnation; during it, humanity attained its first stage of consciousness. Planetary conditions trace the evolution of consciousness, so they are also called conditions of consciousness.

nervous system - see brain; nerves; nerve-senses system

Newton, Sir Isaac (1642-1727) - also see Einstein; cf. Goethe

Physicist and mathematician, the greatest figure in the 17th century scientific revolution; disparaged by Steiner. [See "Truth".] "Newton laid the foundations of a theory of gravitation, i.e. of a conception of space which, by its very nature, excludes any possibility of a spiritual outlook. If the world were as Newton depicted it, it would be devoid of spirit. But no-one has the courage to admit it. One cannot imagine a divine-spiritual Presence that lives and moves and has its being in the Newtonian world. [1]" — R. Steiner, TRUE AND FALSE PATHS OF SPIRITUAL INVESTIGATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), lecture 11, GA 243.

[1] Steiner here asserts a fundamental conflict between modern science and spirituality. However, many scientists have been religious, as indeed Newton himself was. E.g., THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA says this of Newton: "Newton, a fervent if unorthodox Protestant, helped to lead the resistance of Cambridge [University] to James II’s attempt to Catholicize it." — ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA ONLINE, May 25, 2015.

night - also see clairvoyance; the dead; dreams; higher worlds; spirit realm

According to Anthroposophical belief, night is a period when we may receive regeneration and wisdom from the denizens of the spirit realm. At night, Steiner taught, two parts of ourselves — our astral bodies and our spiritual egos — arise from Earth and travel to the spirit realm. “[W]e go to sleep at night, setting forth with our Ego and astral body, leaving behind the body of our waking life...until we re-awaken.” — R. Steiner, MAN AS A PICTURE OF THE LIVING SPIRIT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), a lecture, GA 228. Thus, at night we are effectively two people: Our higher parts rise into the spirit realm while out lower parts (the physical and etheric bodies) remain on Earth. Steiner once drew a diagram to show this: “Here (left) we have the physical body and the ether body (yellow). It fills the whole of the physical body. And here (right) we have the astral body, which is outside the human being at night (red). At the top it is very small and hugely bulging down below. Then we have the I (violet) [also outside the physical body at night]. This is how we are at night. We are two people in the night." — R. Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 102. [1]

Anthroposophists, including many Waldorf teachers, believe that they enter the presence of gods and dead souls at night. "The night is...the realm where we meet real beings: not only our own higher self...but other beings too ... The angels, along with other spiritual beings [2], work upon us formatively at night ... The world of the dead, too, is close to us at night." — E. de Boer in THE NIGHT - As a Wellspring of Strength (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2018), p. 3.

We enter the presence of spirits at night, Anthroposophists believe, and the spirits responsively enter into us. Thereby, we acquire spiritual wisdom. ◊ "We feel the need for guidance ... [At night] in our ego and astral body we are really one with the life forces of sun and stars [3] ... [W]e behold the actions and deeds of the beings of the Hierarchies [4] ... While we sleep the soul thus absorbs in spiritland the world of tones [5] ... The astral body now reposes in a world where the stars are embedded — the world of the harmony of the spheres ... We must ‘feel’ in a concrete way the spiritual world into which we are submerged when we fall asleep [6]...." — R. Seddon and J. Brown, THE WONDERS OF SLEEP (Wynstones Press, 2012, reprinted 2015), pp. 68-70. ◊ "By day we possess the capacity of conscious, logical thinking, while at night, leaving the physical body to regenerate, we give ourselves up to a quite different form of consciousness. Steiner describes night-time as the realm of intuition [7] ... [T]he night is a field of conscious awareness, becoming illumined if we can acquire supersensible consciousness [8]...." — E. de Boer in THE NIGHT, pp. 1-2.

[1] For this diagram, see, e.g., "Holistic Education".

[2] In Anthroposophical belief, Angels are gods. At night, we meet the Angels as well as other, higher-ranking gods, Steiner taught. Overall, Steiner said, there are nine ranks of gods. [See "Polytheism".]

[3] I.e., the astral body and spiritual ego become united with the cosmos — they commune with the gods who, in a manner of speaking, dwell on the sun and stars (outward manifestations of the spirit realm).

[4] These are the gods. The ranks of the gods are the "hierarchies" (each "hierarchy" contains three of the nine ranks).

[5] I.e., while we sleep, the astral body absorbs the music of the spheres (the harmonies of the cosmos).

[6] Hence, we receive the guidance we seek — we become aligned with the wisdom and essence of the gods and their harmonious cosmos.

[7] According to Steiner, intuition is a high form of clairvoyance — higher than inspiration, which in turn is higher than imagination.

[8] I.e., clairvoyance (which transcends our senses).

ninefold nature of man - also see fourfold nature of man; sevenfold nature of man; threefold nature of man

One of several overlapping, not-wholly-consistent descriptions Steiner gave of human nature: our nine parts are physical nature, etheric nature, soul nature, sentient soul, intellectual soul, spiritual soul, spirit self, life spirit, and spirit man. [See "What We're Made Of".]

This is Steiner's most comprehensive description of human nature, building on his teaching that humans have three fundamental parts: the physical body, the soul, and the spirit. Steiner divides each of these into three sub-parts, yielding a total of nine components. In this analysis, human "body nature" consists of our physical nature (essentially the physical body), our etheric nature (essentially the etheric body), and soul nature (roughly speaking the astral body, not the soul as such). Above body nature is our "soul nature", which consists of the three soul members (the sentient, mind, and consciousness souls) that enable us to form feelings and concepts, think about these, and then (adding higher consciousness) use them to probe the mysteries of existence. Higher yet is our "spirit nature," which consists of three spirit members (the spirit self, life spirit, and spirit man). Essentially, these three spirits are transformed, spiritualized, purified versions of lower components of our nature. The spirit self is the transformed astral body, the life spirit is the transformed etheric body, and the spirit man is the transformed physical body. When one has fully transformed all of his/her bodies, s/he becomes — in this lifetime or, far more commonly, in a future existence — a wholly spiritualized being. Coordinating all nine components is the "I" or spiritual ego, which might be termed a tenth component, but in a scheme built on the number nine, is not. [1]

For more on Steiner's various descriptions of human nature, see "What We're Made Of", "Our Parts", and entries in this encyclopedia for terms used here such as "astral body," "etheric body", etc. Also see entries for "threefold nature of man", "fourfold nature of man", "sevenfold nature of man", "metabolic-limb system", "nerve-senses system", and "rhythmic-circulatory system".



[See "What We're Made Of".]

[1] Steiner generally categorized phenomena is schemes based on certain numbers that he taught have mystical significance. [See "Magic Numbers" and "Mystic Math".]

Nirvana - also see Buddha; Maha-Para-Nirvana Plane; Nirvana Plane; Para-Nirvana Plane

In Buddhism, this is the goal of spiritual aspiration: a transcendent state in which one is freed from suffering, desire, and karma. Steiner, following the lead of Theosophists, adopted the term, using it in some surprising contexts. ◊ “Buddha [1] became a Redeemer and Saviour for Mars [2] as Christ Jesus had become for the Earth. The Buddha had been prepared for this by his teaching of Nirvana, lack of satisfaction with earthly existence, liberation from physical incarnation." — R. Steiner, BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1975), lecture 5, GA 141. ◊ "Nirvana means literally, ‘to be extinguished’ ... Man breathes in the air. When he experiences in himself the life of the air [3], then that is the way to reach the Nirvana plane. [4] This is the reason for the breathing exercises of the Yogis. [5] No one can attain to the Nirvana plane if he does not actually practise breathing exercises ... One actually inhales life: the Nirvana plane." — R. Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 5, GA 93a. [See "Rosy Cross" and "Mars".]

[1] See "Buddhism" and the entry in this encyclopedia for "Buddha".

[2] See "Mars".

[3] Steiner taught that the air, like virtually everything is, is alive. He claims that the breathing exercises used in Buddhism help one to attain nirvana because the life of the air is internalized. (A more conventional understanding is that Buddhists use breathing exercises to quite and center the mind.)

[4] See the entry for "nirvana plane", below.

[5] A yogi is a proficient practitioner of yoga. Steiner taught that Yoga is one of the paths leading to occult initiation. [See "Yoga".]

Nirvana Plane - also see Buddha; Maha-Para-Nirvana Plane; Nirvana; Para-Nirvana Plane

In Theosophy and Anthroposophy, “planes” are levels of spiritual evolution or consciousness. The Nirvana Plane is the highest level of spiritual enlightenment and blessedness, the plane on which one attains Nirvana. [See the entry for "Nirvana", above.] Only the very highest masters — such as Buddha and Christ — have risen to the Nirvana Plane thus far, Steiner taught. “The occultist [1] speaks of different states of consciousness. In reality they are different worlds: and it has become customary, as you know, to call these different states of consciousness different planes. That which can be surveyed with the physical consciousness is called the physical plane; that which is perceptible to the first consciousness of a supersensible nature, [is called] the astral plane [2]; to the second, the lower Devachan or mental plane [3]; and to the third, the higher mental, or higher Devachan plane. [4] Still farther on, we have the Buddhi plane [5] and the Nirvana plane. All we are doing here is simply to give other names to the results reached on the occult path. [6] Both roads lead to a picture of man. For it is always man who in his varying conditions or states is active as [a] member of the different planes or worlds. What we have done is to lead over the knowledge of man from the standpoint of occultism, where we speak of different conditions of consciousness and different conditions of evolution [7], to the knowledge of man from the standpoint of theosophy. [8] For where the occultist speaks of conditions of consciousness, the theosophist speaks of successive planes. Occultism can in this manner be communicated openly as theosophy. [9]” — R. Steiner, MAN IN THE LIGHT OF OCCULTISM, THEOSOPHY AND PHILOSOPHY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1964), lecture 10, GA 137.

Theosophists identify three different Nirvana planes: stages of ultimate consciousness. Following his break with Theosophy, Steiner dispensed with these distinctions, and he largely dropped Theosophical terminology, although his central teachings were largely unchanged.


These are the planes of spiritual consciousness as described, above, by Steiner. (Other accounts are sometimes given, in both Theosophy and Anthroposophy.) Each plane corresponds to a level of consciousness. As we evolve to higher and higher levels of consciousness, we can perceive higher and higher planes of existence, Steiner taught.

[1] See "Occultism". In this passage, Steiner essentially identifies himself as a occultist.

[2] i.e., the soul world. [See "Higher Worlds".]

[3] I.e., the lower level of the spirit world. [See "Higher Worlds".]

[4] I.e., the higher level of the spirit world. [See "Higher Worlds".]

[5] I.e., the level of foreseeing, the region of living warmth. [See the entries for "Buddhi plane" and "life spirit" in this encyclopedia.]

[6] I.e., the path leading to occult initiation.

[7] Steiner, drawing from Theosophy, taught that we evolve upward through stages he called conditions of consciousness. We attain higher and higher levels of awareness as we progress. [See "Matters of Form" and the entry for "conditions of consciousness" in this encyclopedia.]

[8] Steiner was a Theosophist before breaking away to set up Anthroposophy as a separate movement. [See "What a Guy".] Here, he speaks as a Theosophist. (His teachings changed very little after he left Theosophy. He referred to his teachings as Anthroposophy even while he was nominally a Theosophist.)

[9] According to believers, occultism consists of secret or hidden spiritual knowledge. The secrets are usually revealed only to the initiated. However, both Theosophy and Anthroposophy have made some of their secret teachings public.

Noah - also see The Flood; Manu; Old Testament

a) In the Bible, Noah was the tenth descendant of Adam; he built the Ark to save humanity and the animals from the Flood unleashed by God.

b) According to Steiner, Noah was the Atlantean initiate who led his followers to safety when Atlantis was destroyed. Steiner's followers generally affirm this vision. "Many people, and also giants, now lived on the earth but men had become wicked ... The story refers to the sinking of the continent of Atlantis [1] ... Noah, or Manu [2], as he is known elsewhere [3], was the leader of the sun-oracle of Atlantis [4] ... He was the most advanced leader and he was obviously [sic] still in touch with the creators [sic] of the Earth, the Elohim or Spirits of Form [5] ... Noah gathered together people sufficiently mature [6] and, knowing that the catastrophe [7] was coming, emigrated to the center of Asia ... Here he set up a cultural or mystery center [8] from which the early Post-Atlantis civilizations were inspired." — R. Wilkinson, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT STORIES (Henry Goulden), pp. 20-21. [See "Old Testament".]

c) According to Steiner (on other occasions), "Noah" is a compound name for an entire group: “'Adam' or 'Noah'. These names did not refer to the life of an individual but to the stream of memory of whole groups and tribes....” — R. Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 296. (It is not always possible to reconcile Steiner's various statements on various topics. He often contradicted himself. [9])

[1] See "Atlantis".

[2] See "Old Testament".

[3] I.e., in other spiritual/mythological traditions. ("Manu" was the first man, according to Hindu tradition. He was more akin to Adam than to Noah.)

[4] I.e., a center of occult knowledge, especially that provided by the gods of the Sun. [See the entry for "oracle" in this encyclopedia.]

[5] I.e., gods four levels higher than humanity. They helped form the physical Earth, Steiner taught, but they were not the Creators of the universe. [See "Polytheism" and "Origins".]

[6] I.e., sufficiently evolved.

[7] I.e., the detraction of Atlantis.

[8] Mystery centers or mystery schools are similar to oracles: centers of occult wisdom. [See the entry for "mystery schools" in this encyclopedia.]

[9] See the entry in this encyclopedia for "contradiction".

nonphysical bodies - also see astral body; bodies; ego body; etheric body; "I"

Steiner taught that the human being has four bodies, three of them invisible. These bodies incarnate on a seven-year cycle. The Waldorf curriculum is geared to this idea. Having been born with physical bodies, children incarnate their etheric bodies [1] at around age seven (signaled by the replacement of baby teeth by adult teeth) and their astral bodies [2] at around age 14 (signaled by puberty). Later, at about age 21, the "I" [3] incarnates. Additional invisible members of the human constitution incarnate later. [See "Incarnation" and "What We're Made Of".]

The existence of invisible bodies, and their incarnation, is a fundamental belief underlying Waldorf education. If these bodies do not exist, there is little justification for Waldorf schooling. "Waldorf education is based upon [emphasis added] the recognition that the four bodies of the human being develop and mature at different times.” — R. Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents, and Teachers (SteinerBooks, 2017), p. 4. Likewise, Steiner's doctrine that children develop through seven-year-long stages — the periods of incarnation — is usually seen as key to the Waldorf movement. “Perhaps the most original and significant component in Steiner’s educational philosophy is its conception of child development in seven-year stages.” — R. McDermott, THE ESSENTIAL STEINER (Lindisfarne Press, 2007 ), p. 396. [See "Most Significant".]


"Let us place the human being schematically before us. Take, first of all, man's physical body (red) ... This is man's etheric body (blue); that is the human astral body (yellow); here we have man's ego [center]." — R. Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), p. 157. The curving tendrils in the diagram suggest the connections between the individual human being and the cosmic realm beyond. The ancients, with their innate clairvoyant powers, knew these connections well, Steiner taught. Modern humans, relying on the limiting powers of intellect, have lost sight of these connections. (This diagram is meant to represent the four bodies as perceived clairvoyantly. To see a schematic representation of the four bodies as perceived intellectually, see the diagram accompanying the entry for "etheric body" in this encyclopedia.)

[1] See the entry in this encyclopedia for "etheric body".

[2] See the entry in this encyclopedia for "astral body".

[3] The "I" is also called the ego. See "Ego" and the entries in this encyclopedia for "I" and "higher I".

normal - also see advanced races; divine cosmic plan; morality; cf. abnormal; sin

According to Steiner, "normal" beings evolve at the proper pace, as planned and overseen by the gods. Among the gods themselves, there is a distinction between normal and abnormal development (gods evolve just as humans do, sometimes following the normal trajectory, sometimes departing from it). Abnormal beings lag behind, failing to evolve in the normal way; this is tantamount to sin, although sometimes a god will choose to remain at a given level in order to do more good work there.

People who are primarily influenced by normal gods stand at the proper developmental level for the period in which they incarnate. "In those persons who are stimulated by the true Spirits of the Age at their normal stage [1] are the true representatives of their time. We can look upon them as men who were destined to appear; we feel certain that their activities were predetermined. [2] There are also others, however, in whom are active those Spirits of Personality who are, in reality, Spirits of Form. [3]" — R. Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), p. 46. [See "Abnormal".]

The gods intend for evolution to proceed, raising as many beings as possible as high as possible toward divinity. This is the divine plan [4], and it is central to the purposes of Waldorf education. As Steiner told teachers at the first Waldorf school, “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods." — R. Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55. [See "Here's the Answer".] Violating the divine plan, by contravening evolution, is wicked. [5] The higher a being stands, the worse is the sin of refusing further evolution. "Now on each planet there are also Spirits who have remained behind in evolution, they have remained stationary and not wished to progress. You will recognise a law from this: If the most outstanding fall and commit the 'great sin' of not advancing with evolution, then they become the very worst of all." — R. Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 9, GA 99.

[1] I.e., normal gods three levels above humanity. [See the entry in this encyclopedia for "Spirits of an Age".]

[2] According to Anthroposophical belief, this predetermination reflects the will of the gods as well as the forces of "destiny" or karma. [See "Karma".]

[3] I.e., some people are guided by abnormal gods: gods who should be Spirits of Form but who lag behind and are effectively Spirits of Personality. [For a summary of the ranks of the gods, see "Polytheism". Normal gods occupy the ranks indicated; abnormal gods generally stand one rank lower than they would normally. Normal Spirits of Form stand four levels higher than humans. Abnormal Spirits of Form, functioning as if they were Spirits of Personality, stand three levels higher than humanity.)

[4] See the entry in this encyclopedia for "divine cosmic plan".

[5] See, e.g., "Sin" and the entries in this encyclopedia for "sin" and "Great Sin".

Norse myths - also see dwarfs; Frey; Freya; Frigg; giants; Loki; myths; Odin; Ragnarök; Thor; Valhalla; Yggdrasil

These are traditional folk tales originating in Northern Europe, generally recounting the activities of the pagan gods of that region. Norse myths are stressed in Waldorf schools because Steiner taught that these particular tales present the most accurate depiction of spiritual evolution. “No other mythology gives a clearer picture of evolution than Northern mythology. Germanic mythology [1] in its pictures is close to the anthroposophical conception of future evolution.” — THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), a collection of R. Steiner's lectures, p. 17, lecture synopsis. [See "The Gods".] Steiner taught that myths are essentially true — they are reports of clairvoyant visions had by the ancients. Thus, the gods described in myths really exist. “Myths...are the memories of the visions people perceived in olden times ... At night they were really surrounded by the world of the Nordic gods of which the legends tell. Odin, Freya, [2] and all the other figures in Nordic mythology were...experienced in the spiritual world with as much reality as we experience our fellow human beings around us today.” — R. Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 198.

In Waldorf schools, Norse myths usually receive greatest emphasis during fourth grade, but they are likely to be told and studied at other grade levels as well. In general, such myths are used to subtly convey Anthroposophical beliefs to the students. Here is how a Waldorf teacher suggests his colleagues should introduce Norse myths in class: “The stories I am going to tell are very special. They are wonderful stories of strange beings called ‘gods’ and of giants and dwarfs ... These stories were not just made up; they came about in a different way ... There were many peoples in the world who worshipped the angel-gods [3], and they had wonderful stories about them. The most wonderful stories were told among people who are called Norsemen ... When these brave, fierce Norsemen had fought a battle, they came home to celebrate their victory with a great feast ... The most important part of the feast was when a man called a ‘bard’ took a harp and sang or recited a poem ... These bards could see the angel-gods better than the others [could see them]. [4] This is how the stories I am going to tell you came about. They are stories that these wise bards among the Norsemen heard from the angels, from the angel-gods.” — C. Kovacs, NORSE MYTHOLOGY, Waldorf Education Resources (Floris Books, 2009), pp. 7-9. [See "Sneaking It In".]



(Floris Books, 2009).

This volume, by a longtime Waldorf teacher, is part of the "Waldorf Education Resources" series. It relates Norse myths as they are often presented in Waldorf classes.

[1] Norse myths arose principally in Scandinavia, but they are also native to the northern sections of Germany. Many of the tales were originally related in Norse, the native language of Norway. "Germanic" languages, in general, include German, the Scandinavian languages, Dutch, English, Frisian, and Gothic.

[2] Odin was the supreme god in Norse mythology. Freya, sometimes identified as Odin's wife, was the goddess of love, night, war, and death. [See "The Gods".]

[3] I.e., gods standing just a few levels higher than humanity. In Anthroposophic belief, Angels (Spirits of Dusk, Sons of Life...) stand one level above humans, Archangels (Spirits of Fire, Agnishvattas...) stand two levels above humans, and Archai (Spirits of Personality, Time Spirits...) stand three levels above humans. [See "Polytheism".]

[4] According to Anthroposophical belief, ancient peoples had natural powers of clairvoyance; this is how they were able to "see" the gods. [See the entry in this encyclopedia for "atavistic clairvoyance".] Here the teacher tells Waldorf students that the bards could see the gods more clearly than others could (which implies that they had higher clairvoyant powers). Whether Waldorf teachers openly expound Anthroposophical beliefs in class varies from school to school and from teacher to teacher. Here, Kovacs urges his colleagues to tell their students, or at least strongly intimate, that Norse myths are true (they were "not just made up," the bards "heard [them] from the angels, from the angel-gods").

number ether - also see ether; sound ether

Steiner used the term "ether" in numerous, sometimes contradictory, ways. In general, he taught that there are four types of ether: warmth ether, light ether, sound ether, and life ether. [1] Number ether is another designation for sound ether. Whatever "sounds" in the physical world derives from this ether: "Physical tone or sound is a mere phantom of spiritual tone, of ‘sound-ether’ or also ‘number-ether’." — R. Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF LUKE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1964), lecture 7, GA 114.

Summarizing, reconciling, and justifying Anthroposophical teachings about ethers is a challenge. Here is one representative effort: "[T]he light ether [2] is released when it gives rise to the gaseous condition, the chemical or sound or number ether is released in the next stage of densification, and then the life ether (which is also called meaning ether, and even, though seldom, in the older terminology of Rudolf Steiner, atomic ether) is then freed, to a certain degree, in the last stage of densification of physical matter to the solid condition of the earth. [3] Corresponding to light, we now have electricity, which Rudolf Steiner calls 'fallen' or 'evil' light ether. We also have magnetism as fallen chemical ether [4], and then, finally, the third force. And it is here that Rudolf Steiner speaks of Lucifer and Ahriman, and the Asuras. [5]" — G. Unger, ON NUCLEAR ENERGY AND THE OCCULT ATOM (Anthroposophic Press, 1982), p. 18.


[Diagram from


p. 15; color added.]

[1] "Ether," as Steiner used the term, is a gas-like essence that permeates the cosmos. The concept derives largely from nineteenth century physics, when such an ether was postulated to explain the propagation of light. Science discarded the concept of a universal either decades ago, but Anthroposophy still affirms it. [See the entry for "ether" in this encyclopedia.]

[2] This is the form of "ether" that is nearest to the concept found in nineteenth century physics.

[3] In this summary, three ethers rather than four are enumerated. They correspond to, and are released by, varying stages of physical densification (the process of spiritualized substance becoming more and more physical during descent toward Earthly incarnation). Unger acknowledges the existence of warmth ether, but he says there is no "fallen" form of it.

[4] I.e., electricity is a "fallen" form of light ether and magnetism is a fallen form of number ether (sound or chemical ether).

[5] These are demons. [See "Lucifer", "Ahriman", and "Evil Ones".] Unger indicates that Lucifer is associated with electricity, Ahriman with magnetism, and the Asuras with the "fallen" form of life ether: the "third force" — nuclear power. Unger argues that nuclear power causes Asuras to incarnate on Earth. (Steiner did refer to life ether as atomic ether, although his explanation is somewhat nebulous. "With the life ether one perceives life. This ether is also called the atomic ether, because on this plane [i.e., the physical plane of existence] it has its own life, its own central point. What lives on a particular plane has on this same plane its central point." — R. Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 5, GA 93a.)

numbers - see mathematics; numerology

numerology - also see mathematics; occult

The belief that numbers have occult significance, In Steiner’s doctrines, the most potent numbers are 7 and 12 (and their components, 3 and 4). According to Steiner, 3 is "the number of the Divinity revealing itself", 4 is "the sign of the cosmos or of creation," 7 is "the number of perfection," and 12 reflects the mighty forces of the zodiac. [See "Magic Numbers".]

Drawing heavily from Theosophy, Steiner repeatedly divided phenomena into hierarchical lists often consisting of 7 or 12 parts. Thus, for instance, he taught that there are 7 world "moods" and 12 world "outlooks." [See "Philosophy".] Likewise, he said that mankind will evolve through 12 major developmental stages, only 7 of which can be described. [See "Matters of Form".] He called these major stages conditions of consciousness (also planetary conditions). [1] He taught that each condition of consciousness consists of 7 conditions of life, each of which consists of 7 stages of form, each of which consists of 7 great epochs, each of which consists of 7 cultural epochs. [2]

Some of Steiner's lists emphasize numbers other than 7 and 12. He taught, for instance, that the human constitution consists of 9 chief parts (although he also sometimes reduced this to 7, 4, or 3 parts). [See "What We're Made Of".] In general, he taught that numbers reflect the will of the gods. Thus, for instance, he said “[N]umbers and numerical proportions have a certain meaning for the cosmos and the world. It is in numbers, we might say, that the harmony that wells through space is expressed.” — R. Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), lecture 3, GA 101. [See "Mystic Math".] Although Anthroposophists rarely embrace the term "numerology," their world view includes a fundamental belief in the occult significance of numbers.

[1] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "conditions of consciousness" and "planetary conditions". (Also see the entry for "incarnations of the solar system".)

[2] See the entries for these terms in this encyclopedia. (Also see the entry for "design".)

nutrition - see biodynamic gardening and farming; health; medicine

nymphs - also see fairies; nature spirits; undines

a) Immature insects.

b) Nature spirits [1] associated with water, often represented as tiny, beautiful maidens. "If you could observe certain spots, as, for instance, springs where underneath there is stone overgrown with moss, thus forming a kind of partition between plant and stone, and then water trickles over it — that too is essential — then you would see that what are called Nymphs and Undines [2] are very real, an actuality." — R. Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 9, GA 102. [See "Beings".]

[1] See "Neutered Nature".

[2] See the entry in this encyclopedia for "undines".

- O -

occult, occultism - also see Anthroposophy; esoteric; eugenic occultism; gnosticism; hygienic occultism; mechanical occultism; occult lodges; occult science; OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE; occult script

The term "occult" pertains to the the magical, mystical, and/or supernatural; occult things are obscure, secret, esoteric. "Occultism" is belief in the occult. (The term "occult" is often associated with worship of, or allegiance to, "dark" or evil powers — especially devil worship. However, more generally, the term is neutral: Any spiritual power or knowledge that is hidden or mysterious qualifies as "occult.")

According to Steiner, occultism is one of the seven world outlooks. "We should be Transcendentalists [1] if we said: 'The world is spread out all around us, and this world everywhere proclaims its essential being.' This we [2] do not say. We say: 'This world is Maya [i.e., illusion], and one must seek the inner being of things by another way than through external sense-perception and the ordinary means of cognition'. [3]. Occultism! The psychic mood of Occultism! ... [O]ne can be an Occultist throughout all the mental-zodiacal signs. [4]" — R. Steiner, HUMAN AND COSMIC THOUGHT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1991), p. 49. Steiner associated occultism with the Moon. [See "Philosophy".]

Steiner claimed to possess much occult — i.e., secret — spiritual knowledge; he was a self-described occultist. ◊ “When speaking of bodies in occultism, we speak of solid, liquid and gaseous bodies ... The Saturn mass [5] was not even condensed to the state of air, it consisted of purified heat....” — R. Steiner “The Earth's Passage Through Its Former Planetary Conditions” (ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET 33-34), GA 100. ◊ “[I]n occultism we call the Moon the ‘Cosmos of Wisdom’ and the Earth the ‘Cosmos of Love.’” — R. Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 6, GA 102. [See "Occultism".]

The system Steiner created, Anthroposophy, consists principally of his occult teachings. Steiner kept many of his secrets (i.e., his occult or hidden knowledge), but he also revealed many in such books as AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE. Today Steiner's followers have difficulty deciding how much of their claimed occult information they should release publicly. The general trend has been to lift the veil of secrecy, but the veil has not yet risen all the way. Occultists in general believe themselves pledged to silence by the rules of initiation (i.e., the process of gaining access to occult knowledge). [6] In this, they abide by the guidance given by Steiner. Much occult knowledge must be withheld from the uninitiated, Steiner said; this is for their own good. "You may enjoy in the fullest sense the heart, the love of an initiate, yet he will only confide his knowledge to you when you are ripe for it. You may flatter him; you may torture him; nothing can induce him to betray anything to you as long as you, at the present stage of your evolution, are not competent to receive it into your soul in the right way." — R. Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1947), chapter 1, GA 10.

When Anthroposophical secrecy is embraced by the faculty of a Waldorf school — which is not uncommon — learning the actual practices and purposes of the school can be difficult. [See, e.g., "Secrets" and "Clues".]

[1] I.e., truth seekers who attempt to transcend the restrictions of ordinary experience to directly apprehend the divine or universal. [See, e.g., the entry in this encyclopedia for "American Transcendentalists".]

[2] I.e., occultists. Steiner here distinguishes between transcendentalism and occultism. [See "Occultism".]

[3] I.e., clairvoyance is needed.

[4] I.e., under all the signs of the zodiac and the mental dispositions influenced by them.

[5] I.e., the substance of Old Saturn, the first incarnation of the solar system. [See "Old Saturn".] Knowledge of such subjects as Old Saturn requires occult means, Steiner taught: clairvoyance. Here Steiner explicitly identifies himself as an occultist ("in occultism, we").

[6] See "Inside Scoop".

occult initiation - see initiation

occultism - see occult

occult lodges - also see Lodge of Twelve; lodges; Mother Lodge; occultism; secret brotherhoods; White Lodge

According to Steiner, these are gatherings or brotherhoods of powerful spiritual beings, both good (which he designated white) and evil (which he designated black). Various lodges may have embodiments on the physical plane, but their real existence occurs in the spirit realm. "Now quite apart from the many occult Orders [1] which have become pure mummies, have no deep background, and are carried on more out of a liking to dabble in mysteries [2], we find that as late as the first half of the nineteenth century there always existed, as well as these others, very earnest and sincere Orders, in which more was imparted than, for example, an average Freemason today receives from his Order. [3] The Orders to which I am referring were able to impart more, because certain needs prevailed in the spiritual world among Beings belonging to the Hierarchy of the Angeloi [4] ... [Angels] have needs of knowledge, and can only satisfy them by letting human beings reach over, probingly as it were, to these genuine occult Orders [5] ... It has actually happened that in connection with certain Lodges working with ancient ceremonial forms, men of vision have been able to assert: Here there is present the soul of a human being who will descend to the earth only in the future. [6] Before the man is born, the soul may be present in such a Lodge and, through their feelings, men can acquire a great deal from this source [7] ... [I]n certain occult Lodges the spirits of human beings not yet born hover in a kind of anticipatory existence." — R. Steiner, SUPERSENSIBLE INFLUENCES IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1956), lecture 3, GA 216. [See "Occult Lodges" and "The White Lodge".]

[1] I.e., occult organizations or societies, which generally gather in occult lodges.

[2] I.e., these orders have lost their true missions.

[3] Freemasons are members of an international fraternal order that holds secret ceremonies. Steiner is said to have been a member. [See "Occult Lodges".]

[4] I.e., Angels — gods one level higher than humanity — needed some occult wisdom to flow out into the world.

[5] I.e., Angels can satisfy their needs concerning knowledge only if they let human beings probe into occult lodges in the spirit realm.

[6] I.e., clairvoyant members of occult lodges on Earth have been able to perceive unborn human souls in occult lodges in the spirit realm.

[7] I.e., men alive on Earth can learn a lot by investigating souls of unborn humans, found in occult lodges in the spirit realm.

occult orders - see occult lodges

occult science - also see Anthroposophy; mystery science; occult; OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE; spiritual science; Theosophy

In Anthroposophical discourse, this term is generally synonymous with "spiritual science" — it applies to any method that purports to objectively penetrate spiritual mysteries to discover the truths of the spirit realm. (If a distinction is to be made, the term "occult science" may be deemed a general label applied to all "sciences" dealing with occult or mystery knowledge; "spiritual science," in the way Steiner usually used this term, applies principally to Anthroposophy.)

Occult or spiritual "sciences" are often difficult to distinguish from religions; their practitioners claim to follow scientific protocols, but generally in fact they do not do so. They seek to explore matters that lie outside the reach both of human senses and scientific apparatuses; they attempt to investigate miraculous or divine occurrences and forces that are centered outside the limits of the perceptible, physical universe. Such explorations are typically subjective, looking inward through the use of "spiritual sight" or "intuitive insight" or "clairvoyance," etc. But such powers, if they exist at all, are not amenable to scientific methodology — no confirming experiments or observations are generally possible. Thus, even if we agree that the subjects "studied" by occult science are of the highest importance, we are driven to the admission that these "studies" are not scientific. The terms "occult science" and "spiritual science" are oxymorons, and indeed such "sciences" usually reveal themselves to be, in fact, religions because they ultimately depend on faith and entail such activities as meditation, prayer, consultation with gurus, etc. [See "Steiner's 'Science'", "Is Anthroposophy Science?", and "Knowing the Worlds".]

Within the Waldorf universe, the true occult science is deemed to be Steiner's spiritual science, Anthroposophy — which provides the basis for Waldorf education. [See "Schools as Churches", "Oh Humanity", "Spiritual Agenda", and "Soul School".]

OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (book by Steiner) - also see Anthroposophy; occult; mystery science; occult science; spiritual science; KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT; AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE

Steiner's major attempt to summarize his doctrines; invaluable for anyone who wants to understand the thinking behind Waldorf schools. The book has been published in many editions under a variety of related titles such as AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE and AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE.

To explore the contents of this book, summarizing Rudolf Steiner's key doctrines, see "Everything".



(Anthroposophical Literature Concern, 1922).


(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009).


The chapters of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE bear the following titles (and chapter 7 contains the sections indicated):

1. The Character of Occult Science

2. The Nature of Humanity

3. Sleep and Death

4. Man the and Evolution of the World

5. Knowledge of Higher Worlds. Concerning Initiation

6. Present and Future Evolution of the World and of Mankind

7. Details from the Domain of Spiritual Science

The Ether-Body of Man

The Astral World

Man's Life after Death

The Stages of Man's Life

Higher Regions of the Spiritual World

The Members of Man's Being

The State of Consciousness in Dreaming

The Way to Supersensible Cognition

The Observation of Particular Events and Beings

occult script - also see Akashic Chronicle or Record(s); clairvoyance; occult

The writing in the Akashic Chronicle. [1] According to Steiner, the occult script can be read by advanced clairvoyants. “The third stage [in a process of initiation] is Reading in the Occult Script [sic], that is, not only seeing isolated pictures [2] but letting the relationship of these pictures work upon one. [3] This becomes what is called occult script. One begins to coordinate the lines of force which stream creatively through the world forming them into definite figures and colour-forms through the imagination. [4] One learns to discover an inner connection which is expressed in these figures and this acts as spiritual tone, as the sphere-harmony, for the figures are founded on true cosmic proportions. [5] Our script [6] is a last decadent relic of this old occult writing....” — R. Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), p. 163. [See "Akasha" and "Rosy Cross".]

[1] This is an invisible celestial storehouse of knowledge, accessible through clairvoyance. [See "Akasha".]

[2] The knowledge in the Akashic Record consists primarily of images or pictures, Steiner said. (Use of true imagination, he taught, produces these or similar images in the mind.)

[3] I.e., one "reads" the "script" by internalizing the pictures and seeing them in true relationship with one another.

[4] Imagination, Steiner taught, is the first form of clairvoyance. (Above it are inspiration and intuition.) Internalizing the images of the Akashic Record means receiving the spiritual forces flowing through the cosmos, perceiving them as images: "definite figures and colour-forms."

[5] I.e., cosmic harmony, or the music of the spheres, sounds within one. (Reading the Akashic Record produces not only images but music in the soul.)

[6] I.e., written language now, in the physical world.

Odin - also see Buddha; Frigg; Norse myths; Thor; Valhalla

a) In Norse mythology: the supreme god (also called Woden, Wotan); the god of kings.

b) According to Steiner: an abnormal Archangel. Nordic man “came to know Odin as one of the abnormal Archangels [1] ... Nordic man experienced the activity of Odin." — R. Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 132.

Steiner taught that Odin or Wotan is the same god who was apprehended elsewhere as Buddha. “The same being who was called Wotan in the Germanic myths, appeared again as Buddha.” — R. Steiner, EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MYSTERIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), p. 141. [2]

Steiner also taught that Odin is essentially equivalent to Jehovah. "[T]he name of the god who is connected with the formation of the I is [Odin]...who is a god of the wind and races around in storms. [In Hebrew] ‘Jach’ (Jahweh) is the ‘blower’....” — R. Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (Anthroposophic Press, 1993), p. 53.

[For more on the Norse gods, see "The Gods".]

[1] Abnormal beings, Steiner taught, lag behind their peers in evolutionary development. An abnormal Archangel should stand two levels higher than humanity, as other Archangels do, but he has remained behind so that he stands just one level higher than humanity. (He functions more as an Angel than as an Archangel.)

[2] For some Anthroposophical teachings about Buddha, see "Buddhism".

[3] For some Anthroposophical teachings about Jehovah, see "Genesis". The "I" is the third of our invisible bodies, Steiner taught; possessing an "I" or a spiritual ego makes one human. [See "Ego".]

Old Mars - also see Old Moon

"Old Mars" (or "Ancient Mars") is, in a sense, a misnomer: It may be considered a rare, alternative designation for Old Moon. During the Old Moon phase of cosmic evolution, Anthroposophists say, the solar system extended out as far as the current orbit of Mars, so it may be termed Old Mars.

Steiner taught that the Moon and Mars, as we know them today, are remnants of Old Moon. "The Mars of today is a repetition of old Moon. The old Moon reached as far as the present position of Mars. Mars is the other piece of old Moon. One piece is the present Moon, which is dross. The living remnant, which represents the other pole, remained with the present Mars ... In this sense, Mars is the third condition of our planetary system, and it corresponds to the stage of old Moon. Mars is essentially a water-body. During the period of old Moon — or Mars, if you prefer — humans beings received their astral body ... [H]umankind received consciousness on the old Moon, or old Mars...." — R. Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp.130-131.

Old Moon - also see conditions of consciousness; historical narrative of Anthroposophy; Moon; Old Saturn; Old Sun; planetary conditions; Present Earth

According to Steiner, this was the evolutionary mega-stage that came before the Present Earth stage of evolution. [1] Old Moon was the third "planetary condition" or "condition of consciousness" in our evolution, the stage at which proto-humans attained a level of existence equivalent to (but higher than) the animals we know on Earth now. The substance of Old Moon was liquid (but not liquid as we know it now). This incarnation of the solar system extended outward about as far as Mars is now from the Sun (and thus, occasionally, it is referred to as Old Mars). During the Old Moon stage, our consciousness was equivalent to dreaming — it was intermediate between the deep-sleep consciousness of Old Sun and the waking consciousness of Present Earth. [2] The Angels attained their human stage of development during Old Moon, just as the Archangels had done during Old Sun and as we would do during Present Earth. [3] The gods with chief creative responsibility during Old Moon were the Spirits of Motion [4], and through them we received the substance from which our astral bodies [5] would develop. During Old Moon, a third kingdom of nature developed so that now there were a human kingdom, mineral kingdom, and a plant kingdom. (Bear in mind, of course, that all things were then quite different from anything we know today.)

Prior to Old Moon, most of the celestial bodies that constitute today's solar system were united in a single body (of a very different nature from the celestial bodies we know now, during Present Earth). During Old Moon, the Sun separated from the central mass of the solar system, and highly evolved spirits went with it while less evolved spirits remained behind as residents of the Moon (as it existed at that time). As proto-humans, we were united with beings that would later branch off from our evolutionary line, becoming animals and plants. Old Moon was denser, more nearly physical, than the preceding stages of cosmic evolution had been; by today's standards, it was still cloudy and immaterial, but it gradually hardened. “[A] kind of severance took place at a certain point during the Old Moon embodiment. [6] The Sun, progressing as it was within the cosmic expanse [7], separated from the planetary body [8] together with the finest substances and higher beings. The less progressed [i.e., less evolved] part of the planetary body, namely, Old Moon itself, still containing all that constitutes our present earth and present moon, remained as a kind of cloud-body. [9] Certain conditions brought about a densification or hardening on Old Moon and the same happened to the beings inhabiting it [10] ... The subsequent human-animal-plant kingdom [11] that came into existence on Old Moon now received the forces of the Sun from outside ... The Old Moon was like a great organism, living and mobile, on which the beings living might have felt like parasites of today. [12]” — R. Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN ESOTERICISM (Anthroposophic Press, 1978), lecture 7, GA 109. [See "Old Moon, Etc.".]


These are the major stages of our evolution as described by Steiner: our conditions of consciousness. We have evolved through Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon. We currently exist in the Present Earth condition of consciousness. Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan lie ahead. (Steiner sometimes said there will five more conditions of consciousness after Future Vulcan, but usually these are unmentioned.)

[1] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "conditions of consciousness" and "incarnations of the solar system."

[2] See "Old Moon, Etc.", "Old Sun", and "Present Earth".

[3] See the entry for "human stage of evolution" in this encyclopedia.

[4] These are gods five levels higher than humanity. [See "Polytheism".]

[5] The "astral body" is the second of three invisible bodies that real human beings possess today, Steiner taught. [See "Incarnation".]

[6] I.e., the embodiment of the solar system in the form of Old Moon.

[7] I.e., the solar system, our universe.

[8] i.e., it split off from the rest of the solar system, which existed as a unified body.

[9] I.e., Old Moon — the unified body of the solar system, containing both Earth and Moon — was a cloudy, unified mass.

[10] I.e., the cloudy mass of the Old Moon, and the cloudy beings living there, became more dense — more nearly physical.

[11] I.e., the unified human-animal-plant kingdom of nature (which later would divide into three separate kingdoms of nature).

[12] Old Moon was itself a living being, on which other beings (principally ourselves as proto-humans) lived — we were like parasites on the body of Old Moon.


“Our present Earth-evolution emerged from the Old Moon evolution, this from the Old Sun, the Old Sun from Old Saturn.” — R. Steiner, INNER ASPECT OF THE SOCIAL QUESTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), lecture 1, GA 193.


Old Saturn - also see conditions of consciousness; historical narrative of Anthroposophy; Old Moon; Old Sun; planetary conditions; Present Earth; Saturn

According to Steiner, this was the first evolutionary mega-stage for us and our solar system. [1] Neither we nor the solar system existed prior to Old Saturn — thus, in a sense, Old Saturn was the beginning of our universe. But various gods had existed and evolved during prior evolutionary stages, unknown to us. During Old Saturn, everything that exists now in the solar system was united as a single mass or body, which extended out about as far as the planet Saturn is from the Sun now. But neither the planet Saturn nor any other part of today's solar system existed then as a separate body; all were merged in a unified mass. (The planet Saturn, in our sky today, is a remnant of Old Saturn incarnated in the Present Earth mega-stage of evolution. [2]) In a sense, Old Saturn was the spiritual equivalent of the mineral kingdom, although nothing then was physical as we understand the term today, and during Old Saturn there was just one kingdom of nature: the (proto-)human kingdom. From that lowly beginning, we would evolve upward through stages equivalent, spiritually, to the levels of plants and then animals before becoming recognizably human. [3]

The substance of Old Saturn was warmth (although, of course, a different sort of warmth than exists today on the physical plane). The gods known as Archai [4], having evolved to Old Saturn from a prior stage/universe, attained their human condition of development during Old Saturn (in other words, they developed their I's or spiritual egos [5]; they were, in a sense, human beings then). The gods with primary creative responsibility for guiding evolution during Old Saturn were the Spirits of Will. [6] We came into existence during Old Saturn, but in a wholly spiritualized, cloudy form, and we had by no means reached our own human condition yet (we did not have I's). Our consciousness during Old Saturn was comparable to being in a coma. Lying in this comatose state, we began receiving the forces that would constitute our physical bodies when we eventually evolved to Present Earth.

Describing Old Saturn — like the succeeding stages called Old Sun and Old Moon — is challenging. "Behind the phenomena surrounding us [today] is a richly constituted spiritual world [7], just as there was during the periods of Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon [8] ... Investigation of the Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon periods reveals many things which cannot be compared with anything we can name on the Earth [today], and of which one can only speak by analogy. [paragraph break] It will be remembered that I have spoken of the Old Saturn period as being essentially one of warmth, or of fire; on [i.e., during] Old Sun this warmth condensed to air; on Old Moon the air condensed to water, and on [Present] Earth the earth element [9] appeared for the first time. But the application of our concept of fire or warmth directly to the evolution of Old Saturn would result in an incorrect picture, for the fire of Saturn differed essentially from the fire of our Earth [today]. There is only one phenomenon which can legitimately be compared to the Saturn fire, and that is the fire which permeates the blood as warmth. [10] This vital warmth, or life principle [11], is more or less comparable to the substance of which Old Saturn was entirely composed, and the physical fire of today is a descendant, a later product of the Saturn fire; in its external form as perceived in space, it has appeared for the first time on [today's] Earth. The warmth of the blood, then, is the only thing which can be compared to what was present during the physical evolutionary period of Old Saturn. There is very little indeed in the realm of our present day experience which can be compared in any way with the qualities of these earlier evolutionary periods, all of which were very different from our present Earth existence." — R. Steiner, THE EAST IN THE LIGHT OF THE WEST (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1940), lecture 4, GA 113.


According to Anthroposophical cosmology (derived largely from Theosophy), Old Saturn was the first incarnation of the solar system. Subsequently, the solar system reincarnated as Old Sun, Old Moon, and Present Earth. We have evolved as the solar system as a whole has progressed through these phases — we have moved to higher and higher forms or conditions of consciousness. After the current incarnation of the solar system, Present Earth, our evolution will continue during Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan. (Five more stages of evolution may lie beyond Future Vulcan, but these are rarely mentioned.)

[1] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "conditions of consciousness" and "incarnations of the solar system."

[2] See "Old Saturn" and "Present Earth".

[3] See the entry for "human stage of evolution" in this encyclopedia.

[4] These are gods that stand three levels higher than humanity. [See "Polytheism".]

[5] See "Ego".

[6] These are gods seven levels higher than humanity. [See "Polytheism".] Like the Archai, they came from a former evolution or a former universe.

[7] I.e., the spirit realm in general. Steiner taught that there are actual two "higher worlds": the soul world and the spirit world. [See "Higher Worlds".]

[8] See "Old Saturn", "Old Sun", and "Old Moon, Etc."

[9] I.e., dense matter of the sort that constitutes the Earth today.

[10] For Steiner's teachings about blood, see "Blood".

[11] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "life force" and "life spirit".

Old Sun - also see conditions of consciousness; historical narrative of Anthroposophy; Old Moon; Old Saturn; planetary conditions; Present Earth; Sun

According to Steiner, this was the evolutionary mega-stage between Old Saturn and Old Moon; it was the second condition of consciousness in our evolution, the second incarnation of the solar system. [1] Old Sun was a mass, consisting of gas, that extended out about as far as Jupiter is from the Sun today. (The "gas" of Old Sun was different from anything we know now as gas.) Our consciousness rose from the comatose condition we experienced during Old Saturn [2]; it became comparable to deep sleep. We had, in a sense, risen from a spiritual form of mineral existence to a spiritually plant-like level — during Old Sun, we were "plant men." We were still far from attaining our I's and thus becoming human. [3] The Archangels (gods two levels above us) became human during Old Saturn, just as the Angels (gods one level above us) would become human during Old Moon. [4] The primary creative spirits of Old Sun were the Spirits of Wisdom (gods six levels above us). [5] From out of their substance, they bequeathed us the forces that would become our etheric bodies. [6] As Old Sun formed, a portion of the prior Old Saturn stage was left over — it became the planet Saturn that we see in the sky today. During Old Sun, a second kingdom of nature arose: the mineral kingdom (so there were then a human kingdom and a mineral kingdom, although they were quite different from the equivalent kingdoms we know today).

"[T]he first embodiment of our planet [7] was that of Old Saturn, the second that of Old Sun and the third that of Old Moon ... On Saturn [8] it was the Thrones, the Spirits of Will [9] who made the sacrifice of pouring out from their own substance the material for man's physical body. On Old Sun it was the Dominions or Spirits of Wisdom [10] who provided the substance for the etheric body, and on Old Moon it was the Spirits of Movement or Mights [11] who made possible the formation of the astral body." — R. Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN ESOTERICISM (Anthroposophic Press, 1978), lecture 7, GA 109.

"On the Sun planet [12], man and the other beings mentioned in the course of the discussion of [Old] Saturn passed through another stage of their development in the second great cosmic era. [13] The rudiment of the later physical body of man, which had gradually developed on Saturn, emerges like a plant from the seed at the beginning of the Sun cycle. But here it does not remain in the same state in which it was previously. It is permeated by a second, more delicate, but in itself more powerful body, the ether[ic] body. While the Saturn body of man was a kind of automaton (quite lifeless), now, through the ether body which gradually permeates it completely, it becomes an animated being. Man thereby becomes a kind of plant. [14] His appearance, however, is not that of the plants of today. Rather in his form he already somewhat resembles present-day man. But, the rudiment of the head like the plant root of today, is turned downward, toward the center of the Sun, and the rudiments of the feet turned upward like the blossom of the plant. This plant-man organism has as yet no capacity of voluntary movement. [15]" — R. Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), chapter 15, GA 11.


Anthroposophists hold that Old Sun was the second incarnation of the solar system (that is, it was our second "condition of consciousness" or "planetary condition"). Steiner's teachings about the seven planetary stages of evolution are essentially a simplification of Theosophical teachings about rounds: "In connection with a planetary chain, when the life-wave of any planet passes through the seven root-races of one of its globes, this is called a globe-round. But the life-wave also passes in turn through the seven or twelve globes, beginning with globe A, and after an interglobal rest, passes to globe B, on the next lower subplane, then to globe C in similar manner, and following it, to globe D, which is on the lowest plane for that planetary chain. Rising then it in like manner passes through the three higher globes, E, F, and G. The circuit of these seven or twelve globes is called a planetary round, after which there is a planetary or chain-nirvana before the second round begins, which is made on a more advanced degree of evolution than was the first round." — "round", Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary (Theosophical University Press, 1999).

[1] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "conditions of consciousness" and "incarnations of the solar system."

[2] See "Old Saturn".

[3] See "Ego" and the entry in this encyclopedia for "human stage of evolution".

[4] See "Polytheism" and "Old Moon, Etc."

[5] See "Polytheism".

[6] The etheric body is the lowest of the three invisible bodies a real human being comes to possess, according to Steiner. Next above it is the astral body. [See "Incarnation".]

[7] I.e., the first evolutionary stage for us, the Earth, and the solar system.

[8] I.e, during Old Saturn. (In statements like this, Steiner uses a sort of shorthand, referring to "Saturn" instead of "Old Saturn," and saying that we existed "on" Saturn. He might as easily have said we existed "in" or "with" or "during" Saturn. Old Saturn was a period of evolution, not a planet such as the Saturn we see in the sky today.)

[9] I.e., gods seven levels above humanity.

[10] I.e., gods six levels above humanity.

[11] I.e., gods five levels above humanity.

[12] I.e., during Old Sun.

[13] "The second great cosmic era" was the second incarnation of the solar system, the subject of Steiner's statement: Old Sun.

[14] I.e., during Old Saturn, we existed at the level of minerals which, according to Steiner, are alive, but only barely so. During Old Sun, we developed the rudiments of our etheric bodies which raised us to a higher living level: We became "animated" and stood at a level equivalent to plant life as we know it today.

[15] We would not become mobile until Old Moon, when we would rise to a level equivalent to animals as we know them today.

Old Testament - also see Abraham; Adam; creation of universe/earth; Eve; The Flood; Jehovah; Judaism; Noah

This is the first, longer portion of the Christian Bible; it is generally equivalent to the Hebrew Bible. Old Testament stories are often studied in Waldorf schools, alongside the study of myths and the observance of Christian/pagan festivals. The Anthroposophical interpretation of Bible stories diverges far from mainstream Jewish, Christian, and Islamic interpretations. There is a particular emphasis on Old Testament stories in the third grade because, according to Waldorf belief, growing children recapitulate the cultural/racial/historical evolution of humanity, and third-grade children are deemed to be at the evolutionary level of the ancient Hebrews. [1] In Waldorf schools, the Old Testament stories (expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the parting of the Red Sea, Noah and the Ark, etc.) are generally told either with little commentary or with commentary that includes Anthroposophical beliefs. In either case, the purpose is to bring the "correct" spiritual view into the classroom. Jewish beliefs are deemed no longer valid, having been supplanted by "Christian" (i.e., Anthroposophical) beliefs; students are therefore shepherded toward the latter, "truer" beliefs. Here, for instance, is how the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho in explained in a Waldorf teachers' guide. (Bear in mind that, in Anthroposophical belief, Christ is the Sun God. Bear in mind, also, that Christ does not figure, as Himself, in any Old Testament verse or book.) "Christ, the spirit of the sun, was approaching ... Jericho was situated in a remnant of fertile ground which had all around been destroyed by volcanic activity ... The city was decadent ... Joshua supposedly cried for the sun and moon to stand still ... The call was a supplication to the spiritual being of the sun [2] 'Spirit of the Sun, shine on Gibeon.'" — R. Wilkinson, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT STORIES (Henry Goulden, 1984), pp. 54-55. (Wilkinson's book was reissued by the Rudolf Steiner College Press in 2001.) [See "Old Testament" and "Sneaking It In".]

[1] Compare this, for instance, to the belief that fifth graders stand at about the level of the ancient Greeks. [See the entry for "Olympics", below. For the sequence of relevant evolutionary stages, as posited in Anthroposophy, see the entry in this encyclopedia for "cultural epochs".]

[2] According to Anthroposophical teachings, the spirit of the Sun is Christ, the Sun God. [See "Sun God".] Whether this reference would be explicitly explained to the students would depend on the individual choices made by Waldorf class teachers.

Olympics - also see festivals; Greco-Roman Age; play at Waldorf schools; outdoor play at Waldorf schools; temperaments

At Waldorf schools, these are often large athletic events ("Greek Olympics"), sometimes involving teams from more than one Waldorf school. Students often dress in Greek togas for these events, and they engage in competitions taken from the ancient Olympics: foot races, discus and javelin throws, and the like. Waldorf schools usually stage these Olympics for fifth graders because, according to Waldorf belief, growing children recapitulate the cultural/racial/historical evolution of humanity, and children in the fifth grade are believed to stand at about the level of the ancient Greeks. [1] The students are typically separated into competing groups based on their "temperaments" — choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine. [2] Baseless as the belief in the four classical temperaments may be, dividing students into these categories for Greek Olympics has the justification that the students are thereby enacting ancient Greek conceptions.

Children generally enjoy these Olympics, as they do most forms of play. But critics of Waldorf education are troubled by the use of a false classification system to pigeonhole children, based in part on physical appearance (Steiner indicated that each temperament expresses itself in a particular body type). [3] They fear that children are being taught to judge one another wrongly, and that they may be psychologically damaged as a result. Dividing students by "temperament," so that, for instance, "sanguines" compete against "cholerics," encourages children to identify with one arbitrarily defined subset of the general population, embracing a false self-image, and distancing themselves from the members of the other three subsets (approximately three-quarters of the overall student population).

[1] Compare this, for instance, to the belief that third graders stand at about the level of the ancient Hebrews. [See the entry for "Od Testament", above. For the sequence of relevant evolutionary stages, as posited in Anthroposophy, see the entry in this encyclopedia for "cultural epochs".]

[2] See "Temperaments" and "Faculty Meetings"; also see the entries in this encyclopedia for "choleric", "melancholic", "phlegmatic", and "sanguine".

[3] See "Humouresque".

Ongod - also see monotheism; I; I Am the I Am

According to Steiner: an ancient European perception of divinity leading to the idea of One God and, more particularly, the "I." [See, e.g., "Differences".]

oracle - also see gnosis; occult; occult lodges; mystery schools

A priest or priestess having the power of prophecy, and/or the place where prophecies are made. According to Steiner, an oracle possesses secret spiritual wisdom or gnosis [1]; the power of prophecy arises from this occult wisdom. Oracles are often associated with the spiritual forces of particular celestial orbs (hence, Anthroposophists refer to the "Mars oracle," the "Sun oracle," etc.). [See, e.g., "Vulcan".] Steiner gave the following account of an important period in human evolution: "[T]he most advanced among men...were able gradually to prepare themselves to envision not only the spiritual beings of Mars, Jupiter, or Venus, but those of the sun itself, the exalted sun beings. [2] Having come down from the various planets [3] the initiates were again able to behold the spirituality of these planets. [4] From this it is clear why in ancient Atlantis there were institutions, schools, where those who had descended, for example, from Mars were accepted, when sufficiently mature, for the purpose of studying the mysteries of Mars [5]; and that there were other sanctuaries where those who had come from other planets could learn their mysteries [i.e., the mysteries of those planets]. Applying the later term 'oracle' to these institutions [6], we have in Atlantis a Mars Oracle, where the mysteries of Mars were studied, a Saturn Oracle, a Jupiter Oracle, a Venus Oracle, and so on. The highest was the Sun Oracle; and the loftiest of all the initiates was the ranking initiate of the Sun Oracle." — R. Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (Anthroposophic Press, 1948), lecture 6, GA 112.

[1] See "Gnosis". Oracles are high initiates, being privy to secrets hidden from most others.

[2] I.e., Christ and his spiritual cohorts, especially the Archangel Michael. [See "Sun God" and "Michael".]

[3] I.e., having returned to Earth after sojourning on other planets. (Steiner taught that most human souls left the Earth during the Lemurian epoch, returning later during the Atlantean epoch. [See the entry for "planetary migrations" in this encyclopedia.])

[4] I.e., living again on Earth, they maintained connections with the spiritual powers of the other planets, especially the planets to which they had gone.

[5] I.e., the secret spiritual wisdom of Mars. [See the entries for "mystery", "mystery knowledge", and "mystery schools" in this encyclopedia.]

[6] Thus, "oracles" were people (priests and priestesses, initiates) or the occult institutions overseen by these people.

orbits - also see astronomy; planets

Steiner sometimes acknowledged that the planets orbit the Sun, but then again he often denied it, saying that the planets travel in line with the Sun. The former sort of statement: “The planets move in orbits, and so the earth, too, moves in an orbit.” — R. Steiner, FROM MAMMOTHS TO MEDIUMS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 12. The latter sort of statement: "[The] Sun moves; it would outrun the Earth if the Earth simply revolved around the Sun. The Earth cannot revolve around the Sun because meanwhile the Sun would move away from it. In reality, the Sun moves on, and the Earth and the other planets follow it." — R. Steiner, THE FOURTH DIMENSION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 128. Anthroposophical scholars are aware of this contradiction and have been unable to explain it. [See "Deception".]

organic architecture - also see arts; biodynamic gardening and farming; nature

"Rudolf Steiner's guidelines for architecture were profoundly organic. Organic architecture...creates awareness of the dynamic spiritual forces in nature." — H. van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 87. The buildings that result from Steiner's architectural principles have irregular forms, and may even seem to deny gravity or to be on the verge of collapse. Right angles are often avoided, if possible, and other shapes thought to embody demonic force are eschewed. Thus, for instance, “Anti-Christian influence is directly visible in Moorish architecture with its arches that run up into a point instead of being rounded. This is the mark of Ahriman. [1] In architecture Ahriman worked as the Antichrist [2] when he replaced rounded Romanesque arches with horseshoe and pointed arches.” — R. Steiner, ARCHITECTURE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 153. Pointed arches are, therefore, avoided in Anthroposophical structures.


A large German Waldorf school is pictured here. Organic forms — especially apparent in the roof here — can be difficult and expensive to build, but the resulting structures can be reasonably sturdy if sufficient care is taken during construction. [Christopher Clouder and Martyn Rawson, WALDORF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 126; color added.]

This is a garage. Here, efforts to follow organic architectural principles seem far less successful. (This structure might almost be taken as a joke, but it evidently was not intended as such. Some of Steiner's own designs were equally grotesque.) [Henry Barnes, INTO THE HEART'S LAND: A Century of Rudolf Steiner's Work in North America (SteinerBooks, 2005), p. 598; color added.]

[1] Ahriman is one of the arch-demons described in Anthroposophy. [See "Ahriman".]

[2] Ahriman is sometimes spoken on as the Antichrist, but Steiner identified Sorat — the demon of the Sun — as the real Antichrist. [See "Bad, Badder, Baddest" and "Evil Ones".]

organic food - also see Ahriman; biodynamic gardening and farming; graces; demons; nature; prayers; religion; technology

Anthroposophists advocate organic foods. The meals served in Waldorf schools often consist of such organic provisions, sometimes grown in organic or biodynamic gardens on the school grounds. Rudolf Steiner taught that the demon Ahriman seeks to destroy human spirituality, in part by tempting us to eat foods that — because they are processed through materialistic, technological processes — are devoid of spiritual essence. Proper foods, Steiner taught, contain the essential qualities that flow to us through nature from the spirit realm. Meals should be blessed (as through the recitation of prayers) before being consumed, and they should likewise embody the inherent blessings of nature, which — at its best — is the handiwork or outward manifestation of the gods.

Organic foods may have many virtues recognized outside Anthroposophic circles — they may be free of harmful traces of pesticides or fertilizers; they may be fresher and arguably more wholesome. But the Anthroposophical preference for organic foods arises from other considerations. It is essentially religious (an ideal food, Steiner indicated, is analogous to consecrated bread and wine containing the essence of Christ), and it is linked to the Anthroposophical fear of demons who (Steiner said) may incarnate through the deplorable operations of modern technology.

organization - also see astrology; bodies; medicine

Steiner used the word "organization" in a variety of ways. By "human organization," for instance, he meant the human physical/spiritual constitution (body, mind, soul, spirit). ◊ "[T]here is a relationship between all things, between the whole macrocosm [1], and the human organization, this microcosm...." — R. Steiner, CREATIVE SPEECH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 225. By "Mars organization," to give a different example, Steiner meant the influence of, or the powers/organs/effects imparted by, Mars. ◊ "[B]y the time a man has gone through death and rebirth [2], he has achieved his Mars-organisation....” — R. Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 10, GA 227.

[1] I.e., the cosmos. Steiner taught that the human being (the microcosm) is a miniature replica of the cosmos (macrocosm); we are the center of creation and hold within us, as it were, all things. [See "The Center".]

[2] Steiner taught that we live many lives, through the process of reincarnation. [See "Reincarnation".] During sleep and after death, he said, we travel through various regions of the spirit realm, including planetary spheres such as the Mars sphere. [See "Higher Worlds".]

organs of clairvoyance - also see clairvoyance; chakras; lotus flower; planetary organs

In Anthroposophical belief, these are nonphysical organs, the seats of clairvoyance powers. They are sometimes referred to as "lotus flowers" or chakras. [1] "[J]ust as natural forces build out of living matter the eyes and ears of the physical body, so will organs of clairvoyance build themselves...." — R. Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 28.

Aspirants who seek spiritual initiation should work methodically to develop these organs, Steiner said. Here is a longer version of the quotation we have just considered. "Preparation consists in a strict and definite cultivation of the life of thought and feeling, through which the psycho-spiritual body [2] becomes equipped with higher senses and organs of activity in the same way that natural forces have fitted the physical body with organs built out of indeterminate living matter ... [I]t must not be thought that much progress can be made if the senses are blunted to the world. First look at the things as keenly and as intently as you possibly can; then only let the feeling which expands to life, and the thought which arises in the soul, take possession of you ... If the necessary tranquility be attained and you surrender yourself to the feeling which expands to life in the soul, then, in due time, the following experience will ensue. Thoughts and feelings of a new kind and unknown before will be noticed uprising in the soul. Indeed, the more often the attention be fixed alternately upon something growing, blossoming and flourishing, and upon something else that is fading and decaying, the more vivid will these feelings become. [3] And just as the eyes and ears of the physical body are built by natural forces out of living matter, so will the organs of clairvoyance build themselves out of the feelings and thoughts thus evoked." — R. Steiner, ibid., 1947 edition, chapter 2, GA 10.

For an overview of the spiritual discipline Steiner prescribed for those who wish to cultivate organs of clairvoyance, see "Knowing the Worlds." Ultimately, all of Steiner's teachings — including the teachings that underlie Waldorf education — hinge on the powers of clairvoyance that he claimed to possess (and that many of his followers, including many Waldorf teachers, also claim to possess, albeit perhaps at a lower level). The great difficulty in all this is that there is no reliable or valid evidence that clairvoyance is possible; no one has ever given a truly convincing demonstration of clairvoyance. [See "Clairvoyance".]

[1] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "chakras" and "lotus flower".

[2] i.e., one's inner, spiritual self. Steiner generally spoke of three invisible bodies that incarnate at seven-year intervals: the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego body. [See "Incarnation."] A real human being also has both a soul and a spirit. each of which consists of three parts, Steiner taught. [See "Our Parts".] Steiner here speaks of nonphysical organs growing in the inner "body" just as physical organs grow in the physical body.

[3] Feelings, Steiner taught, are at least as important as thoughts — generally more so, indeed. Feelings lead us more reliably to the spirit realm. [See "Thinking".]

Orientals - see Asia, Asians; also see Chinese people; Malayan race; Mongolian race

Original Accadians - see Akkadians

Original Forces - also see Spirits of an Age; Spirits of Epochs; Spirits of Personality; Zeitgeists

Gods three levels above man, according to Steiner. “Now we come to the rank of the ‘Original Forces.’ They are...lofty beings whose consciousness no longer descends to the animals [1] ... For the Original Forces man is the lowest kingdom [2] ... [T]hey guide the progress of humanity from a very lofty height. People here and there have an inkling that something exists as a kind of ‘Spirit of the Age' [3] that differs according to the different [cultural] epochs ... People rise to the conception of Ages, but they do not know that behind this whole progress of the Ages, Spirits of the Epochs stand... [E]verything of human origin, the progress of civilization from beginning to end stands under the guidance of the Original Forces. They lead man in so far as he has to do with others. [4]” — R. Steiner. THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1982), lecture 7, GA 102. [See "Polytheism".]


Steiner taught that there are nine ranks of gods; they are divided into three groups called "hierarchies." Original Forces are members of the highest rank of gods within the lowest or third hierarchy. (Humanity stands below the lowest or ninth rank of gods. Thus, counting upward from humanity's current position, Original Forces are three levels above us.) [5]

[1] I.e., they exist wholly above the animal kingdom; they transcend the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms altogether. [See the entry for "kingdoms of nature" in this encyclopedia.]

[2] I.e., the lowest kingdom that still enters their consciousness is the human kingdom (which Steiner denominated as the fourth kingdom of nature. [See the entry for "human kingdom" in this encyclopedia]).

[3] Steiner here provides various names for gods three levels above humanity: gods that oversee human evolution during specific historical periods. Steiner taught that human evolution on Earth passes through stages called "great epochs." the subdivisions of these epochs are called "cultural epochs" or "ages." [See the entries for "epochs", "cultural epochs", and "great epochs" in this encyclopedia.]

[4] I.e., these gods supervise the interactions of human groups such as nations and races. [See "Embedded Racism".]

[5] See "Polytheism".

Original Mongolians - see Mongols

Original Semites - see Primal Semites

original sin - also see Eighth Sphere; evil; fall of man; physical plane; sin

a) In Christian theology: innate human sinfulness resulting from the Fall (the disobedience of Adam and Eve in Eden).

b) in Anthroposophy, the descent into the material realm, a necessary stage in the divine cosmic plan of evolution. [1] According to Anthroposophical belief, we have descended from a highly nonphysical condition (Old Saturn) to a densely physical condition (Present Earth). [2] Thus we are now very far removed from the spirit realm — we have, in a sense, fallen. Here, far below the spirit realm, we acquire certain qualities helpful to our further evolution. In being brought to a low condition, we are made consciously aware of certain oppositions (good and evil, spirit and matter), and we develop the ability to choose between them. Strengthened by our new powers of discernment and choice, we will soon begin ascending again to increasingly nonphysical conditions (Future Jupiter, then Future Venus, and then Future Vulcan). [3] "[O]ur conception of the Original Sin must differ from that of other sins of ordinary life which are to be attributed entirely to ourselves: we must think of Original Sin as a destiny of man, as something that had inevitably to be imposed upon us by the World Order [4], because this World Order was obliged to lead us downwards — not in order to worsen us but in order to awaken in us the forces wherewith again to work our way upwards. We must therefore conceive of this Fall [of Man] as something that has been woven into human destiny for the sake of the freeing of mankind. We could never have become free beings had we not been thrust downwards; we should have been tied to the strings of a World Order which we should have been obliged to follow blindly. [5] What we have to do [next] is to work our own way upwards again." — R. Steiner, THE CONCEPTS OF ORIGINAL SIN AND GRACE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1960), GA 127. [See "Freedom" and "Sin".]

[1] See the entry in this encyclopedia for "divine cosmic plan".

[2] See "Old Saturn" and "Present Earth".

[3] See "Future Stages".

[4] I.e., the divine cosmic structure overseen by, or consisting of, the gods.

[5] I.e., only by being exposed to sin could we develop the capacity to choose between sin and virtue, descent and ascent. [For the Anthroposophical view of freedom, see "Freedom". Also see "Sin".]

Original Toltecs - see Toltecs

Original Turanians - see Primal Turanians

Oriphiel - also see Archangels; Uriel

According to Steiner: the Archangel of Saturn, who presided over human evolution from approximately 200 BCE to 150 CE. He thus oversaw the fall of ancient Greece, and he will preside again during mankind's coming tribulation. [See "Oriphiel".] "Oriphiel has ruled before. That was the time when Christ appeared on earth. Bad powers of degeneration and decadence were ruling everywhere on earth then. And the human race could only be shaken higher by terrible means. [1] Oriphiel is called the archangel of wrath, who purifies mankind with a strong hand. [paragraph break] The story in the Bible where Christ swings a scourge to chase the money changers out of the temple has a deep meaning. [2] Back when things were darkest on earth, Christ appeared as the savior of mankind. Oriphiel's reign ended 109 years after Christ's appearance, and he was replaced by Anael. [3] Then came Zachariel, then Raphael; Samael ruled during the Renaissance and Gabriel from the 16th century until 1879. Then Michael began to rule, and circa 2300 [4] Oriphiel, the terrible archangel of wrath, will be ruling things [again]. And as once before, spiritual light will shine into darkness brightly and radiantly." — R. Steiner, FROM THE CONTENTS OF THE ESOTERIC CLASSES (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), GA 266, December 5, 1907.

In addition to overseeing certain historical epochs, Oriphiel also involves himself in human affairs — to a lesser degree — on an annual basis. As one of the four Archangels who oversee the seasons of the year, Oriphiel (also known as Uriel) presides in summer. [See Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUR SEASONS AND THE ARCHANGELS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008).]

[1] I.e., desperate measures were needed to shake humanity out of its evil ways.

[2] See, e.g., Matthew 21:12.

[3] Here Steiner quickly summarizes the rotating office of Archangels who oversee human evolution during particular historical periods: Oriphiel is followed by Anael, who is followed by Zachariel, etc. (Some of the dates Steiner indicates here differ slightly from dates he indicated elsewhere.)

[4] In other accounts, Steiner specified a date of 2230 CE (or AD, as the convention was in Steiner's time).

Ormazd - also see Ahriman; Ahura Mazda; gods; Zoroaster; Zoroastrianism

This is another name for Ahura Mazda [1], chief deity of Zoroastrianism [2]; the opponent of Ahriman. [3]

[1] See the entry for "Ahura Mazda" in this encyclopedia.

[2] See "Zoroastrianism".

[2] See the entries for "Ahriman" and "Persian Age" in this encyclopedia.

Osiris - also see Egypto-Chaldean Age; gods; polytheism

a) Egyptian god of fertility and the afterlife.

b) Steiner indicated that the title "Osiris" can be applied to a perfected human who, like the god Osiris, is spiritually fruitful and immortal. "[A]ccording to [one] conception...the highest life man can lead must consist in changing himself into an Osiris. In the true man an Osiris must already live as perfectly as possible during mortal life. Man becomes perfect when he lives as an Osiris, when he experiences what Osiris has experienced. In this way the Osiris myth receives its deeper significance. It becomes the example of a man who wishes to awaken the eternal within him." — R. Steiner, "Egyptian Mystery Wisdom," quoted in THE ESSENTIAL STEINER (Lindisfarne Books, 1972), edited by R. McDermott. [See, e.g., "Best".]

outdoor play at Waldorf schools - also see nature; play at Waldorf schools; cf. technology

From a Waldorf website: "Daily, outdoor play (in all types of weather) is an integral part of the Waldorf Kindergarten experience." [1] Anthroposophy and the Waldorf movement affirm a "natural" lifestyle. All things natural are, generally, affirmed; all things unnatural are, generally, criticized. This viewpoint is manifested in many ways. Anthroposophists prefer (or even insist on) organic foods [2]; Waldorf classrooms often contain "nature tables" [3]; products of modern technology, including modern medical devices and procedures such as vaccination, are generally avoided. [4] Rudolf Steiner's teachings about nature were actually complex and equivocal. [5] Waldorf schools that uncritically affirm nature may represent a misreading of Steiner's work. In any event, while respect and even reverence for nature may be commendable, things can obviously be carried too far, creating dangers for children. All types of weather are natural, but not all types are beneficent. Sending young children outdoors in severe hail or lightning storms, for instance, would clearly be inadvisable; it might indeed be cause for legal action. But a policy promoting "outdoor play (in all types of weather)" would tend to err in that direction. Prudence should, in most cases, define the limits of such a policy.

[1] Cincinnati Waldorf School, downloaded 1/8/16 [].

[2] See "Biodynamics".

[3] See the entry in this encyclopedia for "nature tables".

[4] See "Steiner's Quackery" and the entry in this encyclopedia for "technology".

[5] See "Neutered Nature".


This is a fairly recent edition of Steiner's seminal work, OCCULT SCIENE - AN OUTLINE. The word "esoteric" has been used in the title instead of the word "occult" because the latter has unfortunate connotations. (See the preface by Clopper Almon, p. x.) Despite this concern, however, the book has since been reissued with the worrisome word "occult" restored in its title. [See the entry for "OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE," above.]



(Anthroposophic Press, 1997).