Steadfast I stand in the world

Edwin Blashfield - Spring Scattering Stars.jpg

Steadfast I stand in the world
With certainty I tread the path of life
Love I cherish in the core of my being
Hope I carry into every deed
Confidence I imprint upon my thinking
These five lead me to my goal
These five lead me to my existence

Rudolph Steiner 


Image via wikimedia – Edwin Blashfield – Spring Scattering Stars


banishing the darkness

We recently gathered together to celebrate the start of Advent at my children’s school. The adults sat in the gathering darkness as the children entered the room, careful to avoid stepping on the pine branches and stumps arranged in a spiral on the floor.

The teacher spoke a few words about our inner light of kindness, and compassion, then she went and lit the candle in the center of the spiral. The one candle did little to light the room, but from it, all the others would be lit.

waldorf spiral

One by one, each child walked the spiral, holding an apple with a beeswax candle in it. They walked to the center, lit their candle, and walked back, placing it on one of the stumps placed throughout the spiral.

Slowly the light from the candles grew, and when all the children had finished, there were around thirty candles lighting up the darkness. The teacher reminded us that together our lights shine more brightly than they would on their own, banishing the darkness.

My inner light is feeling pretty burnt-out right now, but I will continue to attempt to be kind and compassionate, in the hopes that it rekindles.

SOS: Lecture 4: Devachan

This is one of a series of posts discussing Rudolf Steiner’s Founding a Science of the Spirit: Fourteen Lectures Given in Stuttgart Between 22 August and 4 September 1906. Visit the tag Science of Spirit for all posts on this topic. 

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In skimming through my past posts I’ve realized I haven’t touched on this since April, this is unsurprising, Steiner is not a quick read, and once again I’ve bogged down in the esoteric miasma of Steiner’s work. I fought my way though the purgatory state of Kamaloka so now I’ve arrived at the higher world. Right. What does Devachan hold for me?

The concentrated remnants of my astral body, and my previous astral bodies, which combine to create a newer richer astral body/a new element in man. Yeah, I’m going to need to re-read that a few times before I can fully wrap my head around this.

Devachan seems to be the transitional state between death and reincarnation. The diligent note takers cite three stages:

  1. The human corrects previous shortcomings, and gathers the fruits from his former lives as he prepares for his next incarnation
  2. “Life pulsates through reality, as through rivers and streams” … I’ve got nothing on that… the human uses this force to animate the fruit he gathered in step 1?
  3. The human objectively views his previous life’s passions, and incorporate particular qualities into the soul that will inhabit the body formed/fruit gathered in step 1

As I read it, Devachan is our chance to work through and understand our previous life experience, as people work toward a new incarnation. Interesting. It sounds like the Circle of Life for the Soul.

Additional Reading

musings on the material world & death – Eddy & Steiner’s perspectives

Before I dive into Lecture Four: Devachan, I want to pause and contemplate how Eddy and Steiner talk about the material world, and death. I am only three lectures into Steiner’s work, so my views on this could change as I learn more about Steiner’s perspectives.

Through out Science and Health, the material world is intrinsically linked with sin, disease/sickness and death*. Invoking Jesus, Eddy writes: “He came teaching and showing men how to destroy sin, sickness, and death” (Science & Health 6:27-28).

Every supposed pleasure in sin will furnish more than its equivalent of pain, until belief in material life and sin is destroyed. To reach heaven, the harmony of being, we must understand the divine Principle of being. [emphasis added]

For Eddy, the material (including, but not limited to, sin, pleasure, and husbands) are a distraction from God.  She enumerates five erroneous postulates (S&H p. 91-92) reflecting on how  “the denial of material selfhood aids the discernment of man’s spiritual and eternal individuality, and destroys the erroneous knowledge gained from matter or through what are termed the material senses(emphasis added).

Eddy is really big on the unreality of matter, the denial of the material world, and how, eventually, we will recognize that we are spiritual beings… which sounds like a special level of hell all on it’s own.

I am not as well versed in Steiner as I am in Eddy, and I’m sure my ideas will develop further as I work my way through his lectures. I find Steiner’s perspective differently difficult, but simultaneously easier to relate to on a metaphorical level as he acknowledges the physical aspects of the human experience.

Steiner’s vision of man is multi-faceted, with a physical form, and spiritual elements, in stark contrast to Eddy’s man is a spiritual idea of God (nothing more/less). Steiner acknowledges the physical/material world, as well as other worlds. For Eddy, there is only the spiritual, the rest is an erroneous lie.

Death gets complicated for Steiner, as the soul then goes to a purgatory-esque state, kamaloka, before it can be reborn. In this purgatory, it has to overcome the desires it experienced during its physical experience. Steiner does seem to be passing some judgment on the souls here similar to Eddy’s admonishment that “a great sacrifice of material things must precede this advanced spiritual understanding” (S&H p. 16) — but this is worked out after the death of the physical body, and before rebirth.

Steiner points out living a less-material life will cut back on this struggle in kamaloka, but as far as I can tell, Steiner falls short of lumping acknowledgement of the material body/world with sin, disease and death. The experience in the physical realm are something to be learned from, and worked through, as 1/3 of them will be carried forth into the next life — I could be totally wrong on Steiner’s views of this, but that’s what I read it to be.

In both cases, the departed individual has to do some “working out” of the problems they dealt with in their previous life. For Steiner, the person then goes on to be reincarnated (?) — I’m unclear on the exact process, while Eddy’s departed continues to “work out” whatever the issue is until they reach a totally clear understanding, and they “become as the angels” (which sounds pretty dull).

*The sin, disease and death combination appears 14 times through Science & Health, and sin, sickness and death appears together 55 times. Science & Health as a searchable PDF can be found:

SOS: Lecture 3: Life of the Soul in Kamaloka

This is one of a series of posts discussing Rudolf Steiner’s Founding a Science of the Spirit: Fourteen Lectures Given in Stuttgart Between 22 August and 4 September 1906. Visit the tag Science of Spirit for all posts on this topic. 

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I had to brush a thick layer of dust off Founding a Science of the Spirit before starting this post, and skim my previous posts so I’d have some clue what I was getting back into. It has been a little while since I’ve delved into the esoteric world of Steiner and you really have to be in the right headspace to manage it. I’m trying, I’m not sure I’m there yet.

Good news/bad news: these lectures appear to be building on what we’ve read/talked about before. So far, they seem to give a very quick refresher of the previous lecture’s highlights before jumping into the topic at hand. In Lecture 3: Life of the Soul in Kamaloka, Steiner delves into the states of death and sleep and the various states of the seven members of the what comprises a man club.

Steiner first turns, briefly, to sleep (the younger brother of death), and the states of the astral and ego bodies, which “raise themselves out of the physical body” — apparently this is why we loose consciousness during sleep. Steiner then poses the question: “what does the loosened astral body do at night?” At night, the astral body “renovates the physical body” and renews the forces that have been used during the day.

The remaining portion of the lecture (and indeed, the bulk of it) is devoted to death, and what Steiner believes happens when a person dies. The etheric body leaves, followed closely by the astral body and ego. The person remembers all that has happened — apparently this can also happen if death seems imminent. Steiner refers to this as the “loosening of the etheric body” and considers it to be quite dangerous, this loosening can also happen via hypnotism, or if a person is in enormous danger. Try to avoid it.

Apparently when a person dies the etheric body eventually dissolves into the ether, and the physical body has deteriorated (I assume?), so what remains are the astral body and the ego. At this point Steiner lumps the astral body and ego together and simply calls them “the soul” —  and the soul, now separated from body, is working out it’s desires for sensation/sensory input in a state called Kamaloka… I googled this term, apparently it is Steiner’s equivalent of purgatory.

As Steiner puts it (or as the people taking notes on his lecture put it):

The soul is not tortured from the outside, but has to suffer the torment of the desires it still has but cannot satisfy.

The soul lives its life backwards, day by day seeing where it can learn from the past experiences. Reliving earthly joy, but  offering no satisfaction from it. The soul also experiences the suffering it causes to others. Apparently we must wean ourselves gradually from the physical wishes and desires so the soul can be free of the earth and ascend to Devachan (googled again, the heavenly world).

It seems the less materialistic and more enlightened the soul is, the less it suffers in Kamaloka. Apparently people stay in Kamaloka for 1/3 their previous life, and then their astral bodies dissolves. Once it is fully dissolved, a person can be reincarnated. Steiner is quick to point out there are exceptions to all this, of course, and everyone’s experience varies. No kidding.

The death/purgatory theme is not unique to Steiner, nor is death/purgatory/higher world, but he does put his own embellishments on it. The style of the note takers/translators made me loop back a few times to try and catch the details (I probably failed at that). Over all I was left with an unworldly sci-fi feeling with the various bodies departing in their own ways. I’m not sure I’m going to sleep too well tonight, I don’t know how I feel about  my astral and ego bodies running loose.

Additional reading

SOS: Lecture 2: The Three Worlds

This is one of a series of posts discussing Rudolf Steiner’s Founding a Science of the Spirit: Fourteen Lectures Given in Stuttgart Between 22 August and 4 September 1906. Visit the tag Science of Spirit for all posts on this topic. 

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I hope everyone has recovered from the Note about Notes and fully wrapped their head around that ball of madness that I summed up  as “a collection of metaphorical, occult lecture notes that talk about practical occultism, Buddi, and glowing auras.” This post is moving on to Lecture 2: The Three Worlds, and trust me, Steiner does not fail to disappoint (in making you feel like you want to smash your head into the desk, watch out for your computer).

Steiner starts with an objection that I find pithy at best:

What use to us is this knowledge you say you have of higher worlds if we cannot look into these worlds for ourselves?

I love to learn about other worlds (higher and otherwise), and very much enjoy documentaries about space and foreign lands, of the three worlds Steiner is speaking of, only one of them can easily explored by the uninitiated:

  1. The physical world, the scene of human life
  2. The astral world or the world of the soul
  3. The devachanic world or world of the spirit (I had to pause and look up devachanic, I think I am left more confused than not)

Steiner (or, more accurately the note takers) does not delve into the physical world, noting “everyone is familiar with it and the physical laws which obtain there” so we will go directly to the astral world.

Things are different in the astral world:

  • people will at first be bewildered
  • things appear reversed/mirror image, e.g. reading numbers backwards
  • people can see their passions and desires
  • time moves backwards, effect then cause — this is how prophecy is possible
  • thoughts and feelings are a reality
  • speaking truths creates life-promoting elements, lies/hostile forces destroy/kill
  • world of colors
  • this realm sets a foundation for morality

Highlights from the astral world that stood out me:

In the long run no mere preaching of morality will be effective, but a knowledge of truth gives morality a sound basis. To preach morality is like preaching to a stove about its duty to provide warmth and heat, while not giving it any coat. If we want a firm foundation for morality, we must occupy the soul with fuel in the form of knowledge and truth.

I like the imagery of preaching to a stove. People are the same way, unless you provide them the skills and tools they need to complete a task, how can they be expected to succeed?

If we speak the truth about our neighbor, we are creating a thought which the seer can recognize by its color and form, and it will be a thought which gives strength to our neighbor. … Every spoken truth creates a life-promoting element; every lie, an element hostile to life. Anyone who knows this will take much greater care to speak the truth and avoid lies than if he is merely preached at and told he must be nice and truthful. (emphasis mine)

This reminds me of Paul’s whatevers in Phillippians 4:8, but is slightly more fatalistic (bad thoughts damage the astral body). The “every lie, an element hostile to life” reminds me a bit of Ms. Eddy’s “malicious animal magnetism” although the focus is more on minding one’ s own thought than being harmed by the thoughts of others. I’m unsure if Steiner is going to elaborate on this — if anyone knows more on this, please leave a comment or email me — I’m rather curious about this aspect of it. Is it a universal idea among thinkers and philosophers in the mid-1800s?

Above the astral world is the devachan world, which comes with it’s own special features:

  • it is the world of spirit and musical sounds
  • heavenly bodies can be heard, harmony of the cosmos, everything lives in music
  • astral world remains fully present — hear  devachan, see astral, but changed
  • see in the negative “through photographic plate”
  • see in complimentary colors — red instead of green, yellow instead of blue

The Devachan realm has several regions

  • First region: see archetypes of the physical world that has no life, minerals, humans, plants and animals in very basic lifeless form (?)
  • Second region: life force of plants and animals can be seen clearly, no minerals — “ocean”
  • Third region, “atmosphere” feelings, emotions, pleasure and pain where ever they are active in the physical. Everything that has a life forms the “ocean” all emotion is in the atmosphere.
  • Fourth section: transcends everything that might still have existed if there was no mankind (HUH?!)
  • Askasha Chronicle (had to stop and look it up, and again, am more confused than not), the Akasha is a living collection of images, intentions, thoughts and imaginations.

I’m not totally sure I’ve taken anything from the Devachan world other than the need to re-read the section because I don’t totally get it. Steiner (and his note takers) talk about Goethe and Caesar and seances and living images, and it is a bit too surreal for me to wrap my head around at the moment.

The lecture concludes with the disconcerting notion:

Strange as these facts may seen, they are facts none the less.

Right then.

RESOURCES & additional reading FOR THE CURIOUS

SOS: A note about Notes

This is one of a series of posts discussing Rudolf Steiner’s Founding a Science of the Spirit: Fourteen Lectures Given in Stuttgart Between 22 August and 4 September 1906. Visit the tag Science of Spirit for all posts on this topic. 

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Part way through Lecture One: The Being of Man, I encountered an endnote that I wanted to check (I was not aware of who Jacob Boehme was, the endnote simply states: Jacob Boehme 1575-1624 mystic). On p. 153 of the text, I encountered not only the unhelpful endnote, but also an interesting Note on the text which read as follows:

The text of this particular lecture cycle is not based on an official transcript, but is compiled from handwritten notes made at the time by participants. It was on the basis of these versions, which include a number of discrepancies, that an edited and reworked edition was produced… . As they stand, therefore, the lectures reproduced here cannot be assumed to be Steiner’s precise words in every instance.

This is followed by an additional Publisher’s Note Regarding Rudolf Steiner’s Lectures on p. 157, which states in part

The lectures and addresses contained in this volume have been translated from German, which is based on stenographic and other recorded tests that where in most cases not seen or revised by the lecturer. Hence, due to human errors in hearing and transcription they may contain mistakes and faulty passages.

It then goes on to differentiate between members only lectures and public lectures, and what Steiner had to say about these things. I feel that is all is rather unimportant when you look at the first note on p. 153 and wonder why these notes were not placed at the beginning of the book, instead of the very end of the book.

This book was put together based on some people’s lecture notes. Having taken my share of lecture notes during my time at college other various talks, I wonder just how accurate a book compiled of lecture notes and then translated into another language can be. I’m not sure any of my professors would feel comfortable with a class compiling a volume of their works based solely off lecture notes (complete with margin doodles, short hand, and strange abbreviations).

So this is a collection of metaphorical, occult lecture notes that talk about practical occultism, Buddi, and glowing auras.

Right then. Onward to Lecture 2: The Three Worlds.