I have only come here seeking knowledge
Things they would not teach me of in college
From The Police, “Wrapped Around Your Finger.”
In the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they were commanded not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, but they disobeyed, eating from it anyway. There are groups, such as the Gnostics and the Theosophists, who honor the Angel Lucifer (the being who told Eve she could eat from the Tree of Knowledge), although fundamentalist Christians consider Lucifer equivalent to Satan. If Lucifer is a holy being who gives good guidance, who is the creator “god” of the Garden of Eden parable? Is he, in reality, Satan, as the Gnostics claim? Perhaps it is not all so black and white. Perhaps, when the first people who had spiritual awakenings had their eyes opened, they needed to leave the Garden, and thus it was not merely a punishment for disobeying that they were banished, but done for their development as newly fully formed spiritual beings
For three of the past four years I was in a study circle in the home of a neighbor every Wednesday morning for two hours reading and discussing, with a group of 5 to 8 people, the writings of Rudolf Steiner. One thing I became convinced of in my three years of study, is that Spiritual Science is a Science.
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1926), was an Austrian philosopher. Around 1902, Steiner became head of the German branch of the Theosophical Society. The International Theosophical Society was founded by Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) and several others in 1875. Blavatsky, born in Russia, met, and became the disciple of, Mahatma Morya, or M, in London in 1851. He directed her study in Spiritual Science. She met the Master Koot Hoomi (K.H.) in 1868 while in Tibet. M and K.H. sent Blavatsky to New York in 1873, where she was put in touch with the others involved in the founding of the Society in 1875. Both Blavatsky and Steiner had spiritual experiences from a young age.
In 1912, Rudolf Steiner founded the Anthroposophical Society. Steiner sought to incorporate Christianity into the Esoteric Buddhism that pervades Theosophy. Anthroposophy keeps Christian and European traditions, combines European folklore, with eastern esotericism and considers itself primarily Christian.
While in the Rudolf Steiner study circle, I learned about Waldorf Schools, visiting two of them. I was impressed with this gentle way of educating children developed by Steiner. I also learned about Steiner’s Biodynamic gardening, and participated in a ceremony involving cow manure that had been aged in a cow horn, an ancient European custom that had been resurrected by Rudolf Steiner. I also had several opportunities to watch and even to do Eurythmy, a system of graceful movement developed by Steiner.
The Seven Layers of the Being
According to Steiner the self has seven layers. First we have the physical body, which is enormously complex, and about which there is no shortage of scientific literature. I could spend a lifetime studying nothing but the physical body and still not understand it. Then there is the ethereal body. This one was new to me when I first read, How to Know Higher Worlds, and Founding a Science of the Spirit. I was suspicious of Steiner at first, thought he might be some kind of charlatan who just made stuff up. His writing all seemed so strange and fantastic.
Then while doing some independent study I read about the same seven layers of the being in, An Introduction to Theosophy, by Helena Blavatsky, with the same names as Steiner used. She gave the source as Tibetan Buddhism. According to Steiner, all physical forms have physical bodies, everything living also has an ethereal body. Now finally an explanation of life which makes sense! How can a bunch of physical matter come together and become alive? Somebody please explain that! You don’t get an adequate explanation from either a Biology class or a study on the Book of Genesis. Not that, “Oh there is an ethereal body,” answers it all either, but it seems promising. The ethereal body is not part of the physical realm, I don’t think, but it animates the clay of the physical body like a puppeteer animates a puppet. All life, plants as well as animals, have an ethereal body.
The third layer of the being I encountered in the Steiner study, the astral body, I had heard of before. I had heard of the aura, and the various colors it can manifest because I had known people who could see auras. (One of them was my own daughter (is my own daughter, except that I haven’t heard her say anything about auras for a long, long time).) According to Steiner, humans and all animals have astral bodies. This is the body of feelings, emotions and passions which all animals have to one extent or another.
The fourth layer is the I, or the ego, according to the word originally chosen by Helena Blavatsky in the early part of the last half of the 19th century, prior to, or at least prior to her becoming aware, that Sigmund Freud had used that word to mean that part of the self possessed by a selfish arrogance, or at least that is what it has come to mean in current speech. Perhaps that is why, in his later writings, Steiner speaks of the Consciousness Soul. All we are trying to get across here is that this part of us is conscious, as opposed to being unconscious. A lot of our processes, including feelings and emotions, are done on the unconscious level. The part of us that is actually conscious is a part that only humans have. Other animals, though feeling, sentient beings, are completely unconscious, like ourselves during those times we are “flying on automatic pilot” as the saying goes, or operating on shear instinct.
The last three layers of our being are not standard equipment. We make them ourselves. The Manas we make with our Consciousness Soul (our Ego) when we decide to do the right thing. It is as big and strong — or non-existent — as we decide. The Buddhi is what we make from our ethereal body, and the Atman is what we make from our physical body. These last three layers take discipline to develop. Apparently the last two require some kind of yogic practice. The parts of ourselves that we work on to develop are the only parts that are eternal. The other layers drop off one at a time during the death process.
Sleep and Death
When asleep, the astral body, sometimes called the soul body, or simply the soul, detaches from the physical body and explores the astral realm or soul realm. It doesn’t really go anywhere, it just translates to another dimension. The astral body works for the physical body during sleep, rejuvenating it. With the soul goes the consciousness, termed variously: ego, “I”, consciousness soul, mind and spirit. When we awaken we may remember a dream. Did the dream take place in the astral realm? How is the memory of the dream laid down in the physical brain? These are questions for further study on my part. I don’t have the answers yet.
The ethereal body remains with the physical body during sleep. At the time of death it too detaches, along with all the other layers, leaving behind just the corpse. When a person passes away, their ethereal, astral, and consciousness bodies (along with any spiritual qualities they may have developed, (called Manas, Buddhi or Atman) go to that part of the astral realm called Kamaloka, the place of desires, so called because people there miss the physical body and all it could do. The ethereal body passes away after a short time leaving its corpse behind somewhere in the astral realm. The soul, who quickly relived it’s life at the moment of death, now relives it slowly in excruciating detail, taking about 1/3 the time it did to live it the first time. Then the astral body passes away leaving a third corpse, however this corpse still has some of the appearances of life and can still be contacted in seances, of course it has no reliable information. What is left, the spiritual essence presumably, steps into Devachan or Heaven. In heaven we are in absolute bliss, we fellowship with those dear to us and help evolve creation. Then, according to Steiner, after about a thousand years, we are reincarnated again as another human being of the opposite sex from the sex we are in this life. Other sources say we are not reincarnated, so I suppose we will all find out one day.
Knowledge without wisdom is just words that chop experience into little categories. Even though there is still a lot more to learn, I know more than I need to know. All I need to know is that God has a place for me, and as I love Him I will be there.
In another study circle a few years prior to the Steiner study, a Baha’i study circle, seven years ago, I was in a class of two people plus the teacher, whose house we had to drive a ways to get to. I was studying Book One of the Ruhi Institute Course for the second time, so I could do it with my close friend (at the time who became my husband). One of us read aloud from the book, “There are at least two parts to the being, the physical part and an eternal part,” or something to that effect. And really, that’s all you need to know. The fact that it gets more complex than that, if you study Spiritual Science, does not render that statement untrue. But I am curious, I want to know more. Is that wrong? Of course not! Baha’is are encouraged to learn the arts and sciences (but to avoid superstition and discourses that merely start with words and end with words).
O SON OF SPIRIT!
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.
Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, Arabic No. 2