Steiner claimed that his clairvoyance allowed him to read the Akashic Record or Chronicle, a celestial storehouse of knowledge.
In Anthroposophic doctrine, "Akasha" is the universal ether, a spiritualized version of a discarded concept from nineteenth century physics.
The Akashic Record is written on this ether. To summarize, Steiner claimed that much of his spiritual knowledge came from
a nonexistent capacity (clairvoyance) that allowed him to read a nonexistent record (the Akashic Record)
written on a nonexistent ether (Akasha). Not very persuasive, when you pause to think about it.
* Steiner’s teachings are rarely entirely consistent with the main currents of Theosophy, so take the following under advisement.
“[W]e come to the boundary of the spiritual world. Just as the sky at night looks like a hollow globe encircled by stars, so it is with this boundary of Devachan. But it is a highly significant boundary; it forms what we call the Akasha Chronicle. Whatever a person has done and accomplished is recorded in that imperishable book of history even if there is no mention of it in our history books. We can experience there everything that has ever been done on Earth by conscious beings. Suppose the seer wants to know something about Caesar: he will take some little incident from history as a starting-point on which to concentrate. This he does 'in the spirit’; and then around him appear pictures of all that Caesar did and of all that happened round him — how he led his legions, fought his battles, won his victories.
“All this happens in a remarkable way: the seer does not see an abstract script; everything passes before him in silhouettes and pictures, and what he sees is not what actually happened in space; it is something quite different. When Caesar gained one of his victories, he was of course thinking; and all that happened around entered into his thoughts; every movement of an army exists in thought. The Akasha Chronicle therefore shows his intentions, all that he thought and imagined as he was leading his legions; and their thoughts, too, are shown. It is a true picture of what happened, and whatever conscious beings have experienced is depicted there. (Plants, of course, cannot be seen.) Hence the Initiate can read off the whole past history of humanity — but he must first learn how to do it.
“These Akasha pictures speak a confusing language, because the Akasha is alive.* The Akasha image of Caesar must not be compared with Caesar's individuality, which may already have been reincarnated again. This sort of confusion may very easily arise if we have gained access to the Akasha pictures by external means. Hence they often play a part in spiritualistic séances. The spiritualist imagines he is seeing a man who has died, when it is really only his Akasha picture. Thus a picture of Goethe may appear as he was in 1796, and if we are not properly informed we may confuse this picture with Goethe's individuality. It is all the more bewildering because the image is alive and answers questions, and the answers are not only those given in the past, but quite new ones. They are not repetitions of anything that Goethe actually said, but answers he might well have given. It is even possible that this Akasha image of Goethe might write a poem in Goethe's own style. The Akasha pictures are real, living pictures. Strange as these facts may seem, they are none the less facts.” — Rudolf Steiner, AT THE GATES OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1986), lecture 2, GA 95.
“[A]t a certain high level of his cognitive power, man can penetrate to the eternal origins of the things which vanish with time. A man broadens his power of cognition in this way if he is no longer limited to external evidence where knowledge of the past is concerned. Then he can see in events what is not perceptible to the senses, that part which time cannot destroy. He penetrates from transitory to non-transitory history. It is a fact that this history is written in other characters than is ordinary history. In gnosis and in theosophy it is called the 'Akasha Chronicle.’ Only a faint conception of this chronicle can be given in our language. For our language corresponds to the world of the senses. That which is described by our language at once receives the character of this sense world. To the uninitiated, who cannot yet convince himself of the reality of a separate spiritual world through his own experience, the initiate easily appears to be a visionary, if not something worse ... Following this introduction, several chapters from the Akasha Chronicle will be given ... Today I am still obliged to remain silent about the sources of the information given here. One who knows anything at all about such sources will understand why this has to be so. But events can occur which will make a breaking of this silence possible very soon. How much of the knowledge hidden within the theosophical movement may gradually be communicated, depends entirely on the attitude of our contemporaries.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), pp. 37-39.
THE FIFTH GOSPEL -
From the Akashic Record
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995.]
Note the subtitle.
This is a book in which Steiner
"corrects" the Bible.
“Let us suppose the spiritual investigator lets his gaze wander back to the days of Charlemagne, or to Roman times, or to ancient Greece. Everything that happened in those times is preserved in the trace left by its spiritual prototype, and can be observed in the spiritual world. This kind of vision is called ‘reading the Akashic records’. A living script of this kind does indeed exist and can be seen by the spiritual eye. Thus when the spiritual investigator described to you the events in Palestine or the observations of Zarathustra, his descriptions are not taken from the Bible or in the Gathas, but what he himself is able to read in the Akashic records. Then, having completed his occult investigation, he turns to the traditional documents — in the present case, to the Gospels — and investigates whether they confirm his results. Thus, the standpoint of occult investigation, as regards traditional documents, is one of complete independence, for which reason such investigation is in every respect competent to judge these documents. But when we meet with the same facts in the traditional documents as we have been able to decipher in the Akashic records, this coincidence proves to us that these documents are true, furthermore that their author could also read in the Akashic records. Many of the religious and other traditions of humanity are regained in this way by spiritual science. Let us now illustrate this on the strength of one chapter of human evolution in particular, namely, the Gospel of St. John and its relation to the other Gospels. You must not imagine, however, that the Akashic records — that spiritual history that lies open before the seer's eye — is like ordinary handwriting. It is a kind of living script, as we will try to illustrate by the following example.
“Suppose the seer glances back, let us say, to the times of Julius Caesar. Caesar's actions, inasmuch as they were performed on the physical plane, were witnessed by his contemporaries; but every action has left its trace in the Akashic records, and when the seer looks back, it is as though a spiritual shadow or archetype of these actions were before him. Recall the movements of the hand. The picture presented to the physical eye cannot be seen by the seer, but the intention to move the hand, the invisible forces which actuated the movement, can always be seen by him. Similarly everything that lived in Caesar's thoughts is visible, whether it be his intention to take some particular step or to wage some particular war. For everything that his contemporaries witnessed originated in the impulse of Caesar's will, and became actuality through the action of the invisible forces which are behind the picture presented to the eye. But these invisible forces behind the external picture are indeed to be seen as the real Caesar, living and moving — as the spiritual image of Caesar visible to the seer in the Akashic records.
“But someone inexperienced in such matters might object: ‘To our mind, your narrative of past times is pure fancy. You are acquainted from history with the deeds of Caesar, and your powerful imagination makes you believe you see some kind of invisible Akashic pictures.’ But whoever is familiar with such things knows that the less the seer knows from external history on the subject of his investigations, the easier it is for him to read in the Akashic records. External history is a positive hindrance to occult research. When we have reached a certain age, we are influenced in many ways by the culture of our day. The seer, too, brings with him the education of his day, up to the point when he can give birth to his clairvoyant Ego. He has studied history and the knowledge handed down to him in geology, biology, archaeology, and so on. Strictly speaking, all his disturbs his vision and may bias him when he comes to decipher the Akashic records. For the same objectivity and certainty may by no means be expected in external history, as are possible in deciphering the Akashic records.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN (Percy Lund. Humpries and Co., 1933), lecture 2, GA 112.
“Undifferentiated space would be soundless. Space which is arithmetically organised produces sound. Here we have an example of how one can look into the Akashic Record. If one can rise to the perception of the inner arithmetic which is preserved from sound in space, then at any time one can hear again a sound which someone has spoken. For instance one can hear what was spoken by Caesar at the crossing of the Rubicon. The inner arithmetic of sound is still present in the Akashic Record. Sound corresponds to something we call Manas. What the ear experiences as sound is the wisdom of the world. In the perception of sound one hears the wisdom of the world. In the act of speaking one brings forth the wisdom of the world. What is arithmetical in our speech remains in the Akashic Record. When he hears or speaks man expresses himself directly in wisdom. At the present time thinking is the form in which man can bring his will to expression in speech. Today it is only in thinking that we can unfold the will. Only later will it be possible for man, rising above the level of thought, to unfold the will in speech.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press 1982), lecture 5, GA 93a.
“Then will come the epoch when the Earth passes into conditions of which, as in so much else, Oriental Occultism and Mysticism alone give some idea. The moral atmosphere will by then have gathered strength. For many thousands of years Oriental Mysticism has spoken of this epoch, and since the coming of Gautama Buddha it has spoken with special emphasis about that future condition when the earth will be bathed in a 'moral-ether-atmosphere.’ Ever since the time of the ancient Rishis it was the great hope of Oriental Mysticism that this moral impulse would come to the Earth from Vishva-Karman or, as Zarathustra proclaimed, from Ahura Mazdao. Thus Oriental Mysticism foresaw that this moral impulse, this moral atmosphere, would come to the Earth from the Being we call the Christ. And it was upon Him, upon Christ, that the hopes of Oriental Mysticism were set.
“Oriental Mysticism was able to picture the consequences of that event but not the actual form it would take. The mind could picture that within a period of 5,000 years after the great Buddha achieved Enlightenment, pure Akashic forms, bathed in fire, lit by the sun, would appear in the wake of One beyond the ken of Oriental Mysticism. A wonderful picture in very truth: that something would happen to make it possible for the Sons of Fire and of Light to move about the Earth, not in physically embodiment but as pure Akashic forms within the Earth's moral atmosphere. But then, so it was said, in 5,000 years after Gautama Buddha's Enlightenment, the Teacher will also be there to make known to men what the nature of these wonderful forms of pure Fire and Light. This teacher — the Maitreya Buddha — will appear 3,000 years after our present era and will speak of the Christ Impulse.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ETHERISATION OF THE BLOOD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1971), a lecture, GA 130.
“The cosmic ether, which is common to all, carries within it the thoughts; there they are within it, those living thoughts of which I have repeatedly spoken in our anthroposophical lectures, telling you how the human being participates in them in pre-earthly life before he comes down to Earth. There, in the cosmic ether, are contained all the living thoughts there are; and never are they received from the cosmic ether during the life between birth and death. No; the whole store of living thought that man holds within him, he receives at the moment when he comes down from the spiritual world — when, that is, he leaves his own living element, his own element of living thought, and descends and forms his ether body. Within this ether body, within that which is the building and organising force in man, are the living thoughts; there they are, there they still are.” — Rudolf Steiner, CURATIVE EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 2, GA 317.
Steiner sometimes denied that by the universal cosmic ether he meant the universal cosmic ether. [See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), p. 41.] It is at least true that he gave the concept a spiritualistic backspin. Nonetheless, he taught that “ether” is universally present in the physical cosmos:
“[W]hat we subjectively describe as the quality of colour [sic] is the effect on us...of an objective process that is taking place in the universal ether....” — Rudolf Steiner, SCIENCE: An Introductory Reader (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 80.
“We develop inner powers but an imprint also forms and is left upon the ether that is alive and present everywhere in the world outside us.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE DESTINY OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF NATIONS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987), p. 171.
"As the residue of the Moon-evolution we have our present moon which circles around the Earth. Similarly there will be a residue of the Earth which will circle around Jupiter. Then these residues will gradually dissolve into the universal ether." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ETHERISATION OF THE BLOOD.
“[I]if you visualize the earth, and these are [grass] stalks, they are pulled in all directions into cosmic space, for there everything is filled with a more subtle form of matter which is called the 'ether' and which lives in the plant. But this life does not come from the earth; it comes from cosmic space." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM LIMESTONE TO LUCIFER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 3.
"Akasa (Sanskrit) [from akas to be visible, appear, shine, be brilliant] The shining; ether, cosmic space, the fifth cosmic element. The subtle, supersensuous spiritual essence which pervades all space. It is not the ether of science, but the aether of the ancients, such as the Stoics, which is to ether what spirit is to matter. In the Brahmanical scriptures, akasa is used for what the Northern Buddhists call svabhavat, more mystically adi-buddhi (primeval buddhi); it is also mulaprakriti, cosmic spirit-substance, the reservoir of being and of beings. Genesis refers to it as the waters of the deep. It is universal substantial space, and mystically in its highest elements is alaya." — ENCYCLOPEDIC THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY (Theosophical University Press, 1999).
“[T]he ruling world beings are rather shy. They do not appear at once. First they only present a kind of Akasha photography, and one is not sure of its source. One has the whole world to look at, but only in photographs displayed in various parts of the cosmic ether. And one does not know where they come from. Then inspiration begins. Beings come out of the pictures and make themselves known.” — Rudolf Steiner, BROKEN VESSELS (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), lecture 10, GA 318.
[R. R., 2010.]
— Compiled by Roger Rawlings
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 14. PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER ◊◊◊
If you'd like more information about any of the topics discussed here,
you might begin by consulting the following resources:
THE SEMI-STEINER DICTIONARY
THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA
WALDORF WATCH INDEX
WALDORF WATCH TABLE OF CONTENTS