Occultism is rife with strange signs and symbols.
Here is Rudolf Steiner’s take on some of them.
You may find the following symbols and others displayed
at Waldorf schools, particularly during festivals —
including, foremost, Christmas.
"All signs and symbols that we meet in occultism direct us to such realities, and what is most important is the fact that in due course one receives indications in the use of such figures. They then are the means toward reaching cognition or clairvoyance. No one who ponders the pentagram [a five-pointed star] deeply will be unsuccessful if only he does so with patience. He must immerse himself in the pentagram, as it were; then he will find the currents in the etheric body ... The physical body has a long development behind it that has come about during the course of four planetary embodiments. At the beginning of this development our earth itself was in an earlier embodiment called the Saturn condition. At that time man did not yet exist in his present form; only the first germ for the physical body existed on Saturn. He lacked all his other bodies — etheric body, astral body, and so forth. It was not until the second embodiment of the earth, on the Sun, that the etheric body was added. At that time the human etheric body bore most decidedly the form of the pentagram." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), pp. 2-5.
[Anthroposophic Press, 1972.]
"We're always surrounded by five ether streams in the world around us on earth. They're called earth, water, fire, air and thought ethers. These etheric streams are also active in man: earth either from the head to the right foot, from there water ether to the left hand, from there fire ether to the right hand, from there air ether to the left foot, and then thought ether back to the head. This is the occultist's sacred pentagram, the symbol of man. Its point is directed upwards, which indicates that the spirit streams to man from the heights. The pentagram is present in many flowers and other things in nature. The sign of black magic is a pentagram with one point at the bottom, through which magicians attract bad forces from the earth and send them out of the two top horns into the environment by means of their bad will in order to use soul and nature forces for their own egotistical, evil purposes." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM THE CONTENTS OF ESOTERIC CLASSES (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 148.
"Esoteric schooling leads humans to freedom. It leads them to become master of various beings that are constantly flowing through the human body, going in and out of it, so that that the human being becomes a companion to these beings. Their names are: “phantoms” for the physical body; “ghosts” for the etheric body; “demons for the astral body; “spirits” for the “I.”
"In order to learn how to master them we must create a firm skeleton ... This framework is the pentagram for the etheric body ... Similarly, a framework to be formed for the astral body, that is, a hexagram [a six-pointed star]." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM THE CONTENTS OF ESOTERIC CLASSES, pp. 138-139.
"Now let us go back to the first Saturn condition when the human being was a soul-spiritual being that always had the same body, that knew itself immortal on a lower level and continually changed his body. This condition, too, has been preserved for us in a peculiar being that, when considered as a whole group soul, stands in a certain way higher than man. This is the bee. When you study the whole hive, you have something totally different from the single bee. The whole beehive has a spiritual life that in some ways corresponds to life on Saturn on a lower stage, and that will be reached on Venus on a higher level. The body of the bee, however, has stayed on the old Saturn level. We must indeed distinguish the soul of the whole beehive as no ordinary group soul but a being in itself, and the single bee as having preserved the form that the human body passed through on Saturn. Because the bee is retarded as outer being, it could win a higher spiritual consciousness. Hence the wonderful social composition of the beehive! The bee is the symbol of the spiritual man who does not know mortality. When man was of such spirituality, our planet was in a fiery state. When, as Venus, it will again be quite fiery, man will again be a spiritual being. Thus, in the bee you have the being that is the fire being for the occultist." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS, pp. 27-28.
"The occultist says that the snake is the symbol for the earth as it developed itself out of the Moon. The fish is the symbol for spiritual being as it has developed itself out of the Sun. Our earth, as it stands before us with its solid substances, has its lowest being in the snake. What separated itself as watery substance, as pure water, could manifest itself as fish. To the occultist the fish is something that has been born out of the water." — OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS, pp. 25-26.
"What were things like on the earth when it had just developed from the Saturn to the Sun stage? Man was then a kind of air being. Death and dying, as understood at present, he did not know because he could transform himself. Let us make it clear to ourselves how man arrived at his present consciousness of death and dying. Man's soul was in the atmosphere of the Sun but it was related to what was there below as body. In our time man's astral body, even when it has slipped out at night, belongs to the physical body, and it was the same on Saturn and Sun except that it never slipped in. At the beginning of the Sun stage the body was below; above was something that as soul belonged to a definite body, that directed this body, that had spiritual consciousness. The body of this soul was subject to other laws of growth and dying off than is the case today. It lost certain parts, but it added new parts. For long stretches of time the soul lived on unchanged while the body changed. To be sure, when the Sun was in a certain condition, man identified himself in a certain way with his body. His body transformed itself into alternate conditions. At first a body of definite form was produced, then this form transformed itself into another, again into another, and then into a fourth. After its last change it came back to its first condition. The human being retained the same consciousness while these forms changed. When the first bodily condition arose again, when the human being came back to the first form, after he had lived through the other three, he then felt himself renewed. This transformation has been preserved for us in the butterfly that develops itself through four forms: egg, larva, pupa, and butterfly. This is the hieroglyph, the sign for the airy condition of the human being on the Sun. In the butterfly today, under our completely changed conditions, this state is, of course, a kind of decadence. The human being evolved beyond this state, but for the occultist the butterfly is the symbol for it. He designates it as the air being, just as he designates the snake as earth being, and the fish as water being. Why the birds are not designated as air beings will be dealt with at some other time." — OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS, pp. 26-27.
"The square is the symbol of the fourfold nature of man; physical body, ether-body, astral body and ego.
"The triangle is the symbol for Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man [spiritual human components — see "Our Parts"].
"Above the triangle is the symbol for Tarok [resembling a capital T with a P grafted to its right side]. Those who were initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries knew how to interpret this sign. They knew too, how to read the Book of Thoth, consisting of 78 leaves on which were inscribed all happenings in the world from the beginning to the end, from Alpha [resembling a squared-off capital A] to Omega [resembling a capital O, opened at the bottom, with stub legs and outward-pointing feet] and which could be read if the signs were rightly put together. These pictures gave expression to the life that dies and then springs again to new life. Whoever could combine the right numbers with the right pictures, were able to read the Book. This wisdom of numbers and of pictures had been taught from time immemorial. In the Middle Ages it was still in the fore ground although little of it survives to-day.
"Above this symbol is the Tao [resembling a capital T with a small o at the top, like a head atop shoulders]— the sign that is a reminder of the conception of the Divine held by our early forefathers; it comes from the word: TAO. Before Europe, Asia and Africa were scenes of human civilisation, these early forefathers of ours lived on the continent of Atlantis which was finally submerged by mighty floods. In the Germanic sagas of Nifelheim or Nebelheim, the memory of Atlantis still lives. For Atlantis was not surrounded by pure air. Vast cloud-masses moved over the land, like those to be seen to-day clustering around the peaks of high mountains. The sun and moon did not shine clearly in the heavens — they were surrounded by rainbows — by the sacred Iris. At that time man understood the language of nature. To-day he no longer understands what speaks to him in the rippling of waves, in the noise of winds, in the rustling of leaves, in the rolling of thunder — but in old Atlantis he understood it. He felt it all as a reality. And within these voices of clouds and waters and leaves and winds a sound rang forth: TAO — That am I. The man of Atlantis heard and understood it, feeling that Tao pervaded the whole universe." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING, part 1, chapter 2, “Signs and Symbols of the Christmas Festival” (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), pp. 39-40.
Note the title of the lecture
from which that last quote is taken.
Rudolf Steiner, SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL
(Anthroposophic Press, 1967).
Stamped on the cover of this volume are symbols often used as Christmas-tree decorations in Waldorf schools.
These are: at the top, a pentagram, which in Anthroposophical teachings is the symbol of man;
then the Tao, symbolizing divinity as apprehended on Atlantis;
then the symbols of Alpha and Omega (beginning and end) bracketing Tarok, symbolizing ancient Egyptian occult knowledge;
then the triangle, symbolizing man's three spiritual components;
and finally the square, representing the fourfold nature of man.
- Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings
[Anthroposophic Press, 1972.]
Note: The two editions of this book shown here both carry copyrights dated 1972.
The edition shown at the top of the page is slightly larger
and it includes larger reproductions of occult seals.
Otherwise, the two editions are essentially identical.