Steiner's Visions
(As It Were)

Rudolf Steiner claimed to be clairvoyant. He claimed to see things that you and I cannot see. To aid his followers in their efforts to visualize the marvels he described, Steiner often drew sketches on a blackboard while he lectured. Here, he said, until you become clairvoyant like me, this will have to suffice. This is, in a sense, what I'm trying to describe to you. It looks more or less like this... And he drew a picture.

Below are my copies and interpretations of some of Steiner's drawings, along with excerpts from the remarks the drawings were meant to clarify. I also give page citations, so you can find the originals, if you're so inclined. (I have included small reproductions of a few of Steiner's originals. If not for copyright restrictions, I would present nothing by Steiner's own artwork, reproduced large and plain. While trying to faithfully convey Steiner's vision, I have allowed myself a certain latitude, trying — if anything — to present Anthroposophical dreams as attractively as possible. This may cause some distortion, but it is distortion stemming from charity.)

What you will find below is the universe as seen through Steiner's eyes, as seen through my eyes, as it were.

— Roger Rawlings

If, in the quotations below,
 you come upon terminology that is strange to you, 
you might consult 

“The earth was once a giant animal which, in keeping with its size, was rather lazy, turning only slowly about its axis in space, but which looked out into space through these dragon birds which were simply movable eyes. What I have been describing as fire-eating and so on is quite similar to what still goes on today in the stomach and intestines. And the dragon birds look very like cells of the brain. You can comprehend the earth if you imagine it as an animal that has died.” — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 69. 

[R.R., sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

We can find more on these matters in other Anthroposophical publications. Here are excerpts from a longer passage, including some variations and elaborations:

"[T]he dragon birds up in the air...were acutely sensitive ... Those birds were intelligent; they were very sensitive to the moon and the sun ... [T]hey formed a shining electromagnetic sheath around themselves, and when the moon shone on this fiery air the animals themselves, out of their own forces, began to glow, to shine and shimmer like fireflies ... [T]he earth as a whole was a huge fish, a gigantic animal, and the dragon birds were the ever-moving eyes with which the earth looked out into the cosmos. That the earth is dead now is only a later development ... [T]he earth as a huge, lazy animal that slowly rotated around its axis and looked out into the cosmos with its ever-moving eyes, the dragon birds ... In summary, you will understand the earth when you see it as a deceased animal. It was only after the earth had lost its own life that other beings could live here, among them...human beings." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM CRYSTALS TO CROCODILES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), pp. 110-112.

(We might note that, on other occasions, Steiner indicated that the earth is alive now. But that's par for Steiner's course; he contradicted himself often.)

“What a child develops in his head, in his heart and soul, by having to learn a... b... c, is — spiritually speaking — a parasite in human nature ... [W]hen the letters of the alphabet, which are the product of advanced civilization, are imposed on the human being, this does engender a parasitic element ... [T]he spiritual can be brought to man without becoming poison. First you have the diagnosis, which finds that our age is infested with carcinomas, and then you have the therapy — yes, it is Waldorf School education ... [O]ne must regard education as medicine transposed into the realm of mind and spirit. This strikes us with particular clarity when we wish to find a therapy for civilization, for we can only conceive this therapy as being Waldorf School education.” — Rudolf Steiner, HARMONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), pp. 216-217. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the one in the book. 
Steiner's drawings were often oblique and hard to interpret. 
My copies necessarily share these limitations. 
The pointilist effect, here, is my variation of Anthroposophical 
shaded drawing, which consists of short parallel lines 
separated by open spaces.]

Steiner taught that fully formed human beings have four bodies, three of which are invisible. At night, the astral and ego bodies fly up to the spirit realm while the physical and etheric bodies stay earthbound. 

“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). This is how we are at night. We are two people in the night." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 102. 

[R.R. sketch, 2014, based on the one in the book. 
All four bodies reunite in the morning, 
as Steiner indicated by the arrows.]

Steiner's original sketch
[BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924, p. 102].

“You know that human evolution takes its course through the seven spheres of Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, Vulcan. We will conceive that besides these seven spheres there is still something else which lies outside them and yet is in some way related to the Earth. Here, then, we have a sphere, visible only to visionary-imaginative clairvoyance, which stands there as an Eighth Sphere over and above the seven which constitute the domain of the ordered and regular evolution of mankind ... Luciferic and Ahrimanic spirits [i.e., minions of the arch-demons Lucifer and Ahriman] are at work — and they hold back for themselves something of the Old Moon substantiality, wrest it away, as it were, from the Spirits of Form [i.e., gods four levels above humanity]. The fact that Lucifer and Ahriman do so is indicative of their essential nature. Thus as Sphere Three is advancing to a further stage, something is wrested from the Spirits of Form by Lucifer and Ahriman; into this part that is wrested away, Lucifer and Ahriman penetrate, instead of the Spirits of Form. The activities of Lucifer and Ahriman are added to those of the Spirits of Movement [i.e., gods five levels above humanity] and, as a result, [Sphere] Eight arises out of [Sphere] Three.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), pp. 80-84. 

[R.R., sketch, 2011, 
based on the one in the book.]

"The intake of breath that goes down into the body from the head wants to shape itself into a mummy. And it is only because the body works against this and brings about exhalation that this mummy is changed back again." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 71. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

Do you find Steiner's statement perplexing? Perhaps the following — a more complete explanation — will help:

"The breath, in its drive from the head towards the body, has the tendency towards mummy-formation. And it is only because the body works against this impulse and brings about out-breathing, that this 'nascent' mummy is transformed back again. Thus what is seen streaming from the human head into the other part of the organism, taking shape there as the breath passes onwards, is a form like the mummy, a form that takes shape rapidly. In that the breath is breathed out, it dissolves again. All that remains of it is a form of appearance of the etheric body, which is almost always there, notably during waking life. Observation of the etheric body gives the feeling that from the head outwards the etheric body is trying all the time to form itself into a mummy and is in turn dissolved into a kind of resemblance with the human physical organisation. The inner, plastic force of the human etheric body tends to make it assume the form of a mummy, and then to dissolve this form again so that finally the etheric body resembles the physical organism. This was taught as an apotheosis of all the manifold teachings given by the Initiates of ancient Egypt to their pupils with the help of those supersensible, elementary Beings whom we may call the Moon-Spirits." — Rudolf Steiner, SUPERSENSIBLE INFLUENCES IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1956), lecture 4, GA 216.

"[I]n November of the year 1879 there occurred on the astral plane something very similar to a birth ... The rulership of Gabriel was replaced by another archangel, under whose leadership we now stand, the archangel Michael. He is the radiant sun that esoteric wisdom lets shine forth on a small band of people ... The radiant leadership of Michael will again be replaced by a dark, horrible age that will begin around the year 2400. Already today simultaneously with Michael a dark god has entered into his rulership: the god Mammon.

"For esotericism, Mammon is not only the god of money. He is much more the leader of all vile black powers. And his hordes attack not only human souls, but also the physical bodies of humans in order to gnaw away at them and ruin them. People speak of bacteria a lot more today not because they know more about them, but because bacteria have taken on a very special form today. And in the future they will get the upper hand in a terrifying way. When that black age approaches, then fraternal war will rage in a gruesome way, and poor human bodies will waste away, terribly afflicted by diseases and plagues. The stigma of sin will be impressed on human bodies visible to everyone." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), pp. 232-233. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 

based on the one in the book.]

The sketch in the book
[ESOTERIC LESSON 1904-1909, p. 232].
Illustrations published in Anthroposophical texts
are often schematic copies of Steiner's original drawings.
In these cases, my sketches are copies of the copies.

“So, we find the meteorites: they are the remains of shattered comets. But the comets are something quite different; they are alive! The sun, too, is alive, has a stomach, and not only consumes comets but eats exactly as we do ... If the comets consisted merely of iron, and then fell into the sun, you would see how quickly all of it would be excreted again ... Now think back to the time when the sun was inside the earth ... As long as the sun was in the earth, the latter was able to get nourishment from the cosmos with the help of the sun ... Yes, the earth was well provided for while the sun was in it. You must of course also visualize at this point that the sun is far larger than our planet so that the sun was actually not inside the earth, but the earth was inside the sun. We must imagine that the sun contained the earth, which in turn had the moon in it." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM CRYSTALS TO CROCODILES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), pp. 152-153. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

“If we were to journey back through time to the age that links Lemuria with Atlantis, we would meet with a remarkable sight: gigantic flying lizards with a lantern on their heads that shines and gives heat, and down below something like marshy soil. And in this, moving about like marsh creatures, are those animals which already have more limbs, reminiscent of today's mammals, spread out at the extremities into huge flat feet with which they move about in the swamp.” — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), pp. 130-131. 

[My sketches of Steiner's sketches, 2009; 
Steiner arranged the two figures horizontally; 
I have put them vertically. Plausibility is unaffected.]

The quotation in BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS is awfully brief. Here's a longer exposition:

"[I]f starting from today we could wander back through time rather than through space into that period which unites the Lemurian epoch with that of Atlantis, a peculiar prospect would face us. We should see these gigantic flying lizards, with a sort of lantern on their heads which shines and also gives warmth. Down below is the soft morass-like earth which has something extremely familiar about it, because it offers to the visitors of today a kind of odour, something between a musty smell and the smell arising from green plants, something between the two. Something seductive on the one hand and extremely sympathetic on the other would be offered by the mud of the soft earth. In this morass too we find moving about as swamp-animals creatures which already have limbs more like those of our present lower animals, but spread out below them, something like the webbed feet of a duck but of course very much bigger. With these 'shovels' they propel themselves in the swamp, and also rock about from side to side." — Rudolf Steiner, MYSTERY CENTRES (Garber Communications, 1985) , lecture 5, GA 232.

“[T]he sun's influence keeps human beings small ... Now that the sun is separate, the earth receives far less radiation from it. When the sun was still united with the earth, all its forces reached the earth from within. No wonder that now, as the sun rotates, it can shine upon a human being at every point on the earth, but in ancient times, when it had to send out its rays from the centre of the earth, it was able to project its forces upon only one human being. Once the sun began to work out at the periphery, it made human beings smaller.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM CRYSTALS TO CROCODILES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), pp. 162-163. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the image on p. 162; 
both the ancient situation and the present situation 
are depicted in the book, as shown here.]

Here are two images of the human embryo 

as depicted by Steiner.

On the left, the signs of the zodiac 

are arranged to show their importance 

to various portions of the embryo 

— i.e., the developing human body.


(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009), p. 89.]

On the right, the influences of the zodiac (red)

and spirit-soul forces (yellow) are shown

within an overall constellation of forces

that affect the developing human body.


(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000, p. 23.]

◊ “This figure I am drawing really arises from the twelve signs [of the zodiac] as if of its own accord. We are able to say: there (in the middle) the universe with its stars is more active in the inner human being; there (at the top) the stars act from outside; and there (below) they compress the human being. You can see that the form I have drawn is the human embryo. Basing yourself on the laws of the zodiac, you really have to draw the human embryo like this....” — Rudolf Steiner, ASTRONOMY AND ASTROLOGY, p. 90.

◊ "Red: head, as it is formed by the zodiac. Yellow: soul-spiritual forces that shape the human being." — Caption, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE, p. 23.

◊ "Modern science also has described these matters, but not quite as I have, for what I tell you is exact. Popular science does not really comprehend the whole process ... In reality, soul-spiritual elements are united with the child, mainly with the head, while it is still in the mother's womb and after birth. The forces that work on the child from within the head are invisible soul-spiritual forces." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE, pp. 26-27.

[R.R. sketches, 2009, 
based on the ones in the books.]

"[I]n his morning memory the Initiate says to himself: 'I have lived from the time of falling asleep till the time of waking in my ego and astral body. I have felt myself enwrapped in all that the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones are unfolding, together with the Kyriotetes, Dynamis and Exusiai. Living in this world I gazed down at my physical body and my etheric body and hovering above them I perceived the Angels, Archangels and Archai, gathering the fruits of my thoughts. I felt myself one with the Beings of the First and Second Hierarchies, and I beheld the weaving and working of the Third Hierarchy in mighty spirit-clouds over my body.'

"And so, my dear friends, in this way you can get a clear picture of how the Beings of the three Hierarchies appear to the imaginative vision of Initiation, how they appear there on the opposite side of the earth in the picture of the physical world, but only when this physical world is plunged in darkness." — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), p. 235.

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.] 

Steiner taught that there are nine ranks of gods, arranged in three "hierarchies." The blue globe on the left represents the Second Hierarchy, the green globe on the right represents the First Hierarchy.

"Lucifer and Ahriman strive unceasingly to draw from the Earth's substances whatever they can snatch, in order to form their Eighth Sphere which then, when it is sufficiently advanced, will be detached from the Earth and go its own way in the Cosmos together with Lucifer and Ahriman. Needless to say, the Earth would then pass over to Jupiter as a mere torso ... If everything were to run without a hitch for Lucifer and Ahriman, if they were everywhere able to wrest as much as they wrest from the organ of the head, Earth-evolution would soon reach a point where Lucifer and Ahriman could succeed in destroying our Earth ... Lucifer endeavours to unfold his greatest strength of all at the place where man is the most vulnerable, namely, in his head ... No less a prospect looms as a consequence of this intention of Lucifer and Ahriman than that the whole evolution of humanity may be allowed to disappear into the Eighth Sphere...."  — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), pp. 85-87. 

[R.R., sketch, 2011, based on the one in the book. 
The Eighth Sphere is the large red expanse enclosing 
the green Earth and the gray Moon.]

The sketch in the book

"Think of the pastoral peoples of earlier times ... Sleep came from the darkness. But there were those stars shining on the people. And wherever a star's ray shone down, the human being became a little bit excited inside ... They developed a marvelous science of the stars. They did not dream that the Ram [i.e., Aries] was simply made up of so and so many stars, but they really saw the animal ... The inner life of man is a life lived in the astral body, for in sleep he experiences the whole of the heavens. We would be in a sorry state if we had not descended from those pastoral peoples ... We still have an inner starry firmament today, purely by inheritance, to give us insight. " — Rudolf Steiner, FROM LIMESTONE TO LUCIFER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), pp. 37-38. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

Steiner frequently asserted that we contain within ourselves wisdom inherited from the stars and their gods. Thus, we do not really need to think about things; rather, by gazing inward, we can intuit transcendent truths. 

"Let us place the human being schematically before us. Take, first of all, man's physical body (red). As I said, I am making a schematic drawing. This is man's etheric body (blue); that is the human astral body (yellow); here we have man's ego [orange]. Let us first consider the human being as he was in ancient times, those ancient times when instinctive clairvoyance still existed, which then faded, withered, and gradually disappeared. The ego is basically a product of the earth and we need to give it less consideration. But we must be clear about the fact that the whole world actually dwells in man's physical, etheric, and astral bodies. We can say, in this physical body lives the element that represents the whole world ... It is like this to this day and was like this in the days when the human being still lived with his ancient instinctive clairvoyance, but in that age, he was more intimately connected with his physical body, his etheric, and astral bodies than he is today. When he woke up in the morning, he submerged with his ego and astral body into his physical and etheric bodies. A close connection developed between his ego and astral body and his etheric body and physical corporeality. And he not only dwelled in his physical body, he also lived in the forces that worked within the latter." — Rudolf Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 156-157. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

“[T]he astral body makes itself very much at home everywhere in the [physical] body. It gets too strong. It attacks all the organs and wears them down. And that is the consequence of rapid arsenic poisoning. If someone takes a lot of arsenic, quickly, his astral body begins to become terribly active, whirling, whirling, whirling ... The ether body gives life, the astral body gives sentience. But there can be no sentience unless life is suppressed. To draw it in diagrammatic form, therefore, it is like this. There you have the astral body [darker areas], there the ether body [lighter areas]. They are always fighting one another. If the ether body wins we get a bit sleepy; if the astral body wins we come wide awake ... [T]he astral body gets what it needs ... from the arsenic human beings produce themselves." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM ELEPHANTS TO EINSTEIN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), pp. 19-20. 

[R. R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

Steiner claimed that Norse myths — which are emphasized in Waldorf schools — have special spiritual importance. Indeed, he claimed that they are essentially built into us. (In Norse myths, Asgard is the home of the gods; Midgard is Earth, the home of humans; and Jotunheim is the home of the gods' enemies, the giants. Steiner said these are present within us.)

“In the upper part of the head we have a faithful image of the heavens; in the middle, an adaptation of the head to the forces which triumph in the chest, to all that circles the world ... [T]he head of the human being contains, above, as it were, Asgard, the castle of the gods; in the middle, Midgard, man’s earthly home; and, below, what also belongs to the earth, Jotunheim, home of the giants. These interrelationships...become clear only if we perceive the human head artistically, in relation to its spiritual origin; only when we see in it heaven, earth, and hell. Not hell as the abode of the devil; hell as the home of the giants, Jotunheim.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), pp. 26-27. 

[R.R. sketch, 2010, 
based on the one in the book.]

The sketch in the book

“[W]e need to acquire an inner feeling, an inner response to the natural world ... [T]he earth is solid rock. Materialists believe in this solid rock ... But someone who is hoping to gain higher insight develops some degree of anxiety on coming face to face with this very rock. This anxiety does not appear at all when we are in heated air ... But one can also reach a point where the heated air makes one anxious ... [I]f you put up with the heat, if you stay with it, and actually feel comfortable with it, the parts I have drawn rather schematically in the air here [yellow] oddly enough begin to fill up with all kinds of images [upper white blotches] and the world of the spirit literally begins to show itself, the world of the spirit that is always present in the air though people do not feel it in the air, perceive it in the air, because they do not want to bear the heat ... Once one has got used to seeing all these spirits that are in the will gradually also begin to perceive something where the solid rock is concerned ... [Y]ou yourself slip out of your body far enough so that you'll no longer feel the stones to be an obstacle but enter into the solid ground the way a swimmer does the water." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM MAMMOTHS TO MEDIUMS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 190-192. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the one in the book. 
The white area near the bottom is "solid" rock that 
one begins to penetrate, as shown in red. 
The red line crossing through the upper white areas also represents 
penetration by human consciousness.]

"[W]e may really describe the human being by saying: During the old Moon evolution man first became a patient ... During the epoch of the old Sun, man arose as the physician of his own subsequent constitution ... The way in which healing processes are continuously working downwards in us calls forth a feeling of pleasure in the higher hierarchies [i.e., the senior gods] ... They look down and continually feel illness arising out of what streams upward in man...." — Rudolf Steiner, HARMONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), pp. 170-172. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

Sometimes Steiner's pronouncements did not result from clairvoyance.

"Once I knew a man who had quite an unusual forehead. A Greek forehead is different. In Greek statues we find foreheads that slope backwards. This man actually had a pronounced bulge, and his forebrain was actually pushed out. I am convinced that this man, whose brain was pushed forward so much, possessed a particularly well-formed abdomen and never suffered from diarrhea or constipation ... [H]is powerful, protruding forehead never permitted disorders of the abdomen. You can see from this that a man's forehead is related in a remarkable way to his abdomen."  — Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 150-151. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 

based on the one in the book.]

In reality, of course, none of Steiner's pronouncements result from clairvoyance, which does not exist. What Steiner actually shows us are his thinking processes and his fantasies (which either he did or did not realize are nothing but fantasies). 

The sketch in the book

"One must always emphasize that on rising up to higher knowledge, to imagination, the human being remains the same person he otherwise is in ordinary life. He continues to possess his sound common sense, his self-control and his critical faculties. What happens is that out of the first human being the second develops, one who is able to think without calling on his body [i.e., the physical brain] to help. The first stage towards higher knowledge is that the soul-spirit begins to do without the body as an actual organ of thinking." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 59. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

Waldorf schools stress imagination. It is important to realize that what Steiner meant by "imagination" is "higher knowledge" — that is, clairvoyance. How much scope this leaves for "sound common sense" and "critical faculties" is, perhaps, questionable.

"Try to picture the sun and moon both contained in the earth and oysters that had no shells, but were slime. When lumps of this substance separated off, new oysters developed, and so forth. They were so huge and lay right next to each other so that you could not have told them apart. What did the earth look like at that time? It looked like our brain, whose cells also lie next to each other. The only difference is that these cells die off, whereas in that very ancient time the huge oysters cells were one next to the other, and the sun constantly developed forces, because it was inside the earth. Yes, gentlemen, the earth was here [see drawing], and there was a giant oyster, another next to it, and many other huge lumps of slime, which continuously propagated ... If you had looked at the earth at that ancient time, it would have resembled a gigantic creature that contained within it the forces of the sun and of the moon." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM CRYSTALS TO CROCODILES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), pp. 143-144. 

[R. R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

“As soon as we begin to think with our fingers — and one can think with one's fingers and toes much more brightly, once one makes the effort, than with the nerves of the head — as soon as we begin to think with that part of us which has not entirely become matter, when we think with the lower part of our being, then our thoughts are the thoughts of our karma." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 126. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on Steiner's.]

Steiner said that we think with our bones and teeth, but not — generally speaking — with our brains. 

◊ "Within the brain nothing at all exists of the nature of thought." — Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Kessinger, facsimile of 1929 edition), p. 88.

◊ "[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition...." — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (SteinerBooks, 1996), p. 60.

Steiner's original sketch
[BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924, p. 126]. 
Steiner often drew on black paper attached to blackboards
so that his followers could gather and preserve his drawings.

"All over the earth there grows the denseness of earth, the magnetism of earth, the gravity of earth, striving upwards together with the downward-striving force of love and sacrifice. And in this interweaving of the downward-streaming loving force of sacrifice and the upward-streaming denseness and gravity and magnetic force, in this working together the plant-being develops across the face of the earth, where the two meet, the plant-being that is an outer expression of the collaboration of world-love, world-sacrifice, world-gravity and world-magnetism." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p.120. 

[R. R. sketch, 2010, 
based on the one in the book.]

Astrology pervades much of Steiner's teachings, and it is never far below the surface at Waldorf schools. 

"This is what will be good: to discover how from two directions of the cosmos morning and evening forces can be placed in the service of humanity, those coming from the directions of Pisces [9 o'clock] and those coming from the direction of Virgo [3 o'clock] ... The spiritual secrets that on earth can cause the spirit to stream from the cosmos — with the help of the dual forces of positive and negative magnetism — these spiritual forces derive from the direction of Gemini [12 o'clock]. They are the forces of midday ... Here again we have the duality of forces that certain egoistic brotherhoods...will use to lead also the Eastern part of Europe astray, the part of Europe which has the task of preparing for the sixth post-Atlantean period. This dualism makes use of the forces coming from Sagittarius [6 o'clock]." — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 189-191. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

The sketch in the book
[SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 190].

"Just as speech proceeds from out of the larynx, the child from out of the womb, so the fully developed human being at about the age of thirty-five is born, as it were, from out of the cosmos in the same way in which the words which we speak are spoken out of us. Thus we have the form of man, the complete human form, as a spoken word." — Rudolf Steiner, EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1955), p. 35. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

"In earlier [i.e., prehistoric] times immense quantities of metals and even of sulphur were present in the air. The air was quite saturated with sulphur. So there was a thickish water — if one had not been especially heavy one could have gone for a walk on it; it was like running tar — and there was a dense air, so dense that one could not have breathed in it with our present lungs. These were only formed later. The mode of life of the creatures that existed at that time was utterly different.

"Now you must picture to yourselves that the earth once looked like this. (See drawing.) Had you found yourself there with your present eyes, you would not have discovered the stars and sun and moon out there, for you would have looked out into a vague ocean of air which reached an end eventually. If one could have lived then with the present sense organs, one would have seemed to be inside a world-egg beyond which one could see nothing. And you can imagine how different the earth looked at that time, like a kind of giant egg yolk, a thick fluid, and a thick air environment corresponding to the white of the present-day egg." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM SUNSPOTS TO STRAWBERRIES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), p. 20. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.]

Anthroposophy contains many mystic symbols and emblems, including seven mystic seals reflecting Steiner's interpretation of the Book of Revelation.

"[M]en went through not only physical transformations, but spiritual and astral transformations as well. To follow these requires that we rise to spiritual worlds. There the music of the spheres can be heard, tones that swell and flood through space in this world, the harmony of the spheres, called by the occultist 'the trumpet tones of the angels,' will sound forth for them. Hence, the trumpets in the third seal." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), p. 53. 

[R.R. sketch, 2012, 
based on the one in the book.]

"We become conscious of the 'I' in the physical world through the senses. This appears to contradict the fact that a certain point in the etheric head came together with one like it in the physical head during the time of the Atlanteans, and in this way the 'I' entered into the human being. Yet this 'I' was, so to speak, only like a small little skin, a little pocket that sank down into the human being. And the true 'I,' which was spread out through the planets from Saturn to Vulcan, radiated into it. The best symbol is: this little pocket like a mirror into which the true 'I' streams from this string of planets." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), p. 339. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on one in the book.]

“[Ancient] doctors began to observe the stars and found that at those times when patients recovered from these typhoid-like illnesses, the planet Venus always stood in such a position that it was blocked by the earth ... When Venus was not blocked, however, the typhoid patient was subject to Venus' light in addition to sunlight. Then the prognosis was bad; the head became dizzy, and the typhoid could not be cured ... Now they began to experiment ... When a typhoid patient was given had a remarkable effect. It offset the dizziness, and the patient began to recover ... They now concluded that Venus is in a certain way connected with copper ... [T]hey discovered the correspondence between the planets and the metals contained in the earth. They found that Venus is connected with copper, Jupiter with tin, and Saturn with lead ... What the earth once did together with Venus has remained in the metal copper. To heal with copper — that is what is accomplished specifically through Venus." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 293-299.  

[R.R. sketches, 2009, 
based on those in the book.]

The sketches in the book

Here are copies of two related Steiner illustrations found in BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924. The first indicates the perils of rational thinking, the second indicates the soul's rebellion against reality.

"The image of the heavens in the living human being is in his head. What the human being can know about the heavens lives in his head. And since [beginning in early modern times] the human being had only learnt mathematics, or things that were logical or abstract, from then onwards only what was logical and abstract, or made of concepts and ideas, lived in his head. That is why from then onwards there was no possibility for the human being to bring what was spiritual into concepts and ideas." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924, p. 126.

"Between the world that is interwoven with the laws of nature and the world in which conscience speaks as it steams into us, there lies the world of dreaming. The world of dreaming protests in its images against the laws of nature." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924, p. 110. The blue area is the sleep world; yellow, the dream world; red, the waking world.

[R.R. copies, 2012.]

Here is a brief recap of our evolution thus far, 

according to Anthroposophical belief:

"Saturn [was] entirely...warmth [A], also the beginning of the human being ... Sun [B] condensed to air ... [I]t glowed [C] ... Moon condensed liquid [D] ... [S]mall particles were formed that were active ... [Q]uicksilver is an example [E] ... Through a sound that came from the outside...particles were joined together into forms ... This is the principle of the feminine [F] ... Finally, the Earth was condensed to the solid element 'earth' [G] ... [T]he presence of the solid along with the fluid made possible the process of dissolution — as salt in water. [H] ... The stimulation for formation in the feminine now appeared in the Earth itself: the masculine principle. [I] And from all this the present-day human being evolved.  [J] — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), p. 280. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 

based on the one in the book; 

arbitrary colors added.]

Here is an image of the hierarchies of thinking or consciousness as conceived within Waldorf schools; Steiner sketched it in the form of a caduceus, an ancient symbol for healing. We do not need to think for ourselves, Steiner taught: Real thinking has already been done by other, higher beings. All we have to do is receive such thinking in the form of "living" thoughts. 

“A living thought comes to us: Just as my thought is alive, so too the force that lives in and drives the plant seed must be inwardly alive. Soon this thought becomes for us a raying out of light." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), p. 400. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the one in the book.] 

At the bottom of the caduceus: ordinary day consciousness, associated with the astrological symbol for the Earth; ascending, to the left, the Moon, and, to the right, Jupiter; at the first intersection, "picture consciousness;" ascending, to the left, Venus, and, to the right, the Sun; at the second intersection, "sleeping consciousness;" ascending, to the left, Saturn, and, to the right, Vulcan (no symbol); at the top, "deep trance." Ordinarily, we might assume that clarity and truth can be found in the real world, using our brains and senses — that is, on Earth, at the bottom of the sketch. But if wisdom lies within, planted in our unconsciousness by the gods, then the goal is to climb toward trance. Beware, however. Things are complex. Here is a further statement by Steiner, from the same book, concerning the powers of the caduceus, otherwise known as the staff of Mercury:

"When we let it [the caduceus] rise up before every meditation, this symbol — the staff of Mercury, which the messenger of the gods holds in his hand, who shows the way — bans everything that wants to push into our consciousness and disturb. When we ascend higher, when we become clairvoyant, Ahrimanic beings advance on us in pictures. We see parasitic animals, rats and mice. As a temptation beings approach us with beautiful human faces but crippled feet. We must not give ourselves to them. Good pictures are when the meditant sees a sphinx (seraphim) or a cherubim. — Here too the staff of Mercury is to be used to ban the beings that would pull us down."  — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909, p. 393.

The sketch in the book
[ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909, p. 401].

Things are complex. The legend of Parzival, a knight who sought the Holy Grail, is one of the narratives deemed sacred in Anthroposophy. According to Anthroposophic belief, the Grail symbolizes occult wisdom, and Parzival is the representative man who seeks that highest of gifts, "higher knowledge," which is Anthroposophy itself. The story of Parzival, then, symbolizes the journey that Steiner would have each of us take, the journey to his own teachings.

Here is my version of the diagram Steiner drew to illustrate
his account of Parzival:

And here are Steiner's notations (not extremely helpful), 
which in the original appear superimposed on the diagram:

A. The Father - His power that flows in
B. Willing
C. Wisdom
D. The feeling fear and shame
E. These feelings must be intensive and strong
F. Great beings of descending power.
The Feeling [sic] of solid day consciousness, and of shame.
G. The Law of Necessity
H. Great beings of ascending power.
The feeling of losing oneself in God, and of fear.
I. Through the cold that restores balance
J. Growing of wings
K. Genius of [ ]
L. Genius of [ ]
M. The wings are Love and Fire

Here, very briefly, is Steiner's account of Parzival:

"The old mysterious abodes of the Sun oracle exerted their influence in the Atlantean lands. Their wisdom was transplanted into the post-Atlantean cultures. Two streams of people came forth from Atlantis. One went through Africa ... The other stream of people went through Europe ... Invisible to the people [of the second stream], great spiritual leaders from the spiritual heights guided this humanity and its mystery center. One of them was the so-called Round Table of King Arthur ... The saga of the Holy Grail says that the cup with the collected blood of Golgotha [i.e., Christ's blood from the Crucifixion] was brought by angels to Europe. Titurel  received this cup. He kept it hovering above the countries of Europe, and only after centuries did Titurel descend with it from spiritual heights down to the Earth ... He could only do that after several people were mature enough to receive the secret of the Grail. Everyone mature enough for this initiation was called Parzival ... A 'Parzival' was a purified soul ... First [each Parzival] had to sacrifice his intellect ... The entire physical world also disappeared for him ... [H]e then felt from the one side a stream that flowed through him and pushed him to be dissolved entirely in the Godhead ... But from the other side a force came that wanted to lead him to keep his self. And a third force was added that united the two streams ... Then, from left and right, there came to him, so to speak, supports under his arms, something like warm and cold wings. From his left he felt a supporting power that flowed into his left side, warmth created by spiritual fire, and from the right a power that was cool, bringing coolness. Then, in the region of the larynx he experienced currents from both sides. They came from the angel of light, who carried the spiritual light of wisdom to humans. He drew this spiritual light into himself. Then with his spiritual ears he heard sounds from the world of the harmony of the spheres, sounds that made clear to him the purpose and destiny of the human being and of world evolution." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), pp. 430-434. 

[R.R. sketch, 2013, 
based on the one in the book
I have given Steiner's notations verbatim.]

Things are complex; some readers may not feel entirely enlightened by what we have just seen. But this is one of Steiner's central efforts to explain his visions, to explain "the purpose and destiny of the human being and of world evolution."

It may be worth meditating upon.


We need to be cautious and compassionate in making any such judgments, but clearly some of the experiences Steiner described are virtually indistinguishable from psychotic episodes. Consider. You begin to doubt the reality around you; you become anxious and overheated; you have conflicted emotions; you begin to sense invisible presences in the air; you develop a ghostly, alternate body; the ground beneath your feet becomes insubstantial and you begin slipping down through solid rock that has turned to liquid...

Whether or not Steiner himself ever underwent such experiences, we should be loath to seek such experiences for ourselves or our children. Steiner was not showing his followers the road to mental health.

Here is one of the passages we saw above, this time with no excisions. Like Steiner's account of Parzival, this too is worth meditating upon.

“We are thus able to say that we need to acquire an inner feeling, an inner response to the natural world outside. What purpose will this serve? Well you see, gentlemen, in the first place the earth is solid rock. Materialists believe in this solid rock which is part of the earth, for they are able to walk on it. It is hard to the touch. Materialists put their faith in solid rock. But someone who is hoping to gain higher insight develops some degree of anxiety on coming face to face with this very rock.

"This anxiety does not appear at all when we are in heated air. I'll draw this heated air above the solid rock. When we consider the heated air this anxiety does not appear at all, for the heated air — I'll show that it has heated up by making it a bit red — does not make us anxious.

"But one can also reach a point where the heated air makes one anxious. This will actually be the case when one tries more and more to cope with the feelings one has toward the heated air by liking it. Just think, you've got someone there who feels more and more at ease in the heated air. But now the heated air also begins to make him anxious! The more you feel at ease with it, the more does the heated air make you anxious.

"So if one gets into the habit of feeling really at ease in the heated air, getting more and more used to the warmth, as it were — such things are necessary; you have to enter into the whole of nature to gain higher insight — the business begins to get really peculiar. Let me show it to you even more clearly. Most people want to cool down again when they feel hot. All they know in that case is that they'd like to be less hot. But if you put up with the heat, if you stay with it, and actually feel comfortable with it, the parts I have drawn rather schematically in the air here [yellow] oddly enough begin to fill up with all kinds of images [white, at the top] and the world of the spirit literally begins to show itself, the world of the spirit that is always present in the air though people do not feel it in the air, perceive it in the air, because they do not want to bear the heat.

"Once one has got used to seeing all these spirits that are in the air, spirits people do not perceive because they do not want to put up with the heat in the air — once you have got used to seeing these spirits you will gradually also begin to perceive something where the solid rock is concerned. You will find that if you say to yourself 'Yes, a stone is hard if I put my clumsy paw on it. But if I begin more and more to perceive the things of the spirit, if I enter more and more into the realm of the spirit, if not only the things we perceive with the senses are all round me, but more and more also the things of the spirit, I'll not, of course, be able to slip into the soil with my physical flesh-and-blood body, but I can begin to slip into the soil with my astral body.' I've told you about this. This is most interesting. The moment one begins to perceive things of the spirit in the air, using all the means I have told you about, at that moment you yourself slip out of your body far enough so that you'll no longer feel the stones to be an obstacle but enter into the solid ground the way a swimmer does the water. You yourself enter in there [in the illustration: red, down below]. This is extraordinarily interesting. You can't enter into the air in the spirit, because other spirits show themselves there. But it is easy to creep into the soil (this is actually empty as far as the spirit is concerned), and you can immerse yourself in it like a swimmer." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM MAMMOTHS TO MEDIUMS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 190-192.

— Compilation, copies, and commentary by Roger Rawlings

To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, 
use the underlined links, below.

◊◊◊ 13. RUDOLF STEINER ◊◊◊

Seeing Steiner through his followers’ eyes; includes brief chronology of Steiner's life

What he prescribed, and — perhaps — why


Steiner as leader

Steiner’s embrace of an architect of destruction

Steiner and his followers, beleaguered

The coming, epoch-ending war

What he might have done

"Yes, gentlemen, the earth was here [see drawing], 
and there was a giant oyster, 
another next to it, and many other huge lumps of slime...."

The sketch in the book

Steiner professed to reveal the "occult" or hidden meaning in symbols that are opaque to the uninitiated.

Steiner specified seven occult/apocalyptic seals and seven astrological/planetary columns, appropriate for use in Anthroposophical buildings.

The seals are derived from the seven seals mentioned in the Book of Revelation; for his designs, Steiner was heavily influenced by the work of Eliphas Levi, a ceremonial magician.

Here are my copies/interpretations of Steiner's Apocalyptic seals and astrological columns. I based my work on images presented in


◊ OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Anthroposophic Press, 1972),

◊ MYSTIC SEALS AND COLUMNS (Health Research, 1969),

◊ ROSICRUCIANISM RENEWED (SteinerBooks, 2007),


◊ ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987).

The colors I have selected are more or less arbitrary; don't attach much importance to them. Many artists have produced interpretations of the images Steiner discussed, using a wide array of differing colors.

"[The] continuous development from the beginning to the end of the earth reveals itself to the seer, when he sees on the astral plane the archetype of the evolving man, as it is reproduced in the first seal." — Rudolf Steiner, "Occult Seals and Columns," ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER, p. 77.

"Seal No. II represents one of the first evolutionary states of earthly humanity ... When imaginative clairvoyance, looking back on past ages, traces human group-souls on the astral plane, their various forms may be reduced to four fundamental types ... lion, ox, eagle, and...'man.'" — Ibid., p. 77.

"Seal No. III represents the mysteries of the so-call harmony of the spheres. Man experiences these mysteries in the interval between death a a new birth ... The Apocalyptic riders represent the main points of development, through which an individuality passes in the course of many incarnations...." — Ibid., p. 77.

"Seal No. IV represents among other things...the part played in human evolution by red, or oxygenated blood, and blue, or carbonated blood ... [R]ed blood, without which there would be no life, and blue blood, without which there would be no knowledge. Blue blood is the physical expression of the knowledge-giving forces, which...are connected with death....." — Ibid., p. 77.

"Seal V represents a higher stage of human evolution, as it will take place when the earth will have once more united with the sun, and man will no longer work merely with earth-forces but with sun-forces ... Certain lower forces...he will then have put quite away ... These forces are represented in the seal, on the one hand in the 'dragon with seven heads and ten horns", and on the other hand by the moon under the feet of humanity." — Ibid., p. 78.

"Seal VI represents the purified human being, not only spiritualized but grown strong in spirituality, who has not only subdued the lower forces, but transformed them ... The tamed dragon expresses this." — Ibid., p. 78.

"Seal VII is a reproduction of the 'Mystery of the Holy Grail'. It is the astral experience which renders the universal meaning of human evolution ... The upward growth of...higher powers makes it possible for man to become the recipient, or chalice, of purely spiritual cosmic being ... Thereby man becomes the ruler of spiritual cosmic forces." — Ibid., p. 78.


Here are the seven planetary columns, devoted to the seven sacred "planets" of astrology. The columns are arranged in an order that roughly traces, with modifications, the pattern of human cosmic evolution as described by Steiner: Old Saturn, Old Sun, Old Moon, Present Earth, Future Jupiter, Future Venus, Future Vulcan.








"Both the columns and the seals were painted according to Rudolf Steiner's sketches ...[O]ne sensed the columns and seals to be mighty intimations of a comprehensive supersensible life of being. The painted columns standing free of beams and ceiling, with the apocalyptic seals hanging on the red walls between them, became a challenge to the viewer to construct a room in one's imagination in which the columns were the bearing element and in which the seals, as pictures, directed the sight into nonspatial, spiritual life." — E.A. Karl Stockmeyer, "Concerning Forerunners of the Goetheanum", in Steiner's ROSICRUCIANISM RENEWED (SteinerBooks, 2007).

Steiner's sketch for the second of the occult seals shown above:

sketch made in 1906-1907.]

Eliphas Levi's rendition of the corresponding Apocalyptic seal:

[Eliphas Levi, DOGME ET RITUAL DE LA MAGIE, 1861.]

In addition to the occult/apocalyptic seals and planetary columns
shown above, Steiner also specified seven planetary seals
and twelve occult revisions of the signs of the zodiac.