Akasha chronicle

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The Akasha chronicle is the spiritual world memory, the Akasha material, in which the spiritual researcher can read the events of the most distant past - not, however, as they occurred directly on the outside, but from the side of the inner soul experience.

World memory in the Western tradition

Accounts of world memory can already be found in Plotinus, Marsilio Ficino, Paracelsus, to some extent also in Agrippa von Nettesheim, and later in the 19th century in Eduard von Hartmann, the philosopher of the unconscious, to whom Rudolf Steiner dedicated his fundamental philosophical work «Truth and Knowledge» (GA 3). The idea of a world memory is also an integral part of the Christian tradition, for example in the celebration of the Mass for the deceased (Missa pro defunctis) from the Missale curiale (1472) or also the Missale Romanum (1570) of the Roman Catholic Church. The Dies irae of the Missa pro defunctis reads:

Liber scriptus proferetur
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus iudicetur.

A written book will be brought forward,
in which all things are contained,
according to which the world shall be judged.

In the tradition of the Old and New Testament, the Book of Life (Hebrewסֵפֶר חִיִּים Sefer Chajim) is mentioned several times, in which the names of all the righteous who will not be thrown into the lake of fire on the Day of Judgement and will not suffer the second death are inscribed.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky referred to this world memory in her 1877 work «Isis Unveiled», speaking of "metaphysical tablets", "daguerreotypes printed on the astral light", records "of all that was, is or ever will be" and which would be "presented to the eye of the seer and prophet as a living image" (Lit.: Blavatsky, p. 178ff).

Characteristics of the Akasha chronicle

Reading in the Akasha chronicle is more reliable than looking at history based only on the interpretation of externally transmitted documents or artefacts, yet here too errors are possible which require later correction.

„Through ordinary history, man can only learn about a small part of what mankind experienced in prehistoric times. Historical evidence sheds light on only a few millennia. And even what ancient history, palaeontology and geology can teach us is only something very limited. And this limitation is compounded by the unreliability of everything that is based on external evidence. Just consider how the image of this or that event or people, which is not so long behind us, has changed when new historical evidence has been found. Just compare the accounts given by different historians of one and the same thing, and you will soon be convinced of the uncertain ground on which you stand. Everything that belongs to the outer world of the senses is subject to time. And time also destroys what has come into being in time. But external history is dependent on what has been preserved in time. No one can say whether what has been preserved is also the essential if he stops at the external evidence. - But everything that comes into being in time has its origin in the eternal. But the eternal is not accessible to sensual perception. But the paths to the perception of the eternal are open to man. He can develop the dormant powers within him in such a way that he is able to recognise this eternal. In the essays on the question: "How does one attain knowledge of the higher worlds?" which appear in this journal, reference is made to this training. In the course of these essays it will also be shown that man, at a certain high level of his cognitive faculty, can also penetrate to the eternal origins of temporally transient things. If man expands his cognitive faculty in this way, then he is no longer dependent on external evidence for his knowledge of the past. Then he is able to see what is not sensually perceptible in the events, what no time can destroy from them. He advances from the transient history to an imperishable one. This history, however, is written with different letters than the ordinary one. In Gnosis and Theosophy it is called the " Akasha chronicle ". Only a faint idea of this chronicle can be given in our language. For our language is calculated for the world of the senses. And what is designated by it immediately acquires the character of this sense world. It is therefore easy to give the impression of a fantasist, if not worse, to the uninitiated who cannot yet convince themselves of the reality of a particular spiritual world through their own experience. - He who has acquired the ability to perceive in the spiritual world recognises the eternal character of past events. They stand before him not like the dead testimonies of history, but in full life. What has happened is played out before him in a certain way. - Those who are initiated into the reading of such living scripture can look back into a far more distant past than that which the outer history represents; and they can also - from immediate spiritual perception - describe the things of which history reports in a far more reliable manner than is possible for the latter. In order to prevent a possible error, it should be said here that spiritual perception is not infallible. This view can also be mistaken, it can be inaccurate, skewed, wrong. In this field, too, no man is free from error, no matter how high he may be. That is why one should not be offended if communications that come from such spiritual sources do not always agree completely. But the reliability of observation is far greater here than in the outer world of the senses. And what various initiates can tell us about history and prehistory will essentially be in agreement. In fact, there is such history and prehistory in all secret schools. And here there has been such full agreement for thousands of years that the agreement which exists between the outer historians of even one century cannot be compared with it at all. The initiates describe essentially the same thing at all times and in all places.“ (Lit.:GA 11, p. 21ff)

The Akasha chronicle at the Transition from the Lower to the Upper Devachan

According to Rudolf Steiner, the Akasha chronicle, at least as far as all thought-formations are concerned, begins where the upper spiritual world (Upper Devachan, Arupa-Devachan) passes into the lower spiritual world (Lower Devachan, Rupa-Devachan), i.e. where the forming but itself unformed creative power transforms itself into the formed.

„This is the workshop of the world, which includes in itself all the forms from which creation has sprung. This is Plato's world of ideas, the realm of the mothers of which Goethe speaks and from which he lets the phantom of Helena rise. What appears on this level of the Devachan is what the Indian calls the Akasha chronicle. In our modern language we would call it the astral image of all world events. Everything that has passed through the astral body of man is recorded here in an infinitely subtle substance, which is actually negative matter.“ (Lit.:GA 94, p. 82f)

More precisely, this is the fourth region of the spirit land, which already points beyond our planetary system:

„And what is described as the fourth region of the spirit land already goes beyond our planetary system. There the soul expands, so to speak, into further spaces, into the wider starry sky. And you will find from the description which was given at that time from the inner soul point of view, how the characteristics of the soul experiences for the fourth region of the spirit land are given in such a way that one can see that they cannot be lived through in that which still stands in such a spatial cosmic relationship to the earth as the whole planetary system. Something is brought in from the fourth region of the spirit-land which is so alien that it cannot be brought together with all that can be experienced within even the last planetary sphere, the Saturn sphere.“ (Lit.:GA 141, p. 182)

Akasha Chronicle and Saturn Sphere

From a cosmological point of view, this corresponds to the outermost boundary of the Saturn sphere, that is, the outermost boundary of our planetary system and beyond, where this already merges into the vastness of the starry sky (see previous section). Here is the interface where the created, the creation, in its very finest spiritual form, bursts forth from the creative source, that is, from the uncreated creative (the natura naturans non naturata in the sense of scholasticism). In the upper spiritual world are the still completely formless creative ideas from which our world emerges. In the lower spiritual world, these "spirit germs" condense into shaped, formed world thoughts. Here, for the first time, one can apply the concept of space in a somewhat meaningful way. The Akasha chronicle contains all world thoughts that have been realised in the course of evolution in the shaped state - and thus the Akasha chronicle is something like a universal world memory.

„What is Akasha chronicle? We get the best idea of it when we are clear that everything that happens on our earth or elsewhere in the world makes a lasting impression on certain subtle essences, which is discoverable by the knower who has undergone initiation. It is no ordinary chronicle, but a chronicle which might be called a living one. Let us suppose that a man lived in the first century after Christ. That which he thought, felt, willed at that time, that which passed into his deeds, has not been extinguished, but is preserved in this fine essence. The seer can "see" it. Not as if it were written down in a history book, but as it happened. How one moves, what one has done, how one has made a journey, for example, can be seen in these spiritual images. One can also see the impulses of the will, the feelings, the thoughts. But we must not imagine that these images appear as if they were imprints of the physical personalities here; that is not the case. To use a simple image: When one moves one's hand, the will of the human being is everywhere in the smallest parts of the moving hand, and this will-power which is hidden here, can be seen. That which now works spiritually in us and has flowed out in the physical, one sees there in the spiritual.“ (Lit.:GA 99, p. 44)

A closer spiritual examination shows that everything that has ever been thought finds its counter-image in the Akasha chronicle in the regions of the upper Devachan, but that feelings and will impulses are preserved on still higher planes. The feelings have their counter-image on the Buddhi plane and the deeds and will impulses on the Nirvana plane:

„If you look at man in terms of these planes, you will see that every thought man thinks is followed by another, active thought as a reaction on the corresponding other plane. If one cherishes a thought on the lower mental plane, this causes a counter-image on the higher mental plane. If one cherishes a feeling, this causes a counter-image on the Budhi plane. If one is active on the physical plane, this causes a counter-image on the nirvana plane. As formerly the active thought created our passive thought, so an active thought creates a corresponding passive counter-image on the higher mental plane, and so on. So no thought can be grasped by us that does not have its counter-image, likewise no feeling, no action.

The sum of all these counter thoughts, counter experiences, counter actions is called the Akasha chronicle. One can therefore read all the thoughts of man on the higher mental plane, all feelings and experiences on the Budhi plane, and all actions on the Nirvana plane.“ (Lit.:GA 89, p. 175)

Reading the Akasha Chronicle

Reading the Akasha Chronicle requires the sacrifice of intellect:

"You know that all events that have happened are recorded in a certain way in an eternal chronicle, in the Akashic matter, which is a much finer matter than the matter we know. You know that all the events of history and prehistory are recorded in this material. What is usually called the Akasha Chronicle in theosophical language is not the original record, but a reflection of the actual record in astral space. In order to be able to read them, certain preconditions are necessary, of which I will give you at least one.

In order to be able to read the Akasha Chronicle, it is necessary to place one's own thoughts at the disposal of the forces and entities that we call the "Masters" in the theososphic language. The Masters must give us the necessary instructions to be able to read the Akasha Chronicle, which is written in symbols and signs, not in words of any existing language or one that existed before. As long as one still uses the power that man uses in ordinary thinking - and every man who has not expressly learned to consciously switch off his ego uses this power - as long as one cannot read in the Akasha Chronicle. If you ask yourself: Who thinks? you will have to say to yourself: I think. - You connect subject and predicate with each other when you form a sentence. As long as you yourself connect the individual terms with each other, you are unable to read the Akasha Chronicle, because you connect your thoughts with your own I. But you must switch off your I; you must renounce all sense of your own. You must merely place the ideas and let the spirit establish the connection of the individual ideas through forces outside yourself. So renunciation is necessary - not of thinking - but of connecting the individual thoughts of your own accord. Then the Master can come and teach you to let the spirit from outside join your thoughts together into what the universal world spirit is able to show about events and facts that have taken place in history. When you no longer judge the facts, then the universal world spirit itself speaks to you and you place your thought material at its disposal.

Now I must speak about something that will perhaps arouse prejudice. I must say something that is a good preparation for eliminating the self-willed I and thereby learning to read the Akasha Chronicle. You know how today that is despised which the monks cultivated in the Middle Ages: they made the sacrifice of the intellect. The monk did not think like today's researcher. The monk had a certain sacred science, the revealed sacred theology, whose content was given, not to be decided upon. The theologian of the Middle Ages used his intellect to explain and defend the given revelations. This was - however one may feel about it today - a strict training: the sacrifice of the intellect to a given content. Whether this is something excellent or something reprehensible in modern terms, we will leave aside. This sacrifice of the intellect that the monk made, the elimination of the judgement emanating from the personal I, led him to learn how to place thought in the service of a higher being. In the later re-embodiment, what was then brought forth through this sacrifice comes to fruition and enables the person concerned to think selflessly and makes him a genius of seeing. If higher seeing, intuition, is added, then he can apply these faculties to reading the facts in the Akasha Chronicle.|92|22f}}

When reading the Akasha Chronicle, one does not see the outer deeds of men, but their spiritual archetypes from which they emerged. Knowledge of the outer historical tradition even hinders reading in the Akasha Chronicle.

„Let us suppose that the seer's gaze wanders back - let us say to the time of Caesar. Caesar did this and that, and in so far as he did it on the physical plane, his contemporaries saw it. Everything has left a trace in the Akasha Chronicle. But when you look back as a seer, you see the deeds as if you had a spiritual shadow image or a spiritual archetype before you. Think again of the movement of the hand. As a seer you cannot see the eye-image, but you will always see the intention to move the hand, the invisible forces that have moved the hand. Thus you can see everything that lived in Caesar's thoughts, whether he wanted to take this or that step or fight this or that battle. Everything that contemporaries have seen has emerged from his impulses of will, has been realised through the invisible forces that stand behind the eye-images. But that which stood behind these eye pictures can really be seen like the walking and acting Caesar, like a spiritual image of Caesar, if one looks back as a spiritual seer into the Akasha Chronicle.

Now someone who is not versed in such things might say: If you tell us about past times, we believe that it is all just a dream. For you know from history what Caesar did, and then you believe, through your powerful imagination, to see some invisible Akasha images. - But he who is versed in these things knows that the less one knows the same things from outer history, the easier it is to read in the Akasha Chronicle. For outer history and its knowledge is virtually a disturbance to the seer. When we come to a certain age, we have all kinds of education from our time. The seer, too, comes with the education of his age to the point where he can give birth to his seeric I. He has learned from history, he has learned from history. He has learned from history, he has learned how geology, biology, cultural history and archaeology transmit things to him. All this actually disturbs the view and can make it biased towards what is to be read in the Akasha Chronicle. For in outer history one must not look for the same objectivity and the same certainty that is possible in deciphering the Akasha Chronicle. Just consider what it depends on in the world for this or that to become "history". There of some event these or those documents have been preserved, while others, and perhaps just the most important ones, have been lost.“ (Lit.:GA 112, p. 29f)

However, there are significant sources of error that can very easily lead to a misinterpretation of what one can read in the Akasha Chronicle:

„The further back we go into the past, the more we have to rely on the Akasha Chronicle, and the further back we go, the purer this Chronicle is. It is easiest to read in far, far back earth states, before the earth was physical. It is much more difficult to read it during the Atlantean period, and most difficult of all during the post-Atlantean period. For the reader must carefully eradicate from his soul all his own knowledge of these times, that it may not falsify the Chronicle. Therefore, it is easier to investigate something about the most ancient times of which one does not yet have any sensual images.

But there can also be great confusion if someone is not quite sure how to read these characters. For example, if someone lived in Roman times, let's say Vergil. When we perceive Vergil in the Akasha Chronicle, it seems like a living picture, like real life; it is like a repetition of life itself. We can now see this Vergil-life playing itself out anew; it is a faithful reproduction of what took place at that time. If you address a question to this picture, it answers as Vergil could possibly have answered. Swedenborg spoke to this Akasha image of Vergil. The individuality of Vergil himself has undergone a different development of its own. If someone cannot distinguish accurately, he may confuse it.“ (Lit.:GA 89, p. 282)

See also


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: verlag@steinerverlag.com URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.