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Gustave Doré: The Empyrean, Illustration to Dante's Divine Comedy

The Empyrean Heaven or Empyrean (Latinempyreus "in the fire", from ancient Greekἔμπυρος émpyros), the Fire Heaven, is, according to ancient and medieval cosmology, the outermost and highest heavenly sphere filled with divine fire and light, still above the Crystal Heaven. It corresponds to the Nirvana of the Eastern tradition or the Ain Soph of the Kabbalists. According to later Christian views, it is the seat of the devine Trinity and the blessed and is also described in this way in Dante's Divine Comedy.

„The way Dante describes these things is how they were regarded as real by the people of that time. That is not poetry in Dante. He who can only think for a moment that Dante regarded this as mere superstition does not understand him. At that time, people had the idea that beyond, on the other side of the earth, gravity worked in the opposite direction. Medieval people imagined the forces that were opposed to man, the forces that detached him from everything that meant spiritual earthly heaviness. There was the purification fire, Kamaloka.

If you look out from there into the starry space, there were quite different ideas. The moon was not a mineral, but the body of a spiritual being on which many spiritual beings dwelt, a world body. On it lived beings who had gone through similar states of development as human beings. But they had fallen lower than human beings, only their vices were more spiritual than the animal vices of human beings.

Mercury was also imagined as a physical being that encompassed a spirit. Just as we derive man from the innermost soul being, medieval man thought of the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as spiritual beings. At that time, man perceived spirit everywhere. For him, the world was populated by spiritual beings everywhere.

The Christ had lived in the fixed star sky since he left the world. Beyond the fixed star heaven was the Empyreum, that is, the tenth heaven, which encompassed the primordial foundations of all existence. Those beings who were not here on earth in this body were imagined by man as dwelling in some region outside the Earth. According to the conception of that time, we had to look for a warrior who had passed through death on Mars. One who had led a contemplative life would be on Saturn. One who had risen even higher was to be sought in the fixed star heaven, where the Christ was after his death. Above this there were still higher beings.“ (Lit.:GA 97, p. 28f)

Paul describes in 2 Corinthians how he was caught up into the Third Heaven. The first heaven corresponds to the circle of air, the second to the celestial spheres with the planets and stars, especially the zodiac, and finally the third to the Empyrean.

„1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses -“


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.