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Fire-air, sometimes called Akasha substance, formed on the Old Moon and is, according to the occult view, the primordial matter that underlies all material existence. As the sulphur or sulphur process, fire-air is one of the three fundamental processes of the alchemical Tria Principia.

The Fire-Mist Atmosphere of the Old Moon and the Early Earth

The fire-air, permeated with watery substances, the fire-mist, later formed the atmosphere of the Old Moon. Rudolf Steiner describes how this is experienced with the clairvoyant gaze:

„Out of the whole bottom grew the plant animals, and then above them moved those entities which were human animals, in the perimeter of the Moon which is called "fire-air." Think of the whole air filled with vapours of saltpetre, carbonic and sulphuric acid; in this fiery air, which you would thus get, lived the lunar men. The occultist always knew this fiery air; and under the old earth conditions there was even the possibility of chemically producing such fiery air, which today can only be done in very small circles. The knowledge of this has been preserved by genuine alchemy. Therefore, when you read in "Faust": I want to make a little fire-air..., this is an allusion to the depths of occultism. Air of fire enveloped the Moon, that was its atmosphere.“ (Lit.:GA 100, p. 118)


At that time, man consisted of a physical body, an etheric body and an astral body. What today is inner blood heat, man on the Old Moon had as respiratory heat. He had fire-breathing with which he absorbed the fire-mists of the Moon's atmosphere. Breathing and nutrition were not yet separate from each other. Man did not have a closed blood circulation at that time, but the fire-air currents were rhythmically alternating, sometimes with denser, sometimes with less dense blood-like substance. Sometimes these currents appeared like a cosmic umbilical cord stretching into the atmosphere and bringing the substances into the human body. It was the work of the Angels who infused these blood juices into the human being. In doing so, they completed their own human development and formed their I. As the blood streams entered the human being, the human being began to sound from within as an expression of the collective, not yet individual soul experience.

The Sons of the Fire-Mist

Even in the early evolution of the Earth, after the separation of the Sun, the fire-mists in which human beings began to incarnate still played an essential role. The descending human beings, the first leaders of humanity (manus), were then called Sons of the Fire-Mist.

„This bodily-soul human being is incarnated in a much finer and lighter matter than the later human being. There is a continual condensation. That is why we speak of the so-called 'sons of the fire-mist'.“ (Lit.:GA 53, p. 229)

„Already the physicist tells you - and this as a hypothesis - that the further back we go in earth evolution, the higher and higher degrees of temperature we come to. Now the theosophist or the practical mystic really looks back into these primeval times, and he sees in what we call the Akasha chronicle these states as a truth, just as the average man sees table and chairs as a truth before him. We come to a state in which all the substances on our Earth are in quite different relations to each other than they are today.

You know that when substances are heated they change their state. Solid substances become liquid, liquid substances become vapour and so on. Now we come back to immeasurably higher degrees of temperature than we know on Earth today. At that time the whole material world of our Earth was different. Only those who are caught up in the materialistic conception and who are caught up in the immediate view of our Earth can come to the conclusion that this is impossible. He who frees himself from what is our reality today also realises that life was possible in these higher temperature states of this Earth. Man really did live in these higher states of temperature, but in a quite different way. He lived in a state of "fire mist". The bodies were a vapour-like, soft mass, a mass that cannot really be compared with what we know today.“ (Lit.:GA 53, p. 243f)

„For the Earth, the consequence of the Sun's emergence was a further material condensation. Solid matter was formed out of the liquid; likewise the light ether separated into another kind of light ether and into an ether which gives the bodies the ability to heat. Thus the Earth became a being that developed warmth within itself. All its beings came under the influence of warmth. Again, a similar process had to take place in the astral as before; some beings built themselves up higher at the expense of others. A part of the beings emerged that was suitable for working the coarse, solid materiality. And thus the solid skeleton of the mineral kingdom was created for the Earth. At first all the higher kingdoms of nature were not yet effective on this solid mineral bone mass. On Earth, therefore, we have a mineral kingdom that is hard, a plant kingdom that has water and air as its densest matter. In this kingdom, through the processes described, the air body itself had condensed into a water body. In addition, animals existed in the most diverse forms, those with water bodies and those with air bodies. The human body itself was subject to a process of condensation. It had condensed its densest corporeality to the point of wateriness. This water body was permeated by the warmth ether that had developed. This gave his body a materiality that could be called gaseous. This material state of the human body is described in works of secret science as that of the fire-mist. Man was embodied in this body of fire-mist.“ (Lit.:GA 11, p. 118)

Fire-Air and Elementary Beings

The ancient alchemists were able to produce suitable conditions for the fire-air and were thus able to make certain elemental beings their servants.

„This fire-air, called "Ruach" in the Hebrew tradition, can indeed be represented in a certain way. This Ruach is lost to the people of today, but the ancient alchemists were able to produce the condition for it; they could thereby make elementary beings their servants. So this fire-mist was something quite familiar in alchemical times, and the further back we go, the more people had the possibility of producing it. This fire-mist was breathed by our ancestors on the Moon. It has developed further and has differentiated itself into the air of today and into what else has arisen on Earth under the influence of fire.“ (Lit.:GA 99, p. 111)

The Perception of the Fire-Air up to the Ancient Indian Time

The fire air was still perceived in a certain way in the ancient Indian times. The primitive Indians could still see the soul of light, i.e. the traces of the fire spirits working in the air at that time. What we experience as air today was still perceived as fire back then. Conversely, what we perceive as fire was then experienced as air:

„Today, through spiritual scientific research, one can state that most people of ancient India still perceived their breath quite differently. The soul of light had not yet withdrawn from what was going on around the people of that time; so they perceived the inhaled and exhaled air in different light and dark nuances of colour. They saw the air flowing in and out again as if in rays of fire. So you can say: Basically, the air has also become something completely different for human perception, even through everything that has changed. Today the air is something that man basically perceives only mechanically through the resistance it offers him, because he does not directly perceive the soul of light that penetrates the air. Man has also gone out of this last vestige of instinctive seeing. The ancient Indian, therefore, would not have called simply air what is exhaled and inhaled, but fire-air, because he perceived it in various degrees of fiery radiance. The ancient Indian consciousness saw fiery masses passing through the air. Look around in the Oriental scriptures, how the elements are enumerated: earth (prithivi), water (apas), fire (tedschas), air (vayu), ether (akasha). Only from the Greek period onwards do we find the other enumeration, which we take for granted today and which we must base all our understanding on, namely: earth, water, air, fire and the other types of ether. Why is this so? The ancient Indian consciousness saw - just as the man of today sees outside the things that manifest themselves through the solid, what is called the earthy - through the liquid, what is called, spiritually speaking, water. What we call air today was already fire to him, for then one already saw the fire in the air and called what one saw fire. We no longer see this fire, we feel it as warmth. And only when they moved a little higher up in the series of elements did the Indians move into an element where, because everything has changed since the fourth period of the post-Atlantean time, for humanity there emerged what we today call the air permeated by light, but not showing the light. In fire and air the whole outlook of men has been reversed.“ (Lit.:GA 113, p. 141ff)

The Sulphur Process and a Visual Exercise for Four-Dimensional Space

Water, air, light and fire are the four dimensions of astral space. However, this does not mean that astral space as such is four-dimensional. Seen in itself, the astral world is figuratively two-dimensional. Four-dimensional is rather the consciousness that encompasses the physical world and the astral world at the same time. Air and fire together form the fire-air, the sulphur process.

„He who wishes to acquire a real perception of the four-dimensional space must make very definite exercises of perception. First of all he forms a quite clear, deepened conception of water. Such a view is not easily obtained; one must delve very deeply into the nature of water; one must, so to speak, crawl into the water. The second thing is to get an idea of the nature of light; light is something that man knows, but only in such a way that he receives it from outside; through meditation he can get the inner counter-image of light, know where light comes from, and therefore produce light himself. This can be done by one who really allows pure concepts to have a meditative effect on his soul, who has a sensuality-free thinking. Then the whole environment comes to him as flooding light, and now he must, as it were, chemically combine the idea he has formed of water with that of light. This water, completely permeated by light, is a body which the alchemists called "Mercurius". But the alchemical Mercury is not the ordinary mercury. First one must awaken in oneself the ability to produce Mercurius from the concept of light. Mercurius, light-penetrated water-power, is that into whose possession one then puts oneself. That is one element of the astral world.

The second arises from the fact that you also form a vivid idea of the air, then suck out the power of the air through a spiritual process, connect it with the feeling in you, and you thus kindle the concept of "warmth", "fire", then you get "fire-air". So one element is sucked out, the other is generated by yourself. This - air and fire - the alchemists called "sulphur", luminous fire-air. In the aqueous element, there you have in truth that matter of which it is said: "and the spirit of God hovered over the waters".

The third element is "Spirit-God", that is "earth" connected with "sound". This is precisely what arises when one removes the forces from the Earth and connects them with sound. Those "waters" are not ordinary waters, but what is actually called astral matter. This consists of four kinds of forces: Water, Air, Light and Fire. And this presents itself as the four dimensions of astral space.“ (Lit.:GA 324a, p. 60f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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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 (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - 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.