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Alchemical symbol for fire

Warmth, heat and fire (from Old High German: fiur; Greekπῦρ pyr; Latinignis; Hebrewאֵשׁ esch or נר nour, cf. ner, "candle, light(s)"[1]; Arabic النور Al-Nour "light, day, fire"), the fire element or warmth element, formed the basic substance of Old Saturn. It came into being through the sacrificial act of the Thrones who surrendered their will substance. In the Hebrew alphabet Shin (שׁ), the first of the three mothers, stands for the creative fire of the spirit from which this material basis of Old Saturn had sprung. At that time the physical body of man was predisposed as a body of pure warmth or heat body. w:Heraclitus' view that everything sprang from fire vaguely points to this origin of the evolution of our whole planetary chain. Old Saturn's fire can today only be compared approximately with that which flows through our blood as living warmth. Just as light is opposed to darkness, heat is opposed to cold as an independent force.

From a chemical-physical point of view, fire is based on the formation of flames associated with light and heat phenomena, which are caused by the hot, partially ionised gases produced by the combustion of suitable fuels. Heat, or more abstractly energy, still forms the basis of the whole material world. From the theory of special relativity published in 1905 by Albert Einstein (1879-1955), the equivalence of mass and energy follows according to the well-known formula E = mc2.

Warmth ether

Main article: Warmth ether

The other, etheric side of the warmth element is the warmth ether. For all heat processes, the constant transition from external sensible heat to etheric internal latent heat - and vice versa - plays an essential role.

Warmth of the soul

From a spiritual-scientific point of view, warmth is not only a state that appears on and through matter, but is itself of a substantial nature. But in contrast to the other three elements, heat permeates everything and can be perceived not only externally but also internally, i.e. soul-warmth. In fire and through fire, the material begins to become spiritual and the spiritual material.

„Fire was considered to be the fourth element. Today's science, as those who remember the basic physical concepts know, does not see in fire a thing that can be compared with earth or air or water, but today's physics sees in it only a state of motion. Spiritual science sees in heat or fire nothing but something that has an even finer substantiality than air. Just as earth, or the solid, changes into the liquid, so the air gradually changes, for spiritual science, into the state of fire, and fire is such a subtle element that it penetrates all the other elements. Fire penetrates the air and makes it warm, likewise water, likewise earth. So while the other three elements are dispersed, so to speak, we see the element of fire penetrating everything.

Now the old spiritual science and with it the new spiritual science said: There is another, a considerable difference between what we call earth, water, air and what we call fire or heat. - How can earth or solid be perceived? Well, we say, by touching it. We perceive the solid by touching it and it exerts a resistance. It is the same with water. It yields more easily, the resistance is not so great, but we still perceive it as something external to us, as a resistance. And so it is with the element of air. We also perceive it only externally. It is different with heat. Something must be emphasised here which the present world-view does not regard as significant, but which must be regarded as significant if we want to look into the real riddles of existence. We also perceive warmth without touching it externally. That is the essential thing: We can perceive warmth by touching a body that has a certain degree of warmth; we can perceive warmth externally like the other three elements, but we also feel warmth in our own inner states. Hence ancient science, even among the Indians, emphasised: Earth, water, air you perceive in the outer world alone, heat is the first element that can also be perceived inwardly. So heat or fire has, so to speak, two sides: an outer side that shows itself to us when we perceive it externally, an inner side when we feel ourselves in a certain state of warmth. Man feels his inner state of warmth, he is hot, he is cold; on the other hand, he does not consciously care much for that which is in him in the form of air, water, solid substances, that is, what is air, water, earth in him. He only begins, so to speak, to feel himself in the element of warmth. The element of warmth has an inner and an outer side. Therefore the old spiritual science and with it the new spiritual science say: The warmth or the fire is that where the material begins to become spiritual. We can therefore speak in the true sense of the word of an outer fire, which we perceive like the other elements, and an inner, spiritual fire within us.

Thus, for spiritual science, fire has always formed the bridge between the external material and the spiritual, which is only perceived inwardly by the human being. Fire or warmth was placed at the centre of all observation of nature, because fire is, so to speak, the gate through which we penetrate from the outside to the inside. This fire is really like a door in front of which one can stand; one looks at it from the outside, opens it and can look at it from the inside. Fire is like that among natural phenomena. You touch an outer object and learn to know the fire that flows in from the outside like the other three elements; you perceive the inner warmth and feel it as something that belongs to yourself: you stand within the gate, you enter into the spiritual. This is how the science of fire was pronounced. Hence, however, one also saw in the fire something where the spiritual and the material play together.“ (Lit.:GA 110, p. 31ff)

The origin of warmth on Old Saturn

Even on Old Saturn, three types of warmth could be distinguished:

  • The original neutral warmth
  • The spiritual warmth, which was trickled into the Saturnian mass by the thrones
  • The outer physical heat, which worked through the Spirits of Form, Motion and Wisdom from Saturn's interior.

The fire of the spirit

Phoenix in flames, detail from the Aberdeen Bestiary (12th century).

In addition, one can also rightly speak of the fire of spirit, for which the firebird phoenix is a telling image. Fire thus forms the bridge that spans from the physical world via the soul world to the spiritual world. Heat is thus, as it were, the gateway through which the spirit can send its will down to the physical world. That is why the spiritual core of the human being, his I, reveals itself most directly through the warmth of the blood.

„When one speaks of man's corporeality, one should actually speak of his warmth body. One should say: When a human being stands before you, there stands before you a closed space of warmth, which in a certain respect has a higher temperature than its surroundings. In this higher temperature lives first of all that which is spiritual-soul in the human being, and on the diversions through the warmth that which is spiritual-soul in the human being is also transferred to the other organs. This is how the will comes into being.

The will comes about by first acting on the warmth in the human being and then, by acting on the warmth, on the air organism, from there on the water organism and from there on that which is in the human being as a solid mineral organism. So that one has to imagine the human organisation in this way: One acts inwardly first on the heat, then through the heat on the air, from there on the water, on the fluid organism, and from there on the solid organism.“ (Lit.:GA 201)

The elementary beings of fire, the salamanders, act in the heat as serving workmasters.

The significance of warmth for the earth mission

"What the organism produces of inner warmth in our blood, of warmth which it conveys to us through the whole of its inner processes, shows that in the processes of warming we have something to see like a flowering of all other processes in the organism. The inner warmth of the organism penetrates up into the spiritual-soul and can transform itself into the spiritual-soul. That is the highest, the most beautiful thing, that through the power of the human body the physical can be transformed into the spiritual-soul. When all that is predisposed in the human earthly organism has become warmth and the warmth is transformed by the human being in the right way, then compassion and interest for other beings arise from the inner warmth. If we ascend through all the processes of the human organism to the uppermost level, the processes of warming, we pass, as it were, through the gate of the human organism, which is formed by the processes of warmth, up to where the warmth of the blood is utilised by what the soul makes of it. Through living interest for all beings, through compassion for all that is around us, we, by our physical life leading us up to the warmth, extend our spiritual-soul over the whole of earthly existence, and we make ourselves one with the whole of existence. It is a wonderful fact that the World Being has made the diversions through our physical organism in order to give us in the end the inner warmth which we human beings are called upon to transform in the earth mission through our I into living compassion with all beings.

Warmth is transformed into compassion in the earth mission!

We use the activity of the human organism as heat for the spirit, so to speak. That is the meaning of the Earth Mission, that the human being as a physical organism is so embedded in the Earth organism that all physical processes finally find their completion, their crown, in the heat of the blood, and that the human being as a microcosm, in fulfilment of his destiny, in turn transforms this inner warmth in order to pour it out as living compassion and love for all that surrounds us. Through everything that we take into our soul out of living interest, our soul life is expanded. And when we have gone through many incarnations in which we have utilised all the warmth that has been given to us, then the earth will have reached its goal, which was to be fulfilled within the earth mission, then it will sink down as an earthly pall and be consigned to decay. And the totality of all those human souls will ascend who have transformed physical warmth into warmth of the heart. Just as the individual soul, when the human being has passed through the gate of death, ascends to a spiritual world after the physical corpse has been handed over to the earthly forces, so the earthly corpse will one day be handed over to the worldly forces, and the individual human souls will progress to new levels of existence. Nothing in the world will be lost. What the human souls have gained as fruits on earth will be carried over through the human souls into eternity.|128|177f}}


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.


  1. cf. for example Hebrewנר שבת ner shabath, the "Shabbat lights".