Harmony of the Spheres

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As harmony of the spheres or music of the spheres, the awakened "inner ear" experiences the actual spiritual world, the so-called Devachan. In his search for this world harmony, Johannes Kepler discovered at the beginning of the 17th century the three Kepler's Laws, now named after him, which describe the fundamental principles of motion of the planetary system and which he explained in detail in his work Harmonices mundi libri V ("Five Books on the Harmonics of the World") published in 1619.

Harmony of the Spheres and Devachan

„Apart from what can be perceived through "spiritual seeing" in this "spirit land", there is something else here which is to be regarded as an experience of "spiritual hearing". As soon as the "clairvoyant" ascends from the soul-land into the spirit-land, the perceived archetypes also become sounding. This "sounding" is a purely spiritual process. It must be imagined without all thought of a physical sound. The observer feels as if he were in a sea of tones. And in these tones, in this spiritual sounding, the entities of the spiritual world express themselves. In their sounding together, their harmonies, rhythms and melodies, the primal laws of their existence, their mutual relationships and affinities are expressed. What the mind perceives in the physical world as a law, as an idea, presents itself to the "spiritual ear" as a spiritual-musical. (The Pythagoreans therefore called this perception of the spiritual world "music of the spheres". To the owner of the "spiritual ear" this "music of the spheres" is not merely something pictorial, allegorical, but a spiritual reality well known to him). If one wants to get a concept of this "spiritual music", one only has to eliminate all ideas of sensual music as it is perceived by the "material ear". We are dealing here with "spiritual perception", i.e. with such a perception that must remain mute for the "sensual ear". In the following descriptions of the "spirit land", the references to this "spiritual music" will be omitted for the sake of simplicity. One only has to imagine that everything that is described as an "image", as a "luminous thing", is at the same time a sounding thing. To every colour, to every perception of light corresponds a spiritual tone, and to every interaction of colours corresponds a harmony, a melody and so on. It must be borne in mind that even where sound prevails, the perception of the "spiritual eye" does not cease. It is just that the sound is added to the luminescence. Where "primal images" are spoken of in the following, the "primal tones" must also be considered. Other perceptions are also added, which can be similarly described as "spiritual tasting" and so on. But we shall not go into these processes here, as it is a question of awakening an idea of the 'spirit land' by means of a few modes of perception picked out from the whole.“ (Lit.:GA 9, p. 124)

Unlike the sensually audible sounds, the sphere sounds do not live in the air as a carrier medium, but in the much finer Akasha material, in which "thought can express itself directly" (Lit.:GA 53, p. 230) and which is also the carrier of the world memory.

„By certain other methods, of which we shall speak later, man can attain to the point where, through his own inner power, space will not only be illuminated by light, flooded with the light of wisdom, but that space will, as it were, begin to resound. In the old Pythagorean philosophy, as you know, it was spoken of the music of the spheres. By "sphere" is meant the space of the world, the space in which the stars float. This is not an imagined, spun-out image, not a poetic comparison, but it is a reality. When man has practised sufficiently according to the indications of the secret teacher, then he learns to see inwardly not only an illuminated, transilluminated space, which is the expression of wisdom, but he also learns to hear the music of the spheres which floods the space of the world. And when the space begins to resound, then man is said to be in the heavenly world, in the Devachan. It is true that space resounds, but it is not a physical sound, but these are spiritual sounds which do not live in the air, but in a much higher, finer substance, in the Akasha substance. Continually space is filled with such music, and there are certain fundamental tones in this music of the spheres.“ (Lit.:GA 101, p. 150)

Remarkable and at the same time surprising is the following statement by Rudolf Steiner:

„You know that the planets move around the sun at very specific speeds. But the sun also moves, and it is this movement, as well as that of the planets, which has been studied in detail by the occult astronomers. Research has shown that the sun moves round a spiritual centre, and that the orbits of the planets are spirals, the guideline of which is the sun's orbit. The speeds with which the individual planets complete their orbits are in quite definite harmonic relationships to one another, and these relationships combine as tones for the listener to form a symphony, which the Pythagoreans called music of the spheres. This sounding together, this music, is therefore an image of cosmic processes, and what the Pythagorean school teaches is nothing sophisticated. The old occult astronomers said to themselves: "The starry sky, which appears to be at rest, is in reality in motion and revolves around the spiritual centre with such speed that it advances by 1° in 100 years. The velocities of the planets relate to each other as follows:

The speed of Saturn = 2 1/2 times that of Jupiter
of Jupiter = 5 times that of Mars
of Mars = 2 times that of the Sun, Mercury and Venus
of the Sun = 12 times that of the Moon

whereby the velocity of Saturn is 1200 times greater than that of the whole starry sky, or advances 12° in a year[1].

When physical musical harmonies arise, it is because, for example, different strings vibrate differently, one faster, the other slower. Depending on the speed with which the individual strings move, a higher or lower tone is sounded, and the sounding together of these different tones sounds as music, produces the harmony. Just as you now receive musical impressions here in the physical from the movements of the strings, so he who has risen to the level of clairaudience in the Devachan hears the movement of the heavenly bodies as music of the spheres. And through the relationship of the different speeds in the movement of the planets, the fundamental tones of the harmony of the spheres arise, which resounds through the whole universe. In the Pythagorean School, therefore, one rightly speaks of a music of the spheres; one can hear it with spiritual ears.

We can point to another phenomenon in these reflections. If you take a thin brass plate, sprinkle it as evenly as possible with fine dust and stroke this plate with a fiddle bow, then not only will a tone be audible, but the dust particles will arrange themselves in quite definite lines. All kinds of figures are formed, corresponding to the tone. The sound causes a distribution of the matter, of the substance. These are the well-known Chladnian sound figures. When the spiritual tone resounded through the universe, it arranged the planets in their relations to each other into a harmony of the spheres. What you see spread out in the space of the world was arranged by this creative tone of the Godhead. Through the fact that this tone sounded into the space of the world, matter was formed into a system, the solar and planetary system. Thus the expression 'harmony of the spheres' is not a witty comparison; it is reality.“ (Lit.:GA 101, p. 151ff)

Harmony of the Spheres and the Etheric Body

„And in our etheric body we have before us something which, however, contains the finer substantialities of the human being, only man cannot see them because he is not able to see them through the luciferic and ahrimanic influences. In this etheric body also lives that which belongs to the sun. That which was active as the harmony of the spheres, that which is perceptible of the gods behind the mere physical, sounds into it. Hence we can say of it: in the etheric body live high gods, and just such as are related to the sun-gods.“ (Lit.:GA 123, p. 243)

The Perception of the Harmony of the Spheres

In order to be able to perceive the harmony of the spheres, the human being must first detach himself from the perception of the sense world. In the process, the sensory impressions move into ever greater distance and then seem to disappear. Then begins the perception of the astral world (soul world), which is interwoven with differentiated feelings and which at first reveals itself colourfully and pictorially in completely silent, toneless moving imaginations. After the abyss of this toneless world is crossed and the human being rises to Devachan, the feelings that vibrate rhythmically between sympathy and antipathy begin to resound mentally.

„This living of man at the beginning of his development in the astral world is shown by the fact that the following takes place. Man is in a certain place. He hears all kinds of things around him, sees the objects, feels them, tastes them. When man gradually becomes clairvoyant in the astral world, these sensual impressions first begin to recede further and further from him, so that the sound seems to be far, far away, and then disappears altogether. It is the same with the tactile perceptions: The human being will gradually perceive that which is otherwise palpated as not being immediate; he will penetrate the bodies with certain feelings, feel into them. Likewise the world of colour, the world of light; the human being spreads out, he lives into this world of light. Thus that which is the sensuous world withdraws from the human being, and in its place appear the phenomena as we have just discussed. The first thing that must be observed is that where the astral world is really entered by man, the perception of sound, the perception of hearing, the world of sound, the world of tones is, so to speak, completely extinguished. This is not present at all in the astral world for a time. Man has to go through this abyss, so to speak, of living in a soundless world. However, this world is distinguished by the fact that it contains manifold impressions, especially a differentiated world of images. As he rises higher in his development, he comes to know something that is quite new to him, namely, that which can be described as a spiritual counter-image to the world of sound. He first becomes acquainted with what is new in the astral world as spiritual hearing. Of course, this is difficult to describe.

Now assume the following: You see a luminous figure. Another comes towards it; they approach and interpenetrate. A third comes, crosses the path and so on. Now, what presents itself to you, you do not merely look at with clairvoyant consciousness, but it gives you the most manifold feelings in your soul. Thus it can be that feelings of spiritual pleasure arise in you, then again displeasure, but the most differentiated feelings, when the beings penetrate each other, or when they approach or move away. And so the soul, becoming clairvoyant, settles in, so that the interaction on the astral plane gradually becomes suffused and interspersed with sublime or contradictory feelings of a purely spiritual kind. This is the spiritual music which is perceived. But at the moment when this occurs, one is already in the region of the Devachan. Devachan begins externally, where the tonelessness begins to cease, which is partly a terrible tonelessness on the astral plane. For man has no idea what it means to live in an infinite tonelessness which not only offers no sound, but which also shows that it has none in itself. The feeling of deprivation in the physical world is a little thing compared to the feelings of the soul, when this impossibility is felt that something can sound out of the infinitely expanding space. Then come the possibilities of perceiving the interaction of the beings, their harmony and disharmony, the world of sound begins. This is the Devachan, seen externally in the forms.“ (Lit.:GA 108, p. 26f)

„In the normal state, the human being only has perception when he submerges himself in the physical body and etheric body and uses the outer organs of the etheric body for thinking and the outer organs of the physical body for sensual perception.

But in ancient times there were intermediate states between waking and sleeping which today can only be brought about in an abnormal way and in ordinary life should not be brought about at all because of the danger involved. In the Atlantean times, however, these perceptive faculties were normally developed, they were intermediate states between waking and sleeping. Thus man was able to put himself in touch with that which lived and wove in the harmony of the spheres and in the life ether. In other words, in the old times man was able to perceive through the old clairvoyance what the sun radiated to him as harmony of the spheres and as life pulsating through space, even though the harmony of the spheres and life only appeared in the outer living beings.

This possibility gradually ceased. The gate to these perceptions closed when man lost the old clairvoyance. And with it something else gradually entered: the inner power of knowledge, the inner power of cognition. Only then did man learn to reflect inwardly, to think inwardly. Everything that we today call our thinking about the things of the physical world in waking life and so on, that is, our actual inner life, only developed with the disappearance of the old clairvoyance. Such an inner life as man has today, which runs in feelings, sensations, thoughts and ideas and which basically constitutes the creative aspect of our culture, man did not yet have in the first Atlantean times. He lived in the intermediate states between waking and sleeping, poured out into a spiritual world, and he perceived the world of the senses as if in a mist; in any case, it was completely removed from understanding, from the inner mirror images of outer life. - The outer life thus rises, while the old clairvoyance gradually disappears.“ (Lit.:GA 123, p. 59f)


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 (by Steiner Online Library).
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. In the GA there is the following remark:

    „The result of occult astronomy here presented proves on close examination to be as remarkable as it is surprising. The order of the planets given agrees with the order of their mean distances from the earth. The numerical ratios from Saturn to the Moon agree well with the ratios of the sidereal orbital times 2½ - 5 - 2 - 12 = 300, though not the usual heliocentric ones, but the geocentric ones. That it must be the latter is evident from the fact that Venus and Mercury are equated with the Sun, which agrees with the fact that, seen from the Earth, they can never move far away from the Sun in their course. It is also irrelevant for the round numbers mentioned that these geocentric orbital periods are not given quite unambiguously because of the loop formations. If the 5 were replaced by a 6, 360 would result. Saturn indeed needs about 360 months for its orbit. The surprising thing about this explanation is that we are talking about velocities and not times, i.e. about something which, although it has a connection with ordinary astronomy, must be of a completely different nature. The transition to the mysterious movement of the stars through the number 4 would correspond to the duration of the week. The number 1200 resulting from multiplication by 4 is little greater than the ratio of the highest frequency audible to the human ear to the lowest. (G. A. Baiaster)“ (Lit.:GA 101, p. 286)