The celestial spheres or heavenly spheres (Hebrew: גַּלְגַּלים Galgalim, singular גַּלְגַּל Galgal "wheel") are, according to the occult view, cosmic domains of higher spiritual hierarchies. The geocentric world view of the Middle Ages, building on the worldview of antiquity, comprises a total of 9 respectively 10 spheres.
The seven planetary spheres, which are assigned to the seven planets visible to the naked eye, are surrounded by the fixed star sphere with the zodiac, the dominion of the Cherubim (zodiacal beings) and Seraphim. In the medieval worldview, the 9th sphere is the Crystal Heaven, which is also the Primum Mobile, first mentioned by Ptolemy. As "carriers" of the planets and stars, the subordinate spheres were also regarded as crystal spheres. In the Christian tradition, the concept of the Crystal Heaven or the Crystal Sphere was derived from Genesis, where on the second day of creation the firmament (Latin: firmamentum, Hebrew: רקיע raqía) is spoken of, by which the heavenly and earthly "waters" are separated from each other. The uppermost sphere of the world is the Empyrean (Latin: empyreus "in fire", from ancient Greek: ἔμπυρος émpyros), the heaven of fire, the abode of the supreme deity, in Hinduism called Trimurti, by the Kabbalists Ain Soph and in Christian terms the Trinity.
In a narrower sense, the Hebrew term Galgalim ("wheels") refers to the Thrones which rule in the Saturn sphere and are probably to be equated with the Ophanim (Hebrew אוֹפַנִּים "wheels") described by Ezekiel in his Throne Chariot vision. Above them rises the zodiac with the Cherubim.
In the question answer to a lecture given in Leipzig on 12 January 1908, Rudolf Steiner explains the meaning of the "wheels" and relates them to the ten Sephirot of the Kabbalah and the temporal development of the members of the human being:
„The wheels of the chariot, Merkabah, indicate the reversals through which man moves further ahead, and rounds are meant by them. The ten sephirot indicate periods of time, stages of development, which man has gone through. The physical body went through four stages of development: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth. Three stages of the etheric body: Sun, Moon, Earth. Two stages of the astral body: Moon, Earth. The I is on the first stage: together there are ten.“ (Lit.: Contributions 32, p. 31)
Similar views were also held by the Kabbalists. For example, Joseph Gikatilla (1248-1325), who lived in Spain around the time of Dante, distinguished the following 10 spheres, which correspond to the 10 Sephirot:
„The lunar sphere, the sphere of Mercury (Galgal ha-Kochav), the sphere of Venus (Gaggal Nogah), the solar sphere (Galgal Hamma), the sphere of Mars (Galgal Ma'adim), the sphere of Jupiter (Galgal Zedek), the sphere of Saturn ( Galgal Shabbtat), the sphere of the Zodiac (Galgal ha-Massalot), the sphere of the 'Aravot sky, the Tenth Intellect. These are the ten sefirot belima, to which the lower world, that is, the earth, does not belong.“
The 10th sphere corresponds to the Empyreum and is, similar to Dante, the sphere of the Separate Intellects (Hebrew: שכלים נפרדים Sechalim nifradim), i.e. the angelic hierarchies, which are completely separated from matter. This community of the ten nifradim (Hebrew: נפרדים "Separate") is also referred to by Gikatilla as the (rightful) Lord of the World and Active Intellect, and is identified with Metatron:
„Know, my brother, God preserve thee, that those three stages, namely, [pure] form, matter, and composition, comprise the whole of reality. The [pure] form, these are the angels who are called Sechalim nifradim, Separate Intellects, and they are form without matter and they are called Simple [or: Bared] Intellect. And this is the first stage of the Existent. This is the topmost stage. And this form consists of ten stages, and they are all called Sechalim nifradim.“
„Having explained this matter, we return to the explanation of the mystery of the nine spheres (galgalim), which always revolve and rotate from the power of the jod (י) [numerical value is 10], which is an indication that the tenth is sacred And this is the Tenth Intellect, which is called the Prince of the World. You must know, however, that there are corresponding movers for the moved, and steersmen for the articulated, and Above corresponding to the Below, and these are the Sechalim ha-nifradim. But when we mention the Tenth Intellect, it means all [...]“
„The movement is placed in the hand of the Tenth Intellect [ ... ] and because this Lord bears witness to his Master, he is called a faithful servant [ ... ] for this Lord bears witness [ ... ] that there is a Ruler over him. This is a testimony to Israel that they should praise the name of YHWH, for Israel [numeral 541] is the Active Intellect (ha-Sechel ha-po 'el) [numeral 541 ] in the Mystery, the Tenth Prince who is called Israel. So then, the Active Intellect is ready to praise the Name of YHWH, who is the Ruler [ ... ]. So learn from all this that the servant, which is Metatron, bears witness to his Master, E.s.g.“
The sublunar sphere, i.e. the region within or below the lunar sphere, is further divided into the realms of the four elements: earth, water, air and fire. Since ancient times, the spheres themselves have been thought of as completely transparent crystalline shells consisting of the fifth element, the quintessence, i.e. ether.
In the life between death and new birth, the dead person wanders through the planetary spheres, which, however, are not to be understood as outer spatial areas, but as soul regions (up to the solar sphere) or as parts of the spiritual world. The sublunary sphere corresponds to the Kamaloka (purgatory), in which the human being casts off his attachment to the past earthly life.
According to Rudolf Steiner, the soul world, beginning with the lowest region, is divided into the following areas (Lit.:GA 9, p. 68), which at the same time correspond to certain planetary spheres (Lit.:GA 141, p. 172ff):
|Region of soul life||Sun sphere|
|Region of active soul force||Venus sphere|
|Region of soul light||Mercury sphere|
|Region of liking and disliking||Moon sphere (Kamaloka)|
|Region of wishes|
|Region of mobile sensitivity|
|Region of burning desire|
This is followed by the heavenly world, the lower devachan according to Indian theosophical terminology:
|The source of the archetypal thoughts (Akasha Chronicle)|
|The archetypes of the soul (Saturn sphere)|
|The archetypes of the living (Jupiter sphere)|
|The spiritual archetypes of the physical world (Mars sphere)|
- Karl Erich Grözinger: Jüdisches Denken. Theologie - Philosophie - Mystik: Band 2: Von der mittelalterlichen Kabbala zum Hasidismus, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/New York 2006, ISBN 978-3593375137
- Rudolf Steiner: Theosophie. Einführung in die übersinnliche Welterkenntnis und Menschenbestimmung, GA 9 (1904), Kapitel Die Seelenwelt English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Das Leben zwischen dem Tode und der neuen Geburt im Verhältnis zu den kosmischen Tatsachen, GA 141 (1997), ISBN 3-7274-1410-3 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe, Heft 32, Beiträge (Contributions) 32
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