Celestial spheres

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Cosmology from a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle (fol. 5v) written by Hartmann Schedel (1493)
The 10 Sephirot, which emerge from the divine primordial light Ain Soph Aur after the Tzimtzum in ever-shrinking concentric spheres or bowls.
The Celestial Spheres after Sacrobosco, from Peter Apian, Cosmographia, 1539:
The empyrean (fiery) heaven, dwelling of God and of all the selected · 10 Tenth heaven, first cause · 9 Ninth heaven, crystalline · 8 Eighth heaven of the firmament · 7 Heaven of Saturn · 6 Jupiter · 5 Mars · 4 Sun · 3 Venus · 2 Mercury · 1 Moon.

The celestial spheres or heavenly spheres (Hebrewגַּלְגַּלים 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 (Latinfirmamentum, Hebrewרקיע 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 (Latinempyreus "in fire", from ancient Greekἔμπυρος 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.“

Joseph Gikatilla: Sefer Ginnat 'Egos[1]

The 'Aravot Heaven corresponds to the Primum Mobile: "Know that 'Aravot is the ninth sphere, above all spheres, and it moves them all with a steady motion."[1]

The 10th sphere corresponds to the Empyreum and is, similar to Dante, the sphere of the Separate Intellects (Hebrewשכלים נפרדים Sechalim nifradim), i.e. the angelic hierarchies, which are completely separated from matter. This community of the ten nifradim (Hebrewנפרדים "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.“

Joseph Gikatilla: Sefer Ginnat 'Egos[1]

„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 [...]“

Joseph Gikatilla: Sefer Ginnat 'Egos[1]

„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.“

Joseph Gikatilla: Sefer Ginnat 'Egos[1]

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)

The region of Akasha or the Akasha Chronicle already overhangs the planetary spheres and extends into the zodiacal region.


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. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Quoted from: Grözinger, p. 306 - 307