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Asuras (Sanskritm., असुर asura "demon, evil spirit") are the "demons" in Hinduism, the "opposites of the gods" (devas or suras) and are regarded as children of the night goddess Diti. Rudolf Steiner has occasionally called them Spirits of Darkness or Spirits of Egoism. Specifically, they are retarded Spirits of Personality who have already gone through their stage of humanity, i.e. their I-development, on Old Saturn. They work in the consciousness soul, which arises through the unconscious transformation of the physical body, and thus also attack the human I (Lit.:GA 107, p. 248).

„Everything that lives in us as a principle, as a being of egoism, that is of this spiritual kingdom, the kingdom of the spirits of egoism or personality. The spirits of egoism have always been at work. First the physical body is worked upon by the spirits of egoism, then the etheric body and then the astral body. Therefore, man as a kama-manasic being is egoist. What he thinks is the selfish and also the self-seeking. What these beings are, you can only recognise when you are at the stage that you can crawl into the being, into the ego of the beings. There you get to know the spirits of the personality.“ (Lit.:GA 90b, p. 232f)

According to the Hindu view, the Asuras were created together with all other gods, humans and animals from Asu, the breath or life force of Prajapati and were under the direct rule of Varuna, the deity of water and sky. When the Asuras were created, they were given the gifts of truth and lies, but later they discarded truth and became adversary powers. Sura (from "Surya", the Hindu sun god, who roughly corresponds to the Greek Apollo) means "light being" in Sanskrit. The prefix a- expresses the negation or the designation of the opposite. Asuras are thus "opponents of the light beings". The word asura is related to the ancient Persian word Ahura. In Zoroastrianism, however, the Ahuras are the "good gods", while the Daevas are evil.

„If we wish to understand the position of the spiritual principle of evolution, we must note a significant event in the time of the Atlantean root race. Those who in the beginning were [wise] spiritual beings, now appeared as the rebels, as the agitators, who now wanted to conquer their independence. Suras now became Asuras; up to this time they were latent on Earth. They are those powers which, just at the present epoch, represent the intellectual and spiritual side of humanity.“ (Lit.:GA 89, p. 125)

Rudolf Steiner uses the expression "Asuras" mostly quite specifically for Spirits of Personality (Primordial Angels) who have lagged behind in their development and who, although they did not fully attain their goal of development even during the Old Saturnian development, are only now in our present time becoming dangerous adversary powers. Their outward signs are the sunspots.

„While all the beings who were on the Sun were luminous, as is the case today with everything that is a fixed star, the Old Saturn kingdom of those beings who had remained behind seemed like a dark enclosure, like dark places opposite the light, like dull caves within the body of the Sun, which disturbed its harmony. Particularly with regard to the world aroma, sensations mingled in from the beings that had remained behind, spreading all kinds of bad smells. Our myth has retained this, saying that the devil stinks and leaves behind an evil odour. With the progress of the Sun, a dark inclusion has really also been left behind, and the sunspots of today are really the stragglers of the old Saturn empire on the Sun. For this reason, however, they are hypothetically to be explained exactly as they are today; all this is true.“ (Lit.:GA 100, p. 115)

The Asuras are nevertheless indispensable for the earthly existence of man. In a positive sense, they work in the vital building forces that work on the physical and etheric body during sleep, thereby repairing the damage done by our daytime consciousness. As Spirits of Darkness, they are referred to in the Hebrew language as Laj'lah (Hebrewלילה "night"). The Spirit of Gravity also belongs to this realm and forms the spiritual cause of gravity. Its essential and indispensable task for our life on Earth is to lead our I and our astral body back into the physical body when we awaken. (Lit.:GA 266b, p. 49ff)

Through the good Asuras, the germ of the I-consciousness and the I-feeling was already implanted on Old Saturn in the disposition of the physical human body. The evil Asuras are the direct adversaries of the Father-God, who was the Lord of the Old Saturnian evolution.

„Theosophical literature calls these members, which man today has not yet developed, the "three Logoi"; in Christianity they are called: the Holy Spirit, the Son or Word, and the Father. So we can say: Just as man today consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body and I, spirit self, life spirit and spirit man, so these beings who inhabited Saturn, whom we can compare with today's earth man in his relation to the earth, consisted of the I, spirit self, life spirit, spirit man, the Holy Spirit, the Word or the Son, and the Father. The Theosophical language calls them "Asuras". They are the ones who, from the beginning, have implanted independence, I-consciousness and I-feeling in this physical disposition of the human body. You would not be able to use your eye in the service of the I if your system had not been prepared at that time in such a way that you were able to place it in the service of the I. These members have been prepared by the Spirits of Egoism. They have given us what is wisest when it is properly trained. But all that is highest is turned into its opposite, has the most harmful and corrupting effect, if it is not properly trained. Man could never reach that high level which we call independent human dignity if these spirits had not implanted the I-feeling in him. There have always been beings who have taken the evil path. Therefore it must be said: These beings, who were the implanters of I-ness, who today are far above man, to whom we look up as to the most sublime there can be, they have placed I-ness in the service of self-denial, of sacrifice; the others have selfishly pursued their I-ness.

We carry within us the effects of those Spirits of the I who have taken the good path in striving for freedom and human dignity, and we carry within us the germ of evil, because the beings that fell away at that time have continued to work. This contrast has always been felt. Christianity itself distinguishes between the Father-God, whom Christianity regards as the highest ascended spirit of Saturn, and his adversary, the spirit of all evil ego and everything radically immoral, which fell away on Saturn at that time. These are the two representatives of Saturn.“ (Lit.:GA 100, p. 113f)

„Egoism is something that has two sides, an excellent and a reprehensible one. If the essence of egoism had not been implanted again and again on Saturn and on the following planets, then man would never have become an independent being who could say "I" to himself. The sum of power is already implanted in your corporeality from Saturn, which stamps you as an independent entity, which separates you from all other entities. For this the Spirits of Egoism, the Asuras, had to work. There are two kinds among them, apart from small shades. One kind is that which has trained egoism in the noble, independent way, which has risen higher and higher in the training of the sense of freedom: that is the excellent independence of egoism. These spirits have guided humanity through all the following planets. They have become the educators of men to independence.

Now on every planet there are also such spirits who have lagged behind in development. They have remained stationary, they did not want to go further. From this you will recognise a law: "When the most excellent falls, when it commits the "great sin" of not going along with evolution, then it becomes the worst. The noble sense of freedom has been turned into its opposite in reprobation. These are the grave spirits of temptation; they tempt to reprehensible egoism. Even today they are still in our surroundings, these bad spirits of Saturn. Everything that is bad has its power from these spirits.“ (Lit.:GA 99, p. 97f)

The evil Asuras are spirits of the very strongest egoism who seduce man into black magic. Sexual rites play a major role in this.

„The Asuras now only intervene since the fifth race. They are by far the most destructive and interfere mainly in the sexual life, that is, in the physical body. The many sexual aberrations of the present day are due to this strong influx.“ (Lit.:GA 266a, p. 169)

It corresponds to a general law that the earlier spiritual beings lag behind in their development, the later they become adversaries for the development of humanity, but then - because of their long path of development - the more powerful and dangerous they are.

„The higher forces of our spiritual predecessors are linked with the forces of our own lower nature. The human passions are occultly related to the higher forces of the spiritual beings that preceded us. Wherever there is debauchery, there is matter, in which powerful asuric forces pour out refined intellectuality into the world. Such powerful asuric forces are to be found in depraved tribes of men. The black magician draws his strongest serving powers precisely from the swamp of sensuality. The sexual rites are there to banish into these circles. There is a continual struggle on Earth which, on the one hand, strives to purify the passions and, on the other, strives to strengthen sensuality. The beings who have the Christ-principle as their leader seek to win the Earth for themselves, but the other, hostile beings also seek to usurp the Earth.“ (Lit.:GA 93a, p. 149)

In their will to evil and in their fullness of power the Asuras surpass the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings.

„The Asuras - the evil ones - are beings who are again one degree higher in their will to evil than the ahrimanic beings and two degrees higher than the luciferic ones.“ (Lit.:GA 110, p. 178)

„These are the beings who strive towards the eighth sphere. They want to compress matter more and more, so that it cannot be spiritualised again, i.e. returned to its original state. They are the dregs of the whole planetary development which begins with Saturn and passes through the Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. The Asuras already populate the Moon and have an effect from the Moon on man, whom they want to drag down into the eighth sphere and thus snatch him away from the progressive development and its goal - the Christ. All those who aspire to the eighth sphere will finally find their existence on a moon (Jupiter).“ (Lit.:GA 266a, p. 205)

The Asuras work directly into the consciousness soul of man and thereby also directly attack the human I, from which they tear out pieces that will then be irretrievably lost for man:

„What is called the physical body was formed on Old Saturn, what is called the etheric body was formed on the Sun, and what is called the soul or sentient body was formed on the Old Moon. Now, little by little, the sentient soul has been added to the Earth, which is actually an unconscious change, an unconscious reworking of the sentient body. Lucifer has anchored himself in the sentient soul; he has crept into it, he sits in it. Further, through the unconscious reworking of the etheric body, the intellectual soul has come into being. More details are given in the treatise on "The Education of the Child". In this second member of the human soul, the intellectual soul, that is, in the reworked part of the etheric body, Ahriman has established himself. He is in there and leads man to false judgments about material things, leads him to error and sin and lies, to everything that comes from the intellectual or mental soul. In all this, for example, that man gives himself up to the illusion that with matter the right thing is given, we have to see whispers of Ahriman, of Mephistopheles. Thirdly, there is the consciousness soul, which consists in an unconscious reworking of the physical body. You remember how this reworking took place. Towards the end of the Atlantean period, the etheric body of the head entered completely into the physical head and gradually transformed the physical body so that it became a self-conscious being. Today man is still basically engaged in this unconscious reworking of the physical body, in the consciousness soul. And in the time that is now coming, those spiritual beings will creep into this consciousness soul and thus into what is called the human I - for the I merges into the consciousness soul - which are called the Asuras. The Asuras will develop evil with a much more intense power than even the satanic powers of the Atlantean or even the Luciferic spirits of Lemurian times.

The evil which the Luciferic spirits brought to man at the same time as the benefit of freedom, they will all be completely wiped away in the course of earth time. The evil which the Ahrimanic spirits have brought can be stripped away in the course of the karmic law. But the evil brought by the asuric powers cannot be atoned for in such a way. If the good spirits have given man pain and suffering, sickness and death, so that he may develop upwards in spite of the possibility of evil, the good spirits have given the possibility of karma towards the ahrimanic powers in order to make up for the error - towards the asuric spirits this will not be so easy in the course of earthly existence. For these asuric spirits will cause that which is seized by them - and it is, after all, man's deepest inner being, the consciousness soul with the I - to unite with the sensuality of the Earth. Piece by piece it will be torn out of the I, and to the same extent as the asuric spirits take hold of the consciousness soul, to the same extent man must leave pieces of his existence behind on Earth. That which has fallen into the hands of the asuric powers will be irretrievably lost. Not that the whole human being has to fall into their hands, but pieces will be cut out of the spirit of the human being by the asuric powers. These asuric powers announce themselves in our age through the spirit which rules and which we could call the spirit of mere life in sensuality and of forgetting all real spiritual beings and spiritual worlds. One could say: Today it is only theoretical that the asuric powers seduce man. Today they often make him believe that his I is the result of the mere physical world. Today they seduce him into a kind of theoretical materialism. But in the further course of time - and this is becoming more and more evident through the wild passions of sensuality which are descending more and more upon the Earth - they will obscure man's view of the spiritual beings and spiritual powers. Man will know nothing and want to know nothing of a spiritual world. He will teach more and more not only that the highest moral ideas of man are only higher forms of the animal instincts, he will teach not only that human thinking is only a transformation of what the animal also has, he will teach not only that man is not only related to the animal in form, that he is also descended from the animal in his whole being, but man will take this view seriously and live in this way.

Today no one lives in the sense of the proposition that man is descended from animals in his essence. But this worldview will come without fail, and it will have as its consequence that men with this worldview will also live like animals, will sink down into mere animal instincts and animal passions. And in many of the things which need not be further characterised here, which are now manifesting themselves, especially in the places of the great cities, as desolate orgies of purposeless sensualities, we already see grotesque hell-glow of those spirits which we call the Asuric.“ (Lit.:GA 107, p. 247ff)

See also


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
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Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
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Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.