Subsensible world

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The Sub-Sensible World as a Reflection of the Supersensible World (GA 130, p. 104)

The sub-sensible, sub-physical or also sub-material world, which hides as an independent sub-nature under the sensually perceptible nature, is the realm of the adversary powers. This includes the dark subterranean realm of Ahriman and the Asuras, but also the light realm of Lucifer. The sub-sensible or sub-material world underlies the physical, or more precisely, the material matter as the actual Ahrimanic-spiritual reality. Opposite it is the supersensible world as the habitat of the higher spiritual hierarchies. The sensual world forms the narrow border between the sub-sensible and the super-sensible world; it can also be understood as a Luciferian reflection of the super-sensible world on the sub-sensible world.

According to Rudolf Steiner, the forces of the sub-sensible world include electricity, magnetism and uncharacterised terrible forces of destruction, which are also referred to as the so-called third force[1]. Electricity arises when the forces of the light ether are thrust into the sub-sensory reflection of the astral world, which is the realm of Lucifer. Magnetism appears when the sound ether forces are pushed down into the subphysical lower Devachan, which is ruled by Ahriman. The third force occurs when the life ether is pushed down into the realm of the Asuras, which is the sub-physical reflection of the upper Devachan:

„In the world there are a number of substances that are connectable and separable. What we call chemism is projected into the physical world from the world of Devachan, the harmony of the spheres. So that in the connection of two substances according to their atomic weights we have the shadowing of two tones of the harmony of the spheres. The chemical relationship of two substances in the physical world is a shadowing from the world of the harmony of the spheres. The numerical relations of chemistry are really the expressions for the numerical relations of the harmony of the spheres. This latter has become mute through the condensation of matter. If one were really able to bring the substances to the etheric dilution and to perceive the atomic numbers as an inwardly forming principle, one would hear the harmony of the spheres. One has the physical, the astral world, the lower Devachan and the upper Devachan. Now if you push a body down even further than to the physical world, you come to the sub-physical world, the sub-astral world, the lower or bad lower devachan and the lower or bad upper devachan. The bad astral world is the realm of Lucifer, the bad lower devachan is the realm of Ahriman and the bad upper devachan is the realm of the Asuras. If you push chemism even further down than under the physical plan, into the bad lower devachanic world, magnetism arises, and if you push light into the sub-material, that is, one step lower than the material world, electricity arises. If we push that which lives in the harmony of the spheres still further down to the Asuras, then there is a still more terrible force which will not be able to be kept secret much longer. One must only wish that when this power comes, which we must imagine to be much, much stronger than the strongest electrical discharges, and which will come at any rate - then one must wish that before this power is given to humanity by an inventor, men will have nothing more immoral about them!“ (Lit.:GA 130, p. 102f)

The extent to which the third force mentioned by Steiner can be identified with the nuclear forces or gravitation has not yet been definitely clarified from an anthroposophical point of view, nor has the exact relationship of the three forces mentioned by Steiner to the four currently known fundamental forces of physics.

In his Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, which Rudolf Steiner wrote down shortly before his death, the last essay "From Nature to Sub-Nature" states:

„Man needed the relationship to the merely earthly for his consciousness-soul development. In recent times there has been a tendency to realise everywhere in action that into which man must settle. By settling into the merely earthly, he meets the Ahrimanic. With his own being he must bring himself into the right relationship with this ahrimanic.

But in the present course of the technical age, the possibility of finding the right relation to the ahrimanic culture is still eluding him. Man must find the strength, the inner power of knowledge, in order not to be overwhelmed by Ahriman in the technical culture. The sub-nature must be understood as such. It can only do so if man in spiritual knowledge ascends at least as far to the extraterrestrial super-nature as he has descended in technology to the sub-nature. The age needs a knowledge that goes beyond nature, because it must inwardly come to terms with a dangerously effective content of life that has sunk below nature. Of course, we are not speaking here of returning to earlier cultural conditions, but of man finding the way to bring the new cultural conditions into a right relationship with himself and with the cosmos.

Today only a few people feel what important spiritual tasks are developing for man. Electricity, which after its discovery was praised as the soul of natural existence, must be recognised in its power to lead down from nature into sub-nature. But man must not glide along with it. In the time when there was not yet a technology independent of actual nature, man found the spirit in the conception of nature. The technology that was becoming independent made man stare at the mechanistic-material as that which was now becoming scientific for him. In this, everything divine-spiritual, which is connected with the origin of human development, is absent. The purely ahrimanic dominates this sphere.

In a spiritual science, the other sphere is created, in which the ahrimanic does not exist at all. And it is precisely through the discerning reception of that spirituality to which the ahrimanic powers have no access that man is strengthened to face Ahriman in the world.“ (Lit.:GA 26, p. 257f)


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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  1. The designation "third force" is derived analogously from Rudolf Steiner's information, but was not used by him in this way by name.