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Undines (probably from Latinunda "wave"; Frenchondine "mermaid") or water spirits[1], the elementary beings of the liquid, are elementary beings who emerged as a cut-off from the hierarchy of the Archangels (Lit.:GA 136, p. 64). They are virgin water beings. Paracelsus counts them among the nymphs. Undines live everywhere in humid water, in forest lakes, waterfalls etc., and work in the leaf region of plants. As "world chemists" they bind and dissolve substances and carry the sound ether into the plant. They also reveal themselves wherever the plant kingdom and the mineral kingdom touch each other, for example at a trickling spring where the water runs over mossy stones. They unfold their fruitful effect especially in the falling rain, while in the vapour rising from the warmth they are as if paralysed and, as it were, killed (Lit.:GA 265, p. 357f).

„Where the stone touches the spring, there embody themselves the beings bound to the element of water: the undines.“ (Lit.:GA 98, p. 91)

According to Rudolf Steiner, the supreme being, the king of the Undines, is Varuna, of whom the Vedas report and who belongs to the Devas, i.e. to the third hierarchy. (Lit.:GA 93a, p. 220)

The Undines have an etheric body as their uppermost member, then a physical body and below that two more members belonging to the third and second elementary kingdoms (see also → Members of the elementary beings).

The undines have an intense emotional life and are related to our feelings and emotions:

„... when we penetrate up to the liquid, we again find another kind of spiritual beings. While the elementary beings of the solid are similar to our intellect, the elementary beings that live in the liquid are more similar to our feeling. We stand with our feelings outside of things. The beautiful tree is outside, I stand here, I am separated from it; I let what it is flow into me. That which is elementary in the liquid flows through the tree in its sap itself. It flows into every leaf with its sensation. It not only feels the red and the blue from the outside, it experiences this colour inwardly, it carries its sensations into everything inwardly. Thus again the life of feeling is much more intense in these spiritual entities than the very intense weaving of the intellect in the elementary beings of the solid.“ (Lit.:GA 211, p. 203 ff)

Undines complement fish, but also insects, by forming their scales or outer armour. They are sensitive to everything that is fish; for a short time they also take on the form of fish. Fish have a relatively closed astral body, but they live very much in the world ether. Undines are not fully awake, they dream. Their greatest delight is when they come to the surface of a drop or water, for then they preserve their ability to take on the form of fish.

„These undines - again we have learned what role they play in plant growth; but they also stand in relation as complementary beings to the animals that are already on a somewhat higher level, to the animals that have already taken up a more differentiated earthly body. These animals, which then grow into the higher fish being or also into the higher amphibian being, need scales, need some kind of hard shell. They need a hard shell on the outside. That which is available in forces to provide this outer support, this outer skeleton, so to speak, for certain animals, such as insects, the world owes to the activity of the undines. The gnomes, so to speak, spiritually support those animals which are quite low. These animals, which now have to be protected from the outside, which have to be clothed in armour, for example, owe their protective coverings to the activity of the undines. It is the undines who, in a primitive way, add to these somewhat higher animals what we have in our skullcap. They make them, so to speak, the head. All these beings, who are invisible behind the visible world, have their great task in the whole context of existence, and you will see that wherever materialistic science is supposed to explain anything of the kind I have just mentioned, it fails. For example, it is unable to explain how the lower beings, who are scarcely much harder than the element in which they live, come to move about in it, because it does not know that this spiritual support from the gnomes which I have just described is present. On the other hand, the fact of becoming re-armoured will always form a difficulty for a purely materialistic science, because it is not known how, in becoming sensitive, in avoiding their own lower animal becoming, the undines repel from themselves what then comes over the somewhat higher animals as scales or other armour.“ (Lit.:GA 230, p. 131f)

Their essential nature is perpetual changeability, metamorphosis. And by dreaming of the stars, the sun, the light and the warmth, they shape the leaf. Normally they are completely enclosed in the realm of the leaf. But they can also grow beyond these limits, in fact they always strive to do so, and in this way they grow into gigantic shapes and then become mist giants.

Malignant gnomes and undines are the spawners of parasites in animals and humans. They are also closely connected with all those destructive forces in man that are necessary for him to unfold his consciousness. More about this under → Gnomes.

Man encounters the undines in dreamless deep sleep, where they flood around him as an astral sea:

„But when man now comes into deep dreamless sleep, and the sleep is not dreamless for him, but through the gift of inspiration this sleep can be seen through, then before the spiritual gaze, before the spiritual human gaze, these undines emerge from that sea of the astral in which, when falling asleep, the gnomes have, as it were, buried, concealed man, and they become visible in deep sleep. Sleep extinguishes the ordinary consciousness. The consciousness illuminated for sleep has as its content this wonderful world of the becoming liquid, of the liquid rearing up in all possible ways to the metamorphoses of the undines. Just as we have the beings with fixed contours around us for the consciousness of the day, the illuminated consciousness of the night would present these ever-changing beings, which themselves wave like a sea and sink again. The very deep sleep is actually filled with the fact that in man's surroundings there is a moving sea of living beings, a moving sea of undines.“ (Lit.:GA 230, p. 132f)

Undines and the organs of speech

The undines transformed the larynx into an organ of speech.

„Let us now consider the question of what special task these elementary beings of water have in evolution and what those of the air element have. In long past epochs of evolution, when man still had a quite different composition of his higher members than he has now, these elementary beings also worked quite differently. At that time man did not yet have what we call language. The organs of speech, which enable us to speak, are located in the respiratory organs. Man uses language to express his soul or even just for conversation, but that is only so in the materialistic age we are living through now. In the age that preceded our materialistic one, the organs of speech were at the same time organs of perception. Language came into being because the water elementals, while penetrating the germinal organs of the larynx, slowly and gradually transformed them into the organs of speech as they are today.

The people of that time did not yet make themselves understood by words, as we do now. Since they were still in possession of the old clairvoyance, they looked into the spiritual world, into the world of the elements. And they experienced the whirring elementary beings around them while they pronounced sounds like our vowels A, I, U, by letting sound from within them what they experienced in images. In this way they also expressed their sensations and feelings, for example, when they felt sympathy or antipathy for what they saw. So too, when they uttered the word Tao, which resounded through the whole of nature, they knew of the Great Spirit, the cause of all that exists.

This word, which was thus at the same time spiritual perception, has been lost since the organs of respiration and speech have become more independent of each other than they were then.“ (Lit.:GA 265, p. 359f)


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.
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. The designation -ghosts' is strictly speaking not correct, since they do not have an independent I, thus no individuals spirit.