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Adepts (from Latinadeptus "he who has received", from adeptio "attainment") are called very advanced spiritual disciples of different, higher degrees of development in the broadest sense. The term adept for very advanced disciples goes back to H. P. Blavatsky. Occasionally the term adept is also used as a synonym for initiate. An adept has reached the state of initiation and has become a master in the science of Esoteric Philosophy. (Lit.: H. P. Blavatsky: Lexikon der Geheimlehren, p. 40) According to Rudolf Steiner, there is a necessary hierarchy between clairvoyants, initiates and adepts. The adept stands higher than the initiate, (who in turn stands higher than the clairvoyant), in that he is not only able to recognise the laws of the spiritual world, but also to handle them effectively. Adepts, in contrast to clairvoyants and initiates, are persons who know how to handle a certain field, such as occultism, with sovereignty.

„What is an adept? There are such in all fields. (...) When people will know how such a (human) development proceeds, then it will become clear what influence it will have on education. I have given an account of this in my booklet "The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy". In this booklet you have all the rules which are to be considered in this case. Now, you see, a teacher who would master this system, such a one would be an adept in the field of education.“ (Lit.:GA 98, p. 18f)

An adept or magician in the narrower sense is a spiritual disciple who can consciously work down into his physical body. This is the highest and most difficult degree of initiation to achieve.

„The highest gift that man can attain on this earth is to work down into his physical body. This is the very hardest thing. To work on the physical body means to learn to control his breath, to work on his blood circulation, to follow the nervous work, also to regulate the thinking process. He who stands on this level is called an adept in theosophical language, and he has then trained in himself what is called the Atma.“ (Lit.:GA 95, p. 18)

The adept stands higher than the initiate in that he is not only able to recognise the laws of the spiritual world, but also to handle them effectively - in the sense of a properly understood magic.

„You can get an idea of the difference between an adept and an initiate if you imagine the following: Think of a region where there are railways, and you have seen them. I now ask, will you, who have got the positive conviction through your own observation that there is such a thing as a railway, be able to build one? To be able to build one, practice and many other things are necessary. Now he who, through exercises of which man today has scarcely any conception, has acquired not only a visual knowledge of the spiritual world, but also practice in the handling of the spiritual forces which underlie the outer sensuous world, is, in contrast to the clairvoyant, an adept. This requires a much longer preparation than even a clairvoyant. Besides, our present cultural development is still much more hostile to instruction in the handling of spiritual forces than to the endeavour to penetrate the spiritual world through knowledge.“ (Lit.:GA 56, p. 27f)

„Now the magician differs from the clairvoyant as well as from the initiate. For one who can himself see into the higher worlds, it does not yet follow that he can also already control and apply the forces working in the sensual world. Or do you believe that a man who has brought knowledge of the locomotive, the steamship and the steam-engine into a region could now immediately build such a machine? He can tell them what such things look like, but he will not at once know how to build them. That the clairvoyant himself can see into the higher worlds, it does not yet follow that he also knows how to control and apply the forces that work in the senses. He is only a magician or adept who knows how to use the higher forces, of which all physical events are an expression, in the world here, who is therefore able not only to consult the physical forces and the physical powers when it is a question of something in his doing, but who can let the higher forces play a part. In our time, being a magician or an adept is actually no small thing. There is no time in the development of humanity that was so completely opposed to being a magician or adept as ours is today. And today, under certain circumstances, humanity is best served by confining oneself to spreading the knowledge of the higher worlds, and even - perhaps with a bleeding heart - refraining from using magical powers in cases where it might be appropriate to do so. For the public life of today is so remote from the concept of magic that under certain circumstances the influence of higher worlds on this world of ours would mean a setback if magical powers were used directly. He who has had a certain amount of practice in the use of these powers, and has also acquired the mechanism, must in certain cases refrain from using these powers, for the simple reason that it is impossible to run against the current of the times in the world today. A magician does not only need clairvoyance and initiation, a magician also needs practice. That is what it is all about. The magician has to acquire certain practices through long periods of renunciation, he has to practise.“ (Lit.:GA 101, p. 125f)


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: URL:
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 - 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.