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"Guardian Angel" (Schutzengel) by Bernhard Plockhorst.

Angels or Angeloi (from Greekάγγελος ángelos - "messenger" via Latin angelus or angeli as translation of Hebrewמלאך mal'ach - messenger; also sons of twilight, spirits of twilight, sons of life, messengers, also called Lunar Pitris or Barhishad-Pitris in theosophical writings), the angels belong to the third hierarchy and stand in the hierarchy of spiritual entities (hierarchies) one level above man. They have already completed their stage of humanity , i.e. the development of the I or the I-consciousness, on the Old Moon. At present they are forming their spirit self. The lunar sphere is their cosmic domain. According to Indian Theosophical teachings, they are called Dhyani (skrt.).

Guardian angel

Every human being is assigned an angelic being who, as a guardian angel, it acts as his or her spiritual guide (guiding angel). They are supported by elemental beings who weave between the light and air elements and are commonly counted among the fairies, notably among the tree fairies, who like to associate with individual people, especially with children, but also with whole families and larger groups of people.

Our personal angel overlooks the whole chain of our successive earthly embodiments as long as we ourselves are not yet capable of it. He guides, with the help of much more exalted hierarchies, but nevertheless, our path of destiny rests in his hands conjointly with the other guiding angels of our fellow human beings. Thart way it ensures the right karmic balance. However, in the course of human development, a significant disorder has arisen within karma, which cannot solely be balanced by the angels, but ultimate balance is only attainable with the help of the Christ.

Separation of Spirits in the World of the Angeloi

Blackboard drawing for GA 237, p. 144 (plate 7)

Angels who are connected with people who strive for spiritual development in the sense of anthroposophical spiritual science constantly learn something more and rise yet higher spiritually, while angels who have to guide people without such striving sink lower. This leads to a separation of spirits in the world of the Angeloi, as schematically indicated in the accompanying blackboard drawing.

„Let us suppose that karma unfolds in a manner that some personality is now seized by the anthroposophical impulses, is seized with heart and mind, I would like to say, with spirit and soul. Then, yes, then something is necessary which sounds decidedly strange, paradoxical; but it is necessary: then his angel must learn something. And that, you see, is something tremendously significant. The fate of the anthroposophists, which takes place between anthroposophists and non-anthroposophists, ripples into the world of the Angeloi. This leads to a separation of spirits in the world of the Angeloi. The Angelos who accompanies the Anthroposophist to their next incarnations learns to find his way deeper into the spiritual realms than he could before. And the Angelos who belongs to the other, who cannot enter at all, sinks down. And it is first shown in the fate of the Angeloi how the great divorce happens. It is now the case - and this is something, my dear friends, to which I would like to draw your hearts' attention - that out of a relatively unified kingdom of the Angeloi there arises a kingdom of the Angeloi divided into two, a kingdom of the Angeloi with one train up into higher worlds and with one train down into lower worlds. While here on earth the formation of the Michael-community is taking place, we can look above what is taking place here as Michael-community, ascending Angeloi (see drawing, yellow), descending Angeloi (green).“ (Lit.:GA 237, p. 143f)

Experiencing the effectiveness of one's own guardian angel

„A good means which everyone can use to achieve greater clarity about ones own personality is to observe certain passages in our life more closely, but at least once a year, perhaps around our birthdays. Then we should ask ourselves: What good or bad deeds have I done during the course of this period? If we then examine ourselves seriously, we will find in most cases that our good deeds do not stem from our personality, but that we let them happen out of an inner impulse. This inner impulse is our guardian angel who drives us to our good deeds. On the other hand, we should not rely entirely on it and think at every opportunity: the guardian angel will already give me the impulse - for that would be quite wrong; the guardian angel would soon leave us, that is, in a certain sense, abandon us.“ (Lit.:GA 266b, p. 169f)

The consciousness of the angels

Rudolf Steiner characterises the nature and consciousness of angels thus:

„If we now ask ourselves: What is the consciousness of the angelic beings? - we get the following answer: in a certain respect it is a higher consciousness, and it is characterised as a higher consciousness by the fact that it does not reach down to the mineral kingdom. The angelic consciousness does not reach down to where the stones, the minerals are. On the other hand, in this angelic consciousness there are vegetable beings, animal beings, human beings and the angels' own kingdom, which plays the same role there as the human kingdom does for us. Therefore we can say that these angels also perceive four realms with their consciousness, the realm of plants, animals, human beings and the realm of angels.

This is the peculiarity of the angelic beings: they have no physical body, and for this reason also no organs of a physical body, no eyes and ears and so on. That is why they do not perceive the physical realm. They have the etheric body as their lowest substance of being. This gives them a certain kinship with the plants. They can therefore descend with their consciousness to the plants; they can still perceive plants. Where there is a mineral, however, they perceive a hollow space, just as we have described it for man during the state of devacha, where man will also perceive the space that a mineral fills here on the physical plane as a hollow space. Thus, wherever there is physical realm here, these angels perceive a hollow space. On the other hand, their consciousness rises up to where man's consciousness does not yet rise.“ (Lit.:GA 102, p. 138f)

As with all beings of the Third Hierarchy, their perception is at the same time a self-revealing. They reveal their own being, and what they thus reveal of themselves forms at the same time the content of their perception. It is comparatively similar to man revealing his being-self through words, gestures and facial expressions and directs his consciousness to what is thus produced in order to perceive himself. And yet these self-created images through which the angelic beings reveal themselves refer at the same time to an objective reality that is (relatively) independent of them. In truth, all perceptual images are always also dependent on the perceiving being; this is also the case with humans, only they are usually not aware of it.

Man approaches this angelic kind of consciousness when he progresses on the spiritual path of schooling. The spiritual perceptions then do not appear ready given, but arise from a "painting vision"[1] of the seen pictures. Goethe characterizes it aptly in the second part of his Faust poem when he lets Faust say:

I am awake! O let them rule,
The incomparable designs,
As my eye projects them thither!
(Faust II, Act 2, At the Lower Peneios)

Lies are impossible for the beings of the third hierarchy; they must reveal their true nature and have in retrospect of this revelation their waking self-consciousness. Any lie, any deception in self-revelation would extinguish their consciousness.

As entities of the third hierarchy, however, the angels also have no independent inner life such as that of man. If they willingly turn their gaze away from self-revelation, their consciousness gets filled with the contents of the higher spiritual worlds through their unconditional surrender to these higher Hierarchies. Being filled with spirit is the purpose of their inner life.

Thinking in conversation with the angel

In the Egyptian-Chaldean period, during the age of the sentient soul, before the mind-soul had awakened, thinking was still felt to be a gift inspired by the angels. Even in the early Middle Ages up to the 9th century. Early Christian thinkers such as the Irish theologian Johannes Scottus Eriugena could still feel this. Although their speculative thinking, based on the intellect and therefore often subject to error, had already awakened as part of an inner self . Eriugena, however, clearly felt that he was strongly permeated by an angelic being when comprehending true knowledge. His thinking thus became a kind of inner dialogue with the angel.

„In the case of John Scotus, he lives in this dichotomy. He experiences both logical thinking and thinking becoming revelatory cognition. With the latter he feels that there is still something of the old powers that permeated man in the old ways of cognition. He feels the angel, the Angelos in him. That is why he says that what man recognises as an angel was an inheritance from ancient times. Scotus Erigena could therefore still say in his time that this understanding of man perceiving like an angel reveals such a spiritual connection. In Egyptian and Chaldean times in the older times of the Hebrew civilisation, no one would have said anything else than: The angel recognises in me, and I participate as a human being in the knowledge of the angel. The angel dwells in me, who recognises, and I participate in what the angel recognises. - That was in the time when there was no intellect. Then, when the intellect had come up, one had to penetrate this with the intellect; but in Scotus Erigena there was still a consciousness of this being penetrated with the Angelos nature.“ (Lit.:GA 204, p. 269f)

Johannes Scotus Eriugena writes in his main work "On the Division of Nature":

„If you consider attentively the mutual connection and unity of the spiritual and rational natures, you will indeed find that both the English essence is co-grounded in the (respective) human, and the human in the English. In each is accomplished what the pure intellect most perfectly recognises, and in each is effected one and the same thing. So great was the communion of English and human natures, and would have remained so if the first man had not sinned, that the two became one, which is already beginning to happen even in the most excellent men, whose first fruits are among the heavenly. For the angel arises in man through the concept of the angel which is in man, and man arises in the angel through the concept of the angel founded in man. For he who, as I have said, has the pure concept, becomes that which he comprehends. The spiritual and rational angelic nature has thus become in the spiritual and rational human nature just as the human has become in the English through mutual comprehension, wherein man comprehends the angel and the angel comprehends man. Nor is this at all wonderful; for we ourselves, by conversing with one another, are mutually transformed into one another. For by comprehending what you comprehend, I reflect your concept, and am in an ineffable manner taken up into you. In the same way, when you grasp purely what I grasp perfectly, you reflct my concept, and the two concepts become one, which is formed from what we both grasp purely and without delay. If we take an example from the numbers to help us, you understand that the number six is equal in its parts, and I understand this in the same way, and I understand yours as you understand my concept. Both our concepts become a single concept formed by the six-number, and thereby not only am I created in you, but also you in me. For we are not something other than our concept, and our true and highest being is a concept which is attested in the contemplation of truth. But the fact that such a concept can develop not only in equally essential natures, but also in subordinate natures, as soon as love interposes, is taught by the words of the apostle, who rejects the opinion that our concept loves visible forms with the admonition: Do not become like this world! In such a sense, then, it is quite properly said that in mutual understanding man is created in the angel and the angel in man, and that the angel also does not precede man in any way is likewise rightly believed and understood, even if, according to the Prophet's account, the creation of the angelic nature may, as many will, have happened earlier or later than the creation of human nature.“

„For the thoughts of things are truly the things themselves, as St. Dionysius says, "the knowledge of being is the being itself;" but their primordial causes and reasons are led to union by thought-activity, not by the things themselves.“

For Eriugena, man and angel are thus on the same level; precisely because of this, they can mutually recognise each other. But this knowledge, like their respective self-knowledge, is never complete. For in order to be able to fully recognise oneself, i.e. to define, to delimit, one would have to surpass oneself:

„I believe that neither of the two can define himself, nor even one the other. For if a man defines himself or an angel, he is greater than himself or than the angel; for the defining is greater than the defined. The same takes place with the angel. I believe, therefore, that these two alone can be defined by Him who created them in His image.“

The members of the angels

In principle, the angels have the same seven essential members as human beings, but they are of a somewhat different nature and are arranged differently from human beings. The angels have their physical body, which does not reach down into the densest materiality, woven only from the elements water, air and fire, and the bodies are neither coherent in themselves nor delimited from each other, but can penetrate each other. Only the physical body, the etheric body and the astral body of the angels are to be found on the physical plane; the higher members of the being, i.e. "I", spirit self, life spirit and spirit man, are to be found on the astral plane.

Members of man and angel. Drawing from GA 110, p. 112

„There we must say: this angel has developed 1. physical body, 2. etheric body, 3. and astral body, so that these in a certain respect give a whole. But now we must draw separately the "I", 4., 5. Manas, 6. Buddhi, 7. Atma. If you want to make clear to yourself the nature of an angel, you must think that the higher members which he has and to which he can develop - in reality he has only fully developed the Manas, the other two he will only develop later - that these higher members float, so to speak, in a spiritual world above that which is present of him in the physical. If, therefore, one wished to study the nature of an angel, one would have to say to oneself: The angel does not have such an ego walking directly about earth in a body as man does. Nor does he develop his Manas at the present stage of his development on earth. Therefore, what he has on earth does not look as if it belonged to a spiritual being. When you meet a human being, you can see that he has his principles within himself, that everything is organically structured. If you want to visit an angel, you must take into account that his physical being down here is only something like a reflection of his spiritual principles, which can only be seen in the spiritual. In the flowing and trickling water, in the water dissolving into mist, further in the winds of the air and in the lightning flashing through the air and the like, there you have to look for the physical body of the angelic beings. And the difficulty for man consists first of all in the fact that he believes that a body must have its definite limits all around. It is difficult for man to say to himself: I am standing before a rising or falling mist, I am standing before an atomising spring, I am standing in the roaring wind, I see lightning shooting out of the clouds and I know that these are the revelations of the angels; and I have to see behind this physical body, which is not so limited as the human body, a spiritual being throughout.

Man is to develop all his principles self-contained; it is connected with this that he cannot imagine that a physical body can be blurred, floating, that it need not even be properly divided. You must imagine that eighty angels belong together, who have the densest part of their physical body in a single section of this or that surface of water. Nor need this physical body of the angels be conceived in such a way that it must be limited at all; a section of water may belong to it here, another section further away. In short, we see that we have to imagine everything that surrounds us as water, air and fire of the earth, that we have to imagine it as containing in itself the bodies of the Hierarchy standing next above man. And with clairvoyant vision we must look into the astral world in order to behold the angelic ego and the angelic manas - they look at us from the higher world. And the area in the solar system where we have to investigate when we look for the angelic beings extends to the mark of the moon. With these angels the matter is only relatively simple, for there it lies in such a way that if, for example, we have the physical body of an angel down there in a mass of water or the like, and we look clairvoyantly at this water region or at a wind, we find in it an etheric body and an astral body. That is why these three things have been drawn together here. Of course, that which rushes along in the wind, that which flows along in the water, or that which is destroyed, is not only the material image which the gross intellect sees; there lives in the most manifold manner in water, air and fire the etheric and astral of the angels, the next Hierarchy above man. If you want to search for the spiritual-soul essence of these angels, then you must search in the astral region, then you must look into it clairvoyantly.“ (Lit.:GA 110, p. 111ff])


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. This very appropriate term of "painting vision" was coined by the Austrian quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli when he said:

    "If one analyzes the preconscious stage of concepts, one always finds ideas consisting of "symbolic" images with generally strong emotional content. The preliminary stage of thinking is a painting vision of these inner pictures, whose origin cannot be generally and primarily traced back to sense perceptions ... However, the archaic attitude is also the necessary precondition and the source of the scientific attitude. To a complete cognition belongs also that of the images from which the rational concepts have grown. ... The ordering and regulating must be placed beyond the distinction of "physical" and "mental" - just as Plato's "ideas" have something of concepts and also something of "natural forces" (they produce effects by themselves). I am very much in favor of calling this " ordering and regulating" "archetypes"; but it would then be inadmissible to define these as psychic contents. Rather, the mentioned inner images ("dominants of the collective unconscious" according to Jung) are the psychic manifestation of the archetypes, which, however, would also have to produce, generate, condition all natural laws in the behavior of the body world. The natural laws of the body world would then be the physical manifestation of the archetypes. ... Then every law of nature should have a correspondence inside and vice versa, even if today this cannot always be seen immediately."

    H. Atmanspacher, H. Primas, E. Wertenschlag-Birkhäuser (Hrsg.): Der Pauli-Jung-Dialog, Springer Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg 1995, p. 219