******* A very good question, one which we were discussing at the Goetheanum, because it's depicted in the 4th Mystery Play.
One way to think about it is this: we have a physical body, an etheric body and an astral body. The physical body is made up of the mineral substance of the earth: we start out very little of this substance, what we inherited from our parents, and then we build up the physical body by gathering more and more of this substance. In a similar way, the etheric body is made up of life force: some of this we inherit from our parents, and we gather more from the etheric world of life-forces and add it to this.
But life forces are different from mineral substance in that they are alive. We picture mineral substance as being made up of little atoms, but our life-forces are not made up of little units of energy but rather every "unit" of life force is also a living being.
So you could say our etheric body is made up of living beings. These are the elementals. There are a tremendous variety of these, just as there are of minerals or plants. Some are purely etheric beings, some also have an astral body.
Every time you see the life force acting in the plant world, all those "forces" are also actually beings as well, which is why we have all these legends handed down of the "nature spirits". Plants do not have a single enclosed etheric body but rather participate in the entire etheric sphere of the earth, so these elemental beings are constantly coming and going in the plant world. They also interact with the animal kingdom.
As far as we human beings are concerned, every time we come back to earth, we gather together a certain number of these and they build our etheric body up for us. There are some that travel with us, recognizing us each time we come back. For the past several thousand years, since the human ego began to really incarnate into the astral and etheric bodies, we have had the power to affect these elemental beings. By our own actions, we can distort them into forms that nature never gave them, and by doing so we can chain them to ourselves: they are no longer fit for working in the rest of nature, and so must remain with us. Only we have the power to set them free at our death.
Steiner's fourth mystery play has a depiction on stage of one of these beings, created by Johannes in ancient Egypt and following him ever since, called the "Spirit of Johannes' Youth". He once loved a woman who he was unable to have in Egypt, and his unfulfilled desires transformed an elemental being into a spirit being that follows him into his later incarnations, and which he must learn to recognize for what it is in order to set it free at his death.
Besides the Play, called "The Soul's Awakening", I would recommend Steiner's lecture cycle called "The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and the Kingdoms of Nature." There he explains about the folks souls, the animal group souls, and the elemental beings, and which hierarchies they are the offspring of. It's a very deep and profound subject.
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2010 17:04:45 +0000
Subject: [steiner] Elemental beings interacting with Humans
I have a question I would like to pose to the group and hopefully some discussion will follow: how elementals and humans interact.
Right now I'm reading some lectures on elemental beings, "The Spiritual Hierarchies & Their Reflection in the Physical World," given in Dusseldorf in April, 1909. The lecture in question (#2 in this series) is also reprinted in the more current "Nature Spirits" collection, titled "Redemption of the Elementals by Human Beings."
The basic discussion is about the four elements and how the Indian Holy Rishis transmitted this Mystery information.
The sentence in question:
As we look out into the world, hosts of elementals, who were or who are continually being bewitched into the process of densification, are continually entering into us from our surroundings.
What I want to understanding of is the process of how elemental beings and humans interact, the process of how elementals `enter' the human. I know in this day and age, at our present level of development, many people think of man as a totally separate and independent being with no interaction or influences from the spiritual worlds. I seem to recall that just about any interaction we have which connects to elementals sets up an unseen and obligatory interaction.
The occultist/artist O.E. Spare did some drawings/paintings of elementals attached to humans of elementals attached to their hosts. And I do recall seeing some similar drawings which I believe were from the 14th century of the same thing, a time when we still had some visual connections with the spiritual world.
This lecture goes on to explain that based on our level of spiritual development, we as humans are in a position to redeem the enchanted element beings and, at our death, send them off to a higher stage of evolution.
I have access to a larger Steiner book collection, so if you are aware of any lecture cycles that might enlighten me, please recommend.
But some discussion would be just ducky.