The Four Ethers

Published by: Jouko on 6th Feb 2011 | View all blogs by Jouko

                      The beatitudes and the etheric forces:



In his book ”Knowledge of the Higher Worlds” in chapter ”Some Results of Initiation” Dr. Steiner has clarified the four necessary requirements in esoteric training. (Start of the quote):

  In esoteric training there is question of four attributes which must be acquired on the so-called preparatory path for the attainment of higher knowledge. The first is the faculty of discriminating in thoughts between truth and appearance or mere opinion. The second attribute is the correct estimation of what is inwardly true and real, as against what is merely apparent. The third rests in the practice of the six qualities already mentioned in the preceding pages: thought-control, control of actions, perseverance, tolerance, faith and equanimity. The fourth attribute is the love of inner freedom.”    (end of quote)


These attributes were known already in the old (vedantic) teachings of India. According to Mr. Ervast there they were expressed as  1) Viveeka – faculty of discriminating between real (essential) and unreal (non-essential)  2) Vairaagja – indifference concerning the non-essential (or unreal). 3)  Shatsampatti - six qualities (most important is the thought-control)  4) Mumuksha - longing for redemption.


Mr. Ervast has ”arranged” the beatitudes in four pairs and he deals with this matter e.g. in his book ”The Sermon on the Mount”, which also contains a translation from the original text. The order of the beatitudes (Matthew V:3-10) is then the same as in the ”Versio Vulgata”, the latin version of the Bible, which is often regarded as the ”other original” along the Greek version. The ninth beatitude (Blessed are ye, when man shall revile...) is placed under the heading ”Admonitions for those who enter the Kingdom” in Ervast’ translation and not along other beatitudes. When we think about these beatitudes as pearls in a string and then lift this string up, there is formed a ”narrow gate”, where two beatitudes are allways on the same level. These four pairs form the needed requirements to spiritual students. There are expressed the conditions, if seeker wants to pass through the ”Portals of the Kingdom of Heaven”.


Mr. Ervast says that in these four pairs of beatitudes are stated the four old requirements (in new form) and they are also connected to the four etheric forces; they give us the ethical key to these forces. It can also be said that Mr. Ervast teaches how to redeem these great formative forces. He describes (in four lectures between 7.11.1926 – 20.2.1927) the etheric forces connected to a human being and their effects in different phases of life. One listener has written these lectures down; they is not checked by Mr. Ervast and then there is yet my poor (and scarce) translation, so there can easily be inaccurasies in the following text, but I hope that the idea ”comes through”. In the beatitudes I use the translation of Mr. Ervast (Pekka Ervast = PE later on).


                                            Warmth Ether / first pair of beatitudes:


 The first ether deals with our growth process; PE calls it usually Growth Ether but he also uses the term Warmth Ether. Fire is an outer expression of this ether and same kind of a chemical process happens in our digestion. This force connected to the growth process is essential in the life of a child. Later when we stop growing physically, it can be taken ”symbolicly” that we must learn to grow spiritually and make our soul life richer and nobler.


The beatitudes connected to this ether are: ”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that are persecuted for the righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Especially the first one is the more important now, the other is like an attribute to the first one. The word ”poor” describes the attitude of spiritual seekers towards the world. They don’t ask anything, they don’t want anything; they feel how they are poor and ”the smallest of all”. In this respect St. Paul called himself as the first of all sinners.


 (Start of quote:) ”The secret of this growth ether lies in ’poorness’; it is the magic word. And poorness doesn’t mean (even though someone might make himself also poor and empty in outer word) that one would not work anymore, would not earn anymore, but become penniless. That would be stupid...Poor is the one, who feels himself to be poor, even if he in outer world is rich. He/She doesn’t want anything from it to him/herself...Buddha left his palace and went to the forest, Jesus came as a poor to the world and also St. Francis. They have solved the problem of poverty and achieved the eternal youth. We can also think about wise king Salomon, who saw that everything is vanity here on earth. And so he was poor though he had much richness. Wisdom doesn’t live alone in forests and rags, but sometimes also in a golden chair.” (end of the quote). So stories of the ”life elixir” and ”eternal youth” can also be linked to the secrets of this etheric force.


It is also said that we must learn to be poor, when we are rich and vice versa. PE has also stated that the fear of poverty is even worse than greed for riches. The first pair of the beatitudes is linked to the first ”old” requirement:  to discern between the essential and non-essential. The teaching of Dr. Steiner was: The faculty of discriminating in thoughts between truth and appearance or mere opinion.The first attribute is also in relation to the two-petalled lotus in the forehead and linked to clear thinking. When we are not in the ”chains of Mammon” or clouded by the illusions of our own ”greatness”, clear thinking becomes a possibility.


                                            Sound Ether / second pair of beatitudes:


PE names the next ether (which becomes prominent in puberty) ”Propagation Ether” (Dr. Steiner uses the term ”Sound Ether”.) It is linked to the following pair: ”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Again the first one is the more important and the other is a ”quality” linked to the first one. (Start of the quote):


 ”This ether is a creative force; the spiritual secret of it is creative force. A human being can not be just ”eternally young”, s/he must also be active, someone who works and helps and ”pushes the world ahead”. It is the everlasting life in us. Of course there are rest periods. There are people, who believe that life in something enjoying here and before God....From the point of eternal life it is true that we can suffer and work. It is wonderfull peace, which is above enjoying and suffering. We must have the ability to forever enjoy and suffer and live in peace outside everything. Eternal life is working and giving up. It is not such a work as walking just up and down a hill; it is not a work of an idiot. It is a work with purpose and content. It is artistic work, which fills our being with eternal bliss and because of this we are ready to suffer. Because life gives us sufferings, no matter how high beings we are, but this suffering is included in the loveliness of creation and blessedness.


This all is hidden in the second ether, in the creative force in our bodies. And there is this wonderfull problem, which becomes in front of every human being. How can we solve the terrible riddle of sexuality?” ... (then PE warns about certain advices, which are given in order to get the power over the sexuality through violent or other dubious means. These are usually given by some grey brotherhoods and lead easily to cruelty. Joksu’s comment) ...”Human being in the Brotherhood of Christ grows like a flower in a field, and s/he can not set any obstacles to the work of the Holy Spirit in him/herself.


And what is the only real means for a human being to be the ”lord” over the sexual forces, to get rid of all misfortunes connected to these forces and to get a grip from everlasting happiness and peace?  It is the means told by Jesus in the second beatitude: ’Blessed are the peacemakers’; it includes: the only way to become the master of this magnetic ether lies in the declining of all evil, not resisting that, which is evil. Just like Jesus taught in the fourth commandment: ’do not be against evil’. It is the commandment of peace and it is linked to this second ether. In this way it is as if the second ether kneels before us. We take a negative (passive) attitude to evil. E.g. man is inflicted in his/her love life. Man notices that the companion is deceiving him/her and then the inner love life rises to the front and along it the feeling, how unhappy one is, when the other doesn’t care. S/He starts talking and proving all things to the other, and doesn’t realise that one is making him/herself only less lovable, when s/he starts fighting for his own happiness.If s/he instead understands what Job said: ’Lord gave, Lord took, praised be the name of the Lord’. perhaps s/he then appears as a very lovely creature to the other one. S/he does not resist the evil, that the other deceives and gives him/her up, but is happy instead that the companion can be happy with someone else. Then feeling, sexual life cannot do anything to him/her, but a mastery over it has been achieved.


This is why we human beings pray: give us today our transcendental bread. It means that even today something would happen to us, which robbes from us our fancies, that we must be loved. That life would give us some blow, which reminds us that we are poor and that we could get rid of all illusions. Then we can realise how little lovable we are. When we humble ourselves, in the same time we get freed from the school of sexuality. It is tough, so be it, but nothing is tough for a spiritual  scientist, because in his/her soul s/he wants to get on the spiritual path.” (end of the quote).


(These lectures were directed to the pupils of Mr. Ervast, not to an ordinary audience.) This etheric force and the before mentioned beatitudes are connected to the second requirement: indifference concerning the non-essential. The teaching of Dr. Steiner was: The second attribute is the correct estimation of what is inwardly true and real, as against what is merely apparent. And according to Dr. Steiner, the second attribute is in relation to the sixteen-petalled lotus in the throat. This is very interesting, because in the future throat and the ”Word” will be directly linked to the ”generative process” and birth will connected to the abilities of the throat. Also the name ”Sound Ether” is very illuminating in this context.


                                            Light Ether / third pair of beatitudes:


So the next ether in Ervast’ terminology is the ”Perception Ether”, but he also uses ”Light Ether” –term, which is commonly used in Antroposophy. PE says that we can win over all our senses with the help of this ether or with the help of the force hidden in it. This secret is linked to the third pair of the beatitudes: ”Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (The first one is again the more ”dominant”. This ”mourning” is a quality connected to the ”purifying heart”) This pair is also linked to the third requirement conserning the six qualities out of which the most important was the control of thoughts.


The world is such that it ”attacks” us with the help of our senses; we don’t have to search for the outer world. Then all kind of temptations can come to us along these sense perceptions. E.g. many things what we see, can wake in us lust or greed etc. (Start of the quote):


”In this third beatitude Jesus Christ ment, that a human being becomes conscious of God, if s/he wants to purify him/herself. What is the greater victory over everything than to see the Spirit of Life in all? What is greater to our senses? In knowing God and eternal life there is no temptation, but the greatest happiness and bliss. Like Jesus says: You are blessed when you can develop so; when your senses have been so purified, that you don’t see anything ugly, unreal, lies and filth, but you can see the life of God in everything. And how is this possible? When you make your heart pure, says Jesus.


And I ask: how can we purify our heart? What kind of a heart is pure? Jesus refers to this, when He is saying: What man puts in his mouth (eating, drinking) does not hurt him, but instead what comes out of his mouth. Because out of the human heart comes everything what is unclean and filthy there. It comes out from the heart. So when Jesus says:  ’blessed are the pure in heart’, it means that such heart is pure, out of which can come goodness. What good can come out from our heart? There can come out love, which is serving and devotion. So, if we want to purify our heart and become the master of our senses, we must learn to   g i v e.


So strangely are the things arranged. Our senses can be purified, when our attitude can be named as ”giving”. We can’t have the attitude of one asking and taking, but that of a giver. If we can first gradually learn from small things, that we have the attitude of a giver and not a taker, then our senses get purer and we get control over them. It is a question about experience, like also the other matters, what I have discussed in these lectures....I can only talk from my own experience and if I have learned something about the senses, then it is just this that by giving they are purified.”


Dr. Steiner tells about the third attribute (quotes from the KotHW): ”The third rests in the practice of the six qualities already mentioned in the preceding pages: thought-control, control of actions, perseverance, tolerance, faith and equanimity.” ”The six virtues of which the third attribute consists have already been dealt with; they are connected with the development of the twelve-petalled lotus in the region of the heart, and, as already indicated, it is to this center that the life-currents of the etheric body must be directed.” (end of quotes).  The connection between heart chakra and ”those pure in heart” is obvious.


                                            Life Ether / fourth pair of beatitudes:



Then there is the fourth ether, which is usually called Memory Ether or Reflex Ether by PE, but Dr. Steiner uses mostly the term Life Ether, which PE also uses occacionally. The pair of beatitudes in this context is: ”Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Again the first beatitude is the ”dominant” one and the other is defining the quality of this effort. These beatitudes are connected to the fourth requirement ; longing for redemption.


This is the highest ether and it is directly linked to memory. (Start of the quote):

”How can we become the master of this ether? In the same time we are asking: how can we become the lord of our memory? The answer is given to us in the fourth beatitude of Jesus. Then everything what happens to the seeker, is allways right; one can feel that nothing else can happen to him/her. ’Blessed are you, when you hunger and thirst after righteousness’. One is seeing here a very close connection, because what is required to become to some extent the ”master of the memory”? Honesty and justice is required. Seeker must want that all things are allways true and straight, and especially that a human being is absolutely honest before his/her (inner) God. S/he should not hide anything. It is necessary every day to look at oneself. A seeker must everyday create again his/her whole world, in perfect righteousness go through his/her whole development...”


Then PE tells that in this phase the memory can temporarily become worse, when the etheric forces are ”shaken”, but when the spiritual scientist goes forward in honesty and righteousness, the memory ”comes back”. I still continue the translation:


(The quote continues):

”The waking up of this highest ether makes the effect, that a human is, in a way, outside his own personality. S/he is not anymore restricted by the brains as before...When the etheric side is more ”shaken”, the seeker feels himself more ”alien” physically and begins to see more objectively than other people. S/He is not anymore so much stucked to the lower self, but can see through the old personality. This all is effected by the waking of the highest ether.


When a human being in this way is ”positioned” as if above his mortal and personal self, in the same time S/he becomes in touch with the higher self and along it wakes up a remarkable memorylife.” (end of quote)


Then PE goes on telling that in this phase vivid dreams of distant times can occur and other such glimpses. But he warns the students not to talk about these publicly, especially as memories of past lifes, because it can make the seeker conceited and fancifull. If these memories later are seen as not reliable, it is good that one has not told about them. And if these glimpses of past incarnations are later seen as reliable, it is possible that a permission is given from the ”spiritual world” to tell something, if it can be done by helping the world.


Dr. Steiner tells about the fourt attribute: The fourth attribute is the love of inner freedom. The fourth attribute serves to bring to fruition the etheric organ in the heart region. (E.g. Florin Lowndes deals with this new etheric organ near the heart region in his ”Chakra-book”.) It is often said that the ”whispers of our higher self” can be heard/felt etc. in the heart.


These are just short sketches from a vast subject, but I believe that a serious seeker can find out some new point of view from the material.






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