The Seven Phases in the Development of Consciousness 

Margarete van den Brink

Hermes Trismegistus, floor mosaic in the Cathedral of Siena

Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we heading for?

These kinds of questions are not just important for us today, they have persisted since ancient times. One of the Hermetic scripts, the Corpus Hermeticum, transcribes the conversation that the great initiated Hermes Trismegistus had with his student Asclepius.

Asclepius had asked him about the origin of all things: where do all things come from? Hermes tells him that everything that exists stems from the One. The One is the Logos, the divine consciousness or the divine Spirit. The entire cosmos with everything in it: heaven, Earth, nature and people, stems from the One. And because everything comes from the One, says Hermes, everything carries in it the seed of consciousness. 'Whether you are aware of this or not, Asclepius, you carry it all within. God is present in all things.'

God in Matter

Then Asclepius asks, astonished: “Is God also present in matter?” Hermes answers, “Yes, he is also in matter. God surrounded all and permeateth all, for he is energy and power. What else would it (matter) be other than a chaotic mass if it did not receive this energy? And, energised, who gave it energy? You remember, Asclepius, that I told you about these energies as though they are the limbs of God. Who makes all living things alive? Who makes immortal beings immortal? Who makes changed things, indeed changeable? Whether this is about Matter, or about a Body or about Essence. We are, dear son, all energized by God. You must know that materiality is Matter's energy, that corporeality is Bodies' energy and the energy of substance is Essence. And this is God. The All.”

Ancient Wisdom: All stems from the Logos, Brahma

It is striking that thousands of years ago the great Hermes Trismegistus already spoke of this universal and all-purpose truth. The truth of all that we see around us, including the world of matter, is in its essence, consciousness. Divine consciousness. In Western esoteric traditions, that consciousness or that spiritual system of power is called 'the Logos' or 'Divine Spirit'. In Eastern traditions – for instance in Hinduism – this high Godhead is called 'Brahma'.

Scientists who are open to spirituality are nowadays discovering this universal truth. It is therefore no coincidence that Professor Amit Goswami and Deepak Chopra advise scientists who search for innovation, to consult the ancient wisdom derived from esoteric traditions. In esoteric traditions deep insight and high wisdom concerning heaven, the origin and evolution of Man and life's purpose, existed already thousands of years before the materialistic thinking that has prevailed during the last hundred years, came into being.


Hermes Trismegistus was a contemporary of Moses. Moses was one of the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. He was responsible for the chapters Genesis and Exodus of the Bible. Moses and Hermes lived about 1500 years before Christ. Both of them were initiated in the secret knowledge that was taught in the Egyptian mysteries. Because of their initiation they gained direct access to high spiritual beings in the spiritual world which gave them insights into the secrets of our existence. Hermes especially possessed exceptionally advanced and elevated spiritual knowledge and wisdom. This is why he was called Trismegistus, the Thrice-Great. Through the centuries his insights and wisdom inspired and influenced great minds of philosophical history, science, art and mysticism.

Rudolf Steiner

Even though universal truth or ancient wisdom about life and the purpose of our existence remains unchanged at the core, it is still necessary to reword them time and again. This is because they need to be adjusted to the consciousness and developmental level that humans possess at a certain time.

One of the spiritual teachers who reworded the ancient wisdom in our time was Rudolf Steiner. Rudolf Steiner lived from 1861 until 1925. He studied maths and philosophy and was awarded his doctorate of philosophy at Rostock in 1891. Besides being a scientist he was also clairvoyant. A deep spiritual experience prompted him to become completely dedicated to the development of the science of the spirit after 1900. Initially he called this spiritual science 'Theosophy' and later changed it to 'Anthroposophy'. As a spiritual scientist he not only researched but also connected to ancient wisdom. However he would not publicise any insights he received until he had first researched them himself and found them to be true. Just like theosophist Mrs. Blavatsky and Rosicrucianist Christian Rosenkreutz, Rudolf Steiner had access to the higher sources of wisdom in the spiritual world. He presented the insights he received in lectures and in books.

During his lifetime Rudolf Steiner spoke of and wrote about many different subjects. Each time he approached these themes from a new spiritual point of view. One of the themes that he spent time on extensively was the spiritual background of evolution, the development of the Cosmos, humanity and the Earth.

Everything Derives from Unity

Just like Hermes Trismegistus, Steiner knew that everything that exists, including the world of matter, is initiated by the Logos, the Word, the divine consciousness. Therefore the world, and everything in it, has a divine-spiritual origin. Divine and spiritual beings have manifested all we currently know and see around us, in a step by step creational process that lasted aeons.

The human being also stems from this divine consciousness. According to Rudolf Steiner before he was created, Man as a spiritual being, was part of the unity and the consciousness of the spiritual world. Human beings as such had not yet come into play. Even less so individual Man. What we now consider humans, in that time only existed as spiritual beings. They were, before the beginning of creation, at one with the conscious world of the One, the divine and lived in undivided unity with the divine; but unaware of themselves. These spiritual beings therefore were not self-aware, as we humans are today. Human self-awareness was only possible in the material world of the Earth. But in that ancient time before creation, the Earth and the material world did not yet exist.

In that early beginning everything that would later manifest itself as creation, such as Earth, people, plants, animals and the solar system, was still whole and absorbed in the One, the All, the All-encompassing, as Hermes Trismegistus called it, and therefore had not yet been separated.

That is why esoteric tradition says: 'All that exists comes from the Unity, 'the One'. That is important to keep in mind.

The Creators of Earth and Humanity

Then, as esoteric tradition says, in the divine world the plan was formed to allow a selection of the spiritual beings from the spiritual world to follow a path of development outside the divine Unity.

The book of Genesis in the Bible contains the description of the announcement of that plan. In Genesis 1:26 God says: 'Let us make Man in our image and after our likeness.' It is interesting that the plural is used here: 'let us' and 'in our image and after our likeness'. And not: 'let me' and 'in my image and likeness'. This formulation in plural is explained by esoteric tradition and also by Rudolf Steiner that it is the highest Godhead, the Trinity, who speaks here: God the Father, God the Son or the Logos or the Word, and the Holy Spirit. As Trinity they form the basis and the early beginning of creation.

The words that were spoken also maintain that the Triune God performs this process of creation in cooperation with high divine-spiritual beings. Divine-spiritual beings who themselves once originated from the Trinity. These high, divine-spiritual beings are called 'the spiritual Hierarchies', or 'the Hierarchies' for short. These Hierarchies are unimaginably high angelic beings that, in certain groups and certain (hierarchical) levels of development, are the co-creators in this process.

The Purpose of the Creation of Man

What purpose did the divine world have by creating Man? Of course it is very complex, but if I were to put it in simple terms then the purpose of the creation of Man is to allow a group of spiritual beings to become aware of themselves as spiritual beings outside the unity of the spiritual world and to become creators themselves. That means in the first place to become a free, independent and self-conscious individual. That is the first half of the process of becoming human. The second half is that step by step, Man, from this self-consciousness, actively works on himself and by doing so develops his divine core, his higher, spiritual Self and so the spirit's creative powers. These spiritual powers are the same creative powers that once, in a distant past, manifested creation as we know it today.

Summing up, this means that through a process of becoming human, Man, starting as an unaware spiritual being, eventually becomes a free and self-aware co-creator of the divine spiritual world.

What a perspective!

Quite different from the idea that Man came into existence by coincidence and who's existence has no reason, purpose or meaning as Darwinists and evolutionary biologists claim.

The Spiritual World Develops Too

However through this developmental process of the human as a spiritual being, which takes place outside the unity and security of the divine world (but still remains connected with it) a lot more happens. For the spiritual beings who in the course of time became human beings, exert through their process, a great influence on the divine-spiritual world itself. They not only develop themselves , but through them the entire spiritual world elevates to a higher level of existence.

Once again an amazing perspective!

Esoteric traditions show that all that exists: human beings, plants, animals, the Earth, angels, the divine, the cosmos, everything that originates from the spiritual world, find themselves in a constant process of development and change.

When we humans have developed the divine spirit that lives in us to its highest levels, we will have become a new group of spiritual beings in the ranks of the spiritual hierarchies. For then we will form the 10th hierarchy of spiritual beings. And so follow the angels, who form the 9th hierarchy.

We will however be creative beings who work in a completely different manner from the other angel hierarchies and will carry out tasks that are not possible for other hierarchies to perform.

This is how our process of becoming human adds something extra to the spiritual world.

The Road from Deep Subconsciousness to Spiritual Universal Consciousness

In esoteric traditions 'development' is identical with the development of consciousness. One essentially does not exist without the other. That is why we describe the developmental journey of Man as a process of ever-increasing consciousness; a step by step process in which new layers of consciousness open up in Man. This is possible because the divine source of infinite awareness lives deep within him, though yet, still subconsciously.

Where does that journey start? The journey to the higher levels of consciousness begins in a state of deep, deep unconsciousness at the first phase of creation. The journey ends (as yet) in a state of consciousness in which Man has become so actively creative himself that he can be called co-worker or co-creator with the spiritual world.

Rudolf Steiner showed that Man from the beginning of creation up to and including the temporary – final destination, moves through seven phases of consciousness. These seven different phases of consciousness are pictured in the diagram below.

The diagram shows the step by step progress of consciousness development at different levels. It also shows that this consciousness development runs parallel to the planetary development of the Earth. What does this mean?

In our time we live on Earth: phase four in the diagram. The Earth is the fourth level of consciousness we have achieved as humans. Prior to this phase our Earth went through three earlier stages of development. In esoteric traditions they are called Saturn, Sun and Moon. In these earlier stages we humans lived in much lower levels of consciousness: 1. Deep trance consciousness (Saturn), 2. Deep sleep consciousness (Sun) and 3. Dreamlike image consciousness (Moon).

During the fourth phase, the Earth, we develop clear consciousness of day and self-consciousness or I-consciousness. Selfconsciousness or I-consciousness is the awareness, the knowing, that I am an I, an individual person who is different from other people. Even though we live in the fourth phase of development, the previous levels: the Deep trance consciousness, the Deep sleep consciousness and the Dreamlike image consciousness are still part of us. They form our subconscious: the subconscious parts of our inner self or soul.

After the Earth phase, in which we develop our self-consciousness, we humans transform into three higher stages of development and so does the Earth. Consequently we ascend step by step to ever higher planes of awareness and self-consciousness; and by doing so, to higher levels of humanity.

These higher levels are called the Jupiter phase (5), the Venus phase (6) and the Vulcan phase (7).

In the Jupiter phase the self-conscious image consciousness is created. In the Venus phase the human being can not only create images out of himself as realities, but also objects and beings. This occurs out of his self-conscious object consciousness. In the Vulcan phase his self-consciousness widens to a still higher stage of consciousness: the spiritual or universal consciousness with ever higher creative powers.

From our current earthly consciousness these three higher levels of awareness – who's ability are already there but dormant in us – form our higher consciousness. Taken together they can be called our higher spiritual consciousness, the superpersonal consciousness, or the superconscious.

In future we will live out of these higher levels of our spiritual or higher self and so out of wisdom and love. A strong, creative, giving force will emanate from us that creates new realities.

Why is all this important ?

What these esoteric teachings reveal to us is a cosmic picture far, far bigger than the one we normally hear about or experience in our everyday waking lives. They show a future almost too great to comprehend.

Nevertheless we human beings, rooted, as we are, in this fourth phase of development and aware of ourselves as individual, should not forget that our development will go on to ever higher levels of existence. A development in which each one of us is a vital link in the never-ending chain of the development of human consciousness.


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