Keeping the Light Alive!
Monthly articles demonstrating Rudolf Steiner’s relevance to today’s world
Adrian Anderson Ph. D., author of books and articles on anthroposophy
November 2015: Concerning the so-called “moral ether”
Removing confusion about primary anthroposophical ideas.
People ask me, ‘what is the ‘moral ether’? It is such a puzzling phrase; how can such a thing even exist? Does not ‘moral’ mean good or ethical, so it refers to an astral or soul reality; whereas ‘ether’ refers to a neutral life-force? We shall see that this phrase, (in German „das moralische äther“), refers to an astral influence permeating the ether. But this meaning only becomes clear when the way that used Rudolf Steiner German words, are understood clearly. So what is a ‘moral ether’?
To find out, we need to know that he sometimes uses the term ‘moral’ to refer to soul or astral, as such, and not to mean ‘good’ or ‘ethical’. In doing this, he was using the word ‘moral’ as earlier German scholars had already used it. For example, Gotthold Lessing (1729-1781) once wrote, “…the boundary between the morally evil and the morally good is indeed, in this way, unclear”. ( „ist doch die Grenzscheidung zwischen dem moralisch Bösen und dem moralisch Guten eben so unbestimmbar“). Here we can see that ‘moral’ means of the soul, and not ‘goodness’ nor morality, for otherwise Lessing could not use the phrase ‘morally evil’. Rudolf Steiner sometimes used the word ‘moral’ in this same way; here are two examples,
“People have a social strength there, where they have established a soul (moralisch) connection to other people. Thus the Japanese trader understands the traders of all other lands”; in GA 54 p. 277.
“ This Law, through which the astral (moralisch) impression is stamped into the world through our deeds, does comes to expression…is called the Law of Karma”; in GA 53 p. 78.)
So, to answer our question, we simply have to know that astral qualities can be called ‘moral’ qualities by Rudolf Steiner; and also that astral qualities can impress themselves into the ether. The ethers can absorb astral energies. So a ‘moral ether’ is an ether energy which has absorbed astral energies into itself; and these astral energies can be either moral or immoral. Various examples in anthroposophy exist. For example, it is well-known that Steiner taught, when an area is renowned for its good, mild climate, this is the outcome of people who lived there long ago, and whose souls (or astral natures) were peaceful and content, because of wise social laws which treated everyone in a fair way. In such a locality, these fine soul qualities gradually became impressed into the ether of that area, and encouraged good elemental beings to be active there.
For more about these themes, see my book: the Rudolf Steiner Handbook (available from Steiner book stores, Amazon/Book Depository, etc)
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