Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Metamorphoses of Our Earthly Experiences in the Spiritual World into New Capacities for Our Next Life
Theosophy and Rosicrucianism, lecture 5 of 14
Rudolf Steiner, June 20, 1907, from the notes of a member of the audience:
It will be our task today to describe to a certain extent the human being during his sojourn in Devachan between death and new birth. In this connection we must first of all form an idea of that which man gains through the fact that during his passage through the spiritual world he is, to begin with, active for his own sake. We can picture this more easily if we bear in mind the relationship of two things: of that which we experience, and of that which our experience becomes during the time between birth and death.
Consider, for instance, everything which you experience when you learn to write. You would find it difficult to remember all the things which you had to take in at that time in order to learn the art of writing. Think of all the admonishments of your teacher. Perhaps even of his anger! All this passed through your soul, and what has remained? The capacity to write. Everything else has become blurred, and the art of writing has remained.
This is the course of things in life generally — not only during the life between birth and death, but in the whole life of the universe, both in the physical and in the supersensible world.
It is possible to form a conception of how the things explained above are active in the supersensible world. Let us, for example, take Mozart. When he was quite a young boy he heard a long piece of music at St. Peter's in Rome; according to an old tradition it was not allowed to write down this music, but Mozart wrote it down afterwards, from memory. What a memory he must have had! And he could do this as a young boy! How do materialists explain this? They would protest energetically if they were asked to believe that an ox grows out of a piece of earth, that an animal such as the ox arises in a way which does not correspond to Nature. They say: Miracles do not exist ... and they are perfectly right in this. But in the face of spiritual things they become tremendously superstitious and believe in miracles: materialists simply accept facts such as the one just now described from Mozart's life, and without further ado they place it to the account of heredity. Yet in Mozart's case, an explanation not arising out of a spiritual science describes just as great a miracle as that of an ox growing out of a piece of earth. For it is possible for a human being gradually to acquire an excellent memory if he turns his spirit again and again toward the same object. Memory develops in exactly the same way in which something perfect develops out of something imperfect, and it would be a miracle if Mozart's memory had grown out of nothing!
The answer of spiritual science to such a problem is that even in such a case the upgrade developed gradually and naturally. If a materialist seeks an explanation for it, he cannot extricate himself otherwise than by admitting that he must either believe in miracles or that capacities which manifest themselves prove that they already existed in a former life and that they followed an entirely natural course of development.
Reincarnation is consequently the logical deduction of such a train of thought. And those who explain, through a materialistic way of looking at things, that such a perfect memory as that of the young boy Mozart can arise out of nothing should follow their belief to a logical conclusion and admit, for instance, that frogs develop without further ado from mud — A fact which was accepted by natural scientists before the time of Francesco Redi. Consequently, those who wish to be logical in spiritual science state: Even as an oak tree grows out of the acorn and develops gradually, so our soul capacities develop little by little, and when a human being enters life with capacities so highly developed as those of Mozart, this undeniably proves that the human being gained these capacities during former lives on Earth. This gives us a clue to the comprehension of man's destiny in the spiritual world.
The essential point is therefore that the experiences of one life transform themselves into capacities for the succeeding life. All the dispositions of character which we bring with us in this life are the fruit of experiences gained during earlier lives on Earth. For this reason it is necessary to study man's passage through Devachan in order to understand fully how the experiences of one life become capacities in the next life.
When we pass through our life on Earth, we daily experience many things, and all these experiences appear in the panorama-picture already described to you which rises up before the soul's eye immediately after death. But the capacities which we have gained through all these experiences remain as an essence, and we take along with us into the spiritual world this essence,which endures for all times to come.
When the human being enters Devachan, he perceives the regions described to you yesterday; the continental region, consisting of the archetypes of all earthly forms; the oceanic region, consisting of everything which is life; the air-region, consisting of everything pertaining to the soul: pleasure and pain, joy and suffering, etc. In the continental region the human being first perceives the archetype of his own physical body, and in the air-region he of course perceives, to begin with, also that which took place within his own soul during his past life on Earth in the form of joy, suffering, pleasure, pain, and passions. In other words, he once more perceives all the experiences of his past life, but in an entirely different way than during his passage through the Kamaloka period, which I have already described to you. In Kamaloka he lived through them once more in order to lose the habit of being dependent on them. In the watery region of Devachan man experiences all the peculiarities of his bodily life, and in the air-region of the celestial world he passes through all his psychic experiences.
It is important and of great interest to realize that everything which we have experienced in the course of one life — our feelings concerning the world, pleasure, pain, etc. — that in the spiritual world all this surrounds us as an external world. We need not feel sad that there our sufferings lie spread out before us. This is not sad at all, for there all our sufferings exist in the same way in which storms exist in the physical world, and in the spiritual world all our joyful experiences appear to us like wonderful cloud phenomena. In Devachan our own inner experiences do not exist within us, as here on Earth, but they live in our environment in an external form, in the same way in which a picture of Nature lies spread out before us. Our inner experiences live 'round about us, as if they were images, sounds, or atmospheric phenomena; they have become objectified, as heavenly forms.
I have told you that it is not sad if our sufferings come raying toward us; just as little sad as lightning or thunder in physical life. Those who perceive these connections know what they owe to their sufferings in particular. Just those who have passed through pain and suffering will always say that they gratefully accept joy and pleasure, but that they would never wish to do without suffering and pain. We owe all our wisdom to our suffering and pain during past lives on Earth. A man whose physiognomy bears upon it the mark of wisdom in this life, owes this to the fact that in former lives he experienced the world's connections as suffering.
I have already explained to you that everything which we have experienced during our earthly life lies spread out before us in pictures, etc., when we enter Devachan. What does this signify? It will be easier to understand this if we realize what influence the environment exercises upon us. You all know Goethe's words: “The eye has been formed through the light and for the light.” What does this mean? The eye must exist in order to perceive the light. If we did not possess our eyesight the world would be dark and gloomy. But what is the origin of the human eye? It has been formed by the light itself, and similarly the eye would degenerate if there were no light. It has, for instance, been possible to observe this fact directly, in the case of animals who immigrated into the caves of Kentucky.
Light is the origin of the power of sight. Once upon a time man was not endowed with sight, because he still lived under quite different conditions; in earlier times of the Earth's development the Sun was not visible to an external sensory eye. Let us remember in this connection what the legends relate in regard to “Niflheim”.
The more man lived exposed to the Sun, the further the eye developed by the light of the Sun. All the other sense organs developed in the same way: sound formed the ear, heat the sense of heat. We would have no sense of touch if there were no hard objects. The external world molds and forms our body.
This is most important in practical life; in fact, theosophy is always meant to be applied to practical life. It is also most important in education, for only an educator who can look deeply into man's nature can educate in the right way.
The physical body develops until the child changes its teeth, the etheric body develops up to the 14th/15th year, and the astral body up to the 21st year. We must know all this if education is to be approached practically and not fantastically. Since the disposition of the physical body is what we must bear in mind up to the seventh year, physical impressions — that is to say, everything which the child perceives through his sense organs — must be considered deeply and thoroughly. Sins of omission in education in connection with the form and disposition of the physical organs in the child's body are a loss for the whole of life.
An insight into this last sentence gives medicine in particular many guidelines for a right treatment of illnesses, among others, for instance, rickets. How is it that rickets arises just in this period of life? Just because the child is molding its body, and that is why these symptoms manifest themselves in the form (deformed bones, bad teeth, wrong form of the skull, etc.). But for this very reason the child is still able, until dentition, to correct the wrong forms and lead them back to a normal condition. We can see that even the most crooked legs grow straight again if the child receives the right treatment, and that perfectly sound second teeth can develop even if the milk-teeth were quite defective, whereas crooked legs which were not healed up to the seventh year remain crooked for the whole of life.
Up to the seventh year the brain is also engaged in the work of molding its plastic forms, and the fine developments and forms of the brain's shape which could not be molded up to that time are lost forever. Since the physical brain is the instrument through which the spirit manifests itself, it is of tremendous importance that this instrument should be molded as finely as possible, that is to say, that it should be prepared during the first seven years of life. For even the greatest individuality can do nothing with a defective brain, just as the greatest pianist cannot play well on a piano which is out of tune. Spiritual science can give most important guidance to pedagogy, as well as to medicine, particularly in regard to the development of the brain.
In modern medicine one comes across a complete misunderstanding of facts particularly in this field. Rickets manifests in a deformation of the bones, but very frequently it also appears in the shape of a defective glandular system and diseased mucous membranes; that is to say, children affected with rickets frequently have symptoms of swollen glands, adenoidal growths, etc. A third pathological symptom in such children is that at school they frequently remain behind spiritually and that they become apathetic, indeed even slightly idiotic. In reality this is based on the defective development of the physical brain, particularly of its so-called corticose substance, which must above all be developed in its finest structure during these years. And in the same way the other symptoms are based on defective development.
Through the modern natural-scientific training and attitude, modern medicine is in such cases more than inclined to follow the example of modern natural science, namely to look upon the external symptoms as cause and effect, linking them up together like pearls on a chain and completely ignoring the deeper spiritual causes. What is the result? The facts are: rickety bones, adenoidal growths, diminished attention and comprehension on the child's part. The conclusion to which modern doctors arrive is: Children with adenoidal growths become mentally defective owing to those growths; consequently it is necessary to remove them. The growths are consequently removed by operation. If this conclusion were right, every child who underwent such a treatment would respond to it by the disappearance of the impediments in the brain. But what is observed after such a treatment in the great majority of cases? The operation results in a sham success of brief duration, for the growths appear again after a very short time. But if the illness is to be attacked at its root — and this is quite possible, only now this would lead us too far away from our subject — the deformed bones, the swollen mucous membranes and glands disappear, as well as the impediments in the working of the brain.
After this digression, let us new return to our subject. The external world thus calls into being and molds the right physical forms. Up to the seventh year, the child is in reality nothing but sense organ. Everything which it takes in with its senses is elaborated; above all, what it sees and hears in its immediate environment. Until dentition, the child is therefore an imitative being, and this goes as far as its physical organization. This is quite natural. Through its sense organs, the child takes in its whole environment. And it is always practicing how to use it to limbs. It watches how its father or mother, etc. do this or that thing, and it simply imitates them. This goes as far as the movements of hands and legs. If the father or the mother are, for instance, fidgety people, then the child will also become fidgety in countless cases; if the mother is calm, then the child will of course also become calm. We must try to produce the right counter-condition by placing the child in a right environment.
It is absolutely necessary to stimulate the child's fantasy, besides giving it sensory impressions, if it is to receive the influences needed for the development of the physical brain. It is consequently necessary to give a small child toys which are as simple as possible. A natural child will again and again turn to the “old doll”, made of a rag, no matter how beautiful the “new doll” which it receives. Only the spoiled children of our age are brought up on “beautiful” dolls. What is the reason for this? The child must exert its fantasy in order to transform the rag-doll in its fancy into something resembling human shape, and this is a sound activity for the brain. Even as the arms grow stronger through gymnastic exercises, so the brain develops through this exercise.
Also the colors in the child's surroundings are important. They exercise quite a different influence upon a small child than upon an adult. Many people think that green has a calming effect upon children. But this is quite wrong. A fidgety child should be surrounded with red and a calm child with green or blue-green. The effect of red upon the child is as follows: If you look upon a bright red and then turn your gaze away quickly to a piece of white paper you will see its complementary color, which is green. ... By this I mean to illustrate the tendency which the eye has to produce the opposite color. The child also attempts to do this; inwardly he seeks to unfold the activity which calls forth the counter-color. This is an example showing how the environment can influence a child.
In a similar way the child is influenced by everything which surrounds it, in addition to many, many things which I shall explain later, in another connection. All this contributes to a very great extent to the development of the child's physical body, from its birth to dentition; to the development of the etheric body, from the seventh to the fourteenth year; or to the development of the astral body, from the fourteenth to the twenty-first year, etc. Indeed, during the whole life the surrounding world exercises its influence upon the human being. The proverb “Tell me with whom you go, and I will tell you who you are” is based on this insight, for “with whom you go” means “what takes place in your environment”. This environment therefore has a strong influence upon us. This applies particularly to the time when the astral body develops, from the fourteenth to the twenty-first year, and it is an almost daily experience that a young person can easily be astrally corrupted by his environment during these years.
It is exactly the same in Devachan as here in physical life. Even as here on Earth the human being is constantly exposed to the influences of the atmosphere, so he is also exposed to them in Devachan — and there the atmosphere consists of all psychic life, our own and that of our fellow men. All this soul life continually influences the human being, and gifts and talents develop through the fact that they attract the psychically kindred astral forces from the environment, allowing them to exercise their influence. Mozart was born with such a great musical memory because in a former life he had gathered experiences having this goal in view, and then allowed these experiences to exercise their influence for a long time during his life in Devachan. Through our environment in Devachan we pass through an enhanced development of our innermost being — indirectly, through all our experiences during our preceding life on Earth.
All our capacities are therefore the fruit of former lives, and in Devachan they have been further developed. This is the bliss-giving feeling in Devachan. In Devachan we hatch out what we are able to do in our present life. And in accordance with this is the feeling which we have during the whole intermediary time of our Devachan existence: this feeling, connected with everything productive, is bliss.
Here on Earth we often feel pain, but in Devachan even pain is bliss, for there we realize that we acquire wisdom through pain. Even a materialistic scientist has discovered this fact: in his book “Mimic of Thought” he writes: “Every wise countenance reveals the expression of crystallized suffering.” From the pains of his preceding life the human being in fact produces through his experiences in Devachan talents and wisdom for his next life on Earth. And the feeling of producing this is one of untold bliss.
You may see a pale reflection of this here on Earth in a hatching hen. If you transfer this to the spiritual plane and enhance it immensely you obtain the feeling of incessant infinite bliss between the time of Kamaloka and a new birth — for then the human being works out all his dispositions and capacities for the next life. Everything there becomes a source of blissful life.
We have therefore seen that one source of bliss in Devachan is that all the ties formed here on Earth are formed once more in Devachan; indeed we experience the spiritual part of those relationships in an immensely enhanced form. The other source of bliss is the productive, creative activity for our next life, as described above.
If the spiritual investigator now turns his gaze upon this activity of man in Devachan he perceives that this productive work has a meaning not only for the individual human being and for his future organization, but that the human being must contribute and cooperate in a significant way in the progress of the whole evolution of the Earth. It is an error to think that in Devachan we are only concerned with our own affairs. How must we work, as blissful spirits in the realm of spirits?
The activity of the dead is a cooperation in the development of our Earth . . . We might easily ask: Why are we always born again, after having passed through the experiences of one earthly life? Is not reincarnation useless?
But this is not the case. It is never useless for a man to be born again. The single lives on Earth are so far apart that we always learn something new and pass through new experiences. Centuries elapse between two incarnations, and when we return, the Earth has completely changed. Let us suppose that we lived on Earth in the second century after Christ. What aspect did the Earth present at that time? Even the descriptions of this region, of the Elbe and the Weser etc. of a much later period would be quite different from present descriptions, for here, in Nassau-Hessen, there were still virgin forests.
When the human being is born again, he experiences something quite different from his former life. During our various lives on Earth we participate in the development of the Earth itself, through the very fact that we incarnate again and again. In addition there is the change brought about by every civilization. Think of what a Roman boy was able to do! Of the great difference in the education of a boy of the present time! As we have seen, all these experiences are immensely important. It therefore has a deep significance that the human being must always come back again.
Let us now ask: Who changes the face of the Earth? The dead themselves, who live in the spirit-realm, do this, through the power which they there acquire, enabling them to work upon this transformation of the Earth. Even as human beings are here active externally upon the Earth, so the dead are active upon the spiritual prototype of the physical Earth. It is they who send their forces into this physical Earth, cooperating in its transformation. Of course, there are leaders in this work and higher beings who take over the guidance. In this spiritual realm — which is in our very midst — the dead work upon the transformation of the countenance of the Earth.
Why am I in this very place today? Why have I been born here? Because I myself have, so to speak, prepared my bed in the very place where I was born. The forces which have a transforming influence both upon the oceans and upon the surface of the Earth are the forces of our dead. We know that the Atlantic Ocean of today was once upon a time a wide expanse of land; this transformation too has been brought about by our dead, and these forces are quite natural and in no way miraculous.
An insight into such things proves with absolute logic the importance and necessity of this work in the spirit realm. If we only know how to interpret the phenomena in the right way, we may even describe this work. Here on Earth we breathe the air; we could not live without air. It is similar with the dead, except that there the light plays the same part which the air plays here on Earth. The initiate perceives the dead in the midst of light, which is spread out everywhere. A clairvoyant seer, for instance, sees the plants surrounded by the spirits of the dead and these spirits of the dead make the plant grow through the light and change the plant. In the spiritual world we shall all soar above the Earth and work upon the plants.
If we thus contemplate the world in connection with the spiritual beings, it becomes larger and more significant to us.
In conclusion, let me mention a few things which can help us to understand certain fine details in our civilization.
At times, the seer finds that his own observations are confirmed by phenomena in the history of ancient peoples, which before were enigmas to him. It is, for instance, a well known fact that at first primitive nations possess a kind of clairvoyance enabling them to see things of which we have no idea. These primitive races often saw in the shadow, for example, something which is connected with the soul. The clairvoyant now returns to this through his own observations. For if you look into the shadow which you yourself throw, you first learn to perceive your own spiritual emanations. If we retain the physical light, we perceive the spiritual in the shadow-space. This knowledge has been preserved in occult science, and many who had no inkling of this truth have used it, for example, Chamisso in his “Peter Schlemihl”. This is a man who lost his shadow and is very unhappy over this. But it is a spiritual fact that the soul is visible in the shadow, and the man without a shadow is therefore a man without a soul.
There are hundreds of examples of this kind. We really learn to know the world fully if we learn to know its spiritual foundations. Spiritual science therefore is not for brooding people, but for those who wish to be active in practical life. We do not wish to withdraw from the visible world, but rather to understand it better.
The higher facts are related to the visible world as magnetism is related to iron. We learn to know iron fully if we also learn to know magnetism. A few examples will show us that especially that which we learn to know in the spiritual world bears fruit in practical life.