Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Between Death and Rebirth. Lecture 7 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, January 14, 1913:
During this winter we have prepared the ground in various ways in order to understand with greater exactitude than has hitherto been possible man's life between birth and death in the physical world on the one side and on the other between death and rebirth in the spiritual world. And there will be still more to say about this subject in the coming months.
Efforts will be needed to draw together a number of details that will contribute towards a thorough understanding of this subject and throw new light upon many topics we have already studied from a different point of view. Today, then, I will ask you to think, above all, of the course of man's physical life — about which something has also been said in my book The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy — and of how it progresses in cycles: one from birth until about the seventh year, or until the change of teeth; a second cycle from the change of teeth until puberty at about the fourteenth year; then a third cycle, and so on in periods of seven years. Even to ordinary observation it will be clear that this systematic arrangement into periods of seven years is well founded, but on the other hand it will also be evident that in the actual life of the human being other facts of incisive significance cut across these seven-year periods. We ourselves have repeatedly considered a crucial occurrence in a man's life which eludes this division into cyclic periods. It is the point of time back to which a man's memory extends in later life, the moment when he begins to feel and know himself as an ‘I’, when Ego-consciousness dawns in him. This experience does not by any means occur at exactly the same point of time, but in most cases it may be said that Ego-consciousness flashes up in the human being at some point between birth and the seventh year. And something similar can be said to hold good in the later period of a man's life. Although with less abruptness than the sudden flashing-up of Ego-consciousness, there are other occurrences which as it were invalidate the regular seven-year cycle. We shall, however, always discover that whatever comes in this way into the life of man and cuts across the cyclic periods, occurs much more irregularly than the experiences connected with the actual seven-year cycles. You will hardly find two human beings whose memories go back to exactly the same point of time, that is to say who experienced the flashing up of consciousness of ‘I’ at the same age. Nor does the change of teeth occur at precisely the same age in different individuals. But why this is so in the latter case, we shall still have to consider.
When we study the cyclic periods already referred to and mentioned in my little book, Education of the Child, we shall notice that they begin in connection with the most physical, the most external member of man's being and are then concerned with the other, more inward members of his constitution. From birth until the seventh year development is connected primarily with the physical body, then for seven years with the etheric body, then for seven years with the astral body, the sentient soul, and so on. The evolutionary factors pass over more and more decisively from the external to the inner nature of man. That is essentially characteristic of the seven-year periods.
What, then, is there to be said about occurrences which cut across these seven-year periods? The flashing-up of ‘I’-consciousness during the first cycle is an emphatically inner event. For the sake of clarity, here let us consider something that seems to be in contrast with this flashing-up of Ego-consciousness. If we observe human life with discernment we shall find that the cessation of growth may be compared with some happening which cuts across the seven-year cycles of evolution. We will therefore think about the cessation of growth which after all occurs comparatively late in life, and study its implications.
The first seven-year period ends with the change of teeth. The appearance of the second teeth is, as it were, the final act of what may be called the formative principle. The last contribution made by the forces that give the human being his form is when they drive out the second teeth. That is the culmination of the formative process, for the principle which builds up the human form is no longer in action. With the seventh year the formative principle ceases to be active. What comes about later on is only an expansion of what has already been established as form. After the seventh year there is no more remodelling of the brain. All that happens is growth of what is already established as basic form. Therefore we can say that the principle of form unfolds its activity specifically in the first seven years of the life of a human being. The principle of form stems from the Spirits of Form; thus these Spirits of Form are active in the human being during the first seven years of his life. It can therefore be said that when the human being enters into life through birth, his actual form is not complete. What happens is that the Spirits of Form continue their active intervention during the first seven years of life; the human being has then reached the point when his form merely needs to grow. The basis for the form has been established by the seventh year, and the second teeth are what the formative principle still produces out of the human being. The formative principle has now come to its conclusion. Were its activity to continue, the second teeth would inevitably make their appearance later than is now the case.
Here we may ask: When these Spirits of Form have worked on the human being until the seventh year of his life, does everything they do for him come to an end?
The answer is ‘No’, for the human being goes on growing and the basic principles of his form develop still further. If nothing else intervened, growth would be able to continue without interruption. If we think only of the principles of form that are active in the human being until the seventh year there is no more reason in the case of man than in that of other beings why these forms should not continue to grow if nothing were to intervene. But something does intervene. When the human being stops growing, certain principles of form still have an effect upon him. They have already been drawing near to him but now they unite in the fullest sense with his organism, lay hold of it, but in such a way that they now act as a hindrance, and further growth is prevented. The formative principles that are active until the seventh year of life allow the human being a certain elasticity. But at that point other formative principles approach him; their nature is such that they capture and confine what is elastic in the demarcated form, thus preventing any further growth. That is why growth stops at some point. When growth stops, this means that formative forces approaching from outside are at work. Whenever formative principles are active, whenever forms grow larger, provision must be made for the stoppage of growth by the appearance of counter-formative principles which oppose the first category as its polar antithesis. When man's form has developed until about the seventh year of life (indicated in the shaded portion of the diagram) this form can continue to grow.
The formative principles have been at work until the seventh year; these principles work from within. Then different formative principles work in opposition from outside, so that the human being can grow only to the limit indicated by the line b–b. It is really as if until the seventh year of his life the human being were given an elastic garment which he can constantly stretch and enlarge. But at a specific point of time he is given one that is not elastic; he is obliged to put it on, and thenceforth cannot grow beyond its limits.
We can therefore say that in the human being a confrontation takes place between two kinds of formative principles, one working from within and the other from without. The formative principles belonging to the first category come from the Spirits of Form, from those Spirits of Form who have passed through a perfectly normal process of evolution in the Cosmos. The formative principles working from without are not of the same kind. They come from Spirits of Form whose development has been retarded and who have acquired a Luciferic character. They are the factor which works in the purely spiritual domain, whereas the forces working in the material sphere have had a normal development; having evolved through the stages of Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon, they then pass to the Earth in the regular way and shape the human form from within. The ‘irregular’ Spirits of Form take what is presented to them and hold back its further development. Thus the process of growth in the human being is brought to a halt by these backward Spirits of Form. The Beings of the higher Hierarchies have the most varied tasks, among them the one that has been characterised today.
We have now been able to consider many different aspects of the work of the ‘regular’ Hierarchies and also of the work of the backward spiritual Beings belonging to the different Hierarchies. In the book Occult Science — an Outline [See pp. 180 onwards in the Rudolf Steiner Press 1963 edition.] you can read how the human being reached the stage where through the Spirits of Form he could be endowed with the germinal foundation for the ‘I’, the Ego. We know that man received the germ of his physical body from the Thrones, of his etheric body from the Spirits of Wisdom, of his astral body from the Spirits of Movement, and the germinal foundation for the ‘I’ from the Spirits of Form. Bearing this in mind we can say that man, in his outer stature, has been organised by the regular Spirits of Form into an Ego-bearing being and that this comes into manifestation in the first seven-year cycle of his life. But then the backward Spirits of Form who are the opponents of the regular Spirits of Form, put a stop to his growth. This is actually the antithesis of the first, most deeply inward experience in the human being, namely, the kindling of the consciousness of ‘I’ — the Ego. This happens in the early years of life, in the innermost realm of being. The outermost manifestation, the form, is checked at a later age, as a final act. Thus we perceive two evolutionary — but antithetical — processes in the human being. Of the one I have said that it comes from without and moves inward, taking hold of the sentient soul and so on, in the twenty-first year of life. Then there is another evolution proceeding from within outwards until the growth of the physical form is checked. The one evolution, the regular evolution, proceeds from the spiritual to the corporeal, from within outwards and is of interest especially for education. The other evolution — which is a much less regular and also more individual process — proceeds from without inwards and, when the human being has reached a certain age, it comes to expression in the completion of the outermost principle — the physical body.
It is very important that teachers should have knowledge of these two antithetical lines of evolution. Hence in the book The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy it was right to call attention to the first process of evolution which proceeds from within outwards, because it is only there that education is possible. On the other line of evolution — from without inwards — which is the line of individual development, it is impossible to make any actual impression. This is something of which account can be taken but which cannot be halted; neither can much be achieved in the way of education. And to be able to distinguish between where education is possible and where it is not, is of fundamental importance.
Just as the cessation of growth is caused by the backward Spirits of Form, the first actual manifestation of the ‘I’ in the human being during early childhood is the work of the backward Spirits of Will (Thrones). Between these two extremes there are other happenings which are to be attributed to backward Spirits of Wisdom and backward Spirits of Movement.
No adequate characterisation of man's life as a whole, including the existence between death and the new birth, is possible unless we take account of all the factors which have an effect upon him, and recognise that even in everyday life the influences of Luciferic beings take effect in many different ways. This influence is evident in other spheres as well. And as our endeavour in these lectures is to acquire a really fundamental understanding of man's life as a whole, we will not hesitate to think about matters which seem to be somewhat remote.
Attention shall first of all be drawn to a phenomenon from which it is evident that on the physical plane too, between birth and death, man's life has undergone essential changes in the course of evolution. If we realise this, it will, become evident that the life between death and rebirth has also changed. Those who think intellectually, but superficially, about life today may readily believe that, in essentials, things were always the same as they are at present. By no means was it so! And in certain cases we need go back only a few hundred years to find that conditions were very different. Thus at the present time there is something that has a very great influence upon man's life of soul between birth and death but that simply did not exist in its present form only a few centuries ago. It is what we today mean by the expression ‘public opinion’. Even as recently as the thirteenth century it would have been nonsense to speak of public opinion as we do today. A great deal is said nowadays against belief in authority, although in actual fact it exists in a much more oppressive form in our time than it did in these earlier, often despised centuries. In earlier centuries there were, of course, defects, but there was no blind belief in authority such as exists at present. This blindness of belief in authority is usually revealed by the fact that the authority in question cannot be specified. A person today will readily be floored when he is told that science has proved this or that. In earlier centuries, however, people attached more weight to authorities whom they encountered physically. Reference to an intangible ‘something’ is implied when it is said: ‘There is scientific proof of it.’ Such a saying urges belief in authority when confronted with something incomprehensible. Such belief did not exist in earlier centuries. People belonging to our civilisation usually concern themselves very little with matters about which the simplest, most, primitive human being in earlier centuries endeavoured to have some knowledge — matters relating, for example, to health and illness. Why, it is asked today, should anyone need to know about health and illness? The doctors know about these matters and the problems concerned can be left to them. This is also an example of what comes into the category of intangible but sovereign authority. But countless other influences make their way into life; from earliest youth the human being becomes dependent upon them and his trends of judgement and feeling force themselves into our life! These living currents swirling around among human beings are usually referred to as ‘public opinion’ — and prompted the saying from philosophers: ‘Public opinions are mostly private errors.’ To realise this, however, is not as important as it is to be aware that public opinions exert tremendous power upon the life of an individual. It would be a complete misconception of history to speak about the influence of public opinion upon the life of an individual living in the thirteenth century. In those days there were single personalities who admittedly exerted a great deal of authority either in affairs of Government or in practical life, and in these spheres it was obeyed. But at this time there was nothing resembling what impersonal public opinion has become today. Anyone who is unwilling to believe this on the basis of the occult facts should study the history of Florence during those centuries and in later times too — when the government of the city passed into the control of the Medici. The tremendous power of individual authorities will then be apparent, but there was no such thing as public opinion. It first arose in an epoch preceding our own by four or five centuries and one can speak of its actual beginning. Such things must be regarded as realities, for a world of swirling thoughts does indeed exist.
What is the origin of this public opinion which we often accept as something that cannot be verified? What is public opinion in reality? You may remember that I have spoken of certain spiritual Beings belonging to the Hierarchy immediately above man — Beings who participate in various ways in the guidance and leadership of humanity. In my little book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Humanity, you will find a great deal on the subject of spiritual Beings belonging to the higher Hierarchies. Now we know that the mightiest incision in the evolution of humanity was made by the Mystery of Golgotha. In that event there came to pass something that was most wonderfully expressed in the esoteric teaching of St. Paul. Paul spoke in simple language but the actual way in which he spoke was rooted in profound esotericism. It was not possible for him always to give out openly what he, as an Initiate, knew; for in the first place he wanted to speak to a wider circle of people and, secondly, it was not possible in his day to give out everything he knew in the way of which he would have been capable. Nevertheless his very presentation was based upon profound esoteric knowledge. We find, for example, that there is a deeply significant truth in the distinction he makes between the ‘first Adam’ and the ‘higher Adam’ — the Christ. According to Paul, the various generations of human beings are to be traced back to Adam, that is to say, the bodies of men descend from Adam. Hence it can be said that the physical increase of humanity over the Earth during the different periods, leads back finally to the physical body of Adam — Adam and Eve, naturally. We can then ask: What lies at the basis of the physical evolution of mankind from Adam onwards? Naturally, the evolution of souls! The physical bodies which have descended from Adam are the habitations of living souls. These souls had descended from cosmic worlds and had brought with them to the Earth a certain spiritual heritage, a spiritual endowment. But in the course of time this spiritual endowment had undergone decline. Individuals who lived, say, six or seven thousand years before the founding of Christianity had within them much stronger, more extensive spiritual forces than those who lived a mere thousand years before the Mystery of Golgotha. The spiritual heritage which once came to the Earth with human beings had gradually withered away in the soul. Now the life between death and rebirth is of particular significance for this spiritual heritage. If we go back to the epoch long before the Mystery of Golgotha, we find that after death men had an active, inwardly illumined life of soul; but then this life of soul became dimmer and dimmer, darker and darker. An ever-fading life of soul came with human beings when they passed through death. This was particularly the case among the Greeks although they were the most advanced peoples then on the Earth, and their sages had every reason to say, in view of the stage reached in evolution: ‘Better it is to be a beggar in the upper world than a king in the realm of the Shades.’ We know that this saying was true when applied to the Greeks who lived a fully satisfying life on the physical plane; but as soon as they had passed through the gate of death their life became dim and shadowy.
In the fullest sense it is true that the spiritual life which men had brought with them to the Earth and which manifested after death as a somewhat dim clairvoyant consciousness, had become even dimmer. And especially in the fourth Atlantean epoch, the Graeco-Latin epoch, during which the Mystery of Golgotha took place, the spiritual life had reached the stage of its greatest darkness.
The all-important purpose of the Baptism by John the Baptist was that some of those who sought to be baptised should be made conscious of the conditions just described. The individuals baptised by John were completely submerged in the water. As a result, the etheric body of these individuals was liberated from them and for a short time, while under the water, they became clairvoyant. John was able to reveal to them that there had been such deterioration in the life of soul in the course of time that a human being now possessed very little of the spiritual treasure that he had once been able to take with him through the gate of death and that could give him clairvoyant consciousness. A man whom John baptised in this way became aware that a revitalisation of the life of soul was essential, that something new must radiate into human souls in order that after death there might be a life in the real sense. This new impulse streamed into the souls of men through the Mystery of Golgotha. You need only read my lecture-course entitled From Jesus to Christ and you will realise that a rich and abundant spiritual life streams from the Mystery of Golgotha into the souls of individuals who develop a relationship to that Mystery.
Hence Paul could say: just as the physical bodies of men descend from Adam, so will the content of their souls in greater and greater measure ‘descend’ from the Christ who is the second Adam, the spiritual Adam. It is a profound truth that Paul uttered here, clothed in his simple words. If the Mystery of Golgotha had not taken place, men would have become progressively empty in soul and would either have developed a longing only to live outside the physical body or to live on Earth with no other wishes or desires than for a purely physical life, and so would have become more and more materialistic. Because all development is a slow and gradual process there are still some peoples on the Earth who have not yet wholly lost the original spiritual treasure, who still retain some measure of it in spite of having failed to establish any relationship to the Mystery of Golgotha. Individuals belonging to the most advanced peoples, however, can become conscious after death only to the extent to which they have learnt ‘to die in Christ’, as the second line of the Rosicrucian formula expresses it. And so in actual fact the Mystery of Golgotha has acted as illumination in men's souls.
With this clearly in mind we shall understand the gist of a question relating to man's evolution. It is the question: How came it that understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha enabled the content of man's soul to be carried into the sphere of his ‘I’, his Ego? How did this soul-content differ from what existed before the Mystery of Golgotha as an ancient heritage? The difference is that, before the Mystery of Golgotha, in respect of the content of their souls men were far less independent. They were under the direct guidance of the Beings we know as the Angeloi, Archangeloi and so on. Before the Mystery of Golgotha men were under the leadership of the Beings of the nearest higher Hierarchies to a far greater extent than was the case after that event. Indeed the progress of these Beings themselves — Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai — consists in the fact that they have learnt to lead human beings in a way that respects their independence. Men were intended to live on the Earth in a state of greater and greater independence. The leading spiritual Beings of the higher Hierarchies have recognised this and therein consists their progress.
But it is possible for these Spirits too to remain behind in their evolution. Not all the Spirits who participated in the leadership of humanity have acquired through the Mystery of Golgotha the power to guide and lead men while ensuring their freedom. Among these Beings of the higher Hierarchies there are some who remained backward and have become Luciferic spirits. What we call ‘public opinion’ is an example of the way in which some of them are active. Public opinion is not created by human beings alone but also by a certain category of Luciferic spirits of the lowest rank — retarded Angeloi and Archangeloi. These spirits are only beginning their Luciferic career and have not yet risen very high in the ranks of the Luciferic spirits, but they are definitely Luciferic in character. With the eye of seership one can perceive how certain spirits of the higher Hierarchies did not keep pace with evolution after the Mystery of Golgotha, how they adhere rigidly to the old kind of leadership and therefore cannot make any direct approach to men. Those who have kept pace with evolution can make regular and direct contact with men; the other spirits are incapable of this and they manifest their activity in the muddled, turbulent thinking that comes to expression as public opinion. The function of public opinion is intelligible only when it is realised that this is how it has made its way into human life.
Thus we have among us beings who abandon the regular course of evolution and become Luciferic in character. It is important that this should be known. The work of the Luciferic beings of whom we have already spoken and who now have great power, also began on a small scale. Indeed this is true in the case of the whole host of Luciferic beings. Admittedly, on the Old Moon there was no public opinion as we know it but something that can be compared with it — a kind of guidance of men. Some among this host of Luciferic spirits of whom we have spoken are powerful and important beings, for example backward Spirits of Form who surge in upon the human being with such violence that they stop his growth. The others are merely the recruits; nevertheless this is the beginning of the career of the Luciferic spirits, a career which later on will assume a quite different dimension because the spirits become more and more powerful. Public opinion, which under the guidance and direction of certain Luciferic spirits of the lowest order, influences human beings because they absorb it between birth and death, must necessarily have its counterweight during the life between death and rebirth. That is to say, because a human being in his life between birth and death has been caught up into the current of public opinion described, he must experience the counterweight in his life between death and rebirth. Otherwise the following would ensue.
The backward spirits who are responsible for the creation of public opinion have no significance or power whatever in man's life between death and rebirth. They have relinquished all possibility of working in that sphere because they are active here, on the physical plane, in a spiritual way — indeed in a way that is only possible in the form of public opinion. A man can take no iota of anything like public opinion with him into the spiritual world and whatever element of it he might want to accompany him into the life after death would be entirely out of place. It must be said, although it will seem strange to many people, that life in Kamaloka becomes very difficult for one who clings to public opinion or has been caught in the coils of his own judgement very early in life. This applies particularly to persons who believe that within the world of public opinion there can still be independent judgement — which is an utter impossibility. For such people Kamaloka is admittedly difficult. But when the period of Kamaloka is over, public opinion has no weight or significance whatever, and after death it is irrelevant whether people adhered to nuances of it, such as liberal or conservative, radical or reactionary. This has no significance whatever in the different groupings of human beings and moreover exists on Earth solely for the purpose of hindering men from making progress towards illumination of consciousness after death. The beings behind public opinion resolved to forgo the progress made possible by the Mystery of Golgotha. But the Mystery of Golgotha will become of greater and greater importance for the Earth's evolution. We must clearly understand that the future of the Earth's evolution cannot be assured simply by rectifying phenomena such as public opinion and the like which are inevitable in the course of evolution. Men can, however, become better in their own inner nature, therefore the process of evolution must take root more and more deeply in their inner life. In the future, men will be still more exposed to the pressure of public opinion, but inwardly they will have developed greater strength. This is possible only through Spiritual Science. But if man is gradually to become a match for those spirits who are now exerting their influence in public opinion as recruits of the Luciferic beings, this will be possible only if, between death and rebirth too, he undergoes something that strengthens him inwardly, strengthens the principle in him that is independent of life on Earth. Whereas through the influence of public opinion he becomes more and more dependent upon earthly life, in the life between death and rebirth he must receive into his very self something that in the next life on Earth will make him ever freer from the influence of public opinion.
Connected with this is the fact that at the time when public opinion began to assume importance, the Buddha-realm was established in the Mars sphere — as we heard in the lecture at Christmas. Consequently between death and rebirth man passes through this Buddha-realm on Mars. Christian Rosenkreutz had entrusted to Buddha a special mission in the Mars sphere. And what would be futile on Earth, namely the desire to flee from the conditions of terrestrial existence — this is an experience which man must undergo between death and rebirth during his passage through the Mars sphere. Among other things he strips off the incubus of public opinion which takes effect only on Earth. Many, even more overbearing influences will come in the future and it will be more than ever necessary to undergo the experience that is possible for man as a pupil of Buddha in the Mars sphere. Here on Earth, men can now be pupils of the Buddha in the orthodox sense only if they refuse to participate in the progress made by the most advanced people on Earth. But between death and rebirth Buddha unfolds what has developed from the teaching he gave on Earth, which was that man should free himself from the need for further incarnations. This has been developed into a doctrine that is inapplicable to the Earth, where life must progress from incarnation to incarnation. Thus the doctrine preached by Buddha on Earth contained the seed of what man must acquire in the disembodied state of existence. In this advanced form, Buddha's teaching is right for the period between death and rebirth. The Buddha himself appeared in the astral body of the Jesus-Child of St. Luke's Gospel [See the lecture-course, The Gospel of St. Luke given by Dr. Steiner in Basle, September 1909, particularly lectures four to nine.] and Christ Himself leads men between death and rebirth through the Mars sphere, enabling them there to receive the Buddha's advanced teaching. Thus in the Mars sphere men can be emancipated from the tendency to uniformity resulting from the effects of public opinion which are detrimental for their further progress on Earth. Whereas in earlier times Mars was said to be the planet of warlike traits, it is now the Buddha's task gradually to transform these warlike traits in such a way that they become the foundation of the sense for freedom and independence needed in the present age. Whereas nowadays men have the tendency to surrender their sense of freedom and succumb to the fetters of public opinion, on Mars between death and rebirth they will strive to throw off these fetters and not bring them again into the life on Earth when they return to new incarnations.
It seems to me that here we have something that characterises most wonderfully how wisdom holds sway in the world, how everything that progresses or remains backward is manipulated in such a way that the final outcome is harmony in the evolution of worlds. Man cannot achieve progress by keeping as it were to the middle line, although there are many who realise the uselessness of adopting a one-sided standpoint. Admittedly, we come across idealists, materialists and other ‘-ists’ who swear by their own standpoint, but truly great individuals such as Goethe do no such thing. They try to grasp material conditions by means of material thinking. When men of less eminence imagine that they have understood this, they say: truth lies in the middle, between two different standpoints. But that would be the same as if someone in practical life wanted to sit between two chairs! The truth cannot be found by a one-sided adoption of this or that standpoint but by applying the modes of knowledge appropriate either for materialism or idealism, The world does not progress by undeviating adherence to a middle course: a middle course is appropriate when the opposing sides are also present and are recognised as forces. If something has to be weighed, the two scalepans are needed as well as the beam. Thus there must be a counterbalance to public opinion; and this is provided by Buddha's teaching in the Mars sphere — which would not be necessary if public opinion had never existed. Life needs antithesis; life progresses in and through polarity. Somebody might think that as the North and South Poles are antitheses, it would be better if neither existed! They are not, of course, antithetic in the sense implied by a certain Professor of whom it was said that because he had written his books in such haste he could not think about their contents and stated that civilisation could develop only in the middle zone of the Earth because at the North Pole people would freeze through cold and at the South Pole melt through heat! In another connection, of course, North and South Poles are genuine opposites and are necessary because progress is not achieved by adopting a neutral course but by the maintenance and harmonising of opposites. Thus what develops on Earth had to undergo a process that lies below the level of progress. Public opinion is of less value than the judgements which an individual can reach on a path of progress. Public opinion is sub-human and it is this sub-human influence that is counteracted by the Buddha-stream through which man passes between death and rebirth. Both influences are necessary and it is extremely important to bear this in mind in connection with evolution.
It can therefore be said with truth: yes, there are indeed backward spirits, but everything that remains behind on the one side and on the other outstrips the evolutionary process, is manipulated by the wisdom of the Universe in such a way that harmony is the final result. The backward spirits are utilised to constitute the opposite pole to the spirits who have progressed to further stages.
If we look at life in this way it will be clear to us that in the future course of Earth evolution the human being will bring into life more and more qualities which will have greater weight and influence than the purely physical qualities. And it will be increasingly apparent that qualities other than the purely physical will have to be taken into account. Physical qualities will be evident, which — although they become manifest only gradually — can be traced back to infancy; but there will be other qualities to which this does not apply and which show themselves in a marked form only comparatively late in life. A characteristic feature of evolution in the future will be the existence of an increasing number of individuals about whom it will inevitably be asked: What can have happened to that individual at a certain age in his life? He has completely changed; it is as though he has become a different being! Qualities that were completely absent in earlier life, that appear only when a certain age has been reached, will reveal themselves. This will happen in the case of souls who are the most highly developed and in whom a certain break in their life becomes evident. For the fact that an individual was a pupil of Buddha in the life between death and rebirth reveals itself only at a certain age. This would apply to persons of whom it can be said: Up to a particular point in their lives their individual qualities were in evidence; but then entirely new trends appeared and they were able to understand matters altogether different from those for which they had previously shown understanding. These will be individuals who in the future will be the vehicles of true spiritual progress although they may simply be regarded as late developers, manifesting these qualities only late in life. In truth, however, the reason why these individuals display these qualities only in later life is that in previous incarnations on the Earth they had established the causes which enabled them to experience the spiritual life in the Mars sphere with particular intensity and so to acquire qualities which enabled them to bring a new impulse into the evolution of humanity. True spiritual culture will more and more be in the hands of individuals of this kind, who in their youth showed little aptitude for the spiritual standpoint they adopt in later life.
We now see that this is the reason why a certain fact has always been stressed in the Rosicrucian line of thought of which we ourselves have heard in the past, although it could not then be substantiated because our studies were not as advanced as they now are. Representatives of the Rosicrucian principle of Initiation in the West have always emphasised that it is impossible to discover in their childhood those who are to become leading figures, because these are individuals who give evidence of that fundamental change in later life of which I have spoken. When a seer speaks of Buddha today, he knows that Buddha has faithfully adhered to what his teaching promised; he has continued to work for that in human nature which has no direct urge for physical embodiment and therefore does not appear at the beginning of life in a physical body but only when the physical body has undergone a certain development, when a certain stage towards spirituality has been reached. Then, at a later stage of life the gift of the Buddha to man becomes an effective influence.
All this must be borne in mind if we are to understand the whole process of man's development. What it signifies for each individual in his life between birth and death — of this we shall hear later.