Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Between Death and Rebirth
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, November 5, 1912:
I am very glad to be able to speak here again after a comparatively long absence. Those of you who were present at our meeting in Munich earlier this year [From 25th to 31st August, 1912, eight lectures were given with the following general title: Initiation, Eternity, and the Passing Moment] or have heard something about my Mystery Play, The Guardian of the Threshold, will have realised what the attitude of the soul must be if an adequate conception is to be acquired of the content of Spiritual Science or, let us say, of Occultism.
A great deal has been said previously about the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings. The aim of The Guardian of the Threshold was to show that the essential nature of these beings can be revealed only by studying them very gradually and from many different aspects. It is not enough to form a simple concept or give an ordinary definition of these beings — popular as such definitions are. My purpose was to show from as many different sides as possible, the part played by these beings in the lives of men. The Play will also have helped you to realise that there must be complete truthfulness and deep seriousness when speaking of the spiritual worlds. This, after all, has been the keynote of the lectures I have given here. It must be emphasised all the more strongly at the present time because there is so little recognition of the seriousness and value of genuine anthroposophical endeavours. If there is one thing that I have tried to emphasise in the lectures given over the years, it is that you should embark upon all your anthroposophical efforts in this spirit of truthfulness and earnestness, and become thoroughly conscious of their significance in world-existence as a whole, in the evolutionary process of humanity and in the spiritual content of our present age. It cannot be emphasised too often that the essence of Anthroposophy cannot be grasped with the help of a few simple concepts or a theory briefly propounded, let alone a programme. The forces of the whole soul must be involved. But life itself is a process of Becoming, of development. Someone might argue that he can hardly be expected to ally himself with an Anthroposophical Movement if he is immediately faced with a demand for self-development and told that he can only hope to penetrate slowly and gradually to the essence of Anthroposophy; he may ask how he can decide to join something for which he can prepare only slowly. The rejoinder to this would be that before a human being can reach the highest stage of development he already has in his heart and in his soul the sense of truth which has led mankind as a whole to strive for such development, and he need only devote himself open-mindedly to this sense of truth, with the will for truth which lies in the depths of his soul unless prejudices have led him astray. He must avoid empty theories and high-sounding programmes. Man is able to sense truth where it genuinely exists. Honest criticism is therefore always possible, even if someone is only at the very beginning of the path of attainment. This, however, does not preclude him from attributing supreme importance to anthroposophical endeavour.
In our present age there are many influences which divert men from the natural feeling for truth that is present in their souls. Over the years it has often been possible to indicate these misleading influences and I need not do it again today. My purpose is to emphasise how necessary it is — even if there is already some knowledge of occult science — to approach and study things again and again from constantly new sides. One example of what I mean is our study of the four Gospels. This autumn I brought these studies to a provisional conclusion with a course of lectures on the Gospel of St. Mark. These studies of the Gospels may be taken as a standard example of the way in which the great truths of existence must be approached from different sides. Each Gospel affords an opportunity to view the Mystery of Golgotha from a different angle, and indeed we cannot begin really to know anything essential about this Mystery until we have studied it from the four different viewpoints presented in the four Gospels.
In what way have our studies over the last ten or twelve years demonstrated this? Those of you who want to be clear about this need only turn to my book Christianity as Mystical Fact, the content of which was first given in the form of lectures, before the foundation of the German Section of the Theosophical Society. Anyone who seriously studies this book will find that it already contained the gist of what I have since said in the course of years, about the Mystery of Golgotha and the four Gospels. Nothing, however, would be more unjustified than to believe that by knowing the contents of that book you would ipso facto have an adequate understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. All the lectures given since the book appeared have been the natural outcome of that original spiritual study; nowhere are they at variance with what was then said. It has furthermore been possible to open up new ways for contemplating the Mystery of Golgotha, thus enabling us to penetrate more and more deeply into its significance. The attempt has been made to substitute direct experience of the spiritual facts for concepts, theories and abstract speculations. And if, in spite of it all, a feeling of a certain lack still exists, this lack is due to something that is inevitable on the physical plane, namely, the time factor. Hence I have always assumed that you would have patience and wait for matters to develop gradually. This is also an indication of how what I have to say to you during this coming winter should be understood.
In the course of years we have spoken a great deal of the life between death and a new birth. The same subject will, however, be dealt with in the forthcoming lectures, the reason being that during this last summer and autumn it has been my task to undertake further spiritual research into this realm and to present an aspect of the subject which could not previously be dealt with. It is only now possible to consider certain matters which bring home the profound moral significance of the super-sensible truths pertaining to this realm. In addition to all other demands to which only very brief reference has been made, there is one which in this vain and arrogant age is a cause of offence to numbers of individuals. But we must not allow it to deter us from the earnestness and respect for truth that are due to our Movement. The demand will continue to be made that by dint of earnest, intimate efforts we shall learn to be receptive to knowledge brought from the spiritual world.
For some years now the relationship of human beings living on the physical plane to the spiritual worlds has changed from what it was through almost the whole of the nineteenth century. Until the last third of that century men had little access to the spiritual worlds; it was necessary for evolution that only little of the content of those worlds should flow into the human soul. But now we are living in an age when the soul need only be receptive and duly prepared and revelations from the spiritual worlds will be able to flow into it. Individual souls will become more and more receptive and, being aware of their task in the present age, they will find this inflow of spiritual knowledge to be a reality. Hence the further demand is made that anthroposophists shall not turn deaf ears to what can make its way into the soul today from the spiritual worlds. Before entering into the main theme of these lectures I want to speak of two characteristics of the spiritual life to which special attention must be paid.
Between death and the new birth a human being experiences the realities of the spiritual world in a very definite way. But he also experiences these realities through Initiation; he experiences them too if his soul is prepared during his life in the physical body in a way that enables him to participate in the spiritual worlds. Hence it is true to say that what takes place between death and the new birth — which is, in fact, existence in the spiritual world — can be revealed through Initiation.
Attention must be paid to two points which emerge from what has often been said here; they are essential not only to experience of the spiritual worlds but also to the right understanding of communications received from these worlds. The difference between conditions in the spiritual world and the physical world has often been emphasised, also the fact that when the soul enters the spiritual world it finds itself in a sphere in which it is essential to become accustomed to a great deal that is the exact opposite of conditions in the physical world. Here is one example: If, on the physical plane, something is to be brought about by us, we have to be active, to use our hands, to move our physical body from one place to another. Activity on our part is necessary if we are to bring about something in the physical world. In the spiritual worlds exactly the opposite holds good. I am speaking always of the present epoch. If something is to happen through us in the spiritual worlds, it must be achieved through our inner calm, our inner tranquillity; in the spiritual worlds the capacity to await events with tranquillity corresponds to busy activity on the physical plane. The less we bestir ourselves on the physical plane, the less we can bring about; the more active we are, the more can happen. In the spiritual world, the calmer our soul can become, the more all inner restlessness can be avoided, the more we shall be able to achieve. It is therefore essential to regard whatever comes to pass as something bestowed upon us by grace, something that comes to us as a blessing because we have deserved it as the fruit of inner tranquillity.
I have often said that anyone possessed of spiritual knowledge is aware that 1899 was a very significant year; it was the end of a period of 5,000 years in human history, the so-called Lesser Kali Yuga. Since that year it has become necessary to allow the spiritual to come to men in a way differing from what was previously usual. I will give you a concrete example. In the early twelfth century, a man named Norbert [St. Norbert, c. 1085–1134. In 1121 founded the Order of Norbertines. In 1126 he became Archbishop of Magdeburg.] founded a religious Order in the West. Before the idea of founding the Order came to him, Norbert was a loose-living man, full of sensuality and worldly impulses. One day something very unusual happened to him; he was struck by lightning. This did not prove fatal, but his whole being was transformed. There are many such examples in history. The inner connection between Norbert's physical body, etheric body, astral body and Ego was changed by the force contained in the lightning. It was then that he founded his Order, and although, as in so many other cases, it failed to fulfil the aims of its founder, in many respects it did good at the time. Such ‘chance’ events, as they are called nowadays, have been numerous. But this was not a chance happening; it was an event of world-karma. The man was chosen to perform a task of special importance and to make this possible, particular bodily conditions had to be created. An outer event, an external influence, was necessary.
Since the year 1899 such influences on the souls of men must be purely inner influences, not exerted so definitely from outside. Not that there was an abrupt transition; but since the year 1899, influences exerted on the souls of men must more and more take effect inwardly. You may remember what I once said about Christian Rosenkreutz — that when he wishes to call a human soul to himself, it is a more inward call. Before 1899 such calls were made by means of outer events; since that year they have become more inward. Intercourse between human souls and the higher Hierarchies will become more and more dependent upon inner exertions, and men will have to apply the deepest, most intimate forces of their souls in order to maintain this intercourse with the Beings of the Hierarchies.
What I have just described to you as an incisive point in life on the physical plane has its counterpart in the spiritual world — visibly for one who is a seer — in much that has taken place between the Beings of the higher Hierarchies. At this time there were certain tasks which it was incumbent upon the Beings of the Hierarchies to carry out among themselves, but one particular condition must be noted. The Beings whose task in the spiritual worlds was to bring about the ending of Kali Yuga, needed something from our Earth, something taking place on our Earth. It was necessary that in certain souls who were sufficiently mature there should be knowledge of this change, or at least that such souls should be able to envisage it. For just as man on the physical plane needs a brain in order to develop consciousness, so do the Beings of the Hierarchies need human thoughts in which their deeds are reflected. Thus the world of men is also necessary for the spiritual world; it co-operates with the spiritual world and is an essential factor — but it must co-operate in the right way. Those who were ready previously or are ready now to participate in this activity from the human side, would not have been right then, nor would they be right now, to agitate in the way that is customary on the physical plane for the furtherance of something that is to take place in the spiritual world. We do not help the Spirits of the higher Hierarchies by busy activity on the physical plane, but primarily by having some measure of understanding of what is to happen; then, in restfulness and concentration of soul, we should await a revelation of the spiritual world. What we can contribute is the inner quietude we can achieve, the attitude of soul we can induce in ourselves to await this bestowal of grace.
Thus, paradoxical as it may seem, our activity in the higher worlds depends upon our own inner tranquillity; the calmer we can become, the more will the facts of the spiritual world be able to come to expression through us. Hence it is also necessary, if we are to participate effectively in a spiritual Movement, to be able to develop this mood of tranquillity. And in the Anthroposophical Movement it would be especially desirable for its adherents to endeavour to achieve this inner tranquillity, this consciousness of Grace in their attitude to the spiritual world.
Among the various activities in which man is engaged on the physical plane it is really only in the domain of artistic creation, or where there is a genuine striving for knowledge or for the advancement of a spiritual Movement, that these conditions hold good. An artist will assuredly not create the best work of which his gifts are capable if he is perpetually active and is impatient to make progress. He will produce his best work if he can wait for the moment when Grace is vouchsafed to him and if he can abstain from activity when the spirit is not speaking. And quite certainly no higher knowledge will be attained by one who attempts to formulate it out of concepts already familiar to him. Higher knowledge can be attained only by one who is able to wait quietly, with complete resignation, when confronted by a problem or riddle of existence, and who says to himself: I must wait until the answer comes to me like a flash of light from the spiritual worlds. Again, someone who rushes from one person to another, trying to convince them that some particular spiritual Movement is the only genuine one, will certainly not be setting about this in the right way; he should wait until the souls he approaches have recognised the urge in themselves to seek the truths of the spiritual world. That is how we should respond to any illumination shining down into our physical world; but it is particularly true of everything that man can himself bring about in the spiritual world. It may truly be said that even the most practical accomplishments in that realm depend upon the establishment of a certain state of tranquillity.
I want now to speak of so-called spiritual healing. Here again it is not the movements or manipulations carried out by the healer that are of prime importance; they are necessary, but only as preparation. The aim is to establish a condition of rest, of balance. Whatever is outwardly visible in a case of spiritual healing is only the preparation for what the healer is trying to do; it is the final result that is of importance. In such a case the situation is like weighing something on a pair of scales: first, we put in the one scale what we want to weigh; in the other scale we put a weight and this sets the beam moving to right and left. But it is only when equilibrium has been established that we can read the weight. Something similar is true of actions in the spiritual worlds.
In respect of knowledge, of perception, however, there is a difference. How does perception come about in everyday life on the physical plane? Everyone is aware that with the exception of certain spheres of the physical plane, objects present themselves to us from morning until evening during the waking life of day; from minute to minute new impressions are made upon us. It is in exceptional circumstances only that we, on our side, seek for impressions and do with objects what otherwise they do to us. This, however, is already near to being a searcher for knowledge. Spiritual knowledge is a different matter. We ourselves must set before our soul whatever is to be presented to it. Whereas we must be absolutely quiescent if anything is to come about, to happen through us in the spiritual world, we must be uninterruptedly active if we really desire to understand something in the spiritual world. Connected with this is the fact that many people who would like to be anthroposophists find that the knowledge we are trying to promote here is too baffling for them. Many of them complain: in Anthroposophy one has to be always learning, always pondering, always busy! But without such efforts it is not possible to acquire any understanding of the spiritual worlds. The soul must make strenuous efforts and contemplate everything from many sides. Mental pictures and concepts of the higher worlds must be developed through steady, tranquil work. In the physical world, if we want to have, say, a table, we must acquire it by active effort. But in the spiritual world, if we want to acquire something, we must develop the necessary tranquillity. If anything is to happen, it emerges from the twilight. But when it is a matter of knowing something, we must exert every possible effort to create the necessary Inspirations. If we are to ‘know’ something, effort is essential; the soul must be inwardly active, move from one Imagination to another, one Inspiration to another, one Intuition to another. We must create the whole structure; nothing will come to us that we have not ourselves produced in our search for knowledge. Thus conditions in the spiritual world are exactly the opposite of what holds good in the physical world.
I have had to give this introduction in order that we may agree together, firstly, as to how certain facts are discovered, but secondly, how they can be understood as more is said of them. In these lectures I shall deal less with the life immediately following death — known to us under the name of Kamaloka — the essential aspects of which are already familiar to you. We shall be more concerned to study from somewhat new points of view those periods in the life after death which follow the period of Kamaloka.
First of all it is important to describe the general character of that life. The first stage of higher knowledge is what may be called the ‘Imaginative’ life, or life filled with true, genuine visions. Just as in physical life we are surrounded by the world of colours, sounds, scents, tastes, mental pictures which we form for ourselves by means of our intellect, so in the spiritual world we are surrounded by ‘Imaginations’ — which can also be called ‘visions’. But we must realise that these Imaginations or visions, when they are true in the spiritual sense, are not the imagery of dream but realities. Let us take a definite case.
When a human being has passed through the Gate of Death he comes into contact with those who died before him and with whom he was connected in some way during life. During the period between death and the new birth we are actually together with those who belong to us. Just as in the physical world we become aware of objects by seeing their colours, hearing their sounds and so on, in the same way we are surrounded after death, figuratively speaking, by a cloud of visions. Everything around us is vision; we ourselves are vision in that world just as here on Earth we are flesh and bone. But this vision is not a dream; we know that it is reality. When we encounter someone who is dead and with whom we previously had some connection, he too is ‘vision’; he is enveloped in a cloud of visions. But just as on the physical plane we know that the colour ‘red’ comes, let us say, from a red rose, on the spiritual plane we know that the ‘vision’ comes from the spiritual being of someone who passed through the gate of death before us. But here I must draw your attention to a particular aspect, especially as it is experienced by everyone who is living through this period after death. Here on the physical plane it may, for example, be the case that at least as far as we can judge, we ought to have loved some individual but have loved him too little; we have, in fact, deprived him of love or have hurt him in some way. In such circumstances, if we are not stony-hearted, the idea may occur to us that we must make reparation. When this idea comes to us it is possible to compensate for what has happened. On the physical plane we can modify the previously existing relationship but during the period immediately following Kamaloka, we cannot. From the very nature of the encounter we may well be aware that we have hurt the person in some way or deprived him of the love we ought to have shown him; we may also wish to make reparation, but we cannot. During this period all we can do is to continue the relationship which existed between us before death. We perceive what was amiss but for the time being we can do nothing to make amends. In this world of visions which envelops us like a cloud, we cannot alter anything. The relationship we had with an individual who died before us remains. This is often one of the more painful experiences also associated with Initiation. A person experiences much more deeply the significance of his relation to the physical plane than he was able to do with his eyes or his intellect, but for all that he cannot directly change anything. This, in fact, constitutes the pain and martyrdom of spiritual knowledge, in so far as it is self-knowledge and relates to our own life. After death, relationships between individuals remain and continue as they were during earthly life.
When recently this fact presented itself to my spiritual sight with tremendous force, something further occurred to me. During my life I have devoted a great deal of study to the works of Homer and have tried to understand many things contained in these ancient epics. On this particular occasion I was reminded of a certain passage. Homer, by the way, was called by the Greeks the ‘blind’ Homer, thus indicating his spiritual seership. In speaking of the realm through which men journey after death, Homer calls it the ‘realm of the Shades in which no change is possible’. Here once again I realised that we can rightly understand much that is contained in the great masterpieces and revelations of mankind only by drawing upon the very depths of spiritual knowledge. Much of what will lead to an understanding of humanity as a whole must depend upon a new recognition by men of those great ancestors whose souls were radiant with spiritual light. Any sensitive soul will be moved by the recognition that this ancient seer was able to write as he did only because the truth of the spiritual world shone into his soul. Here begins the true reverence for the divine-spiritual forces which stream through the world and especially through the hearts and souls of men. This attitude makes it possible to realise how the progress and development of the world are furthered. A very great deal that is true in the deepest sense is contained in the works of men whose gifts were on a level with those of Homer. But this truth which was once directly revealed to an ancient, dreamlike clairvoyance, has now been lost and must be regained on the path leading to spiritual knowledge.
In order to substantiate still further this example of what has been bestowed upon humanity by creative genius, I will now speak of something else as well. There was a certain truth which I strongly resisted when it first dawned upon me, which seemed to me to be paradoxical, but which through inner necessity I was eventually bound to recognise.
The spiritual investigation on which I was engaged at that time was also connected with the study of certain works of art. Among them was one which I had previously seen and studied although a particular aspect of it had not struck me before. I am speaking now of the Medici tombs in the Chapel designed and built in Florence by Michelangelo. Two members of the Medici family, of whom no more need be said at present, were to be immortalised in statues. But Michelangelo added four so-called ‘allegorical’ figures, named at his suggestion, ‘Morning’ and ‘Evening’, ‘Day’ and ‘Night’. ‘Day’ and ‘Night’ were placed at the foot of one statue; ‘Morning’ and ‘Evening’ at the foot of the other. Even if you have no particularly good photographs of these allegorical figures, you will easily be able to verify what I have to say about them.
We will begin with ‘Night’, the most famous of the four. In guide-books you can read that the postures of the limbs in the recumbent figure of ‘Night’ are unnatural, that no human being could sleep in that position and therefore the figure cannot be a good symbolic presentation of ‘Night’. But now let me say something else. Suppose we are looking at the allegorical figure of ‘Night’ with occult vision. We can then say to ourselves: when a human being is asleep, his Ego and astral body have left the physical and etheric bodies. It is conceivable that someone might visualise a particular posture which most accurately portrays that of the etheric body when the astral body and Ego have left. As we go about during the day our gestures and movements are conditioned by the fact that the astral body and Ego are within the physical and etheric bodies. But at night the astral body and Ego are outside and the etheric body alone is in the physical body. The etheric body then unfolds its own activity and mobility, and thus adopts a certain posture. The impression may well be that there is no more fitting portrayal of the free activity of the etheric body than that achieved by Michelangelo in this figure of ‘Night’. In point of fact, the movement is conveyed with such precision that no more appropriate presentation of the etheric body under such circumstances can be imagined.
Now let us turn to the figure of ‘Day’. Suppose we could induce in a human being a condition in which his astral and etheric bodies were as quiescent as possible and the Ego especially active. No posture could be more fitting for the activity of the Ego than that portrayed by Michelangelo in the figure of ‘Day’. The postures are not allegorical but drawn directly and realistically from life. The artist has succeeded in capturing as it were for earthly eternity the postures which in the evolutionary process most aptly express the activity of the Ego and the activity of the etheric body.
We come now to the other figures. First let us take that of ‘Evening’. If we think of how, in a healthily developed human being, the etheric body emerges and the physical body relaxes — as also happens drastically at death — but if we think, not of actual death but of the emergence of the etheric body, the astral body and the Ego from a man's physical body, we shall find that the posture then assumed by the physical body is accurately portrayed in the figure of ‘Evening’. Again, if we think of the activity of the astral body while there is diminished activity of the etheric body and Ego, we shall find the most precise representation in Michelangelo's figure of ‘Morning’. So on the one side we have the portrayals of the activity of the etheric body and of the Ego (in the figures of ‘Night’ and ‘Day’) and on the other side the portrayals of the physical and astral bodies (in the figures of ‘Evening’ and ‘Morning’).
As already said, at first I resisted this conclusion, but the more carefully one investigates the more one is compelled to accept it. What I have wanted to indicate here is how the artist is inspired by the spiritual world. Admittedly, in the case of Michelangelo the process was more or less unconscious but in spite of that his creations could only have been produced by the radiance of the spiritual world shining into the physical. Occultism does not lead to the destruction of works of art but on the contrary to a much deeper understanding of them; as a result. a great deal of what passes for art today will in the future no longer do so. A number of people may be disappointed but truth will be the gainer! I could well understand the foundation of the legend that has grown up in connection with the most elaborate of these figures. The legend is to the effect that when Michelangelo was alone with the figure of ‘Night’ in the Medici Chapel in Florence, he could make the figure rise up and walk. I will not go further into this, but when we know that this figure gives expression to the ‘life-body’, the significance of the legend is obvious.
The same applies in many cases — in that of Homer, for instance. Homer speaks of the spiritual realm, a realm of the Shades in which there can be no change or alteration. But when we study the conditions prevailing in the period of life following Kamaloka, we begin to have a new understanding of works of a divinely blessed man such as Homer. And a great deal will be similarly enriched through Spiritual Science.
Useful as it may be to indicate these things, they are not of prime importance in actual life. Of prime importance is the fact that mutual relationships are continually being formed between one human being and another. A man's attitude towards another individual will be very different if he detects a spiritual quality in him or thinks of human beings as pictured by a materialistic view of life. The sacred riddle that every human being should be to us can only be this to our feelings and perceptions when we have within our own soul something that is able to throw spiritual light upon the other soul. By deepening our contemplation of cosmic secrets — with which the secrets of human existence are connected — we shall learn to understand the nature of the man standing before us; we shall learn to silence our preconceptions and to feel and recognise the true qualities of the individual in question. The most important light that Spiritual Science can give will be the light it throws upon the human soul. Thereby sound social feelings, also those feelings of love which ought to prevail between human beings, will make their way into the world as a fruit of true spiritual knowledge. We shall recognise that our grasp of spiritual knowledge alone can help this fruit to grow and thrive. When Schopenhauer said: “To preach morality is easy; to establish morality is difficult”, he was giving expression to true insight. After all, it is not so very difficult to discover moral principles, neither is it difficult to preach morality. But to quicken the human soul at the point where spiritual knowledge can germinate and develop into true morality capable of sustaining life — that is what matters. Our attitude to spiritual knowledge can also establish within us the seeds of a truly human morality of the future. The morality of the future will either be built on the foundations of spiritual knowledge — or it will not be built at all!
Love of truth requires that we acknowledge these things; it requires us to deepen our anthroposophical life; and above all to bear in mind what has been said today as an introductory fact, namely, that whereas knowledge demands activity, action in the spiritual world demands of us inner tranquillity, in order that we may prove worthy of Grace. You will now be able to understand that during the period between death and the new birth, when we are confronting another being, we can realise through the activity we then unfold whether we have deprived him of love or done anything to him that we ought not to have done. But, as I have said, during this period we cannot induce the tranquillity of soul that is necessary if the wrong is to be righted. In the lectures this winter I shall be describing the period during which it is actually possible in the natural course of the life between death and the new birth, to establish conditions in which change can be made possible — in other words, when a person's karma can be influenced in a certain way. We must, however, carefully distinguish between the point of time we have just been considering and the later period between death and the new birth when the tasks are different.
It remains to be said that there are certain conditions which will enable a human being to live through his existence after death in a favourable or an unfavourable way. It will be found that the mode of existence of two or more human beings after the period immediately following their life in Kamaloka depends largely upon their moral disposition on Earth. Human beings who displayed good moral qualities on Earth will enjoy favourable conditions during the period immediately following Kamaloka; those who displayed defective morality will experience bad conditions.
I should like to sum up what I have been saying about the life after death in a kind of formula, although as our language is coined for the physical world and not for the spiritual world, it cannot be strictly exact. One can only try to make it as exact as possible. If, then, there has been a good moral quality in our soul, we shall become ‘sociable’ spirits and enjoy companionship with other spirits, with other human beings or with Spirits of the higher Hierarchies. The opposite is the case if a genuine moral quality has been lacking in us; we then become solitary spirits, spirits who find it extremely difficult to move away from the clouds of their visions. To feel thus isolated as a spiritual hermit is an essential cause of suffering after death. On the other hand it is characteristic of the companionship of which I have spoken, to be able to establish the connection with what is necessary for us. It takes a long time after death to live through this sphere which in occultism is called the Mercury-sphere.
The moral tone of the soul is naturally still decisive in the next sphere, the Venus-sphere; but new conditions then begin. In this sphere it is the religious disposition of the soul that is decisive. Individuals with a religious inner life will become sociable beings in the Venus-sphere, quite irrespective of the creed to which they belonged. On the other hand, individuals without any religious feelings are condemned in this sphere to complete spiritual self-absorption. Paradoxical though it may seem, I can only say that individuals with predominantly materialistic views and who scorn religious life, inevitably become spiritual hermits, each one living as it were confined in his own cell. Far from being an ironical comparison, it is true to say: all those who are supporters of ‘monistic religion’ — that is to say, the opposite of true religion — will find themselves firmly imprisoned and be quite unable to find one another.
In this way the mistakes and errors committed by the soul in earthly life are corrected. On the physical plane errors are automatically corrected but in the life between death and the new birth, errors and mistakes on Earth. also our thoughts, become facts. In the process of Initiation too, thinking is a real fact and if we were able to perceive it, an erroneous thought would stand there before us, not only in all its ugliness but with all the destructive elements it contains. If people had no more than an inkling that many a thought signifies a destructive reality they would soon turn away from many of the thoughts circulating in Movements intent upon agitation. It is part of the martyrdom endured in the process of Initiation that thoughts gather around us and stand there like solidified, frozen masses, which we cannot in any way dislodge, as long as we are out of the body. If we have formed an erroneous thought and then pass out of the body, the thought is there and we cannot change it. To change it we must go back into the body. True, memory of it remains, but even an Initiate is only able to rectify it when he is in the physical body. Outside the body it stands there like a mountain. Only in this way can he become aware of the seriousness of the realities of life.
This will help you to understand that for certain karmic adjustments a return into the physical body is essential. The mistakes do indeed confront us during the life between death and the new birth; but the errors have to be corrected while we are in the physical body. In this way compensation is made in the subsequent life for what happened in the previous life. But what must be recognised in all its strength and fallaciousness stands there, unchangeable to begin with, as in the case of things in the spiritual world according to Homer. Such knowledge of the spiritual world must penetrate into our souls and become perception and feelings, and as feelings they form the basis for a new conception of life. A monistic Sunday sermon may expound any number of moral principles but as time will show, they will produce very little change, because in the way they are presented the concepts can have a real effect only when we recognise that for a certain period after death whatever is a burden on our karma will confront us as a direct reality. We recognise the burden but it remains as it is; we cannot change it now; all we can do is to recognise and accept the burden fully and deepen our nature accordingly.
The effect of such concepts upon our souls is that they enable us to have the true view of life. And then there will follow all that is necessary to further the progress of life along the paths laid down by those who are the spiritual leaders of mankind; we shall thus move forward towards the goals that are set before man and mankind.