Friday, January 13, 2012

Communal Life Between Death and a New Birth into the Physical World

Theosophy of the Rosicrucian [aka Rosicrucian Wisdom]. Lecture 5 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, May 29, 1907:

We have come to the point in our studies where we heard that the human being who is descending from spiritual regions is clothed in an etheric body and has, for a brief moment, a pre-vision of the life that is awaiting him on Earth. We have heard of the abnormalities and conditions to which this may give rise. Before proceeding, we will answer a question which may seem of importance to one who turns his spiritual gaze to Devachan: In what sense is there community of life among human beings between death and a new birth? For there is community of life not only among men on the physical Earth but also in the higher worlds. Just as the activities of human beings in the spirit-realm reach down into the physical world, so all the relationships and connections that are established between men on the Earth stretch up into the spiritual world.

We will take a concrete example of this, namely the relationship between mother and child. Is there a relationship between them which endures? There is indeed, and moreover a much more intimate, much firmer relationship than can ever be established here on Earth. Mother-love, to begin with, is a kind of natural instinct, it has something of an animal-like character. As the child grows up this relationship becomes a moral-ethical-spiritual one. When mother and child learn to think together, when they share experiences in common, natural instinct withdraws more and more into the background; it has merely provided the opportunity for the forging of that beautiful bond of union which is present in the very highest sense in the mother's love for the child and the child's love for the mother. The mutual understanding and love which unfolds here continues on into the regions of the spiritual world, even although, as the result of the one dying earlier, the other seems for a time to be separated from the dead. After this period has passed, the link that was on Earth is equally vital and intimate. The two are together, only all the purely natural, animal instincts must have been outlived. The feelings and thoughts which weave between one soul and another on Earth are not hindered in yonder world by the encasements that exist here. Devachan actually assumes a particular appearance and structure as a result of the relationships that are woven here on Earth.

Let us take another example. Friendships and affinities are born from the kinship of souls; they continue on into Devachan, and from them the social connections for the next life develop. By establishing connections with souls here, we are therefore working at the form which Devachan receives. We have all of us worked in this way if bonds of love were forged between us and other men; thereby we create something that has significance not only for the Earth but which also shapes conditions in Devachan. What happens here as the fruit of love, of friendship, of mutual inner understanding — all these things are building stones of temples in the spiritual region above, and men who have this certainty cannot but be inspired by the knowledge that when, here on Earth, bonds are forged from soul to soul, this is the foundation of an eternal “Becoming.”

Let us suppose for a moment that on some other physical planet there were beings incapable of mutual sympathy, incapable of forming bonds of love among one another. Such beings would have a very barren Devachan. Only a planet where bonds of love are forged between one being and another can have a Devachan rich in content and variety. A being who is already in Devachan and whose presence, it is true, cannot be experienced by ordinary men has, according to his stage of development, greater or less consciousness of communion with those who have remained behind on the Earth. There are, indeed, means whereby consciousness of these bonds of communion can be intensified. If we send thoughts of love — but not of egotistic love — to the dead, we strengthen the feeling of community with them.

It is a mistake to assume that the consciousness of the human being in Devachan is dim or shadowy. This is not the case. The degree of consciousness once attained by a man can never be lost, in spite of darkenings which occur during certain periods of transition. The human being in Devachan has, through his spiritual organs, clear consciousness of what is happening in the sphere of the Earth. Occultism reveals that the human being in the spiritual world lives together with what is taking place on the Earth.

Thus we see that life in Devachan, if viewed in its reality, loses every element of comfortlessness; that the human being, when he ceases to regard it from his earthly, egotistical standpoint, can experience it as a condition of infinite blessedness — even apart from the fact that all freedom from the physical body, freedom from the lower nature in which he is enclosed here, brings with it a feeling of intense relief. The fact that these encasements have fallen away — this in itself brings a feeling of beatitude. Devachan is thus a time of expansion and expression in all directions; there is a richness and an absence of restriction that are never experienced on the Earth.

We have heard that on his descent to a new birth, man is clothed with a new etheric body by beings of a rank similar to that of the Folk-Spirits. This etheric body is not perfectly adapted to the reincarnating human being; still less perfectly adapted is the physical sheath he receives. We will now speak, in broad outline, of the incorporation of the human being into the physical world. Much of the subject baffles any attempt at outer description.

We have heard that in accordance with his qualities, the human being clothes himself with an astral body. Through what is contained in this astral body he is attracted to certain human beings on the Earth; through the etheric body, he is drawn to the folk and to the family, in the wider sense, into which he is to be reborn. According to the way and manner in which he has developed his astral body, he is drawn to the mother; the essence, the substance, the organization of the astral body draws him to the mother. The ego draws him to the father. The ego was present even in ages of remote antiquity, when the soul descended for the first time from the bosom of the Godhead into an earthly body. This ego has developed through many incarnations; the ego, the “I,” of one human being is distinct from the ego of another and at the present stage of evolution gives rise to the force of attraction to the father. The etheric body attracts the human being to the folk, to the family; the astral body attracts him particularly to the mother; the “I” to the father. The whole descent to the new incarnation is guided in accordance with these principles.

It may happen that the astral body is attracted to a mother but that the ego is not attracted to the corresponding father; in such a case the wandering continues until suitable parents are found.

In the present phase of evolution, the “I” represents the element of will, the impulse of perceptivity. In the astral body lie the qualities of phantasy or imagination, of thinking. The latter qualities, therefore, are transmitted by the mother, the former by the father. The individuality who is approaching incarnation seeks out through his unconscious forces the parents who are to provide the physical body.

What has here been described takes place, in essentials, by about the third week after conception. True, this being who consists of “I,” astral body, and etheric body is, from the moment of conception onwards, near the mother who bears within her the fertilized germ-cell; but it works in upon the germ-cell from outside. At about the third week the astral and etheric bodies take hold, as it were, of the germ-cell and now begin to participate in the work on the embryo; up to that time the development of the physical body proceeds without the influence of the astral body and etheric body. From then onwards these bodies participate in the development of the embryo and themselves influence the further elaboration of the human-germ. Therefore what was said about the etheric body holds good still more for the physical body, and complete suitability is even less easy to obtain here. These significant facts shed light upon a great deal that happens in the world.

Up to this point we have been speaking of the normal evolution of the average man of modern times; what has been said does not altogether hold good of a man in whom occult development began in a previous incarnation. The higher the stage to which he attained, the earlier does he begin to work upon his own physical body in order to make it more suitable for the mission he has to fulfil on the Earth. The later he takes command of the physical germ the less control he will have over the physical body. The most highly developed individualities, those who are the guides and leaders of the spiritual life of the Earth, take command already at the time of conception. Nothing takes place without their collaboration; they direct their physical body right up to the time of their death and begin to prepare the new body directly the first impetus for this is given.

The substances of which the physical body is composed are perpetually changing; after about seven years, every particle has been renewed. The substance is exchanged but the form endures. Between birth and death the substances of the physical body must continually be born anew; they are the ever-changing element. What we develop in such a way that death has no power over it is preserved and builds up a new organism.

The initiate performs consciously, between death and a new birth, what the average human being performs unconsciously between birth and death; the initiate consciously builds up his new physical body. For him, therefore, birth amounts to no more than an outstanding event in his existence. He exchanges the substances only once, but then fundamentally. Hence there is considerable similarity of stature and form in such individualities from one incarnation to another, whereas in those who are but little developed there is no similarity of form whatever in their successive incarnations. The higher the development of a man the greater is the similarity in two successive incarnations; this is clearly perceptible to clairvoyant sight. There is a definite phrase for indicating this higher stage of development; it is said that such a man is not born in a different body, any more than it is said of the average human being that he receives a new body every seven years. Of a Master it is said: he is born in the same body; he uses it for hundreds, even thousands, of years. This is the case with the vast majority of leading individualities. An exception is formed by certain Masters who have their own special mission; with them the physical body remains, so that death does not occur for them at all. These are the Masters whose task it is to watch over and bring about the transition from one race to another.

Two other questions arise at this point, namely, that of the duration of the sojourn in the spiritual worlds, and that of the sex in consecutive incarnations.

Occult investigation reveals that the human being returns to incarnation within an average period of from 1,000 to 1,300 years. The reason for this is that the human being may find the face of the Earth changed on his return and therefore be able to have new experiences. The changes on the Earth are closely connected with certain constellations of the stars. This is a most significant fact. At the beginning of spring the Sun rises in a certain zodiacal constellation. The Sun began to rise in the constellation of Aries (the Ram) 800 years before Christ; before that epoch it rose in the adjacent constellation of Taurus (the Bull). About 2,160 years are required for the passage through one constellation. The circuit through the whole twelve constellations is known in occultism as a Cosmic Year.

The peoples of antiquity were deeply sensible of what is connected with this passage through the zodiac. With feelings of awe and reverence they said: When the Sun rises in spring, nature is renewed after her winter repose; nature is awakened from deep sleep by the divine rays of the vernal Sun. And they connected this young, fresh power of spring with the constellation from which the Sun was shining. They said: This constellation is the bestower of the Sun with its new vigor, it is the bestower of the new, divinely creative power. And so the Lamb was regarded as the benefactor of humanity by men who lived in an epoch now lying 2,000 years behind us. All the sagas and legends concerning the Lamb originated in that age. Conceptions of the Godhead were associated with this symbol. During the early centuries of our era, the Redeemer Himself, Christ Jesus, was depicted by the symbol of the Cross and underneath it the Lamb. Not until the sixth century A.D. was the Redeemer portrayed on the Cross.

This is the origin, too, of the well-known myth of Jason and the quest of the Golden Fleece.

In the epoch preceding 800 B.C. the Sun was passing through the constellation of Taurus; in Egypt we find the veneration of Apis the Bull, in Persia the veneration of the Mithras Bull. Earlier still, the Sun was passing through the constellation of Gemini, the Twins; in Indian and Germanic mythology we find definite indication of the Twins; the twin goats drawing the chariot of the God Donar are a last remnant of this. Then, finally, we come back to the epoch of Cancer, which brings us near to the time of the Atlantean Flood. An ancient culture passed away and a new culture arose. This was designated by a particular occult sign, the vortex, which is the symbol of Cancer and to be found in every calendar.

Thus the peoples have always had a clear consciousness of the fact that what proceeds in the heavens runs parallel with the changes taking place on the Earth beneath. When the Sun has completed its passage through one constellation, the face of the Earth has changed to such an extent that it is profitable for the human being to enter a new life. For this reason the time of reincarnation depends upon the progress of the vernal equinox. The period required by the Sun for its passage through one zodiacal constellation is the period within which the human being is twice incarnated, once as a man and once as a woman. The experiences in a male and a female organism are so fundamentally different for spiritual life that the human being incarnates once as a woman and once as a man into the same conditions of the Earth. This makes an average of 1,000 to 1,300 years between two incarnations.

Here we have the answer to the question concerning the sex. As a rule, the sex alternates. This rule, however, is often broken, so that sometimes there are three to five, but never more than seven, consecutive incarnations in the same sex. To say that seven consecutive incarnations in the same sex are the rule contradicts all occult experience.

Before we begin to study the karma of the individual human being, one fundamental fact must be borne in mind. There is a common karma, karma that is not determined by the single individual although it is adjusted in the course of his incarnations. Here is a concrete example:

When in the Middle Ages the Huns poured over from Asia into the countries of Europe and caused alarming wars, this too had spiritual significance. The Huns were the last surviving remnants of ancient Atlantean peoples; they were in an advanced stage of decadence, which expressed itself in a certain process of decay in their astral and etheric bodies. These products of decay found good soil in the fear and the terror caused among the peoples. The result was that these products of decay were inoculated into the astral bodies of the peoples and in a later generation this was carried over into the physical body. The skin absorbed the astral elements and the outcome was a disease prevalent in the Middle Ages, namely, leprosy. An ordinary doctor would, of course, attribute leprosy to physical causes. I have no wish to dispute what such doctors say, but their line of reasoning is as follows: — In a fight, one man wounds another with a knife; he had harbored an old feeling of revenge against him. One person will say that the cause of the wound was the feeling of revenge, another that the knife was the cause. Both are right. The knife was the final physical cause, but behind it there is the spiritual cause. Those who seek for spiritual causes will always admit the validity of physical causes.

We see that historical events have a significant effect upon whole generations, and we learn how, even in fundamental conditions of health, improvements extending over long periods of time can be brought about.

As a result of technical progress in recent centuries there developed among the European peoples an industrial proletariat, and together with it, untold racial and class hatred. This has its seat in the astral body and comes to physical expression as pulmonary tuberculosis. This knowledge is yielded by occult investigation. It is often not within our power to help the individual among those who are subject to general karma of this kind. We are often compelled, with aching hearts, to see an individual suffering without being able to make him well or happy, because he is connected with the general karma. Only by working for the improvement of the common karma can we also help the individual. It should not be our aim to promote the well-being of the single, egoistic self, but to work in such a way that we serve the well-being of humanity as a whole.

Another example, directly connected with topical events, is the following: — Occult observations have revealed that among the astral beings who participated in the various battles of the Russian-Japanese war, there were dead Russians working against their own people. This was due to the fact that during recent times in the development of the Russian people, many noble idealists perished in the dungeon or on the scaffold. They were men of high ideals, but they were not so far developed as to be able to forgive. They died with feelings of bitter revenge against those who had been the cause of their death. These feelings of revenge were lived out in their Kamaloca period, for only in Kamaloca is this possible. From the astral plane after their death, they filled the souls of the Japanese soldiers with hatred and revenge against the people to whom they themselves had belonged. Had they already been in Devachan they would have said: I forgive my enemies! For in Devachan, with the clouds of hatred and revenge confronting them from without, they would have realized how terrible and how unworthy such feelings are. Thus occult investigation reveals that whole peoples stand under the influence of their forefathers.

The idealistic strivings of modern times cannot attain their goals, because they are willing to work only with physical means on the physical plane. So, for example, the Society for the Promotion of Peace, which sets out to bring about peace by physical methods alone. Not until we learn how to influence the astral plane too can we recognize the right methods; not until then can we work in such a way that when the human being is born again he will find a world in which he can labor fruitfully.

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