Wednesday, January 11, 2012
The Elemental World and the Heaven World. Waking Life, Sleep, and Death
Theosophy of the Rosicrucian [aka Rosicrucian Wisdom]. Lecture 3 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, May 26, 1907:
We shall now study man in the state of waking life in the physical world, in the state of sleep, and in so-called death. Everyone is familiar, from his own experience, with the waking state.
When the human being sinks into sleep, his astral body and ego, together with what has been worked upon in the astral body by the ego, withdraw from the physical and etheric bodies. When you observe the sleeping human being clairvoyantly, physical body and etheric body lie there in the bed. These two members remain connected, whereas the astral body emerges together with the higher members; with clairvoyance we can see how, when sleep begins, the astral body, bathed in a kind of light, draws out of the other two bodies. To describe this condition with greater exactitude we must say that the astral body of modern man appears as if it consisted in many streams and sparkles of light and the whole appears like two intertwining spirals, as if there were two 6-figures, one of which vanishes into the physical body, while the other extends far out into the cosmos like the trail of a comet. Both these trails of the astral body very soon become invisible in their further extensions, so that the phenomenon then has an ovoid shape. When the human being wakes, the trail no longer extends into the cosmos and everything draws again into the etheric and physical bodies.
Dreaming is an intermediate condition between waking and sleeping. Sleep that is filled with dreams is a condition where the astral body has, it is true, loosened its whole connection with the physical body, but is still connected with the etheric body. Man's field of vision is then pervaded with the pictures we call dreams. This is, in very truth, an intermediate condition because the astral body has detached itself completely from the physical body, while remaining connected, in a certain way, with the etheric body.
The human being, while he is asleep, lives in his astral body outside his physical and etheric bodies. The fact that he must sink into sleep has deep significance for his whole make-up. Do not imagine that the astral body is inactive and has no work to do during the night while it is outside the physical and etheric bodies. During the day, when the astral body is within the physical and etheric bodies, influences come to it from the outside world, impressions which man receives as a result of the functioning of his own astral body, through his senses, through his activity in the physical world. Feelings and experiences, everything that works in upon him from outside continues on into the astral body. This constitutes the actual feeling and thinking part of man, and the physical body, together with the etheric body, is only the transmitter, the instrument. Thinking and willing take place in the astral body. While the human body is active in the external world during the day, the astral body is receiving impressions all the time. But let us remember, on the other hand, that the astral body is the builder of the etheric and physical bodies. Just as the physical body with all its organs has hardened out of the etheric body, so everything that streams and is active in the etheric body has been born out of the astral body.
Out of what is the astral body itself born? It is born out of the universal astral organism which weaves through the whole of the cosmos. If you want to envisage, by means of a simile, the relation of the small portion of astral substantiality contained in your astral body to the great astral ocean in which all human beings, animals, plants, minerals, and planets too are contained and out of which they are born, if you want to envisage the relation of the human astral body to the great astral ocean, think of one drop of a liquid in a glass. The drop derives its existence entirely from the liquid in the glass. Similarly, what is contained in an astral body was once embraced within the astral ocean of the cosmos. It has separated out from this ocean and having passed into an etheric body and a physical body, has become a distinct entity, like the drop of liquid.
As long as the astral body lay within the astral ocean, it received its laws and its impressions from this cosmic source. It had its life within this cosmic astral body. After its separation it is exposed, during man's waking consciousness, to the impressions received from the physical world; so that it is divided between the influences coming from the cosmic astral body and those which it receives from outside as the result of the activity imposed upon it by the physical world. When man has reached the goal of his Earth evolution, this division will merge into harmony. Today, these two kinds of influences do not harmonize.
Now, the astral body is the builder of the etheric body and indirectly — because the etheric body is in turn the builder of the physical body — also of the physical body. Everything that the astral body has built up piece by piece through the ages has been born out of the great cosmic astral ocean. Because only harmonious and sound laws proceed from this astral ocean, the work carried out by the astral body in building the etheric and physical bodies is originally sound and harmonious; but as a result of the influences which came to the astral body from outside, from the physical world, impairing its original harmony, there arise all those disturbances of the physical body which prevail in mankind today.
If the astral body remained all the time within the human being, the strong influences of the physical world would soon destroy the harmony brought by the astral body from the cosmic ocean. The human being would very soon be spent by illness and exhaustion. During sleep the astral body withdraws from the impressions of the physical world, which contain nothing that produces harmony, and passes into the cosmic harmony from which it was born. And so in the morning it brings with it the lingering effects of the refreshment and renewal it has experienced during the night. Every night the astral body renews its harmony with the cosmic astral ocean and reveals itself to the clairvoyant as anything but inactive. The clairvoyant perceives a connection between the astral ocean and the one comet-like trail and observes how this part of the astral body works to eliminate the debility caused by the world of disharmony. This activity of the astral body expresses itself in the feeling of refreshed vigor in the morning. Having lived during the night within the great cosmic harmony, the astral body has of course again to adjust itself to the physical world; hence the feeling of greatest vigor does not arise until a few hours have elapsed after waking, when the astral body has again drawn into the physical body.
We will now turn to death, the “brother” of sleep, and study the condition of the human being after death. The difference between a man who is dead and one who is only sleeping is that at death the etheric body passes away together with the astral body, and the physical body alone is left behind in the physical world. From birth until death the etheric body never leaves the physical body except during certain states of initiation.
The period immediately following death is of great importance for the human being. It lasts for many hours, even days, during which the whole of the incarnation that is just over comes before the soul of the dead as in a great tableau of memories. This happens to every human being after death. The peculiarity of this tableau is that as long as it remains in the form in which it appears immediately after death, all the subjective experiences of the man during his life are expunged.
Our experiences are always accompanied by feelings either of joy or pain, upliftment or sorrow, in other words our outer life is always associated with an inner life. The joys and sorrows connected with the pictures of the past life are not present in the memory-tableau. The human being confronts this memory-tableau as objectively as he confronts a painting; even if this painting depicts a man who is sorrowful or full of pain, we still look at him quite objectively; we can, it is true, discern his sorrow, but we do not experience it directly. So it is with these pictures immediately after death. The tableau widens out and in an astonishingly brief span of time man sees all the detailed events of his life.
Separation of the physical body from the etheric body during life can take place only in an initiate, but there are certain moments when the etheric body suddenly loosens from the physical body. This occurs when a man has had terrible experiences — for instance, a dreadful fall or being in danger of drowning. The shock causes a kind of loosening of the etheric body from the physical body and the consequence is that in such a moment the whole of the previous life stands before the soul like a memory-picture. This is analogous to the experience after death.
Partial separations of the etheric body also occur when a limb has “gone to sleep,” as we say. If a hand, for instance, has gone to sleep, the seer can perceive the etheric part of the hand protruding like a glove; parts of the etheric brain also protrude when a man is in a state of hypnosis. Because the etheric body is woven in the physical body in tiny, pinpoint formations, there arises in the physical body the well-known sensation of prickling in a limb that has gone to sleep.
After the lapse of the time during which the etheric body together with the astral body is emerging from the physical body after death, there comes the moment when the astral body, with the higher members, leaves the etheric body. The latter separates off and the memory-tableau fades away; but something of it remains; it is not wholly lost. What may be called ether- or life-substance dissipates in the cosmic ether, but a kind of essence remains and this can never be lost to the human being through his further journeyings. He bears this with him into all his future incarnations as a kind of extract from the life-tableau, even though he has no remembrance of it. Out of this extract is formed what is called, with concrete reality, the “Causal Body.” After every incarnation a new page is added to the Book of Life. This augments the life-essence and, if the past lives were fruitful, causes the next life to develop in the proper way. This is what causes a life to be rich or poor in talents, qualities, and the like.
In order to understand the life of the astral body after its separation from the etheric body, we must consider the conditions obtaining in physical life. In physical life it is the astral body that is happy, suffers, satisfies its desires, impulses, and wishes through the organs of the physical body; after death these physical instruments are no longer at its disposal. The epicure can no longer satisfy his desire for choice food because the tongue has passed away with the physical body; but the desires, being connected with the astral body, remain in the man and this gives rise to the “burning thirst” of the Kamaloca period. (Kama = desire, wish; “loca” is “place”, but it is in reality a condition, not a place.) A man who during physical life learns to transcend the physical body shortens his time in Kamaloca.
To take delight in the beauty or harmony of things means growth and development, for this leads us beyond the material world. To delight in art that is materialistic increases the difficulties of the Kamaloca state, whereas delight in spiritual art lightens them. Every noble, spiritual delight shortens the time in Kamaloca. Already during earthly life we must break ourselves of pleasures and desires which can be satisfied only by the physical instrument. The period of Kamaloca is a time of the breaking of material pleasures and impulses. It lasts for approximately one third of the time of the earthly life. There is something singular about the experiences undergone in Kamaloca. The human being begins actually to live backwards through the whole of his past life. Immediately after death there was a memory-tableau devoid of the elements of joy and suffering; in Kamaloca the human being lives through all the joy and all the suffering again in such a way that he must experience in himself all the joy and the suffering he caused to others. This has nothing to do with the law of karma.
The journey backwards begins with the last event before death and proceeds at triple speed, to birth. When in this backward passage of remembrance the human being reaches his birth, the part of the astral body that has been transformed by the ego combines with the causal body and what has not been so transformed falls away like a shade, a phantom; this is the astral corpse of the human being. He has laid aside the physical corpse and the etheric corpse and now the astral corpse. He now lives through new conditions: those of Devachan. Devachan is all around us, just as is the astral world.
When the life has been lived through backwards as far as earliest childhood, when the three corpses have been discarded, man reaches the condition mysteriously indicated in the Bible by the words: “Except ye become as little children, ye cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Devachan, the spiritual world — this is the Kingdom of Heaven in the Christian sense.)
The world of Devachan must now be traversed. It is a world as manifold and differentiated as our physical world. Just as solid regions, continents, are distinguished in the physical world, with an expanse of water surrounding the solid land, with the air above and above the air still finer conditions, so there is a similar differentiation in Devachan, in the spiritual world. By analogy with conditions on Earth, the phenomena to be found in Devachan have been given similar names.
Firstly, there is a region which may be compared with solid, physical regions: it is the Continental region of Devachan. What is physical here on the Earth is, in this region of Devachan, found to be a multitude of spiritual beings. Think, for example, of a physical human being. To devachanic vision he appears like this: what the physical senses perceive vanishes, and light flashes up in the sphere immediately around the physical man, where otherwise there is a void; in the middle, where the physical body is, there is an empty, shadowy space — like a kind of negative. Animals and human beings appear here in negative pictures; blood appears as green — its complementary color. All formations which are physical in our world are present in the Archetypes of Devachan.
A second region — not separated off, but like a second stage — is the Oceanic region of Devachan. It is not water; it is a particular substantiality which in rhythmic streams pervades the world of Devachan in color that may be compared with that of young peach-blossom in Spring. It is fluidic life and it pervades the whole of Devachan. What is divided among individual human beings and animals here below is present in Devachan as a kind of watery element. We have a picture of it when we think of the diffusion of the blood in the human organism.
The third region of Devachan can best be characterized by saying that what lives here, in the physical world, within beings in the way of feelings — of happiness and suffering, joy, pain, and the like — is present there in external manifestation.
To take an example: Suppose a battle is waged here on the Earth. Cannons, weapons, and the like — these are all on the physical plane. But within human beings on the physical plane there are mutual feelings of revenge, pain, passions; the two armies confront one another full of opposing passions. Think of all this translated into external manifestation and you have a picture of how it appears on the devachanic plane. All that happens here on a battlefield appears in Devachan like the bursting of a fearful storm. This is the atmosphere, the surrounding air, of Devachan. Just as our Earth is surrounded by air, so all the feelings that break out here, whether they come to physical expression or not, spread out in Devachan like an atmosphere.
The fourth region of Devachan contains the archetypal forms, the archetypal foundations, of all truly original achievements on the Earth. If we examine closely the happenings of the physical world, we find that the vast majority of inner processes are instigated from outside. A flower or an animal gives us joy; without the flower or the animal we should not experience this joy. But there are also processes which are not instigated from outside. A new idea, a work of art, a new machine — all these things bring into the world something that was not there before original creations come into being in all these domains. If new creations did not arise in the world, humanity would make no progress. Original creations given to the world by great artists and discoverers are only higher in the sense of degree than every other truly original act — even the most insignificant. The point is that something original arises in the inner being.
Archetypes exist in Devachan even for the most insignificant original actions; all these things are already prefigured in yonder world; any original achievement of a human being is already present in the germinal state, even before his birth.
Thus in Devachan we find four regions whose counter-images on the physical plane are Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. There is the Continental region as the solid crust in Devachan — in the spiritual sense, of course; then the Oceanic region, corresponding to our area of water; the Atmospheric region, the streaming flow of passions and the like — beauty, but also tumult is to be found there. Finally, there is the all-pervading world of the Archetypes. Everything in the way of initiatives of will and original ideas to which, later on, effect is given in the physical world by beings who return thither — all this must be lived through by the soul in yonder world in order that fresh power may be gathered for the new life.