The conclusion of Rudolf Steiner's lecture of April 13, 1914:
Let us suppose that we have passed the portal of death and that we have left someone behind on the earth. We are now in the period when we have gained the power of beholding elemental beings and of having the inward feeling that the fruits of our earthly life have withdrawn, but that we are still connected with this last earthly life. Let us suppose that when we have passed the portal of death we have left behind one whom we have loved very much. Now, when after death we have become accustomed to our elemental creations, we gradually attain to seeing the elemental beings of others; it is possible for us now to see the thoughts of others as elemental beings. We see the thoughts that live in the soul of the person we have left behind, for they are expressed in living elementals which appear before our soul as mighty Imaginations. In this way we can now have a much more intimate connection with the inner life of this person than we had with them in the physical world; for while we ourselves were in the physical body we could not indeed see the thoughts of the other, whereas now we can. But we have need of the feeling-memory — please note the word — the feeling-memory, the connection of feeling with our own last earthly life. We must feel, just as we felt in the body, and this feeling must echo in us. Then, when the thoughts of the other appear to us, the whole condition, which otherwise would only be as a picture, receives life. Thus, by the route of our feeling, we gain a living connection with our friend: it is really so with everyone.
You see, it is a development of a condition which may be described thus: There is a period during which we still have to draw from our last earthly life the forces enabling us to enter into living relationship with the surrounding spiritual world; we have still to be connected with this earthly life. We love the souls we have left behind, the contents of whose souls appear to us as thoughts, as elemental beings. But we love them because we ourselves are still living in the love we developed for them during our earthly life. The expression is not a happy one, but some of you will understand me when I say that earth-life — not the thought-life but the earth-life whose soul-contents are filled with feeling and permeated with the impulse of will — this earth-life, with which we are still connected, becomes like a sort of electric switch connecting our own individuality with what goes on around us spiritually; we perceive everything in a roundabout way through our last earthly life, but we only perceive what appertains to us in the spiritual world through the feeling and will that were ours in our last earthly life. It is now really the case that we feel ourselves living on further into time, as a sort of comet of time. Our earthly life is still there like the kernel of the comet, but the kernel sends out a sort of tail into the near future through which we live. We are still connected with our earthly life in so far as this is filled with feeling and will, and from this experience something must be born within our soul as I have described, something that is not directly feeling and will. The soul-powers we develop here in the physical world, which include the power of feeling as we have it here in the physical world and the power of the will as we have it here in the physical world, these soul-powers we possess in this form, because we are living in the physical body. When the soul no longer lives in the physical body it has to develop other qualities which only slumber during physical life. Because the echoes of feeling and will reverberate in it for years, the soul has to mature something from them which it can also use for the spiritual world in this respect, namely a force which I might describe as something like a feeling-desire or a desiring-feeling. In respect of our feeling and our will, we know that these dwell within our soul; but after death we do not, on the whole, possess such feeling and desire, they must gradually fade and die down, and they do this after some years.
But during this dying down and fading away, something has to develop from feeling and will which can be ours after death. Our thoughts live outside us as elemental beings; of inward feeling and will we should have nothing in this spiritual world which we ourselves are, and which is there, outside us. We have gradually to develop a will — and this we really do — which streams forth from us, which pours forth from us, as it were, and undulates and moves to where our living thoughts are. These it penetrates, because then upon the waves of will floats the feeling which in physical life is within us and not outside. Feeling then returns to us floating on the waves of will. There, outside, surges and billows the ocean of our will, and upon this swims our feeling. When the will strikes against an elemental thought-being, the contact produces an up-glimmering of feeling and we perceive this ‘ricochet’ of our will as an absolute reality of the spiritual world. Let us suppose there is an elemental being in the outer spiritual world. When we have gradually worked out of the condition we must first pass through, our will going forth from us breaks against this elemental being. When it strikes against the elemental being it is thrown back. It does not now return as will, but as feeling, which floats back to us on the waves of will. Our own being which is poured out into the cosmos lives as feeling which comes back to us on the waves of will. The elemental beings thereby become real to us and we gradually perceive that which exists outside us as the outer spiritual world.
Still another soul-force has to come forth from us, which slumbers in a much deeper layer of the soul than the feeling-will or the willing-feeling. It is creative soul-force, which is like an inner soul-light that must shine forth over the spiritual world, in order that we may not only see the living, active, objective thought-beings floating back to us on the waves of feeling in the ocean of our will, but that we may also illumine this spiritual world with spiritual light. Creative, spiritual illuminating power must go forth from our soul into the spiritual world. This awakens gradually.
You see that while living in physical life we have at least differentiated within us the pair of brothers — feeling and will — from feeling-will or willing-feeling: we possess these as a duality, whereas when we have passed the portal of death they are unity. The creative soul-force which we radiate as soul-light into spiritual space (if I may use the word ‘space’ here, for in reality it is not space, but we have to try to make these conditions comprehensible by expressing them pictorially), this soul-light slumbers so deep down within us because it is connected with something regarding which we neither may nor can know anything during life. That which is liberated as light and which then illumines and brightens the spiritual world slumbers very deep down within us during our life on the physical plane. What then rays forth from us has to be transformed during our physical life and used in such a way that our body shall really live and that consciousness shall dwell in it. Entirely below the threshold of consciousness works this spiritual illuminating power in our physical body, as the power which organizes life and consciousness. We dare not bring it into our earthly consciousness, for we should then rob our physical body of the power which has to organize it. But when we have no body to take care of, it becomes spiritual illuminating power, and streams through, shines and glitters through, everything: these words signify actual realities.
Thus we gradually work our way onward to where we become at home in the spiritual world and experience it as a reality, just as here we experience the physical world as a reality. We gradually arrive at really having the souls of those who have passed the portal of death as our companions in the spiritual world, in so far as these really live in the spiritual world. We then live among souls, just as here in the physical body we live among bodies. As we enter more and more into the true spirit of spiritual science, the assertion that after death we do not meet again all those with whom we have lived here would be, to one who goes more deeply into the matter, as foolish as if someone were to say, with respect to the physical plane, that when we enter upon the earth at birth we find no human beings there. Human beings are all about us. — To one who knows spiritual life it is exactly the same as if someone were to say: the child comes into the physical world, but it sees no one there. That, obviously, is nonsense. In the same way it is nonsense when people say: when we enter into the spiritual world we do not find again all the souls with whom we have been associated, neither do we find the beings belonging to the higher hierarchies, whom we recognize in their order, as here upon the earth we recognize minerals, plants, and animals! But there is this difference: here in the physical world we know that when we see and hear objects and beings, the possibility for doing so comes through our senses, from the outer world. In the spiritual world we know that this possibility comes from ourselves, because what we may call the soul-light streams forth from our souls, illuminating everything about us.
Thus do we live in the period which may be called the first half of our life between death and rebirth. While we are living in this period we go through the two conditions I have already described: — one, a condition lasting for years, in which, through the illuminating power proceeding from our soul, we are connected with the spiritual world and are thus enabled to perceive spirits and souls about us. This then grows dim and we have the feeling: thou canst develop thy soul-illuminating power, thy soul-light, less and less; thou art obliged to let it become dimmer and darker in a spiritual sense. Thereby thou canst see spiritual beings less and less. It becomes increasingly the case that we enter alternating periods in which we have a feeling which we may express thus: Beings surround thee on all sides, but thou art becoming more and more solitary; thou art aware only of the contents of thine own soul, and these contents grow richer to the same extent that thou ceasest to be able to illuminate the beings without. — There are periods of spiritual companionship, and again, periods of spiritual solitude during which we live over again in our soul what we experienced in the periods of spiritual companionship. These conditions alternate. Such is our life in the spiritual world: spiritual companionship, and again spiritual solitude. In periods of spiritual solitude we know: what thou didst experience in the spiritual world around thee was indeed there, thou knewest about all that; but now there remains only the echo of it within thee. One might say that what we experience in the periods of spiritual solitude are memories; but these words do not express it exactly. I must therefore try to describe it to you from another aspect. It is not as if in the period of spiritual darkness, when one has no companions, one were to remember what one had previously experienced in the spiritual world, but as if one had to produce this afresh every moment: it is a continual inward creation. One is inwardly aware: While there, outside thee the outer world exists; thou must remain alone and create and create. What thou createst is the world which surges around thee beyond the shores of thine own being.
As we thus live on further during the first half of our life between death and rebirth and approach the middle of the period between death and rebirth, we feel the solitary life grow richer and richer, and at the same time the vision of our spiritual environment becomes dimmer and more restricted. This continues until we arrive at the middle of the period between death and rebirth, which in my last Mystery Drama, "The Soul's Awakening," I have endeavored to describe as the Midnight of the World. That is the period when we have the strongest inward life — but we no longer have within us the creative soul-force enabling us to illumine our spiritual environment. Here, one might say, infinite worlds fill us inwardly, spiritually, but we are unable to know anything about any other being except our own. That is the central point in our experience between death and rebirth: it is the Midnight of the World.
Now the time begins when there develops within us the longing for a positive creative power; for although we have an infinite inner life, there awakens within us the longing to have an outer world again. And so different are the conditions of the spiritual world from those of the physical world, that whereas in the physical world longing is the most passive force (when there is something for which we long, this something is what determines us), the reverse is the case in the spiritual world. There, longing is a creative force; it transforms itself into something which, as a new kind of soul-light, is able to give us an outer world, an outer world which is yet an inner world, inasmuch as it reveals to us a vision of our previous earthly incarnations. These now lie outspread before us, illumined by the light that is born of our longing. In the spiritual cosmos there is a power which comes from longing, which can illumine this backward survey and enable us to experience ourselves.
But to this end one thing is necessary in our present age. I have said that during the whole of the first half of our life between death and rebirth we alternate between inner life and outer life, between solitude and spiritual companionship. At first the conditions in the spiritual world are such that each time we return to our solitude in the spiritual world, to our inner activity, we call up before our soul again and again what we have experienced in the outer world. Thereby a consciousness is aroused which expands over the whole of the spiritual world; with the swing of the pendulum this again contracts during the period of solitude.
There is one thing, however, which exists there and which we must retain, no matter whether we expand into the great spiritual world or withdraw into ourselves. Before the Mystery of Golgotha took place, it was possible, through the forces connecting man with primeval times, to preserve a connection with that which gave him the feeling of ‘I’. It was possible not to lose this connection, for he could preserve a clear remembrance of one thing in the previous earthly life, namely, that in this life on the earth he had lived as an ‘I’; and this remembrance continued both through the periods of solitude and of companionship. Before the Mystery of Golgotha the forces of inheritance took care of this. Now it can only be accomplished through the fact that the soul-content which we may have through Christ having entered into the earth aura remains connected with that which we have released from us as the treasure we have brought from the earth, which we perceived withdraw immediately after leaving the physical body. This is the permeation with the Christ-substance, which after death gives us the power to maintain the remembrance of our ‘I’ up to the time of the world-midnight, in spite of all expansion and in spite of all the contraction into solitude. Thus far does the impulse proceeding from the power of Christ extend, that through it we do not lose ourselves. Then from our longing must spring a new spiritual power, a power that only exists in spiritual life and by which, through our longing, a new light may be kindled.
In the physical world there is Nature and the Divinity which pervades Nature, from which we are born into the physical world. There is the Christ-impulse which is present in the earth's aura, that is, in the aura of physical nature. But the power which draws near to us in the Midnight of the World, through which our longing is enabled to illumine the whole of our past, this power exists only in the spiritual world where nobody can live. When the Christ-impulse has brought us as far as to the Midnight of the World, and when the Midnight of the World is experienced by the soul in spiritual loneliness, because the soul-light cannot yet stream forth from us, when world-darkness has come upon us, when Christ has led us thus far, then in the Midnight of the World there emerges something spiritual from our desire, creating a new world-light which illuminates our being and by means of which we enter anew into worldly existence. We learn to know the Spirit of the spiritual world which awakens us, because out of the Midnight of the World a new light shines, the light which illuminates the whole of our human past.
In Christ we have died; through the Spirit, through the bodiless Spirit for which the technical expression Holy Ghost is used, i.e., the Spirit that lives without a body — (for this is meant by the word Holy, namely, a spirit without the weakness of one that lives in the body) — through this Spirit we are reawakened at the Midnight of the World. At the World-Midnight we are awakened by the Holy Ghost: