Sunday, October 29, 2017
Our Soul Life: During Life, and After Death
We have heard how in accordance with anthroposophical knowledge the being of man must be viewed in relation to the whole universe. We considered the human form and figure and its relation to the fixed stars, or rather to the representative of the fixed stars — the Zodiac. We heard how certain forces proceed from the constellations of these stars when combined with the Sun forces, and how the shape and structure of the human head and the organs connected with it are related to the upper constellations of the Zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer. The structure of the human chest organization is connected with the middle constellations: Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio. Finally the metabolic-and-limb system is connected with the lower constellations: Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces — that is to say with their forces when they are, in a sense, covered by the Earth. So that we can say: The fixed stars — for the Zodiac is only the representative of the fixed stars — work upon the human form and structure.
The planetary spheres work upon man's stages or forms of life. It must indeed be quite clear to us that man has various kinds of life in him. We should not be able to think, the head would not be an organ of thought, if life were as rampant there as it is in the metabolic system, for example. When metabolism becomes too strong in the head, consciousness is extinguished; we lose our consciousness of self.
From this it may be concluded that for consciousness, for mental presentation, a damped-down, suppressed life, a declining life, is necessary; while a thriving life, vehement and intense, is necessary for what works more from out of the unconscious to become will.
We have therefore among the various stages of life some which tend toward self-extinction, and some in which strong, intense organic activity manifests, as in a child, in whom thought is not yet operating. We have this childlike life continually within us; but into this childlike life the life that is involved in a gradual process of death inserts itself.
These different stages of life are connected with the planetary spheres. Whereas the fixed stars work in man through his physical forces, the planetary spheres work through his etheric forces. The planetary spheres, therefore, work upon man in a more delicate way. But the human physical body has already received its form, its shape, from the fixed stars, not from anything earthly; and its stages of life from the planetary spheres.
We have thus considered the form of man's physical body, the life-stages of his ether body. We can now proceed to consider his life of soul-and-spirit. But here our mode of study must be different. What is it that our physical body and our ether body provide for us in waking life? They provide what we perceive through our senses and what we can work over in our thoughts. We are only really awake in our acts of sense perception and when we work over them in thought.
On the other hand, consider the life of feeling. It is obvious, even to superficial study, that feeling does not indicate a state of awakeness as complete as that of thinking and sense perception. When we wake in the morning and become aware of the colors and sounds of the outside world, when we are conscious of the conditions of warmth around us, we are fully awake, and then, in our thoughts, we work over what is transmitted by the senses. But when feelings rise up from the soul, it cannot be said that we are conscious in them to the same extent. Feelings link themselves with sense perceptions. One sense impression pleases us, another displeases us. Feelings also intermingle with our thoughts. But if we compare the pictures we experience in dreams with what we experience in our feelings, then the connection between dreamlife and the life of feeling is clearly noticeable.
Dreams have to be grasped by the waking life of thought if they are to be valued and understood aright. But feelings too must be observed, as it were, by our thought-life if we are to understand them. In our feelings we are, in reality, dreaming. When we dream, we dream in pictures. When we are awake, we dream in our feelings. And in our will we are asleep, even when fully awake. When we raise an arm, when we do this or that, we can perceive what movements the arm or hand is making, but we do not know how the power of the will operates in the organism. We know as little about that as about the conditions prevailing from the time we fall asleep until we wake up. In our willing, in our actions, we are asleep, while in our sense perceptions and our thoughts we are awake. So we are not only asleep during the night; we are asleep, in part of our being, during waking life too. In our will we are asleep and in our feelings we dream. What we experience during actual sleep is withdrawn from our consciousness. But in essence, the same is true of feeling and willing. It is therefore obviously important to realize what it is that the human being experiences in these realms of which ordinary life is quite unaware.
You know from many anthroposophical lectures that from the time of going to sleep until that of waking, the ego and astral body are outside the physical body and the ether body. Now it may be of very great importance to learn about just those experiences which the ego and the astral body pass through from the time of falling asleep to that of waking up. When we are awake, we are confronted by sense perceptions of the material world. To a certain extent we reach out and encounter them; but with our sense perceptions, our waking thoughts, we reach no further than the surface of things.
Of course someone may object, saying that he can get further than the surface of things, that if he cuts a piece of wood which is there before him as a sense perception, then he has penetrated inside it. That is a fallacy, however, for if you cut a piece of wood, you have again only a surface, and if you cut the two pieces again, still you have only surfaces; and if you were to get right to the molecules and atoms, again you would have only surfaces. You do not reach what may be called the inner essence of things, for that lies beyond the realm of sense perception. Sense perceptions can be conceived as a tapestry spread out around us. What lies this side of the tapestry we perceive with our senses; what lies on the other side of the tapestry we do not perceive with the senses. We are in this world of sense from the time we wake up until we fall asleep. Our soul is filled with the impressions made upon us by this world of sense. Now, when we pass into sleep we are not in the world this side of the senses; we are then in reality inside things, we are on the other side of the tapestry of sense perceptions. But in his earthly consciousness man knows nothing of this and he dreams of all sorts of things lying beyond the realm of sense perception. He dreams of molecules, of atoms; but they are only dreams — dreams of his waking consciousness. He invents molecules, atoms, and the like, and believes them to be realities. But study any description of atoms, even the most recent: you will find nothing but minute objects which are described according to the pattern of what is experienced from the surface of things. It is all a tissue woven from the experiences of waking consciousness on this side of the tapestry of sense.
But when we fall asleep we emerge from the world of sense and penetrate to the other side. And whereas we experience Nature here with our waking thoughts, in yonder world, from the time of falling asleep until the time of waking, we live in the world of Spirit, that world of Spirit through which we also pass before birth and after death. In his earthly development, however, man is so constituted that his consciousness is extinguished when he passes beyond the world of sense; his consciousness is not forceful enough to penetrate to the spiritual world. But what Spiritual Science calls Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition — these three forms of supersensible cognition — give us knowledge of what lies on the other side of the tapestry of sense. And what we discover first is the lowest stage of the world of the hierarchies.
When we wake from sleep we pass over into the world of animals, plants, minerals — the three kingdoms of Nature belonging to the world of sense. When we fall asleep we pass beyond the world of sense; we are transported into the realm of the first rank of beings above man — the angels. And from the time of falling asleep until waking we are connected with the being who is allotted to man as his own angel, just as through our eyes and ears we are connected with the three kingdoms of Nature here in the world of sense. Even if at first we have no consciousness of this connection with the world of the angels, it is nevertheless there. This connection extends into our astral body.
If, living in our astral body during sleep, we were suddenly to wake up, we should contact the world of the angels, in the first place the angel who is connected with our own life, just as here in the earthly world we are in contact with animals, plants, and minerals.
Now even in the earthly world, in the world of sense, if a man is attentive and deliberately trains his thinking, he sees much more than when he is unobservant and hasty. His connection with the three kingdoms of Nature can be intimate or superficial. And it is the same with regard to the world of spiritual beings. But in the world of spiritual beings, different conditions prevail.
A man whose thoughts are entirely engrossed in the material world, who never desires to rise above it, or to acquaint himself with moral ideas extending beyond the merely utilitarian, who has no desire to experience true human love, who in his waking life has no devotion to the Divine-Spiritual world — on falling asleep, such a man has no forces which enable him to come into contact with his angel. Whenever we fall asleep, this angel is waiting as it were for the idealistic feelings and thoughts which come with us, and the more we bring, the more intimate becomes our relation to the angel while we are asleep. And so throughout our life, by means of what we cultivate over and above material interests, we garner, in our waking life, forces whereby our relation to the angel becomes more and more intimate.
When we die, all sense perceptions fall away. The outer world can no longer make any impression upon us, for this must be done via the senses, and the senses pass away with the body. In like manner, the thinking that is connected with sense perception is extinguished, for its realm is the ether body. This ether body only remains with us for a few days after death. We see it at first as a tableau — a tableau which under certain circumstances can be glimpsed during life but which will inevitably arise before us after death.
This ether-tissue dissolves away into the universe, just as the ordinary thoughts acquired from the world of sense pass away from us. They do not remain. All purely utilitarian thoughts, all thoughts connected with the material world, drift away from us when we pass through the gate of death. But the idealistic thoughts and feelings, the pure human love, the religious feelings which have arisen in our waking life and have united us with our angel, these accompany us when we pass through death.
This has a very important consequence during the period lying between death and a new birth. Even during earthly life we are connected with the higher hierarchies, and it is correct to say that when we fall asleep and our idealistic experiences reach to the angel, this angel is in turn connected with the archangels; the archangels with the archai; and so on. Our existence continues in a rich and abundant world of Spirit. But this spiritual world has no special significance for us between birth and death. This world of the higher hierarchies acquires its real significance for us when it becomes our environment between death and a new birth. The more we have delivered over to our angel the more conscious life is this angel able to infuse into us after death when we are beings of soul-and-spirit, the more gifts are bestowed by the hierarchies upon the conscious life of soul. What our angel unfolds together with the higher hierarchies (that is to say, what the beings of the first hierarchy unfold together with higher hierarchies through our angel) is for our consciousness in the spiritual world between death and rebirth what our eyes and ears are in the physical world. And the more idealistic thoughts and feelings, human love, and piety we have brought to our angel, the clearer does our consciousness become.
Now, between death and a new birth there comes a time when the angel has a definite task in connection with us. The angel has now to achieve a more intimate relation with the hierarchy of the archangels than was formerly the case. I have described the time through which man lives between death and a new birth from many different points of view, notably in the lecture course given in Vienna in 1914, entitled The Inner Nature of Man and the Life Between Death and a New Birth. I will now describe certain other aspects.
When a somewhat lengthy period has elapsed after death, the important moment comes when the angel must as it were deliver up to the archangels what he has received from us through the idealistic experiences described. It is as though man were placed before the world of the archangels, who can then receive these experiences he has unfolded in his soul and spirit during his life between birth and death. There are great differences among human souls living between death and a new birth. In our epoch there are persons who have brought very little in the way of idealistic thoughts and feelings, of human love, of piety, when the time comes for the angel to pass on to the archangel, for the purposes of cosmic evolution, what has been carried through death. This activity which unfolds between the angel and the archangel must, under all circumstances, take place. But there is a great difference, dependent upon whether we are able to follow consciously, by means of the experiences described, what takes place between the angels and the archangels or whether we only live through it in a dull, dim state, as must be the lot of human beings whose consciousness has been purely materialistic. It is not quite accurate to say that the experiences of such human beings are dull or dim. It is perhaps better to say: they experience these happenings in such a way that they feel continually rejected by a world into which they ought to be received, they feel continually chilled by a world which should receive them with warmth. For man should be received with loving sympathy into the world of the archangels at this important moment of time; he should be received with warmth. And then he will be led in the right way toward what I have called in one of my Mystery plays “The Midnight Hour of Existence.”
Man is led by the archangels to the realm of the archai, where his life is interwoven with that of all the higher hierarchies, for through the archai he is brought into relation with all the higher hierarchies and receives from their realms the impulse to descend to the Earth once again. The power is given him to work as a being of soul-and-spirit, to work in what is provided, later on, in material form, by the stream of heredity.
Before the Midnight Hour of Existence man has become more and more estranged from earthly existence, he has been growing more and more into the spiritual world — either being received lovingly (in the sense described above) by the spiritual world, being drawn to it with warmth, or being repelled, chilled by it. But when the Midnight Hour of Existence has passed, man begins gradually to long for earthly life and once again, during the second part of his journey, he encounters the world of the archangels. It is really so: between death and a new birth man ascends, first to the world of the angels, archangels, archai, and then once again descends; and after the world of the archai his most important contact is with the world of the archangels.
And now comes another important point in the life between death and a new birth. In a man who has brought through death no idealistic thoughts or feelings, no human love or true piety, something of the soul-and-spirit has perished as a result of the antipathy and chilling reception meted out by the higher world. A man who now again approaches the realm of the archangels in the right way has received into him the power to work effectively in his subsequent life on Earth, to make proper use of his body; a man who has not brought such experiences with him will be imbued by the angels with a longing for earthly life which remains more unconscious. A very great deal depends upon this. Upon it depends to what people, to what language — mother tongue — the man descends in his forthcoming earthly existence. This urge towards a particular people, a particular mother tongue, may have been implanted in him deeply and inwardly, or more superficially. So that on his descent a man is either permeated with deep and inward love for what will become his mother tongue, or he enters more automatically into what he will have to express later on through his organs of speech.
It makes a great difference in which of these two ways a man has been destined for the language that will be his in the coming earthly life. He who before his earthly life, during his second passage through the realm of the angels, can be permeated with a really inward love for his mother tongue assimilates it as though it were part of his very being. He becomes one with it. This love is absolutely natural to him; it is a love born of the soul; he grows into his language and race as into a natural home. If however a man has grown into it the other way during the descent to his next earthly life, he will arrive on the Earth loving his language merely out of instinct and lower impulses. Lacking the true, inward love for his language and his people, he will be prone to an aggressive patriotism connected with his bodily existence. It makes a great difference whether we grow into race and language with the tranquil, pure love of one who unites himself inwardly with his folk and language, or whether we grow into them more automatically, and out of passions and instincts express love for our folk and our language. The former conditions never come to expression in chauvinism or a superficial and aggressive form of patriotism. A true and inward love for race and language expresses itself naturally, and is thoroughly consistent with real and universal human love. Feeling for internationalism or cosmopolitanism is never stultified by this inner love for a language and people. When, however, a man grows into his language more automatically, when through his instincts and impulses he develops an over-fervid, organic, animal-like love for language and people, false nationalism and chauvinism arise, with their external emphasis upon race and nationality.
At the present time especially it is necessary to study from the standpoint of life between death and a new birth what we encounter in the outer world in our life between birth and death. For the way we come down into race and language through the stream of heredity, through birth, depends upon how we encounter, for the second time, the realm of the archangels.
Those who try to understand life today from the spiritual vantage point know that the experience arising in the period between death and a new birth when man comes for the second time into the realm of the angels is very important. All over the Earth today the peoples are adopting a false attitude to nationality, race, and language, and much of what has arisen in the catastrophe of the second decade of the twentieth century in the evolution of the Western people is only explicable when studied from such points of view. He who studies life today in the light of anthroposophical Spiritual Science must assume that in former earthly lives many men became more and more deeply entangled in materialism. You all know that, normally, the period between death and a new birth is lengthy. But especially in the present phase of evolution there are many men whose life between their last death and their present birth was short, and in their former earthly life they had little human love or idealism. Already in the former earthly life their interests were merely utilitarian. And as a result, in their second contact with the realm of the angels between death and a new birth, the seeds were laid for all that arises today in such an evil form in the life of the West.
We shall have realized that man can only be understood as a spatial being when it is known that his form and structure derive from the realm of the fixed stars and his life-stages from the planetary spheres. As a spatial being, man draws the forces that are active in him not only from the Earth but from the whole cosmos. Now, just as it is necessary to go beyond what is earthly in order to understand man as a spatial being, so it is necessary to go beyond life between birth and death in order to understand social life, racial life on the Earth.
When we carefully observe the life of today we find that although men claim their right to freedom so vociferously, they are, in reality, inwardly unfree. There is no truly free life in the activities which nowadays manifest such obvious forces of decline; instincts and lower impulses are the cause of the misery in social life. And when this is perceived we are called upon to understand it.
Just as a second meeting with the archangels takes place, so, when man once again approaches earthly life, he enters into a more intimate union with his angel. But at first he is somewhat withdrawn from the realm of the angels. As long as he is in the realm of the archangels, his angel too is more strongly bound with this realm. Man lives as it were among the higher hierarchies, and as he draws near to a new birth he is entrusted more and more to the realm of the angels, who then lead him through the world of the elements, through fire, air, water, and earth, to the stream of heredity. His angel leads him to physical existence on Earth. His angel can make him into a man who is in a position to act freely, out of the depths of his soul-and-spirit, if all the conditions described have been fulfilled by the achievements of a former earthly life.
But the Angel is not able to lead a man to a truly free life if he has had to be united automatically with his language and his race. In such a case the individual life also becomes unfree. This lack of freedom shows itself in the following way. Instead of forming free concepts, such a man merely thinks words. He becomes unfree because all his thinking is absorbed in words. This is a fundamental characteristic of modern men.
Earthly life in its historical development, especially in its present state, cannot be understood unless we also turn with the eyes of soul to the life which runs its course between death and a new birth, to the world of soul-and-spirit.
To understand the human form, we must turn to the heaven of the fixed stars; to understand the stages of life in man we must turn to the planetary spheres. If we wish to understand man's life of soul-and-spirit, we must not confine our attention to the life between birth and death, for as we have seen, this life of soul-and-spirit is rooted in the world of the higher hierarchies and belongs to the higher hierarchies just as the physical body and ether-body of man belong to the physical and etheric worlds.
Again, if we wish to understand thinking, feeling, and willing, then we must not merely confine our attention to man's relation to the world of sense. Thinking, feeling, and willing are the forces through which the soul develops. We are carried as it were through the gate of death by our idealistic thoughts — by what love and religious devotion have implanted in these thoughts. Our first meeting with the archangels depends upon how we have ennobled our thinking and permeated it with idealism. But when we have passed through the Midnight Hour of Existence, our thinking dies away. It is this thinking which now, after the Midnight Hour of Existence, is re-molded and elaborated for the next earthly life. And the forces which permeate our physical organs of thinking in the coming earthly life are shaped by our former thinking. The forces working in the human head are not merely forces of the present life. They are the forces which have worked over into this life from thinking as it was in the last life, and give rise to the form of the brain.
On the other hand, it is the will which, at the second meeting with the archangels, plays its special part in man's life of soul-and-spirit. And it is the will which then, in the next life on Earth, lays hold of the limb-and-metabolic organism. When we enter through birth into earthly life, it is the will which determines the fitness or inadequacy of the limbs and the metabolic processes.
Within the head we really have a physical mirror-image of the thoughts evolved in the previous life. In the forces of the metabolism and limbs we have the working of the newly acquired forces of will which, at the second meeting with the archangels, are incorporated into us as I have described — either in such a way that they are inwardly active in the life of soul, or operate automatically.
Those who realize how this present life, which generates such forces of decline in humanity of the West, has taken shape will look with the greatest interest toward what was active in man between death and a new birth during the period of existence preceding this present earthly life. And what they can learn from this will fill them with the impulse — now that the dire consequences of materialism are becoming apparent in the life of the peoples — to give men who already in their last incarnation were too materialistic that stimulus which can lead once again to a deepening of inner life, to free spiritual activity, to a really intimate and natural relation to language and race which does not in any way run counter to internationalism or cosmopolitanism.
But first and foremost our thinking must be permeated with real spirituality. In the spirit of modern man, there are, in reality, only thoughts. When man speaks today of his spirit he is actually speaking only of his thoughts, of his more or less abstract thinking. What we need is to be filled with spirit, the living spirit belonging to the world lying between death and a new birth. In respect of his form, his stages of life, his nature of soul-and-spirit, man must regard himself as belonging to a world which lies outside the earthly sphere; then he will be able to bring what is right and good into earthly life.
We know how the spiritual in man is gradually absorbed by other domains of earthly existence, by political life, by economic life. What is needed is a free and independent spiritual life; only thereby can man be permeated with real spirituality, with spiritual substance, not merely with thoughts about this or that. Anthroposophy must therefore be prepared to work for the liberation of the spiritual life. If this spiritual life does not stand upon its own foundations, man will become more and more a dealer in abstractions, He will not be able to permeate his being with living spirit, but only with abstract spirit.
When a man here, in physical life, passes through the gate of death, his corpse is committed to the Earth, or to the elements. His true being is no longer within this physical corpse. When a man passes through birth in such a way that through the processes described he has become an ‘automaton’ in his relation to his nation, language, and conduct — then his living thinking, his living will, his living nature of soul-and-spirit die when he is born into the physical world, and within physical existence become the corpse of the divine being of soul-and-spirit.
Our abstract, rationalistic thinking is verily a corpse of the soul-and-spirit. Just as the real human being is no longer within the physical corpse, so we have in abstract thinking a life of soul that is devoid of spirit — really only the corpse of the divine-spiritual. Man stands today at a critical point where he must resolve to receive the spiritual world once again, in order that he may pour new life into the abstract thinking that is a corpse of the divine-spiritual opening the way for instincts, impulses, and automatism.
What I said at the end of my lecture to students here (On the Reality of Higher Worlds. 25th November, 1921) is deeply true: If he is to pass from a decline to a real ascent, man must overcome the abstraction which, like a corpse of the soul, is present in the intellectualistic and rationalistic thinking of today.
An awakening of the soul and spirit — that is what is needed! The social life of the present day points clearly to the necessity for such an awakening. Anthroposophy has indeed an eternal task in regard to that living principle in man which must continue beyond all epochs of time. But Anthroposophy has also a task to fulfill for the present age: namely to wean man from externalization, from the tendency to paralyze and kill the divine-spiritual within him. Anthroposophy must bring back this divine-spiritual life. Man must learn to regard himself not merely as an earthly but as a heavenly being, realizing that his earthly life can only be conducted aright if the forces of heavenly existence, of the existence between death and a new birth, are brought down into this earthly life.