Rudolf Steiner, London, November 19, 1922:
Today I would like to bring our recent studies to a certain conclusion. To begin with, as I may remind you, you are already aware what awaits the human being immediately after death. His physical body being laid aside, he is in a condition in which he can never be, in the prevailing consciousness of our time, during earthly life. Within and about him he has his I, his astral body, and his ether-body. From birth till death, as you know, the ether-body remains united with the physical. Even in sleep it is only with the I and astral body that the human being is outside the physical — and thus outside the etheric body too. Now, however, then for a short while after death (only a matter of days, you will remember), man still inhabits his etheric body — his body of formative forces — and he is thereby enabled to look back on the whole course of his past earthly life, which is in fact always contained in the etheric body. As I have mentioned in the recent public lectures, this can happen in initiation too; when man is able to set the etheric body free, he beholds the entire vista of his earthly life.
Yet it is not for long that we can retain the etheric body after death. Belonging as it does to the entire cosmos, the etheric body is always wanting to expand. Even during life, if we lost hold of our physical body for a single instant, our etheric body would at once be tending — drawn as it were by an elastic power — to dissolve into the whole Cosmos. Only the physical body, in which it stays throughout our life, holds it together. And then when the physical body’s coherent power is no longer ours, straightway the etheric body begins to expand, so much so that in a few days' time it is there for us no longer. It is as when you take a little drop of water; the drop is there before you; warm it and it evaporates and expands in all directions; then it is there no more — you can no longer see it. So does the etheric body expand into the cosmos after death; after a very few days it is there no more.
Initiation wisdom shows that this can last only for a few days. For by initiation we are able — as it were, artificially — to make use of the etheric body even during earthly life. Though it remains in the physical body, we become able to disregard the latter, using the etheric body as such. At once we have the panorama of our earthly life until the given moment. Yet at the same time we see glistening and shining forth in our etheric body a reflection of the great universe. The entire starry heavens are there in the etheric body. Indeed you cannot ever see the etheric body apart from the physical without its showing you at once the starry world on every hand — the planets and the fixed stars too. It is the planets and the fixed stars which at long last receive our etheric body. Initiation science shows that we can hold the pictures in our etheric body only for three or four days at the most; then they vanish, and to avoid being disconnected altogether we must return into our physical body before this happens, otherwise the etheric body will no longer hold together. And thus indeed, a few days after death the etheric body vanishes, we have it no longer. Yet we ourselves are thereby progressively received into the world of stars.
At first, when divested of our etheric body, we feel like strangers amid the world of stars. Only the Moon, only the lunar forces, seem as it were familiar to us there. The Moon emerges on the one hand as in an after-image of its physical appearance. Yet at the same time we now begin to discover what kind of spiritual forces are connected with it. We realize how with the Moon the Jahve-power of the universe is connected, as was explained in our last lecture. For the soul who has passed through the Gate of Death, the Moon is transformed, as it were, into a colony of spiritual beings, and Jahve is their leader. Now, after death, we really learn to know what initiation science tells of, for pictures of these spiritual truths can be received by initiation science even into earthly life. We learn to know what it signifies that man on Earth must die. Yes, it is through the Moon — through the Jahve powers — that we learn the significance of death.
Looking at death from the earthly standpoint, we see the physical body of a human being rendered lifeless, while all the soul and spirit and the etheric life that filled it hitherto have disappeared. The physical body is received by the forces of the Earth, that is to say, the elements, — earth and water if it is buried, or air and fire if cremated. The human physical body, laid aside by the human being who indwelt it, is now received by the forces of the Earth. Yet we must ask: What does it mean for the physical body to be thus laid aside by man and given over to destruction? Truth is: When man is born and has in him the force of childlike growth — nay, even before his birth, when, as an embryo in his mother's womb, as to the body he belongs already to the Earth — it is these very forces, made manifest as destroying forces when man dies, which help to build his body. The self-same forces which take leave of the human physical body at death, made manifest in death in that the physical body is disintegrated, play an essential part in building up this very body. Through his ethereal and subsequent astral experiences the man himself goes on into the spiritual world, yet something of importance happens also here on Earth. From the physical body a spiritual apparition is released, emerging, as it were, out of the human body. While the real human being goes upon his way, here on the other hand, we might say, another being issues from the human body. Truly it is so when a human being dies. There lies his physical body; the man himself is departing from it, and simultaneously another being leaves it. What is this other being? It is the forces of the Moon, living as they do also here on Earth. Concentrated though they be in the cosmic entity we call the Moon, the range of these forces extends far and wide, and on the Earth they are made manifest in the powers of death. Moreover, the powers of death are at the same time those of birth. They lead the human being into earthly life and are made manifest when he leaves it. We thus begin to realize the deep connection between birth and death. Take all the human beings who die in successive times. From each of them in turn the apparition of death, as it were, comes forth and joins a spiritual atmosphere which is there around the Earth no less than is the air we breathe. This spiritual atmosphere contains what death gives up and birth receives. From the very forces that soar upward, as it were, from human corpses, human beings in their turn are born. Spiritually, our powers of growth are intimately connected with this sphere of death-force — or forces made manifest in death — which surrounds the Earth.
Now, my dear friends, think of the following: These spiritual forces — at once of death and birth, as we have seen — are forces of the Moon, and into them is mingled all that the dead human being, all along the way from birth till death, accumulated by way of moral powers, moral values. Have you been good in any way, — in the sphere of these death-Moon-forces you will find, as it were, a specific being, imbued with inner force deriving from your goodness. Yet the same being is imbued with all that derives from your badness. It is a being we ourselves engender, all the time, while living on the Earth. Unaware of it as we are in our normal consciousness, we bear it in us. We leave it every night when we are sleeping, for in effect this entity remains in the physical body when we go out of it in sleep. I told you, did I not, that our moral and religious feelings are left behind in sleep in the physical and etheric body? There too is left behind this real being which we ourselves give birth to during earthly life — the bearer of our karma.
This being now remains with us after death so long as we are in the realm of the Moon forces. Indeed, just because this being keeps us amid the Moon forces, that is, in the near neighborhood of Earth, during the first time after death we are obliged to remain connected with these lunar forces and with our own karma, so much so that we live again through all the deeds we did on Earth from birth till death. We have to live them through again in a spiritual form of being, three times as fast as we did on Earth. We live them through again in backward order. So do we spend a period of time after death, obliged to do things intimately connected with our earthly deeds. We are united, it is true, no longer through the physical body with the Moon forces of death (for we have laid the physical body aside), and yet as beings of soul and spirit we are obliged to carry out deeds intimately connected with our deeds on Earth. And as we thus go through our life again in backward order, our karma is ever more convincingly brought home to us.
Yet with all this, my dear friends, you must remember to mostly judge spiritual matters in a spiritual way. If you were fond of a human being on the Earth, you may now be feeling: Today, alas, after his death, he will be living again through all that was bad or faulty in his actions! From your physical and earthly standpoint you are sorry for him. But if you asked the soul himself who has gone through the gate of death whether he too judges it thus, he would answer: “No. I should not want to be undergoing this after-death life in any other way than with the judgment which is mine here and now, as a being of pure soul and spirit experiencing all things again, so to impress them ever more deeply into the true being of my soul. If I have been responsible for any deed which makes me appear a morally imperfect man, and if I were not to go through it all again deeply and inwardly as I am doing now, I should not feel the strong impulsion to make it good. I should not want to free myself from this my failing. Precisely by experiencing the deed all over again in soul and spirit, the urge is born in me to overcome it by a better action.” Not for anything in the world would the dead forgo this opportunity to make good again, for this alone will give him power to achieve his full humanity — will give him strength to be made whole. In this respect you may be sure, even as a landscape looks very different seen from the valley or from a mountain-top, so life itself looks different seen from this physical world where we are now, and from yonder side. Only too often the relationships of earthly life to the life after death, which after all transcends the physical, are misjudged for this reason. Think of another example, my dear friends. Maybe you are a really good anthroposophist, very keen on spiritual science, but you are living in the same house and in very close connection with someone else who detests it, who regards Anthroposophy as his greatest enemy. Now you may say, you are extremely sorry to be causing him so much pain by your attachment to what he detests. From the aspect of earthly life this may be rightly judged. Seen from the other side, however, very often it turns out in such a case that it lay in the other person's karma not to be able to come near to Anthroposophy owing to hindrances brought from a former life, making him in his head a very hater of it. As to his head, he simply cannot bear it. He becomes vexed and excited every time he hears tell of anthroposophical truths. Yet all the time, in his inmost heart he may not be averse to them at all, and when he dies it may well be that he has after death a very deep longing for Anthroposophy. Often therefore you will be doing just what is needed for one who hated it during earthly life if after his death you turn to him with thoughts derived from Anthroposophy, so as to bring them to him. Paradoxical as it may sound, not a few relatives who raged and stormed when another member of the family became an anthroposophist have become deeply attached to it after death. In this respect once more, you must take seriously what I said during my last sojourn here: we judge life very differently from yonder side than we do from this side.
Yes, man becomes very different after his death. For you should also think of this: In physical and earthly life there is your brain inside and in the cavity of your skull; a little farther down there is the lung, and then the other organs. More outwardly, toward the surface of the body, there are your senses. Through all that is thus contained within the limits of your skin, you are enabled to perceive the outer world. Now, after death you yourself go out into the world. At first the stars are only shining into your etheric body, but when the etheric body too has been laid aside, you will actually identify yourself with the stars. Before, you had in you a brain; now you will have in you the spiritual essences of Venus, Mercury, the Sun, and so on. You can truly say: Even as on the Earth I had in me my lungs, my heart, my kidneys, and so forth, so Moon and Mercury and Sun are in me now. You in your inner being are at one with the great universe. Do you imagine that the universe will provide you with the same kind of perception and understanding as your brain does? The world will look very different to you now! The Earth itself looks different when we behold it from the Sun than when we ourselves are on Earth and looking upward to the Sun.
So then we undergo in all reality this backward recapitulation of our life, during which time we still remain in close connection with Moon and Mercury and Venus, while our relation to the more distant stars — to Mars and Jupiter and Saturn, and to the fixed stars above all — is as yet feebly developed.
When we have thus retraced our actions all the way backward until birth, then do we judge them from the standpoint of the stars; and in our judgment of ourselves we are no longer merely looking backward now, but forward. We have the kind of judgment which tells us: You must do thus to balance out this action, and thus to balance out another action, and so on.
We are immersed in the recapitulation of our life during the first twenty or thirty years after death, according to the age we reached, — it takes a third as long as earthly life. (Children who have died go through it quickly: while for very little children, you will easily conclude, it scarcely comes into question.) Connected still in soul and spirit with your past earthly life, you live it through again in backward sequence. And when at last you have arrived at birth, only the “memory” of it will remain with you. It is as though at this moment you were to lay aside yet another body. We are accustomed to say: We lay aside the astral body. What happens in reality is that the living action in which you were hitherto immersed is now transformed for you into a thought-picture — only it is a consciousness pertaining to the stars that thinks it, while here on Earth an earthly consciousness was thinking.
As you set forth now on your further way within the spiritual world you will be living with the beings of whom the physical refulgence are the Sun and Moon and Stars. With the spiritual beings of the Stars you will now live on. Moreover into this life amid the Stars you bear with you the memory of the karmic entity you had to lay aside with your astral body. Once more, the “laying aside” means nothing else than that the life we were immersed and actively engaged in is but a memory to us now — a memory which we as cosmic Man take with us. Weighted with this memory — the legacy of our earthly life — we step forth into a purely spiritual world.
While undergoing the aforesaid recapitulation of his past earthly life, man is essentially within the planetary sphere. Advancing from the spiritual forces of the Moon to those of Venus, Mercury, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and at last Saturn — living therefore between the spheres of Moon and Saturn, feeling within himself the planetary cosmos — throughout this time man is still undergoing the backward recapitulation of his recent Earth-life. A few days ago I was telling you of how the Moon- and Saturn-forces which bring man down into the earthly realm, the Moon seeking ever and again to hold him fast on Earth, Saturn on the other hand seeking to bear him out into the universe of Stars. Yet we must understand this truly, for when man goes into the universe of Stars between death and new birth, he is no longer seeing the physical reflection of the Stars; he is living now with the beings to whom the several Stars belong.
When after death we have passed the sphere of Saturn, we become ripe to experience the pure spiritual world. In the book Theosophy this moment is described as the passage from the soul-world into Spirit-land. Trammeled however as he is by the memory of his past earthly life, man is unable to achieve the crossing by himself. He needs a helper in the spiritual world — and of this too, you will recall, I was telling in recent lectures. In the age before the Mystery of Golgotha, the initiates in the Mysteries could say to their disciples: If you have duly sent your religious offerings up into the spiritual world, you will be able to find the sublime Being of the Sun who goes with you from the time when you with yourself take leave of the Sun-sphere. He in His spiritual Being will accompany you to the other side, where, so to speak, the Sun shines spiritually outward into cosmic space, even as He himself shines physically down onto the Earth. The sublime Being of the Sun will then go with you; He will escort you to the Saturn sphere and farther out from thence into the sphere of Stars. The spiritual Sun will, as it were, be shining for you; thus and thus only will you win your passage from the soul-world into Spirit-land.
Now through the Mystery of Golgotha it has grown different. The Being of the Sun came down to Earth — took on a body in the man Jesus of Nazareth. By turning now in heart and mind and feeling to the Christ and to the Mystery of Golgotha, already here, upon the Earth, man receives power that will enable him to get beyond the spheres of Sun and Saturn, so to gain entry into Spirit-land — in other words, into the world of Stars.
Then comes the state in which man undergoes his further life between death and new birth. If I am now to tell you more about this state, in the way the man of the present time — after the Mystery of Golgotha — can undergo it by virtue of the power of Christ which he has received, I must insert the following. In the first place I must point out what it really means when we are out yonder in the world of Stars, in Spirit-land, for us to have the “memory” of our earthly life. The following will help you understand it.
Getting beyond the Saturn sphere, we enter into what was named the Zodiac in ancient world-conceptions. Though it was meant to typify the fixed-star-heavens as a whole — the Spirit-land, in other words — in the sum-total of the stars which constitute the Zodiac we have a comprehensive picture of the path which Man must undergo, to build from the entire cosmos, with the help of the beings of the hierarchies, the spirit-seed of his physical body for the next incarnation. If you should say: “Here upon Earth we have such interesting work to do, building up civilization, working for our fellowmen, and so on; how meagre it must be to be engaged only in forming a body for ourselves,” you would be making a great mistake. Nothing that you can ever do on Earth can be as great and manifold as what you have to do when from the starry worlds you build this temple of the Gods, the human body. This is by far the greater task and the more manifold. Nor do you merely make your own body for yourself. As we shall see in a moment, you really make it so that it belongs to mankind as a whole. Associated as you are by karma with one human being or another, while building your new body you imbue it with the tendency to bring you together again in a beneficial way, so that you and they together can make good. You are working for mankind in a far higher degree out there than you are able to do while here on Earth. Now as to how you work amid the Stars, let me describe it in more detail, only remember please what I said before. Telling of yonder worlds sublime, I can speak only in pictures; the human concepts of our time are not so formed as to enable one to express it otherwise.
In its entirety, once more, you have to build the spiritual seed of your next physical body. From the ingredients of the whole universe you build it. When for example you are living in and with those spiritual beings who have their physical reflection in the constellation of Aries, the Ram, you will work with the hierarchies of Aries in forming your future head, which is indeed a universe in itself. No matter how contracted here in the physical body, in your head you carry the entire cosmos — the cosmos seen from the aspect of Aries. And while, upon the scene of Aries, you are at work with the hierarchy of that constellation, meanwhile the planets are shining; as they shine physically down on to the Earth, so do they shine spiritually to the other side. Say for example that you have worked your way from Aries to the next constellation — Taurus, the Bull. While working with the hierarchies in Taurus, you elaborate the region of your larynx in its connection with the lungs. Mars in the meantime, from the planetary spheres, shines up into the sphere of Taurus, and in the movements of Mars there is expressed all that you did with your organs of speech, rightly or wrongly, while you were on the Earth. Every untruth which a man uttered shines at him spiritually from the planet Mars while he is working through the Taurus sphere. You may imagine therefore, what is the nature of the “memory” we there retain of our own deeds. We find it after death, written into the universe — nay, as the very Logos, speaking from the universe toward that other side of world-existence.
Thus for the region of the speech organs we have to work at our future body, hindered or helped according as we lied or told the truth. And so it is, to take another example, when we are going through the constellation of Leo. It is the Sun now that sheds spiritual light on all the imperfections of our heart — more or less deep or superficial as we have been in our feelings and in our sympathies and antipathies, belonging as these do to our temperament and blood-circulation while on Earth. So while we work and build at our future body, the language of the planets, sounding into the cosmic spaces, utters forth the whole of our preceding life. It is so in deed and truth, strange as it may seem from an earthly standpoint. We watch the planetary movements from yonder side, even from without — Mars for example moving in the face of Taurus. The movements form themselves into a cosmic writing, but the writing is not mute, it actually sounds into the universe. Such is the writing of the Stars, by our own deeds inscribed into the cosmic spaces. Small wonder if on our return we prepare what will then be ours — the measure of our karma. For we can only build the physical body for our future life under the ceaseless influence of this speaking of the Stars.
So then we work our way through the spiritual realm. We spend the longer time upon this spiritual journey, the greater the proportion of our full consciousness in the past earthly life to the dim consciousness we had as a little child. For we are now in a state of consciousness transcending the consciousness we had on Earth, even as our earthly consciousness as grown-up men and women transcends the dreamy state of childhood. There are distinctly these three stages. If a man lived to the age of thirty and spent the first five years in the dream-consciousness of childhood, he will have lived in fuller consciousness six times as long. So now again he lives six times longer than his entire Earth-life in the still fuller consciousness which pertains to him out there amid the Stars. We understand it therefore quite simply: a child who dies will live only for a short time between death and new birth. The older a man grows, the longer must he spend there. For by his longer life on Earth his higher consciousness was darkened for a longer time — I mean the higher-than-earthly consciousness which he underwent in the spiritual world after his former death. The longer this was darkened, the longer must he work to make it light again. For we must enter right fully into the light.
When we are fully in the light, then comes the time between death and a new birth which you will find described in one of my Mystery plays as the midnight hour in the spiritual life of man. It is about the middle of the time between death and new birth. This is the time when our consciousness, amid the beings of the hierarchies in the spiritual world, is most steeped in spiritual light. Yet at this very time we also experience most deeply: Down yonder in the planetary sphere is the abiding record of all that you, man, did. You may not abandon it, you cannot leave it thus — so say we to ourselves — nor can you ever alter it while you are here; you can change it only by going down to Earth. And so the urge arises to descend again to Earth — to resolve, as it were, between Moon and Saturn. The forces of the Moon are drawing for us once again and we resolve to follow them, so to set forth on our returning journey. If a man grew to adult life in his last incarnation, it will be centuries later.
The nearer we now come to the planetary sphere, and notably to the spheres of Mercury, Venus, and Moon, the more we lose the consciousness of community with the beings of the hierarchies. To tell it more precisely: the consciousness we enter into now contains only the revelations of these spiritual beings, whereas we felt ourselves till lately living among them and within them. While preparing the human head of our next incarnation, for example, we felt ourselves working very intimately with them. Now they appear to us as if in pictures. Meanwhile the forces of the Moon arise within us. We feel once more: We are a being destined to live a life of our own. Although not yet in a physical body, we have a premonition of living in and by ourselves, a stranger to the cosmos. No longer do we see the spiritual beings as they really are; all that we now possess are the pictures of them.
While we are going through these pictures, the spiritual seed of the physical body which we were preparing falls ever farther from us and disappears. We are obliged to witness this: the spiritual seed has fallen from us; it has gone down into a physical mother and father, entering into the forces of generation, into the stream of generation upon the physical Earth. So it is in all reality. The physical body we also were preparing shrinks and contracts and falls into the streams of generation — into a physical father and mother upon Earth, — while we ourselves as soul and spiritual being are left behind, feeling that we belong to what has fallen from us, yet cannot unite with it directly. In this condition — it is our only means of re-uniting with it — we now begin to draw to ourselves the forces of the ether that are there throughout the cosmos; we begin to form our etheric body. We do this when the spirit-seed of our physical body has already fallen from us and is down there on Earth, preparing the physical body in the mother's womb, while we are gathering the forces with which we form our ether-body. With this etheric body we then unite ourselves, when the human seed has already been for a time in the mother's womb.
Such is the process of return to earthly life. We have been living with the pictures — no more than the pictures — of the spiritual beings; now we incorporate what we can take into ourselves only through the forces of the Moon. What until now was but the “memory” of our own karmic entity we now take in as real effective forces, right into our ether-body. Therefore we afterward appear on Earth in such a way that we of ourselves bring about the unfoldment of our destiny, our karma. It is while passing through the lunar forces that we conceive the longing thus to live and fulfill our karma upon Earth.
Such, my dear friends, is the cycle through which man lives from death till birth. First he experiences the ascent to independent consciousness within the spirit-sphere. Thereafter, this consciousness is gradually steeped again in twilight; the spirit-sphere remains with him in pictures only, and he receives into himself the will to karma. He comes back to Earth, to work once more in a physical body. So he goes on, till through a sequence of such Earth-lives he shall become capable of yet another metamorphosis, another mode of being.
In present earthly time it is as I have been relating. In his descent from the starry spheres, man has the memory of his former Earth-existence, and from this memory he now takes his start. Having prepared it for himself within the starry spheres, at his descent he now unites with his own physical body. But we are living now in a very important period of Earth-existence, the significance of which we can understand only if we first know what has just been related — how in the starry spheres we prepare and work and win for ourselves the physical body which we eventually put on when we come down again to Earth. For at this very point something of great significance is about to happen in our epoch. I will say more of it in the third part of the lecture.
I have often drawn attention to the fact that in the last third of the 19th century changes whose origin is in the spiritual world began to affect the whole course of human earthly life. The gates of knowledge were in a way opened to the spiritual world. If man is duly active on his own part he can now reach into the spiritual world with true cognition, whereas for many centuries before, while material knowledge was developing, this possibility had not been given.
The change took place to begin with in the spiritual world, in that the beings who had been leading hitherto were replaced by that spiritual being who for his likeness in character to what is traditionally known by this name may be described as the being of Michael. Michael, we may truly say, has taken over the spiritual guidance of mankind. The fact that Michael is now entering the soul-life and spiritual life of mankind has its visible counterpart on Earth. An ever growing number of people begin to realize that man is livingly and constantly connected not only through his physical body with the Earth, but through his soul and spirit with the spiritual world.
Man is thus growing into conscious spiritual knowledge. This is the one aspect of the leadership of Michael; but there is also another. To be sincerely filled with spiritual knowledge also affects the human heart, the human soul. The more the light of Spiritual Science spreads, the less will it remain a mere theory; it will pour out into human feeling — it will be present in the form of true human love, in ever widening circles.
What, in effect, is the relation to the human being of all the learning and information accumulated in the last few centuries? It lives as knowledge in the human head; it does not reach the entire man — it fails to flow from the head into the human being as a whole. Knowledge of this sort then becomes a kind of tumor in the soul. Failing to receive the proper forces from the rest of the human being, it gradually hardens. This is what happens when we merely grow more clever in our head, and the appropriate feelings, springing from the rest of our human being, no longer permeate our increasing cleverness. A kind of cancerous growth becomes established in our soul and spiritual life. The head itself cannot truly thrive if the whole human being is not living in the world with heartfelt love, and also willing what he loves.
Yet man will never understand what the leadership of Michael intends unless he goes out to meet it with his own active contribution — unless he opens out his mind to spiritual enlightenment and becomes filled with the human love which springs from such enlightenment. When he does this, then also will he realize with ever growing comprehension the significance of Michael's leadership and guidance.
The people of the Old Testament — they too spoke of a leadership of Michael, and in so speaking they conceived Michael to be the servant of Jahve. Michael, therefore, in the Old Testament times, worked with those spiritual forces which are the forces of Jahve. He was the minister of Jahve. He helped in the inexorable fight of which I spoke before — the fight with the Ahrimanic powers. In our age, on the other hand, Michael's leadership now begins to help regulate the historic destinies of mankind; it also is signifying that the word shall presently come true: the leadership of Christ will spread over the Earth. It is as though Michael goes before, bearing the light of spiritual knowledge, while after Him there comes the Christ, calling man to universal, all-embracing love. Now, this entails a change not only for the Earth; it involves changes also for the life man undergoes between death and a new birth.
Since ancient times of earthly evolution it has been as I today described it. The human being prepares the spiritual seed of his own physical body, which he takes over when he steps forth into his new life on Earth. Now, however, since the Christ-Michael leadership has begun, men will be able ever increasingly to make another important decision before they come down to Earth. Today as yet only a few will do so; a growing number will as time goes on. For spiritual knowledge sheds its light not only on the Earth, but out into the higher realms as well. Through the present leadership of Michael man will now learn to make a very significant decision at the moment when he has already taken on his karma — taken it into his new ether-body — but is still only setting out upon the way into the physical. With the increasing spread of spiritual knowledge on the Earth and with man’s growing experience within himself of universal human love, the following possibility will arise for mankind in coming time. When at the point of descending into a next earthly life, man will be able to say to himself: ‘This is the body I have been preparing; yet, having sent it down to Earth and having now received my karma into the ether-body which I have drawn together from the cosmos, I see how it is with this karma. Through something that I did in former lives I see that I have gravely hurt some other human being.’ For we are always in the danger of hurting others through the things we do. The light of judgment as to what we have done to another man will be particularly vivid at this moment when we are still living only in our ether-body, having not yet put on the physical. Here too in future time the light of Michael will be working, and the love of Christ. And we shall then be enabled to bring about a change in our decision — namely to give to the other man the body we have been preparing, while we ourselves take on the body he prepared, whom we have injured.
Such is the mighty transition which will be taking place from now onward in the spiritual life of men. It will be possible for us of our own decision to enter into the body prepared perforce by another human soul to whom we once did grievous harm; he on the other hand will be enabled to enter into the body we prepared. What we are able to achieve on Earth will thus bring about karmic compensation in quite another way than heretofore. We human beings shall be able even to exchange our physical bodies. Indeed, the Earth could never reach her goal if this did not take place; mankind would never grow into a single whole. In preparation for future planetary embodiments of the Earth, a time must come in earthly evolution when it will be impossible for one individual to enjoy things on the Earth at the expense of another. As in a plant the single leaf or petal feels itself a member of the whole and shares — pictorially speaking — in the weal and woe of the whole plant, so must a future come for the planet Earth when one human being will not want to enjoy happiness at the expense of the whole, but man will feel a member of mankind. And it will be the true spiritual counterpart of this when we shall learn to prepare the physical body even for one another.
We are in fact emerging from the epoch when each of us had, so to speak, his own continuation to himself as to the physical body. In the new epoch that is now beginning — brought on by the present leadership of Michael — we shall work at the spirit-seeds of the physical bodies of men in such a way that one works for another. Moreover, as our incarnations of the Earth go on, this will lead even further. For in thus working for one another in the spirit, we shall prepare for a yet later time, to tell the character of which will sound completely strange and paradoxical, yet it is true. For in that more distant future, human souls even while on Earth will be able to go across into the bodies of those to whom they have done some special hurt and to receive the other soul into their own body. That will be when the Earth herself will have passed into quite new conditions. Yet it is also being prepared for by the actual and impending change of which I have been telling, and which is coming about in the spiritual world through the leadership of Michael.
From this example you can see most vividly the essence of “ideal magic.” If while on Earth you are receptive to the illumination that comes from Spiritual Science, then you are truly helping on the leadership of Michael. Then you are helping on those spiritual forces which will enable men so to live for one another that even in deciding upon the physical body they are to take, they will consider what is best for all mankind. When we are choosing our physical body, this will determine our decision. If you prepare for this event even now on Earth — prepare for it by the Wisdom-of-Man and by the Love-of-Man — what you are doing will have reality in the spiritual world. And this is true “ideal magic.” It is the true “white magic” as it was called in olden times, and into it mankind is now about to enter.
I wanted to tell you of this most vital factor which has now come into the evolutionary pathway of mankind. We must not shrink for want of courage when it is needful to unveil facts of the spiritual world entering deep into the life of man. For the whole future of mankind depends on man's learning really to live with the spiritual world as naturally as on the Earth he lives with the physical. Mankind must learn to be at home again in the spiritual world as it was in the beginning, in primeval time. Only by doing so shall we be helping mankind's future. In the true sense we must understand the word of Christ: “My kingdom is not of this world.” How then shall we understand it? Did He not after all come down to Earth? Should He not therefore have said: My kingdom is of this world? No, He did not say that, for He intended gradually to transform the Earth into a kingdom that should not be utterly absorbed in earthly things, but should pass over, ever more and more, into a spiritual state. Christ's kingdom is not as the Earth was until the Mystery of Golgotha, nor as it still continued, running on in the old lines as if by dint of inertia. The Spirit shall prevail upon the Earth — such is His Kingdom! And this will come to pass when mankind truly comprehends the leadership of Michael. Nor is true comprehension proved in any other way than by the quest I have now indicated — the quest of spiritual illumination and of human, Christ-filled love.
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