Saturday, June 27, 2020
Death and Karma and Reincarnation; Wisdom, Beauty, Strength
Foundations of Esotericism. Lecture 22.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, October 24, 1905:
As a continuation of the lecture on Karma and Reincarnation, let us select for special consideration the problem of death in its connection with the whole subject.
The question: Why does man die? continually claims the attention of mankind. But it is not quite easy to answer, for what we today call dying is directly connected with the fact that we stand at a quite definite stage of our development. We know that we live in three worlds — in the physical, astral, and mental worlds — and that our existence changes between these three worlds. We have within us an inner kernel of being which we call the Monad. We retain this kernel throughout the three worlds. It lives within us in the physical world, but also in the astral and devachanic worlds. This inner kernel, however, is always clad in a different garment. In the physical, astral, and devachanic worlds the garment of our kernel-of-being is different.
Now we will first look away from death and picture the human being in the physical world clothed with a particular kind of matter. He then enters the astral and devachanic worlds, always with a different garment. Let us now assume that the human being were conscious in all three worlds, so that he could perceive the things around him. Without senses and perception he would be unable to live consciously even in the physical world. If man today were equally conscious in all three worlds there would be no death, there would only be transformation. Then he would pass over consciously from one world into the other. This passing over would be no death for him, and for those left behind at most something like a journey. At present things are so that man only gradually gains continuity of consciousness in these three worlds. At first he experiences it to be a darkening of his consciousness when he enters the other worlds from the physical world. The beings who retain consciousness do not know death. Let us now come to an understanding of the way in which man has reached the stage of having his present-day physical consciousness and of how he will attain another consciousness.
We must learn to know man as a duality: as the Monad, and as what clothes the Monad. We ask: How has the one and how has the other arisen? Where did the astral man live before he became what he is today, and where did the Monad live? Both have gone through different stages of development, both have gradually reached the point of being able to unite.
In considering the physical-astral human being we are taken back into very distant times, when he was only present as an astral archetype, as an astral form. The astral man who was originally present was a formation unlike the present astral body; he was a much more comprehensive being. We can picture the astral body of those times by thinking of the Earth as a great astral ball made up of astral human beings. All the Nature forces and beings which surround us today were at that time still within man, who lived dissolved in astral existence. All plants, animals, and so on, the animal instincts and passions, were still within him. What the lion, and all the mammals, have within them today was at that time completely intermingled with the human astral body, which then contained within it all the beings at present spread over the Earth. The astral Earth consisted of human astral bodies joined together like a great blackberry and enclosed by a spiritual atmosphere in which there lived devachanic beings.
This atmosphere — astral air, one might call it — which at that time surrounded the astral Earth was composed of a somewhat thinner substance than the astral bodies of human beings. In this astral air lived spiritual beings — both lower and higher — among others the human Monads also, completely separated from the human astral bodies. This was the condition of the Earth at that time. The Monads, which were already present in the astral air, could not unite with the astral bodies, for these were still too wild. The instincts and passions had first to be ejected. Thus through the throwing off of certain substances and forces possessed by the astral body, the latter gradually developed in a purer form. What had been thrown off, however, remained as separated astral forms, beings with a much denser astral body, with wilder instincts, impulses, and passions.
Thus there now existed two astral bodies: a less wild human astral body, and an astral body that was very wild and opaque. Let us keep these strictly apart, the human astral body and what lived around it. The human astral body becomes ever finer and nobler, always throwing off those parts of itself it needed to expel, and these became ever denser and denser. In this way, when they eventually reached physical density, the other kingdoms arose: the animal, plant, and mineral kingdoms. Certain instincts and forces expelled in this way appeared as the different animal species.
So a continual purification of the astral body took place, and this brought about on Earth a necessary result. For through the fact that in consequence of this purification what man once had within him he now had outside him, he entered into relationship with these beings, and what formerly he had had within him now worked into him from outside. That is an eternal process which holds good also for the separation of the sexes, which from that time on affect each other from outside. To begin with, the whole world was interwoven with us; only later did it work upon us from outside. The original symbol for this coming back into oneself from the other side is the snake biting its tail.
In the purified astral body, pictures arise now of the world surrounding it. Let us assume that a human being had perhaps separated off ten different forms, which are now around him. Previously they were within him, and later he is surrounded by them. Now mirrored pictures arise in the purified astral body of the forms existing in the outer world. These mirrored pictures become a new force within him, they are active within him, transforming the nobler, purified astral body. For instance, it has rejected from itself the wilder instincts; these are now outside it as pictures and work upon it as formative force. The astral body is built up by means of the pictures of the world it has thrown off and which were earlier within it. They build up in it a new body. Formerly man had had the macrocosm within him, he then separated it off and now this formed within him the microcosm, a portion torn off from himself.
Thus at a certain stage we find the human being in a form which is given him by his surroundings. The mirrored pictures work on his astral body in such a way that they bring about in it differentiation and division. Through the mirrored pictures his astral body divided itself and he re-assembled it again out of the parts, so that he is now a membered organism. The undifferentiated astral mass has become differentiated into the different organs, the heart and so on. To begin with everything was astral, and this was then enclosed by the physical human body. Thereby the human forms became more and more adapted to densification and to becoming a more complicated and comprehensive organism, which is an image of the entire environment.
What has become densest of all is the physical body; the etheric body is less dense, and the astral body is the finest. They are in reality mirrored images of the outer world, microcosm in the macrocosm. Meanwhile the astral body has become ever finer and finer, so that at a certain point of Earth evolution the human being has a developed astral body. Through the fact that the astral body has become increasingly finer, it has attracted to itself the finer astral substance around it.
Meanwhile in the upper region the opposite evolutionary processes have taken place. The Monad has descended from the highest regions of Devachan into the astral region and in the course of this descent has become denser. Now the two parts approach each other. From the one side man ascends as far as the astral body, from the other side it is met by the Monad on its descent into the astral world. This was in the Lemurian Age. Thus they could mutually fructify each other. The Monad had clothed itself with devachanic substance, then again with astral airy substance. From below upwards we have the physical substance, then the etheric substance, then again astral substance. So both astral substances fructify one another and, as it were, melt into one another. What comes from above has the Monad within it. As though into a bed, it sinks itself into the astral substance.
This is how the descent of the soul takes place. But in order that it can happen, the Monad must develop a thirst to know the lower regions. This thirst must be taken for granted. As Monad, one can only learn to know the lower regions by incarnating in the human body and by its means looking out into the surrounding world. Man now consists of four members: firstly he has a physical body, secondly an etheric body, thirdly an astral body, and within this as fourth member the ego, the Monad. After the fourfold organism has come into being the Monad can look through it into the environment and a relationship is established between the Monad and everything that is in the surroundings. Through this the thirst of the Monad is partially assuaged.
We have seen that the entire human body is put together, has been put together, out of parts which arose through the fact that the originally undifferentiated mass divided itself into organs, after the original astral body had thrown off various portions of itself which were then reflected back, causing images to arise within it. These reflected images became forces within the astral body and these built up the etheric body, that is to say, through these manifold images the etheric body developed separate members. This etheric body now consisted of different parts and, as a further process, each of these parts densified within itself and so the differentiated physical body developed. Every such physical kernel, out of which the organs later develop, forms at the same time a kind of central point in the ether.
The intervening spaces between the centers are filled with the main etheric mass. We must think of the body as put together out of ten parts. These ten parts (shown in the diagram) hold the body together through their relationship; they are images of the whole of the rest of Nature, and everything depends on how strongly they are connected. Different degrees of relationship exist between the separate parts. As long as these are retained the body is held together; when the various relationships cease, the parts fall away; the body disintegrates. Because during Earth evolution we have manifold forms, the parts in the etheric body only hold together to a certain degree. Human nature is an image of the beings which have been thrown off. Insofar as these beings lead a separate existence, the parts of the physical body also lead a separate existence. When the relationship of forces has become so slight as to be non-existent, our life comes to an end. The length of our life is conditioned by the way in which the beings around us get on with each other.
The development of the higher man proceeds in such a way that, to begin with, man works upon his astral body. He works ideals into it, enthusiasm and so on. He fights against his instincts. As soon as he replaces passions with ideals, instincts with duties, and develops enthusiasm in the place of desires, he creates harmony between the parts of his astral body. This peace-making work begins with the entrance of the Monad, and the astral body gradually approaches immortality. From that time on, the astral body no longer dies but retains continuity to the degree in which it has induced peace in itself and established peace in the face of the destructive forces. From the time when the Monad enters, it brings about peace, to begin with in the astral body. Now the instincts begin to come into mutual relationship. Harmony comes about in the former chaos and an astral form arises which survives, remains living. In the physical and etheric bodies peace is as yet not established, and only partly so in the astral body. The latter retains its form for a short time only, but the more peace is established, so much the longer is the time in Devachan.
When someone has become a Chela he begins to establish peace in the etheric body. Then the etheric body too survives. The Masters also establish peace in the physical body; thus in their case the physical body also survives. The important thing is to bring into harmony the different bodies, which consist of separate warring parts, and transmute them into bodies having immortality.
Man has formed his physical body by putting out from himself the kingdoms of Nature, which then reflected themselves back into him. Through this, the single parts came into existence within him. Now he performs actions; through these he again has intercourse with his surroundings. What he now puts out are the effects of his deeds. He projects his actions into the surrounding world and gradually becomes a reflection of these actions. The Monad has been drawn into the human body; man begins to perform actions. These actions are incorporated into the surrounding world and are reflected back. To the same degree in which the Monad begins to establish peace, it also begins to take up the reflected images of its own actions.
Here we have come to a point where we continually create a new kingdom around us — the effects of our own actions. This again builds up something within us. As previously we fashioned the undifferentiated etheric body into separate members, we build into the monadic existence the effects of our actions. We call this the creation of our karma. Thereby we can give permanence to everything in the Monad. Earlier the astral body had purified itself by casting off everything that was in it. Now man created for himself a new kingdom of deeds, as it were out of nothing, in regard to relationships, a ‘creation out of nothing’. That which previously had no existence, the new relationship, reflects itself in the Monad as something new, something having a pictorial character, and a new inner kernel of being is formed in the Monad, arising out of the reflected image of deeds, the reflection of karma. As the work of the Monad progresses, the kernel of being becomes more and more enlarged. Let us observe the Monad after a period of time. On the one hand it will have established harmony out of the warring forces, and on the other hand out of the effects of deeds. Both unite and a unified formation arises.
Let us suppose that someone's earthly garment has been laid aside and the Monad remains. It retains the results of its deeds. The question is, how the results of the deeds are brought about. If these results have been so brought about that in the worlds in which the Monad now finds itself they can continue to be fruitful, then the human being can sojourn there for a long time; if not, for a short time only. In this case they must fall back again into the thirst of the Monad (for the physical plane) and once again inhabit a physical body.
Human life is a continual process of being enveloped in what surrounds us: Involution — Evolution. We take up image forms and according to these, shape our own body. What the Monad has brought about is again taken up by man as his karma. Man will always be the result of his karma. Vedanta teaches that the different parts of the human being are dissolved and cast to the winds; what still remains of him, that is his karma. This is the eternal which man has created out of himself, something which he himself had first to take up as image out of his environment. Man is immortal; he only needs to exert his will, he only needs to form his actions in such a way that they have a lasting existence. That part of us is immortal which we gain for ourselves from the outside world. We have come into being through the world and are beginning, through fructification with the Monad, to build up in ourselves the mirror of a new world. The Monad has quickened the mirrored images in us. Now these images can work outwards, and the effects of these images reflect themselves anew. A new inner life arises. With our actions we are continually changing our environment. Through this, new reflected images come about; these now become karma. This is a new life which springs up from within. The result of this is that in order to develop further, from a definite point of time we must go out of ourselves and work selflessly in our surroundings. We must make possible this going out from ourselves in order selflessly to bring about harmonious relationships in our surroundings. This necessitates a harmonizing of the reflected images in ourselves. It is our task to make the world around us a harmonious one. If we are a destructive element in the world, what is reflected into us is devastation: if we bring about harmony in the world, harmonies are reflected into us.
The highest degree of perfection which we have put out from ourselves, which we have established around us, this we shall take with us. Therefore the Rosicrucians said: Form the world in such a way that it contains within itself Wisdom, Beauty, and Strength; then Wisdom, Beauty, and Strength will be reflected into us. Wisdom is the reflection of Manas; Beauty, Piety, Goodness are the reflection of Buddhi; Strength is the reflection of Atman.
To begin with we develop around us a domain of Wisdom through ourselves fostering Wisdom. Then we develop a domain of Beauty in all regions. Then Wisdom becomes visible and reflects itself in us: Buddhi. Finally we bestow on the whole physical existence, Wisdom within, Beauty without.
If our will enables us to carry this through, then we have strength: Atman, the power to transpose all this into reality. Thus we establish the three kingdoms within us: Manas, Buddhi, Atman.
Not through laborious research does man progress further on the Earth, but by embodying into the Earth Wisdom, Beauty, and Strength. Through the work of our higher ego we transform the transient body given us by the Gods and create for ourselves immortal bodies. The Chela, who ennobles his etheric body (so that it remains in existence), gradually renounces the Maharajas. The Master, whose physical body also remains in existence, can renounce the Lipikas. He stands above karma. This we must describe as the progress of man in his inner life. What is higher, outside ourselves, we must seek to approach. Therefore our Higher Self is not to be sought within us, but in the individualities who have ascended into loftier regions.