Rudolf Steiner, The Hague, November 14, 1923:
My Dear Friends,
In our lecture yesterday we tried to relate man to the cosmos. Our aim was to create a foundation for a deep and full understanding of the supersensible being of man. Today, I want to carry a little further what was said in that lecture, inasmuch as we have also to consider the supersensible nature of man when his physical and etheric bodies have been laid aside, when, that is, he has passed through the gate of death and is traversing the path which stretches between death and a new birth.
I propose, therefore, to give today — dealing more externally, as it were, with the supersensible — a kind of description of what reveals itself to Imaginative perception in regard to this existence between death and rebirth. This will provide a basis for understanding man in his soul and spirit.
We must, however, be clear from the outset that it is really quite incorrect to speak of the physical being of man apart from the soul and spirit. The physical part of man, the physical body that we perceive in the world of sense, is permeated through and through by soul and spirit. The form of the brow, the form of the features and countenance — everything that belongs to the human form, man only has inasmuch as it is given him by spiritual forces. We need not therefore be surprised that those who are possessed of the faculty of spiritual sight continue to speak of the “form” or “figure” of the human being even after he has passed through the gate of death. For it is indeed so; to Imaginative cognition a man who has passed through death reveals a form. In comparison with something physically observed it is, of course, no more than a kind of shadow-picture; it is, nevertheless, clear and very impressive. The first thing that strikes us about this form or figure is that it is “external.” Our idea of man in his soul and spirit must of course be moral and spiritual; we shall however find that we can unfold no genuine and sound conception of supersensible man unless, to begin with, we speak of these Imaginations, these picture-forms, which man still “wears,” as it were, even after he has passed through the gate of death.
At death the physical body is laid aside. We need not stay to consider what happens to it, for the particular way in which dissolution takes place is of far less importance than people think. The dissolution of the physical body, whether it be through burning or through decomposition, is a concern only of the other human beings. It is of no great importance for the life after death; we need, therefore, only say here that the physical body dissolves away into outer Nature, into the forces of outer Nature. The etheric body also dissolves, quite soon after death. The two outer manifestations of man's being having been thus laid aside, something releases itself from these two enveloping sheaths (the word “sheath” is not really quite accurate). Those who are sufficiently endowed with Imaginative cognition are able to perceive what it is that is thus released after death from the two sheaths. It is a figure or form — a form which, to begin with, bears some resemblance to the physical form of the human being. But this spirit-form, as I will call it, is involved in a constant process of transformation. I have spoken of the life between death and a new birth on many occasions and from many different points of view, for only so is it possible to develop an adequate idea of it. Today I propose to speak from still another point of view. By bringing together what is given at different times, you will be able gradually to build up a complete picture.
This spirit-form of the human being is involved, as we said, in a constant process of change. More and more it approaches what can only be described by saying: The spirit-form becomes one great “physiognomy.” To the Imaginative sight possessed by the initiate and also by one who has passed through the gate of death, a kind of physiognomy makes its appearance. But this physiognomy is the whole human being, not merely part of him. The whole human being, in his spirit-form, presents a physiognomy that is the expression of his being in its moral and spiritual inwardness. After death a bad man will not have the same appearance as a good man. A man who has made strenuous efforts during his life on Earth will not look the same as one who has lived thoughtlessly or wantonly. But we do not find this expressed merely in the “countenance.” In fact, the actual countenance loses much of the physiognomical expression that was stamped upon it in physical life, and what is retained tends to become more and more indefinite. In contrast to this, the other parts of the body become singularly expressive — particularly the region where the inner organs of breathing are situated. The physiognomical form assumed by this region reveals the permanent qualities in a man's character. The whole breast system takes on a definite physiognomical appearance within the spirit-form after death and reveals whether the man was possessed of courage or whether he was timid, whether he approached life with a certain boldness and bravery or whether he invariably shrank away from the buffets of life, and so forth.
The arms and hands also become peculiarly expressive after death. From the arms and hands one can, in effect, read the biography of the human being between birth and death — most clearly of all from the hands, which even in physical life are full of significance and divulge much to an intelligent observer. The way in which a man moves his fingers, how he holds out his hand to us, whether he only offers his finger tips or gives a warm handshake — all this can tell a very great deal. Much can also be learned by studying the forms assumed by the hands when a man is sitting quietly, or when he is at his work. Such things pass unnoticed, as a rule; but human beings become much more interesting when we observe what they do with their hands and fingers, for here they divulge what they really are. After death this is true in a far higher degree; the life-history can be read from the appearance assumed by the arms and hands.
It is the same with other organs. Everything becomes expressive, everything becomes physiognomy. After death the human being wears his moral-spiritual physiognomy.
Yesterday's lecture showed us how the human being is built up and formed by the cosmos and how the skin and sense-organs are an expression of the form that is inscribed into the cosmic ether. After death, the form that is given to man by the skin which encloses him becomes a physiognomical expression of his moral and spiritual being; and it remains so for a considerable time.
As human beings begin to find their way into this new kind of life, they meet there other human beings with whom, in earthly life, they have had a companionship of spirit, mind, and heart. And no pretense is possible any longer between them. For what each man is, and what his feeling is toward his fellow-man, is faithfully expressed in the physiognomy I have described. During this period of the life after death — it follows the period of “trial,” of which I do not propose to speak today — men live together with those with whom destiny has in any way connected them in the last earthly life — or in any other earthly life. They learn to know one another thoroughly, for they behold the physiognomical forms of which we have been speaking. Life consists, in this period, in learning to know those with whom one is connected by destiny. You must try to imagine what a close and intimate mutual scrutiny this is. The word sounds perhaps a little commonplace, but it expresses the reality. Each human being stands fully revealed before the other, with the whole meaning of their common destinies unveiled. In this way they are continually going past one another, meeting one another.
It is during this period of existence that the human being who has become such a “physiognomy” learns to know the beings of the Third Hierarchy — the Angels, Archangels, and Archai. For these beings are themselves always, by their inherent nature, physiognomy. They have come forth from the beings of the higher Hierarchies and let their whole nature of spirit and soul be impressed upon their spirit-form, making it thus perceptible to Imaginative vision. This contact with the beings of the Third Hierarchy is thus an experience which is added to that of association with our fellowmen with whom we are connected by destiny. The spectacle of all the other human beings with whom we are connected by destiny is, of course, full of variety. Among them are, for example, some who on Earth would have preferred to have us at the opposite side of the globe, but are nevertheless bound to us by destiny. We know exactly what feelings they have harbored about us and what they have done to us. The spectacle is indeed one of very great variety! And among these wandering forms move the beings of the Third Hierarchy, figures radiant and shining like the Sun. The words I use, are, of course, comparative; one has after all no other possibility than to employ earthly language. But we are speaking here of absolute reality, when we tell how during this period after death man meets the other human beings who are bound to him by destiny. Strange to say, it is only those with whom he is connected by destiny that a man can perceive and understand. Human souls to whom he is not actually bound by destiny remain to all intents invisible to him. He has no means of reading their moral-spiritual physiognomy. He does not notice them — nor can he, for it is precisely the link of destiny which gives one the power to see. If it were the fate of human beings here on Earth to see with their physical eyes as they see in this period after death, they would not see very much; for here on Earth men like to be passive in their seeing and let the objects rise up before them. In our present epoch of civilization people are little inclined to bestir themselves in order to be awake to their environment. Many of those who are devoured today by a passion for the cinema, many of those who crave for impressions to which they can passively surrender themselves, would, if they were equipped here on Earth with the same kind of sight as after death, not see their fellowmen at all. For after death our sight of other human souls depends entirely upon our attentiveness, which has then, of course, been implanted in us by the way in which destiny binds us to them. The first period of the life after death is thus a time when we learn to know one another; and during this time we learn also to know how souls are received in the spiritual world by the beings of the Third Hierarchy. We behold the joy with which the Angels, Archangels, and Archai receive the spirit-forms of human beings — or again, we perceive how little joy they experience in meeting them. We observe what impression human souls make upon those beings of the Hierarchies who stand nearest to them in the invisible world.
Then comes another period. The souls who have been learning to know one another, who have been continually gazing upon one another, begin now, in a way that belongs to the life after death, to have understanding the one for the other. They begin to understand spiritually the moral-spiritual physiognomies.
The first period after death is really a life of memories pure and simple. Each single human being lives together with those to whom he belongs. It is of course an existence that is of the “present” in the sense that we live and move and act amid all that is taking place between the souls of men and the beings of the Third Hierarchy; nevertheless we are living all the time in a kind of remembrance of earthly life. But now comes a time when we begin to have spiritual understanding, when we begin to grasp — in the manner of the spiritual world, of course — what these moral and spiritual physiognomies of our fellowmen signify. We learn to understand our fellowmen in such a way that we can say to ourselves: This physiognomy I see before me reveals such and such, it points back to certain phases of destiny which he and I shared in common — and so on. We have of course experienced this already in the first period after death, when we beheld our common destinies. But now in the second period the experience is of a kind that leads us to say: Having lived our life together in a manner that is now revealed to us through mutual understanding of our physiognomies, our future life together must take such and such a course. We begin to understand the possibility of a future for our common destiny; we begin to have a feeling for how relationships that have been begun in earthly life may develop further. We see — as it were in perspective — how the woven threads of destiny will work themselves out in the future, the threads of common destiny which are revealed in the physiognomical spirit-forms of which I have spoken. This experience becomes more and more intimate — so intimate indeed that there is a “growing together,” a veritable “growing together” in soul and spirit.
As the soul passes on further in this phase of existence, what was on Earth the most expressive part of man's being is found to be gradually disappearing. The head disappears, dissolving away in a kind of spiritual mist. In proportion as the head thus disappears from view, a change comes over the features of the physiognomical spirit-form. The features alter: something comes to view there now which points as it were from the past on to the future. At this time the human being is borne into the Spirit indwelling the planetary movements, the Spirit indwelling the forces of the planetary spheres, until the moment comes when human beings who belong together approach the spiritual Sun. The planetary forces bring them into the spiritual Sun; and now all the experiences they have undergone together in the past, and the germs too of future experience, are carried with them into the spiritual Sun. It is really childish to think of the Sun as a globe of gas out there in the universe. This is merely the aspect of the Sun that is revealed to the Earth. When we behold it with the eyes of the spirit, with the eyes of the soul, which we have after death, looking upon it from without in the great universe, the Sun shows itself as a spiritual being, or rather as a colony of spiritual beings. And there, in among the spiritual beings, move the human souls who have passed into the spiritual Sun, not merely each with his own spirit-content, but all of them carrying thither too their related destinies. And this whole “system” of human souls, together with the judgments passed upon them by the beings of the Second and Third Hierarchies, shines out into the universe, into the cosmos.
To form a true conception of the Sun we must think along the following lines. If we look at the Sun from the surface of the Earth it appears to us like a shining, radiant orb. We could make a drawing of it. The usual idea is that if we were to go up in a balloon and inspect the Sun from high above the Earth, it would have exactly the same appearance as it has when we look at it from the Earth. This, however, is quite erroneous. If we wanted to make a picture, a sense-perceptible picture of how the Sun looks to spiritual vision, we should have to show spiritual radiations pouring out from the Sun into the wide spaces of the cosmos. We see from the Earth only that aspect of the Sun which shines toward the Earth. But something now appears to spiritual sight which gradually changes until it becomes audible to spiritual hearing, becomes a note, a motif — oftentimes grand and imposing — in the Cosmic Music. It comes from what the souls of human beings have experienced on Earth and are now experiencing after death. All this is carried into the Sun existence and radiates thence into the cosmos. When this happens, the human being — in his spirit-form, of course — has himself already assumed the form of the Sun. The words sound strange, but facts must be described as they are, for we are telling of realities. All that was, after passage through the gate of death, physiognomy, spirit-form, is now as it were “rounded off,” and when the human being has arrived — speaking spiritually — in the Sun, he has himself become a “spirit-sphere.” Within this spirit-sphere the cosmos is reflected. Our whole being becomes a spiritual sense-organ. But the impressions we receive are no longer impressions of Earth. We have become, as it were, all eye — eye of the spirit — and we receive in the eye of the spirit the impression of the whole cosmos. We feel ourselves one with the whole wide universe. And what we were before, on Earth — that we feel as something outside us. The whole universe is reflected in us as in an eye of the spirit, and we feel ourselves one with the destinies we have experienced, both in ourselves and in connection with other human souls.
Having lived for a time in this phase of existence, we pass gradually into the sphere of the First Hierarchy — the sphere of the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones; and we unite ourselves with them. Thus, we are united first with the Third Hierarchy, when we move among those souls who are bound to us by destiny, going about among them in our moral and spiritual physiognomy. Then we are carried by the planetary forces into the spiritual Sun existence, where we unite with the Second Hierarchy, but are still outside the First. Finally, when our own Sun existence has made us feel one with the whole cosmos, we unite with the First Hierarchy, with Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. And then our interest begins to awaken in souls other than those with whom destiny has already connected us, souls who only now, in the life between death and new birth, enter for the first time our sphere of destiny. We become able to perceive human souls who will in future lives be connected with us.
Meanwhile, under the influence of the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, we begin to see mighty changes taking place in those with whom we were already connected by destiny. The closer the connection, the more perceptible the changes. To begin with, I will describe them more from their outer aspect.
When we look with physical eyes at someone who is walking, we see how he puts first one foot in front, then the other, and so moves forward. As we watch him, we see what we might call a series of “momentary exposures.” But to those who with Imaginative perception look at a human being in this sphere of existence after death, it is as though in the form which the legs assume with every step is contained the whole destiny of the man, the destiny he is undergoing and has himself molded in his earthly life. Nor is destiny carried only in the legs; in the arms too we bear the content of our destiny, namely, the good and bad deeds we have done to our fellowmen. The way a human being moves reveals something that calls for a passing of judgment in the universe, and the judgment then becomes a part of his destiny. And in the bloodstream, seen with the eye of the spirit in this sphere of existence, is revealed the inner destiny which has been created by the human being's attitude to life, by the way in which he reacted inwardly to his experiences. These revelations of destiny can be seen for a long time after one has entered upon this sphere of existence; one beholds them continually in the forms and structure of the limbs, indeed in all the forms of man with the exception of head and chest. On Earth the sight of a human being walking past one without head or chest would hardly be pleasant, but in the sphere between death and a new birth it is quite different: there everything is moral and spiritual. The spectacle is indeed infinitely grander than the spectacle of a human head on Earth can ever be. This is what human souls bound together by destiny experience during their spiritual Sun existence in the period which I have called in my Mystery Plays the “Midnight Hour of Existence.” Here, in accordance with the degree in which they belong together, souls unite in working at the transformation of what they were in the preceding earthly life. The eye of the spirit can perceive what is happening in detail. For example, what is contained in the legs is changed and worked upon, that it may form the lower jaws for the next earthly life. Arms and hands are transformed to become the upper jaws with the nerves belonging to this region. You must, of course, understand that all this is perceived spiritually. For spiritual perception, the whole of the lower man is transformed into the upper man.
This change is not brought about by the individual human being alone, but by all those human beings who belong together. The degree in which they are joined by destiny determines the extent to which they work upon each other. And through this working together, spiritual kinships are formed which later on lead human beings to find one another in earthly life, to come together in life. Thus the spiritual kinships which bring us together with other human beings, in a more or less intimate manner, originate in the life between death and birth. It is actually so that the spirit-form of the head as it will be in the next incarnation comes into being as a result of the working together of human beings who belong together by destiny. This is a work that is done in spirit-land, and it is far greater in content and in significance than any work that is done on Earth.
So you see, just as we can describe in pictures what happens to man between birth and death, just as we can draw pictures of physical Earth life, so can we describe in all definiteness and detail what happens to him between death and a new birth. The process of transformation that goes on in the limb system and in the system of metabolism of the blood is a marvelous and awe-inspiring process. You must, however, always remember that this transformation, which takes place in the phase of spiritual existence lying midway between death and a new birth, is a transformation of man's moral and spiritual qualities. Of that which emerges from the process — we must say of it now that it resounds as Cosmic Music. This form of man that is shaped in the likeness of the Sun, and is a mirror wherein the whole universe is reflected, expresses in cosmic tone man's outer form and figure. It is not now — to use a comparison — as if one had a visual idea of man; we receive in cosmic sound the idea of the transformed being of man's lower organism.
As time goes on, man becomes a part of the Cosmic Word itself. What at first was all a blending of melodies, of harmonies, forms itself now into articulate parts of the Cosmic Word. Man “speaks forth” his own being — speaks it forth from the cosmos. There is thus a period between death and the next birth when man's being is veritably a spiritual “word” — no paltry word consisting of few syllables, but an infinitely expressive word, comprising in its utterance the whole being of man as man, as well as the individual being of the man in question. When this point of time has been reached between death and a new birth, man is possessed of a deeply mysterious knowledge, and he sends out into the cosmos the revelation — perceptible to divine and spiritual beings — of what he himself is.
When one human being works in this way upon another, helping to bring it about that the lower man is transformed into what will be the upper man (for that which was formerly the upper man has by now faded right away), when there is this working together, dependent always on the degree to which the one human being was already connected with the other and itself determining the connection there will be between them in the future, then this work of metamorphosis is verily a kind of molding and sculpting in the spirit. Man then takes up, as it were, what is spiritually molded in forms and works upon it, until it changes to sounding music and — finally — to speech.
Thus at the first stage after death the human being moves among the spirit-physiognomies of those who are connected with him by destiny: he beholds these physiognomies. Human beings learn to know each other in the spirit-form, they learn to know each other's moral and spiritual qualities. But at this first stage it is a beholding only, a seeing; although it means that the souls come into intimate connection, it is no more than a beholding. Then begins the period which I described as that of the growth of mutual understanding. The one begins to understand the other; he gazes deeply upon him and looks into his inner nature, knowing the while that the sure working of destiny will link the future to the past. Then the great process of transformation begins, where the one is able to work upon the other out of a profound knowledge and understanding, and the plastic molding of the spirit is taken up and changed to music and to speech. And here we come to something more than understanding: the one human being is able to speak to the other his own warmth-filled, creative word. On Earth we speak with our organs of speech; by means of these we tell each other what we know. Our words live in the physical body as something fleeting and transient; and when we express what we want to say by means of our speech-organs, in that moment we completely shut off that which lives behind the merely material. But now imagine that what a man thus utters, what goes over into the fleeting word, were an expression of himself, were not alone a manifestation of him, but were at the same time his very being. Such is the intercourse of human beings in the middle period of the time between death and a new birth — differentiating each his own being and revealing themselves one to another. Word meets word; articulate word meets articulate word; inwardly living word meets inwardly living word. The human souls are themselves words; their symphony is the symphony of the spoken Cosmic Word in its very being. There, men live in and with one another; there is no such thing as impenetrability. The word which is the one human being merges into the word which is the other human being. And it is there those links of destiny are formed which work on into the next incarnation and express themselves in the sympathy or antipathy which one human being feels when he encounters another. The feeling of sympathy or antipathy is a reflection of the intercourse which took place in spiritland in the middle phase of the life between death and a new birth. There we spoke with one another, we ourselves were the speech; here on Earth we have the shadowy reflection of it in the feeling we experience when we find one another again. For this is how we have to understand our life. What we experience on Earth together with other human beings — we are to hear in that an echo, in the life of feeling, of what we ourselves once were in the creative Word when, between death and a new birth, we spoke forth our being. That is a time when in very truth men live for one another. And when we live for one another on Earth it is, as it were, a projection from the spiritual onto the Earth of a real and true togetherness.
Having lived through this period of time, man enters upon another, when he begins gradually to depart from the beings of the First Hierarchy — the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones — and to come again into the realm of the Second Hierarchy, into the realm of the forces which the planets bring to bear on one another. Perceptions of the universe now come to him — perceptions which were not previously there to the same degree, for, before, he could only follow them in the other beings around him. The universe now begins to arise before him as an outer universe. He learns also of his relation with beings whose destinies are not bound to his; he comes to know his connection with human souls who first appeared within his orbit of experience during the middle period of time between death and rebirth. This happens on the return journey, when man comes down again into the planetary spheres and therewith into connection with the beings of the Second Hierarchy. He has of course been with them before, but the connection is now of a different kind. The First Hierarchy has gradually faded away again from sight, until at last it is not there at all. The germs — spirit-germs, to begin with — for the new plastic forming of the human being, for the new breast-system and the new limb-system, begin to appear. Little by little, man forms and builds up anew his spiritual prototype. The utterance of his own being that he spoke forth in the Cosmic Word becomes once again the Music of the Spheres, and out of the Music of the Spheres is born the plastic image of his being. So he draws near to the moment when he is ready to enter into connection with an embryonic germ provided for him by a father and mother. For it is a spirit-form, a spiritual entity, coming down from the spiritual world into physical existence on Earth, which is the real essence and self of the human being. The physical embryo, which, as it were, comes to meet him, is only there for the purpose of enabling him to make a connection with earthly substances and permeate himself with them.
Full and rich in content is the life between death and a new birth! The work upon which the souls of human beings are engaged is none other than an interworking between them and beings of the higher worlds. But the whole nature of the life between death and a new birth is different altogether from the manner and character of life here on Earth. And if we would progress in our study and attain to an ever clearer and clearer comprehension of the supersensible being of man, we must understand the following.
We live in the physical world of Earth. We perceive the outer world through our senses. Of that which we perceive we must say: It is perceptible and it is physical — for the physical is all we can perceive in this earthly life. Above this world lies another, to which our ether body belongs, that pervades and permeates the physical body. This second world is imperceptible to man's physical faculty of perception. It is also not physical; it is superphysical. Bordering therefore on our perceptible, physical world there is another that is imperceptible and superphysical. It is the world next our own, and it is the dwelling-place of the beings of the Third Hierarchy — the Angels, Archangels, and Archai. To a man living in physical incarnation on Earth who does not develop spiritual sight, this world is imperceptible; it is also not physical. True, it manifests its working in the physical world, but it is not physical.
Then there is a third world. This third world is also not physical; in this respect it is similar to the etheric world. It too is superphysical. But the strange thing is that this third world is perceptible. It is perceptible from our earthly world. Thus, we have come to a world which reaches into our world and is perceptible; but because it is superphysical, men are not able to explain it in its true nature. To this world that is superphysical but perceptible belongs, for example, all that streams to us in the light of the Sun. The Spirit-Beings who people the Sun are superphysical, and yet perceptible to us on Earth. For it is nonsense to think that the light of the Sun is merely what the physicists believe it to be. The light of the Sun is the manifestation of the Sun-Beings. The Sun-Beings are perceptible, but they appear to man in a form which he cannot interpret. The light of the stars, the light of the Moon, and other light besides that of the Sun and Moon and Stars is perceptible, but that which lies behind it as Being is not rightly understood by man. Here, then, we have a world that is perceptible, but superphysical, bordering on the world that is physically perceptible. It is very important to grasp the characteristics of the different worlds:
- Our own world — perceptible and physical.
- The second world, bordering on the first. In this world live the Angels, Archangels, and Archai. It is imperceptible and superphysical — the dwelling place of the Third Hierarchy and also of human beings while they are living in community with the Third Hierarchy during the life between death and a new birth.
- The third world is perceptible and superphysical. It is the dwelling-place of the Second Hierarchy.And then there is still another:
- An imperceptible, physical world.
We have then, when the fourth is added, a complete list of all possible worlds: perceptible and physical, imperceptible and superphysical, perceptible and superphysical, imperceptible and physical. For this fourth world is imperceptible and yet physical. How are we to envisage it? It is in our midst, it is present in a physical sense, but it is imperceptible. Think for a moment. If you lift your leg from the ground, it is heavy: the force of gravity is working upon it. The force of gravity works physically but is imperceptible to ordinary sense-perception. You have inner experience of this force of gravity, but it is physically imperceptible. It is the same with certain other things. You experience within you, albeit in feelings which you cannot explain, what was known to an earlier, more instinctive spiritual science as the “mercurial” tendency. You have continually within you this tendency to the drop-form — in the albumen constituents, that are perpetually trying to form themselves in you: once more, something physical, but imperceptible in its essential configuration. Then there is a living process of combustion, of burning, that takes place within you. It works physically, and lives in your will — but you are not aware of it. It is imperceptible and physical. Within this world, the world of the imperceptible and physical, dwell the beings of the First Hierarchy — the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones.
This opens up quite a new aspect of our study. When we pass through the gate of death, we go out, first of all, into the imperceptible and superphysical. We disappear, as it were, from the world. At the second stage we enter the sphere of the Second Hierarchy; we come into the perceptible and superphysical. During this phase of existence, we learn to understand our destinies, we learn to read them in the flowing, flooding light of the Sun and the Stars. One who has learned to gaze into the essence of this light does not look up vacantly at the Sun, or out into the far distances to the spheres of the Stars; he knows that in this moving, flowing light the threads of human destiny are being woven. It is the perceptible yet superphysical world, and in it live the dead, the seemingly dead.
And while man is accomplishing once more this metamorphosis for the earthly, he is — on Earth. Only, the world in which he sojourns there between death and new birth is now the imperceptible and physical world; he lives in the force of gravity, in the mercurial and phosphoric tendencies. (How these forces and tendencies develop, we shall gradually learn to understand.) We are thus first withdrawn from life into the invisible, and then return again in an imperceptible manner, to be once more withdrawn, that we may prepare ourselves for the future — perceptible and physical — life on Earth. The road between death and new birth leads from the perceptible, physical life on Earth, through the other conditions, to the imperceptible, physical life on Earth. This is the Midnight Hour of Existence. Then we make our way back, and enter once again into physical existence on Earth.
So far we have been able only to give a rough sketch, but in the lectures that are to come the sketch will be amplified in all its details. You will at any rate have seen that we need not rest content with general abstract thoughts about the life of man between death and a new birth. We can show, for example, how in order to prepare for his future life in a visible world man comes to Earth between death and a new birth in an invisible manner. How much deeper will be our understanding of earthly life when we know that human spirits who are in the Midnight Hour of Existence are living within physical Earth existence; that we have around us here on Earth not only those who are incarnate in physical bodies, but also, as an integral and spiritual part of Earth existence, those who are living through the Midnight Hour — the middle, that is, of their life between death and a new birth! The reason why we are not aware of them is because they are experiencing Earth existence not at the Noontide, but at the Midnight Hour.
In the following lectures we shall go more fully into all these things.
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