The Mystery of Death. Lecture 2
Rudolf Steiner, Hanover, February 19, 1915:
It is a time in which in quick succession as a result of many deaths the connection of the human being with the spiritual world approaches us. It is the world the human being enters when he goes through the gate of death. Under quite special circumstances these quick successive, almost simultaneous, deaths face us. These special circumstances are given because numerous earthly people go through the gate of death that could have lived still for decades on Earth under the circumstances that one may assume for earthly people. And whenever the human being goes through the gate of death prematurely, as it were, extraordinary conditions come also into being.
We know that the human being going through the gate of death leaves behind — hands over, as it were — what falls off as his physical body from him to the earth element. We know that then the so-called etheric body is considered as the second that, however, also separates from the individuality. Then the individuality, consisting of astral body and ego, passes the spiritual regions between death and new birth. The etheric body, however, keeps on working, detached from the ego and astral body. This etheric body, which now enters the spiritual world next to us, the etheric world, is different with each human being. You may imagine that an etheric body of somebody who passes the gate of death prematurely looks differently from that of somebody who has lived his life till old age. For the etheric body which has to go with an early-deceased human being through the gate of death would have the power to supply the physical body with life under normal conditions still for many years, decades. Now, a force does not get lost in the spiritual world, just as little as in the physical world. This force which supplies, otherwise, the physical body with life continues to exist. So that we can say: if now thousands go through the gate of death, nevertheless, almost every day, etheric bodies enter into the elemental world which are still capable of surviving, which have other forces in themselves than older etheric bodies have. What happens now with these etheric bodies still capable of surviving?
Yesterday I spoke of the real folk-soul in the public lecture. This folk-soul is a real being. It needs quite particular forces just in our time. It needs such forces also at other times, of course, but particularly in our time. This folk-soul takes up these etheric bodies still capable of surviving. The human being himself goes other ways with his ego and astral body — those ways which prepare him then for his next life on Earth. But these etheric bodies separate from the human individualities, they go over into the being, the substance, of the folk-souls. After such a destiny-burdened time as we now experience we go toward a time when the folk-soul contains the etheric bodies in itself — like forces living in it — which have been handed over by those who have gone in the battles through the gate of death. A time comes near when the spiritual scientist can know that that is not lost which was sacrificed on the altar of the big events. A time comes near when effective strength emits from the folk-soul into the individual souls, that simultaneously goes out from that which in the first, second, third decades of youth numerous people have taken up here on Earth, which they could still have kept for many decades, which they have handed over, however, to the folk-soul. This is in the forces that in future the folk-soul drips into the individual souls; that is not lost.
Let us take that really to heart. Imagine how our consciousness of the connection with the spiritual may be enlivened in our feeling life if we keep in mind that we can speak of the folk-soul in future that the fruits of the sacrificial deaths are in it as effective forces. That is particularly important in the next time. In other times this would be different for the next time; however, it will be significant because of a quite special reason.
We lived in a bad time of materialism. The souls who could not approach spiritual science were immersed in a strong aura of materialism. To fight against this aura is the task of the folk-soul in the next time. Forces will flow toward this folk-soul for the fight against materialism by the fact that the etheric bodies of the early dead linger on in this folk-soul, just linger on as forces. These etheric bodies — sacrificed on the altar of human evolution — will be the strongest fighters against materialism.
So we have to make a distinction between that which moves as a single human being through the regions of the spiritual world and remains united with the human individuality from that which the etheric body delivers on its detour to the general community, which keeps on working in the spiritual general community in the sense cited here, in the substance of the folk-souls.
That may stamp itself especially deeply in our souls if we put two human types concerning this spiritual difference before our souls: the warrior killed on the battlefield who goes, completely devoted to the task of his people, through the gate of death — who as it were at the moment when he enters the battlefield, when he only resolves to enter the battlefield, must also resolve to face death. Compare this human type with the ascetic. Just if you consider what the forces of the etheric body signify in human life, you get an idea of the difference of the warrior killed on the battlefield and the ascetic. The ascetic works on himself. He tries to work on himself in such a way that he overcomes the physical in himself completely, that he becomes free from this physical during his lifetime. Since the ascetic works that way, a significant transformation also takes place in his etheric body. He uses up, so to speak, the forces of this etheric body the strongest to incorporate them in his ego and astral body. What makes the ascetic free from the physical, this is of benefit completely for his individuality, and this serves the transformation of his individuality. So that such a human being who becomes an ascetic can serve humankind only on the detour of that which he makes out of himself. He, however, who frees himself from the physical body in early youth, because he has to surrender to the requests of war, hands over the forces of his etheric body to the general community; he incorporates them to the general work. You have to feel this difference; it is a significant difference. It points us again a little bit to that which prevails as a reality in the human life. It is also significant to look just at the path through the gate of death concerning the etheric body.
At the moment when the human being goes through the gate of death, he is still united with his etheric body. We have often described what happens to this. This connection with the etheric body gives the human being the possibility to live in all ideas that the last life aroused in him to merge completely like in a mighty tableau in everything that the last life has given him. But this is a kind of vision that lasts for a relatively short time; it fades away with the liberation of the etheric body from the ego and astral body. Yes, you can say, it immediately begins to fade away after the moment of death. The impressions become weaker and weaker which are still due to the possession of the etheric body. Then that makes itself felt which is authoritative after the physical death. What is authoritative there is properly imagined only to a lower degree by the people who want to get ideas about the life after death. It is even difficult to coin words for those quite different conditions, compared with the conditions we experience in our physical body. One thinks simply that the human being after he has gone through the gate of death has only again to get a consciousness for himself. It is not really that way. The human being experiences no lack of consciousness when he passes the gate of death. On the contrary, his soul experiences a superabundance of consciousness. He lives and weaves completely in consciousness and, as the strong sunlight dazes the eyes, he is dazed at first by consciousness, he has too much consciousness. First, this consciousness must be dampened, so that he can orientate himself in the life into which he has entered after death. This lasts for a long time; more and more moments happen in which the consciousness makes such an orientation possible. The soul becomes conscious for a more or less short time and then it again enters into a condition similar to sleep, as you may call it. Then such moments become gradually longer and longer, the soul comes more and more in such conditions, until it is able to orient itself entirely in the spiritual world.
Also this makes it difficult to get clear ideas of how the soul perceives its environment after it goes through the gate of death. We buried a dear anthroposophical friend in the last week, and on account of the wish of the dead I had the task to make a funeral celebration for her friends at the place where she died. In the time I spoke and directed my words to the dead person, the dead person was as it were like sleeping. Then the heat had an effect, the flames seized the body, and at this moment a moment of consciousness came over the soul, like a moment of orientation. The dead had the whole image of the funeral celebration and the funeral speech before herself, as somebody has something spatial at the same time before himself. Time becomes there really space. You do not see the past as you see the past running in time during life, but you see the past as something spatial before yourself. So that that which had already run off, which had happened a quarter of an hour before, then stood before the soul of the dead like the first lighting-up moment of consciousness. Then a state of daze came again in the flooding light of consciousness to go in this condition toward those other conditions in which the soul gradually learns to orientate itself in the spiritual world.
It is important if we want to really get good ideas about the life after death for ourselves that we understand these quite different conceptions of time, that we see how there time is not something of which one can say, it has passed, and one remembers of the matters that happened in time, but the past stands there. Like the desk stands there and this desk does not go along with me when I go over there and look back at it, in the same way that remains after death which happened, which can be just only reminded, stands there; and the dead looks back at it as one looks back in the body at the spatial objects. This is very important to understand. Furthermore, it is of particular importance to understand that we really remain in connection, that our life on Earth remains in connection with what we experience between death and a new birth; at least it remains in close connection up to the point in time I called the midnight hour in my last Mystery drama [The Soul's Awakening].
Nevertheless, I would not like to fail to give our friends ideas of these relations to be difficultly described bit by bit. That which we as earthly people have experienced between birth and death, the soul which has gone to death looks back at — but not as if that which one has experienced there only would be there, but some conditions of life of the dead play a part in a peculiar way. The condition of life of the dead is not the same as the condition of life between birth and death of living people. The condition is such that the human being feels enclosed by his skin and looks out into the world by means of his senses. As soon as one, having died, enters the spiritual world, he/she has flowed out into the whole spiritual world. The soul feels like fulfilling the whole spiritual world bit by bit. What the human being has experienced during his physical Earth existence, he feels like something that remains to him — not as a physical body, of course, but as that which constitutes the form, the forces, of the physical body. This remains after death, but the soul has it as somebody has the human eye in the physical body. As you have the eye for seeing, you have then yourself, the life on Earth, which you have experienced, as a cosmic sense-organ to perceive the world with. What our eye is now for our body, this is our life on Earth for our spiritual life after death.
Our life on Earth is implanted to us as it were as an eye, as a sense-organ. You will understand gradually only after longer meditation what significance, actually, is pronounced that our life on Earth becomes a sense-organ for our life between death and a new birth. That resembles the process when the human being falls asleep and leaves the physical and etheric bodies with his ego and astral body. When initiation comes into being and the human being starts beholding in the spiritual world outside his physical and etheric bodies, then he knows: in the spiritual world you perceive by means of a sense-organ with the spiritual part of your physical body, and you think in the spiritual world with your etheric body. Your etheric body is real like your brain in the spiritual world, and your former physical body is a sense-organ. However, you yourself are poured out with all your vital forces over the spiritual worlds. You have spread out; you do not feel crowded together in one place because of your skin; you feel poured out, extended over the spiritual world.
This is a quite different existence. With it is connected the fact that somebody who himself enters the spiritual world, either by death or by initiation, lives united with the other beings of the spiritual world, with beings of higher hierarchies or with human souls who are between death and a new birth. However, he lives united with them in such a way that he does not experience them as you meet earthly men outside, where you are separated spatially from them. But he experiences them as being contained in a common spiritual space, penetrating each other. What another soul experiences one does not experience by the fact that it says something, like with earthly people, but that one settles in the other soul and witnesses its thoughts. Hence, it is also that you can only be certain to experience that in yourself really what, for example, a dead soul experiences if you know: you are as it were in the dead, you do not only report something that you hear after the model of something which you experience on Earth, but you hear; the dead himself speaks through your being.
I would also like to explain that to you by an example [Lina Grosheintz-Rohrer]. One of our members has recently died. Still before the cremation I felt the necessity to hear what this personality had to say after her death. For she was still united with her etheric body and could — as it were — express herself by her etheric body in an earthly way; however, she subsumed everything that she had intensely witnessed of the anthroposophical worldview and had woven into her soul. So we deal with a personality who had advanced in years, who has settled down in the last part of her life really intensely and with all forces of her heart into our spiritual-scientific worldview. Then she went through the gate of death. Now she had still her etheric body. It was still before the cremation, and the etheric body was still there as a means to express herself. This gave the possibility to express herself still by earthly words because the etheric body could experience them. And the liberation from the body, from the Earth existence, gave the possibility at the same time to subsume the whole being, which had been engraved by the heart in the soul. It appeared to me how this personality who has gone through the gate of death wanted to pronounce her being — possibly during the second day after death had entered — formed the words of which I can inform you, words which are to be regarded as words the dead had experienced. So that you have to imagine that here, during the second day after death, this being of the soul, which had gone through the gate of death, was fulfilled by the force of these words, expressed itself in the force of these words. And if one transported oneself into this soul, this being of the soul, this being of the dead expressed itself in these words. Therefore I could do nothing better than to turn these words to the dead then just at the funeral, because these were the words which she herself spoke as it were to the friends who surrounded her. I can assure you: I have added nothing to these words, but I have tried to understand them from the being of the dead. Indeed, then later this happens that I have called the daze of consciousness, what you could call a kind of sleeping state. Now the dead would not have been able to express her being because now she missed the means of the etheric body. She will be able to do it again after some time, but that would be impossible immediately after death. The words read:
Into cosmic distances I will carry
My feeling heart, so that it grows warm
In the fire of the holy forces' working;Into cosmic thoughts I will weave
My own thinking, so that it grows clear
In the light of the eternal life;Into depths of soul I will sink
Devoted meditation, so that it grows strong
For the true goals of human activity;In the peace of God I strive thus
Amidst Life's battles and cares
To prepare myself for the higher Self;Aspiring for work in joy-filled peace,
Sensing cosmic being in my own being,
to fulfill my human duty;May I live then in anticipation,
Oriented toward my soul's star
Which gives me my place in spirit realms.
I would like to put this before your souls as a clear example of the mysterious course which the human soul takes just through the point in time which separates the life between birth and death from the life between death and a new birth, where everything that was still external experience to us in the life on Earth becomes internal wealth of the soul and lives in us that way. Here one takes on spiritual science still as something external. Immediately after death, however, it appears how it lives in the soul, yes, we say, as well as muscular strength now lives in our physical bodies. You have to feel that once if you want to grasp the internal sense, the internal meaning of that which spiritual science can be for the human soul. Then bit by bit you get a conception — you must have patience — of the quite different relations in the spiritual world. If we form words and concepts of the relations in the sensory world, we can give symbols at most of what is in the spiritual world. You must work in patience toward concepts and sensations and feelings which express fairly correctly and truly what the relations of the spiritual world are.
The logic of the life on Earth — yes, there is only one logic of the life on Earth — is already sometimes rather fragile for the life on Earth. I have already stated how one can be mistaken about the real facts when using the logic of the life on Earth. I have often stated the example: Assume a person is walking along a brook. We see him falling into the brook. We rush over and find out that he is already dead. We see a stone where the person has fallen into the brook, and can now form a quite logical, but superficial, judgment. We can say: the person has tripped over the stone, has fallen into the brook and drowned. He has died the death of drowning. — But this can be quite wrong. If one examines the matter purely anatomically, it can become apparent that the person had experienced a heart failure; thereby he fell in the water. The heart failure is the cause of his death. With the everyday correct logic we conclude wrongly. Such conclusions — this would be noted only by the way — are made perpetually in human life and in particular in science. Science is full of such conclusions where cause and effect are mistaken.
But the matter becomes important when questions of human destiny are considered. We experienced such a stroke of fate in Dornach in autumn, which is instructive in the most important sense. One evening the little seven-year-old son of our member Theo Faiss, who was an exceptionally dear, bright child, was reported missing. It was just during an evening lecture. The mother searched for the child: it was not to be found. When the lecture was over, one heard, actually, only that the mother misses her boy, and one could imagine nothing else than that the death of the boy was in connection with a removal van which had toppled over. A member of our society had let send his pieces of furniture in a removal van, and this removal van had toppled over in the evening where the boy stood. It was ten a quarter clock in the evening and we applied everything to lift the carriage. The mobilized military met us to help, to lift this removal van. The removal van was lifted, and one found the boy crushed under the carriage. Now think, in this area a removal van did never go generally before; nor thereafter. The boy was here, one could state this later by all possible things one calls incidents and chances, just in the time — it has concerned only minutes, around a moment — where the removal van toppled over. However, it was strange that first of all those who were here where the carriage had toppled over were only concerned to bring the horses to safety. One had no idea that the removal van had fallen on the little boy.
The child was dead. The materialist view may say: well, the removal van toppled over by chance there at this hour; the child got under it and was crushed. The materialist view will say that, of course. Before the spiritual view this is completely nonsense. For what is there is the karma of the child, and this karma of the child steered all single circumstances. It has also steered the removal van there just at the hour when the child needed the death because the karma of the child wanted it. The karma of the child had expired. We deal here with the necessity to reverse cause and effect.
By such relations and the view of them one is able to ascend bit by bit to the real view of life which persuades us to reverse what the external appearance presents to the senses. We must often turn around this. But the matter becomes quite significant when one experiences what comes into being by such a fact. The soul of a human being goes through the gate of death. This soul was embodied for seven years in a physical body. Why could the little Theo not have become also seventy, eighty, ninety years, externally considered if the karma had not made it impossible? An etheric body is there which could have supplied life still for decades; an etheric body which was really filled by forces of the eternal, of the good. He was an excellent boy.
You know that then the real individuality, the ego and astral body, go on their way. But the etheric body frees itself, this etheric body in which all tender, nice forces are woven which have developed in the childhood, in which, however, all forces also live which come from the former incarnations. Now imagine what you have before you facing such an etheric body. The individuality comes from the former incarnations. It embodies itself anew in this incarnation; it implies what comes from previous incarnations. The life of this incarnation is as it were the fruit, realizing what was cause in a life in previous incarnations. Through the whole life these fruits could have enjoyed life to the full. Then everything would have gone into this etheric body that comes from the fruits of the former incarnations. This has not happened. In return everything is in this etheric body that still has causes in the former incarnations. And now the strangest thing is: somebody who tries to explore the aura of our Dornach construction finds this etheric body of the little Theo in the aura of the Dornach construction. There he is, there he hovers over, lives around, the Dornach construction. He who has to deal with the Dornach construction or will still deal after that late autumn afternoon in which the little Theo went through the gate of death knows what has been changed in the spiritual aura of the Dornach construction by the fact that that etheric body was incorporated into this aura. This etheric body contains the forces which would else have been used for decades for the supply of a physical human body, and this etheric body is just poured out in this aura of the construction.
So mysterious are the ways that wisdom flooding through the world has to experience with its creatures. There are only correct ideas of how the whole human life runs — to which in the most remarkable sense the life between death and a new birth belongs — if one goes into details of these matters. Because our anthroposophical movement should really be not anything abstract, but something in which we are with our whole being, in which also those are who just belong to us, we are also allowed to speak of such matters. We unite not only like other societies with a certain program, but we want to be with our whole souls in our spiritual-scientific movement. We want to conceive this spiritual-scientific movement as a concrete stream to which everybody belongs who really bears witness to it in a feeling way. We can say: there we speak as somebody just speaks in an enlarged family about the relatives there or there. For what touches us, so to speak, in an informally familiar way gives us the highest, the most significant, the most important explanations of the spiritual world at the same time.
From such an attitude I would like to mention the death of one of our friends who are just often affected by deaths in the last time. Our infinitely dear friend Fritz Mitscher has recently gone through the gate of death. The necessity arose to me to subsume in words what the own soul felt, while it leant to the soul, which has just gone through the gate of death. Notice the difference between the preceding words which I have read out to you, and the words which I want to read out to you now. The words that I have read out just here are out of the soul of the dead. The words which I will read out to you now are stimulated in my own soul at the sight of the dead Fritz Mitscher, who was still combined with his etheric body. It is the impression which the dead made that is reported now in these words. Perhaps you know that Fritz Mitscher was already as a young teacher at the most different place, especially in Berlin, active for our Anthroposophical Society. And many of us also know that he was just inclined in such a nice way to combine everything that he could acquire of earthly science and learning with the noblest, nicest anthroposophical consciousness. This also expresses itself after his death when in his whole being was combined what he was, and what shines now again after his death from the soul relieved of the body which still had its etheric body. And it seems to me that this had to be expressed what Fritz Mitscher was after death with the words, which I had to send on to him at the cremation.
A hope, filling us with happiness:
You entered the field
Where, through the power of soul being,
Earth's spirit blossoms
Reveal themselves to investigation.Your longing was bound from the beginning
To pure truth-loving being;
To create out of spirit-light
Was the earnest life goal
For which you strove without rest.You nurtured your beautiful gifts
To tread with steady steps
Bright paths of spirit-knowledge
As truth's true servant.
Unperturbed by worldly contradictionYou trained your spirit-organs
That, with courage and persistence,
On both sides of the path
Repelled error for you
And made a space for truth for you.For you, to form your Self
For the revelation of pure light
So the soul's sun-power
Might shine mightily within you
Was your life's concern and joy.Other cares, other joys
Barely touched your soul,
For knowledge seemed to you to be
The light that gives existence meaning,
Seemed to you life's true value.A hope, filling us with happiness:
You entered the field
Where, through the power of soul being,
Earth's spirit blossoms
Reveal themselves to investigation.A loss that pains us deeply,
You disappeared from the field
Where the Spirit's earthly kernels
In the womb of soul being
Ripened your senses for the spheres.Feel how we lovingly gaze
Into the heights that now
Call you to other works.
Give to the friends left behind
Your power from spirit-realms,Hear our soul's entreaties
Sent to you in confidence and trust:
For our earthly work here we need
Strong forces from spirit-lands,
For which we thank dead friends.A hope, filling us with happiness,
A loss that pains us deeply:
Allow us to hope, that you, far-near,
Unlost, light our life
As a soul-star in spirit-realm.
These are the words which were sent to the dead out of the being of the dead. And then some time passed after these words were spoken at the cremation, and out of the being of the dead, not yet out of the well-organized consciousness but like from the being sounding, there the following words sounded now from the dead in the night after the cremation.
For me, to form my SelfFor the revelation of pure lightSo the soul's sun-powerMight shine mightily within myselfWas my life's concern and joy.Other cares, other joysBarely touched my soul,For knowledge seemed to me to beThe light that gives existence meaning,Seemed to me life's true value.
The words sounded back that way. Only after that, I myself found out that two stanzas which are in the middle can be converted immediately from “you” to “I” and from “to you” to “to me.” I did not know that before. Since I heard the stanzas as I read them to you first. And now they came back from the being of the dead, spoken by him.
That shows that as well as in the time in which the consciousness does not yet have the shape which the soul has then again after this time through the whole realm between death and new birth, it shows as even in lively transformation, in meaningful transformation the words come from the dead. You have only to feel the spiritual-scientific worldview becoming really alive creating the connection between the physical and the spiritual worlds. For it may run like a shiver through our souls when we feel at such an example how the words are called to the dead — and he returns them changed to us. Like we feel on one side that they went to the dead because they resound from him, not only like an echo, but meaningfully changed by him.
These are matters that give us the certainty, the confidence, also for our present that the souls living here in earthly bodies are connected with the spiritual powers weaving and prevailing in the world. In this stream of prevailing and weaving spiritual powers the deceased are woven, are in it, because in it they experience their further postmortal destinies.
If we allow the connection of the physical and spiritual worlds to have an effect on our souls, we can contemplate various things. I pointed already once also here to the fact that with this cooperation of the physical and spiritual worlds proceeding in the concrete sense also the impulse of the Mystery of Golgotha comes near to us. We know that now we only start contemplating the sense and meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha and Christ Being by spiritual science completely. Up to now the human beings did that by means of reason. And what did result from this reason? If the effectiveness of Christ had depended in the human Earth-life on that what the human beings have understood of it, the effectiveness of the Christ Impulse on Earth could had been not very strong. The human beings have understood theological squabbling, all kinds of disputes in their reason: that was what they understood of Christianity. But Christ has had an effect out of lively power.
I have probably stated also here the example of the battle which Constantine fought against Maxentius, by which the fate of Europe was decided at that time. Thus Christianity was only accepted, actually, and became then the ruling power in Europe. This battle was not won through the art of strategy nor by the armies of Constantine. Maxentius had to defend Rome. By looking up in the Sibylline Books and by a dream which he had, it was put in his head that he should lead his army out of Rome. Then he would destroy the enemies of Rome. His army was five times stronger than that of Constantine, who approached Rome. Now he really led his army out of Rome, strategically the most inept thing he could do. Since according to strategy everything spoke well of leaving his army in Rome and letting the hostile armies approach. However, he led his army out of Rome. Also on the side of Constantine who led his armies against Rome these were not warlike-scientific reasons which gave him the strength, but he also had a dream. The dream said to him: if you allow bearing the monogram of Christ in front of your army, you will defeat Rome. — At that time and still for later the whole map of Europe was transformed through the victory of Constantine with his weaker army. Also the spiritual life of Europe has thereby become different. That which people could understand in those days would not have been sufficient to accomplish these achievements. The Christ Impulse had an effect in the subconsciousness of the human beings, in that what lived in the depths of the souls that people only could dream of, that came up to them at most in dream pictures.
We have a later, quite important example of the effectiveness of the Christ Impulse with the Maid of Orleans [1412-1431]. He who studies history really, not as one often studies history today, but one who tries to recognize the real connections, he can know that again the fate of Europe was absolutely determined for the next centuries through what the Maid of Orleans did. Neither strategy, nor the wisdom of the politicians, but what the shepherd girl of Orleans did was vital for the destiny of Europe, especially also for the destiny of France. Now, however, the Christ Impulse worked in the Maid of Orleans through its Michaelic representative. It worked into the soul of the Maid of Orleans. Her soul was completely infiltrated, inspired, by the Christ Impulse. Exactly in the same way as in those days when the battle was decided between Constantine and Maxentius, the Christ Impulse worked, without people knowing about it in their upper consciousness. The Christ Impulse also worked there, when the Maid of Orleans sent the French armies against the English armies. The whole continent would have changed, also England, if at that time France had not won. Also England would not be what she has become if she had not been defeated. However, the subconscious forces which came up in dream pictures caused the victory. The abilities of the Maid of Orleans were inspired by them. So that you can say: what the Maid of Orleans did was influenced through a more or less unaware initiation. It is of course an unaware, you may also say, an atavistic initiation. A clean psychic vessel had to be seized just unconsciously, as it was the Maid of Orleans through whom the Christ Impulse could work, by his Michaelic representative — a clean vessel.
Let us look at the matter more exactly. If anybody today goes consciously through an initiation — there are rules for that. The ABC is in my book “How Does One Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds?” There are rules by which one is able to develop gradually. One cannot speak of such a conscious initiation in the case of the Maid of Orleans. But a spirit which is otherwise not united with the human soul had to take its place in this human soul, to permeate this human soul. Especially favorable circumstances had to come into being. A spirit of higher spheres cannot always intervene in the souls who are enabled for it. Especially favorable circumstances must occur, so that a single human being comes in connection with higher worlds without initiation, without conscious work on himself. Especially favorable circumstances exist in the time when as it were the spirit of the Earth is particularly awake: in the time from the 25th December to the 6th January. When in summer the Sun stands highest, when the physical heat radiates mostly to the Earth, then the conditions of initiation are the worst because then the spirit of the earth is sleeping. The spirit of the Earth is the most awake in the winter darkness, at the winter solstice.
Hence it is not only a legend, but corresponds to a truth when it is told in old legends that during the thirteen nights which precede the 6th January certain particularly suitable souls were initiated, so that they could go into the spiritual world, that they could experience there what we call Kamaloka and devachan. We here in Hanover probably remember that the legend of Olaf Åsteson [Cosmic New Year. The Dream Song of Olaf Åsteson. Lecture (Hanover, 1st January 1912) in The Connection Between the Human Being and the Elemental World … volume 158 of Steiner's Collected Works] was once reported who — sleeping for these thirteen nights — went through the whole way which can be the way through Kamaloka and devachan. Olaf Åsteson tells then what he experienced during these thirteen days.
If the external physical darkness of the Earth is the strongest, the conditions are the most favorable to lead a soul into in the spiritual world. It would have been the most favorable for souls like the Maid of Orleans, who are initiated for the whole humankind for such an action not by directly conscious exercizing but by especially favorable circumstances, if she could have slept during the thirteen nights. Thus she could have been brought into connection with the spiritual world; if she could have accomplished that in a sleeping state. The Maid of Orleans went really through such a sleeping state. For the Maid of Orleans spent these thirteen days up to the 6th January in the body of her mother in a condition in which the human being still sleeps, since the human being only wakes up for the physical life when he is born and does the first gasp. With the Maid of Orleans the last sleeping nights of the embryo fall in the time of the thirteen nights, because she was born on the 6th January. There you have a deeply significant internally historical connection. There you have the basis of the mission of the Maid of Orleans, who was chosen to receive the initiation as this clean soul before her first gasp during the last thirteen nights of the pregnancy of her mother, in this sleeping state, just under the especially favorable circumstances of the Earth-life. The calendar shows it simply to you. Open the calendar: on the 6th January you find the birthday of the Maid of Orleans. The calendar shows you how here a deeply intimate connection exists between the physical world and the processes in the spiritual world. Of course, it was necessary that the soul of the Maid of Orleans was prepared by her preceding incarnations. During the thirteen nights this soul and what could come from this soul made it possible just at this point of the human development that the spiritual world was able to influence the physical world.
The spiritual world with its ingredients is always there. The spiritual world is always among us. The ways of working in the physical world are manifold, which the spiritual world selects. And our consciousness of the connection with the spiritual world becomes stronger and stronger the more we express the connections between the physical and spiritual worlds especially deeply in such details, while such connections stand vividly in front of our souls.
On the other side, one must say: also what happens here in the physical world may prepare a kind of connection with the spiritual world and our physical world. And if anybody who has taken up as intensely as Fritz Mitscher what flows through our spiritual science, and then went across in the spiritual world in the thirtieth year of his life — on the 26th February his thirtieth birthday would be — and has infiltrated his soul with what can penetrate as a strength into the soul by our spiritual science, then we have a powerful individuality who will further stay together with us in the spiritual world, who is an assistant of the most immense kind. And if you imagine how difficult the striving for spiritual science is just in our time, in this time which is completely impregnated with materialism, then one may also say that he who is connected with all the fibers of his life with the spiritual world has the biggest hopes for those who can become spiritual assistants after they have laid down their physical bodies. One does not need to say, of course, that the passage through the gate of death is never allowed to be a personal decision, but that it must be caused only by karma. These spiritual assistants are those who give us consolation and hope if we see how difficult it is, just in the present, to provide for our spiritual-scientific movement because of the manifold inhibitions. However, we know how higher spiritual forces have an effect on Earth, so that the current of the spiritual worlds flows into the purposes of the physical Earth. Thus the unused forces of the human souls come up to the spiritual worlds to work there just with their forces, combined with other forces. Hence I said the words to our Fritz Mitscher in my obituary really from the bottom of my heart:
Hear our souls' entreaties
Sent to you in confidence and trust:
For our earthly work here we need
Strong forces from spirit-lands,
For which we thank dead friends.
When we try to advance our spiritual movement to its purpose honestly, then we are aware that in the forces which we apply here on Earth also those forces are working which our friends already brought through the gate of death into the spiritual world.
We summarize now all that also for the understanding of the general situation of the world. On one side, the human souls who go now due to the destiny-burdened events through the gate of death carry their etheric bodies to the folk-souls. On the other side, they carry everything that they have summoned up in sacrificial devotion, while they have gone just by these events through the gate of death with their individualities. And all that will be poured out as effectiveness into the coming age. It is the matter of the human beings who then experience peace to produce the connection with what will be there in the spiritual world. Those who today experience as mothers and fathers, as brothers and sisters or other relatives, the death on the battlefield of a human being dear to them can take up the fact in their consciousness that with the etheric body something extremely significant passes over into the general effectiveness of the earthly humankind for the future. Not only that they can know that the individualities go invigorated by death to a later stronger life on Earth, but they can also know that what the warrior after death has handed over to the folk-soul weaves and lives really. Fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers have those who have gone young through the gate of death twice, one must say, now in the folk-soul and also as individuality. This idea will only be of great value when it has completely become feeling, so that one does not only speak of immortality, but that one knows in the feeling: the dead are there, are among us. If this bond is such a strong one, also for our feeling death will be, actually, an untruth. Since the dead can appear even more real than often in the physical embodiment if he can take together everything of his being and if he does no longer have his physical body as an obstacle. Immense currents of consolation, currents of internal strength, of self-consolation, go out from what spiritual science can give to the souls in lively consciousness and lively sensations. When this is felt that way, then in particular those who bear witness to spiritual science can look full of consolation into the future. They can feel something like twilight in the turn of an era during these present, destiny-burdened events, after which a time of sunny peace will also follow. But important will be in the spiritual effectiveness of this time of sunny peace that which is won through the sacrificial deaths of so many people.
That can be made fruitful here on Earth particularly creating a bridge, a connection, between the living human beings who are incarnated in physical bodies here on Earth and the souls who are above and want to radiate down that which they have taken with them. Here it is where the real understanding of spiritual science knocks on our hearts and asks us to do what we can do from the consciousness we have gained by spiritual science; what we can do feeling that the great, destiny-exciting, painful events of the present time, as far as we are concerned, contribute to the fertility and welfare of humankind. Those who know something about spiritual science can know feeling and feel knowing by what means the bridge is built up into the spiritual world: because the souls who remained on Earth send the thoughts and sensations which can be enkindled by spiritual science. The horizon for that will be a horizon of peace. Above will be the souls who send down spiritual beams of light. Below, human beings must be who have learnt to send such thoughts and feelings out of their souls from below which are stimulated by spiritual science. If there are really souls who turn their senses conscious of spirit to the spiritland, then the bridge will be built, then the time will have come when just through such painful, destiny-burdened events, as they happen in our time, an intimate bond must be woven between the physical and spiritual worlds, for which we strive by our spiritual science.
So we summarize what should be our knowledge and our task and what should arouse confidence in the words:
From the courage of the fighters,
From the blood of the battles,
From the grief of the bereaved,
From the nation's sacrifices
Will grow the fruits of spirit
If souls aware of spirit turn
Their senses to the spiritland.
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