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Cosmology, Religion and Philosophy
GA 25

VIII. The Event of Death and Its Relationship with the Christ

IN the state of sleep, sense-experience ceases for the ordinary consciousness as does also the psychic activity of thinking, feeling and willing. Thus man loses what he terms as ‘himself’.

Through the psychic exercises of the soul which have been described in the previous studies, thinking is the first to be seized by the higher consciousness. Without being lost first however, thinking cannot be thus seized. In successful meditation one experiences this loss of thinking. One does actually feel oneself as an independent inner being; there is actually some kind of an inner experience. But one cannot at once experience one's own entity so strongly as to comprehend it through active thought. This only becomes possible by degrees. The inner activity grows and the power of thinking is kindled from a quarter other than ordinary consciousness. In this ordinary consciousness can one only experience oneself in a momentary glimpse. But by the rekindling of thought through the psychic exercises, after passing through not-thinking and arriving at imagining, one experiences the content of the whole cycle of life from birth to the present moment as one's own proper Ego.

The memories of ordinary consciousness are also experiences of the moment, images realized in the present which point to the past only through their content.

Such memories are at first lost when image-making begins. The past is then seen as if it was something present. As in sense-perception the senses are led to the things which are side by side in space, so the kindled activity of the soul is led to the different events of one's own life in image-making. The course of events in time is presented as happening at the same time. A process of growth becomes something present at the moment.

But in higher consciousness there is something else than just the memories of the ordinary consciousness. There you have the activity of the etheric organism previously unknown to this consciousness. The memories of the ordinary consciousness are only images of man's experience through his physical organism of the outer world, whereas the ‘imaginative’ consciousness knows the activity which the etheric organism has effected in the physical organism.

The rising-up of this experience happens in such a way that one has the feeling of something rising from the depths of the soul which before had indeed lain hidden in one's own nature, but had not surged up into the consciousness. All this must be experienced in full consciousness; and that is the case if the ordinary consciousness continues to be kept side by side with the ‘imaginative’.

The experiences gained in the active exchange between etheric and physical organism must always be capable of being brought into relationship with the corresponding memory-life of the ordinary consciousness. Whoever is not able to do this is not dealing with imagination but with an experience of a visionary kind.

In visionary experience consciousness is not adding a new content to the old, as in imagination, but it is changed; the old content cannot be recalled at the same time as the new. The man who has ‘imagination’ has his ordinary self next to him, as it were; the visionary has been turned into quite a different being.

Anybody criticizing Anthroposophy from the outside should take note of this. Imaginative knowledge has often been considered as leading to something visionary. This view has to be strictly rejected by the true researcher into the spirit. He does by no means replace the ordinary consciousness by a visionary one, but he incorporates an imaginative one into it. Ordinary thinking fully controls imaginative experience at every moment. The visionary picturing is a stronger entering of the ego into the physical organism than is the case in the ordinary consciousness. Imagining on the other hand is an actual ‘stepping-out’ from the physical organism, and the ordinary constitution of the soul remains by its side consciously held in the physical organism.

We grow conscious in a part of the soul which before was unconscious, but that part which before was conscious in the physical organism remains in the same psychic condition. The interchange between the experience of imagination and that of ordinary consciousness is just as real a happening to the soul as is the guiding to and fro of soul-activity from one thought to another in the course of ordinary consciousness. If this is kept in mind one cannot mistake imaginative knowledge for something of a visionary nature. It tends, on the contrary, to drive out all inclination to what is visionary. But he who uses ‘imaginative cognition’ is also in a position to realize that visions are not independent of the body but dependent on it in a far higher degree than sense-experiences. For he can compare the character of visions with that of imagination which is really independent of the body. The Visionary is more deeply immersed in his physical functions than the man who perceives the outer world by means of his senses in the ordinary way.

When Imagination takes place ordinary thinking is recognized as something having no substantial content. Only what is introduced into consciousness by imagination is found to be the substantial content of this ordinary thinking. Ordinary thinking may indeed be compared to a mirrored picture. But while the mirrored picture rises in the ordinary consciousness the imagined picture is alive unconsciously.

We imagine also in our ordinary psychic life, but unconsciously. If we did not imagine we should not think. The conscious thoughts of ordinary psychic life are the reflections of unconscious imagining mirrored by the physical organism. And the substantial part of this imagining is the etheric organism which is manifest in the development of man's earthly life.

A new element enters the consciousness with inspiration. In order to attain inspiration the individual human life must be abstracted, as has been described in the previous studies. But the power of activity which the soul has won for itself by imagining still remains. Possessing this power the soul can attain pictures of that which in the universe underlies the etheric organism just as this underlies the physical.

And thus the soul is faced with its own eternal nature. In the ordinary consciousness it happens that the soul can only give its activity a conceptual form by grasping the physical organism. It dives into it and there finds the pictured reflections of that which it experiences with its etheric organism. This latter, however, the soul does not experience in its activity. This etheric organism is itself experienced in imaginative consciousness. But this happens through the soul having gone further back with its experience to the astral organism. As long as the soul merely ‘imagines’ it lives unconsciously in the astral organism, and both the physical and etheric organisms are contemplated; as soon as the soul attains ‘inspired’ knowledge the astral organism is also brought into contemplation; for the soul now lives in the eternal centre of its being, and can contemplate this by means of the continuation of ‘intuitive’ cognition. Through this it lives in the spiritual world, as in ordinary existence it lives in its physical organism.

The soul learns in this way how the physical, etheric and astral organisms grow out of the spiritual world. But it can also observe the continued activity of the spiritual in the organization of the earthly being—man. It sees how the spiritual centre of man's nature sinks into the physical, etheric and astral organism. This sinking is not really a merging of something spiritual into something physical, so that the former dwells in the latter. But it is a transformation of part of the human soul into the physical and etheric organization. This part of the soul disappears during earthly life by being transformed into the physical and etheric organism. It is this part of the soul which is experienced through thought by the ordinary consciousness in its reflection. But the soul emerges again elsewhere.

This is the case with that part of it which in earthly existence is experienced as volition, which has a different character from thought. Volition even during wakefulness contains a section which is asleep. The soul receives a thought clearly. Actually man when he thinks is fully awake, which is not the case with volition. The will is stimulated by thought. Consciousness extends as far as thought. But then the act of volition sinks into the human organism. If I deliberately raise my hand I have the causal thought in my ordinary consciousness to start with, and the sight of my raised hand with all the accompanying sensations is the result of my act of will. What is between remains unconscious. What happens in the depths of the organism when a man puts his will into action escapes the ordinary consciousness just as do the events of sleep. Man has always a part of himself asleep even when he is awake.

This is the part in which continues to live during earthly existence as much of the Spirit-Soul as had not been transformed into the physical organism. One perceives this when true intuition has been achieved by the exercises of the will previously described. Then we recognize behind the will the eternal part of the human soul, which is transformed into the head-organization; and disappears in its form-life during earthly existence, rises again on the other side to pass through death and to become ready once more to help in a future physical body and earthly life.

This brings this study to the event of death which is to be further touched upon in the next. For by the views I have put before you to-day we are led only to the continuity of the Will and to a knowledge of that part of the soul from the past, which is transformed into human head-organization. We have not reached the destiny of the ego-consciousness, which can only be treated in conjunction with the Christ-problem. Therefore that study will again lead us back to a consideration of the mysteries of Christianity.

The customary Philosophy of Ideas consists of thoughts; but they have no life, no substance. The substance comes by leaving behind the physical organism in ‘Imagination’. As I have shown, formerly the ideas of Philosophy were only mirrored pictures. If these are built up into a Philosophy, and if one studies them without prejudice, one must feel their unreality. One feels vaguely the moment here described as the one in which all remembered thought entirely disappears.

Augustine and Descartes have felt this, but have inefficiently explained it to themselves as ‘doubt’. But Philosophy acquires life when the unity of life is substantiated in the soul.

Bergson perceived this, and has expressed it in his idea of ‘Duration’. But he did not proceed beyond this point.

Starting with this as a basis, we shall proceed to consider its bearing upon Cosmology and Religious cognition.