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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Cosmology, Religion and Philosophy
GA 25

IX. The Destination of the Ego-consciousness in Conjunction with the Christ-problem

THE life of the soul in its earthly existence is passed in the facts of thinking, feeling and willing. In thinking we have a mirrored picture of the experience of the astral organism and the ego-being within the physical sense-world. These higher parts of the human nature were also experienced during the state of sleep. But this experience remains unconscious during the stay on earth. The soul is then too weak in its inner being to present its own content to its consciousness. As soon as the consciousness perceives this content, it takes it for a purely psycho-spiritual one.

In awaking the astral organism and the ego enter into the etheric and physical organisms. Through thinking the sense-perceptions are experienced by the etheric organisms. But in this experience it is not the world surrounding man, which is active, but a copy of this world. In this copy the sum-total of the formative powers underlying the earthly course of man manifests itself. And a copy of the outer world is present in man at every instant. Man does not directly experience this thinking, but its reflection is presented to ordinary consciousness by the physical organism.

Ordinary consciousness cannot perceive what is happening behind the reflective activity of thinking in the physical organism, it can only perceive the result, namely the reflected images, presented as thoughts. These unperceived happenings in the physical organism are activities of the etheric and astral organism and of the ego. In his thoughts man perceives what he himself is enacting in his physical organism as a psycho-spiritual being. There is in the etheric organism a copy of the outer world as inner activity, filling the physical organism. In the astral organism there exists a copy of the pre-earthly existence; in the ego exists the eternal central being of man.

In the etheric organism the outer world is active in man. In the astral organism continues to be active whatever man has experienced in the pre-earthly existence. This activity has not changed in kind during its earthly existence from what it was in its pre-earthly existence. It was of a kind which occurred in a spiritually changed physical organism. In the waking state it is similar. The inner head-organization of man strives continually to be changed from a physical state into a spiritual one. But this change can only remain a tendency during earthly existence. The physical organization resists it. Precisely at the moment at which the astral organism in its changing activity arrives at a point at which the inner physical head-organization would have to cease as a physical one, the state of sleep intervenes. It replenishes the inner head-organization with strength from the rest of the physical organization by means of which it can continue in the physical world.

This strength lies in the etheric organism, which grows less and less differentiated inside the head-organization during the waking state. During sleep however it is differentiated internally into definite formations. In those formations are manifest the forces which during existence on earth act in rebuilding the physical organism.

In the head-organization a two-fold activity is thus enacted during the waking state; one building up through the etheric organism and one tearing down, that is, one which destroys the physical organism. This destruction takes place through the astral organism.

Through this astral activity man carries death in him continually during his existence on earth. Only this death is vanquished day by day by forces opposing it. But we owe to these constantly acting death tendencies the ordinary consciousness. For in the dying life of the head-organization is found that which is capable of reflecting the soul activity as thought-experience. An organically-growing activity urging towards life cannot produce a tissue of thought. For that a tendency towards death is required. The organically-growing activity reduces the machinery of thought to stupor or unconsciousness.

What finally happens to the whole human organism in physical death accompanies human life during existence on earth as a tendency, as an always recurring beginning of death. And to this continued dying within him man owes his ordinary consciousness. Before this consciousness stand the etheric and the physical organism as non-transparent things; man does not see them but the thought-reflections mirrored by them and experienced by him in his soul. The physical and etheric organizations hide for him the astral organization and the Ego; and just because the consciousness of soul is filled by the reflections of the physical organism during existence on earth man is prevented from seeing his etheric and astral organization and his Ego.

In death the physical organism separates from the etheric and astral one and from the Ego. Now man carries his etheric and astral organism and his ego in himself. Through the casting off of the physical organism the obstacle to man's perceiving the etheric organism has been removed. The picture of his life on earth just passed through stands before man's soul. For this picture is only the expression of the formative powers, which in their sum represent the etheric body.

What is present in the etheric body has been woven into man from the etheric part of the Cosmos. He can never be entirely free of the Cosmos. The Cosmic-etheric act continues inside the human organization and this continuation inside man is the etheric organism. Thus it is when after death man becomes conscious of his etheric organism this consciousness begins already to change into a cosmic one. Man feels the world ether as well as his etheric organism as part of himself. This actually means that the etheric body dissolves after a very short while in the world ether. Man keeps that part which was bound to the physical and etheric organism during existence on earth, namely, his astral organism and his ego.

The astral being is never wholly incorporated into the physical organism. The head-organization represents a total transformation of this astral organism and the Ego. But in everything that can be called the rhythmical organization of man, in the processes of breathing, blood-circulation, etc. the astral organization and the Ego continue to live with a certain independence, for their activities are not reflected by these processes as they are by the head-organization. The astral organization and the Ego can blend with the rhythmical processes. This union brings about a Being, of spirit and of body known to the ordinary consciousness as the ‘Feeling’ life. In man's Feeling life the astral organism and the Ego are united with man's experiences. We must look at this union in its details. Let us assume that man has created something within the world of the senses. For his psychic life things do not remain there. He judges his own act. But this judgment is not only happening in the life of thought, the impulse towards it is derived from the astral organism, which in conjunction with the rhythmical processes also manifests itself in physical life. To thought-life which is passed in reflex pictures is added a reflection of moral judgment, which appears within the reflected thought-world as itself only bearing the character of the reflected thought-thing. But in the astral-rhythmical organism it lives in reality. This reality does not enter into the ordinary consciousness during existence on earth. Its entry is prevented because the physical rhythmical processes are felt more strongly than the spiritual processes accompanying them. When the physical organism is discarded in death and the physical rhythmical processes are no longer there, then the importance of the death of man to the spiritual-cosmic world is realized by the cosmic consciousness. This cosmic consciousness is formed after the separation from the etheric organism. In this state a man looks upon himself as a moral being as in earthly life he looked upon himself as a physical being. He now has an inner life formed by the moral quality of his activity on earth. He looks upon his astral organism. But the spiritual-cosmic world breaks in upon this astral organism. Whatever judgment this world pronounces on man's earthly activities is presented as facts to his soul.

In death a man enters a form of experiences of another rhythm than during existence on earth. This rhythm appears as a cosmic imitation of his activity on earth. And into this imitative experience the spirit-cosmos enters continually as does the air into the lungs in breathing during existence on earth. In conscious cosmic experience we have a rhythm of which the physical one is a copy. Through the cosmic rhythm the activities of man on earth as a world of moral qualities are united to an amoral world. And man experiences after his death this moral kernel of a future cosmos, ripening within the cosmos, which will not only exist in a purely natural order like the present, but in a moral-natural one. The chief feeling passing through the soul during this experience in a cosmic world in the making is expressed by the question: Shall I be worthy to form part of a moral-natural order of things in a future existence?

In my book Theosophy I have called the world of experience through which man passes after his death, the ‘Soul-world’. It is the consciousness of this world through ‘Inspiration’ which gives us material for a real Cosmology. Just as an ‘Imaginative cognition’ of the actual course of human life gives us material for a true philosophy.

Man's soul cannot gain sufficient impulses out of that cosmic consciousness into which the cosmic after-effect of man's activities on earth have been reaching, to prepare spiritually for the future physical organism. This organism would be spoilt if the soul remained in a soul-world. It must enter into a world of experience in which the non-human, spiritual impulses of the cosmos are active. I have called this world the ‘Spirit-Land’ in the same book.

The ancient Initiates were able to say to their followers out of the knowledge gained by initiation: That Spiritual Being, who, in the physical world, shows his reflected glory in the Sun, will meet you after death in the spiritual world. He will lead you out of the soul world into the Spirit Land; under His guidance you will be purified, so that you will be able to prepare a physical organism for the next world during your stay in the Spirit land.

At the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and during the first Christian centuries the Initiates had to tell their followers: The degree of Ego consciousness to which you will attain during existence on earth will by its own nature on earth be so light that its antithesis which will begin after death will be so dark that you will not be able to see the spiritual sun-guide. Therefore the sun-being has descended on earth as Christ and has consummated the Mystery of Golgotha. If therefore during your existence on earth you already let yourself be permeated by a lively feeling of your connection with the Mystery of Golgotha, then its significance will become part of life on earth and will continue to be active in man after death. You can then recognize the Christ-guide through this result. After the Fourth Century this old initiated knowledge was lost in the course of human development. A renewed Christian Religious knowledge should introduce once more from inspiration into cosmological science Christ's deed for humanity even into experiences after death. To expound how the events of human existence on earth, hidden by Will, have their effects even after death, will be the task of the next study.