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Popular Occultism
GA 94

II. Man's Ascent into Super-sensible Worlds

29 June 1906, Leipzig

Yesterday we endeavored to explain man's being in so far as the three bodies and the nucleus of his being are concerned. Let us now consider man's ascent into the supersensible worlds. For this purpose we must cast a glance into what we call the three worlds and only when we have described the characteristics of these three worlds will it be possible to discuss the nature of the other members of man's being.

The first world is the physical world which we perceive through our senses: it is the one which man inhabits. We then have a second world, the astral world, and the third one, the spiritual world or Devachan. Deva means God in Chan means field or habitation. Devachan therefore means the spirit of God. In so far as man is a spiritual being, he participates in the spiritual world. The physical world need not be described, for it is clearly known to everybody. I will try to speak of the astral and devachanic worlds by keeping as far as possible to the descriptive form.

The first thing which we should bear in mind is that the outer worlds are not to be found in other places, but we are surrounded by them the same way in which we are surrounded by the physical world and they permeate the physical world. After death, man consequently does not travel to other places, but he simply changes his way of looking at things, his consciousness changes. When we die or become initiated, the same thing happens as in the case of a blind-person who suddenly acquires the power of sight; he too will not be transferred into another world, but he simply acquired a new sense. After death, we are not surrounded by a new, completely different world, but the senses for the perception of the physical world are eliminated and we perceive instead things which escaped our notice before, which had remained concealed to us until then.

Let us now consider the astral world: It is the world in which we live every night and to begin with also after death. If we no longer open our senses to the physical world, the senses of the astral world disclose themselves. When we become clairvoyant, we first live in the astral world and perceive what has been described as the etheric body and the astral body.

The astral world greatly differs from the physical world. Those who enter it, face a confusing mass of phenomena. What they first perceive, is so different from what they were used to seeing, that they must first grow accustomed to the sight. They will read things wrongly if they begin to read them as in the physical world. For in the astral world everything appears as a mirrored picture, upside down, or in the reverse order. In the astral world the number 365 would be 563. Especially in the beginning, this is very confusing. In the physical world, when dealing with circumstances connected with time, we reckon everything from the beginning to the end. In the astral world it is the very opposite. In the astral world, a human life, for example, is not traced from birth to death, but from the last moment of life backwards. Here in the physical world first see the egg and then the chicken that slips out of it; but in the astral world we first see the chicken and then the egg.

The most important thing to be borne in mind is however that in the astral world all the images of our moral qualities, such as pleasure and displeasure, pain and joy, hatred and love, appear as if they were rushing towards us. A clairvoyant sees as if they were rushing towards him. To an unexperienced person this is very confusing. He may see all kinds of animal-forms, even terrible human forms, and so forth, rushing towards him. There are people who tell us of such experiences. They are really to be pitied, when through some illness they attain such an abnormal vision of the astral world. But when we begin to meditate in a serious way, when we school ourselves, then the clairvoyant power develops in a normal, regular way, and then we know what is taking place in the astral world. But when people obtain an abnormal, irregular vision of the astral world through some illness of the brain or some other cause, they perceive terrible shapes rushing towards them and throwing themselves upon them. In reality these shapes are their own passions which go out from them and appear as a reflected mirror-image in the astral world. Then everything appears to be rushing towards them, because in the astral world everything is reversed and they cannot read its phenomena. Everything appears in the form of pictures and images. A bursting rage, for example, may appear in the form of a tiger that attacks them. This is how all these wild shape should be explained. Every lust, every passion, becomes a demon. And an untrained person is unable to cope with them and thinks that they are illusions, fantasies. Yet this is not true, for what he sees, is an image, a mirrored picture.

Why must some people pass through such experiences to-day? The cause for this must be sought in our materialistic age. Let us look back into the 13th or 14th century and picture to ourselves a German town of that time. There everything was formed out of the sense of beauty of that time. Each house, each lock, each key had its own characteristic quality: everything had its special character and was formed with love. Those who formed these objects were inspired by a feeling which still exercises an influence upon us even to-day. In the present time it is quite different. In a modern city the things we see no longer appeal to our feeling, nothing touches us; at the most the things in shop-windows, for example books, etc. may attract our attention. Nothing sacred, nothing having a religious character is now spread out before us in the external world. In the past, there were few books, but in those few books one could find something for the soul. But think of all the things that people read to-day: sensational things which excite the senses. ...

Although the soul no longer receives anything from outside, it nevertheless bears deep within it the yearning for religious things; this feeling lies deeply buried within it. Of course, this does not imply that we should long for the things which existed in the Middle Ages! The religious yearning may suddenly break out in people who no longer hear anything of the higher worlds, so that it appears as a religious passion in a mirrored picture, as indicated above. For everything which exists in the physical world as a so-called true reality, appears in the astral world in the form of a picture. In the astral world you do not perceive pain or joy in an immediate, direct way, but pain is perceived as a shape in dark colors, whereas joy appears as a kind shape in a light yellow color. Little by little you will have learnt to understand these images. There is nothing arbitrary or uncertain, for he was perceive that pain or joy of a certain kind always appears as pictures of certain time. The pupil therefore gradually learns to read on the astral plane and he learns to recognize the different pictures. Lightly-colored pictures always indicate something connected with the sympathetic side of life wereas darkly colored pictures always indicate things connected with the antipathetic side. Essential thing in the astral world is imaginative vision. Goethe, who undoubtedly had the astral power of vision very beautifully characterizes this quality of the astral world at the end of his “Faust”: “Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis”. (Everything transient is but a symbol.)

But the astral world does not only contain the mirrored pictures of the physical world; it also contains beings that we can never learn to know on the physical plane. Man's spirit descended as far as the physical world and clothed itself, so to speak, in flesh. But on the astral plane we also come across Beings that never clothed themselves in flesh. They continually hover to and fro among physical shapes, but they remain invisible to the ordinary power vision. But they are not inventions nor fairy-tale characters: Anyone who can look into the astral world may perceive them.

There are other beings besides, that surround man: namely his own thoughts. Just imagine the influence of a thought. For example, we first have in our soul the thought: “This man is a bad fellow.” In the astral world this thought takes on shape; each thought that goes out from us, takes on shape in the astral world. Upon the astral plane, thoughts are realities. Each thought which we set into the world takes on astral substance, even as the child in the mother's womb takes on physical substance. Whenever we have a thought, it clothes itself with natural substance and condenses itself into certain forms. There are Beings to whom man's thoughts offer a welcome occasion to incarnate themselves, to form themselves an astral body; these Beings have a real lust to materialize themselves astrally.

This important fact indicates our responsibility in life. Imagine a room where men sit around enjoying their evening-pint of beer or wine. What are their thoughts? They talk for the sake of talking, thoughts are quite worthless. For a clairvoyant, such a room is afterwards very strangely populated. The enjoyment of talking for the sake of gossiping, talk which is not born out of the intention of transmitting noble thoughts to others, affords certain very evil Beings occasion to incorporate themselves, and these Beings then do all manner of horrible things, just because they incorporate in such great numbers.

In occultism we say: Upon the physical plane a lie is a lie, but upon the astral plane it is a murder. Matters namely stand as follows: Whenever you relate something, you produced the corresponding thought-form; but also the fact which you relate rays out a thought-form. If your thought-form corresponds with it and agrees with it, then the two forms flow together upon the astral plane and strengthen each other. You thus strengthen the life of the being you are talking about. But in the case of an untruth the thought-form streaming out of your words does not correspond with that which goes out from the thing itself; the forms collide and destroy each other. An untruth, a lie, does have a life-destroying, killing effect on them. To speak of morality in the occult meaning, does not mean to preach morality, but to establish it by facts pertaining to the higher worlds. Schopenhauer rightly said: It is easy to preach morals, but is difficult to establish morals.

Man has a short sojourn in the astral world when he is asleep. What takes place with him when he is asleep? His physical and etheric body remain upon the bed, while his astral body and his Ego go out. A clairvoyant sees that at night the astral body is very active. During the day, man consumes his physical forces in work, etc. He grows tired, his forces must be restored. This is the work done by the astral body during the night. But what does he do during the day? He perceives the physical world. When he is asleep, the astral body goes out of the etheric and physical body and then we see and hear nothing—for we have perceptions through the astral body. Our eyes and ears, all our sense-organs, are merely instruments used by the astral body when it has perceptions. The astral body transforms all the vibrations of the air, etc. into sensations of sound. But in the night the astral body no longer needs to do this work; it can then produce new forces for the physical body and above all for the etheric body. In order to do this work of restoring the balance, it must go out of physical body. When we dream a lot, this work is so to speak, interrupted. Restless dreams are therefore bad for our health.

What changes take place in person during sleep when he gradually becomes clairvoyant? The night changes completely for such a person. Ordinary people lose consciousness when they fall asleep and regain it when they wake up; but they are unable to perceive what takes place astrally, because they do not have the organs enabling them to see this. But for a clairvoyant, the night is quite different. He does not lose consciousness like ordinary people. An untrained person experiences the astral world chaotically, in the form of dreams. But a trained person sees the astral world in regular forms. At first these will be transient realities surging up and down, but arising in a regular way.

Let us suppose a person falls asleep and sees a reddish-brown shape rising up before him, with a human face, but a distorted one, which gradually begins to resemble that of a friend. The dreamer wakes up and asks himself? What can this mean?—My friend—he thinks—is in New York, and he looks upon his draem as an illusion. After a time, he hears that his friend has been in great danger, that he passed unscathed through some accident. He investigates matters and discovers that the impression that night came at the very moment when his friend was in danger. This event had stood before his soul in the form of a picture.

Such experiences mark the beginning of clairvoyance; the regular forms that become more and more frequent and this new world takes on a more and more definite shape. To a clairvoyant a man's inner life is not concealed. When you acquire clairvoyance, you can see a person's aura, the image of his soul-life, which hovers around him. The souls of men lie open before your eyes. Even as you see the complexion and the hand of a person, you then see before you the pictures of his soul-life.

So far, I only spoke of pictures, of images. Do only images surge up and down? Is the astral world dumb? Indeed, at first it is dumb for the clairvoyant. The astral world is to begin with, silent. The time comes when these pictures begin to resound; voices from the spiritual world can be heard. Pythagoras spoke of the music of the spheres; this was not a fantastic invention, for the orbit of a star becomes a sound to a clairvoyant. Goethe also knew this. In “Faust” he says:

“Die Sonne ton't nach alter Weiss
in Bruders, haren Wettgesang,
und ihre vergescriebne Reise
vollendst sie mit Donnergang ...”

The sun resounds according to an old measure (or: in an accustomed way)
In the singing-match of the brother-spheres,
and its prescribed journey
it ends with thunder-step ,,,

and further

“Tönend wird für Geistesahren
schon der neue Tag geboren ...”

“To spiritual ears is born
resounding the new day ...”

Of course, learned men say that Goethe meant this symbolically. But after a certain development, the clairvoyant begins to hear sounds. Goethe spoke of the Sun's spiritual being. And when the men of ancient times designated the stars, the names which they gave them were intended for the Spirits of the Planets. The sun that we see, is but the physical body of the sun and Goethe knew quite well that there exists a Spirit of the Sun.

When a clairvoyant hears sounds after certain time, he is later on able to hear the “Inner Word”. The gift of hearing the “Inner Word” is called Inspiration, even as the gift of perceiving images in the Astral world is called Imagination. Imagination therefore enables one to see, whereas Inspiration enables one to hear. When Jakob Böhme and Paracelsus spoke of Imagination, they meant this gift.

In this meeting we can also say that the religious documents are inspired. Those who wrote them were inspired, that is to say, they were initiates who possessed the Inner Word. When a person develops the power of vision, the astral world opens out to him; the inner power of hearing discloses the Devachanic world, the spiritual world.