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The Astral World
GA 107

III. The Law of the Astral Plane: Renunciation. The Law of the Devachanic Plane: Sacrifice

26 October 1908, Berlin

Today's lecture is to deal with the conditions that we must fulfill if we want to develop the forces and faculties slumbering within us and come to an experience and observation of the higher worlds. In the articles in the Journal “Lucifer-Gnosis” How does one attain knowledge of the Higher Worlds? [Now in book form], you have a picture of much that a human being has to fulfill when treading the path of knowledge, when wishing to press up into the higher worlds.

You remember the indications that were given in the interpretation of Goethe's Fairy Tale. We are concerned with the fact that human beings have soul forces of various kinds, and that from their development—that is, of thinking as such, of feeling as such, and of willing as such—depends our ascent on the one hand, and on the other hand our need to bring these into the right proportion by means of exercises. Willing, feeling and thinking must always be brought to development in exactly the right measure in knowledge of the different goals of spiritual life. For a definite goal, willing, for example, must step back, while feeling must come more strongly to the fore; for another goal, thinking must retreat, and again for another goal, feeling. All these soul forces must be perfected through occult exercises in the right proportion. The ascent into the higher worlds is connected with the development of thinking, feeling and willing.

Above all, it is a matter of refining and purifying thinking. That is necessary in order that thinking may no longer depend on the external sense-perceptions that can be gained on the physical plane. Yet, not only thinking but also feeling and the will can become forces of knowledge. In ordinary life, they go on personal paths; sympathy and antipathy take their way in accord with the individual personality, yet they can become, forces of knowledge. This may sound unbelievable for modern science! One can believe it more easily of thinking, especially of the descriptive thinking directed to sense-observation, but how can people admit that feeling can become a source of knowledge when they see how one person feels so, and another feels so, about the same things?

How can one admit that anything so vacillating, so dependent on personality as sympathy and antipathy can become an authority for knowledge and can be so far disciplined that they could grasp the innermost nature of a thing? That thought does so can be easily understood, but that when we confront something, and it arouses a feeling in us, this feeling can be of such a nature that not personal sympathy or antipathy speaks, but that feeling itself can become a means of expression for the inmost being of the thing—that seems hardly credible! And further, that the force of will and desire can also become means of expression for the inner nature—that above all, seems simply frivolous.

In the same way, however, as thinking can be purified and become objective, and hence a means of expressing facts in both the sense-world and the higher worlds, so, too, can feeling and willing become objective. Yet, there must be no misunderstanding. Feeling, as it exists in the ordinary life of modern man—in its direct content of feeling, does not become a means of expression of a higher world. This type of feeling is personal. The object of the occult exercises received by the student is to train feeling, alter and transform it, so that it becomes different from what it was when it was still personal. Yet, when a certain stage has been reached on the occult path through the development of feeling, one must not believe that one can state with knowledge: I have a being before me, and I feel something of this being—not that what one has there in feeling is a truth, a piece of knowledge.

The process that transforms feeling by way of occult exercises is a much more intimate and inward one. One who has changed feelings through exercises comes to Imaginative knowledge, so that a spiritual content reveals itself in symbols. The facts or beings of the astral world express themselves by symbols. Feeling becomes something different; it becomes Imagination, and astral pictures light up that express what is taking place in astral space. One does not see as one sees a rose, for instance, in the physical world with its color; one sees in symbolic pictures, and in fact, all that is brought before us in occult science is seen in pictures. The black cross with the wreath of roses and all such symbols are to bring to expression a definite fact, and they correspond just as much to astral facts as what we see in the physical world corresponds to physical facts. One therefore develops feeling, but knows in Imagination. And it is just the same with the will.

When one has reached the stage that can be reached to a certain extent through occult training, then if a being confronts one, one does not say, “It awakens in me a power of desire,” but one begins to perceive the nature of sound in Devachan.

Feeling is developed in us and astral vision in Imagination is the result. Will is developed in us, and the result is the experience of what comes about in devachanic spiritual music, the sphere-harmony from which there streams to us the inmost nature. Just as one perfects thinking and attains to objective thinking, which is the first step, so does one develop feeling, and a new world will emerge at the stage of Imagination. In the same way, one trains willing and there results in Inspiration the knowledge of Lower Devachan, until at length in Intuition there opens before us the world of Higher Devachan.

We can say, therefore, that as we lift ourselves to the next stage of existence, we are presented with pictures, but pictures that we cannot use as we use our thoughts. We do not ask, “How do these pictures correspond to reality?” Things are clothed in pictures of form and color, and through Imagination we must ourselves “unriddle” the beings who are showing themselves to us in symbols. In Inspiration, the things speak to us. There, we need not question nor try to find a solution in ideas that would be a carrying-over of the theory of knowledge from the physical plane. Rather, the inmost being of the thing itself speaks to us. When a human being confronts us, expressing his or her inmost nature to us, it is different from when we stand before a stone. We have to "unriddle" the stone and ponder about it.

With people, it is different; we experience their being in what they say to us. That is how it is in Inspiration. There, in Inspiration, it is not an abstract discursive thinking, but one listens to what the things say; they themselves express their being! It would have no meaning for someone to say, “When someone dies and I meet him again in Devachan, shall I know whom I meet?” For devachanic beings must look different and cannot be compared with what is on the physical plane. In Devachan, the being itself says what being it is, as if human beings should tell us not only their names but also let their natures flow out to us continually. That streams to us through the sphere-music and a non-recognition is not possible.

Now this is a certain opportunity for answering a question. Misunderstandings can very easily arise through the various theosophical presentations, and one can easily think that the physical, the astral and devachanic worlds are distinguished from one another spatially. We know, in fact, that where the physical world is, there is also the astral and the devachanic—they are in one another. Now the question could be asked, “Well, if everything is in one another, I cannot distinguish them as in physical space, where everything is side by side! If the ‘other side’ is in ‘this side’ how do I distinguish the astral world and the devachanic world from each other?” One distinguishes them through the fact that when one ascends from the astral pictures and colors to the devachanic world, the colors resound. What before was spiritually luminous becomes, henceforth, spiritual resounding. In experiencing the higher worlds there are also differences, so that when we rise up to these worlds, we can always recognize by definite experiences whether we are in this or that world.

Today we will characterize the differences between experiencing the astral world and the world of Devachan. It is not only that the astral world is known through Imagination and the devachanic through Inspiration, but we also know through other differences, too, which world we are in. A part of the astral world is the time during which a human being has to live through directly after death, which in anthroposophical literature we call the period of Kamaloca. What does it mean to be in Kamaloca? We have often tried to show this by description. I have often given the characteristic example of the epicure, who pines for the enjoyment that only the sense of taste can give him. With death, the physical body is stripped off and left behind, and so, too, the etheric body to a great extent, but the astral body is still present with its qualities and forces. These do not change immediately after death, but only gradually. If a person has longed for dainty foods, this longing remains, this pining for the enjoyment, but after death the soul lacks the physical instrument with which to satisfy it. The physical body with its organs is no longer there, and the soul must do without the enjoyment; it pines for something that it must go without. This holds good for all the Kamaloca¬experiences that consist, really, in a condition within the astral body when the soul still longs for the satisfaction that can be fulfilled only through the physical body. And because the soul has this no longer, it has to rid itself of the striving for these enjoyments; it is thus the period of becoming “disaccustomed”. The one who has died is freed from it only when this longing has been torn out of the astral body.

During the whole Kamaloca period, something lives in the astral body that can be called “privation”—deprivation in most varied forms, nuances and differences; that is the content of Kamaloca. Just as light may be differentiated into red, yellow, green, blue tones, so can privation be differentiated into the most varied qualities, and the characteristic of privation is the sign of the one who is in Kamaloca. However, the astral plane is not alone Kamaloca, but is far more comprehensive. Nevertheless, a human being who has lived only in the physical world and experienced solely its contents would never be able to experience the other parts of the astral world—whether after death or through other means—unless the soul had prepared itself. It can experience the astral world in no other way than through deprivation! One who comes up into the higher worlds and knows: “I am deprived of this or that and there is no prospect of supporting it,” experiences the consciousness of the astral world. Even if such a one had been able through occult means to enter the astral plane out of the body, he or she would always have to suffer privation there.

Now, how can one so develop and perfect oneself that one learns to know not only the part expressed in privation, the phase of feeling a lack, but that one experienced the astral world in the best sense—the part that is really brought to expression in the good, the best sense? A human soul can come into the other part of the astral world through the development of that which is the counterpart of deprivation! Therefore, the methods that awaken the forces in a human being that are opposed to privation will be the ones that will bring the soul into the other part of the astral world. These are the forces of renunciation. Just as privation can be conceived in manifold nuances, so, too, can renunciation. With the smallest renunciation that we take upon us, we make a step forwards in the sense that we evolve upwards to the good side of the astral world on the path of sacrifice.

When one renounces the most insignificant thing, it is an inculcation of something that contributes essentially to experiencing the good side of the astral world. Hence, in occult traditions so much weight is laid on the test carried out by the pupil of denying oneself this or that, the exercise of renouncing. Through this, the pupil gains entry into the good side of the astral world.

What is brought about in this way? Let us first remember the experiences in Kamaloca. Let us think that someone leaves the physical body, either through death or in some other way; then the physical instruments of the body are lacking to that person, who thus entirely lacks the power to satisfy some desire. Deprivation is felt, and this arises as an imaginative picture in the astral world. For instance, a red pentagon or a red circle appears. This is nothing but the image of what appears in the soul's field of vision and corresponds to the privation, just as in the physical world an object corresponds to what one experiences in the soul as concept of it. If someone has very low desires, then terrible beasts confront that person when out of the body. These frightful beasts are the symbols for the very debased desires. If one has learnt renunciation, however, then in the moment when through death or initiation one is out of the body, the red circle changes into nothing, because one permeates the red with the feeling of renunciation, and there arises a green circle. In the same way, through the forces of renunciation, the beast will vanish, and a noble image of the astral world will appear.

So what is given to one objectively—the red circle or horrible animal—he or she must change into its opposite through the developed forces of renunciation and resignation. Renunciation conjures out of unknown depths the true forms of the astral world. No one must believe, therefore, that if he or she wants in the true sense to lift oneself up into the astral world, the co-operation of one's soul forces is not necessary. Without this, one would attain to only one part of that world. Renunciation is essential—even all Imagination. One who gives up claims and renounces—this is what conjures forth the true form of the astral world.

In Devachan, one has Inspiration. And here, too, there is an inner difference for the parts of Devachan, which the soul cannot experience passively when experiencing them after death. Through a certain universal relationship, so much harm has not yet been done in Devachan; the astral world has the fearful Kamaloca in it, but Devachan has not that yet. That will first come about in the Jupiter and Venus conditions, when through the use of black magic and the like, a decadence will have set in. Then, in Devachan, an element will develop similar to what exists today in the astral world. Here, in Devachan in the present cycle of evolution, the situation is somewhat different. What first appears before a human being ascending on the path of knowledge from the astral world to Devachan, or when as a simple human being one is led there after death—what does such a one experience in Devachan? Bliss is experienced! That which changes from the color-nuances into tones—that under all circumstances is bliss. At the present stage of evolution, all in Devachan is a bringing forth, production, and in respect of knowledge, a spiritual hearing. And all producing is blissfulness; blissfulness is all-hearing of the sphere-harmony! The human being in Devachan will experience pure bliss—nothing but bliss.

When a human being is led upwards through the methods of spiritual knowledge, through the leaders of human evolution, the Masters of Wisdom and the Harmony of Feelings, or in the case of the ordinary human being after death, such a one will always experience bliss there. That is what the initiate must experience when he or she has come so far on the path of knowledge. But it lies in the future evolution of the world that it may not remain at mere bliss. That would signify an enhancement of the most refined egotism; the human individuality would always take into itself the warmth of bliss, but the world would not progress. In this way, beings would be developed who would harden in their souls. For the welfare and progress of the world, therefore, it must be possible for someone who through exercises enters Devachan, not only to experience all nuances of bliss in the sphere-music, but must also develop in oneself the feeling of the opposite of bliss. Just as renunciation is the counterpart of deprivation, so is the feeling of sacrifice related to bliss: sacrifice that is ready to pour out what is received as bliss—to let it flow out into the world.

Those divine Spirits, whom we call the Thrones, had the feeling of self-sacrifice when they began to play their part in the Creation. When they poured out on Saturn their own substance, they sacrificed themselves for the newly-arising humanity. What we have today as substance is the same as they streamed out on Saturn. And in the same way, the Spirits of Wisdom sacrificed themselves on the Old Sun. These divine Spirits have ascended into the higher worlds; they have taken in the experiences of bliss not only passively, but by passing through Devachan they have learnt to sacrifice themselves. They have not become poorer through the offering, but richer. Only a being living entirely in materiality, thinks that it loses itself through sacrifice; no, a higher, richer development is linked with sacrifice in the service of universal evolution.

So we see that the human being ascends to Imagination and Inspiration and enters that sphere where the whole being is permeated with ever-new nuances of bliss, where the soul experiences everything around it, in such a way that everything not only speaks to the soul, but that all around the soul becomes an absorption of the spiritual tones of bliss.

The ascent to the higher powers of knowledge is attained through the transformation of one's whole life of feeling. And occult training has this sole purpose: that through the rules and methods that have been given us by the Masters of Wisdom and of the Harmony of Feelings, and which have been proved and tested for thousands of years, the human being's feeling and will are so transformed that he or she may be led up to higher knowledge and experience. When pupils gradually develop and transform the content of their feeling and will through occult methods, they attain to these higher faculties.

It should not be a matter of indifference to one who is within the Movement of Spiritual Science whether he or she has belonged to it for three or six or seven years. That has a definite significance. The feeling of a shared experience of this inner growth through its inner law must become real to the student. We must direct our attention to it; otherwise, its effects pass us by.