Life Between Death and Rebirth
2. Investigations Into Life Between Death and Rebirth II
27 October 1912, Milan
Our considerations have led us to the point where consciousness after death can only be maintained by remembering the Mystery of Golgotha. Until this moment existence after death consists of recollections of life on earth by means of visions, not through the senses. During this period also, the realities of the spiritual world can only be perceived through visions.
Gradually the soul finds it more and more difficult to retain the memories of earthly life and a condition of forgetting sets in. If after death one meets a person one has known, one will at first readily recognize him. As time goes on this becomes more difficult, and later the connection can only be recalled by relating oneself to the Mystery of Golgotha. The more one is permeated by it, the easier it is to recognize one's surroundings. On reaching the stage where the recollections of the Mystery of Golgotha is needed in order to maintain consciousness, however, a great transformation begins. We are then no longer able to hold the previous visions. For example, until this phase we can speak in terms of astral color phenomena in this realm and of the visionary images of beings surrounding us. Midway between death and a new birth visions and recollections fall away, we lose our connection with them, and they separate themselves off from our being. To characterize this phase more accurately let us consider the following, which upon first hearing might be quite shocking.
At this stage one feels oneself drawing away from the earth. The earth is far away below one, and journeying into the spirit world one feels that one has reached the Sun. Just as during earthly life we feel ourselves linked to the earth, so now we feel at one with the Sun with its whole planetary system. That is why in our modern occultism such stress is laid upon understanding how Christ came to earth from the Sun sphere. It is essential to grasp how Christ leads us to the Sun through the Mystery of Golgotha. Occultism shows that Christ is a Sun Being who can lead us back to the Sun. Now comes what may cause a shock. It is imperative not only to understand our relationship to the Christ. We must grasp something further. The time now comes that we confront, and need to understand, the being known as Lucifer. The sensation in the Sun is not one of being surrounded by streaming physical light, but of dwelling in the pure light of the spirit. From this moment onward, one experiences Lucifer no longer as an antagonistic being. On the contrary, he appears more and more to be fully justified in the world. One now senses the urge, in the further course of the life after death, to recognize Christ and Lucifer side by side as equally justifiable powers. However strange the equal importance of Christ and Lucifer may appear, this insight is reached from this stage onward and one comes to see these two powers more or less as brothers. The explanation for this is to be sought in experiences that the soul has to undergo in the further course of life after death.
I have often described the conditions of life on Saturn, Sun and Moon, and in them you have the spiritual path covered after death. The remarkable thing is that one does not experience the events in the order of cosmic creation: Saturn, Sun and Moon, but first comes the Moon-existence, then the Sun-existence, and finally the Saturn-existence. When you read the descriptions I have given in Cosmic Memory and then proceed farther back from the Moon, you will find the realm that the soul experiences on its backward journey after death. Beholding this directly in the spiritual world gives the impression of a recollection of life before birth. In the realm just characterized the moral element is of even greater importance for the further course of life. In Cosmic Memory, the “Akasha Chronicle,” we described how one loses interest, which up to this stage was very strong, in all earthly experience. Our interest in men with whom we have been connected wanes, and we lose interest in things. We realize that the recollections we still have at this point are carried forward only by the Christ. Christ accompanies us, and as a result we are capable of remembering. If Christ were not to accompany us, our recollection of earthly life would vanish because it is the experience of uniting ourselves with Christ that beyond this point connects us with the earth.
So through a further stage in the spiritual world we gain a totally new interest in Lucifer and his realm. Severed from earthly interests, we can now experience the confrontation of Lucifer absolutely without danger. We make the remarkable discovery that Lucifer's influence is harmful to us only when we are entangled in earthly affairs. He now appears as the being who illumines what we have to undergo later in the world of the spirit. For a long span of time we feel that we must acquire what Lucifer can bestow upon us in these realms of the spirit world.
Again it may be a shock to speak of what is experienced only subjectively. Yet what appears shocking is perhaps in this case the most readily understandable, namely, that after awhile we become inhabitants of Mars. After we have felt ourselves to be Sun dwellers, having left the earth behind us, we now leave the Sun sphere and experience ourselves in our cosmic reality as inhabitants of Mars. In fact, for this phase it appears as if Christ had given us everything relating to the past and that Lucifer prepares us for our future incarnation. If this Mars sphere is experienced consciously and later on earth can be recalled by means of initiation, we discover that Lucifer bestows on us all experiences not originating in the earthly sphere that we carry within us through the width of the cosmos. Lucifer gives us everything unrelated to the earth. Our former human interest becomes more and more cosmic. Whereas previously we absorbed on earth what the mineral, the plant, the animal, air and water, mountain and valley gave us, we gather from this point onward the experiences that reach us from the cosmos. It is a form of perception that has always been known, but little understood, as the harmony of the spheres. We perceive everything as harmonies rather than the separate sounds of the physical world.
At a certain point we experience ourselves as at the center of the universe. From all sides we perceive the cosmic facts through the harmony of the spheres. We now leave the realm of Mars, and the occultist denotes the next sphere as Jupiter. As we proceed the harmony of the spheres increases in volume. Finally it is so powerful that we are numbed by it. Stupefied, we lift into the harmony of the spheres.
After we have gone through the Jupiter sphere our existence reaches Saturn, the outermost limit of the solar system. At this juncture we undergo an important experience of a moral nature. If Christ has preserved our memory of earlier conditions on earth and protected us from the states of fear arising out of a waning consciousness, we realize, particularly in our present soul configuration, how little our life on earth was attuned to higher moral demands, to the majesty of the entire cosmic existence. Our past earthly life rises up reproachfully. Out of an undifferentiated darkness, and this is of the greatest importance, the sum total of the last incarnation as it formed itself karmically during that life, appears before the soul.
In fact, the overall picture of your present incarnation corresponds to what now arises in your soul at this state after death, but everything you have to object to in your own last incarnation is poignantly experienced. We behold our last earthy life from a cosmic viewpoint.
From this time onward neither the Christ principle nor Lucifer can maintain our consciousness. Unless an initiation took place in a previous earth life, consciousness is definitely dimmed. It marks a necessary spiritual sleep-like condition following the consciousness that prevailed until then. This spiritual sleep is connected with another factor. Because all feelings and the capacity to form ideas have ceased, the total cosmic forces, with the exception of those emanating from the solar system, can now act directly upon man. Imagine the whole of the solar system out of action and only the forces outside it working. This will give you a picture of the influences that now begin to be operative.
Thus we have reached the point where we began our consideration yesterday.
Let us now consider the important relationship between the second phase of life after death and the embryonic period. You know that embryonic life begins with a small spherical germ. Occultly, we make the remarkable observation that in its earliest stages the embryo represents a mirror-picture of all the human being experiences out of the cosmos. This has been described above. At the outset the human germ carries a mirror-picture of cosmic existence from which its life in the solar system is excluded. It is remarkable that during the further stages of embryonic development all cosmic influences are rejected except those emanating from the solar system. These are absorbed by the embryo. Hereditary forces commence their activity on the embryo at a comparatively later stage when, during life after death, we have retraced our steps via Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. Therefore it may be said that the germ is already prepared by man during cosmic existence in a condition of universal sleep and before the embryonic period.
Let us now consider the stages in embryonic development that take place during the period of cosmic, universal sleep. In the diagram let us indicate one after another the prenatal conditions of the human being of the germ. Here we have a mirror image.
Then the later embryonic conditions find their mirror-image in the early phase of prenatal life, and the early conditions of embryonic existence find their reflection in a later phase before conception. So we obtain a spiritual mirror-picture in reverse of embryonic development. Here is the embryo in the one direction, and for each phase in the one direction I find a mirror-image in the other. The two sides are related as object and mirror-image, and conception marks the point at which the mirror-images arise. If I were to represent embryonic development now, it would have to be drawn small. But its mirror-picture in the other direction would have to be much enlarged because what the human being undergoes in ten lunar months before birth is experienced in its reflection in a matter of years. Now take all that man experiences in the spiritual world until his reincarnation. In the first phase of his life after death he takes into himself the after-effects of his life on earth. During the second stage he gathers experiences out of the cosmos.
Life between death and a new birth is full of content, but one thing is missing. We do in fact recapitulate everything we have experienced from the previous incarnation until the present one. We sense cosmic being, but during the first stage of life after death we do not experience what has happened on the earth between the two incarnations. Until we reach the Sun sphere we are so preoccupied with our memories of life before death that our interest in events on the earth is completely diverted. We live with those individuals who also are dwelling in the spiritual world after death. We are fully involved in the relationships that we have with them on earth and shape these connections to fit their ultimate consequences. During this period our interest is continually diverted and thereby lessened for those who are still on the earth. Only when those who remain on earth seek us with their souls can a link with them be created. This should be considered an important moral element that throws light upon the connection between the living and the dead. A person who has died before us and whom we completely forget, finds it difficult to reach us here in earthly life. The love, the constant sympathy we feel for the dead, creates a path on which a connection with earthly life is established. During the early stages after death those who have passed on can live with us only out of this connection. It is surprising to what extent the cult of the commemoration of the dead is confirmed in its deeper significance by occultism. Those who have passed on can reach us most easily if they can find thoughts and feelings directed toward them from the earth.
The situation is different for the second stage between death and a new birth. We are then so deeply involved in cosmic interests that it becomes exceedingly difficult to establish a connection with the earth during this second period. Apart from the interest we take in the cosmos, we wish to cooperate in the right shaping of our further karma. In addition to our cosmic impressions we retain best what we have to correct karmically, and we help to shape a next life that will help to compensate for the karmic debts incurred.
Many people say that they cannot believe in reincarnation because they do not wish to return to a life on earth. This, for instance, is a current objection. I do not wish in the least to come back to the earth. Many say this. The above consideration regarding the period between death and rebirth corrects this view. During this period we want to return to life with all our strength in order to correct our karma. We forget all too easily after the cosmic sleep described, when we awaken into the present, that we actually want to reincarnate. It is immaterial whether it is our wish during life on earth to incarnate again. What matters is that we will it in the period between death and rebirth, and there we positively do. In many respects life between death and rebirth is the very opposite of what we experience here on earth between birth and death. Just as we are strengthened through sleep in earthly life and endowed with new forces, so as a result of the described cosmic sleep are we equipped with forces for our new incarnation.
Another question can be answered by these considerations. It is often asked, “If he incarnates so frequently, why must the human being begin over and over from infancy? Why does he not come into the world already equipped with everything he has to learn during childhood?” The answer lies in the fact that we do not experience what has happened on earth between our incarnations. For example, if a person was last incarnated on earth prior to the discovery of printing and incarnates again today, he will not have experienced what has developed in the intervening period. In fact, if one investigates the matter more closely from a cultural-historical aspect, one will find that in each incarnation one has to learn as a child what has happened on the earth in the intervening period. Consider, for instance, what a child of six had to learn in Roman times. That was quite different from what he has to learn today. The time span between two incarnations corresponds to the period needed for the cultural life on earth to have changed completely. We do not return to an incarnation until the conditions on the earth have changed so that there is virtually no similarity to the conditions of our previous incarnation.
What I have described refers to the average person. For example, in one case consciousness after death might be dimmed earlier than in another, or the condition of sleep might set in more quickly, as you will have understood from what was said previously. But a cosmic law operates so that the cosmic sleep shortens the period that we spend in the spiritual world after death. The one who enters the condition of unconsciousness earlier experiences it more rapidly. Time passes at a quicker rate for him than for one whose consciousness extends farther. Investigations of life between death and rebirth do indeed reveal that unspiritual people reincarnate relatively more quickly than others. A person who only indulges in sensual pleasures and passions, who lives strongly in what we might call his animal nature, will spend but a short time between incarnations. This is due to the fact that such a person will fall comparatively rapidly into a condition of unconsciousness, of sleep. Hence he will travel quickly between the period of death and rebirth.
Moreover, I have only described an average case because I have specially considered people who reach a normal age in life. Fundamentally, there is a considerable difference between souls who die after their thirty-fifth year and those who die earlier. Only those who have reached their thirty-fifth year experience more or less consciously the various phases described. An early death brings about a more rapid condition of sleep between death and rebirth. It might be objected that, after all, one cannot be responsible for an early death and therefore one is innocently involved in an earlier cosmic sleep. Yet this objection is not valid. It is not so because an early death has been prepared as a result of previous karmic causes, and further development can take place just because the soul enters more rapidly into the cosmic realm. However strange and shocking this may appear, we know, as a result of objective investigations of cosmic existence, that man from a certain point onwards expands into the cosmos and receives the impressions of the cosmos, of the macrocosmos. Just as man is most deeply involved in earthly matters during the middle years of his physical life, so in the middle period between death and rebirth he is most deeply involved in the cosmos.
Let us consider the child. As yet he does not live fully on the earth. He lives with all the inheritance from earlier periods, and he has to establish himself in earthly existence. Now consider the life of man after death. He lives with what he has carried away from the earth, and he has to acquire the perceptive faculties for life in the cosmos. In the middle period of our earthly existence we are most deeply entangled in earthly conditions, whereas in the middle stage between death and rebirth we are most deeply involved in cosmic conditions. The nearer we draw to the end of our existence on earth, the more we withdraw from earthly conditions in a physical sense. The farther we have gone beyond the mid-point between death and a new birth, the more we withdraw from the cosmos and turn again to the life on earth.
What I have just described as an analogy is not the basis of spiritual scientific investigations. An analogy of this kind occurs to an occultist only after he has made the necessary occult investigations and proceeds to compare the facts available. Such an analogy also contains an error. Suppose we referred to the first period after death as that of childhood, and the second period as that of old age. We would make a mistake. During spirit-existence between death a new birth we are in fact old to begin with, and we become children in relation to the spiritual life during the second period. Spiritual life flows in the reverse order. To begin with, we carry the errors and shortcomings of earthly life into the spiritual world. Then gradually during the cosmic existence they are removed.
I was most surprised to find in ancient traditions not exactly a confirmation, but an indication regarding these facts. On earth during our physical existence we speak of getting old. In the spiritual world between death and rebirth we must say quite literally that we grow young. In fact, as far as his spirit-being is concerned, when someone is born in a particular place we can say that he became young there.
Now strangely enough, in the second part of Faust we find the words, “He became young in the Land of the Mists.” Why does Goethe make use of the expression, “to become young” in order to express physical birth? When we go back into the past we find that a tradition prevailed in humanity that expresses the idea that at spiritual birth one becomes young. In fact, the more we look into past evolution, the more we encounter conditions of clairvoyance, as is continually stressed in our occultism. We find confirmation of them everywhere.
Consider, for instance, what was mentioned yesterday. From the moment of death we gradually free ourselves from earthly conditions, but during life between death and rebirth we live fully within cosmic conditions. These we experience as visions; they appear instead of sense impressions. I explained how the light of the Hierarchies falls on what we experience. We can characterize this situation as follows. Imagine that you did not have your consciousness inside you, but outside in your surroundings. You would not have the feeling that you were living in your body, but outside it. From outside you would feel that that is my eye, my nose, my leg. Then you would have to refer what you experience outside in the spirit to yourself. You would also have to refer the being of God to yourself, to let it be reflected in you. Such a stage arises after death when gazing back on man. The surroundings are reflected in him, even the Godhead.
Would it be too daring to accept the statement of a poet who said that life after death is the reflection of the divine? It is well known that Dante said that during one's existence in the spiritual world a point comes where one beholds the divine as man. Such an indication may appear unjustified. It may even seem playful, but one who is able to look into the deeper secrets of humanity will not take this view. In great poets we find again and again echoes of former conditions of clairvoyant knowledge, and by means of initiation such after-effects are revivified and lifted to human consciousness.
I have given you a few results of recent research into the conditions of life between death and a new birth, and I hope there will be another opportunity in the not too distant future to speak further on this theme.