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The Inner Nature of Man and the Life Between Death and a New Rebirth
GA 153

Lecture II

10 April 1914, Vienna

In the last lecture, my task in connection with our study of Thought, Feeling, Will and Perception, was to impart a few esoteric experiences which the human soul undergoes, when as a spiritual investigator it lives outside the body with the intention of experiencing something concerning the inner nature of man. To-day I shall try to bring forward other experiences from a different aspect, because only when we observe life from different spiritual points of view are we really able to arrive at the true explanation of it.

You will remember, that in the last lectures we tried to describe what the human soul first sees when, from outside the body, it looks back at its own body and on all that is connected with it physically; and then how it afterwards discovers what the astral body and Ego of man experience when they strengthen themselves more and more in the sphere into which they enter when outside the body. Now there is another way of considering the same matter and indeed it is of supreme importance in true, spiritual research, to realise that one only really solves the riddle of existence through spiritual observation, when a matter is considered from various sides. There is another way of leaving the body. I might say that the way I described in the last lecture showed us the soul leaving the body, so that it simply goes out of the body into space and begins to live there outside the body. This process of leaving the body can also take place in the following manner. In order to find the way out of oneself, one may try to begin with, to enter more deeply into oneself; one may try to connect oneself with spiritual experiences through that in the soul which is most similar to them, one may try to connect oneself with these experiences through one's memory. I have often said that because as human souls we are not only able to perceive, to think, to feel and to will, but are also able to store up our thoughts and perceptions as a treasure in the memory, we are thereby really able to change our inner life into something spiritual. In recent public lectures I mentioned that the French philosopher Bergson says that the treasure of memory in the human soul cannot be considered as directly connected with the body, but rather as an interior possession of the soul, as something which the soul develops, something which is purely of the soul and spirit.

In fact, when Imagination begins in the clairvoyant consciousness, when from the darkness of spiritual existence the first impressions emerge, these first impressions are very similar in quality and in their whole nature to the contents of the soul which we bear within us as the treasure of memory. When we begin to perceive with clairvoyant consciousness, the revelations from the spiritual world appear in us like memory pictures, but infinitely more spiritual. We then notice that the treasure of our memory is the first really spiritual thing through which we lift ourselves, to a certain extent, out of our body. But then we have to go further, we have to draw forth from spiritual depths fleeting pictures, such as those memory presents to us, but much more living; pictures which do not belong to our experience like the ideas in memory, but which rise, as it were, behind the memory. This must be borne in mind. Something comes forth from unfamiliar spiritual realms, whereas the treasure of memory comes forth from what we have experienced in physical life.

Now, if we try to turn our spiritual gaze to the experiences of our Ego during the years that have passed since our childhood, back as far as our memory extends, if we try to shut out everything external and live entirely within ourselves, so that we penetrate more and more deeply into our memory and draw forth from its treasures what is not usually present, we gradually approach the point of time to which our remembrance extends. And if we do this often, if we acquire a certain amount of practice in calling forth long-forgotten memories—and this can be done—so that we develop a stronger power of memory; if we call forth more and more of what we have forgotten and thereby strengthen the power which evokes memories, we shall find, that just as in a meadow flowers appear among the green blades of grass, so between the memories appear pictures, imaginations of something we have not known before, something that really emerges like flowers among the grass in a meadow, but which comes forth from entirely different spiritual depths than do our memories which only come forth from our own soul. Then we learn to distinguish between what might be connected in any way with our memories, and what comes forth from spiritual sources and spiritual depths. Thus we gradually become able to develop the power to call forth the spiritual from its depths. We thereby get out of our body in a different way from the one described in the last lecture, where one leaves the body directly, as it were. By the method we have just described we first go backwards through our life. We sink into our inner life. Through strengthening our power of remembrance we accustom ourselves to draw forth spiritual things from the spiritual world in our inner life between our memories, and thus at length we attain to where we push on beyond birth and beyond conception, into the spiritual world in which we lived before we were connected in our present incarnation with physical substance through heredity. Returning rapidly through our life we reach out into the spiritual world far back in ‘time’, before we entered into this incarnation. This is the other way of leaving the body and of entering the spiritual world, a way quite different from the one described in the last lecture. Notice this difference carefully, for in this course of lectures I have to acquaint you with very many subtleties and intimate things regarding spiritual life, and it is difficult to describe these in fitting words. It is only when we try to comprehend these differences that we enter correctly into these matters and acquire certainty in our thought about them.

If a person leaves his body in the manner I have just described, he comes out of it quite differently. When he leaves his body in the manner I described in the last lecture, he feels that he is outside his life in outer space. I described how he diffuses himself over external space and how he looks back at his physical body. He slips out of his body and fills space, as it were. He steps out into ‘space’. But if a man really goes through what we are describing to-day, he steps out of space itself; space ceases to have any meaning for him. He leaves space and is then only in ‘time’. So that on leaving his body in this way, the words: ‘I am outside my body’ cease to have any meaning, for outside signifies a relationship in space. He feels that he does not exist contemporaneously with his body, he feels himself in ‘time’; at that time in which he was before his incarnation, in a ‘before’. And he looks upon his body as existing afterwards. He really exists only within onstreaming, onflowing time. In place of ‘outer’ and ‘inner’, comes a ‘before’ and ‘after’.

Through this way of going forth from his body he is really able to enter into the realms we pass through between death and rebirth: for he goes back in time, he lives back into a life in which he lived before his earth-life. Earthly life appears in such a way that he asks: What is in the future? What appears to us there as coming later? In this way, you have a more exact understanding regarding matters which I have been unable to go into so fully in my public lectures, how for instance we enter concretely into the realms in which we live between death and rebirth.

If in this way the pupil has passed out of his body by returning into the life which he had previously lived in the spirit, he has thereby passed out of space. This way of leaving the body, going from the ‘present’ to the ‘previous’, has a much higher degree of inwardness than the other way, and, to the spiritual investigator, the way we have just described is infinitely more important than the way we described in the last lecture which does not get out of space; for that which concerns the deeper matters of the soul can only really be comprehended when one leaves the body in the manner described to-day. And now I might mention one thing, from which you will see how one has to try to get behind the depths and subtleties of human life.

Here in the physical body we live our physical life; we make use of our senses; we perceive the world; we think about the world; we feel in it; through our actions we try to be of value in this world; we act consciously by means of our body. Thus everyday life goes on; this life goes on, in so far as we belong to the physical plane. Now for every one who truly wishes to establish his worth as a human being there must be a higher life and there always has been a higher life of the soul. Religions which inspired men to a higher life have always existed. In the future, Spiritual Science will inspire mankind to this higher life. What is the aim of this higher life? What is the aim of this life which in Thought, Feeling and Perception transcends what the physical plane has to offer, which, in one person is but dim religious ideas, in another through the clear definitions of Spiritual Science, far transcends what the senses can see, what the intellect which is connected with the brain can think, or what man through his body can accomplish in the world? The human soul tends towards a spiritual life. To feel spiritual life within himself, to know something about the spiritual life which goes beyond physical life—this alone it is which gives man his value. We might say that as long as a human being dwells in the physical body he endeavours to enhance his value, he tries to gain a notion of his true destiny, through a life which he conceives as going beyond the physical world, through a presentiment of feeling, a knowledge of the spiritual world. ‘Look up to the spirit, feel that spiritual forces are weaving through the physical world I’—That is fundamentally the note which religion and the life connected with religion should give to man. Anyone who means to bring up a child seriously will take care not to allow this child to grow up with external, material conceptions alone, but will provide it with ideas regarding a super-sensible world.

Let us now, without wishing to draw attention to the limited and dogmatic side of any religion, describe as religion that which draws man out of this physical world. And with respect to what we have just described as the passing of the human soul beyond birth and conception into a previous spiritual world where it is also out of space, let us ask: Is there between death and rebirth, is there in the world into which we enter in the manner we have explained, is there something there which might be called a religion of that spirit-land? Is there something above, which may be compared to religious life on earth? We have already described in many particulars and shall yet have to describe further what a human being goes through between death and rebirth; but let us now ask, is there such a thing as religion in spiritual life? Is there something concerning which one may say that it bears the same relationship to the experiences in the spirit-land as the references to the super-sensible world bear to the everyday life of the physical plane?

Anyone who passes out of his body in the manner we have described arrives at the knowledge that up above in the spirit-land there is also something like a sort of religious life. And, curiously enough, while one experiences everything around one in the spirit-land, spiritual beings and spiritual events, one has there before one continually the picture of the human ideal; this appears like a mighty spiritual structure, throughout spiritual life, or at least for a great part of this life between death and rebirth. Here on earth, we have as religion everything that transcends man; in the spiritual world, we have the Ideal Man himself as religion. We learn that the various Beings of the various spiritual hierarchies permit their forces to work together in order that man may gradually be produced in the world, in the manner described in my book, Occult Science. The aim of the creative activity of the Gods is the Ideal Man. That Ideal Man does not really come to life in physical man as he is at present, but in the noblest spiritual and soul life that it is possible through the perfect development and training of aptitudes which this physical man has within him. Thus a picture of Ideal Man is ever present to the mind of the Gods. This is the religion of the Gods.

On the far shore of Divine existence there rises before the Gods the temple which presents the image of Divine Being in the form of man, as the highest divine work of art, and the special thing is that while man develops in the spirit-land between death and rebirth, he gradually matures so as to be able to see this temple of humanity, this high ideal of humanity. Whereas here upon earth, we recognise that a life of religion has to be our free act, that we have to draw it forth ourselves and that it is also possible for the materialistic mind to deny religion, the reverse is the case in the spirit-land between death and rebirth. The longer we live within the second half of the time between death and rebirth, the more clearly does it appear before us, so that we cannot disregard it, that this most sublime Ideal Man, the goal of the Gods, is always before us. Here on earth a person may be irreligious, because his soul may disregard the spirit as compared to the body; above, it is impossible for him not to see the aim of the Gods, for it stands clearly before his eyes. Thus in the second half of the life between death and rebirth the ideal of humanity stands, as it were, on the shore of existence, that is to say, on the shore of on-flowing time (consider all these expressions as referring to ‘time’ that is outside space). A religion formed on knowledge cannot exist there; for in the spiritual world we realise what the content of religion is. In this sense no one can be irreligious there. The religious ideal of the spirit-land is ever before one, it stands there of itself, it is the goal of the Gods and when we enter upon the second half of our life between death and rebirth it stands before us as the mightiest, the most glorious Imagination. Although we cannot there develop a religion by knowledge, still, under the guidance of the higher Spiritual Beings who are there active for man, we do develop a sort of religion.

While perception or sight cannot be taught, because things are self-evident; our will, our feeling-will and willing-feeling have to be stimulated in the second half of our life between death and rebirth, in order that we may really strive towards what we see there. Into our willing-feeling, into our feeling-will How a divine will and a divine feeling. In order that we may choose the path towards these in the second half of our life between death and rebirth, we are instructed with respect to our willing-feeling;—all these terms are inappropriate for this entirely different life, but still this expression may be used. It is only when a teacher has first called forth ideas in us, that he then works further upon our feelings; but over there it is the case that when one has passed over the point which we have still to describe, midway between death and rebirth, when one has passed that which in my last Mystery Drama, The Soul's Awakening, I describe as the Midnight Hour, there is at first a certain dullness as regards willing and feeling in respect of that which stands as a glorious temple in the distance of ‘time’. Divine forces then send a glowing warmth through the inner powers of our soul. It is a kind of instruction which speaks directly to our inner being, and which has such an effect that we gradually gain the power really to desire to tread the path towards the ideal we see.

Whereas in physical life we may stand in front of a teacher and he may stand before us, and yet we may really feel that he speaks to our heart from outside, we feel that our spiritual teachers, who belong to the higher hierarchies, when they teach us in the manner I have just described, send their own forces directly into our inner being. Earthly teachers speak to us; in the life between death and rebirth spiritual teachers pour their life into our souls, then they instruct us in spiritual religion. Thus we feel these teachers from the higher hierarchies ever more and more within us, we feel ourselves connected with them more and more inwardly, and thereby our inner life becomes stronger. ‘Thou art accepted ever more and more by the Gods; the Gods live in thee more and more, and they help thee to grow inwardly stronger and stronger I’—That is the fundamental feeling throughout the second half of the life between death and rebirth.

Thus we see that everything in that life is so arranged that our experiences run their course in the depths of the soul itself. Now, while being instructed by the Gods, we arrive at a certain point in our experience between death and rebirth—at a very important point. Far away at the most distant point of time we see the ideal of humanity; but the forces which our divine-spiritual teachers can give us are dependent on what we have made of ourselves in the course of our incarnations, in the course of our previous human life. As we turn towards life from the Midnight of the world, we stand exactly midway between death and rebirth; as we follow our life further and further and see the ideal of humanity in the most distant future, we are at a point whence we have the furthest perspective of this ideal of humanity.

When we reach this point we have to say to ourselves—of course we do not say this, we experience it quite inwardly, but it has to be expressed in the words of ordinary life—we have to say to ourselves: ‘Divine Spiritual Forces have worked on thee, they have entered ever more and more deeply within thy soul, they live in thee; but thou hast now arrived at the point where thou canst not fill thyself any more with these forces, for thou wouldst have to be far more perfect if thou wouldst go beyond this point.’ Here an important decision has to be made. At this moment a severe temptation assails us.

The Gods have meant well by us; they have given us all they could in the meantime; they have made us as strong as was possible according to the measure of the power we have so far acquired in life. The strength given us by the Gods is within us, and a temptation comes which says to us: ‘Thou canst follow these Gods; thou canst now allow all that thou art, to enter, as it were, into the forces the Gods have given thee; thou canst go into the spiritual worlds, for the Gods have given thee a very great deal.’ We might at this point spiritualise ourselves entirely. This is the prospect that confronts us. But we could only do this by turning aside from the path leading to the great ideal of humanity. This means, in other words, that we should force our way into the spiritual worlds taking all our imperfections with us, and there they would change into perfection. This they would really do. We might enter with our imperfections, and because we were permeated with divine forces we should become a spiritual being, but this being would have to renounce the possibilities it now has within it, which it has not realised on its path so far, and which lie in the direction of the great ideal of humanity, these it would have to renounce. Each time, before an earthly incarnation takes place, the temptation comes to remain in the spiritual world, to enter into the Spirit and to develop further with what we already have which is now entirely permeated with Divinity, but to renounce what it is possible for us to become more and more as men, along the path to the distant religious ideal of the divinely spiritual world. The temptation assails us to become irreligious with respect to the spirit-land. This temptation is all the stronger because at no time in the evolution of humanity has Lucifer greater power over man than at this moment, when he whispers ‘Seize the opportunity, thou canst remain in the Spirit; thou canst carry over into the spiritual light all that thou has acquired!’ Lucifer tries by every means to make the soul forget the possibilities it yet has within it, and which stand before it as the distant temple on the far shores of time. As humanity now is, a man would not be able to withstand the temptation of Lucifer at this point, if the Spirits to whom Lucifer is opposed did not now take upon themselves the affairs of man. A fight for the human soul takes place, between Lucifer and the Gods who lead man towards his ideal, the Gods who adhere to the religion of the Gods. The result of this fight is that the archetypal image which the human being has formed from his earthly existence, is thrown out of time into space, it is attracted magnetically by special existence. This is also the moment when that magnetic attraction through the parents is felt, when the human being is transported into the sphere of space; when he becomes connected with space. Through this, all that might instil into him the temptation to remain in the spiritual world is veiled. And this veiling is expressed by his being enveloped by the body. He is surrounded by the body in order that he may not see what Lucifer wishes to put before him. And when he is enveloped by the covering of the body, when he sees the world by means of his bodily senses and his bodily intellect, he does not see what he might otherwise strive after in the spiritual world, if he were misled by the Tempter. He does not see it; he sees this world of Spiritual Beings and spiritual events from outside, as revealed to his senses and to the intellect connected with the brain. When he is in the sense-body, the Spirits who watch over him undertake his development.

Let us now ask: How much goes on in the subconscious depths of our soul between birth and death, how much goes on without our knowing anything about it? If we had to do consciously all that occurs in our lives, we could by no means go through our earthly existence. I have already indicated in my book, The Spiritual Guidance of Mankind, that when a person enters into physical incarnation he himself must work plastically on his brain and nervous system. He works upon it, but he works unconsciously. All this is the outcome of a much greater wisdom than that which a human being can comprehend with the intellect that is bound to the senses. Between birth and death a wisdom rules within us which exists behind the world which we see with our senses and concerning which we think with the intellect that is connected with our brain. This wisdom is in the background; it is hidden from us between birth and death, but it controls, it lives and works within us in the subconscious depths of our soul, and in these subconscious depths of our soul it has to take our affairs in hand, because we have to be withdrawn for a time from the vision of that which would be a temptation for us. All the time we live in our body we should—if the Guardian of the Threshold did not withhold from us the vision into the spiritual world—be tempted step by step to abandon our still undeveloped human possibilities and to follow the upward sweep into the spiritual worlds, taking with us all our imperfections, instead of allowing ourselves to be guided thereto through careful training. We have need of our earthly life so as to be withdrawn during this time from the temptation of Lucifer.

Up to the time mentioned, when we are led forth into space, Lucifer has no power over us and there is always the possibility of progress; but he draws near at the time we have to make the decision. We can make no further progress through our previous life, so we wish to turn aside with all our imperfections and remain in the spiritual world. The Gods of progress, to whom Lucifer is opposed, protect us from this by withdrawing us from the spiritual world, by hiding themselves from us and from the spiritual world, doing that which has to be accomplished in us without our being conscious of it. Thus we stand here as human beings in the world, conscious in our physical body, and say: ‘We give ye thanks, ye Gods! Ye have given us the power to know as much of the world as is good for us; for if we were to see beyond the threshold of the present horizon of our consciousness we should be in danger every moment of not wishing to reach the goal of humanity.’ We have to be transported into the world of space from that bright, higher condition of consciousness in which we live between death and rebirth—when spiritual worlds and spiritual beings surround us, when we are in the spirit, in order that in the world of space that world may be hidden from us which we are unable to endure until we have passed through the period between birth and death. During the time we dwell on earth, through our having been withdrawn from the spiritual world, through this spiritual world not having worked upon us and through material objects alone having surrounded us—we have again received a new impulse towards the distant goal of the ideal of humanity. For the divine Spirits who drive us forward work in us the whole time we live upon earth, during which time we do not see consciously into the spiritual world. They work in such a manner that they are not disturbed by our state of consciousness, they are not disturbed by our being tempted to follow Lucifer. They instil so much power into us, that, when we pass through the portal of death, we are able again to press forward a little further towards the ideal of humanity.

What I have just indicated in these words is another mystery which lies behind human existence. I think it is good for us at this Eastertide to consider those conditions of life which are attained by going out of the body in a more inward way; to consider the relationship between death and rebirth and the life we afterwards pass in the physical body. We then observe life between death and rebirth and become aware of the guidance of the good Spiritual Beings who are helping us onward. We look up to these Divine Beings as to our past life in the spirit, and we understand that our present existence in the body between birth and death has been lent to us by the Gods, in order that without our doing anything towards it, they may be able to take care of us so that we may develop further. While we perceive the world, while we think in the world, feel in it, will in it, while we store up our treasure of memory in order to have a connected existence in physical life;—behind it all, behind our conscious life, Divine Spiritual Beings are active; guiding onward the stream of time. They have sent us forth into space in order that we may there have exactly as much consciousness as they find it good for us to have, for behind this consciousness they wish to guide our destiny further towards the great ideal of humanity, the IDEAL of the religion of the Gods.

When we consider our inner being in this manner, the inner being which under normal conditions of life we are unable consciously to see and investigate, when we try to fill ourselves with the feeling that there is something within us, which, though we cannot perceive it, with the normal powers of human life, is nevertheless our deepest inner-soul nature; when we try to become aware of this soul-nature which is so deeply hidden within us, and then try to realise that the Gods rule in this soul-nature which we ourselves cannot guide, we then get the right feeling regarding the God which rules within us.

The words that have been spoken to-day have been spoken not so much on account of their theoretical content but to the end that this feeling might arise:—a true Easter-feeling. When the soul, looking on that which is revealed to it when it goes out of itself into space, when, filling space, this soul learns and knows ‘Out of the Divine I am born’, it can still further deepen this knowledge through what has been said to-day, for it becomes aware that: ‘With all I know, with all that is accessible to my soul in Perception, Thought, Feeling and Will, I am born out of a deeper soul-being, that soul-being within me which is yet one with the Divinity which flows within the stream of ‘time’, but flows in it with the Divine. We are aware of a knowledge which may be expressed in a much deeper way than the knowledge expressed at the end of the last lecture. As the result of our considerations to-day, the statement, ‘Out of God we are born’, can be made in a much deeper sense, for we are aware that this soul, together with what it knows regarding itself, is born every moment from out the Divine, so that every moment we may fill our deepest, most inward being with this thought:

Out of God we are born.