X. The Three Decisions on the Path of Imaginative Cognition: Loneliness, Fear, Dread
2 March 1915, Berlin
Translator Unknown, revised
We will think first of those who are standing on the arena of present-day events (World War I)
Spirits ever watchful, Guardians of your souls,
May your wings bring
To the men of Earth committed to your charge
Our souls' beseeching love,
That, united with your power,
Our prayer may stream with helpfulness
To the souls it lovingly seeks.
And for those who as a consequence of these events have already passed through the Gate of Death:
Spirits ever watchful, Guardians of your souls,
May your wings bring
To the men of heavenly spheres committed to your charge
Our souls' beseeching love,
That, united with your power,
Our prayer may stream with helpfulness
To the souls it lovingly seeks.
And may the Spirit for whom we seek through spiritual knowledge, the Spirit who for the salvation of the earth and for the freedom and progress of humanity passed through the Mystery of Golgotha, may He be with you and your hard tasks.
A week ago we considered souls nearly related to us who, if they are to be located now, must be sought in spiritual worlds. Certain things were said about these souls which can throw light upon the whereabouts of beings in the spiritual world. Today I propose to direct our study more to that path to the spiritual world which the human soul can take while it is still in the body, in order to find those spiritual realms referred to last time as the dwelling place of the souls of the so-called dead. It must be emphasized over and over that the way into the spiritual worlds that is suitable for souls of the present day requires manifold preparation. Some of this preparation is difficult, but it is necessary. Today I wish to point to certain matters connected with the path of knowledge from the point of view of what may be called “Imaginative Cognition.”
It is very familiar to you, my dear friends, that the human soul can have experiences in the spiritual world only when it is not using the instrument of the body. Everything we can gain through the instrument of the body can yield only experiences of what is present in the physical world. If we wish to have experience of the spiritual worlds, we must find the possibility of working with the soul outside the physical body. Now although it is difficult, it is possible for the human being today to experience the spiritual world while outside the body. Moreover it is always possible, once observations of the spiritual world have been made, for another who is not himself capable of this to judge them with really sound human reason — not with the kind of reason that is called sound, but with reason that is genuinely sound. But today we are going to speak of the actual way in which the human soul on the one hand emerges from the physical body, and on the other hand how it enters the spiritual world. A week ago we spoke of this from another point of view and as today I want to consider it from the standpoint of Imaginative Cognition, many pictures will be discussed that will remain to be pursued in your meditations. If you do this, you will see that this path of knowledge is of great significance.
The spiritual world can be entered, as it were, through three portals. The first may be called the Portal of Death, the second the Portal of the Elements, and the third the Portal of the Sun. Those who wish to tread the entire path of knowledge must pass through all three portals.
The Portal of Death has from time immemorial been described by all mystery teachings. This Portal of Death can only be attained if we strive to reach it through what has long been known to us as meditation, that is to say, complete surrender and devotion to certain thoughts or perceptions which are suited to our individuality and which we place so entirely in the center of our consciousness that we identify ourselves wholly with them. Human effort, of course, weakens very easily along this particular path, because there truly are and must be inner hindrances and obstacles to be overcome. It is a matter of repeating, again and again, the silent inner efforts to devote oneself so completely to the given thoughts and perceptions that one forgets the whole world and lives wholly in these thoughts and perceptions. After constant repetition, however, one gradually begins to perceive that the thoughts that have been made the center of the consciousness are taking on a kind of independent life. One receives the feeling that, “Hitherto I have only ‘thought' this thought; I have placed it at the center of my consciousness; but now it is beginning to unfold a particular life and inner agility of its own.” It is as if one were in the position of being able to produce a real being within oneself. The thought begins to become an inner structure. It is an important moment when one notices that this thought or perception has a life of its own, so that one feels oneself to be the sheath of this thought, of this perception. One can then say to oneself: “My efforts have enabled me to provide a stage on which something is developing which now, through me, is coming to a particular life of its own.”
This awakening, this enlivening of the thought, is a moment of great significance in the life of the meditator. He is then deeply stirred by the objective reality of the spiritual world; he realizes that the spiritual world, so to speak, is concerning itself with him, that it has approached him. Naturally, it is not a simple matter to reach this experience, for before doing so, one must go through various sensations that one would not, from one's own inclination, gladly go through. There is a certain feeling of isolation, for example, a feeling of loneliness to be undergone — a feeling of being forsaken. One cannot grasp the spiritual world without previously feeling forsaken by the physical world, without feeling that this physical world does many things which crush one, which wear one down. But we must come through this feeling of isolation to be able to bear the inner animation to which the thought awakens, to which it is born. Much resistance now confronts the human being; from within himself there is much resistance to what leads to true perception of this inner awakening of the thought to life.
One feeling in particular comes — an inner feeling that we simply do not wish to have. We do not admit this, however, but say instead: “Oh, I can never attain that; it sends me to sleep; my thinking and inner elasticity forsake me, they will not continue.” In short, one chooses involuntarily all sorts of evasions of what one must experience: that the thought which thus becomes enlivened becomes substantial. It becomes substantial and forms itself into a kind of being. And then one has not merely the feeling but the vision that the thought is, at first, like a little rounded seed which germinates into a being with definite form, which from outside our head continues inside so that the thought seems to tell us: “You have identified yourself with it, you are within the thought, and now, you extend with the thought into your own head; but you are essentially still outside.” The thought takes on the form of a winged human head, flowing out into infinity and then extending into one's own body through the head. The thought, therefore, grows into a winged angel's head. One must actually achieve this. It is difficult to have this experience and we therefore like to believe that in this moment when the thought grows in this way, we lose all possibility of thinking. We believe we shall be taken at this moment. The body we have known hitherto and into which the thought extends is felt to be like an abandoned automaton. Besides, there are present in the spiritual world all kinds of hindrances which prevent this from becoming visible to us. This winged angel's head really becomes inwardly visible, but there are all conceivable hindrances preventing its becoming visible. The point thus reached is the real threshold of the spiritual world. When one reaches the point I have just described, one is actually on the threshold of the spiritual world. But there, at first quite invisible to one, stands the power whom we have always called Ahriman. One does not see him. And it is Ahriman who hinders us from seeing that which I have described as the germinating thought-being. Ahriman does not wish one to see it. He wants to hinder this. And because it is primarily on the path of meditation that one reaches this point, it always becomes easy for Ahriman to erase what one must come to, if one clings to the prejudices of the physical world. And truly, one must say: The human being does not believe how very much he clings to the prejudices of the physical world; neither can he imagine that there is another world whose laws are different from those of the physical world. I cannot mention today all the prejudices which people bring with them to the threshold of the spiritual world, but I will allude to one of the principal and more intimate prejudices.
You see, people speak of the physical world from a monistic world view, from unity; they repeatedly say that they can only grasp the world by contemplating the whole world as a unity. We have sometimes had to go through curious experiences in this respect. When the spiritual scientific movement began in Berlin a good many years ago, with only a few members, there were several who felt they were not wholly in sympathy with it. One lady, for instance, came to us after a few months and said that spiritual science was not for her because it required too much thinking, and she found that thinking wiped out everything precious for her, making her fall into a kind of sleep; besides which, she said, there is only one thing of real value, and that is unity! The unity of the world which the monist seeks in so many areas — and not the materialistic monist alone — had become a fixed idea with her. Unity, unity, and again unity! That was her quest.
In German culture we have the philosopher Leibnitz, an emphatically monadological thinker who did not seek for unity but for the many “Monads” who to him were essences of soul. It was clear to him that in the spiritual world there can be no question of unity but only of multiplicity. There are monists and pluralists. The monists speak only of unity and oppose the pluralists who speak of multiplicity. You see, however, the fact is that both unity and multiplicity are concepts which are of value only in the physical world, so people believe that they must be of value in the spiritual world as well. But that is not so. People must realize that although unity can be glimpsed, it must immediately be superseded for it reveals itself as multiplicity. It is unity and multiplicity at the same time. Nor can ordinary calculation, physical mathematics, be carried into the spiritual world. One of the very strongest and at the same time most subtle of Ahrimanic temptations is the desire to carry into the spiritual world, just as they are, concepts acquired in the physical world. We must approach the threshold without “bag or baggage,” without being weighed down with what we have learned in the physical world; we must be ready to leave all this at the threshold. All concepts — precisely those we have taken the most trouble to acquire — must be left behind and we must be prepared for the fact that in the spiritual world new concepts will be given; we will become aware of something entirely new. This clinging to what the physical world gives is extremely strong in the human being. He would like to take with him into the spiritual world what he has conquered in the physical. He must have the possibility, however, of standing before a completely clean slate, of standing before complete emptiness and of allowing himself to be guided only by the thoughts which then begin to come to life. This entrance into the spiritual world has been called fundamentally the Gate of Death, because it really is a greater death than even physical death. In physical death we are persuaded to lay aside the physical body; but on entering the spiritual world we must resolve to lay aside our concepts, our notions, and our ideas and allow our being to be built up anew.
Now we confront the winged thought-being of which I have spoken. We already confront it if we really give all our effort to living in a thought. All we need to know then is that when the moment comes which makes claims upon us that are different from those we have imagined, we must really stand firm, we must not, as it were, retreat. This retreat is in most cases unconscious. We weaken, but the weakening is only the sign that we do not wish to lay bag and baggage aside. The whole soul, with everything it has acquired on the physical plane, must perish if it is to enter the spiritual world. That is why it is quite correct to call this portal the Portal of Death. And then we look through this winged thought-being as through a new spiritual eye that one acquires, or through a spiritual ear — for we also hear, we also feel — and by these means we become aware of what is present in the spiritual world.
It is even possible, my dear friends, to speak of particular experiences which one can have upon entering the spiritual world. For one to be able to have these experiences, nothing else is necessary than perseverance in the meditation I have previously described. It is particularly important to be very clear that certain experiences that one brings to the threshold of the spiritual world must be laid aside before entering. Experiences have hence really shown that the spiritual world that confronts one is usually different from that which one would like to have. This then is the first portal: the Portal of Death.
The second portal now is the Portal of the Elements. This Portal of the Elements will be the second one to be passed through by those who give themselves up to zealous meditation. But it is also possible for a man to encourage his own organization in such a way that he can actually reach the second portal without having passed through the first. This is not good for a real knowledge, but it may happen that one reaches this point without first going through the first portal. A real appropriate knowledge will only yield itself if one has passed through the first portal and then approached the second portal consciously. This second portal shows itself in the following way: You see, if a man has passed through the Portal of Death he feels himself at first to be in certain conditions which in their outward impression upon him resemble sleep, although inwardly they are quite different. Outwardly man is as though asleep while these conditions last. As soon as the thought begins to live, when it begins to stir and grow, the outer man is really as though he were asleep. He need not be lying down, he may be sitting, but he is as though asleep. Outwardly it is impossible to distinguish this state from sleep, but inwardly it is absolutely different. Not until one passes back into the normal condition of life does one realize: “I have not been asleep but I have been within the life of thought in just the same way as I am now awake in the physical world and looking with my eyes at what is around me.” But one also knows: “Now that I am awake, I think, I form thoughts, I connect them; but shortly before, when I was in that other state, the thoughts formed themselves. The one approached the other, explained the other, separated from the other; and what one usually does oneself in thinking was there done by itself.” But one knows: whereas in physical life one is an Ego, adding one thought to another, in that other state one swims, as it were, in one thought and then over to another; one is united with the thoughts; then one is within a third and then swims away from it. One has the feeling that space simply no longer exists.
No longer is it the way it is in physical space, where if one had gone to a certain point and looked back and then went on further, and if one wished to return to the first point, then one would have to travel along the road again; one would have to make the journey both ways. That is not the case in that other state. Space is different there; one springs through space, so to speak. At one moment we are in one place, the next we are far away. We do not pass through space. The laws of space have ceased. We now actually live and weave within the thoughts themselves. We know that the Ego is not dead, it is weaving in the web of thoughts, but although we are living within the thoughts, we cannot immediately be their master; the thoughts form themselves and we are drawn along with them. We do not ourselves swim in the stream of thoughts but the thoughts take us on their shoulders, as it were, and carry us along. This state must also cease. And it ceases when we pass through the Portal of the Elements. Then the whole process becomes subject to our will, then we can follow a definite line of thought with intention. We then live in the whole life of thought with our will. This is again a moment of tremendous significance. For this reason I have even referred to it exoterically in public lectures by saying that the second stage is reached by identifying ourselves with our destiny. Thereby we acquire the power to be within the weaving thoughts with our own will.
At first, when one has passed through the Portal of Death, one is in the spiritual world which does as it likes with one. One learns to act for oneself in the spiritual world by identifying oneself with one's destiny. This can only be achieved by degrees. Thoughts then acquire being which is identical with our own. The deeds of our being enter the spiritual world. But in order to achieve this in the right way one must pass through the second portal. When, with the power acquired from identifying oneself with destiny, one begins to weave in the thoughts in such a way that they do not carry one along as in a dream-picture but one is able to eliminate a thought and call up another — to manipulate them at will — when this begins one experiences what may be called the “passing through the portal.” And then the power of will we are now using shows itself as a simply fearful monster. This has been known for thousands of years in mysticism as the encounter with the “lion.” One must go through this encounter with the lion. In the life of feelings this gives rise to a dreadful fear, a fear of what is taking place in the world of thought, of this living union with it, and this fear must be overcome, just as the loneliness of the Portal of Death must be overcome. This fear can in the most manifold ways simulate other feelings that are not fear; but it is, in reality, fear of what one approaches. And what now occurs is that one finds the possibility of mastering this wild beast, this “lion” who meets us. In Imagination it actually appears as if it were opening wide its enormous jaws, wishing to devour us. The power of will which we want to use in the spiritual world threatens to devour us. One is incessantly overcome by the feeling; “You are obliged to will, but you must do something, you must seize something.” Yet concerning all these elements of will which one contains, one has the feeling: “If you seize it, it devours you, eradicates you from the world.” This is the experience of being devoured by the lion. So — and one can speak of this in pictures — rather than surrendering to the fear that the elements of will in the spiritual world will seize, devour, and strangle us, one must swing oneself to the back of the lion, grasp these elements of will, and make use of them for action. That is what must be done when this happens.
You can now understand the essentials. If one has first passed through the Gates of Death, one is outside the body, and can only use the forces of will outside. One must insert oneself into the cosmic harmony. The forces that must be used outside the body are also within us, only they rule unconsciously. The forces that circulate our blood and make our hearts beat come from the spirituality into which we plunge when we immerse ourselves in the element of will. We have these forces within us. If, therefore, a man is taken possession of by the element of will without having gone through the prescribed esoteric path, without having passed through the Gate of Death, those forces seize him which otherwise circulate in his blood and beat in his heart; and then he does not use the forces that are outside his body but those that are within him. This would be “grey magic.” It would cause a man to seize the spiritual world with the forces with which one is not permitted to seize the spiritual world. What matters is that one sees the lion, that this monster is actually before one, and that one knows: This is what it looks like, this is how the forces of will desire to lay hold of one; they must be mastered from outside the body. If one does not approach the second portal or actually behold the lion, one remains always in danger of wanting to rule the world out of human egotism. That is why the true path of knowledge leads us first of all from within the physical body and physical existence and only then to approach the conditions that are to be arrived at with the essences which are outside.
Opposing this there is the inclination of most people to enter the spiritual world by a more comfortable way than through true meditation. Thus it is possible, for example, to avoid the Gate of Death, and, if the inner predisposition is favorable, to approach the second portal. One can reach this through giving oneself up to a particular image, an especially fervent image which speaks about dissolving oneself in the Universal All and the like, recommended in good faith by certain pseudo-mystics. By this means the exertions of thinking are stupefied and the emotions are stimulated. The emotions are whipped into fiery enthusiasm. By this means one can, to begin with, certainly be admitted to the second portal and be given over to the forces of will, but one does not master the lion; one is devoured by the lion and the lion does with one what it likes. This means that fundamentally occult things are taking place, but in essence, they are egoistic. That is why it is constantly necessary — although one might say there is also a risk of this from the point of view of true esotericism today — not to censure that which one might say is only a mystical feeling and experience that is lashed into a fury. This appeal to what stimulates a man inwardly, whipping him out of his physical body but leaving him still connected with the forces of the blood and the heart, the physical forces of the blood and the heart, does undoubtedly bring about a kind of perception of the spiritual world which may also have much good in it; but it causes him to grope about insecurely in the spiritual world, and renders him incapable of distinguishing between egotism and altruism. This brings one directly, if one must stress this, to a difficult point, for with respect to real meditation and everything related to it, modern minds have for the most part fallen asleep. They do not like to exert their thinking as strongly as is necessary, if they are to identify themselves with the thinking. They far prefer to be told to give themselves in loving surrender to the Cosmic Spirit, or the like, where the emotions are whipped up and thinking is evaded. People are led in this way to spiritual perceptions, but without full consciousness of them, and then they are not able to distinguish whether the things they experience spring from egotism or not. Certainly enthusiasm in feeling and perception must run parallel to selfless meditation, but thought must also run parallel to it. Thinking must not be eliminated. Certain mystics, however, try to suppress thought altogether, and to surrender themselves wholly to the glow of frenzied emotion.
Here too there is a difficult point, for this method is useful; those who stimulate their emotions go forward much more quickly. They enter the spiritual world and have all kinds of experiences — and that is what most people desire. The question with most people is not whether they are entering the spiritual world in the right way but only whether they are entering it at all. The uncertainty that arises here is that if we have not first passed through the Gate of Death but go directly to the Gate of the Elements, we are there prevented by Lucifer from really perceiving the lion, so that before we become aware of it, it devours us. The difficulty is that we are no longer able to distinguish between what is related to us and what is outside in the world. We learn to know spiritual beings, elemental spirits. One can learn to recognize a rich and extensive spiritual world, without having passed through the Gate of Death, but these are spiritual beings who for the most part have the task of maintaining the human blood circulation and the work of the human heart. Such beings are always around us in the spiritual, in the elemental world. They are spirits whose life-element is in the air, in the encircling warmth and also in the light; they also have their life-element in the music of the spheres, which is no longer physically perceptible; these spiritual beings weave and lace through everything that is living. Of course, then, we enter this world. And the thing becomes alluring because the most wonderful spiritual discoveries can be made in this world. If a man — who has not passed through the Gate of Death but has gone directly to the Portal of the Lion without seeing the lion — perceives an elementary spirit whose task is to maintain the activity of the heart, this elementary spirit, who also maintains the heart-activity of other people, may under certain circumstances bring information about other human beings, even about people of the past, or indeed prophetic tidings of the future. The experience may be accompanied with great success, yet it is not the right path because it does not make us free in our mobility in the spiritual world.
The third portal that one must pass through is the Portal of the Sun. And there we must, when we reach this portal, undergo yet another experience. While we are at the Portal of Death, we perceive a winged angel's head; while we are at the Portal of the Elements, we perceive a lion; at the Portal of the Sun, we must perceive a dragon, a fierce dragon. And this fierce dragon we must truly perceive. But now Lucifer and Ahriman together try to make it imperceptible to our spiritual vision. If we do perceive it, however, we realize that in reality this fierce dragon has most fundamentally to do with ourselves, for he is woven out of those instincts and sensations which are related to what in ordinary life we call our “lowest nature.” This dragon comprises all the forces, for instance, that we use — if you will forgive the prosaic expression — for digestion and many other things. What provides us with the forces of digestion, and many other functions bound up with the lowest part of our nature, appears to us in the form of a dragon. We must contemplate him when he coils out of us. He is far from beautiful and it is therefore easy for Lucifer and Ahriman so to influence our subconscious life of soul that unconsciously we do not want to see this dragon. Into the dragon are also woven all our absurdities, all our vanities, our pride and self-seeking, as well as our basest instincts.
If we do not contemplate the dragon at the Portal of the Sun — and it is called the Portal of the Sun because in the sun-forces live those forces from which the dragon is woven, and it is the sun-forces that enable us to digest and to carry out other organic processes (this occurs really through living together with the sun) — if we do not contemplate the dragon at the Portal of the Sun, he devours us and we become one with him in the spiritual world. We are then no longer distinct from the dragon, we actually are the dragon, who experiences in the spiritual world. This dragon may have very significant and, in a sense, grand experiences, experiences more fascinating than those which come at the Portal of Death or beyond it. The experiences one has at the Portal of Death are, to begin with, colorless, shadowlike, and intimate — so light and intimate that they may easily escape us, and we are not in the least inclined to be attentive enough to hold them fast. We must always exert ourselves to allow what easily comes to life in the thoughts to expand. It expands ultimately into a world, but long and energetic striving and work is necessary before this world appears as reality, permeated with color, sound, and life. For we must let these colorless and soundless forms take on life from infinity. If one discovers, for example, the simplest air or water spirit through what we may now call “head clairvoyance” (by which is meant the clairvoyance that arises from animation of thinking), this air or water spirit is at first something that flits away so lightly and fleetingly over the horizon of the spiritual world that it does not interest us at all. And if it is to have color or sound this must draw near it from the whole sphere of the cosmos. This happens, however, only after long inner effort. This occurs only through waiting until one is blessed. For just suppose — speaking pictorially — that you have one of these air spirits: if it is to approach in color, the color must stream into it from a mighty part of the cosmos. One must have the power to make the colors shine in. This power, however, can only be acquired, can only be won, by devotion. The radiating forces must pour in from without through devotion. But if we are one with the dragon we shall be inclined, when we see an air or water spirit, to ray out the forces which are within us, and precisely those which are in the organs usually called the “lower” organs. This is much easier. The head is in itself a perfect organ but in the astral body and etheric body of the head there is not much color because the colors are expended in forming, for example, the brain and especially the skull. When we approach the threshold of the spiritual world and in “head clairvoyance” draw the astral and etheric bodies out of the physical body, there is not much color in them. The colors have been expended to shape the perfected organ, the brain. When, however, in “belly clairvoyance” [“Bauchellsehen”] we draw the astral body and etheric body out of the organs of stomach, liver, gall-bladder, and so forth, the colors have not yet been as expended in building up perfected organs. These organs are only on the way to perfection. What comes from the astral body and etheric body of the stomach is beautifully colored; it gleams and glitters in all possible radiant colors; and if the etheric and astral bodies are drawn out of these organs, the forms seen are imbued with the most wonderful colors and sounds. So it could happen that someone may see wonderful things and sketch a picture with gorgeous coloring. This is certainly interesting, as it is also interesting for the anatomist to examine the spleen, liver, or intestines, and from the standpoint of science this is also indispensable. But when it is examined by someone very experienced, what appears in these beautifully colored pictures is that which underlies the process of digestion two hours after eating.
There is certainly no objection to investigating these things. The anatomist must necessarily do so and the time will come when science will gain a great deal by knowing what the etheric body does when the stomach digests food. But we must be totally clear about this: if we do not connect this with our dragon, if we do not consciously approach the Portal of the Sun, if we are not aware that we summon into the dragon what is contained in the etheric and astral body of the belly, we then radiate it forth into picture-clairvoyance, and then we receive a truly wonderful world. The most beautiful and easiest of attainments does not at first come from the higher forces, from “head clairvoyance,” but from “belly clairvoyance.” It is most important to know this. From the point of view of the cosmos there is nothing vulgar in an absolute sense, but only in a relative sense. In order to produce what is necessary for the process of digestion in man the cosmos has to work with forces of colossal significance. What matters is that we not succumb to errors or illusions but know what the things are. When we know that something which looks very wonderful is nothing other than the process of digestion, this is extremely important. But if we believe that some celestial world is being revealed by such a picture, then we are falling into error. An intelligent person will have no objection to the cultivation of science based on such knowledge, but only to things being put in a false light. This is what we are concerned with. Thus it can happen, for instance, that someone will always at a certain moment draw out the etheric and astral bodies directly through an occurrence within the digestive processes, at a certain stage of digestion. Such a man may be a natural clairvoyant. One must only know what we are concerned with.
Through “head clairvoyance,” where all the colors of the etheric and astral bodies are used for the production of the wonderful structure of the brain, it will be difficult for a man to fill what is colorless and soundless with colors and sounds. But with “belly clairvoyance” it will be comparatively easy to see the most wonderful things in the world. In this kind of clairvoyance, of course, also lie forces which a man must learn to use. The forces used in digestion are involved in a process of transformation and we experience them in the right way when we learn more and more to cultivate the identification with destiny. And this is also the ground from which we learn: that which at first appeared as a flying angel's head we must trace again to the other element that we have dealt with, so that we do not trace only the forces which serve digestion, but also those of a higher kind, those which lie within the sphere of our karma, our destiny. If we identify ourselves with it, we succeed in bearing forth the spiritual entities we see around us, which now have the inclination towards colors and sounds flowing in from cosmic space. The spiritual world then naturally becomes concrete and full of stability, truly so concrete that we fare there as well as we fare in the physical world.
One great difficulty at the Portal of Death is that we really have the feeling — and we must overcome it — I am essentially losing myself. But if one has stretched oneself and has identified oneself with the life of thought, one may at the same time have the consciousness, “I lose myself but I find myself again.” That is an experience that one has. One loses oneself on entering the spiritual world, but one knows that one will find oneself again. One must make the transition: to reach the abyss, to lose oneself in it, but with trust that one shall find oneself again there. This is an experience that one must go through; all that I have described are inner experiences that one must go through. And one must come to know that what takes place in the soul is important. It is just as if we were obliged to see something; if one is shown the way by a friend, it is easier than if one thinks it out for oneself. But one can attain all that has been described if one submits oneself to constant inner work and inner self-control through meditation, as you will find described in the book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment and in the second part of Occult Science, an Outline.
It is of very great importance that we should learn to pass through these alien experiences beyond the threshold of the spiritual world. If, as is natural to the human being in his naked need, one is prone to imagine the spiritual world merely as a continuation, a duplication of the physical world, if one expects everything in the spiritual world to look just the same as in the physical world, then one cannot enter. One must really go through what one experiences as a reversal of everything experienced in the physical world. Here in the physical world one is accustomed, for example, to open one's eyes and see light, to receive impressions through the light. If one were to expect, in the spiritual world, that one could open a spiritual eye to receive impressions through the light, then one could not enter, for one's expectations would be false. Something like a fog would be woven around the spiritual senses, concealing the spiritual world as a mass of fog conceals a mountain. In the spiritual world, for instance, one cannot see objects illuminated by light; on the contrary, one must be very clear that one streams with the light oneself into the spiritual world. In the physical world, if a ray of light falls upon an object, one sees it; but in the spiritual world one is oneself within the ray of light and it is in this way that one touches the object. One knows oneself to be shimmering with the ray of light, in the spiritual world; one knows oneself to be within the streaming light. This knowledge can give an indication towards acquiring concepts capable of helping us onward in the spiritual world. It is, for instance, extremely useful to picture to ourselves: How would it be, if we were now within the sun? Because we are not within the sun we see objects illuminated by the sun's rays, by the refracted rays of the sun. But one must imagine oneself to be within the sun's rays and thus touching the objects. This “touching” is an experience in‘ the spiritual world; indeed, experience there consists in knowing that one is alive within that world. One knows that one is alive in the weaving of thoughts. As soon as this condition begins, that one knows one is conscious in the weaving of thoughts, then comes an immediate awareness of self-knowledge in the luminous streaming light. For thought is of the light. Thought weaves in the light. But one can experience this only when one is really immersed in the light, if one is within this weaving of thoughts.
The human being has now reached a stage where he must acquire such concepts as these, so that he may not pass through the Gate of Death into the spiritual world and find himself in completely strange worlds. The “capital” given to man by the Gods at the primal beginning of the Earth has gradually been consumed. Human beings no longer bear with them through the Gate of Death the remains of an ancient heritage. They must now gradually acquire concepts in the physical world which, when they proceed through the Gate of Death, will serve after crossing to make visible to them the tempting, seductive, dangerous beings confronting one there. The fact that spiritual science must be communicated to humanity, must take shelter in humanity at the present time, is connected with these great cosmic relations. And one can observe already in our time, in our destiny-laden time, that crossings are really being created. Human beings are now passing through the Gate of Death in the prime of youth; in obedience to the great demands of destiny, they have, in a sense, consciously allowed death to approach them in the days of their youth. I do not mean now so much the moment before death on the battlefield, for instance. In those cases there may be a great deal of enthusiasm and so forth, so that the experience of death is not so saturated with as clear an attention as one would like to believe. But when the death has actually occurred, it leaves behind a still unspent etheric body, in our time it leaves behind a still unspent etheric body upon which the dead one can look, so that he now beholds this phenomenon, this fact of death, with much greater clarity than would be possible for him if it occurred as the result of illness or old age.
Death on the battlefield is more intense, an event which works more powerfully in our time than a death occurring in other ways. It therefore works upon the soul which has passed through the Gate of Death as an enlightenment. Death is terrible, or at least may be terrible for the human being so long as he remains in the body. But when he has passed through the Gate of Death and looks back at death, death is then the most beautiful of all experiences possible in the human cosmos. For between death and a new birth this looking back to the entrance to the spiritual world through death is the most wonderful, the most beautiful, the most glorious event possible. While directly from our birth so little before our physical experience ever really remains — no man remembers his physical birth with the ordinary, undeveloped faculties — nevertheless the phenomenon of death is ever-present to the soul which has passed through the Gate of Death, from the moment of the sudden emergence of consciousness onwards. It is always present, yet it stands there as the most beautiful presence, as the “awakener.” Within the spiritual world, death is the most wonderful instructor, an instructor who can prove to the receptive soul that there is a spiritual world, because through its very being it destroys the physical, and from this destruction allows the spiritual to emerge. This resurrection of the spiritual, with the complete stripping off of the physical, is an event ever-present between death and a new birth. It is a sustaining, wonderful event, and the soul gradually grows in his understanding of it, grows in a totally unique way if it is to a certain extent “self-selected” — not, of course, in the sense of a man seeking his own death but by having voluntarily considered it. If he has of his own free will allowed death to come to him, this moment gains immensely in lucidity. And a man who has not hitherto thought much about death or has concerned himself little with the spiritual world, may in our time receive in his death a wonderful instructor. This is a fact of great significance, precisely in this war, regarding the connection of the physical with the spiritual world. I have already stressed this in many lectures about this difficult time; but what can be done through mere teaching, through words, does not suffice. Yet great enlightenment is in store for mankind of the future because there have been so many deaths. They work upon the dead, and the dead, in their turn, set to work on the future development of culture in humanity.
I am able to communicate to you directly certain words which came from one who in our day passed through the Gate of Death in his early years, who has, I would like to say, come through. These words are, precisely for that reason, rather startling, because they testify to the fact that the dead one — who experienced death with the particular clarity one feels on the battlefield — is finding now in these alien experiences after death how he works himself away from earthly conceptions into spiritual conceptions. I will communicate these words here. They are, if I may so characterize them, intercepted by someone who wanted to bring that which the dying soldier would if he were allowed to return.
Within the streaming
Light I feel
The life force.
Death has waked
Me from sleep,
From spirit sleep.
I shall live on
And do, out of myself,
What the power of light
Radiates into me. 2Im leuchtenden, / Da fühle ich / Die Lebenskraft. / Der Tod hat mich / Vom Schlaf erweckt, / Vom geistesschlaf. / Ich werde sein / Und aus mir tun, / Was Leuchtekraft /In mir erstrahlt.
This was to a certain extent what the suffering soul had learned from looking back to his death, the learning he had experienced. It was as though his being were filled with what must be learned from the sight of death, and he wished to give this information, to reveal it.
Within the streaming
Light I feel
The life force.
Therefore he feels that he is more alive to grasping the spiritual world than he was before death. He feels death as an awakener, an instructor:
Death has waked
Me from sleep,
From spirit sleep.
And now he feels that he will be a doer in the spiritual world:
I shall live on
And do, out of myself ...
but he feels that this action is that of the forces of light within him, and he feels the light working within him:
I shall live on
And do, out of myself,
What the power of light
Radiates into me.
One can see everywhere, can rightly see, that what one can come to perceive in the spiritual world can again and again deliver the most pure confirmation of what can become universally familiar through the form of knowledge called Imagination. This is what we should so like to see resuscitated, rightly resuscitated, through our spiritual scientific movement; that we have not to do with just a naked knowledge of the spiritual world, but that this knowledge becomes so alive in us that we adopt another way of feeling with the world, of experiencing with the world, so that the idea of spiritual science begins to live in us. It is this inward enlivening of the thoughts of spiritual science which, as I have repeatedly said, will be fundamentally demanded of us, so that it can be our contribution to the evolution of the world. This must be done in order that the thoughts born of spiritual science, which soar into the spiritual world as light forces, may unite with the radiant cosmos, in order that the cosmos may unite with that which those who have passed through the Gate of Death in our fateful times wish to incorporate into the spiritual movement of culture. Then will begin what is implied in these words with which we will again today conclude our lecture:
From the courage of the fighters,
From the blood on fields of strife,
From the suffering of the forsaken,
From the people's sacrifice
There shall blossom fruit of spirit —
If souls, conscious of the spirit,
Turn their sense to the spirit realm.