Earthly Death and Cosmic Life
7. Confidence in Life and Rejuvenation of the Soul: a Bridge to the Dead
26 March 1918, Berlin
To study the matter further we must refer to what has already been brought forward.
When the subject under discussion is the relation of souls in human bodies to discarnate souls between death and rebirth, the chief thing is to direct the spiritual vision to the ‘psychic atmosphere’ in which they must meet in order to establish a relationship between them. We found that there must be a certain disposition of soul on the part of the living which, as it were, forms a bridge to the knowledge of the so-called dead. This disposition of soul always betokens the existence of a certain psychic element, and it may be said that when this element exists, when its presence shows the suitable feeling of the living, it is possible for these relations thus to come to pass.
We had to show that this possibility of a blending in the psychic atmosphere is created by the living through two directions of feeling; the first of which may be called the feeling of universal gratitude to all life's experiences. The general relationship of the human soul to its environment falls into an unconscious part and a conscious part. Everyone knows the conscious part; it consists in man's following what meets him in life with sympathy and antipathy and with his general perception. The subconscious part consists in developing, below the threshold of consciousness, a better and more sublime feeling than any we can develop in ordinary consciousness. This feeling can only be described as the knowledge always in the hidden subconscious part of the soul that we must be thankful for every experience of life, even the smallest. Our difficult experiences may for the moment cause us pain, but to a wider view of existence, even painful experiences so present themselves that, not in the surface regions but in the subconscious soul, man can be thankful for them, thankful that life is unceasingly supplied with gifts from the universe. This exists as a real subconscious feeling in the soul. The other direction of feeling is that we must unite our own ego with every being with whom we have anything to do in life. Our actions extend to other beings, some, it may be, even inanimate; but wherever we have done anything, wherever our being has been united with another in action, something remains; and this remainder establishes a permanent relationship between our being and everything with which we have ever been connected. This feeling of kinship is the foundation for a deeper one, a feeling generally unrecognised by the higher soul; a feeling of oneness with the surrounding world.
Those feelings — of gratitude and of union with the environment with which one is karmically united — can come to more and more conscious fruition. To a certain extent a man can awaken in his soul what lives in these feelings and perceptions; and to the degree in which this is done, he qualifies himself to build a bridge to souls living between death and rebirth. Their thoughts can only find the way to us when they are able to penetrate through the realm of the feeling of gratitude which we develop; and we can only find the way to them by fostering in our souls, at least to some extent, a feeling of communion. The fact that we are able to feel gratitude towards the universe enables such a mood to enter our souls. When we wish to enter into relation with the dead in any way, then because we have cultivated this disposition, because we are able to feel it, the way for the dead to reach us is opened; and because we can feel that our being lives in an organic community of which it forms a part, as our finger forms a part of our body, we become ripe to feel the same gratitude to the dead when they are no longer present in the physical body, so that by this means we can reach them with our thoughts. Only when we have acquired something of a disposition of gratitude, a feeling of communion, can we apply them in given cases.
These experiences are not the only ones; subconscious perceptions and moods are of many kinds. All that we develop in the soul opens out the path to the world in which dwell the dead between death and rebirth. Thus there is a very definite feeling existing subconsciously, but which can be gradually brought into the consciousness, a feeling which we may put alongside of the feeling of gratitude; it becomes lost to man in proportion as he degenerates into materialism, although to a certain degree it always exists in the subconsciousness and is never rooted out, even by the strongest materialism. Enrichment, enhancement and an ennobling of life, however, depend on man's raising such things from his subconsciousness to his consciousness. The feeling here referred to can be called universal confidence in the life which flows through and past us; — confidence in life! In a materialistic view of life, this disposition to confidence in life is very difficult to find. It resembles gratitude to life, but is quite another feeling alongside of it; for confidence in life consists in a steadfast disposition of soul, so that life, however it may approach us, has under all circumstances something to give us, so that we can never degenerate to the thought that life could have nothing more to give us. True, we pass through difficult and sorrowful experiences, but in the greater life relations these present themselves as something that most enriches and strengthens us for life. The chief thing is that this enduring disposition existing in the lower soul should be raised to the higher — the feeling: ‘O Life! Thou raisest me and bearest me, thou providest for my progress.’
If such a disposition were fostered in educational systems a tremendous amount would be gained. It is even good to plan our teaching and education so as to show, by individual examples, that life deserves our confidence — just because it is often so hard to understand. When a man considers life from such a standpoint, asking: ‘Art thou worthy of confidence, O Life?’ he finds much that otherwise he would not find in life. Such a mood should not be considered superficially; it should not lead to finding everything in life brilliant and good. On the contrary, in particular cases this very ‘confidence’ in life may lead to a sharp criticism of evil and foolish things. When a man has not confidence in life, this often leads to his avoiding the exercise of criticism towards what is bad and foolish, because he wishes to pass by the things wherein he has no confidence. It is not a matter of having confidence in particular things; that belongs to another sphere. Man has confidence in one thing and not in another, according as the things and beings present themselves; but the point is for him to have confidence in the general life, as a whole, in the common relationships of life, for if he can draw up any of the confidence always present in the subconsciousness, a way is opened for the real observation of the spiritual guidance and wise disposition of life. Anyone who is observant, not in theory but with feeling, says again and again: ‘As the occurrences of life follow one another, they mean something to me when they take me into themselves, they have something to do with me in which I can have confidence.’ This prepares him for the real gradual perception of what spiritually lives and weaves in these things. Anyone who has not this confidence closes himself to this.
Now to apply this to the relations between the living and the dead. When we develop this disposition of confidence, we make it possible for the dead to find his way to us with his thoughts; for thoughts can, as it were, sail on this mood of confidence from him to us. When we have confidence in life, faith in it, we are able to bring the soul into a condition in which the inspirations, which are thoughts sent to us by the dead, can appear; — gratitude towards life, confidence in life as described, belong in a sense together. If we have not this universal confidence in life as a whole, we cannot acquire sufficient confidence in anyone to extend beyond death; it is then simply a ‘memory’ of our confidence. We must realise that if this feeling is to meet with the discarnate dead, no longer incorporated in a physical body, it must be modified, and different from the perceptions and feelings which are extended to friends in the physical body. True, we have confidence in a man in the physical body and this will be useful for the conditions after death; but it is necessary that this confidence should be augmented by the universal, common confidence in life, for the relations of life after death are different. It is not only necessary to ‘remember’ the confidence we had in him in life, but we need to call forth freshly animated confidence in a being who can no longer waken confidence by his physical presence. For this it is necessary that we should ray something into the world, as it were, which has nothing to do with physical things; for the above-described universal confidence in life has nothing to do with physical things.
Just as this confidence places itself side by side with the feeling of gratitude, so something else places itself beside the feeling of oneness which is ever present in the lower soul and can be raised to the higher. That again is something which should receive more consideration than it does. This can be done when the element of which I am about to speak is given consideration in the educational systems of our materialistic age. A great deal depends upon this. If man is to take his right place in the world in the present cycle of time, it is necessary for him to develop a faculty which must be cultivated from knowledge of the spiritual world, not from an undefined instinct; — we might even say he must draw up something from the lower soul which came of itself in earner times of atavistic clairvoyance without any need of cultivation and which, though a few scattered remains still exist, is now gradually disappearing, as is all else derived from olden times. What a man needs in this respect is the possibility through life itself to rejuvenate and refresh again and again his feelings towards what must be encountered in life. We can so squander life that after a certain age we begin to feel more or less ‘tired,’ because we have lost the living share in life and are not able to bring sufficient zest to it for its phenomena to give us joy. Just compare the two extremes: the grasp and acceptance of experience in early youth — and the weary acceptance of life's phenomena in later age. Just consider how many disappointments are connected with this. There is a difference in whether a man is able to make his soul forces take part in a continual resurrection so that each morning is new to his psychic experience, or whether, as it were, the course of his life has wearied him for the appreciation of its phenomena.
It is specially important to consider this in our time, so that it should gain an influence in the systems of education. With respect to such things, we face a significant turning-point in human evolution. Our judgment of earlier epochs is framed under the influence of the modern science of ‘History,’ which is fiction of a strangely distorted kind. It is not even known how it has come about that training and education have been so directed that in later life man does not retain what he should. Under the influence of the present method the most that we produce in later years of life from the faculties exercised during our youthful education is a mere memory. We remember what we learnt, what was said to us, and as a rule we are contented if we do but remember. We do not, however, notice that many mysteries underlie human life, and in this connection one significant mystery. Reference has already been made to it in former lectures from another point of view. Man is a manifold being. We will first observe him as a twofold being. This twofold nature is expressed even in his outer bodily form, which shows us man as a head, and as the remaining part. Let us first divide man in this way. Were we to keep this difference in structure well in mind, we should be able to make very significant discoveries in natural science. If we observe the structure of the head purely physiologically, anatomically, it presents itself as that to which the more material history of evolution, known as the Darwinian theory, may be applied. In respect of his head, man is placed, as it were, in the stream of evolution; but only in respect of his head, not as regards the rest of his organism. In order to understand the descent of man, we must think of the head alone, disregarding the proportion in size, and consider all attached to it. Suppose evolution took such a course that in time to come man developed certain additional organs of still greater significance; this development, this metamorphosis, might go even further. This was actually the case in the past: man was, long ago, actually a head-being only, developing little by little and becoming what he is to-day. What is attached to the head, although physically larger, only grew there later. It is a younger structure. As regards his head, man is descended from the oldest organism, all the rest grew later. The reason why the head is so important to the present man is because it remembers former incarnations. The rest of his organisation is, on the other hand, a preliminary condition for later incarnations. In this respect man is a twofold being. The head is organised quite differently from the rest of the organism. The head is an ossified organ. The fact is that if man had not the rest of his organism, he would certainly be very spiritualised, — but a ‘spiritualised animal’ only. Unless the head were inspired thereto, it would never feel itself as ‘man.’ It points back to the old epochs of Saturn, Sun and Moon, the rest of the organism only to that of the Moon, and indeed to the later part of that period; it only grew on to the head-part and is really in this respect something like a parasite. We may well think of it in this way: the head was once the whole man; below, it had outlets and openings by which it fed. It was a very peculiar being. As it developed, the lower orifices closed to the environment, and therefore were no longer able either to serve for nourishment or to bring the head into connection with the influences streaming in from the environment; and because the head also ossified above, the remaining part of the body then became necessary. This part of the physical organism only came into being at a time when it was no longer possible for the rest of the animal creation to take form. It may be said that this is difficult to imagine. The only reply is that man must take the trouble to realise that the world is not so simple as some would like to believe, some who prefer not to think much in order to understand it. In this respect men experience a number of ideas by which they claim that the world is easy to understand, and they have very remarkable views. There is an abundance of literature by those who hold Kant as a great philosopher. That is due to the fact that they understand no other philosophers, and have to exercise much thought-force to understand Kant. As he was to them the greatest philosopher (in their own opinion men often consider themselves to be the greatest geniuses!) they can understand none of the others. It is only because Kant is so difficult to understand that he is regarded by them as a great philosopher. With this is connected the fact that man is afraid to regard the world as complicated, as requiring the power of thought for its comprehension. These things have been described from various points of view, and when some day my lectures on ‘Occult Physiology’ are published, men will be able to read how it can be proved by embryology, that it is foolish to say that the brain has developed from the spinal cord. The opposite is the case; the brain is a transformed spinal cord of former times, and the present spinal cord is only added to the brain as an appendage. We must learn to understand that what seems the simplest part of man has come into being later than what seems the more complicated; what is more primitive and at a more subordinate stage, has come into being later.
This reference to the twofold nature of man is made here in order to explain the rest, which is the outcome of this duality. The consequence is, that as regards our soul life, which develops under the restrictions of the bodily nature, we ourselves are included in this duality. We have not only the organic development of the head and that of the rest of the organism, but also two different rates, two different velocities in the development of the soul. The development of the head is comparatively rapid, and that of the rest of the organism — we will call it the development of the heart — is about three or four times slower. The condition for the head is that as a rule it closes its development about the 20th year; as regards the head we are old at 20, it is only because we obtain refreshment from the rest of the organism, which develops three or four times as slowly, that we continue our life agreeably. The development of our head is quick, that of the heart, of the rest of the organism, three or four times slower; and in this duality we live our earthly life. In childhood and youth our headorganism can absorb a great deal, therefore we study during that time; but what we then received must be continually renewed and refreshed, must be constantly encompassed by the slower evolutionary progress of the rest of the organs, the progress of the heart.
Now let us reflect that if education, as in our age, only takes into consideration the development of the head, it is because in training and education we only allow any rights to the head, the consequence is that the head is only articulated as a dead organism into the slower progress of the evolution of the rest; it holds this back. The phenomenon that at the present time man grows old early in his soul and inner nature, is chiefly due to the system of training and education. Of course we must not suppose that at the present time we can put the question: How shall we arrange education, so that this shall not happen? This is a very important matter which cannot be answered in a few words, for education would have to be altered in almost every respect, for it would not be a question of memory only, but of something with which man could refresh and revive himself. Let us ask ourselves how many to-day, when they look back to an achievement in childhood, upon all they experienced then, upon what their teachers and relations said, are able to remember more than: ‘You must do this,’ are able to plunge again into what was experienced in youth, looking lovingly back to the hand-clasp, to every single remark, to the sound of the voice, to the permeation with feeling of what was offered them in childhood, experiencing it as a continual fount of rejuvenation? It is connected with the rates of development we experience within us, that man must follow the quicker development of his head, which closes about the 20th year, and that the slower progress of the heart, the evolution of the rest of him, has to be nourished throughout his life. We must not only give the head what is prescribed for it, but also that from which the rest of the organism can again and again draw forth restorative force for the whole of our lives. For this it is necessary that every branch of education should be permeated by a certain artistic element. To-day, when people avoid the artistic element, thinking that to foster the life of fancy — and fancy carries man beyond mere everyday reality — might bring fantasy into education, there is no inclination whatever to pay attention to such mysteries of life. We need only look to certain spheres to see what is here meant — for it does, of course, still exist here and there — and we shall see that something can be realised in this way; but it must be realised by man's again becoming ‘man.’ This is necessary for many reasons; we shall draw attention to one of them.
Those who wish to become teachers to-day are examined as to what they know, but what does this prove? As a rule only that the candidate has for the time of the examination, hammered into his head something which — if he is at all suited for that particular subject — he has been able to gather from many books, day after day acquiring what it is not in the least necessary to acquire in that way. What should be required above all in such examinations is to ascertain whether the candidate has the heart, mind and temperament for gradually establishing a relationship between himself and the children. Examination should not test the candidate's knowledge, but ascertain his power, and whether he is sufficiently a ‘man.’ To make such demands to-day would, I know, simply mean for the present time one of two things. Either it would be said that anyone who demands such tests is quite crazy, such a man does not live in the world of reality; or if reluctant to give such an answer, they would say: ‘Something of the kind does take place, we all want that.’ People suppose that results come about from this training, because they only understand the subject in so far as they bring their consideration to bear upon it.
The foregoing is intended to throw light from a certain side upon something which the lower soul always feels, and which is so difficult to bring up into the higher soul at the present time; something which is desired by the human soul and will be desired more and more as the time goes on; — so that we may see in the right light the fact that the soul needs something wherewith continually to renew the power of its forces, so that we may not grow weary with our progressing life, but are always able to say, full of hope: ‘Each new day will be to us like the first one we consciously experienced.’ For this however we must, in a sense, not need to ‘grow old;’ it is urgently necessary that there should be no occasion to grow old in soul. When we observe how many comparatively young people there are who are dreadfully old and how few regard each day as a new experience given them, as to a lively child, we know what must be achieved and given by a spiritual culture in this domain. Ultimately the feeling here meant is the feeling which acquires the perennial hopefulness of life and enables us to experience the right relation between the living and the so-called dead. Otherwise the facts which should establish our relationship to one of the dead remain too strongly in the memory. A man can remember what he experienced with his dead during life. If, however, when the dead is physically absent we cannot have the feeling that we can always revivify what we experienced with him during life, our feeling and perception are not strong enough to experience this new relationship that the dead is still present as a spiritual being and can work as a spirit. If a man has grown so deadened that he can no longer revive anything of the hopefulness of life, he can no longer feel that a complete transformation has taken place. Formerly he could help himself by meeting his friend in life; now the spirit alone can come to his help. He can meet him, however, if he evolves this feeling of the ever-enduring stimulation of the life-forces, in order to keep the hopefulness of life fresh.
It may seem strange to say so, but a healthy life, especially healthy in the directions which a man might develop here (unless he be in a clouded state of consciousness), never leads to the consideration of life as anything of which he can be tired; for even when he has grown old, a thoroughly sound life leads him to wish to accept each day as something new and fresh. Sound health does not lead a man to say when old: ‘Thank God my life is behind me;’ rather does he say to himself: ‘I should like to go back forty or fifty years and pass through the same circumstances again!’ — This is the man who has learnt through wisdom to cheer himself with the thought that what he cannot carry through in this life, he will do more correctly in another. The sound man does not regret anything he has experienced, and if wisdom is needed for this, he does not long to have it in this life, but is able to wait for another. The right confidence in life is built on vigorously maintained life-hopes.
These then, are the feelings which rightly inspire life and at the same time create the bridge between the living here and the dead yonder: — gratitude towards the life which greets us here; confidence in its experiences; an intimate feeling-in-common; the faculty of making hope active in life through ever fresh springing life-forces; these are the inner ethical impulses which, felt in the right way, can supply the highest external social ethics; for ethics, like history, can only be understood in the subconscious realm.
Another question in regard to the relationship of the living to the dead frequently arises: What is the real difference in a relationship between man and man when incarnated in physical bodies, and between them when one is in a physical body and the other not, or when neither is in a physical body? In respect to one point of view I should here like to mention something of importance.
When we observe the ego and actual soul life — also called the astral body — by means of spiritual science (the ego, as we have often heard, is the youngest, the baby among the principles of man's organisation, whereas the astral body is somewhat older, though only dating from the Moon evolution) we must say of these two highest principles that they are not as yet so far advanced for man to rely on them alone for power to maintain himself independently of other men. If we were here with one another — each only as ego and astral body — we should be together as though in a sort of primordial jelly. Our entities would merge into each other, we should not be separate and would not know how to distinguish ourselves one from the other. There could be no possibility of knowing whether a hand or leg were one's own or another's (the whole matter would then of course be quite different, we cannot really thus compare the circumstances). We could not even properly recognise our feelings as our own. To perceive ourselves as separated men depends on each one having been drawn out of the general fluid — as we must picture a very early period — like a drop; and in such a way that the individual souls did not flow together again, but each soul-drop was held together as though in a sponge. Something like that really occurred. Only because we as human beings are in etheric and physical bodies are we separated from one another, really separate. In sleep we are only separated by a strong longing for our physical body. This longing which draws us ardently to the physical body, divides us in sleep; otherwise we should drift through one another all night long. It would probably be much against the grain of sentimental minds if they knew how strongly they come into connection with other beings in their neighbourhood. This, however, is not so very bad in comparison with what might be if this ardent longing for the physical body did not exist as long as man is physically incorporated.
We might now ask: What divides our souls from others in the time between death and rebirth? Well: as with our ego and astral body between birth and death we belong to a physical and etheric body, so after death, until rebirth, we are part of quite definite starry structures, in no way the same; each one of us belongs to quite a distinct structure. From out [of] this instinct we speak of ‘man's star.’ This starry structure, taking its physical projection first, is periphically globular, but we can divide it in many ways. The regions overlap each other, but each belongs to another. Expressed spiritually, we might say that each belongs to a different rank of Archangels and Angels. Just as people here are drawn together through their souls, so between death and rebirth, each belongs to a particular starry structure, to a particular rank of Angels and Archangels; their souls all meet together there. The reason this is so, but only apparently (for we must not now go further into the mystery) is because on earth each one has his own physical body. I say ‘apparently’ and you will wonder; but it is surprising when investigated how each has his own starry structure and how these overlap. Let us think of a particular group of Angels and Archangels. In the life between death and rebirth, thousands of Angels and Archangels belong to one soul; imagine only one of all these thousands, taken away and replaced by another, and we have the region of the next soul.
In this diagram two souls have, with one exception, which they have from another realm, the same stars; but no two souls have absolutely similar starry structures. Thus men are individualised between death and rebirth, by having each his special starry structure. From this we see upon what the separation of souls between death and rebirth is based. In the physical world, as we know, this division is effected by the physical body. Man has his physical body as a shell as it were; he observes the world from it, and everything must come to the physical body. All that comes into the soul of man between death and rebirth stands, as regards the relation between his astral body and ego, in a similar way in regard to a starry structure, as here the soul and the ego stand with regard to the physical body. Thus the question as to how this severance comes about is also answered as above.
From these considerations we have seen to-day how we can work upon our souls in forming certain feelings and perceptions, so that the bridge of communication may be formed between the so-called dead and the living. What has just been said can also attract thoughts, perceptive thoughts and thoughtful perceptions, which can in their turn have a share in the creation of this bridge. This takes place by our seeking more and more to form a kind of perception with regard to some particular dead friend which when we have experienced something in the soul, can bring up the impulse to ask ourselves: How would the dead experience what I experience at this moment? By creating the imagination that the dead experienced the event side by side with us and making this really a living feeling, man gauges in a certain respect, either how the dead has intercourse with the living, or the dead with the dead, when we consider the various starry realms given, in relation to our own souls or to each other. We can here surmise what interplays between soul and soul through their assignment to the starry realm. If we concentrate through the presence of the dead upon a directly present interest, if in this way we feel the dead living immediately beside us, then from such things as are discussed to-day we become more and more conscious that the dead really do approach us. The soul will develop a consciousness of this. In this connection we must have confidence in life that these things are so; for if we do not have confidence but are impatient with life, the other truth obtains. What confidence brings is drawn away by impatience; what man might learn through confidence, is made dark by impatience. Nothing is worse, than if by our impatience we conjure up a mist before the soul.