Mans Life on Earth and in the Spiritual Worlds
22 August 24 1922, Oxford
Our subject for today will relate in a wider way to many of the spiritual truths which will be known to you as anthroposophists. You are no doubt familiar with the kind of description given, for example, in my book Theosophy, of the spiritual worlds through which man has to go between death and a new birth. Today I will tell of those spiritual worlds from a rather different point of view. For in Theosophy, Imaginations are mainly used to describe the world of soul and the world of Spirit through which man passes when he has gone through the gate of death to advance into a new life on Earth. In today's lecture I shall relate these things not so much from the standpoint of Imagination, but rather from the aspect which is revealed by Inspiration.
To gain some access to it for our understanding, we may take our start from the experiences which are ours during earthly life. At any given moment between birth and death, we are here in our physical body, face to face with the outer world. We should describe as ourselves, our human being, what is contained within our skin, within the confines of our physical body. No doubt we take this “human being” to include not only the anatomical and physiological data; we take it for granted that processes of soul and mind are also somehow going on in there. Yet, speaking of “ourselves,” we generally have in mind what is contained within our skin, and now from here we look out into the world. There all around us is the world we call our “outer world.” And as you know, we make mental images of this outer world. We have the outer world around us, and mirror-images thereof — or something like it — in our life of soul.
Now in the life between death and new birth the essence of the matter is that we are in this very world which, here on Earth, is external to us. All that is now your “outer world,” including what you see in full, clear focus and what you but distantly divine, is then your inner world, — to that you say “mine I.” Just as you now regard your lung as belonging to your I, so, between death and new birth, do you regard the Sun and Moon as your organs, — in other words, as being in you. The only outer world which you then have is you yourself, such as you are on Earth — your earthly organs.
Whereas on Earth we say; “In us — a lung; in us — a heart; outside of us a Sun, a Moon, a Zodiac,” during the life between death and new birth we shall say; “In us — a Zodiac, in us the Sun, in us the Moon; outside of us, lung and heart.” Between death and new birth all that we now carry inside our skin increasingly becomes our outer world, our Universe, our Cosmos. Our view of the relation between World and Man becomes completely opposite when we are living between death and a new birth.
When we live through death — when we go through the gate of death — we have a distinct picture, to begin with, of what went before, of how we were on Earth. True, it is only a picture, but it is like the outer world. This picture, then, shines forth in you to begin with. Thus in the first period after death you still have a consciousness of the man you were on Earth — consciousness in the form of earthly memories and earthly pictures. But these do not last long; ever increasingly you have this other outlook upon man: “‘I’ is the World; the Universe is Man.” This becomes ever more enhanced. Of course, you will not imagine that the human lung, for instance, looks the same as it does now; that would not be a sight to compensate for all the greatness and beauty of the Sun and Moon. Yet in reality, what lung and heart there become is vastly greater and more sublime even than Sun and Moon are, here and now, to human vision.
Only in this way do you gain an adequate idea of that which Maya is. People speak of Maya — the great illusion of this present earthly world — and yet they do not quite believe in what they say. Deep down, they cherish the belief that things are as they look to be to earthly eyes. But it is not so. The human lung as we now see it is a mere semblance; so is the heart. In truth, our lung is but a part — a mighty part — of our Cosmos; and even more so is our heart. The heart in its true essence is vastly greater and more majestic than any Sun.
Thus we begin to see an immense and sublime cosmic world arising — a world of which we speak in this way: Beneath us are the Heavens. In saying this, we mean: Beneath us is all that which is preparing the human head of the next incarnation. Above are, we then say, what was below. For it is all inverted. Above are all the forces which prepare man for his earthly walking — prepare him to stand firm on his two legs in the next earthly life.
All this can then be summed up in the saying: The nearer we approach a new earthly life, the more does this Universe which is Man contract for us. Majestic it is indeed, notably in the middle period between death and a new birth. But now we grow increasingly aware of how this Universe, with all its erstwhile majesty and greatness, is shrinking and contracting. The planets which we bear within us — planets in their, weaving movement — become what then pulsates and surges through the human ether-body. The fixed stars of the Zodiac become what forms our life of nerves and senses. All this is shrinking, to become a body — spiritual to begin with, and then ethereal. And not until it has grown quite tiny, is it received into the mother's womb, there to be clothed with earthly matter.
Then comes the moment when we draw near to earthly life. Vanishing from us we now feel the Universe which until recently was ours. It shrinks and wanes, and this experience begets in us the longing to come down again to Earth, — once more to unite with a physical body on the Earth. For the great Universe we had before, withdraws, eludes our spiritual gaze; now therefore do we look to become Man again.
All this involves, however, quite another scale of time. Life between death and rebirth goes on for many centuries, and if a man is born, say, in the 20th century, his descent will have been prepared for gradually, even as early as the 15th century. All through this time moreover he himself has in a certain sense been working down into the earthly conditions and events.
A great-great ... grandfather of yours, way back in the 15th century, fell in love with a great-great ... grandmother. They felt the urge to come together, and in this urge you were already working in from spiritual worlds. And in the 17th century when a rather less distant great-great ... grandfather and great-great ... grandmother loved each other, you once again were in a sense the mediator. So did you summon all the generations to the end that at long last those should emerge who could become your mother and your father.
In that mysterious and intangible quality that pervades the relationships of earthly love, forces are indeed at work, proceeding from human souls who look for future incarnations. Therefore full consciousness and freedom are never there in the external conditions which bring men and women upon Earth together. These things still lie outside the range of human understanding,
What we call history nowadays is in the last resort far too external. Little is known to us in outer life today of the soul-history of human beings. Even as late as the 12th or 13th century A.D., souls of men felt very differently than they do now. Yet this is quite unknown. Not indeed as distinctly as I have just been telling, but in a more dream-like way, the men and women of the 10th, 11th, or 12th century were aware of these mysterious forces working down to Earth from spiritual worlds, — working down, in effect, from human souls. Little was said in Western countries of repeated earthly lives — reincarnation — but there were human beings everywhere, who knew. Only the Churches always eschewed, not to say anathematized all thoughts about repeated lives. Yet you should realize that even as late as the 12th and 13th centuries there were not a few in Europe who were aware that man undergoes repeated lives on Earth.
Then came the time when mankind in the Western world had to go through the stage of intellectuality. For man must by and by acquire spiritual freedom. When the dream-like clairvoyance of olden time prevailed, there was no spiritual freedom. Nor is there freedom — there is, at most, belief in freedom — in those affairs of human life, governed, shall we say, by earthly love, of which we have been speaking. For here the interests of other souls, on their way down to Earth, are always mingled.
Yet in the course of earthly evolution mankind must grow freer, yet ever freer. For only by man's growing freer, will the earth reach her goal in evolution. Now to this end, during a certain period intellectuality was necessary. The period in question is, of course, our own. Look back into earlier times and conditions upon Earth, when human beings still enjoyed dream-like clairvoyance. Living in this dreamlike clairvoyance there were always spiritual beings. Man at that time could never say, “I have my own thoughts in my head,” — that would have been quite untrue. In very olden times he rather had to say “I have the life of Angels in my head”; and then in later times: “I have the life of elemental beings in my head.” Then came the 15th century, and at long last the 19th and the 20th. Now man no longer has spiritual beings in his head, but only thoughts — mere thoughts. And by not having any higher spiritual life but only thoughts in his head, he can make for himself pictures of the outer world,
Could man be free, so long as Spirits were indwelling him? No, he could not, for they directed him; everything was due to them. Man could only become free when spiritual beings no longer directed him — when he had mere pictures, mere images, in his thoughts. Thought-pictures cannot compel you to do anything. Say you confront a looking-glass; the mirror-images of other men may be howsoever ill-disposed, they cannot hit you, for they are not real — they are mere pictures. And if I am resolving on some action, I may cause the mirror-image in my thought to picture the resolve, but the picture can of itself make no resolve.
Thus in the epoch when intellectuality puts only thoughts into our heads, freedom is born, inasmuch as thoughts have not the power to compel, In that we hold our moral impulses simply in the form of pure thoughts — as described in my Philosophy of Freedom 1Philosophie der Freiheit, 1894. The later English editions have been entitled Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. — we can achieve true freedom in the present age. The intellectual age, therefore, had to be.
Yet, strange as it may sound, in essence this age is already past. The age in which it was right for man to develop mere intellectuality, mere thinking-in-images, has run its course. With the 19th century it has become a thing of the past. And if men now continue to develop mere image-thoughts, their thoughts will fall a prey to Ahrimanic powers. The Ahrimanic powers will then gain access to man, and having reached his freedom, man will lose it — lose it to the Ahrimanic powers. Mankind is at the threshold of this danger now. Mankind today is faced with the alternative: either to comprehend the spiritual life — to comprehend the reality of such things as I have been telling you today — or to deny them. And if man now persists in denying what is spiritual, he will no longer be able to think freely. On the contrary, Ahriman — the Ahrimanic powers — will then be thinking in mankind, and all humanity will undergo a downhill evolution.
Therefore it is in the highest degree necessary for an ever-growing number of human beings in our time to appreciate the need for a return to spiritual life. A feeling for the need to get back to a spiritual form of life, is what the men of today should try to awaken in themselves. For if they fail to seek for this, mankind will fall a prey to Ahriman. Seen from a higher standpoint, the situation of mankind on Earth today is no less grave than that, and we should put this thought before all others, testing all other thoughts in the light of this one.
So much for the first part of the lecture. If Mr. Kaufmann will now be kind enough to translate, I will then go on.
Descriptions such as these may help illustrate the fact that the life we lead in the spiritual world between death and new birth is very different from that we undergo here between birth and death. Pictures, therefore, borrowed from the earthly life, however well conceived, will always be inadequate. Slowly and gradually we must be led to an understanding of the kind of reality that prevails in spiritual worlds. Let me give some examples.
Suppose a human being leaves his earthly body, and, with his life of soul and spirit, enters the world of soul and spirit. Suppose moreover that someone here on Earth, who has achieved Initiation-knowledge in the deeper sense, is able to observe human souls in their continued life after death. Much preparation is necessary to this end; also a certain Karma is essential, connecting the human being upon Earth with the one in yonder world. Now he must find some means of mutual understanding with the other soul. The spiritual experiences which I shall here be relating are not all easy to achieve. Generally speaking, it is far easier to describe the Universe in its spiritual aspect than to come near to a departed soul. People will with ease persuade themselves that it is not so difficult, yet in reality it is far more difficult to gain access to the dead than to achieve spiritual knowledge of other kinds.
I will now relate some characteristic features of the real intercourse with the dead. To begin with, we can only communicate with them by entering into such memories of the physical world as they are still able to evoke. For example, they still retain an echo of human speech, even of the particular language which was mainly theirs while on Earth. But their relation to language undergoes a change. For instance, in conversing with a soul who has died, one will soon observe that they have no understanding for substantives — for nouns. The living may address such words to the dead; the dead, if I may use this expression, simply do not hear them. Verbs on the other hand — words expressing action — these they will understand for a comparatively long time after death.
As a general rule you will only become able to converse with a soul who has gone through death if you know how to put your questions to him. You may have to proceed as follows. One day you concentrate on him as quietly as you are able. You try to live with him in something definite and real, for he has pictures in his soul rather than abstract notions. Therefore you concentrate on some real experience which he was glad to enter into during earthly life; thus you will gradually get near him.
You will not as a rule get an immediate answer to your question. You will very likely have to sleep on it — sleep on it, may be, several times, after some days you will get the answer. But you will never get an answer if you ask in nouns. You must take pains to clothe all nouns in verbal form. Such preparation is indispensable. He will most readily understand verbs, especially if you make them pictorial and vivid. The dead will never understand for instance the word “table,” but if you imagine vividly what is astir while a table is being made — a process of becoming, therefore, instead of a finished thing — then you will gradually become intelligible to him so that he apprehends your question and you get an answer. But the answers too will always be in verbal form, or may be not even that; they may only consist of what we on Earth should call interjections — exclamations.
Above all, the dead speak in the actual sounds of the alphabet — sounds and combinations of sound. The longer a soul has lived in the spiritual world after death, the more will he be speaking in a kind of, language which you can only make your own by cultivating a true feeling of discrimination even in the realm of earthly speech, insisting no longer on the abstract meaning of the words but entering into their feeling-content. It is as I was saying in the educational lectures here. With the sound a 2a, pronounced as in father. we experience something like astonishment and wonder. Moreover we take the sense of wonder deep into our soul when we not only say a, but ach. 3German or Scottish pronunciation of ch as in Loch. Ach is the German equivalent of the exclamation Ah. Ach signifies: “A — I feel wonder. The sense of wonder goes right into me: ch.” And if I now put m before it and say mach, 4Mach: German for ‘make’ or ‘do.’ I follow what awakens wonder in me as though it were coming nearer to me step by step — mmm — till at long last I am entirely within it. It is with this kind of meaning — meaning that issues from the sounds themselves — that the answers of the dead will often come. The dead do not speak English, nor do they speak German, nor Russian; their speech is such that only heart and soul can understand them, — if heart and soul are in the ears that hear. I said just now; the human heart is greater and more majestic than the Sun. Seen from the earthly aspect it is true, the heart is somewhere inside us, and will be no pretty sight if we excise it anatomically. Yet the real heart is there throughout the human being, permeating all the organs; so too it is in the ear,
We must get used to the heart-language of the dead, if I may so describe it. We get used to it in learning gradually to jettison all nouns and noun-like forms and live in verbs. It is the words of action and becoming which the dead still understand for a comparatively long time after death. Then, at a later stage, they understand a language that is no longer language in the ordinary sense, and what we then receive from them has first to be re-translated into an earthly language.
Thus as man grows out of his body and ever more into the spiritual world, his life of soul becomes altogether different. Then, as the time approaches for him to come down again to Earth, once more he has to change his life of soul. For now the moment draws ever nearer, whereat he is confronted with a mighty task. He will himself now have to put together — first in an astral and then in an etheric form — the whole future human being who will one day be standing physically here on Earth. The tasks which we fulfil on Earth are external. For while our hands are at work, something external to us is always being made or altered. In the life between death and re-birth it is the inner being of our soul that is at work, putting the body together. Truth is, it only seems as if man came into existence by hereditary forces. In reality, only the outermost aspect of the physical body he then wears is due to heredity. He has to make for himself even the forms of his organs. I will give an example, — if one of you will kindly lend a glove.
On his way down towards a new earthly life, man, to begin with, still has the Sun and the Moon within him. But they begin to contract. It is as though you were to feel the lobes of your lungs shrinking within you. So do you feel your cosmic life and being, your Sun- and Moon-organ, shrinking. And thereupon, something detaches itself from the Sun and from the Moon. Hitherto, you had Sun and Moon within you, but now you have before you a kind of image of Sun and Moon. All glistening and luminous, you have before you two immense spheres — immense they are, to begin with. One of them is the Sun in spiritual form, the other is the Moon. The one is all alight and sparkling, the other glimmering in its own warmth, more fiery-warm, holding the light as though more egoistically to itself.
Now the two spheres which thus detach themselves from cosmically transmuted man — even from ‘Adam Kadmon’ who is a reality to this day — draw ever nearer to one another. We, on our way to Earth, say to ourselves: Sun and Moon are becoming one. Moreover it is this that guides us — far away back you must imagine it to be, even from our great-great-great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, great-grandmother, grandmother and so on — guides us at last to the mother who will give us birth. Sun and Moon are our guides — Sun and Moon, drawing ever nearer to each other.
And thereupon we see another task before us. Far in the distance like a single point we see the human embryo that is to be. We see the single entity that has become of Sun and Moon, drawing near our mother. And now we see a task before us, which I can describe as follows. Take this (the glove) to represent what goes before us there — the Sun-and-Moon united. We are aware that when our cosmic consciousness will have vanished and we shall go through a phase of darkness (for so we do when we dive down into the embryo after conception), then we shall have to turn inside-out this entity that goes before us. And as we do so a tiny aperture will arise, through which, as Ego, we shall have to go.
This, in its image, will then be there in our human body upon Earth. It is none other, my dear Friends, than the pupil of the human eye. For the one entity becomes two again, as though two mirror-images were to arise. These are the two human eyes: for they were once united — they were the united Sun-and-Moon, and thereupon they turned inside-out.
Such is the task which then confronts you. You do it all unconsciously. You turn the whole thing round and inside-out, and go in through the tiny aperture that remains. And then it cleaves asunder; two physical images become of it in the growing embryo. For the physical embryonal eyes are but images, representing what has thus become of Sun and Moon.
In this way we elaborate the several parts of the human body. Experiencing the entire Universe, we gather it and give to every item its destined form. What is thus formed in the Spirit, only then gets clothed and permeated with plastic material. It clothes itself in matter; as to the forces however, which have formed it, we ourselves had to develop them from the entire Universe.
For example, there is a time between death and new birth when we go through the Sun while the Sun is in the sign of Leo. (It need not be at birth; it can be farther back in time). We do not fashion then the eye of Sun and Moon which I described just now — we do that at a different time, — but we unite with the interior of the Sun. What do you imagine the interior of the Sun to be? If you could enter there, you would find it altogether different from what our physicists naively and unwittingly suppose. The interior of the Sun is no mere ball of gas; it is in fact something less than space — a realm where space itself has been taken away. If you begin by imagining an extended space in which some pressure is prevailing, you must conceive the interior of the Sun rather as a realm of suction. It is a negative space — space that is emptier than empty. Few people have an adequate idea of what this means. Now when you go through there, again you have a definite spiritual experience which you are able to elaborate and work upon, and as you do so it becomes the form of the human heart. Not only is the form of the eye made of Sun and Moon; the heart form too is fashioned from the Sun. But this is only possible when the Sun contains forces which issue from it as from the constellation of Leo.
So does man build his entire body both from the movements of the stars and from the constellations of the stars in the great Universe. The human body is indeed an image of the world of stars. Much of the work we have to do between death and new birth consists in the building of our own body from the Universe. Man as he stands on Earth is indeed a shrunken Universe. Science is so naive as to suppose that the human form is produced from the physical germ-cell alone. Suppose a man is looking at a magnet-needle, one end of which always points to the North and the other to the South. Perhaps another man to whom this is explained does not believe it, but begins looking for the cause inside the magnet-needle only, failing to see that the whole Earth is acting as a magnet. It is no less naive when someone thinks that man originates from the physical human germ-cell, whereas in fact he springs from the entire Universe. Moreover his life of soul and spirit between death and re-birth consists in working with the spiritual Beings — working at the super-sensible form of man, which is created first in the ethereal and astral realm and only then shrinks and contracts till it is able to be clothed in physical material. Man in reality is but the scene of action of what the Universe, and he himself with his transmuted powers, do thus achieve when the physical body in its true nature is being formed.
Such then is the development man undergoes. It begins with language when he no longer uses nouns but finds his way into another and more verbal form of speech. Thence he goes on to an inner beholding of the world of stars, until at last he lives right in the starry world Then he begins to detach from the world of stars what he himself is to become in his next incarnation. Such is man's pathway: out of the physical, via the transmutation of language into the spiritual, and then on the returning journey transmuting the Universe once again into Man. Only if we can understand how the soul-and-Spirit, having thus lost itself in language, becomes one with the world of stars and then recovers itself from the world of stars, — only then do we apprehend the complete cycle of human life between death and a new birth.
These things, dear Friends, were still clear to many people at the time when the Mystery of Golgotha took place on Earth. At that time the idea did not prevail that Christ Jesus was, first and foremost, the Being whom they saw developing on Earth. They thought of Him as One who until then had belonged to the self-same world to which man himself belongs during the life between death and new birth. Therefore they pondered on the question: How did He descend from thence and enter into the life of Earth? It was the Roman world which then exterminated Initiation-Science. Only the dogmas should remain — such was their intention. There was in Italy in the 4th century of our era an actual organization, a specific body of people who left no stone unturned in seeing to it that the old methods of Initiation should not be transmuted into new ones. There should be left to men on Earth only the knowledge of the outer physical world, while of the super-sensible there should be no more than dogmas — dogmas which men would by and by receive as mere concepts into their intellectual life, till at long last they would no longer even have the power to conceive and understand, but only to believe them. So was the knowledge, which had in fact existed at one time, rent asunder into a knowledge of the earthly world alone, and on the other hand a mere faith, a mere belief in another world, till even this is so attenuated that for one group of believers it is a set of dogmas they do not understand, while for another it is no more than a point d'appue; there must be something to start from, to have any faith at all. For in effect, what is the substance of a modern man's belief, when he no longer holds to the ancient dogmas about the Trinity? He believes in something vaguely spiritual; the content of his belief is altogether nebulous.
We now need to return to a genuine perception of the Spiritual, into which we can enter livingly and fully. We need once more a Science of Initiation, able to relate such things as you have heard today of the human eye, — that we should look at it with wonder, for it is verily a shrunken Universe. This is no mere figure of speech; it is real and true, and as I have been explaining. For in the life between death and new birth this eye of ours was single, and from the unity it was — merging the images of Sun and Moon — it was then turned inside-out.
Truth is, we have two eyes because if it were our nature to see with a single eye like the Cyclops we could not attain to Egohood in an outward and visible world; we should attain it only in the inner world of feeling. Helen Keller for example has quite a different world of feeling and ideation than other people; she is only able to make herself understood because language has been taught her. We could never reach the idea of ‘I’ without being able to lay our right hand over our left, or, more generally speaking, to bring any two symmetrical members into coincidence. Thus in a subtle way we reach the idea of ‘I’ inasmuch as we cross the axes of vision of our two eyes when focusing upon the outer world. Just as we cross our hands, so do we cross the two axes of vision of our eyes: whenever we look at anything we do so.
Materially two, our eyes are one in spirit. This single spiritual eye is located behind the bridge of the nose. It is then reproduced in a twofold image — in the two outer eyes you see. By being left-and-right-hand man, man is enabled to feel and be aware of himself. If he were only right or only left — if he were not symmetrically formed — all his thinking and ideation would merge into the world; he would not become self-possessed in his own ‘I’.
In that we weld the twin images of Sun and Moon into one, we get ready for our coming incarnation. It is as though we were saying to ourselves: You must not disintegrate into the wide world. It is no use to become a Sun-man and have the Lunar man there beside you. You must be one; but you must also be able to feel your own oneness, you must be aware of it. So then you form the single Sun-Moon eye of man, which in its metamorphosis becomes the eye as we now bear it. For our two eyes are the twin images of the single archetypal Sun-Moon eye of man.
These are the things I wished to say to you today, my dear friends, about the kind of experience we have when we are in the spiritual world, — so very different from our experiences in the physical. They are related to one another none the less, but the relationship is such that we are turned completely inside out. Suppose that you could take the human being as you see him here and turn him inside out so that the inside of him — the heart for instance — would become outer surface. Physical man, you will readily believe, could not stay alive under these conditions. But if one could do this, taking hold of him in the inmost heart and turning him inside out like a glove, then man would not remain man as we see him here; he would enlarge into a Universe. For if we have the faculty to concentrate in a single point within the heart and thence to turn ourselves inside out in spirit, we simply do become the Universe which in the normal course we experience between death and a new birth. Such is the secret of the inner man. It is only in the physical world that he cannot be turned inside out. The heart of man however is in effect a Universe turned inside out, and that is how the physical and earthly world is really joined to the spiritual. We must get used to the ‘turning inside out.’ If we do not, we gain no real idea of how the physical world which surrounds us here is related to the spiritual world. These are the things which I was wanting to impart today.