15 December 1922, Dornach
Let us recall what I have been telling you about man's experiences between death and a new birth. The various descriptions have enabled us to realize that this life — above all in its main period, about the middle of the time between death and rebirth — is such that man lives in communion with the Beings referred to in the book Occult Science as the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies. This life of man in communion with those higher Beings is comparable with the life he has here, when in the physical body, in communion with the beings of the three kingdoms of Nature. Basically speaking, everything in his earthly environment belongs to one of the three kingdoms of Nature — to the mineral or the plant or the animal kingdom, or indeed the physical human kingdom, which in this particular connection can be taken as belonging to the animal kingdom.
Man has his senses, and through his sense-impressions he lives in communion with the beings of the three kingdoms of Nature. What unfolds in his life of feeling between birth and death, in so far as it is the outcome of experiences arising from his environment, is also related to these three kingdoms of Nature. The same applies to what comes from the will, namely, human action. Thus between birth and death man is interwoven with what his senses convey to him from the three kingdoms of Nature.
In like manner between death and a new birth, in the time indicated above, man lives within the higher realms, among the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies. This life together with the Beings of the Hierarchies is, in reality, all action, perpetual activity. We have heard how the spirit-seed of the physical body is produced in cooperation with these higher Beings. Here on Earth, when we perceive or connect ourselves with the entities belonging to the three kingdoms of Nature, we feel outside them. But there is a condition between death and a new birth when we find ourselves wholly within the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies; we are entirely given up to them. That is one of the conditions in which we then live. — Let us picture it clearly. — Here on the Earth, when, for example, we pick a flower, the fact is correctly described by saying, ‘I pick the flower.’ But if this way of speaking were applied to our life together with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies, the facts would not then be correctly expressed. When we do something in connection with these Beings, we must say: the other Being acts in us. Thus we are in a condition which compels us all the time not to call the activity — in which of course we ourselves partake — our own activity, but the activity of the Beings of the Hierarchies in us. We have in very truth a cosmic consciousness. Just as here we feel heart, lungs and so on, to be within us, so do we then feel the world to be within us, but it is the world of the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies. Everything that takes place is the outcome of an activity in which we, too, are involved; but to describe the facts correctly we should have to say: such and such a Being of the Higher Hierarchies is acting in us.
Now the condition thus described is only one of the conditions obtaining between death and a new birth. We could not be men in the true sense if we lived in this one condition only. In the spiritual world between death and rebirth we should no more be able to bear this condition only, than here on Earth we could bear inbreathing without exhaling. The condition I have just described must alternate with another, which consists in our obliterating through our cosmic consciousness all thinking and feeling about the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies, obliterating too all will that works in this way in us from the Beings of the Hierarchies.
Thus we may say that there are times during the life between death and a new birth when we find ourselves filled through and through with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies and their radiance. We feel them within ourselves. But there is another condition, in which we have first suppressed and then obliterated altogether, this consciousness of the Higher Beings manifesting in us. Then — to use earthly terms — we are ‘out of our body’ — the condition is of course entirely spiritual but let us put it in this way: we are out of our body. In this condition we know nothing of the world that lives within us, but we have as it were ‘come to ourselves.’ We no longer live in the other Beings of the Hierarchies but we live wholly in ourselves. Between death and a new birth, we should never have consciousness of ourselves if we lived only in the one condition. Just as here on Earth, inbreathing must alternate with out-breathing, or sleeping with waking life, so between death and a new birth there must be rhythmic alternation between the inner experience of the whole world of the Hierarchies within us, and a condition in which we have come to ourselves.
Now in a certain sense all earthly life is an outcome of what we have experienced in pre-earthly existence between death and a new birth. As you will remember, I have told you how even such faculties in man's earthly life as walking, speaking, and thinking are transformations of certain activities in pre-earthly existence. Today we will turn our attention more specifically to the life of soul.
What we experience in pre-earthly existence in working together with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies leaves in us a heritage for our earthly life, a faint shadow of this communion with the Hierarchies. If between death and a new birth we had no such community of life with the Beings of the Hierarchies, we could not unfold, here on Earth, the power of love. The power of love we unfold here on Earth is of course only a faint reflection, a shadow of our communion with the Spirit-Beings of the Higher Hierarchies between death and a new birth, but it is a reflection of that communion. That here on the Earth we are able to unfold human love, sympathetic understanding for another human being, is due to the fact that between death and a new birth we are able to live in communion with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies.
Spiritual-scientific vision enables us to perceive what happens to those who in previous earthly lives acquired little aptitude — we shall presently speak of how it is acquired — for living together during the appropriate period after death with the Beings of the Hierarchies, in certain states entirely given up to them. Such men here on Earth are incapable of unfolding love in which there is real strength, incapable of unfolding that all-embracing love which comes to expression in the power to understand other men. We may say with truth: it is among the Gods, in pre-earthly existence, that we acquire the gift for observing our fellow-man, to perceive how he thinks and how he feels, to understand him with inner sympathy. If we were deprived of this intercourse with the Gods — for so indeed it may be called — we should never be capable of unfolding here on Earth that insight into other human beings which alone makes earthly life a reality. When in this connection I speak of love, and especially of all-embracing human love, you must think of love as having this real and concrete meaning; you must think of it as signifying a genuine, intimate understanding of the other man. If to the all-embracing love of humanity, this understanding of one's fellow-man is added, we have everything that constitutes human morality. For human morality on Earth — if it is not merely expressed in empty phrases or fine talk or in resolutions not afterwards carried out — depends upon the interest one man takes in another, upon the capability to see into the other man. Those who have the gift of understanding other human beings will receive from this understanding the impulses for a social life imbued with true morality.
So we may also say: everything that constitutes moral life in earthly existence has been acquired by man in pre-earthly existence; from his communion with the Gods there has remained in him the urge to unfold, in the soul at any rate, community on Earth as well. And it is the development of a life where the one man together with the other fulfils the tasks and the mission of the Earth — it is this alone that in reality leads to the moral life on Earth. Thus we see that love, and the outcome of love — morality — are in very truth a consequence of what man has experienced spiritually in pre-earthly existence.
Now let us think of the other condition in the life between death and rebirth, when man's consciousness of communion with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies has been dimmed, when, as in earthly sleep, the impressions from the environment are silenced, when deliberate communion with the higher Beings ceases and man ‘comes to himself.’ This condition too has a consequence, an echo, a heritage, here in earthly life — and this heritage is the faculty of Memory.
The possibility for us to have experiences at a definite moment and then after a lapse of time to draw forth from the depth of our being something that brings pictures of these experiences into our consciousness — this faculty of memory that is so necessary in our earthly life, is a faint reflection, a shadow, of our independent state of life in the spiritual world. Here on Earth we should only be able to live in the passing moment instead of in our whole past life as far back as a few years after birth, if between death and a new birth we were not able to emerge, as it were, from universal life and be entirely alone, alone in ourselves.
While we are asleep here on Earth, our physical and etheric bodies lie in the bed; our astral body and our Ego are outside the physical and the etheric bodies and are then in a position to experience — unconsciously, it is true — the environment of soul and spirit. Man is unconscious between going to sleep and waking. Nevertheless, as I have already said, he does indeed have experiences during sleep, some of which I have also described. But they do not enter the field of consciousness, and in earthly life this is a necessary state of things. What is the reason for it?
If from the time of going to sleep to that of waking we were to experience what we do in fact experience in our Ego and in our astral body, so strongly and intensely as to be able to bring it into consciousness, then every time on waking we should want to impress into the physical and etheric bodies too, what we experienced in sleep; we should want to make our physical and our etheric bodies into something different from what they are. One who has knowledge of what is experienced between going to sleep and waking, must accustom himself to an act of renunciation. He must be able to say to himself: ‘I will refrain from the desire to press what I experience with my Ego and my astral body during sleep into the physical and etheric bodies, for in earthly life these bodies could not stand it.’
It is quite possible to speak in a grotesque way about these things — indeed they can be made to seem almost comical, although what is said is meant very seriously. During sleep man does in fact experience images of the Cosmos. Because of this he is continually being tempted, as an outcome of his sleep, to give himself, for example, a different countenance. If that which does not, in fact, come to his consciousness were to do so, he would always be wanting to change his face, for the face he actually has would be reminding him all the time of former earthly lives, of sins in former earthly lives. In the morning, before waking, there is actually a strong urge in man to do to the physical body something that is like dressing it in clothes. One who has knowledge of this must consciously refrain from giving way to the urge; otherwise he would fall into a completely disorganized condition; he would perpetually be trying to change his whole organism, especially if in one respect or another it happens to be not quite healthy, or something is wrong with it.
But during life between death and a new birth we experience so consciously that this consciousness leads to the forming and shaping of our next physical body. If this were left to ourselves alone, we should not shape the physical body in accordance with our karma. In reality, however, we form it together with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies, the Beings who watch over our karma. And so we get the eyes, the nose, and so forth, which in all probability we should not, if it were left to us, have given to ourselves. For there are certain times between death and a new birth when we are intensely egoistic — precisely at those times when the consciousness of our connection with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies has been dimmed. Our experiences are then so strong and intense that out of the forces they contain the physical body can be formed; and we do in fact form it.
This is an experience of such intensity that it has in it the seed of actual creation. Then, through the very fact that it is much weakened in earthly life, it takes effect partly as earthly love and partly as the faculty of remembrance, as memory.
Here on Earth, the fact that we feel ourselves within an Ego, depends upon memory. If we lived only in the present and had no memories, our Ego would have no inner coherence. In fact, as I have often said, we should not be able to feel ourselves in a strongly marked Ego at all. You can understand how memory as an earthly, shadowlike faculty comes into being. It comes into being through the fact that in pre-earthly existence in the spiritual world, a faculty of tremendous power is present — the faculty whereby in those periods when we ‘come to ourselves’ we prepare our body according to the instructions received from the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies, when, in the other state of existence, we live in union with them.
This faculty is at work, to begin with as a formative force, in our body. In the child, as long as it has no consciousness leading to memory — i.e. in the earliest period of childhood — this stronger creative force still enters into and works with the forces of growth. Then something that is finer, more rarefied, is as it were separated out from these stronger forces — and this is the human faculty of memory.
The fact that here on Earth too, man lives primarily in himself, is again connected with this faculty of memory. Memory is also very much connected with human egoism on the one side and, on the other, with human freedom. Freedom will become a reality in a human being in whose life on Earth there is a true echo of what is experienced in pre-earthly existence as a kind of rhythm: namely, feeling oneself united with the Beings of the Hierarchies, freeing oneself, entering into union again, and so on. Here on Earth the experiences come to expression, not as a rhythm, but as two co-existing human faculties: the faculty of love and the faculty of memory. But a certain heritage from this rhythm in pre-earthly existence can remain with man. If this is so, then in earthly life too, the true relationship will be established in him between memory and love. He will be able on the one side to develop understanding, loving understanding of other men. And on the other side, from his experience of the world together with other human beings, his own re-collective thinking will contribute to his own development, to the strengthening of his own nature.
A true relationship of this kind can remain as a legacy of the rhythm that is an essential in pre-earthly existence. But the true relationship may also be upset. It may, for instance, be that a man is willing to be guided only by what he himself has experienced. This trait is greatly accentuated when a man has little interest in what others experience, little faculty of looking into the hearts and minds of others, when his interest is confined almost entirely to what gradually accumulates in his own store of memories. This again is intimately connected with his Ego, and so egoism is intensified.
Such a man gets ‘out of gear’ with himself, because the true relationship existing between death and rebirth is lacking in him; a certain rhythm is not there. And at the same time, when a man takes interest only in what piles up in his own soul, when he is concerned all the time with himself alone, then he becomes increasingly unfit — if I may put it so — for the experiences between death and a new birth. By being interested only in himself, a man shuts himself off in a certain respect from communion with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies.
A man in whom love and memory are rightly interrelated evolves the feeling of true human freedom instead of egoistic introspection. For in another respect this feeling of human freedom too is an echo of the emergence from communion with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies between death and a new birth. The feeling of freedom is the healthy aftermath of that emergence; egoism is the morbid aftermath. And as the life together with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies between death and a new birth is the basis of man's morality on Earth, so the necessary emergence from life in communion with them is at the same time the basis on Earth for the immorality of men, for their severance from one another, for actions on the part of the one that cut across the actions of the other, and so forth. For this is at the root of all immorality. So you see it is necessary for man to be mindful that what can appear here on the Earth as something injurious, has a definite significance for the higher worlds. On the Earth too it is the case that the air we inhale is healthy, while the air we exhale is unhealthy, capable of begetting illness, for in effect we exhale carbonic acid. So too, that which underlies immorality here on the Earth is something that is necessary for our experience in the spiritual world.
These connections must be studied because, in effect, morality and immorality cannot really be explained in the light of earthly conditions. Anyone who attempts such explanations will inevitably be on the wrong track. For through the fact that man is moral or the reverse, he relates himself, in his life of soul, to a supersensible world. And we may say: By directing men's minds to the study of this relationship to a spiritual world, anthroposophical Spiritual Science has made it possible, for the first time, to acquire a basis for understanding the moral. To a view of the world that will only acknowledge the validity of science dealing with the world of Nature, the moral can only consist in illusions arising from processes of Nature which are supposed to take their course in man as well.
Assume for a moment that the cosmic nebula of Kant and Laplace, with its mechanical forces and mechanical laws, did actually constitute the beginning of Earth-existence; assume that from these whirling nebulae, through the working of neutral laws of Nature, the kingdoms of earthly existence had come into being, and finally Man. If that were so, man's moral impulses would be mere dreams. For everything he calls moral would pass away when, again in accordance with mechanical laws, the Earth had reached her end. No vindication of the reality of the moral life can ever arise from such a world-view if followed honestly to its conclusions. Vindication of the moral can only result when, as in anthroposophical Spiritual Science, those realms of existence are revealed where the moral is as much a reality as the world of Nature is a reality here in the life between birth and death. As plants grow and blossom here, between death and a new birth certain activities unfold when man is among the Gods. These activities are the moral element in its reality, the reality of the moral element. In that realm the moral has reality, whereas on the Earth there is only a reflection of that reality. But man, we must remember, belongs to both worlds. Hence for him, if he can perceive these facts in the light of Spiritual Science, the moral world has reality — but knowledge of this reality can never be derived from physical existence.
Here you have one reason why it is necessary for man to acquire understanding of Spiritual Science. Without Spiritual Science he could not really be honest with his knowledge. He could not honestly ascribe reality to the moral world, because he is not willing to investigate the realm where that reality lies. It is of tremendous importance to understand such a sentence as this in the right way. But there is still another respect in which I want to emphasize how necessary the knowledge attainable through Spiritual Science is to man. Here again we shall have to turn to the realities of another world.
Already when we achieve Imaginative Knowledge — the knowledge that enables us to live in the etheric world instead of in the physical world, so that instead of physical things we perceive the activities (for activities they are) in the ether — already when this is achieved, three-dimensional Space as it is on Earth falls away from our field of experience. To speak of a three-dimensional space has no meaning, for we are then living in Time. Hence from from other standpoints I have spoken of the etheric body as a Time-organism. I have said, for example, that here, in the spatial organism, we have the head and, let us say, the leg; and if we sting or cut our leg the head will feel it. Spatially, in this spatial body, one organ is connected with the others. So in the time-body which consists in processes — processes in which everything lying in the deeper foundations of our human nature between birth and death are involved — every detail is connected with every other.
You will remember that in lectures on Education I have said that if at a certain age in childhood we have learnt to have reverence, this power of reverence is transformed in later years into a power of gentleness and blessing which can be conveyed to other men. On the other hand, those who in childhood were never able to revere in the true way cannot unfold this power to bless in later life. As in the spatial organism the foot or the leg is connected with the head, so youth is connected with old age, and old age with youth. It is only for external physical vision that the world flows in the one direction, from the past into the future. For higher vision there is also the reverse stream, from the future into the past. It is into this stream, as I have described, that we enter after death, journeying backwards.
In the time-organism everything is interconnected. If the spatial organism as a whole is to be in order, you cannot remove essential organs from it. You cannot, for instance, remove any considerable part of your face without ruining the whole organism. Similarly you cannot remove anything belonging to man that takes its course in time. Imagine that in the spatial organism, at the place where your eyes are situated there were some quite different growth — instead of eyes, some kind of tumor. Then you could not see. As the eyes are situated at a definite place in the spatial organism, so in the time-organism — and I now mean not only the time-organism between birth and death but the time-organism in man that reaches beyond all births and deaths — in this time-organism is incorporated everything that exists between birth and death and in this life develops through concepts, ideas, mental pictures, of a spiritual world. And what thus develops are the eyes for beholding supersensible existence. If between birth and death no knowledge of the supersensible world is developed, this will mean blindness in the life in the supersensible world between death and a new birth, just as the absence of eyes means blindness in the spatial organism. Man passes through death even if on Earth he acquires no knowledge of the supersensible world; but he enters then into a world where he sees nothing, where he can only grope his way about.
This is the agonizing experience that is the natural corollary of the materialistic age for one who has true insight into Initiation-Science today. He sees how men on Earth lapse into materialism; but he also knows what this lapse means for the spiritual life. He knows that it means eradication of the eyes, that in the existence awaiting them after death, men will only be able to grope their way about. In olden times, when there was instinctive knowledge of the supersensible world, men passed through the gate of death able to see. That old, instinctive supersensible knowledge is now extinct. Today, spiritual knowledge must be consciously acquired — spiritual knowledge, I say, not clairvoyance. As I have always emphasized, clairvoyance too can be attained, but that is not the essential here. The essential thing is that what is discovered through clairvoyant research shall be understood — as it can be understood — by ordinary human reason, healthy human reason. Clairvoyance is needed to investigate these things, but it is not needed for acquiring the faculty of sight in the supersensible world after death. And anyone who declares that ordinary knowledge acquired through healthy human reason does not give him eyes for supersensible existence but that for this he needs clairvoyance — anyone who speaks like this might just as well declare that man cannot think unless his eyes do the thinking. As little as in physical life the eyes need think, as little does knowledge of the supersensible worlds need clairvoyance for the purposes I have indicated today.
Naturally, there would be no supersensible knowledge on Earth if there were no clairvoyance; but even the seer must make intelligible in the ordinary way what he sees in the supersensible. However powerful a man's clairvoyant faculty might be in earthly life, however clear his vision of the spiritual world, if he were too easy-going to bring into the form of logical, intelligible ideas what he sees in the spiritual world, he would still be blinded in the spiritual world after death.
What constitutes the great suffering for one who has insight into modern Initiation-Science is that he must admit: materialism makes men blind when they pass through the gate of death. And here again is something showing that it is of significance for the whole of cosmic existence whether man today inclines to supersensible knowledge or not. The time when it is essential for him to do so has arrived; the very progress of humanity depends upon man acquiring supersensible knowledge.