The Meaning of Immortality of the Human Soul
Berlin, 4 December 1913
Today I would like to speak about the meaning of immortality of the human soul taking up the preceding talk. In case of such a spiritual-scientific consideration, I do not speak using conceptual definitions or theoretical discussions. I would rather like to give some indications from the field of spiritual-scientific research that can shed light on this subject.
It became obvious from the last talk here that spiritual research just wants to penetrate to the immortal essence of the human being. I have said that that research is able to penetrate into the area of human knowledge where this immortal essence is to be found which arises from the development of the human soul that is the only instrument by which we can really penetrate into the spiritual world. I have suggested many a time that everything depends in spiritual research on the fact that single persons are able by means of the mentioned exercises to carry out an inner spiritual-mental activity, detached from the physical body, detached from the tool by which any remaining human soul activity is carried out in the course of the everyday life. By intimate developing processes of the soul, it is possible to free it from the body. I have also indicated that for the spiritual researcher who has really learnt to connect meaning with the words “experiencing beyond the body,” this human soul also arises with its qualities that prove by themselves that the life of this soul outreaches birth and death.
We realise in the course of the today's considerations that such a consideration — attained by initiation of the human soul — gives a meaning to the word immortality. However, I would like to stress first, that we really live in a time in which the deeper human thinking and the more serious consideration of the human life may have the effect that they discharge gradually into the way which spiritual science expounds for the problem of the human immortal soul life. I would like to point only to one matter just from the point of view to gain a meaning of human immortality. I would like to point to that spirit who counts as one of the leading guides of Enlightenment, to Lessing (Gotthold Ephraim L., 1729-1781, German writer, dramatist, art critic), who tried to get a meaning out of the idea of immortality.
In that writing in which Lessing gave his spiritual testament to humanity, he renewed the ancient idea of reincarnation, as he believed; and he undertook this, because he felt forced to understand the complete historical life of humanity on earth as education. One can dismiss easily this testament that he gave as the completion of his striving saying: also great spirits grow old and proclaim many a pipe dream.
However, someone who has learnt to have respect for spiritual life and pursuit cannot dismiss Lessing's Education of the Human Race (1780), his ripest work, in such a way. I cannot go into the details of his writing. I can point only to the fact that to Lessing history appears in such a way that humanity ascends from more primitive conditions of life and views to more and more developed ones. Lessing understands this evolution of the human race as a mysterious education that the spiritual world bestows on the human race. He distinguishes single epochs of the advancing humanity, and from these considerations, the question arises to him who could not yet stand on the ground of our modern spiritual science: how can one position the single soul life of the human being in the historical evolution of humanity?
He says to himself that the single soul life can position itself in the course of the historical development only if one assumes that the human soul lives repeatedly on earth. If one imagines that the soul which lives today has lived repeatedly in preceding epochs in which it has absorbed what these epochs could give the souls. Thus, the question is solved for Lessing in a satisfying way: what about the souls that have lived in ancient epochs and have not taken part of the development of higher soul forces? The answer arises for Lessing that these were the same souls which have lived in former times which have carried over the fruits of the past epochs to their present existence and which gain additional fruits for themselves now which the present can give them. They go with these fruits after death through a wholly spiritual life and they carry them over to future epochs to participate in the progress of humanity. Thus, the whole meaning of the historical development lightens up for Lessing with the sense of the immortality of the human soul at the same time. Thus, this meaning arises for him, and thus the possibility arises for him straight away to remember that the life of the single person is greater and more comprehensive than what can be expressed in the life between birth and death.
As one considers the single life, which this single human soul lives from birth up to death, fits into that what this life can give. It, walks then through the gate of death, casts off the physical body, and penetrates into a spiritual world to look for its further development. One can imagine the complete historical development of humanity and of the earth in the sense of Lessing. What humanity experiences on earth is the “soul” of the earth and everything that geology, biology and other sciences investigate is the “physical body” of the earth which once falls off from the united human souls as the human body falls off from the single human soul at death. Then, however, the earth, after the body has fallen off from it, advances to a future embodiment in the universe to ascend to future spiritual and material heights. One realises that the sense of human existence and of the whole earth evolution arises from this thought of Lessing. Lessing could not be discouraged from this thought by the fact that one can argue that this was a thought which humanity had in the most primitive conditions of the soul development; then, however, it has disappeared from the cultural development. On the contrary, Lessing says at the end of his treatise on The Education of the Human Race, “Is this idea less valuable because it is the oldest, because it lighted up in the human soul before the sophistries of the school paralysed and weakened it?” Lessing imagines without doubt that a future spiritual development brings that to the souls again what they have lost in the interim.
Thus, one attains real forces that carry over the results of ancient times into the present. Thus, one overcomes that impossible point of view where one speaks that “ideas” are effective in the history of humanity, as if “ideas” could be realities one day! However, ideas cannot be effective in history, because mere ideas are abstractions, are nothing real. For Lessing imagines that the real life on earth proceeds because the realities of the human souls carry over what is created in one epoch from epoch to epoch. There we stand on the ground of spiritual realities that hold together the historical epochs of humanity.
You can now ask yourself, what has our spiritual research to say to this thought gained by Lessing on basis of certain historical necessities? Spiritual research finds its way to look at that what exceeds birth and death. Proving this I have to point once again with a few words to what presents itself to the spiritual researcher in the real mental experience. He opens himself to the exercises informed in the previous talk and lives emotionally in such way, after the soul itself has drawn itself out of the physical and has come to an experience in the spiritual. Then this soul has the physical body beside or before itself and experiences it in such a way that it is subjected to death as something external. While the everyday life proceeds, otherwise, in such a way that the human being only develops consciousness if he is, so to speak, within his physical body and uses this as tool to make his surroundings the object of his consciousness, namely the physical-sensory world.
Let us imagine the experience of the spiritual researcher lively that he lifts his soul out of his body that he strengthens the inner soul forces so that he does not depend on perceiving only with the help of the bodily tools, but can control them without bodily forces. Then the spiritual researcher comes to a particular knowledge: where from it comes, actually, that one has a consciousness in the everyday sensory life.
If the spiritual researcher has really freed his soul experience from the physical body, and has this body beside or before him, then he learns to recognise how actually this everyday soul life comes about. I would like to use a comparison. The spiritual researcher does not change the soul life as it is already. What he attains is only that he can behold spiritually what happens, otherwise, in the everyday life. There the spiritual researcher recognises that the activity of the spiritual-mental works on the body in such a way that at first the nervous organs of the human being are treated that one can compare this work to the writing of letters on paper. I ask you to consider what the spiritual researcher recognises at first as spiritual-mental activity is not the thinking, not the feeling, not the will, also not that what one knows in the everyday life as soul activity. However, it is that what works at first in his bodily organs and processes them so plastically that they get those movements only of which the materialistic worldview speaks. These movements in the brain, in the nervous system et cetera are there actually, and in this sense, one has to agree with the materialistic worldview completely. These movements, these oscillations in the brain exist as I write down the letters on paper. As my activity is that of writing, the first activity of the human being that he develops is that he causes movements, oscillations in his nervous system as “letters” at which his soul looks that it is comparable with the sight of my own letters that I have written.
The difference is only that I write the letters consciously on the paper and can consciously read them again. However, if I relate to the outside world, I write the physical activities that are to be carried out in the nervous system unconsciously with the spiritual-mental. If I have written them, they run off, I look at them, and this looking is the conscious soul life.
Thus, we realise that the spiritual-mental in the true sense of the word stands behind that which develops as spiritual-mental in the everyday life, and that between the true spiritual-mental in which the spiritual researcher lives if he has learnt to experience independently of his body and between the spiritual-mental in the everyday soul life the complete bodily experience exists. Between our true spiritual-mental and the everyday conscious life is our body. However, that which this body experiences, how this body puts itself in perpetual organic activity, so that consciousness can originate as a mirror reflects a picture is the result of the spiritual-mental. Behind our body, we stand with our spiritual-mental, and in this spiritual-mental the immortal essence of the human being exists.
If one distinguishes in such a way, one no longer searches the meaning of immortality in the continued existence of those soul contents that one experiences between birth and death; but one has to search the real basic origin of immortality in that what is behind the everyday life. Now we must get a concept of that what is behind this everyday life. However, one can do this while glancing at the real nature of the spiritual investigation.
From that which I have just discussed arises that the everyday consciousness is from the body as comparatively our own picture is reflected by a mirror. Somebody who does not search the spiritual-mental behind the picture but believes that the spiritual-mental originates from the body as the function, as the effect of the body who thinks materialistically resembles a person who says; I see a mirror before myself; it is strange that it lets my picture emerge from its substance. However, it does not let it emerge from its substance, and it is nonsense to believe that the mirror produces the picture; but the mirror reflects the picture.
Thus, the body reflects our own spiritual-mental activity. You can compare your body to a mirror which reflects our spiritual-mental activity, only with the difference that we face the mirror quite passively but treat the body with the spiritual-mental activity first, we write this activity in it which manifests to our consciousness then. The comparison would be correct only if I carried out an activity from my body. This activity would cause a process in the glass which caused the reflection when I stand actively before the mirror and would emit certain radiations et cetera which cause intersections or the like which cause the content of the everyday consciousness and make it possible that the human being appears before himself. However, from that ensues that the human being needs a counterfort for the life between birth and death in which he can reflect his spiritual-mental activity. If you had to develop such content of consciousness without body, you would not be able to do this in the life between birth and death. If the body did not carry out its duty as tool, you would have no counterfort; you would have nothing to reflect the spiritual-mental activity.
If now the spiritual researcher becomes able by the mentioned exercises to lift his spiritual-mental out of the physical body, it also becomes apparent that he can no longer turn his spiritual-mental sight to the outer physical world. This sensory world disappears from the horizon of his consciousness at the same moment when the spiritual researcher lifts the spiritual-mental out of the physical body. I would like to note this only by the way for those who believe that one could be possibly distracted by spiritual research from the pleasant sight of the physical-sensory world with its wealth. O no, this is not at all that way. Just someone who has become a spiritual researcher realises when he lives in his spiritual-mental and the sight of the physical-sensory disappears; but he appreciates its beauty and real value all the more. He returns repeatedly, as long as it is granted to him, strengthened by his stay in the spiritual world; he develops a bigger interest in the beauties of the physical world — and gains a particular support to recognise the beauties of the physical world and their tasks which have escaped him before without spiritual research. Only those make such objections who have not yet come closer to spiritual research.
If it is now really in such a way that the physical world disappears if we do not have the counterfort of the body in order to perceive — and the spiritual researcher has this body beside himself, does not use it as tool, then the question arises: how does the real spiritual consciousness come about? Does the spiritual consciousness not need a counterfort? Does the soul not need anything by which it can be reflected if it wants to go into the spiritual consciousness?
Spiritual research answers this question in such a way that the human being wants a counterfort too when he leaves his physical body with his spiritual-mental and lives in the spiritual-mental, something that is now a mirror to him. Something becomes a mirror to him that is to be endured really still before death if it is experienced in spiritual research only grievously. There we stand again at a point where I must point to the fact that spiritual research leads not only to bliss, but also to tragic moods what one can endure only with big pain. However, the spiritual researcher must just purchase higher knowledge with pain. That what comes up then as a counterfort is the own life which we have gone through from the point of childhood up to which we can otherwise remember. However, we have it in the memory picture in the everyday life in such a way that we are in it as it were that we are combined with it. We ourselves are our thoughts, our experiences, our pains, all memories strictly speaking; we are in them, are one with them. However, with the spiritual researcher it happens that that what one has, otherwise, in memory gets out of him like out of a cover. That with which you are one, otherwise, and about which you say to yourself, I have experienced it, and now I feel combined in my thoughts, sensations and feelings with that what I have experienced — you feel this now like an outer vision, like a Fata Morgana before yourself. You feel that enlarged what comes out of you in which the spiritual-mental is reflected.
There you realise that you must endure in the spiritual-mental experience, in the initiation — not after death — that you have your life as a substantial basis of experience instead of the outer physical impressions. That is in contrast what you can perceive spiritually. — There you realise to what extent you have become a good or bad mirror for the spiritual world. There you get to know above all what it means to face what you have experienced. For that is now the reflecting surface to which everything is in contrast that the spiritual world shows. Instead of having your body as your tool for perceiving, you have your own egoity, your commemorative egoity, and your own experiences as tool. Own experiences must merge with that what you experience spiritually; they must reflect what you experience spiritually. And now you notice — when you do no longer experience your own inside within your body, but have it like a Fata Morgana outside of you — that at this moment this inside presents itself like an etheric being that becomes larger and larger because it is internally related to the whole spiritual universe.
You feel like being soaked up from the spiritual universe. You feel if you have gone through the indicated experiences, as if something exists in the human life between birth and death that is contained in the forces of the physical body. When you have left the physical body with initiation, something becomes free of the forces of the physical body held together as the etheric body. Then that what has become free has the tendency to spread in the spiritual world, it thereby becomes more and more imperceptible — and you risk that your own self, the self of thoughts, dissolves in the spiritual universe, and that you thereby lose its sight because the reflection does no longer exist after the dissolution.
The physical body counteracts it, as long as the physical just lasts. For at the moment when the danger threatens that the subtler etheric of a more spiritual body as it were would lose itself, the physical body asserts its reinforced forces — and one has to go again back into the physical body. Then this is just in such a way, as if you are forced back by the power of the physical body to the everyday perception, to the usual sight and to the physical way. As you can learn from this representation, you get to know the moment that must take place when the physical and chemical forces seize the outer physical body and take it away if death enters. One learns to recognise how the consciousness can live on after death because now the physical body does no longer call back the just described subtler etheric body. It can just live on at first in this form that our own experience faces us as a memory picture, only as long as the forces of the spiritual universe assert themselves and the subtler body disintegrates in the universe.
Thus, we realise how the spiritual researcher causes that condition by his experiences that must come into being with the human being at first after death. As the first, you get to know what takes place after death immediately. Nevertheless, you also learn to recognise that you have only grasped the very first times after death. In my Occult Science. An Outline I have indicated the length of these very first times after death. They last only some days according to the character of the human being. The memory of the past life takes a few days. It lasts as long as the forces of the inner subtler body which spiritual science makes apparent can continue.
If you consider the conditions this way, you ask yourself, what causes the length of the period in which this memory can take place? — If one compares it to the length of that time which this or that person can stay awake in the usual life, then you have the period within which this memory of the past life takes place. You can say, depending on the capacity of his etheric body the human being opens himself to life without falling asleep without having to call forth sleep as compensation, the memory tableau of the past life lasts longer or shorter which presents itself like a living Fata Morgana .
About such a period and about the following ones about which I will still immediately speak you learn to speak in the area of spiritual research by inner consideration, not by outer measuring. What you experience there in the retrospect in the initiation appears in such a way that you know: it contains the forces that the human being must maintain, before sleep overcomes him. You experience the former life for days. What happens then, however, arises from the spiritual research, too. It does not appear in indifferent thoughts what you have experienced in your life between birth and the present moment; but that also appears what you have experienced morally or, otherwise, in the fields of your efficiency, in your fitness for life.
However, this appears in particular way; I would like to discuss it using a concrete example. We look back at our life, look there at a time when we have done something wrong. This wrong appears now to us in that Fata Morgana of the past life. The impression is for the spiritual researcher in such a way that first like in an uninteresting picture, like in a tableau, this life appears and something gradually emerges from it — and in doing so the spiritual researcher beholds more and more tragic conflicts — about which one could say that the whole personal value arises from that what one has done and has experienced. If you have done anything wrong, this wrong first comes out of the tableau of the past-life in such a way that you look at the picture only, knowing that you have done this. Then this picture is penetrated with emotional forces emerging from the spiritual-mental, and you must say to yourself that you cannot be the human being who you should be if you must always look at this what you have done there. You can be this only if you have wiped out this wrong from the perception of the inner destiny, from karma. The longer you succeed in staying with what presents itself like a spiritual mirror, and the longer you look at it, the stronger the emotional experiences appear which say, you must look at your deed as something wrong, until you have extinguished it!
Indeed, the spiritual researcher must go through this. He must see then that in the Fata Morgana which is in contrast to it and becomes a sum of countless self-reproaches what shows him his value quite clearly how far he is, and what he has to deal with in order to make himself the true human being only. Self-knowledge — it is peculiar that it becomes more and more tragic, more and more difficult, the farther you advance in it, and that you face everything as self-reproach in particular that you should not have done, so that you are so fixated on it that you cannot turn away the spiritual glance from it, before it is extinguished.
Up to here, Aristotle (384-322 BC) already recognised the sight of the human spiritual life. He also recognised what must be attached to this Fata Morgana. Aristotle already knew that the human being if he has gone through the gate of death really lives in his being, and looks back-at the own deeds and misdeeds on which his glance is fixated. However, he was not yet as far as a spiritual researcher that he would get beyond this retrospect. This retrospect extends to eternity according to him. Aristotle could not recognise how the human being could escape from it one day; so that he had another retrospect after the first short retrospect that presents itself figuratively before him forever. This is a rather hopeless aspect of his philosophy if you understand it correctly. Aristotle believes that the short life on earth is there to prepare the experience in the spiritual world in which the human being, looking back, would be fixated on the sight of the imperfect existence between birth and death; and his life after death would consist of the fact that he would be fixated on this sight.
His world would be to look at himself in such a way that he was in the life between birth and death; and as we see a world of animals, plants, stones, mountains, seas and so on, we would be fixated on the sight of the experience of our own actions in the time after death. — Franz Brentano (1838-1917), the excellent investigator of Aristotle pointed clearly to it in his book Aristotle and his World View (1911). What I have just stated — even if the words of Aristotle are sometimes in such a way that one can argue about what he had meant with them — arises from Aristotle absolutely. He did not yet know that this is a passageway only as the modern spiritual research can show which presents itself to the human being as such retrospect that is penetrated with inner emotional experiences.
What presents itself to the spiritual researcher if he penetrates into that region which the human being enters striding through the gate of death?
If he has advanced so far that his body does not reclaim him too fast, then that results which is attached to the uninteresting Fata Morgana as retrospect. Since the spiritual researcher can ascend on his way in such a way that he sees a Fata Morgana of his life events and some of his spiritual experiences at first that are obvious; then his body can reclaim that subtle etheric body in his inside, and he enters like from an initiation dream again into the everyday reality. However, if he continues the exercises on and on, he comes so far that he even beholds what lifts out itself from this Fata Morgana, so that that appears which we are not yet which we must become, if we did anything wrong, for example. We are not yet that who has eliminated this wrong; but we must become someone who eliminates the wrong.
This is the internally oppressive again that one feels the forces evoked by the self-inspection, which want to compensate everything wrong karmically. You look at your imperfections. You see them. However, you also see more and more in which way you must do it, so that you can erase the imperfect, the wrong. You see what you must become. This is the self-knowledge that you feel the germinal forces in yourself, which already press us forward beyond death, so that you say to yourself, these forces live in us after death; we do if we are relieved from our body what these demand. Now I must keep the wrong, the imperfections; however, I feel the forces that can eradicate the wrong. Now you know by the inner sight that it lasts for years, until that what presents itself by own experience gradually gets the forces which can really compensate the wrong. Now they cannot compensate it. They must go through a spiritual world first. As true as the physical consciousness says to itself looking at the sun set in the west, now you have to experience the night, then the sun can appear in the east again. As true the spiritual researcher knows if he experiences the germinal forces in the soul: after you have developed the forces gradually, after you have realised after death — or have realised throughout the years — how the compensating forces must be, you must dive into a spiritual world to find the forces. These forces are collected now, as it were, from this spiritual world, so that the human being, after he has experienced the spiritual world between death and new birth, becomes ripe to enter a new life on earth with these forces.
But spiritual research can also get an impression of that what the soul has to experience if it has appropriated those forces spiritually first after death looking at its past life, after it has realised which forces it must have if it prepares for a new life on earth going through the spiritual world. Since the spiritual researcher, as long as he lives on earth, cannot transform these forces. Nevertheless, he looks into the spiritual world; he sees the material for this transformation. He sees as it were originating in himself how the forces demand a new life.
As you can see lungs in a human embryo which has not yet come to daylight, you know that they can breathe: if they come into breathable air. You can also realise if the soul is relieved of the body, the spiritual organs inhaling the spiritual air in the spiritual world that develop spiritually only when they approach a new life on earth. You get to know this spiritual self-development looking at it directly only, you get to know what it means to grasp the spiritual substance with spiritual organs. — If you wanted to use an expression for what happens there with the soul, you would find no other expression in the usual language than that one says: it is a blissful experience in a certain respect. For it is a life in activity, perpetually invoking and acquiring spiritual substance in this existence between death and new birth, causing the preconditions of a new life on earth. In this existence, the soul feels as a part of a spiritual world, and thereby it feels it like heavenly bliss, after it has felt what it must regard as tragic in the past life, what has to develop as the germinal forces on basis of the previous life.
We have now collected everything concerning the sense of the continued existence when the human being goes through the gate of death. First, we have a spiritual, mirage-like retrospect of the past life lasting some days, and then you look back emotionally at this life. Since these emotional experiences are not only a retrospect, but you experience everything that you have committed as imperfections, as wrong what should be different, so that you reach that in the following life which you should reach, and get the forces which you need so that the next life can become different. As long as you have a retrospect of the previous life, you only work on those forces with your thoughts so that you realise, you must have these or those forces in the future life on earth. If you have experienced your life on earth once again after death in the spiritual, then you reach a wholly spiritual region, and you inhale as it were all those spiritual forces, which descend then to combine with that what father and mother can give as physical substance and to form a new life on earth.
It may seem now, as if the passage through the life between death and new birth makes it necessary that the consecutive lives on earth would be more and more perfect. However, this is virtually not the case, because it is true what already a great spirit said out of his almost ill soul: “the world is deep and deeper than the day has thought” (Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883)). We can come only slowly and gradually to that what is put in us, and that our human forces are rather imperfect in relation to what they must become once, and what can stand as an ideal of true humanity before us.
Then it becomes apparent that we are not always able to survey after death which forces we have to appropriate in order to compensate the committed wrong. There many forces participate, so that it may be that we believe to compensate with an even bigger egoism or folly what we have committed from egoism or folly in the previous life. Thereby it can happen that the following incarnation is an even more imperfect one, an even harsher training than the previous one was. However, overall the course through the repeated lives is a rise. It is possible that the human being looking back at the past life can be in error concerning the way of compensating something and that thereby imaginary or real descents are caused. Overall, strong rises often follow deep “falls” of the human being, while after death the dreadful happens that we look back at a deep wrong we have committed, or what adhered to us as a big imperfection, and that we experience a big rise after a deep fall.
Many a thing appears if the spiritual researcher pursues the life sharp-sightedly, since this does not only happen. If you have your life after death as background, you merge with the spiritual world, so that you meet the soul — if you meet something wrong that you committed — that you wronged, at the same time and then you witness the wrong which you committed on this soul. Generally expanding the look at something spiritual leads us not only to our own soul at first but to the other human soul.
You learn to observe the other human soul, so that you start observing and pursuing the other soul that is already disembodied — even if it is hard to believe. Indeed, I have to draw your attention to the following. If the spiritual researcher tries to expand his own life in such a way that he penetrates into the space of experience — “space” is thought symbolically, of course — where any soul is, he can witness the destinies of this soul after death. I must say only that you witness the destinies of those souls at first with which you were connected in the preceding life; but if you advance in spiritual experience, the destinies of such souls with which you were connected in former lives also appear. The spiritual researcher realises that he develops relations with almost all souls on earth; however, it is exceptionally difficult to recognise them and you can succeed only using certain aids.
Some questions may become clear to the single listener if I speak this way about the meaning of human immortality. If you take together the previous talk with the today's one, you can say, I can understand that the everyday consciousness can only develop, while it envelops the everlasting of the human soul like a veil, and that we develop the sensory consciousness because we darken what develops after death. We must bear death in ourselves, so that we can have the present consciousness. To such an extent as we develop the forces that lead us to our natural death, we can develop the everyday consciousness. The fact that we can die makes it possible that we can have the sensory world round us.
Thus, one can understand that the human being must die, so to speak, when he has experienced his life. However, someone who hears speaking about the meaning of immortality this way has to ask again, what about those lives, which may end unfilled in the prime of life, maybe because of inner illnesses or inner weaknesses or misfortunes? What can the spiritual researcher say about such deaths? How do they line up in the course of the earth-lives, and what are they after death?
I would not like to speak here abstractly. I have already held these talks for many years here. Hence, it goes without saying that now somebody may believe that I give such portrayals as mere assertions. You experience repeatedly that those who listen to such things for the first time and have not familiarised themselves with the literature make objections which have been cleared up long since. However, I would not be able to progress in our considerations if I had always to say the same every year. Hence, I must refer compared with completely entitled objections to the fact that one must try to penetrate into the literature and to take into account that I have cleared up such objections already in the course of many talks.
We take the case that a misfortune carries off a blossoming human life. Then the spiritual researcher recognises the following. If he pursues this soul beyond the grave, it becomes apparent that it has adsorbed forces by misfortune, which are adapted to prepare higher intellectual abilities for the next life than it could prepare if this misfortune had not been caused. However, you would badly understand the spiritual researcher if you hold the thought in your mind even in the least, that it would be so easy to make yourself more intellectual for the next life on earth if you let a car run over you. That is not the case. Since it becomes apparent that the consciousness cannot decide on that what is necessary in the human destiny beyond the grave but that higher consciousness which becomes effective there before birth or after death in the wholly spiritual world.
With the usual consciousness, we can never survey whether a misfortune has an effect on us in this or that way. Nevertheless, in numerous cases the spiritual researcher realises that, indeed, in the pre-birth spiritual our soul has already caused such destiny in a wholly spiritual consciousness that has led with certain necessity to this misfortune. We are not entitled after birth to decide this. Before birth we direct our existence to the misfortune, with it our soul receives, so to speak, the possibility to destroy the physical body, and thus it has the experience at the moment of the transition: how does our humanity work if this body is destroyed and does not continue to develop naturally? It makes good sense — not for the everyday consciousness but for our superconscious being — that human lives can also perish, so to speak, by misfortunes before reaching the normal age. It is a long shot to state such a thing in the present, but I have to point to it. The spiritual researcher realises with many souls that these or those talents go back to former lives and he beholds how inventive forces, intellectual forces developed by misfortunes in a certain age which can provide services to humanity.
One has to look only reasonably how for these or those performances which are of original kind a certain human age is necessary. Great inventors get around to uncovering certain forces from the depths of life in a certain age by straining their abilities in the extreme. It needs not be an epoch-making invention; it can also be something that completely serves the usual everyday life. This can be because this soul had to go through conditions of life, which destroyed the body at that time. The soul thereby gains inventive forces that control, direct, and penetrate the physical world. — You cannot “prove” with the outer usual logic that such things can be investigated. However, this can be done only what has been shown so often in these talks that the spiritual researcher gets around to observing with a strictly regulated methodology of his soul life what goes forward when a soul experiences any misfortune which leads to this or that, or even to death.
Let us take another case. If a young human life is carried off by an illness, the spiritual researcher realises that the intellectual life is not so much influenced in the next embodiment but the volitional life. Once again, we are not allowed to cause such a strengthening of the volitional life that we wish in the usual consciousness by an illness that we cause artificially. However, if in the whole context of existence, which is controlled by the spiritual world, a human life is carried off by a pneumonia or another illness in the prime of existence, the spiritual researcher realises very often that such a soul could not unfold such willpower that it already possessed in a way. The outer physical body offered resistance. However, while one experienced the illness, and while the spiritual-mental experienced the resistance of the physical body, going through the life between death and new birth it found that in this resistance what gives the willpower. Just by such a consideration, it becomes apparent that life gets its sense in all directions.
Indeed, all pains that we feel in the physical life on earth facing the misfortunes of life or our destiny will always be there. This will not be removed completely, however, it will be reduced if one realises that wisdom pulsates, nevertheless, through our life. From a higher point of view all pains appear which are integrated in life as necessary for our development, and the spiritual researcher assumes that wisdom is to be found everywhere in the world from the start. He considers life with all its strokes of luck and misfortunes as the result of a calculation that is not there, before one has not carried out the calculation. Wisdom does not exist in the human life, before he does not convince himself in many cases with admiration of the fact that wisdom still forms the basis of any life. Because we are in an experience that must happen by the body, the misfortunes will work suitably, will take us with them as human beings, and it would make the life in the body appear an inhuman one if it could not feel pain with misfortunes. Nevertheless, just as the sense perception covers in life what the spiritual-mental is in its importance for eternity, the experience in the body covers that higher point of view from which any conscious experience of the human being appears as penetrated with wisdom.
The spiritual researcher does not become like a dried up field crop by the fact that he can contemplate wisdom even in a misfortune. No, just because he can rise on a higher viewpoint the survey of life appears to him as filled with wisdom, as rational. However, when he enters the life on earth again and lives in his body, he is a feeling human being, of course, as every other human being. As someone who mounts a summit and has a nice sight from it but must not stop to have the sight of that what proceeds below in the valley, the true spiritual researcher can also not lose any compassion and witnesses human happiness and grief if he faces happiness and grief in the life between birth and death. However, just this spiritual research realises that compared to eternity the human being is not born to despair, but that any look at the realm of the spirit shows him the world full of wisdom, meaningful, and that knowledge of true immortality is a knowledge of the meaning of immortality at the same time.
I could only make some indications of human immortality, and from it, the meaning of human immortality has to arise. The spiritual researcher just has to express those matters in words that lie, so to speak, beyond the usual life if he wants to point to that what the human being experiences, after he has gone through the gate of death. What is experienced in the usual life offers no clue to characterise the life after death if one should recognise its spiritual substantiality. Thus, one must take stock of the fact that the human being is not able to carry the picture of a single lion or a single mountain with him through the gate of death, however, that inner spiritual-mental activity which enables us to have a mountain as a mental picture in our consciousness, or to imagine a lion. We carry them through the gate of death. We carry just that mostly through the gate of death what is not “real” in life. If we see various lions, we form the concept of the lion. You can easily prove of course that the concept of the lion does not exist in the sensory reality, but only the single lion; also not the concept of the mountain, but only the single mountain. However, what enables us to recognise mountains and lions and to understand something spiritual-mental, to recognise justice, freedom and so on what enables us to live with a human soul like with our own soul, to penetrate into the human soul by mysterious sympathies, that mysterious weaving from soul to soul — all that we take with us through the gate of death. On the question, whether we are together again with our kith after death we can answer that we are together with them again! We are together with those who are close to us in life. Also already between birth and death ties exist between the souls which belong to the extra-terrestrial — what one only does not recognise because the mental look is mesmerised by the physical sight.
Investigating the spiritual means at the same time recognising the eternity of this spiritual. Recognising the human being as something spiritual means recognising the eternity of the human spirit. Actually, one has to say as spiritual researcher that someone who regards the spirit as mortal does not recognise it in reality. The philosophers who do not believe in the immortality of the human soul are for the investigation of the soul like botanists who deny the existence of plants. It is the certain way of spiritual research that one can say that the soul recognises the spiritual as something natural as the botanist recognises the plant as that what it is.
Therefore, we can say that that is the most valuable for the complete human life concerning the spiritual-mental, concerning the behaviour of the human soul after death what is covered by the outer observation in the physical-sensory experience what is not perceived in this experience. Someone who wants to bring in concepts in the life after death who does not want to suffer from the “hunger for concepts” after death — if you allow me to use the expression — must appropriate concepts which do not apply already here in the life on earth only to the sensorily discernible, but exceed it. We can live on the spiritual-scientific concepts in the life after death. If anybody believed that the hunger for concepts killed him after death, one has to say that an immortal soul can suffer, indeed, from this hunger, but cannot die of it as the physical body can starve to death.
Thus, I could only give you single indications about the meaning of the immortality of the human soul. Of course, I know best of all what those can or must object to such indications who stand so completely in the consciousness of our time. We live in a time that is completely hostile on one side to accept that that development of the soul, about which I have spoken here, leads really into a wholly spiritual experience. However, we live at the same time in a period in which the human soul longs for the knowledge of the spirit in its subconscious depths. There can be also human beings who say, why can the human being not remain with that what nature has given him, with the reason and the senses which nature has given him? However, this would be, as if anybody said that the child should stop at that what it has as a child, and should not learn what it would have to carry out as an adult. Just on the same point of view somebody would stand who said that the soul should stop at the abilities which it already has.
We see where one can break away from the gross preconceptions that one conceives the real nature of the human essence. One can realise that philosophers of the present break away from the wholly physical experience and interpretation of it. Anyway, it is interesting, even if he misses his aim ever so much that the French philosopher Bergson (Henri B., 1859-1941) regards the memory as something that leads into the spiritual realm. However, one sees at such an example that the philosophers of the present have difficulty bringing themselves to acknowledge the spiritual world. One sees in other points again that a healthy soul life comes up to the front gate of spiritual science. It is extremely interesting that unlimitedly increased attention gives the possibility to transform the human being. If one realises then at least that a very significant philosopher of the present, McGilvary (Evander Bradley McG., 1864-1953), comes out of the health of the American nature just up to the point where he says: if one wants to get to know the real soul being if one wants to get to know what soul what immortality is, one can do this only by developing attention. McGilvary says that the human being can know by an effort, by an increase of the forces of attention that one gets the conception of a spiritual-mental that one has like an inner activity. You realise how such attempts lead to the gate of spiritual science.
Another example: I felt highly satisfied when I got a treatise which a very gifted director of a grammar school — Deinhardt (Johann Heinrich D., 1805-1867) — wrote. There you realise how a highly educated man of the more recent past who could not know spiritual science struggles with the highest questions of life. Indeed, also others did this. Nevertheless, it is interesting to realise that in a talk in which he brought his ideas of immortality forward the editor draws the attention to a letter that he received from this teacher. He writes there: if it were still granted to him to continue his attempts, he still would show how the soul still works in the life between birth and death on a subtle body which goes then through the gate of death. It is encouraging to see somebody struggling in the middle of the age of the arising materialism with the problem that I have treated in the two last talks. I tried there to show that one grasps the immortal essence of the human being spiritual-scientifically, which develops on and on, which goes through the gate of death to prepare for a new earth-life with the passage through the spiritual world. That director refers to this “spiritual-mental essence” as a “subtle body” which the soul organises to carry it through death and in which the subtler forces can gather themselves that the soul needs then to continue its development.
Even if today the glance is deflected from the spiritual-mental because of the great achievements of the outer science, and, hence, the immortality of the human soul is not yet acknowledged and is not understood, nevertheless, one sees the struggle for concepts which give the human being a picture of that what exists after death and brings power and assurance into life and makes the human being only a complete human being. One can say to someone who can live without these “metaphysical things” that life must take place in such a way that it brings up that from its depths — even if the mental glance can be darkened for epochs — what releases the natural view into the fields of the everlasting, the immortal.
Thus, one can say that also for that what seems paradoxical today the time becomes ripe in which that is understood as the achievements of science have always been understood. Already once, I have drawn your attention to the fact that we can feel spiritual science in harmony with the present science. Therefore, I would also like to point to something at the end of these considerations that burst out of the soul of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who did deep looks into the experience of the universe from the viewpoint of his time. He felt his soul taken along by the “stream of becoming” as which he interpreted the whole universe. Heraclitus considered the restless becoming as the real characteristic of the universe. “Being” was a delusion to him. What exists is there in truth only imaginary.
Everything is active in the stream of becoming, and the soul is woven into this perpetually flowing activity. The fire was the symbol of becoming to Heraclitus, he felt his soul positioned into the fire of the universe. Living in it emotionally he felt the impulse of immortality as an inner experience, as an immediate inner observation. He expressed this impulse that way and his words shall close our considerations of human immortality only somewhat changed.
If the soul — freed from the body — soars the free ether, it appears before itself as an immortal spirit freed from death!