17 November 1904, Berlin
We stand at an important point of the development of the spiritual human being between death and a new birth where he moves from the so-called soul-world on the spirit-land or realm of spirits. The human being has been released as we have already heard last time in this point from all that binds him that makes him cling to the physical-material existence. All wishes, desires and passions, all his tendencies to the physical, to the material existence have fallen off from the spirit-man. They do no longer disconcert him in his further development, and then this spiritual human being goes through the spirit-land for long time which is normally called devachan in the theosophical literature. Deva is a divine being, a being that has its reality only in this field of existence; it has no physical body, but a body, which only consists of substances of this spirit-land. The human being has been as it were a companion of these beings in a higher region.
We must not imagine and I would like to emphasise this over and over again as if this devachan is to be sought for anywhere else in space. This spirit-land is around us, it fills our world approximately in such a way as the air fills the physical world everywhere. It can only not be perceived by those people who are only able to make use of their physical senses. If the physical sense is closed and the spiritual eye is opened, the world shines around us in a new light. It takes on new qualities. Then the human being sees things that he has not seen before. As well as that which I have described eight days ago as an astral, as a soul world exists only for the corresponding soul organs, the spirit-land exists for the spiritual eye.
It is difficult to design a picture of this area of reality. You can imagine that this is difficult, because our language is not made for these higher areas of existence. Our words are only appropriate to the everyday life. Any word is assigned to a sensuous thing. However, we must make use of these words if we want to describe the totally different worlds to which we ascend. Hence, one can only speak comparatively, in a more symbolic language of which I must make use to describe it to you. This land is constantly around us, the open eye of the seer sees it. It shines round him as it shines to the human being if not only the physical body, but also all those astral qualities, like desires, impulses, passions which chain him to the physical existence have melted down from him, like the snow melts down from a boulder if the sun shines on it.
The only thing of the spirit-land the human being knows during his physical existence is his thought. However, the thought is only a weak image, a shadow-image of this spirit-land. Normally human beings also say who cling to the physical that the thought is no reality. One also hears saying that something is “only a thought.” For that, however, who knows how to settle down into the world of thoughts who knows the significance of the thought life who knows how to live in the thought life as the usual human being in our world, for that the life of thought gets a different significance.
In no other way than by the means of thought the spirit-land can communicate itself to the human being. The thought life corresponds to this higher spiritual reality. Someone who is capable to behold into this spiritual reality learns to distinguish in it. For him the regions of this higher reality separate as here on our earth the different regions separate for the physical eye. I speak figuratively saying this, but it corresponds to the facts. As well as we have the solid earth's crust which consists of rock and of the solid land, a particular region corresponds to it also in the spirit-land. To the oceans, to the waters of the earth corresponds another particular region; and the atmosphere of the earth corresponds to a kind of atmosphere in the devachan. But these three regions of the devachan are related to the experiences on our earth in a certain way. Everything that you can experience in the physical that you can experience as physical objects which are round you, everything that you see with the eyes, perceive with the senses constitutes, so to speak, the solid crust, the dry land in the devachan. There you see spiritual archetypes of everything that you perceive here with the physical eyes.
But this archetypal land looks very different. If you look at a physical human being, a certain part of the room is filled with his physical organisation. On all sides you see nothing else of the human being. However, for the seer the so-called aura attaches itself as we have described it last time. In the spirit-land or devachan this is completely different. Its reality is related to the physical picture of the human being as the physical reality is related to a photo.
In the spirit-land everything that is filled out with the physical matter is, so to speak, left blank, is a hollow space. If the human being descends again to the physical, the hollow space fills with physical matter again. There is radiant existence, radiant organisation where nothing is in the physical world. Hence, it shines through some things what the first Christian initiates called the higher light of aeons. This organises the human being and connects him with the spiritual world. Thus the human being does not exist in the spirit-land where he exists in the physical. He exists just beside himself, except the physical space which he fills.
If the seer enters the spiritual world, he beholds everything filled with higher reality that appears blank round the things to the physical eye. This is filled with brilliant and radiant light. This light is another light than that which composes the aura of the soul. The human being is not only this soul-aura. This aura is traversed by a higher aura. While the aura of the soul shines in a softly gleaming light, this higher spiritual aura, which remains still visible if the physical body of the person has fallen off, shines brightly; it is not only something smouldering, but something blazing. It also has a particular quality by which it is distinguished from the astral aura. This is the fact that one can see through the spiritual aura, while one cannot see through the astral one. Any spiritual region is completely transparent for that which is in the spirit-land.
This is the lowest part of the spirit-land which I have described now. If the seer ascends to even higher regions, he experiences the all-encompassing life. This all-encompassing life flows through all things. It is the liquid element of the spirit-land. As well as a sea or a river appears to us with its peculiar colours, this all-encompassing life appears to us as an ocean or river of the spirit-land. It shines in colours which can be only compared with the colours of the peach-blossom. In this all-encompassing life you do not find such irregularly shaped rivers and oceans like here on earth, but quite regularly shaped ones, so that the comparison would be much better with the heart and its veins.
The third that can be experienced is the atmosphere of this land. However, this atmosphere is composed of that which we can call the sensations here on earth. One perceives, so to speak, the airy sentient world completely penetrating the space of the spirit-land; there one is able to perceive the universal feeling of the whole earth. However, this feeling also penetrates us from without, like the wind or the storm, like lightning and thunder in the physical atmosphere. There is no longer our own feeling and sensing. The human being has there cast off his own feelings. There the feelings of all the others approach him. He feels one with the feelings of others. Grief and pain flow through this spiritual world like lightning and thunder. You can probably imagine that the insight into this world gives another understanding of reality. Someone who looked once at this sea of human and animal sufferings and joys has seen what it, actually, means: suffering and being glad, what it means that the passions are raging. He then has another concept of war and peace of the world, another concept of the “struggle for existence.” The human being experiences also something of that between death and a new birth.
Then an even higher region comes. You must not imagine these regions in such a way that one proceeds from one place to the other. They all are into each other, they penetrate each other completely. The fourth region is related to our earth only a little, whereas we can perceive qualities in the three regions mentioned above which refer to our earth. Here we already get in touch with higher natured beings, with the beings which are possibly never embodied on this earth. Here those forces face us that already extend beyond the physical. What the human being performs out of the purely ideal, the pure thinking, a purely benevolent attitude, out of love, what the human being performs beyond the physical realm comes from forces that become visible in this region. These regions of the devachan always surround the human being, work perpetually on him. Someone who has intuition, inventiveness creates things which are not images of our earth; he creates something that is brought in from a higher region to our earth. This comes from this fourth region.
One does not need to believe that what is not aware to us does not exist in this sphere. We are not allowed to believe that if a single human being does not perceive these things they are also not there. Someone who comes into the world with a special genius brings it with him from his stay in this region of the devachan.
With it we have arrived at the border, which has to do a little only, as we saw, with our life on earth, which contains, however, what gives just a higher shine to our earth and is intended to be brought down immediately to the sensuous existence what still depends on the sensuous existence, too. The human being can form no work of art, can construct no machine if he does not comply with the physical reality. With the work of art he must study the material.
The other three regions of the devachan which are even higher are regions, which are still less connected with the earth, which, so to speak, shine from a very different world. If the human being ascends to this region either as a seer or in the time between death and a new birth , then he takes everything from it that I would like to call the heavenly spark which the human being brings in to this world. It is that which appears to him as the divine, as the higher spiritual, as the actually idealistic, which comes as higher moral, as higher religiousness and subtler spiritual science into the physical world with him. The human being takes from these three higher regions of devachan any wisdom, any higher shine of existence, which he brings as it were as a messenger of God in to this physical world.
Once again I would like to emphasise that it concerns states of consciousness what I have described, so that the human being can still stay at one and the same place in his consideration, while round him the different regions of devachan light up and appear to him as a much richer reality than the reality is which the physical eye can see, the physical ear can hear or the physical hand can grope. I would like to compare it again and again with a human being who cannot be aware of his physical eyes and ears. Last time I have already pointed to the interesting biography of the blind and deaf-mute American Helen Keller. We look there into a spiritual life which is very different. Imagine once how the world would appear to you if you had no ears and no eyes. Those were the capacities of Helen Keller. Today, however, she has successfully completed a university study and owns an education like one who has successfully completed a university study. We see there how this Helen Keller has already created a wealth within the physical world which has basically different shading, has another nature than what, otherwise, the physical human being owns. She herself says: “People who are of the opinion that all sensory impressions come to us through the eye and the ear were surprised that I notice a difference between the streets of a city and the ways in the country. They forget that my whole body reacts to the surroundings. The roaring of the city whips up all my nerves. The discordant, tumultuous with its strident impressions, the simple rattling of the machines is even more torturing for the nerves because my attention is not deflected by brightly varying pictures like with the other human beings.” Already for this peculiarly organised nature the world is completely different round her. Even more different it is if at the moment of death the physical eye is no longer the intermediary if the impressions do no longer approach us from without. The seer can describe this because he is able to pass the gate of death by means of his mystic contemplation in certain respect.
Imagine you would have red glasses which make everything appear in reddish hues. The world thereby gets a quality that it does no longer have immediately if you take away the red glasses. As well as you take away the red glasses, you give everything away at the moment of death that your eyes and ears make of the environment. What the human being has of the spiritual world in his surroundings as it were as something veiled or coloured, with which his eyes and ears were marked, appears to him now, begins to gleam if I may make use of a Goethean expression from a rich, varied, manifold world. I have described last time what flames up in the astral world. If the human being has now cast off the wishes, desires and passions which induced him to spend some time in the astral world, he comes to new states. Then the veil falls off from his astral eyes, he enters that world which just as our physical world is irradiated by the sun is irradiated by the light of aeons as the Christian mystics called it, that light which can shine from within also to the human being if he has opened his spiritual eye. This light penetrates the whole spiritual world. In the more or less long periods the human being experiences the states between death and a new birth which I have described to you. The human being gets to know the regions of the spirit-land really, he gets to know what it means if the physical matter disappears. Where physical matter is are now hollows. There is nothing. Very different regions of existence appear.
In the Indian Vedanta philosophy a saying is especially practised which the mystics said to themselves over and over again. This saying is practised in the corresponding languages everywhere, and this saying is: thou art that. If the mystic says this to himself again and again, he thinks that the human being is not really only that which is enclosed in his skin physically. The human being could not exist as a single being in the universe; he is connected with forces and levels of existence which are beyond his physical body, so that there is reality to which he belongs, wherever he looks. As he separated from this reality, every other human being is separated from this reality. There the human being experiences that he is basically nothing else than a leaf of a big tree. This tree signifies humanity. Like a leaf withers if it falls off from the tree, the single human being would have to perish if he wanted to separate from the tree of humanity. But he is not able to do this! The physical human being does not know this only; however, at this level it comes true to him. If the human being comes into the world with a disposition which is not merely materialistic which does not cling to the sensuous-physical existence only, he comes into contact with the spiritual world. The more he rises to an idealistic attitude, the more he is able to have an idea of something higher, the more he is able to act out in this world of the spirit. In this world the human being is enclosed in manifold physical connections: here the human being is enclosed in family, people, and race; there he has his friends. It is all connections in the physical world.
He experiences these connections again in the spirit-land. There he only realises the friendship completely. There the sense of togetherness, the feeling of adherence to his native land becomes clear to him to a large extent. There it lives out what here the relationship in the physical world signifies. He now lives within the world of the archetypes. The more he has turned the sense to one of these connections here, the more he has to realise in the region of the spirit-land, while he is enclosed here in the physical body by the physical reality. Like the plant if it is planted in a rock crevice cannot develop in all directions, the same also applies to the human spirit.
Here in the physical cover the qualities are constricted. Only a small part of that appears which he owns as friend love, family love, patriotism et etcetera. If the human being can develop, however, as the plant on free field, his being also lives out freely if he is no longer enclosed in the physical cover and comes back with increased forces. Who has experienced a higher sense of family, lives it out here intensively and will then enter life again with a particular sense of family.
In this region the human being experiences what I have described as “all-encompassing life”. He experiences the liquid element in the spirit-land. There we see if we obtain an insight as a seer someone slowly brightening up who already developed a sense of the “all-encompassing life” on earth, which weaves and flows in all beings. That means developing religious devoutness. The devout human being raises his sense to the “all-encompassing life” flowing through everything. The human being freely lives out the religious devout sense in this second region of the devachan. This sense appears strengthened and invigorated at the new birth. Here we see the human being rising up above the barriers which this incarnation has put to him in the physical life. We see the Hindu, the Christian experiencing their particular kind of the “all-encompassing life” in the devachan if the barriers have fallen and a bigger unity is produced in this region.
In the third region, we discover the archetypes of grief and desire, of joy and pain where this element surrounds us like the atmosphere surrounds the earth. If the human being settles down in this region, he learns to develop a sense of unselfish devotion to everything that suffers in the world, to everything that can rejoice in the world. No longer sensory desire and sensory pain depress him. He no longer knows any difference between his pain and the pain of others, but he knows what desire and pain are in themselves. We learn to recognise the reality of grief and pain. We get to know the great philanthropists here; all those who can appear in the world as the geniuses of philanthropy, the geniuses of charity, as great creators of philanthropic connections of sympathy and goodwill, of human community are in this third region and attain their abilities there.
In the fourth region, the human being takes up what he realises using the earthly forces and abilities, using the qualities of the earthly things with his intuition, his inventions and discoveries. Here are those who serve their fellow men in the new life as artists, as great inventors or in some other way with brilliant ideas, with encompassing view of the world, with encompassing wisdom. Depending on how the human being has developed these or those qualities already in this life, the work of the consciousness lasts in the devachan longer, of course. It is a state of the highest bliss. What limited and hampered him on earth has fallen off from him. Now he freely unfolds his abilities. All obstacles have been removed. The human being feels this possibility to spread out his wings in all directions to let flow his increased forces then again into the physical incarnation and to work even more vigorously and energetically on earth. This appears to him as a state of the highest bliss. The religions of all times have described this bliss as the heavenly salvation. Hence, devachan also appears with different religions as the so-called kingdom of heaven.
The time in devachan is not of equal length for all human beings. The uneducated savage who has experienced a little of this world only who has applied his mind and sense only a little has a short stay in the devachan. The devachan is basically supposed to elaborate what the human being has learnt in the physical, to unfold it freely, to make it suitable to a new life. The human being, who is on a higher level of existence who has collected rich experiences, has to process a lot and, hence, has a long stay in the devachan. Only later, when he is able to look into these states, the stays become again shorter up to the point where the human being can immediately walk after death again to a new incarnation because he has already experienced what is to be experienced in devachan.
There are even higher stages which are beyond devachan to which the human being will walk when he has already developed his higher being. We have to imagine this is also spoken figuratively that every human being passes that region of the spirit-land between death and a new birth which is beyond the connection of all earthly, and that devachan extends into far higher regions of existence where from the human being gets the divine forces he brings in as a messenger of God to this world. The messengers of God come from this region. Also the uneducated human being, however fast he may hurry through it because he has to look a little in it because he can unfold a little in it, must spend short time at least between death and a new birth in this region of devachan which is the freest from all earthly bonds. There all gravity of the earth has fallen off from him. There he takes share in the breeze which flies from the divine world to him, which penetrates him between death and a new birth. Those who have got to a higher level of existence stay here longer. They obtain the possibility to descend with particular wisdom, with particular spiritual forces again to the earth to help as higher natured individualities their fellow men.
The guides of humanity stay in this region for longer time. Also those who are transported away from the world are to be found here, beings whom the theosophical literature calls masters, those beings whose development is far beyond what still sticks to the present human being. The longer the human being can delight in the contact of these beings between death and a new birth, the purer, the nobler and more moral he enters the earthly scene again. The more he has again seen to it that he has become pure, noble, and idealistic on this earth, the longer he can share of the air which blows in these parts of the devachan.
This is the way the human being has to go through on his pilgrimage between death and a new birth. These are states of consciousness, not different places. The human being does not go from one place to the other wandering through these regions. On the contrary, one could say that they disappear, fade away, but only in such a way, as for example the outer physical world disappears if you close the eyes or block the ears. But as it becomes dark and silent in this case around you, it becomes clear and bright round you in that case, and a new world rises.
What is to be said about the time which the human being has to spend in this devachan can be decided only according to the experience, of course. Only that is able to say something about it who has any anyhow natured experience in this field, who is able to remember his own former incarnations or who can consciously as a seer attain an insight of the luminous world of the spirit.
It is very different according to the developmental state of the human being how much time he spends in devachan. But one can approximately find the time which the human being spends in the heavenly world. You find it if you multiply the earthly lifetime, the time between birth and death, with a number which lies between twenty and forty. The time depends on the development the human being has achieved but also on the physical lifespan. If a child soon dies after birth, you need to multiply only the time of life by twenty to forty, and you receive the time of the stay in the devachan. Who has a long life has to go through long and important states in devachan and has also to feel a lot of that which one calls the beatific sensations of devachan in mysticism. This life in devachan differs quite substantially from all that the physical eyes or generally the physical senses can imagine.
Even if the concepts, the words with which I have described this region could be only approximate, I tried to describe as faithfully, as accurately as possible. These regions themselves do not belong not in their substance, not in their real being to the deepest nature of the human being. This deepest nature of the human being, which Giordano Bruno calls the monad, the highest spiritual-living in the human being comes from even higher worlds. I tell something of these even higher worlds the next hour which deals with the basic concepts of theosophy. Then I also speak about the way how the capacities of the human beings have to develop to take a look at these higher worlds. The mystic describes not only what he sees in them, but he is already allowed to describe also how the human being can get round to developing his dispositions to take a closer look at these worlds.
At the end, I would like to do only few remarks.
It is common practice that those who first hear something of the described region of the devachan say that this region is an illusion, something illusory; because it reminds of its shadow-image, the thought in the physical life; it must also have a less real existence than our physical world. However, this is not the case. To somebody who has obtained insight in this higher world it has become clear that in it much stronger, much higher realities exist than in our physical reality. One gets to know the physical existence in its true significance if one is able to see it in the light of these higher worlds. As well as a piece of steel can be before you but you do not suspect that it entails electric or magnetic forces, an object of the physical world can extend before you, but you do not suspect that it contains a much higher being. Hence, also those who knew something of the coloured and sounding world describe it in the most shining colours and describe the sounds, which penetrate to their spiritual ear, in the most marvellous words. The old Pythagoreans spoke of the music of the spheres.
Nobody else knows the music
of the spheres than someone who has an insight into this world of the
devachan. Many people think that it is something figurative, something
symbolic. No, it is something of the highest reality. From the spiritual
world the rhythmical melodies sound toward us which are the cosmic forces
of the universe. The cosmic forces are rhythmical, and we hear that
rhythm if we are able to use the “devachanic ear”, and that
inexpressible bliss occurs which the mystic is able to perceive. If
everything of this world disappears, everything escapes from his attention
what sounds by the senses, and then he describes the impression of the
The human being has to go through this between death and a new birth. There he is a sprout of the new reincarnation. He is the grain of mustard seed, which lives through the devachan time to a new incarnation. The German mystic Angelus Silesius (born Johann Scheffler, 1624–1677, mystic and religious poet) who spoke so many beautiful moving words in his Cherubinic Pilgrim (1657/1674) described the sensation and the whole being in this marvellous mystic book briefly and clearly in a saying, how the spirit lives from death to a new birth as a seed which prepares itself for a new existence to unfold new and higher forces. Angelus Silesius says with the following words what every mystic knows that the heart giving off the spiritual light is able to radiate:
A grain of mustard seed is my mind;
If His sun shines through it,
It grows, equal to God, with joyful delight.