Our bookstore is now open. Shop today →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Popular Occultism
GA 94

III. Man's Different States after Death

30 June 1906, Leipzig

Yesterday I described the astral world. To-day we shall deal with man's life after death in the astral world. This will give us a basis for an understanding of reincarnation and karma.

We have seen that when we die the following processes take place: The physical body remains behind as a corpse; whereas during sleep the etheric body remains connected with physical body, the etheric body, the astral body and the Ego go out of the physical body at the moment of death. Immediately after death, the whole earthly life unfolds itself in every detail before the soul of the departed in the form of pictures. This process lasts for about three days, until the next separation, namely that of the etheric body from the astral body and the Ego. In the occult meaning we therefore speak of two corpses. After a while, the etheric body remains behind as a second corpse.

When the second separation has taken place, the capacity of memory ceases — but not for always — and a new condition begins for the human being. What is this new condition? Man now experiences himself in the world which he enters every night during sleep. But this after-death condition greatly differs from the sleeping condition. Theosophical books sometimes describe death as if it were a kind of sleep. But this is not the case; soon after death man grows conscious of the astral world. Nevertheless there exists in the proverb: Sleep is the brother of death. ... and this is justified. This new state of existence is called life in Kamaloca.

We have seen that during sleep the astral body works on the physical body and on the etheric body in order to renew their forces. This work suppresses consciousness during sleep and prevents us from having perceptions of the astral world. After death the astral body is dispensed from this work indeed no longer to restore fatigue, and for this reason it begins to grow conscious of the astral world. Upon the Earth, this force was used for the reconstruction of the physical body, but now it is free and exists in the form of consciousness. When the astral body is no longer obliged to restore anything, it perceives the images of the astral world. This also shows you why we should strive after a sound sleep.

Observe physical life here in this world, how everyone seeks to satisfy his senses. What a human being enjoys, is enjoyed by his soul, but the organ which enables him to enjoy is physical. If a person enjoys eating, the soul needs the palate for its enjoyment. After death the longing for these enjoyments continues to exist, whereas the organs no longer exist. The soul yearns for good food, but the organ enabling it to taste it is lacking. The longing can no longer be satisfied. The soul is like a wanderer suffering terrible thirst looking in vain for water, for a possibility to quench his thirst.

This state of existence does not last forever, little by little the longings cease. Many religions describe it as a life in purgatory. And old painter sometimes depicted in other pictures with flames of fire. In fact, the soul suffers a burning thirst.

The further courses is that the human being feels his last longings and lives through his whole life backwards, as far as his birth; when he had no passionate longings. Afterwards man enters Devachan. This is clearly indicated in the Gospel verse: unless ye become like little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of God. — Little by little the human being must free himself from everything which linked him up with the physical world. Kamaloca is the condition in which he emancipates himself from everything which chains him to the world of the senses. It is influenced entirely by the sensory life in the physical world. If a person entirely submitted to his senses, his life in Kamaloca will be long and difficult. Ordinarily the Kamaloca-existence takes up about one third of the duration of earthly life. Past life rises up before the soul in the form of images and beings that torment us. In Kamaloca everything is reversed: what used to satisfy us, is now want. Hot passion calls up the feeling of horrible chilling Beings. And the burning thirst remains throughout. The more a human being freed himself from physical life before death and the easier his death, the more readily will he disaccustom himself to the world of the senses. In the case of suicides this will be most difficult of all, for they were the prey of an illusion: they do not consider that in violently severing themselves from the life of the senses, they will be seized by an unspeakable greed for their physical body, which would keep them in close proximity to the physical world. A similar fate — though in a weaker form awaits those who lost their life suddenly through some accident. Such a sudden death also brings with it an avidity for the physical world, for the physical body, but later on this will be compensated in Devachan. When the soul has laid aside its earthly desires, it enters the Devachan state of existence.

Spiritual science does not teach us to turn away from life. The spiritual scientist may use the following comparison: the soul resembles a bee that flies out to the meadows to seek honey and bring it back to the hive. Here on earth the soul gathers the honey of life which he brings to the altar of the Godhead after death. The soul could never do this without a life in the physical world.

When man incarnates and begins to see, he at first simply perceives through his eyes. Gradually spiritual enjoyment grows out of this. Physical pleasure changes into spiritual enjoyment. The savage with but a few incarnations enjoys the many colors and the simplest sense-impressions. With each incarnation his senses grow more refined. — If we had never enjoyed colours sensually, we could never attain spiritual enjoyment of colors. The sensually enjoyment is therefore a necessary deviation. We should enjoy the beauty of the physical world. Similarly, sensual love gradually leads to the highest, purest, spiritual love. The soul should transform every experience and carry it up to the altar of spirituality. Nothing, really nothing, is ever lost. Without the school of sensuality, we can never reach spirituality. The Earth is not a valley of tears, it is a gathering place and the human beings are — so the Bible says — messengers, Angels of God, sent out to gather honey.

The human being is passing through a process of transformation. Think of your childhood years! How many thoughts and concepts approached you and how much you took in! And how your thoughts and concepts changed from the 10th to the 20th year! Your temperament undergoes a far weaker change. A passionate child will still be passionate in old age. The temperament is engraved in the human body. A choleric person has quite a different expression, bearing and walk from a sanguine, melancholic or phlegmatic person. We should strive, above all, to change our temperament to a certain extent at least. This was a training Occult Schools. The whole trend of life was changed in Occult Schools. The essential thing there was to transform the will.

After death, our spiritual connections and ties reach us as far as Devachan. Two people are intimate friends and their friendship takes on more and more spiritual character. Yet the physical body constitutes a certain obstacle. In Devachan this friendship will find its full, pure expression.

Everything that we drew out of our earthly life becomes interwoven with the soul, with the spirit. This enables us to shape our next incarnation, as far as the body, and earthly life is the expression of what we worked out for ourselves. In the East there is a proverb which says: what you think to-day, you are tomorrow.

During each incarnation we thus work for the next one. In my next lecture I will describe man's experiences in Devachan. Life in Devachan is not a dream-condition, for the human being does not sleep through the spiritual world. There, his consciousness is a much higher one, it is more alive than here on Earth. In Devachan everything appears in a stronger light. We do not lose our friends in Devachan; our connections with them are simply of another kin — it is a far more intimate and spiritual union. Devachan is a far more real state of existence than earthly life.