Life Between Death and Rebirth
5. Life between Death and Rebirth I
26 November 1912, Munich
It has often been explained that it is not as easy to investigate and describe the realm of the occult as is commonly thought. If one wishes to proceed conscientiously in this domain, one will feel it necessary to make repeatedly fresh investigations into important chapters of spiritual research. In recent months it has been my task, among many other things, to make new investigations into a subject of which we have often spoken here. New aspects emerge as a result of such investigations.
Today we shall deal again with the life between death and rebirth, although it can only be done in outline. This does not mean that what has previously been said has to be changed in any way. Precisely in connection with this chapter this is not the case, but in the study of super-sensible facts we should always consider them from as many points of view as possible. So today we will consider from a universal standpoint much of what has been presented in my books Theosophy or Occult Science more from the aspect of immediate human experience. The facts are the same, but we should not imagine that we are fully conversant with them when they have been described from one point of view only. Occult facts are such that we must move around them, so to speak, and examine them from every point of view. In regard to spiritual science the mistake is all too common that judgments are passed by people who may have heard a few statements about a subject without having had the patience to allow what can be said from other aspects to work upon them. Yet the truths of spiritual research can be understood by sound common sense, as was pointed out in yesterday's public lecture.
Today we shall not pay so much attention to the stage after death where the life in kamaloca begins, but rather consider the point at the end of kamaloca when life in the spiritual proper begins. This period lasts until the soul descends into a new incarnation and re-enters earthly life.
Something can be communicated about these matters because, as you know, clairvoyant vision brings one into the same realm in which a human being dwells between death and rebirth. In initiation one experiences, although in a different way, what takes place between death and rebirth. This accounts for the fact that one can communicate something about this realm.
To being with, I wish to mention two fundamental points of clairvoyant perception that also will help in our understanding of life after death. Attention has often been drawn to the great difference between life in the super-sensible world and life in the physical, material world. For instance, the process of knowledge is totally different in the super-sensible world from what it is on earth. In the physical world objects present themselves to our senses by making impressions of color and light upon our eyes, audible impressions upon our ears and other impressions upon other sense organs. To perceive objects we must move about in the world. To perceive an object at a distance, we must go towards it. Briefly, in the sense world we must move about to perceive things. The opposite holds true for super-sensible perceptions. The quieter the soul, the more everything in the way of inner movement is excluded, the less we strive to draw a thing towards us, the longer we are capable of waiting, the more surely will the perception come and the truer will be the experience we gain from it. In the super-sensible world we must allow things to approach us. That is an essential point. We must develop inner silence. Then things will come to us.
The second point I wish to make is this. The way in which the super-sensible world confronts us depends on what we bring with us from the ordinary sense world. This is important. It may give rise to considerable soul difficulties in the super-sensible world. For instance, it may be exceedingly painful to realize in the super-sensible world that we loved a person less than we ought to have done, less then he deserved to be loved by us. This fact stands before the spiritual gaze of one who has entered the super-sensible world with far greater intensity than could ever be the case in the physical world. In addition, something else may cause great pain to one with clairvoyant consciousness. None of the forces that we are able to draw from the super-sensible world can in any way change or improve a relationship of soul in the physical that we recognize as not having been right. It cannot be made good by forces drawn from the spiritual world. This experience is infinitely more painful than anything we may experience in the physical world. It gives rise to a feeling of powerlessness towards the necessity of karma that can be lived out only in the physical world. These two factors confront the pupil of occult science after only a little progress. They appear immediately in the life between death and rebirth. Suppose that shortly after death we meet a person who died before us. We encounter him, and we feel the total relationships that we had with him here on earth. We are together with the one who died before, at the same time or after us, and we feel that that is how we stood with him in life. That was our relationship to him. But whereas in the physical world when we realize that we have done an injustice to someone in feeling or in deed, we are able to make the necessary adjustment, we are not able to do so, directly, in the life after death. Clear insight into the nature of the relationship is there, but in spite of the full awareness that it ought to be different, we are incapable of changing anything. To begin with, things must remain as they are. The depression caused by many a reproach is due to the fact that one is clearly aware of the way in which a relationship was not right but it must be left as it is. Yet one feels all the time that it ought to be different. This mood of soul should be transposed to the whole of life after death. After death we realize all the more strongly what we did wrongly during our life on earth but we are incapable of changing anything. Things must take their course, regardless. We look back on what we have done and we must experience wholly the consequences of our actions, knowing full well that nothing can be altered.
It is not only with relationships to other human beings, but with the whole of our soul configuration after death, which depends on a number of factors. To begin with, let me portray life after death in the form of Imaginations. If we take the words “Visions” or “Imaginations” in the sense in which I explained them yesterday, no misunderstanding will arise. Man perceives the physical world through his sense organs. After death he lives in a world of visions, but these visions are mirror-images of reality. Just as here in the physical world we do not immediately perceive the inner nature of the rose, but the external redness, so do we not have a direct perception of a departed friend or brother, but encounter a visionary image. We are enveloped in the cloud of our visions, so to speak, but we know quite clearly that we are together with the other being. It is a real relationship, in fact more real than a relationship between one person and another can be on earth.
In the first period after death we perceive a soul through the image. Also after the kamaloca period the visions that surround us, and that we experience, point back, for the most part, to what we experienced on earth. We know, for instance, that a dead friend is there outside us in the spiritual world. We perceive him through our visions. We feel entirely at one with him. We know exactly how we are related to him. What we chiefly perceive, however, is what happened between us on earth. This, to begin with, clothes itself in our vision. The chief thing is the aftermath of our earthly relationship, just as even after the kamaloca period we live in the consequences of our earthly existence. The cloud of visions that envelops us is entirely dependent on how we spent our earthly existence.
In the first period of kamaloca the soul is clothed, as in a cloud, by its Imaginations. At first the cloud is dark. When some time has elapsed after death, Imaginative vision gradually perceives that this cloud begins to light up as if irradiated by the rays of the morning sun. When Inspiration is added to Imaginative cognition we realize that we live, to begin with, in the cloud of our earthly experiences. We are enveloped by them. We are able to relate ourselves only to those who have died and with whom we were together on the earth, or to those still on earth capable of ascending with their consciousness into the spiritual world. What we have characterized for Imaginative cognition as the illumination of the cloud of our visions from one side by a glimmering light points to the approach of the hierarchies into our own being. We now begin to live into the realm of higher spirituality. Previously, we were only connected to the world we brought with us. Now the life of the higher hierarchies begin to shine towards us, to penetrate us. But in order to understand this process, we must gain some insight into the relationships of size perceived through imaginative cognition as the soul draws out of the physical body.
This actually happens as we pass through the gate of death. Our being expands and becomes larger and larger. This is not an easy concept but that is what actually happens. It is only on earth that we consider ourselves limited within the boundary of our skin. After death we expand into the infinite spaces, growing ever larger. When we have reached the end of the kamaloca period, we literally extend to the orbit of the moon around the earth. In the language of occultism we become Moon dwellers. Our being has expanded to such an extent that its outer boundary coincides with the circle described by the moon around the earth. Today I cannot go into the relative positions of the planets. An explanation of what does not apparently agree with orthodox astronomy can be found in the Düsseldorf lectures, Spiritual Hierarchies and Their Reflection in the Physical World: Zodiac, Planets, Cosmos.
Thus we grow farther out into cosmic space, into the whole planetary system, though first into what the occultist calls the Mercury sphere. That is to say, after the kamaloca period we become Mercury dwellers. We truly feel that we are inhabiting cosmic space. Just as during our physical existence we feel ourselves to be earth dwellers, so then we feel ourselves to be Mercury dwellers. I cannot describe the details now, but the following conscious experience is present. We are not now enclosed in such a small fraction of space as during our earthly existence but the wide sphere bounded by the orbit of Mercury is within our being. How we live through this period also depends upon how we have prepared ourselves on earth — on the forces we have imbibed on earth in order to grow into the right or wrong relationship to the Mercury sphere.
In order to understand these facts we can compare two or more people by means of occult research but we will take two. For instance, let us consider a man who passed through the gate of death with an immoral attitude and one who passed through the gate of death with a moral attitude of soul. A considerable difference is perceptible and it becomes apparent when we consider the relationship of one person to another after death. For the man with a moral attitude of soul, the pictures are present, enveloping the soul and he can have a certain degree of communion everywhere with other human beings. This is due to his moral attitude. A man with an immoral attitude of soul becomes a kind of hermit in the spiritual world. For example, he knows that another human being is also in the spiritual world. He knows that he is together with him but he is unable to emerge from the prison of his cloud of Imaginations and approach him. Morality makes us into social beings in the spiritual world, into beings who can have contact with others. Lack of morality makes us into hermits in the spiritual world and transports us into solitude. This is an important causal connection between death and rebirth.
This is true also of the further course of events. At a later period, after having passed through the Mercury sphere, which in the occult we call the Venus sphere, we feel ourselves as Venus dwellers. There between Mercury and Venus, where our cloud of visions is irradiated from without, the Beings of the higher hierarchies are able to approach the human being. Now again it depends on whether we have prepared ourselves in the right manner to be received as social spirits into the ranks of the hierarchies and to have communion with them, or whether we are compelled to pass them by as hermits. Whether we are social or lonely spirits depends upon still another factor. Whereas in the previous sphere was can be sociable only if this has been prepared on earth as a result of morality, in the Venus sphere the power that leads us into community, into a kind of social life, is due to our religious attitude on earth. We most certainly condemn ourselves to become hermits in the Venus sphere if we have failed to develop religious feelings during earthly life, feelings of union with the Infinite, with the Divine. Occult investigation observes that as a result of an atheistic tendency in the soul, of rejecting the connection of our finite with our infinite nature, the human being locks himself up within his own prison. It is a fact that the adherents of the Monistic Union, with its creed that does not promote a truly religious attitude, are preparing themselves for a condition in which they will no longer we able to form any Monistic Union, but will be relegated each to his own separate prison!
This is not meant to be a principle on which to base judgments. It is a fact that presents itself to occult observation as the consequence of a religious or irreligious attitude of soul during earthly life. Many different religions have been established on the earth in the course of evolution, all of them emanating essentially from a common source. Their founders have had to reckon with the temperament of the different peoples, with the climate and with other factors to which the religions had to be adjusted. It is therefore in the nature of things that souls did not come into this Venus sphere with a common religious consciousness, but with one born of their particular creed.
Definite feelings for the spiritual that are colored by this or that religious creed bring it about that in the Venus sphere a man has community only with those of like feelings who shared the same creed during earthly life. In the Venus sphere individuals are separated according to their particular creeds. On the earth they have hitherto been divided into races according to external characteristics. Although the configuration of groups in the Venus sphere corresponds in general to the groupings of people here on earth because racial connections are related to religious creeds, the groupings do not quite correspond because there they are brought together according to their understanding of a particular creed. As a result of experience connected with a particular creed, souls enclose themselves within certain boundaries. In the Mercury sphere a man has, above all, understanding for those with whom he was connected on earth. If he had a moral attitude of soul, he will have real intercourse in the Mercury sphere with those to whom he was related during his earthly life. In the Venus sphere he is taken up into one of the great religious communities to which he belonged during his earthly existence by virtue of his constitution of soul.
The next sphere is the Sun sphere in which we feel ourselves as Sun dwellers for a definite period between death and rebirth. During this period we learn to know the nature of the Sun, which is quite other than astronomy describes. Here again it is a question of living rightly into the Sun sphere. We now have the outstanding experience, and it arises in the soul like an elemental power, that all differentiations between human souls must cease. In the Mercury sphere we are more or less limited to the circle of those with whom we were related on earth. In the Venus sphere we feel at home with those who had similar religious experiences to ours on earth and we still find satisfaction only among these communities. But the soul is conscious of deep loneliness in the Sun sphere if it has no understanding for the souls entering this sphere, as is the case with Felix Balde, for instance. Now in ancient times conditions were such that in the Venus sphere souls were to be found in the provinces of the several religions, finding and giving understanding in them. Because all religions have sprung from a common source, when the human being entered the Sun sphere he had in him so much of the old common inheritance that he could come near to all the other souls in the Sun sphere and be together with them, to understand them, to be a social spirit among them.
In these more ancient periods of evolution souls could not do much of themselves to satisfy the longing that arose there. Because without human intervention a common human nucleus was present in mankind, it was possible for souls to have intercourse with others belonging to different creeds. In ancient Brahmanism, in the Chinese and other religions of the earth, there was so much of the common kernel of religion that souls in the Sun sphere found themselves in that primal home, the source of all religious life. This changed in the middle period of the earth. Connection with the primal source of the religions was lost and can only be found again through occult knowledge. So, in the present cycle of evolution man also must prepare himself for entering the Sun sphere while still on earth because community does not arise there of itself. This is also an aspect of the significance of the Mystery of Golgotha, of Christianity. Because of it human beings in the present cycle of evolution can so prepare themselves on earth that universal community is achieved in the Sun sphere. For this purpose the Sun Spirit, the Christ, had to come down to earth. Since His coming, it has been possible for souls on the earth to find the way to universal community in the Sun sphere between death and rebirth.
Much could be added in support of the universality that is born of the Christ Mystery when it is rightly understood. Much has been said in the course of years, but the Christ Mystery can ever and again be illuminated from new aspects. It is often said that special emphasis of the Christ Mystery creates prejudices against other creeds, and that is advanced because in our Anthroposophical Movement in Central Europe special emphasis has been laid on it. Such a reproach is quite unintelligible. The true meaning of the Christ Mystery has only been discovered from the occult aspect in modern times. If a Buddhist were to say, “You place Christianity above Buddhism because you attribute a special position to the Christ that is not indicated in my sacred books, and you are therefore prejudiced against Buddhism,” that would be as sensible as if the Buddhist were to claim that the Copernican view of the universe cannot be accepted because it, too, is not contained in his sacred writings. The fact that things are discovered at a later date has nothing to do with the equal justification of religious beliefs.
The Mystery of Golgotha is such that it cannot be regarded as a special privilege. It is a spiritual-scientific fact that can be acknowledged by every religious system just as the Copernican system can. It is not a question of justifying some creed that up until now has failed to understand the Mystery of Golgotha, but rather is it a question of grasping the spiritual-scientific fact of Golgotha. If this is unintelligible, it is even more so to speak about an abstract comparison of all creeds and to say that one ought to accept an abstract similarity among them. The different creeds should not be compared with what Christianity has become as a creed, but with the essence that is contained in Christianity itself.
Take the Hindu creed. Nobody is received into this creed who is not a Hindu. It is connected with a people, and this is true of most ancient creeds. Buddhism has broken through this restriction, yet if rightly understood, it too applies to a particular community. But now let us consider the external facts. If in Europe we were to have a creed similar, let us say, to the Hindu creed, we should be obliged to swear allegiance to the ancient god, Wotan. Wotan was a national god, a god connected with a definite racial stock. But what has in fact happened in the West? It is not a national god that has been accepted, but, inasmuch as his external lie is concerned, an alien personality. Jesus of Nazareth has been accepted from outside. Whereas the other creeds essentially have something egoistical about them in the religious sense and do not wish to break through their boundaries, the West has been singled out by the fact that it has suppressed its egoistical religious system — for example, the ancient Wotan religion — and for the sake of its inner substance has accepted an impulse that did not grow out of its own flesh and blood. Insofar as the West is concerned, Christianity is not the egoistical creed that the others were for the different peoples. This is a factor of considerable importance that is also borne out by external happenings. It makes for the universality of Christianity in yet another respect if Christianity truly places the Mystery of Golgotha at the center of the evolution of humanity.
Christianity has not yet made great progress in its development because even now two aspects have still not been clearly distinguished. They will only be distinguished slowly and by degrees. Who, in the true sense of the Mystery of Golgotha, is a Christian? He is one who knows that something real happened in the Mystery of Golgotha, that the Sun Spirit lived in the Christ, that Christ poured His Being over the earth, that Christ died for all men. Although Paul declared that Christ died not only for the Jews but also for the heathen, these words even today are still little understood. Not until it is realized that Christ fulfilled the Deed of Golgotha for all human beings will Christianity be understood. For the real power that flowed from Golgotha is one thing, and the understanding of it is another. Knowledge of who the Christ really is should be striven for, but since the Mystery of Golgotha our attitude to every man can only be expressed as follows. Whatever your creed may be, Christ also died for you, and his significance for you is the same as for every other human being.
A true understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha leads to the attitude that we ask ourselves about each person we meet, “How much has he in him of real Christianity, irrespective of his particular beliefs?” Because man must increasingly acquire consciousness of what is real in him to know something of the Mystery of Christ is naturally a lofty ideal. This will become more widespread as time goes on, and to it will belong the need to understand the Mystery of Golgotha. But this is different from the concept that one may have of the Mystery of Golgotha, of its universality that holds good for all human beings. Here the essential thing is for the soul to feel that this makes us into social beings in the Sun sphere. If we feel enclosed in some creed, we become hermits there. We are social beings in the Sun sphere if we understand the universality of the Mystery of Golgotha. Then we can find a relation to every being who draws near to us in the Sun sphere. As a result of the insight into the Mystery of Golgotha that we acquire during earthly life within our cycle of evolution, we become beings able to move freely in the Sun sphere.
Of what should we be capable during this period between death and rebirth?
We come now to a fact that is exceedingly important for modern occultism. Those human beings who lived on earth before the Mystery of Golgotha — what I am now saying is essentially correct, though not in detail — found the Throne of Christ in the Sun sphere with the Christ upon it. They were able to recognize Him because the old legacy of the common source of all religions was still living in them. But the Christ Spirit came down from the Sun, and in the Mystery of Golgotha He flowed into the life of the earth. He left the Sun, and only the Akashic picture of the Christ is found in the Sun sphere between death and rebirth. The throne is not occupied by the real Christ. We must bring up from the earth the concept of our living connection with Christ in order that through the Akashic picture we have a living relationship with Him. Then it is possible for us to have the Christ also from the Sun sphere and for Him to stimulate all the forces in us that are necessary if we are to pass through the Sun sphere in the right way.
Our journey between death and rebirth progresses still further. From the earthly realm we have derived the power, through a moral and religious attitude of soul, to live, as it were, into the human beings with whom we were together on the earth, and then into the higher hierarchies. But this power gradually vanishes, becomes dimmer and dimmer, and what remains is essentially the power that we derive on the earth from the Mystery of Golgotha. In order that we may find our way in the Sun sphere a new Light-bearer appears there, a Being whom we must learn to know in his primal power. We bring with us from the earth an understanding of the Christ, but in order to develop a stage further so that we may proceed out into the universe from the Sun sphere to Mars, we need to recognize the second Throne that stands beside the Throne of Christ in the Sun. This is possible simply by virtue of the fact that we are human souls. From this other Throne we now learn to know the other Being who, together with the Christ, leads us onward. This other Being is Lucifer. We learn to know Lucifer, and through the powers that he is able to impart to us we make the further journey through the spheres of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
We expand ever further into cosmic space, but as we move out beyond the Saturn sphere our state of consciousness is changed. We enter into a kind of cosmic twilight. We cannot call it cosmic sleep, but a cosmic twilight. Now for the first time the powers of the whole cosmos can work in upon us. They work from all sides, and we receive them into our being. So after we have expanded into the spheres, there is a period between death and rebirth when the forces of the whole cosmos stream into our being from all sides, from the whole of the starry realms, as it were. Then we begin to draw together again, pass through the different spheres down to the Venus sphere, contact and become ever smaller until the time comes when we can again unite with an earthly human germ.
What kind of a being are we when we unite with this germ? We are the being we have described, but we have received into us the forces from the whole cosmos. What we receive during the outward journey depends on the extent to which we have prepared ourselves for it, and our karma is formed according to the way we have lived together with the human beings we have met during life on earth. The forces by means of which an adjustment takes place in a new earth life are built up as a result of having been together with those human beings after death. That we appear as a human being, that we are inwardly able to have karma imbued with cosmic forces, depends on the fact that we received forces from the whole cosmos during a certain period between death and a new birth. At birth a being who has contracted to the minutest dimensions, but has drawn into itself the forces of the wide expanse of the whole cosmos unites itself with the physical human germ. We bear the whole cosmos within us when we incarnate again on earth. It may be said that we bear this cosmos within us in the way in which it can unite with the attitude that we, in accordance with our earlier earth existence, had brought with us in our souls on the outward journey when we were expanding into the spheres.
A twofold adaptation has to take place. We adapt to the whole cosmos and to our former karma. The fact that there is also an adaptation to former karma that must be harmonized in the cosmos came to me in an extraordinary way during the investigations of the last few months in connection with individual cases. I say, expressly, in individual cases because I do not wish to state thereby a general law. When a person passes through the gate of death he dies under a certain constellation of stars. This constellation is significant for his further life of soul because it remains there as an imprint. In his soul there remains the endeavor to enter into this same constellation at a new birth, to do justice once again to the forces received at the moment of death. It is an interesting point that if one works out the constellation at death and compares it with the constellation of the later birth, one finds that it coincides to a high degree with the constellation at the former death. It must be remembered that the person is born at another spot on the earth that corresponds with this constellation. In fact, he is adapted to the cosmos, members himself into the cosmos, and thus a balance is established in the soul between the individual and the cosmic life.
Kant once said very beautifully that there were two things that especially uplifted him — the starry heavens above him and the moral law within him. This is a beautiful expression in that it is confirmed by occultism. Both are the same — the starry heavens above us and what we bear as moral law within us. For as we grow out into cosmic space between death and a new birth, we take the starry heavens into ourselves, and then in the soul we bear as our moral attitude a mirror image of the starry heavens. Here we touch upon one of the points where anthroposophy can only develop into a feeling for the moral-universal. What appears to be theory is immediately transformed into moral impulses of the soul. Here the human being feels full responsibility towards his own being, for he realizes that between death and a new birth the whole cosmos worked into his being, and he gathered together what he derived from the cosmos. He is responsible to the whole cosmos, for he actually bears the whole of the cosmos within him.
An attempt has been made to express this feeling in a passage of The Soul's Probation, in the monologue of Capesius, where it is said, “In your thinking world-thoughts are weaving . . .” Attention is drawn to the significance for the soul when it feels that it is man's sacred duty to bring forth the forces that one has gathered out of the cosmos, and it is the greatest sin to allow these forces to lie fallow.
Concrete investigations showed that we take the whole cosmos into our being and bring it forth again in our earthly existence. Of the forces that man carries with him, only a few have their origin on the earth. We study man in connection with the forces that work in the physical, etheric and astral bodies, and in the ego. Of course, the forces that play into our physical body come to us from the earth, but we cannot draw directly out of the earth the forces we need for the etheric body. These forces can only approach us between death and rebirth during the period we are expanding into the planetary spheres. If one takes an immoral attitude of soul into these spheres, one will not be able to attract the right forces during the time between death and a new rebirth. A man who has not developed religious impulses cannot attract the right forces in the Venus sphere, and so the forces that are needed in the etheric may be stultified. Here we see the karmic connection that exists between later and earlier lives. This indicates how the knowledge that we obtain through occultism may become impulses in our life of soul and how the awareness of what we are can lead us to rise to an ever more spiritual life.
What was prepared for by the Mystery of Golgotha is necessary in our present cycle of evolution so that man may live in the right way into the Sun sphere between death and a new birth. Spiritual science has to achieve that the human being shall be in a position to grow out even beyond the Sun sphere with the universal-human, spiritually social consciousness that is needed there. Insofar as the Sun sphere itself is concerned, the connection that is experienced with the Mystery of Golgotha suffices. But in order to carry a feeling and understanding of the human-universal beyond the Sun sphere, we must be able to grasp, in the anthroposophical sense, the relation of the several religions to one another. We must grow beyond a narrowly circumscribed creed with its particular shades of feeling and understand every soul, irrespective of its belief. Above all, one thing connected with the Christ impulse is fulfilled between death and rebirth. It is contained in the words, “Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.” The gathering of two or three is not connected by Christ with this or that belief. The possibility of Him being among them is provided inasmuch as they are united in His Name.
What has been cultivated for years, through the performances of the Mystery Plays, and especially the last (The Guardian of the Threshold), should provide a spiritual-scientific understanding for what is essential in our epoch. On the one hand, we have to acquire a relationship to the Christ impulse, on the other, to the Powers that stand in opposition to Him — the impulses of Lucifer and Ahriman. We must realize that as soon as we emerge from Maya, we have to deal with Powers who unfold forces in the cosmos. The time is drawing ever nearer in the evolution of humanity when we must learn to discern the essential being rather than the teaching. This is nowhere so apparent as in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha. The Being is essential, not the mere content of the words.
I should like the following to be put quite exactly to the test. In fact, it is easiest to deal with people who put to the test what is said out of occult sources. There is nothing similar in any of the other creeds to the depths that are revealed through the Mystery of Golgotha.
A particular prejudice still prevails today. People speak as if things should happen in the world as they do in a school, as if everything depended on the World Teacher. But the Christ is not a World Teacher but a World Doer, One Who has fulfilled the Mystery of Golgotha, and Whose Being should be recognized. That is the point. How little it is a question of the mere words, of the mere doctrinal content, we learn from the beautiful words uttered by the Christ, “Ye are Gods!” (John 10:34). We learn this also from the fact that He indicated repeatedly that man attains the highest when he realizes the divine in his own nature. These words of the Christ resound into the world, “Be conscious that you are like the Gods!” One can say that that is a great teaching!
The same teaching, however, resounds from other sources. In the Bible, where the beginning of Earth evolution is described, Lucifer says, “Ye shall be as Gods!” The same doctrinal content is uttered by Lucifer and by the Christ, “Ye shall be as Gods!” but the two utterances mean the opposite for man. Indeed, shattering calls sound forth in these words uttered at one time by the Tempter and at another by Him Who is the Redeemer, the Savior and the Restorer of the being of man.
Between death and rebirth everything depends upon knowledge of the Being. In the Sun sphere the greatest danger is to take Lucifer for the Christ because both use the same language, as it were, give the same teaching, and from them both the same words resound forth. Everything depends on the Being. The fact that this Being or that Being is speaking — that is the point, not the doctrinal content because it is the real forces pulsing through the world that matter. In the higher worlds, and above all in what plays into the earthly spheres, we only understand the words aright when we know from which Being they proceed. We can never recognize the rank of a Being merely by the word, but only by knowledge of the whole connection in which a Being stands. The example of the words that men are like the Gods is an absolute confirmation of this.
These are significant facts of evolution. They are voiced not on account of their content — and in this case, too, not so much on this account — but on account of the spirit they carry, so that there may arise in souls feelings that ought to be the outcome of such words. If the feelings remain with those who have absorbed such truths, even if the actual words are forgotten, not so much is lost, after all. Let us take the more radical case. Suppose that there were someone among us who would forget everything that had just been said, but would only retain the feeling that can flow from such words. Such a person would, nevertheless, in an anthroposophical sense, receive enough of what is meant by them.
After all, we have to make use of words, and words sometimes appear theoretical. We must learn to look through the words to the essence and receive this into the soul. If anthroposophy is grasped in its essence, the world will learn to understand many things, particularly in connection with the evolution of humanity. Here I want to quote two examples that are connected outwardly, rather than inwardly, with my recent occult investigations. They astonished me because they showed how a truth which was established occultly corresponds to what has come into the world as a result of inspired men and can be rediscovered in what exists already in the world.
I have occupied myself a great deal with Homer. Lately the fact that nothing can be changed after death, that relationships remain the same, came vividly before my soul. For example, if in life one was in some way related to a person and did not love him, this cannot be changed. If, bearing this in mind, one now reads the passages in Homer where he describes the world beyond as a place where life becomes unchangeable, one begins to understand the depth of these words about the region where things are no longer subject to change. It is a wonderful experience to compare one's own knowledge with what was expressed as significant occult truth by the “blind Homer,” the seer, in this epic!
Another fact astounded me, and though I strongly resisted it because it seemed incredible, I found it impossible to do so. Many of you will know the Medici Tombs by Michelangelo in Florence, with the statues of Giuliano and Lorenzo de Medici and four allegorical figures. The artistic element in these figures is usually overlooked. They are viewed as barren allegories. Now these figures with one exception, were not quite finished, and yet they do not give the impression of being merely allegorical. In the guide books we are told that the statue of Giuliano stands on one side and that of Lorenzo on the other. Actually, they have been reversed. The statue said to represent Lorenzo is that of Giuliano, and that of Giuliano is the statue of Lorenzo. This is correct, but in almost every history of art manual and in Baedecker, the facts are wrongly given. The descriptions would certainly not tally and apparently the statues were once reversed. They no longer stand where Michelangelo had placed them originally. But I want to speak mainly about the four allegorical figures. At the foot of one of the Medici statues we have the figures of “Night” and “Day;” at the foot of the other, “Dawn” and “Dusk.”
As I have said, to begin with I resisted what I am now going to say about them. Let us start with the figures of “Night.” Suppose one immerses oneself in everything one sees, in every gesture (books comment rather nonsensically that this is a gesture that a sleeping person cannot possibly adopt.) If, having studied every gesture, every movement of the limbs, one asks oneself how an artist would have to portray the human figure if he wished to convey the greatest possible activity of the etheric body in sleep, then he would have to do it out of his artistic instincts exactly as Michelangelo did it in his figure. The figure of “Night” corresponds with the posture of the etheric body. I am not suggesting that Michelangelo was conscious of this. He simply did it.
Now let us look at the figure of “Day.” This is no barren allegory. Picture the lower members of the human being more passive, and the ego predominantly active. We have this expressed in the figure of “Day.” If we were now to express in the posture the action of the astral body working freely when the other members are reduced to inactivity, then we should find this in the so-called allegory of “Dawn.” And if sought to express the conditions where the physical body is not altogether falling to pieces, but becomes limp as a result of the withdrawal of the ego and astral body, this is wonderfully portrayed in the figure of “Dusk.” In these figures we have living portrayals of the four sheaths of man. We can readily understand the once widespread legend about the figure “Night.” It was said that when Michelangelo was alone with this figure it became alive, rose up and walked about. This is understandable if one knows that it has the posture of the etheric or life body, and that in such a position the etheric body can be fully active. If this is perceived, then indeed the figure appears to rise up, and one knows that it could walk about were it not carved out of marble. If the etheric body only were really active there, then nothing would prevent it from moving about.
Many secrets are contained in the works of men and much will become intelligible for the first time when these things are studied with sharpened occult perception. Whether, however, we understand a work of art well or not so well, is not connected with the universal-human. What matters is something quite else. If our eyes are sharpened in this way we begin to understand the soul of another human being, not through occult perception, which, after all, cannot help seeing into the spiritual world, but through a perception quickened by spiritual science. Spiritual science grasped by sound human reason develops knowledge in us of what we meet in life, and, above all, of the souls of our fellow men. We shall attempt to understand every human soul.
This understanding, however, is meant in quite a different way from the usual. Unfortunately, in life love is all too often entirely egotistical. Usually a man loves what he is particularly attracted to because of some circumstance or other. For the rest, he contents himself with universal love, a general love for humanity. But what is this? We should be able to understand every human soul. We will not find excellence everywhere, but no harm is done for actually one can do no greater injury to some souls than by pouring blind love and adulation over them.
We shall speak further on this subject in the lecture the day after tomorrow.