The Mystery of Death
14. Post-mortal Experiences of the Human Being
17 June 1915, Düsseldorf
In connection with some spiritual-scientific considerations, I have often said that it concerns within our spiritual-scientific movement and its efforts of taking up those concepts and ideas not only in theory which one can learn by spiritual science, but that the spiritual-scientific results have to penetrate the innermost movements, the innermost impulses of our soul life. Indeed, we have to start from the results of the spiritual-scientific knowledge, and we can gain such knowledge if we just study it if we occupy ourselves with it. But spiritual science is not to be taken up like another science, so that one knows only afterwards that one has heard this or that, that this or that is true concerning one or another matter in the world. Spiritual science has to work on our souls so that the souls become different in this or that field of feeling that they become different taking up what can flow out of spiritual science. The concepts, ideas and mental pictures which we take up by means of spiritual science have to rouse our souls in the core, have to unite with our feelings, so that we learn through spiritual science to look at the world not only differently, but also to feel differently than without it. The spiritual scientist, actually, has to familiarise himself with certain circumstances quite differently than this is possible without spiritual science. If he is able to do this, he has basically only arrived at what has to flow to us from spiritual science.
We live in a grievous time today, in which to us one of the most important questions of spiritual science, the question of death, appears in so countless cases before our eyes, before our souls, before our hearts, closer to one, closest to the other. The spiritual scientist has also to be able to prove spiritual science in his feelings in this grievous time. He should be able to have a different attitude to the events of time than the others, even if these events touch him so near. Indeed, the one needs consolation, the other needs encouragement; but both should find this also in spiritual science. If this can be the case, we have only correctly understood the intentions of spiritual science.
We have thereby to experience a certain shock in our souls through the ideas of spiritual science already that we learn to feel quite differently about some matters than we can feel without spiritual science about anything in the world. If you summarise all that which has already been said about the mystery of death within our spiritual science, you can understand what I would also like to explain today not only repeating, but something adding to former considerations. We must learn to think about death not only differently, but we must learn to feel about death differently. Since, indeed, the mystery of death is connected with the deepest world mysteries. We should be quite clear to ourselves that we take off all that through which we get perception and knowledge in the physical world, through which we experience something of the external world when we go through the gate of death. We get impressions about the world in the physical world by means of our senses. We take off these senses when we enter the spiritual world. Then we do not have the senses any more. This must already be a proof to us that we must try if we think about the supersensible world to think differently than we have learnt to think by means of our senses.
Indeed, we have a clue of sorts, while also in the everyday life, which we spend between birth and death, something analogous, something similar of the experiences in the spiritual world projects. These are the dream experiences projecting into the everyday life. The dream experience does not come into being to us through our senses; our senses have really nothing to do with the dream experience. Nevertheless, it is in the pictures that sometimes remind of the sensory life. We have in these dream pictures, even if a weak reflection, just a reflection of that type, as the spiritual existence faces us as an Imaginative world between death and a new birth. We have Imaginative perception, however, after death; the experience appears in pictures. Only if you see, for example, a red colour in the sensory world and must have the thought: what is behind this red colour? — Then you will say to yourselves: there is something that fulfils the space, something material is behind it. — The red colour also appears to you in the spiritual world, but there is nothing material behind it, nothing that would exercise a material impression in the usual sense. Behind the red is a psycho-spiritual being; behind the red is the same which you feel as your world in your soul. One would like to say: from the sense-impression of the colour we descend externally in the physical down to the material world, from the Imaginations we ascend to spiritual regions of the spiritual world.
Now we must be aware — this has been emphasised strongly in the new edition of my Theosophy — that also these Imaginations do not appear to us like the sensory impressions of the physical world. They are there indeed, these Imaginations, but they appear as experiences: the red, the blue colours are there experiences. One can rightly call these Imaginations red or blue, but they are something different than the sensory impressions of the physical world. They are more intimate; we unite more intimately with them. Without the red colour of the rose you are yourself; within the red colour of the spiritual world you feel to be therein, you are united with the red colour. While you perceive a red colour in the spiritual world, a will, a very effective will of a spiritual being develops. This will shines, and that which it shines is red. But you feel to be in the will, and you call this experience red, of course. I would like to say that a physical colour is like the frozen spiritual experience. Thus we must get the possibility in many fields to think something different, to give our ideas other values and meanings if we really want to rise to an understanding of the spiritual world.
Then we have to realise that above in the spiritual world the Imaginations do not have the same relationship to the spiritual beings — whose expression, for example, the colours are — as a colour has to a sensory being. The rose is red; this is a quality of the rose. But if a spirit comes to the nearness and we must have the consciousness according to that which I have now said: the spirit shines red, and then the red does not mean a quality of the spirit like the red of the rose is a quality. This red colour is more something like a revelation of the inside of the spiritual being; it is more a character which the spiritual being puts in the spiritual world. You have only to behold through the Imaginations. The activity which you develop there is to be compared in the physical world only with its ahrimanic image, namely with reading. We look at the red colour of the rose and know: it is a quality of the rose. We do not only look at the red colour in the spiritual world, but we interpret it, but not fantasising — I must warn about it always again. However, our soul itself already finds that something is given like a sound, a letter, like something that should be deciphered, should be read, so that it recognises the meaning.
The spiritual being means something if he manifests himself as a C sharp or G sharp or as red or blue or green colours. The spiritual being means something with it; one starts speaking with him, one starts reading his writing. The external culture is based on it that such matters which have their deep wisdom in the spiritual world are transplanted then also to the external world. We speak rightly of an occult reading, because somebody who attains the clairvoyant consciousness, who enters the spiritual world, who is able to see out over the Imaginations and reads in them, looks through them at the bottom of the souls living in the spiritual world, not only through colours, but also through other impressions, such impressions which remind of sensory impressions, and those which are added in the spiritual worlds.
This activity which is a purely psycho-spiritual activity is subordinate, as it were, to the government of the really progressive spiritual beings. Here in the physical world, Ahriman creates a reflection just of that which I have characterised now. The external reading of characters in the physical world is an ahrimanic reflection of this occult reading. Since reading in the physical world by signs which were developed artificially is an ahrimanic activity. Not without good reason, the invention of the art of printing was felt as an ahrimanic art, as a “black art,” as one called it. You are just not allowed to believe that you could escape the claws of Lucifer and Ahriman using any performances. Lucifer and Ahriman must be in the external culture. It is only that you find the balance, the way if life turns perpetually to the luciferic or the ahrimanic side. If anybody did not want to be touched at all by Ahriman, never would he have to learn reading. But this is why it concerns not that we flee Ahriman and Lucifer, but that we get the right relationship to them, that we position ourselves correctly to them, although they are as forces round us. If we know that we follow what we have described so often as the Christ Impulse which lives in us, and if we get the spiritual sensations which impose the intention to follow Christ to us at every moment of our life, then we are also able to read. Then we can get to know — and we already shall do it if it is right according to our karma — that Ahriman also established reading, and we see this ahrimanic art in the right light. If we do not experience this, we declaim something about the ahrimanic culture, about the progress and the splendour of the ahrimanic culture, for example, about reading.
But all these matters also impose duties, and this is why it concerns that such duties are also kept. Just in our present time, a lot can be stated to defend or accuse this or that. Really, we have what we can call a flood of war literature. Every day produces not only brochures, but also books et cetera. There you can often read: this country has so and so many illiterates, in this country so and so many people can read and write, and the like. Adopting this easily would not be according to what somebody who is well-versed in spiritual science has to say out of his responsibility. If I wanted to indicate, for example, that which I have to state with regard to our time, all the especially bad of a nation and say that in this nation are so and so many people who cannot read and write, I would not correctly speak spiritual-scientifically. There only matters must be stated for which one can take responsibility to the occult duties.
You see — I wanted to give only an example — that spiritual science must go over into life and imposes duties in this deeper sense. If the spiritual scientist says such things which the others also say, you are always able to notice that they are said in a different context, and it depends on this. Hence, something appears rather strange to somebody who does not know spiritual science, if it is said in spiritual science, because he is accustomed to have other ideas and must say to himself sometimes: this spiritual science calls the black white, and the white black. — This is necessary sometimes, because if one ascends to the spiritual world with the usual ideas and concepts which one learns in the physical world, some ideas and concepts must be changed thoroughly.
From this point of view let us take one of the most important, most enigmatic concepts which we have to acquire out of the impressions of the physical world, the concept of death. In the physical world, the human being sees death always only from one side, from the side that he sees developing the human life up to the point where the human being dies. That is where the physical body is separated at first from the higher members of the human nature and is dissolved then within the physical world. One can really say what the human being sees as death within the physical world: looking at death from one side. However, looking at death from the other side means to look at it in an opposite light, to see it as something totally different.
When we enter the physical life by birth, we experience something at first in such a way that the peak of our physical consciousness is not yet reached. You know that we do not remember the first years of our experience with the usual physical consciousness. Nobody can remember his birth with the usual physical consciousness. At least no one will appear in the world who states that he can remember with his usual consciousness how he was born. We can say: this is a characteristic of the physical consciousness that the birth of the human being must be forgotten. It is forgotten; also the first years are forgotten. If we look back at our life between birth and death, we remember up to a certain point. Then memory ends. The point where it stops is not our physical birth, but an experience precedes. Nobody can know from experience that he is born. He can only conclude it. We conclude that we are born — and only from that — that after us human beings are born whose birth we perceive. If the naturalist states that he only admits what can be seen, nobody could claim his birth after this principle if he wants to be logical, because it is impossible to perceive his own birth without being clairvoyant; one can only conclude it.
Now exactly the opposite takes place with regard to death. The whole life through between death and new birth the moment of death which he experienced stands before the soul eye of the dead as the liveliest, as the brightest impression. However, do not believe that you are allowed to possibly conclude from it that this would be a painful impression. Then you would believe that the dead looks back at what you see in the physical world of death, of decay, of decline. He sees death, however, from the other side; he sees something in death what one must call the most beautiful also in the spiritual world. Since the human being can experience nothing more beautiful than the sight of death in the spiritual world first of all. Seeing this victory of the spirit over the material, this lighting up of the spiritual light of the soul from the deep darkness of the material is the greatest, the most significant that can be beheld on the other side of life which the human being goes through between death and a new birth.
If the human being takes off the etheric body between death and new birth and has fully developed his consciousness what happens not very long time after death, then he has not the same relationship to himself as here in the physical world. If the human being sleeps here in the physical world, he is unaware, and if he is awake, he realises that he knows now: I have a self, an ego in myself. After death in the spiritual world, this is something different — there is his self-consciousness on a higher level, — then it is not just the same. I will immediately speak about that. But there is also something like a self-contemplation. Exactly the same way as one must call to mind the self in the morning while waking up it is in the spiritual world. But this self-contemplation is a looking back at the moment of death. Always it is in such a way, as if we say to ourselves to perceive our ego between death and a new birth: you have really died, so you are a self, you are an ego.
This is the most important thing: one looks back at the victory of the spirit over the body, one looks back at the moment of death which is the most beautiful of the spiritual world that can be experienced. In this looking back one notices his self in the spiritual world. This is always, one cannot say like waking up — one would stamp the concepts one-sidedly, — it is the self-contemplation to look back at his death. That is why it is so important that the human being has the possibility to look really back at the moment of death with full postmortal consciousness — with a consciousness which enters after death. So he dreams not only in any way what he beholds there but can completely understand what he beholds; this is extremely important. We can already prepare ourselves during life while we try to practice self-knowledge. In particular, this is necessary for humankind from now on to practice self-knowledge. Basically all spiritual science is there to give that self-knowledge to the human being which is necessary to him. For spiritual science is an introduction to the enlarged self of the human being, that self by which one belongs to the whole world. I said that the consciousness after death is something different than here in the physical world. If I might to plot the consciousness after death diagrammatically to you, I could do it in the following way.
(sehendes Auge = seeing eye, sinnlicher Körper = material object, geistige Wesenheit = spiritual being)
Imagine we would have an eye here, and here we would have an object. How do we attain the consciousness that there is an object outside us? Because the object makes an impression on our eye. The object makes an impression on our eye, and we learn to know something about the object. The object is outside in the world, it makes an impression on our senses, and we take up the mental picture, which we can form of the object, in ourselves, in our souls. The object is outside us. Then it has delivered the mental picture which we form then. It is different now in the spiritual world. Because I cannot draw it graphically differently, I would want what I always call soul eye to draw as a soul eye, although it is wrong strictly considered. Now this soul eye which the human being has after death has the disposition that after death the human being sees, for example, an angel or another human soul who is also in the spiritual world not as he sees a flower in the physical world, but this soul eye has the disposition — we disregard a human soul at first, we look only at a being of the higher hierarchy — that it does not have as an eye the consciousness if here an angel, an archangel is: I see this angelic being outside myself, — but: I am seen by the angelic being, he sees me. — It is just the opposite of the physical world. We familiarise in the spiritual world so that we get the consciousness of the beings of the higher hierarchies that we are known by them that they think us. We feel embedded in them, we feel that we are conceived by the angels, archangels, spirits of personality like the realms of minerals, plants, and animals feel to be conceived by us.
Only concerning human souls we have the feeling that they see us as we also have the feeling that our view goes into them. We see them and the human souls see us. As to all the other beings of the higher hierarchies, we have the feeling that we are perceived by them, are thought, imagined by them; and while we are perceived by them, are thought, are imagined by them, we are in the spiritual world. Now imagine that we walk around as souls in the spiritual world, like we walk around in the physical world. We then have the feeling everywhere to get a relationship to the beings of the higher hierarchies, like we have the feeling here in the physical world to get a relationship to the mineral, plant, and animal realms. Only we need the meditation repeatedly that we have a self. Then we look at our death and say to us: this is you. — This is a continual consciousness, continual contents of our conscioussnes.
What I have said today is to be added to the various ideas which you can take up from talks and books. It is spoken more emotionally than that which is spoken, for example, in the book Theosophy more from an external point of view. But only while you look at such a matter emotionally, you can feel as if you are in the sensations which one must have towards these matters and generally towards the spiritual world.
Hence, self-knowledge is that which supports us which makes us strong for the life between death and a new birth. That could face me recently again with particular liveliness when I had the task to speak several times at the cremation, after some of our friends had deceased. There it was necessary to speak about something that is connected intimately with the character, with the self of that who had gone through the gate of death. Why did this Inspirative or Intuitive come into being to speak something to the dead that is connected with their beings? This appears in the life of the persons concerned after death. It comes to their assistance what invigorates the forces of their self-knowledge. While speaking about these qualities, which they feel in themselves, immediately after death when their consciousness had not yet awoken, one let flow, as it were, something of the strength towards them that they need to gradually develop the ability to look at the moment of death. Their whole being seems to be concentrated there, as it has developed between birth and death. One helps the dead if one lets flow something towards them just after death that reminds them of their qualities, of their experiences et cetera. One thereby fosters the strength of self-knowledge. If anybody has the possibility as clairvoyant to familiarise himself with the soul of such a dead person, then he feels the desire in his soul to hear something just in this time about the kind, as he was, about this and that which he has gone through or which his main qualities are. You can understand that here on earth the life of a human being does not resemble the life of the other, but that all human beings have lives which are different from each other. It is the same with those who have gone through the gate of death. Not one soul-life resembles the other between death and new birth. I would like to say: every soul-life which one can observe there is a new revelation, and one can always emphasise individual particular qualities only. I would like to speak about such matters today and then also in Cologne the day after tomorrow. I would like to speak of a concrete case as an example.
In Dornach before some time, we saw a member leaving the physical plane who was rather old-aged (Lina Grosheintz-Rohrer). A member who had spent her life, in any case, in industrious work, caring work, but during the last years, since longer time already, she was connected in the deepest soul with our spiritual-scientific world view and had completely developed it in her heart, in her soul. So that one may say: this personality had come so far that in the last times of her physical existence she was completely one in her feeling with our world view. Now you know that the human being if he/she goes through the gate of death takes off his physical body first, carries the etheric body in himself still for a while and then takes off the etheric body, too. There comes a time when the human being must only gain the consciousness gradually which he has to possess between death and a new birth. Immediately after death, the human being is in his etheric body. There he experiences, we know this, a complete review of his life as a big life tableau. In this time, particularly the powerful impulses also appear in his soul, I would like to say, all at once, so that something that is important just in this regard can appear after death that is completely different than during life.
During life the human being is often tied up by the restrictions which his physical body places on him. Immediately after death, the human being has overcome what burdens, presses, solidifies him, and also the physical that weakens the clearness of some soul impulses. One has not yet lost the etheric body and, hence, the memory of life. It is an Imaginative world which contains the pictures of the past life, and also contains the especially strong impulses. If now a soul has taken up the impulses of spiritual science during life so intensely, if this soul has brought these impulses up to the innermost feeling in herself, she can develop these impressions after death also in another way, because she has the elastic, malleable etheric body at her disposal, then she is no longer tied up to that which the physical body allows.
One could see this with that personality in particular about which I have just spoken who shortly after death let flow out of her soul what had lived from the spiritual-scientific impulses in her, after I had just succeeded in transporting myself completely into this soul. Of course, it would not have stamped this in such words during her physical life. Because the etheric body was still there, she could dress it in physical words. It was not yet out of her elastic etheric body, when she developed what she had taken up from spiritual science, so that it became the expression of her soul. Then I had the necessity at the cremation of the concerning personality a few days later that I had to speak these words, which sounded from her being, which belonged to her, not to me:
Into cosmic distances I will carry
My feeling heart, so that it grows warm
In the fire of the holy forces' working;
Into cosmic thoughts I will weave
My own thinking, so that it grows clear
In the light of eternal life-becoming;
Into depths of soul I will sink
Devoted contemplation, so that it grows strong
For the true goals of human activity;
In the peace of God I strive thus
Amidst life's battles and cares
To prepare myself for the higher Self;
Aspiring to work in joy-filled peace,
Sensing cosmic being in my own being,
I seek to fulfill my human duty;
May I live in anticipation,
Oriented toward my soul's star
Which gives me my place in spirit realms.
I would like to say that these are the words expressing the sensation after death what the soul has become through spiritual science. Then came the time which everybody has to go through after death more or less which one improperly calls the time of sleeping. Because if you have taken off the etheric body, you are actually in the spiritual world, only the fullness of the spiritual world is dazzling you. You cannot have an overview of everything, you have only to adapt your strength which you have brought into the spiritual world; you have to belittle yourself. You see too much after death; the consciousness is there, you have to reduce it to the level of the forces which you have acquired. Then you can orientate yourself and live really in the spiritual world. It is spoken not quite properly if anybody says that one becomes conscious after some time, but one has to say that somebody has too much consciousness and has to reduce it to the levels which he can endure. This means waking up. That is why the soul of which I have just spoken to you reached this condition — when the etheric body is taken off — that she was unable to endure the spirit light. But she had a lot of strength in herself. You notice that in the words which I have read, and that this strength had been completely filled bit by bit with that which spiritual science can make of the human feeling and willing. That is why this being, this soul got a consciousness which was tolerable to her some time after death. Of course, one would have to describe a lot of the time which begins then for a soul when one wanted to describe everything that such a soul experiences there. One only describes parts always; and while we are within our movement, it belongs, of course, to the most significant matters you can observe in the souls what connects these souls with our movement. You can learn what generally human souls connects with the whole world after death; but you can observe best of all in such souls what is the life of the soul after death, particularly when it has approached you like this soul of whom I speak now. Therefore I could observe just with this soul how she got the orientating consciousness while taking part in our meetings, really taking part in our meetings. And she completely took part in a Dornach Easter festival of this year, in that Easter festival when I tried to explain the particular depth of the Easter thought to our dear friends there in Dornach. This soul was present there. She took part as she had taken part once with intimate warmth; she took part now as a soul. She wanted to express herself like somebody has the need in the physical body to express himself afterwards about that which he has taken up. She wanted to express herself, and the peculiar is that she stamped such words, because thereby the possibility exists to communicate, that she formed such words describing her present life and its experience of this Easter lecture. The soul added something like a supplement of that which had come from her at that time after death. This supplement which came out of the consciousness is the following:
I will steer in human souls
Spirit feeling, so that willingly
It wakes in hearts the word of sacrifice;
I will think with human spirits
Soul warmth, so that powerfully
It can feel the Risen One;
I had taken care just in those Easter talks and in some other talks, which I held at that time, to draw attention — as I did it repeatedly — to the significance of spiritual science not only here for the life on earth, but for the whole world. Somebody who goes through the gate of death can also experience and get to know what is done here in spiritual science. That is why I advise so many people if they have dear dead to read out to them or to tell about the spiritual-scientific teachings, because what is stamped in spiritual-scientific words has not only significance for the souls living in physical bodies, but it has full significance also for the souls who are disembodied. It is to them like spiritual air of life, like spiritual water of life, or one could also say, they perceive light by us here below. This light is for us symbolic at first, one would like to say, because we hear words and take up them as thoughts in our souls; the dead see it, however, really as a spiritual light.
Now it is very significant that just this soul who has often heard this wanted to say really: I have understood this, and it is real that way. — Since her words in this regard are:
The earthly flame of spiritual knowledge
Brightly illuminates death's appearance;
This is the fact for the soul. She wants to say: what you speak there below shines like a flame. — She expressed this, while she said “earthly flame:” it “brightly illuminates death's appearance ...” Why does she say “death's appearance?” If you meditate, you find out it. She said it, because she had always heard that we call the world maya: on earth she is in the appearance of the senses; now she is also in an appearance by which she only has to behold the being:
The earthly flame of spiritual knowledgeBrightly illuminates death's appearance; —
And something that she also confirms now:
The Self becomes cosmic eye and ear.
She means cosmic ear. She means that now the whole self becomes a powerful sense-organ, becomes the perception organ for the whole universe. It is a nice way by which the dead shows how she becomes conscious that that becomes true which spiritual science says. For this soul it is typical that she wants to express herself straight away after death and wants to say: yes, now I am so far that that which I have learnt on earth appears to me as the right thing.
These words were to me of a certain importance, because they came after some time, maybe a few weeks later, from the spiritual world from that soul of which I have spoken, after shortly before, a few weeks before, another event satisfying me took place.
Friends of our movement lost a rather young son in the current war who had volunteered for the army. The young man fell. He had half approached spiritual science; one would like to say, in his last earth time which he went through. He was only seventeen, eighteen years old. Now he had gone, he had fallen. After some time I could behold the soul of this young man really approaching his parents. With many souls who have now gone through the gate of death during the war this is the case that they become conscious rather rapidly. It was thus — I could really hear it, — as if he said to them: now I would like to make it comprehensible to you that that which I have often heard of spiritual science, of spiritual light and spiritual beings in your home can become clear to me that it is true that it helps me what I heard there.
I do not mention this, because it is something special, but because it just shows how the relationship is between the earthly life and the spiritual life. Nevertheless, I want to mention something strange besides. At that time after a lecture which I held in one of our branches — I had written down the words which had come through to me, I went to the parents of the young man and told this to them and also gave the night in which the young man approached his parents and spoke as it were to their souls. There said the father: this is quite strange, I dream very seldom. However, I dreamt this night, this same night of my son that he appeared to me and that he wanted to say something to me; however, I have not understood it.
It touches those people strangely even today who are outside our spiritual movement if these matters are explained to them. Hence, we keep them among us. But it must be important to us to deal specifically also with these matters, because our knowledge is composed of these single stones of the experiences of the spiritual world. We only get a concrete picture if we do not want to limit ourselves only to hear nice theories of the spiritual world but if we can enliven spiritual science in our souls, so that we endure that which one speaks of the spiritual world really, like reasonable human beings just speak of that which they experience in the sensory world. Spiritual science thereby becomes life in the right sense in us, and it should become life in us, that we gain a life by it — not only a teaching, a knowledge. It should bridge the abyss which results from materialism which extends outside spiritual science and must become bigger and bigger. It bridges this abyss between the physical-sensory realm, which we go through between birth and death, and the spiritual realm in which we live between death and a new birth, so that we gradually learn to become citizens also of the spiritual world. What matters is that we learn to feel: somebody who has gone through the gate of death has only taken on another condition of life and has an attitude towards our feeling after death like somebody who just had to move because of the events of life to a distant country in which we can follow him only later. So we have to endure nothing but a time of separation. But this must be felt vividly by means of spiritual science. If you risk forming an idea about single concrete facts, you will already see that these facts also correspond to it and support each other for somebody who does not look into the spiritual world. That is why the confidence, which one has, before one beholds in the spiritual world, is actually no blind confidence, no trust in authority, but a confidence which is supported by the feeling which is deeper than critical knowledge, by the original feeling of truth indigenous to the human soul.
We live in a time in which the external destiny-burdened events make it clear that the human life has to be deepened. It would be much better if the human beings looked at these military events as a warning to deepen the souls more than the predominating majority of the human beings do. They discuss instead who has the war guilt, who does this or that. I said, while I discussed the most important matters before you: concerning some matters we must learn by spiritual science to change our ideas, our concepts. We can count the concept of war to these concepts — today this may be still added to our consideration about such a significant object like death.
One will be right, also from the spiritual-scientific point of view, to consider the war as an illness of development. Indeed, it is an illness, but you remember only once that you also do not do justice to an illness if you condemn it. What matters in illness is often that which has preceded the illness in the human body: the disorder, the disharmony has preceded. Then the illness comes into being which often is there to work just against the disorder in the body. Even if the human being goes through an illness before death, it is this way. He carries disharmonies in himself which make it impossible for him to enter the spiritual world. Perhaps, the spiritual world would be obscured to him too long, or other obstacles would be there, because disharmonies are in him which cannot just be brought into the spiritual world. This is why an illness infects him before death. It frees his soul from disharmony so far that he can enter the spiritual world.
If it is an illness which leads to recovery, then this illness is there to compensate that which has preceded the illness which was caused by the karma of previous lives, maybe of thousands of years. One would not do well to say at all: the child has the measles; had it not got these measles. — One cannot know what would have come about the child if it had not got the measles. Because that came out which sat deeply always in the child and looked for its compensation.
It is also good to consider the war, and to see the evil not so much in that which must be experienced now in blood and iron but also to look at that which happened since long, long times in the cultural currents. The human beings must learn to look deeper at the connections. After this war, a time will come when the human beings start thinking about this war. There they will get on how many hollow words were talked if one said: this one has the guilt, that one has the guilt. — Something will just happen, even if it takes place only long after the war. Then the people will say something different than today. There will be people who say: if one studies history the way as one studied it up to now, indeed, one finds in these acts of the diplomats this, in those acts of diplomats that; here and there or this and that was written.
But if one proceeds that way as history treated all that up to now, and wants “to objectively judge” everything, as one says, then one never finds out why this war came into being. Then one will discover that it is necessary to look at the deeper reasons beyond the external causes which then spiritual science has to explain. Unfortunately, I can make only remarks about these matters. One will find that at various places just at the outbreak of this war this or that happened where not the consciousness played the most significant role, but something unconscious, something under the threshold of the external events was a contributory factor; so that those matters are not exhausted at all which the historian is accustomed to consider as something decisive for the causality. Just with this example one learns: history, as we are accustomed to it up to now, explains nothing at all to us. It is an admonition to go into deeper reasons.
As I had to admonish our souls at the end of almost each talk which I held in the last time, I would like to do it also again today.
A certain responsibility arises for you simply from the fact that you have approached the spiritual-scientific world view. You must become able to have the thoughts by the spiritual-scientific world view at least that those superficial judgments which are delivered everywhere today, because materialism controls the world, should also not become judgments of ours who we are supporters of spiritual science. What plays a role in the world today is a superficial hatred from nation to nation. I have often spoken about that in our branch talks. It must not penetrate us to the same degree, but we also must not become unfair. For we can learn from the old Theosophical Society to become rather unfair. They have impressed on their supporters with regard to the religions: all religions are equal.
This is approximately the same, as if one liked to impress on the human beings: on the table are pepper, salt, sugar, paprika; now, they all can be used as spices, one should not prefer anything. So, here I have a cup of coffee, I put some pepper into it, because everything is the same. The identical logic is in it if one speaks of the fact that the same core of truth forms the basis of all religions. This logic saves one from studying the great miraculous world development in its details, because one gets by with the sentence: a core of truth forms the basis of everything. But we have freed ourselves from the most superficial judgments since long. Thus that cannot prevent us from recognising rightly to go into any national characteristic with affectionate understanding, where we have to stand with our hearts out of knowledge. It is not possible that all friends agree in this regard. That does not matter, but that our souls try to get over the point of view of the external world and to deal with the characteristics of the different folk-souls. — Then we will already see that the belief in our spiritual-scientific world view imposes a certain responsibility to us in many respects, the responsibility to deal with the matters as thoroughly as possible and to pay more attention on them on the basis of spiritual science.
One experiences painful things sometimes. Not any human being does remember the big admonition of our destiny-burdened events, so that he feels obliged to turn his heart really deeper, more thoroughly to the events instead of judging superficially in the way of the external materialism we just want to overcome. In this regard, one would like to wish and long for that the human beings who are within our movement form a host, as it were, which deals thoroughly with the deeply moving questions of today. Thoroughness is necessary concerning a lot of matters. You do not imagine at all what is possible in our time.
Oh, I could tell a lot about that which can make the heart bloody to somebody who pursues the time really with the goodness of his heart. Today a lot of views and thoughts are spread, sometimes with the best intention, from an unhealthy, ahrimanic world view. But looking at the flood of war literature we have just to deeper meditate about the tasks of the cultural development. I attempt this now in my talks showing the real position of the single human beings. Because it is often a matter of defending thoroughness against superficiality. You could experience something very strange, for example, during the last weeks. Because of comprehensible reasons I would not like to mention the title of a book which has appeared abroad, even in German, and some people state that a German would have written it. Expressly I would like to stress that you can bring yourselves to understand any point of view. Perhaps, you can understand the most anti-German standpoint if the one or the other shows it. You may try to understand it, you need not share it, but perhaps you are able to understand it.
But the concerning book has characteristics to which it does not depend on the fact that it takes a thoroughly anti-German standpoint, that it reviles Germanness and the German nature on every line. One may understand that it is written viciously. But nobody is allowed to come and say: if a German speaks about the book that way, we can understand this, because he talks disparagingly about Germanness. — However, it depends on something different. The book is written, so that somebody who has a little feeling for internal professionalism and internal thoroughness, who is educated a little, must find: it is the most terrible simulation of the cheapest literature. — Completely apart from its standpoint, its literary level is so low that somebody who finds something in the book shows that he accepts the most trivial literature as something that one can take seriously, a book cobbled together with ignorance, I would like to say, with the most obvious ignorance.
So the standpoint does not matter; but you see from the way, as it is written like anybody who learnt thinking would not write, that one deals with a quite inferior sort of book. Nevertheless, I also had to hear judgments that this book whose title I do not mention because of particular reasons is taken seriously. If such matters appear, it is just to us not to shrink from forming a judgment on the basis of certain versatility. If anybody agrees to certain sentences which are expressed in that book as regards content, he does not need to take such a book seriously, already because the book is a terrible concoction, and because one does not take a terrible concoction seriously, because one cannot wish that even the truth is expressed terribly in the worst affect and in an uneducated way. I wanted to characterise such an example, because I would like to draw your attention to the fact that it depends on various things if the spiritual scientist tries to form a judgment about the world.
If it were possible to take a book for good, even if it is stylistically a horror book, then somebody would admit that he has not enough enlivened the spiritual-scientific feeling in his heart, in his soul. Not to express anything differently but to draw attention to the fact that spiritual science has to penetrate our feeling and thinking vividly in the most profound sense, concrete examples are also given in this field. It is very necessary that such concrete impulses are searched for in our souls. I have to admit what satisfied me particularly up to now, travelling through Germany, that I could not notice terrifying cheering after great victories. One noticed that pain about the enormous losses was in every soul at the same time. I believe that it is that way. Futile joy of victory must not be there. Since these destiny-burdened days demand not only enormous sacrifices, but they open up enormous wounds, also spiritual wounds if one considers the behaviour of many human beings. That is why it is very necessary that we remember now and again, just if we look at important matters in the field of spiritual science which responsibility is imposed on our souls and that we must long for times in which the effects of the young, unused etheric bodies and the souls can really meet who still are below in the bodies of the human beings and can send their sensations and abilities up to them.
A time will come after this war when the unused etheric bodies of those work who went through the gate of death and developed forces out of the sacrifices they made and which they could send down now for the spiritualisation of humankind. But below there must be souls who are able to receive this, who look up in lively confidence at that which went up in the spiritual world from the early deceased to shine down the forces of the spiritualisation of humankind.
There I would want that it appears to our eyes in the sense of the words which I would like to speak at the end of this consideration again:
From the courage of the fighters,
From the blood of the battles,
From the grief of the bereaved,
From the nation's sacrifices
Will grow up the fruits of spirit
If souls aware of spirit turn
Their senses to the spirit-land.
The earthly flame of spiritual knowledge
Brightly illuminates death's appearance;
The Self becomes cosmic eye and ear.
The translation of these verses in Our Dead contains some mistakes; perhaps, they occurred because Steiner used a script consisting of normal Latin but also of old German letters (Sütterlin script):
Es leuchtet hell dem Todesscheine
Des Geisteswissens (not: Geisteswillens) Erdenflamme;
Das Selbst wird Welten (not: Wellen)-Aug und Ohr.
a book which has appeared abroad: Richard Grelling J'accuse. By a German. Third edition, Lausanne, 1915