The Problem of Death
5 February 1915, Dornach
In these days when death is so constantly a source of pain, I want to deal with certain aspects of Spiritual Science in connection with the problem of death. Today I shall give a kind of introduction to these problems; tomorrow I shall go more closely into the subject and on Sunday pass over from these problems to more general questions of the artistic conception of Life. This will then lead us back to matters connected with our Building.
Manifold indeed are the connections within which we are placed in life. Just as the life before birth is a preparation for its reflection in this life, so this reflection between birth and death is a preparation for the spiritual life which comes afterwards, between death and a new birth. The more we are able to carry over from this life into the life between death and a new birth, the richer may be the development in that life; for the actual concepts which must be acquired of that life, the concepts of the truths of existence between death and a new birth must be very different from the concepts we must acquire of earthly Maya if we want to understand this Maya. Some of the necessary concepts will be found in the lecture-course given last year in Vienna. (The Inner Life of Man between Death and a New birth.) You will find there what new concepts must be acquired for understanding the other side of man's life which takes its course between death and a new birth. It is often exceedingly difficult to work out the concepts and ideas that are applicable to this other kind of life, and in reading such a lecture-course you will realise that it has been a question of wrestling for terms which in some way give expression to these totally different conditions.
At this time especially when the deaths of very dear Members are occurring in our anthroposophical life, I want to call attention to the following. —
The part played in the life between death and a new birth by the moment of death is different from the part that is played by the moment of birth in our present life between birth and death. The moment of birth is that point which, in ordinary circumstances, is not remembered by the human being. In Ordinary life, birth is not remembered. But the moment of death is the point which leaves behind it the very deepest impression for the whole of life between death and a new birth; it is the point that is remembered most of all; in a certain sense it is always there, but in a quite different form from that in which it is seen from this side of life. From this side of life, death appears to be a dissolution, something in face of which the human being has a ready fear and dread. From the other side, death appears as the light-filled beginning of experience of the Spirit, as that which spreads a sun-radiance over the whole of the subsequent life between death and a new birth; as that which most of all warms the soul through with joy in the life between death and a new birth. The moment of death is something that is looked back upon with a deep sense of blessing. Described in earthly terms: the moment of death, viewed from the other side, is the most joyful, the most enrapturing point in the life between death and a new birth.
If, out of materialism, we have pictured that the human being loses consciousness with death, if we can form no true idea of the continuation of consciousness — (I emphasize this today because the incentive is community with dear ones who have recently gone away from us through death.) if it is difficult to picture that consciousness exists beyond death, if we believe that consciousness is darkened (as appears to be the case after death) — then we must realise: it simply is not true. The truth is that the consciousness is excessively bright and it is only because the human being is still unaccustomed, during the very first period after death, to live within this excessively clear consciousness, that there sets in, to begin with, immediately after death, something like a kind of sleep.
This state of sleep, however, is the very opposite of the state of sleep through which we pass in ordinary life. In ordinary life we sleep because consciousness is dimmed; after death we are, in a certain sense, unconscious because the consciousness is too strong, too forceful; because we live wholly in consciousness. And what we have to do during the first days is to live over into this condition of excessive consciousness. We have to find our bearings and orientation within this condition of superabundant consciousness. When we succeed in so finding our bearings that, as it were, out of the fullness of the cosmic thoughts, we feel: thou wast that ... the moment when, out of the fullness of the cosmic thoughts, we begin to distinguish our past earth-life within this abundance of consciousness, then the moment is experienced of which we can say: we awaken. It may be that we are awakened by an event that has been particularly significant in our earthly life and is also significant in the happenings after our earthly life.
It is, therefore, a process of getting accustomed to the supersensible consciousness, to the consciousness that does not rest upon the foundation and support of the physical world, but that is working and active in itself. This is what we call the “Awakening” after death. This awakening consists in the will stretching out to find its bearings, the will, which as you know and can realise from the lecture-course already mentioned, may unfold strongly after death. I spoke of will that is coloured by feeling, of feeling that is coloured by will: when this life of feeling that is coloured by will stretches out to find its bearings in the supersensible world, when the first sally is made, then the awakening has come.
If we want to think of the experiences that are connected with the problem of death, we must realise, above all, that the real being, the being who rules and weaves within man, is profoundly unknown to him. This true being is not only unknown in respect of the deeper side of a man's own hidden existence, but it is unknown too, in respect of many things that play very significantly indeed into the experiences of everyday life. We must be absolutely clear that even with the most important instruments of knowledge we possess for the physical world — with the senses — we look almost entirely from outside, and that in this looking from outside, what may be called our skin shuts us off from beholding our real, true being. As soon as we begin to judge of our true being, as soon as we try to form a picture of this true being, we are obliged to apply our intellect, our power of forming mental images. In the course of our development within the physical body, however, both these faculties are strongly influenced from the Ahrimanic as well as from the Luciferic side; and the nature of all these influences that are exercised from the Ahrimanic and Luciferic sides upon our intellect, in so far as it is bound to the brain, is such, that they are able in the highest degree to cloud the judgment we form about our own being.
All self-knowledge is really comparable with the extreme case I quoted in the last lecture, of the university professor who himself tells the story of how, in his youth, he crossed the street and suddenly saw coming towards him a young man with a dreadfully unsympathetic face; he tells of the shock he received when he realised that he was seeing himself through two mirrors that were revealing his own physiognomy, as if it were coming towards him. This shows that he had no inkling of his external appearance, which was exceedingly unsympathetic to him: I have told you how he narrates a second similar instance. But really it is no different with what we call our more intimate self-knowledge. Our Ego and astral body which set out on the journey through the worlds when the date of Death has been passed — these members of our being are removed from our sphere of observation during physical life, for when we wake from sleep the Ego and astral body are not revealed to us. They are not revealed to us in their true form but in such a way that they are mirrored by the pictures of the Ego and astral body that are sketched by the etheric body and physical body. Between sleeping and waking we should be able to see our astral being and our Ego in their true form if we were not in the unconscious condition of sleep. The dreams, too, which occur in ordinary life are only faulty interpreters of our real being, because they are, after all, reflections of what goes on in the astral body around the etheric body, and because it is essential, first, to understand the language of dreams if we are to get at their correct meaning. If we understand the language of dreams, we can, certainly, acquire knowledge about our true being from the processes of dream. But in ordinary life we are accustomed simply to accept the pictures presented by the dream. This, however, is no more sensible than if we were simply to follow the signs of printed letters and not really read at all.
Our true being is withdrawn from us during life between birth and death. We must realise here that in our astral body — and in our Ego too — there lie all those feelings and all those stirrings of will which lead us to our actions, to our deeds, but also to our judgments, to our conceptions of things in the world. There, in the depths of our being, there at the seat of our astral body and our true “I”, we have a whole world of emotions, a whole world of feelings, of impulses of will; but what we form in everyday life as our own view of these emotions, impulses of will and feelings, stand mostly — mostly, I say — in a very distant connection with what we truly are, in our innermost being.
Take the following case — It may happen in life that two people live together for a long time and that through the strange forces playing out of the unknown regions of the astral body and Ego of the one person into the astral body and Ego of the other (these forces remain in the hidden regions), the one has in relation to the other a real desire for torment, a kind of need for cruelty. It may be that the one person who has this desire for torment, this need for cruelty, has no inkling whatever of the existence of these emotions in the astral body and Ego; he may build up about the things he does out of this urge to cruelty, a whole number of ideas which explain the actions on quite other grounds. Such a person may tell us that he has done this or that to the other person for one reason or another; these reasons may be very clever and yet they do not express the truth at all. For in ordinary life, what we all-too-often picture as the motives of our own actions, indeed of our own feelings, frequently stands, as I say, in a very, very distant connection with what is really living and weaving in our inner being. It may be that the Luciferic power is actually preventing the person concerned from realising the nature of this urge for cruelty, of these impulses to do all kinds of things to the other person, and that under the influence of this Luciferic power everything he says about the reasons merely spreads a cover over what is actually present in the soul. The reasons we devise in our consciousness may often be cut out for hiding from us, disguising what is actually living and working in the soul. These reasons are too often of a character which indicates a desire for self-justification, for we should find ourselves just as antipathetic as the professor of philosophy of whom I told you. We should not at all like what is in our soul if we had to acknowledge what kind of instincts and emotions are really holding sway. And because we have to protect ourselves from the sight of our own soul-being, we discover, with the help of these reasons, all kinds of things that guarantee us protection, because they deceive us about what is actually the ruling force in the soul. Just as it is true that the external world becomes a Maya to us because of the peculiar character of our faculty to form mental pictures, it is also true that what we have to say about ourselves in ordinary life is, to a very, very great extent, Maya.
Certain instincts and needs of our innermost being in particular mislead us into constantly deceiving ourselves about our own being. Take the case of a person who is terribly vain, who suffers from a form of megalomania. Such people are by no means few in number. This is admitted. If, however, as described above, a mask were not laid over what really is in the soul, it would be much more generally admitted that vanity and megalomania exist in many souls who have not the very slightest inkling that it is so.
Megalomania gives rise to many wishes ... but when I say ‘wishes’, you must understand what I mean. — the wishes do not become conscious, they remain wholly in the depths. Such a person may wish to exercise a controlling influence upon someone else, but because he would have to admit that this desire for control over the other is born of vanity and megalomania, he will not admit it. He then appeals — unconsciously of course, — to those powers of seduction which Lucifer is able to exercise all the time upon the human soul. And under the unconscious influence of Lucifer, such a person never gets to the point of saying to himself: ‘What I have in me, producing the desire for action, is really vanity, megalomania.’ He never says this, but on the contrary, he will often discover, under the influence of Lucifer, a whole system for explaining the feelings of which he is darkly aware but the true character of which he will not admit. He may have certain feelings for some other person but he cannot acknowledge them, because what he really wants is to control this other person and he is unable to do so because this other person, perhaps, will not allow himself to be controlled. Then, under the influence of Lucifer the soul discovers a system, discovers that the other person is planning something malicious; the first person then proceeds to paint a mental picture of the details that are being planned against him; he finally feels that he is being persecuted. The whole system of judgments and ideas is a mask that is there merely for the purpose of covering with a veil what must be prevented from emerging out of the inner life of soul. — It is a real Maya.
In connection with a series of actions, a man once said to me that he had done them out of an iron sense of duty, out of infinite devotion to the cause he represented. I was bound to say to him in reply: “The opinion you have about the motives of your procedure and of your actions is no criterion whatever. Only reality is the criterion, not the opinion one may have. The reality shows that the impulse, the urge to these actions was to gain influence in a certain direction.” I said to the man quite baldly: “Although you believe that you are acting out of an iron sense of duty, you are really acting under the impulse to acquire influence and you misinterpret this way of acting as being selfless, done purely out of a sense of duty. You are not acting out of this motive but because it pleases you to act so, because it brings you certain pleasure — again, therefore, out of a certain inner impulse.”
Our opinion, our mental picture of ourselves may be extremely complicated; it may not resemble in the very remotest degree what is really dominating and weaving in the soul. It may be extremely complicated. You will admit at once that such things must be known when it is a question of living in a world of truth and not in a world of Maya; you will also admit at once that it is necessary now and then to speak of such things in a radical way! The reasons which as genuine, true reasons, drive us to our actions, can only become clear to us slowly and by degrees, when through Spiritual Science, we really have knowledge of the secret connections existing between the human being and the world.
Let us take a definite case, — You will all know that there are people in the world who are called gossips, chatterboxes. If we ask these chatterboxes why they flock together in their cafes or elsewhere and talk, talk, talk, talk (they often talk a great deal more than they can answer for,) we shall hear many reasons why it is necessary for them to discuss this, that or the other. We can get to know people whom we then meet rushing along the street, hurrying somewhere or other in order to arrive quickly ... and when we find out what they are after, we discover that it is nothing but the most futile, useless, silliest chatter. If such people are asked about their reasons, they will give reasons which often sound exceedingly laudable and fine, whereas the most that can be said is that these reasons are well able to conceal the real facts of the case. And now we will consider these “real facts of the case.”
What is happening when we gossip or chatter? (when we speak, it is, of course, the same.) What is happening? Through our organs of breathing and speech we set the air into movements which correspond with the forms of the words. We generate in ourselves those physical waves — and naturally the corresponding ether-waves too, for when we speak something very significant is happening in the etheric body — we generate these waves in the air and ether which corresponds with our words, which give expression to our words. Picture it quite precisely to yourselves: While you are sitting there — no, pardon me, not you! — while a man is chattering with his cup of coffee before him on the table, he is bringing his whole inner organism into movement, that inner organism which corresponds with the form of expression, with the external physical and etheric form of expression of his words. Something is actually welling up and weaving in him; he generates this in himself, but he also is aware of it, he feels it. He feels this self-movement of the physical and etheric bodies because the astral body and the Ego are continually coming up against it. The astral body is continually coming up against the ether-waves and becoming aware of them; and the Ego is continually coming into contact with the physical waves of the air; so that while we are speaking, astral body and Ego are continually contacting something, touching something. in this contact, in this impact, we become aware of our Ego and of our astral body, and the most agreeable sensation the human being can have is that of self-enjoyment. when the astral body and the Ego contact the etheric body and the physical body in this way, the process is similar to what happens on a small scale when a child licks a sweet — for the pleasurable sensation in licking the sweet consists in the fact that the astral body is coming into contact with what is happening in the physical body, and the human being becomes aware of himself in this way. He becomes aware of himself, has self-enjoyment in this process. Those who sit down at a table in a cafe in order to gossip and chatter for an hour or two, simply hurry there to find self-enjoyment. It is self-enjoyment that is being sought in such cases.
We cannot become aware of these things if we do not know that man's being is fourfold and that all the four members are involved in every activity in the external world.
There are other, different examples. From the example of chattering we have seen how the human being has the urge to self-enjoyment caused by the impact of his astral body and Ego upon the etheric body and the physical body. But he also, frequently feels the need for his astral body merely to contact the etheric body, just the etheric body. In order that the astral body may contact the etheric body, this etheric body must produce movement, it must produce inner activity. These processes go on even more in the subconsciousness than do other processes. There is an impulse in the human being, of which he is not conscious, to make an impact with his astral body upon his etheric body. This impulse lives itself out in very curious ways. We find that certain young men — and in recent times young ladies too — simply cannot rest until what they write is printed. People sometimes find it exceedingly pleasant to see their writings in print, but it is pleasant chiefly because they succumb to the worst possible illusion, namely, to the illusion that what is printed is also read: It is by no means always the case that writings are read when they are printed, but it is at least believed that they are, and this is an exceedingly pleasant sensation. Many young men and, as I say, many young ladies too, simply cannot bear it, they are constantly on edge ... until their writings are printed. What does this mean?
It means this, — When writings are printed and actually read — which happens in the rarest cases today — when writings are printed, our thoughts pass over into other human beings, live on in other human souls. These thoughts live in the etheric bodies of the other human beings. But in us the idea takes root: ‘The thought you yourself had in your etheric body is now living out there in the world.’ We have the feeling that out there in the world our own thoughts are living. If the thoughts are really living in the world, if they are actually present there — in other words, if our printed writings are also read — then this exercises an influence upon our own etheric body and we impact what is living out there in the world. Inasmuch as it is living in our own etheric body, an impact takes place with our own astral body. This is quite a different impact from when we merely impact our own thoughts; the human being is not always strong enough to do this, because these thoughts must be called forth from the inner being by dint of energy. But when the thoughts are living in the world, when we can have the consciousness that our own thoughts are living out there in the world, then our astral body — to the best of our belief at least — comes into contact with a part of ourselves that is living in the outside world. This is the supreme self-enjoyment. But this form of self-enjoyment lies at the basis of all seeking for fame, all seeking for recognition, all seeking for authority in the world. At the root of this impulse for self-enjoyment there lies nothing else than a need to impact with our astral body objective thoughts of our etheric body, and in the impact to become aware of ourselves. You see what a complicated process between astral body and etheric body lies at the root of things that play a certain role in the outer world.
Naturally these things are not said for the purpose of making moral judgments into scarecrow. They are not of this nature at all, for everything that has been mentioned belongs to the category of characteristics that are quite normal in life. When we speak, it is absolutely natural that there should be self-enjoyment — even when speaking does not consist in gossiping. It is quite natural too that when we allow something to be printed, not out of thirst for fame but because we feel it a duty to say something to the world, — that then too we impact the thoughts of our etheric body; in such a case the same process is at work. We must not draw the conclusion that these processes are always to be shunned, always to be regarded as something lacking in morality, — for I simply mean them to be taken in a symbolic sense. If the human being were to flee from everything that presses in upon him from the side of Lucifer and Ahriman, he would have to come out of his skin as soon as he realised it — I mean this symbolically too: Lucifer and Ahriman exercise no other forces upon us than those that are justified, normal forces in human life; only it is the case that Lucifer and Ahriman put them into operation in the wrong place. I have said this in different lecture-courses.
If you think of all these things you will perceive the infinite variety and complexity of those threads in life which play over from human soul to human soul and again outwards from the human soul into the world. How infinitely complicated it all is but at the same time you will realise how little, how very little real knowledge the human being derives from what he perceives and pictures concerning his relations to other human beings and to the world. The picture we have of ourselves is only a tiny fragment drawn from what we experience. And this picture, to begin with, is Maya. Only when we make Spiritual Science into an actual asset of life, not into mere theory, do we really get behind Maya and reach some enlightenment upon what is actually going on within us. But things do not change by our possessing a tiny and mostly untrue fragment of the web in which we are involved in relation to the world; the things are as they are. All these hidden forces, this hidden web from soul to soul, from the human being to the various agents of the world — it is all there, and every minute of sleeping and waking life it is playing into the human soul. You will be able to judge from this how much has to be done in order to reach a true knowledge of the being of man.
Studies of this kind have to do with those shades of feeling which are requisite for a true experience of what belongs, not to earthly incarnation, but to eternity. For by unfolding such shades of feeling we become aware of the basis of the conflicts which appear in life. These conflicts that are brought by life and rightly become subjects for treatment in literature and the other arts, are due to the fact that there is an unknown, hidden ocean of will in which we are swimming in life, and that only a tiny fragment — mostly distorted at that — comes into our consciousness. But we cannot live in accordance with this tiny fragment; we must live with our whole soul in accordance with the great and manifold ramifications which exist in life. And this brings the conflicts. How can the tiny fragment that is also in many cases distorted, how can this tiny fragment come into a true relationship to human life, how can it really understand what is actually going on in human life: Because it is incapable of this, the human being inevitably comes into conflict with life. But where reality is in play, there too is truth. Reality does not direct itself according to the pictures we take of it. And the moment there is opportunity for it reality pitilessly corrects the Maya of our ideas. And this kind of corrective which reality bestows upon the Maya of our ideas, supplies most significant material for treatment in art, in poetry.
In pursuance of the line of thought contained in this lecture, I want now to start from a point that is connected with a work of art; in the lecture tomorrow we shall pass on to a study of the life between death and a new birth, and then on Sunday to a theme dealing with art in connection with our building. I do not want to start from a work of art chosen at random but from something that gives a very concrete picture of what I shall present to you as knowledge of the reality of the spiritual life. The reason for choosing this particular example is that, for once, reality has been hit upon in a certain small, but excellent piece of writing. An occultist alone is able to judge about the reality, but in this small work we see how when the human being as a clairvoyant tries to penetrate into the deeper problems of life, he simply cannot avoid touching the occult sides of life, he cannot avoid touching those depths which send their waves up into the life we often pierce so shallowly with the Maya of our thoughts. What I regard as important from the point of view of art and of occultism really occurs only at the end of a tale of which I want to speak merely as an example. Therefore I shall merely give a brief outline of the tale and read the concluding passage only. It is not a question of speaking merely of a piece of literature but of speaking of this particular work, because here for once a writer has presented something that might actually happen, in absolute accordance with true occult laws.
As the tale was written in the sixties of the 19th century, you will gather from what I say, how what we speak of as Spiritual Science has really always been prepared for and reflected in a certain way in human consciousness. Unconsciously, at least, in many a soul there has been reflected what must enter into the culture of the Earth and become more fully conscious through Spiritual Science. It may be that such a soul actually knew something about this, but the time was not ripe for voicing this knowledge in a form other than the unpretentious form of literature. At the present day people are much more ready to condone the introduction of occult truths in the form of stories or poems ... in the age of materialism they are much more ready to condone this than they will condone somebody who comes out with the direct truth and declares that such things are realities. If people can say to themselves: “Well, after all, this is only romance,” they will often accept it. The tale that was written in the sixties of last century is more or less as follows. —
It is written as if one of the characters were narrating it himself; it is a “first person” story, as we say. This character tells of his acquaintance with Mlle. de Gaussin in Paris (which is the scene of the tale). He tells how at a certain period he paid daily visits to the house of this Mlle. de Gaussin who is a much-feted singer; he gets to know all kinds of people who are admirers of the lady of the house — among them a man who is practically always to be found in Mlle.de Gaussin's salon. The narrator perceives that the feelings of this other man for her are more than mere friendship, and he also realises that these feelings are not reciprocated by the singer. Everything that happens results in a conflict. — There is a man who ardently loves the singer; his love is not returned, but he is not actually rejected; in reality he is brought nearer and nearer to her, but as a result of this he becomes more and more restless and inwardly shaken.
The narrator of the story (it is, as I say a ‘first person’ tale), notices all this. He is friendly with the other, and as he (the narrator) is engaged and is to be married during the next few weeks, it is quite natural, as the other man is also friendly with him, that there is no question of jealousy. One day the narrator has it all out with the other man whose eyes are then opened and he feels bound to have a talk with the singer. The result of this talk is that he goes no more to the house — but, although he has promised not to think about the lady any more, and to forget her, he is incapable of seriously turning his mind to other things, of getting rid of his inner restlessness; the thoughts that were there during his friendship with the lady keep on returning. He leaves the town and lives away for a time. During this period the narrator of the story has married and has been obliged to go on a journey. On this journey he meets the other man in a hotel, in a pitiful state. The other man tells him how he has left Paris and how he tried for a time to live alone; how he went for a ride one day outside his estate and had the ill-luck to come across the lady with her traveling company who were also away from Paris; how all his feelings came to life again and how he now goes about with two revolvers in order one day to put an end to his life.
The narrator still has kindly feelings towards the other man and invites him to his new home, hoping to get him to think of other things. The man accepts the invitation which is just the thing to provide him with a sympathetic milieu as a guest; but he simply cannot get hold of himself, he gets more and more depressed, and finally reaches the point where he has resolved to commit suicide. The two friends have a talk together and the narrator succeeds in getting the other to promise that he will defer his intention. The narrator says that he himself has to go away and because he does not want to say: ‘wait until I come back’ — fearing that the other might not wait but might shoot himself in the meantime — he gets the other to make him a solemn promise. He says: “Look after my wife until I get back.”
When the other man has given the promise, the narrator goes off to Paris with the idea of asking the singer to come to the country and do something to make the situation less miserable. He reaches Paris and travels back with the singer to the country. They get to the hedge around the narrator's country estate. At this moment the narrator notices that a man who had been standing at the hedge, has run back. As they approach, there is a shot. The other man had kept his promise, had faithfully looked after the wife, but had sent a peasant to keep watch at the hedge. The peasant signals: ‘Now he is coming’ — and then the man shoots himself. The narrator brings the singer into the house — and from this point I will read you the words themselves. 1“Tales” by Herman Grimm: “The Singer.”
“We reached the chateau in the evening. When I got to the park, a peasant who was waiting for us ran with lightning speed towards the house, and hardly had we got half-way up the avenue, than a shot rang out. So set was I upon the success of my project that the meaning of this shot never entered my head. Amazement was not long to be withheld from me; we went on; nobody came out; the driver cracked his whip and I sprang out, Mlle. de Gaussin after me. The first thing we heard was a scream from my wife's maid who came towards us deathly white, with the cry: ‘He has shot himself dead’. We hurried to the Marquess' room which was full of people; I sent them all out, shut the door and stood with Manon de Gaussin beside the young man's body which lay on the ground. She stared at it for some minutes, then gave a scream and sank to the ground on her knees beside the body. She did not faint. She took his hands, laid hers on his forehead (the wound was in the middle of the chest), looked at me, then at him, and suddenly began to sing in a loud voice. This filled me with dread; I thought she had lost her reason.
Meanwhile one of my agents who knew a little about first-aid and was accustomed to render simple medical assistance, had arrived. I shall never forget the fear that came over his face when he saw the dead Marquess and the singer beside him. She was now silent, stood up, looked at me a long time and left the room. I followed to find out what she might want. She said: ‘I must have a room in which I am quite alone.’ I led her to the first good room, sent to fetch her maid and hurried to my wife. I heard to my relief that she had gone for a walk; I went to meet her and told her what had happened. As we had often talked about the Marquess and had anticipated the possibility of an end like this, she was less shocked than troubled. I led her back to the chateau and proceeded to give orders about the Marquess. The body had been placed on the bed and his servant was sitting by it, weeping bitterly. He said: ‘My master told me that he must not shoot himself until you had returned. This reassured me. Then he arranged secretly with the man John that he should wait for the carriage. The man did this and had hardly run back with the news that the carriage had entered the park than my master stood up, made a mark in the book he was reading, put his hand in his pocket, gave John a coin, took the pistol from the table and went into the other room; the moment he had closed the door behind him, he was dead.’
I began to reproach myself. Perhaps I might have been able to save him if I had acted more quickly. If Manon de Gaussin had arrived at the right moment this tragedy might, possibly, have been avoided. And I also thought: Perhaps providence has wished to protect him from something that would have been still worse, if the singer had decided to marry him, as I believe she would have done, — although she told me only afterwards that the disastrous consequences of such a step would have been unendurable and would simply have brought misery.
I went to Manon de Gaussin. She was calm and collected. There was nothing very unusual about her. She talked to me about the Marquess's frame of mind and his natural disposition towards such a sad ending of his life. So calm and collected was she that I felt the inner shock must have been very great, and I feared the reaction. I introduced her to my wife; we dined together and then retired.
The next morning I was struck by the change that had come over her. She said she felt well, but there was something so strained about her appearance, and in herself she seemed so broken, that her statement belied itself. She talked about leaving soon and asked if she might be given a different room for that night. This was arranged; we spent the day quietly and she only went to bed when all arrangements for her departure had been completed.
The next day she did not come down to breakfast. her maid asked me to go to her mistress in her room. She received me with a faint smile and was so pale and hollow-eyed that I could not conceal my amazement.
‘Dear friend,” she said, “You find me looking ill and don't want to say so?’
‘Don't you think that is natural?’
‘Yes, you are always full of feeling, reserved. But no secrecy helps now. I feel death within me.’
‘Dearest friend!’ — I cried out in dismay.
‘I feel death; for two nights now I have seen the Marquess — awake — coming here — he is drawing me to him!’
I looked at her attentively. There was no over-strain in her eyes, nothing maniacal in her voice.
She went on: ‘When I saw him lying there in his blood, the feeling that I was the cause of this tragedy became so strong in me that I cried out because I could bear it no longer. It was as though something were shouting with unbelievable strength into my ears: “You are guilty: You have killed him!” In order not to hear this voice I began to sing louder and louder, but yet I did not deafen the voice. I heard it unceasingly. During the night I could not sleep, I lay and looked at the shadows cast by the furniture in the light of the lamp. Then the door sprang open. A narrow, dark streak appeared. Through this streak the Marquess entered, as it were through a thread of cloud as thin as paper; his eyes were closed, he hovered or came slowly towards me, stood beside the bed, as corporeal as you, and with closed eyes. I did not want to look at him but he forced me to do so; I was compelled to turn my eyes towards him. Then he suddenly opened his and looked at me. I could not bear it, and I lost consciousness. Last night it was the same. I can bear it no longer. I feel that he is sucking the life out of me with his eyes.’
I tried with all the arguments of physics, philosophy and religion to get her to dismiss the phenomenon from her mind. She remained resolute ... ‘I am determined to go away,’ — she said. ‘Perhaps his shade is fettered only to this house.’ I opposed this. I could not allow her to travel alone and I could not leave my wife who was expecting her confinement. I therefore proposed to Manon de Gaussin that she should move into my agent's house and I promised to watch by her bed the next night. She finally let herself be persuaded into this, got up and walked around the room like a wraith.
In the evening when she had gone to bed, her maid called me to her. I put a table with night-lights near the bed, with a screen around it, and after talking to her for a little, began to read a book. She seemed to be sleeping; the lights burnt badly. I cleaned them, drank some wine and water and looked at the door. Suddenly — it was made of wood and was not firm — it sprang open; the catch may not have been working. I was about to go over softly and shut it noiselessly when, turning to Manon de Gaussin, I saw her sitting upright in bed with staring eyes. She stretched out her arms towards mine and pointed straight in front of her with her finger:
‘There he comes!’
There was absolutely nothing to be seen.
‘Where?’ I said.
I released myself from her and went to the corner.
‘Come,’ she screamed, ‘he is standing in front of you!’
With one leap I was by her side.
‘Hold my eyes closed, I cannot bear it he is standing there, he is touching your knee!’
I pressed both her hands over her eyes. She breathed with effort, but there was nothing to be seen.
After a while she took her hands away. ‘I must see if he is still there’, she said softly.
‘Dear friend there is nothing here,’ I answered, and released her. She looked around.
‘He has gone away again: O, if he comes once again it will be better for him. We will slip through the doors together.’
This idea made me shudder. She lay back and declared that the next day she would certainly go away into a convent. I tried to talk her out of this.
‘Go to Paris,’ I said — ‘You will forget there.’
She interrupted me. — ‘I have deserved it; I have also deserved that you should make such a proposal to me. That I shall never forget! Him perhaps I shall forget, if he ceases to torment me, but my guilt — that is fast smelted!’
‘Your guilt amounts to nothing,’ I said. ‘That he loved you was destiny; the fact that you did not love him was not in your power to change. That you were able to believe you had cured him was only too natural in his deranged state.’
‘O’ she cried, ‘can a mother who lets her child fall into the water ever console herself? Do you think that guilt is only constituted by evil intent? If it were so, could one not wash away all regret with the thought of higher necessity? If God makes us guilty, it is also his will that we shall bear the consequences. It has been decreed that I shall hear these chains rattling to all eternity.’
I had soon exhausted my arguments. She left the chateau, and I did not accompany her. The birth of a son tore me away from all dark thoughts. I gave a feast in honour of this joyful event; the christening, and care for my wife took up my time so completely that everyone will understand why I did not make enquires about the unhappy, beautiful creature of whom, however, I thought from time to time. One day I received a packet from Paris. It had been addressed to me in the care of my business manager. It contained a little case and a letter, both sealed. I opened the letter first; there were only a few lines.
When you receive this I shall be dead. I knew that the Marquess would call me to him. Although he came no more to disturb my nights, I had some thing in my soul that took the place of him. Tell your wife that I have no pleasanter memory than that of her kindness to me. Guard your son from people like me. Give me a quiet little corner for the photograph enclosed. You need not break the seal. I do not want to destroy it; it must not fall into wrong hands. If you do look at it, think that perchance, even I had a heart
Manon de Gaussin.
I opened the case and the face of the unhappy girl who had announced her death to me in advance streamed out with all the magic she had possessed in the days of her prime. Tears started into my eyes and I thought of all the happy hours I had spent in her house.
Here we have a true description of the etheric body of a dead man appearing to someone else. It is an absolutely true description. Immediately after the death, Manon de Gaussin saw the wandering etheric body of the dead man. I simply wanted to show you how this phenomenon is treated in a story written in the sixties of last century. It is the phenomenon of the appearance of the etheric body of a dead man, and it can teach us about the secret, hidden relationships that may hold sway between human beings. We will pass on tomorrow to further studies. Try to feel how behind what existed in Manon de Gaussin's consciousness as a fragment of Maya, a wide realm was playing, and how out of this wide realm, in the hours she lived through directly after the Marquess' death, a phenomenon appeared to her in the form of a meeting with the etheric body of the dead man.
Truly, the etheric body is more intimately connected with the manifold circumstances in which we are interwoven within the universe than the pictures we bear in our self-knowledge and in our consciousness.