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Man and the World of Stars
GA 219

II. Moral Qualities and the Life After Death. Windows of the Earth

1 December 1922, Dornach

The essential purpose of the lectures I have been giving here for some weeks past was to show how through his spiritual life man partakes in what we may call the world of the Stars, just as through his physical life on Earth he partakes in earthly existence, earthly happenings. In the light of the outlook acquired through Anthroposophy we distinguish in man the forces that lie in his physical body and in his etheric or formative-forces body, and those that lie in his Ego and his astral body. You know, of course, that these two sides of his being are separated whenever he sleeps. And now we will think for a short time of a man while he is asleep. On the one side the physical body and the etheric body lie there in a state of unconsciousness; but the Ego and the astral body are also without consciousness.

We may now ask: Are these two unconscious sides of human nature also related during sleep?—We know indeed that in the waking state, where the ordinary consciousness of modern man functions, the two sides are related through thinking, through feeling and through willing. We must therefore picture to ourselves that when the Ego and astral body plunge down, as it were, into the etheric body and the physical body, thinking, feeling, and willing arise from this union.

Now when man is asleep, thinking, feeling, and willing cease. But when we consider his physical body we shall have to say: All the forces which, according to our human observation belong to Earth-existence are active in this physical body. This physical body can be weighed; put it on scales and it will prove to have a certain weight. We can investigate how material processes take their course within it—or at least we can imagine hypothetically that this is possible. We should find in it material processes that are a continuation of those processes to be found outside in Earth-existence; these continue within man's physical body in the process of nutrition. In his physical body we should also find what is achieved through the breathing process. It is only what proceeds from the head-organization of man, all that belongs to the system of senses and nerves, that is either dimmed or plunged in complete darkness during sleep.

If we then pass on to consider the etheric body which permeates the physical, it is by no means so easy to understand how this etheric body works during sleep. Anyone, however, who is already versed to a certain extent in what Spiritual Science has to say about man will realize without difficulty how through his etheric body the human being lives, even while asleep, amid all the conditions of the ether-world and all the etheric forces surrounding existence on Earth. So that we can say: Within the physical body of man while he is asleep, everything that belongs to Earth-existence is active. So too in the etheric body all that belongs to the ether-world enveloping and permeating the Earth is active.

But matters become more difficult when we turn our attention—naturally our soul's attention—to what is now (during sleep) outside the physical and etheric bodies, namely, to the Ego and astral body of man. We cannot possibly accept the idea that this has anything to do with the physical Earth, or with what surrounds and permeates the Earth as ether. As to what takes place during sleep, I indicated it to you in a more descriptive way in the lectures given here a short time ago, and I will outline it today from a different point of view. We can in reality only understand what goes on in the Ego and astral body of man when with the help of Spiritual Science we penetrate into what takes place on and around the Earth over and above the physical and etheric forces and activities.

To begin with, we turn our gaze upon the plant-world. Speaking in the general sense and leaving out of account evergreen trees and the like—we see the plant-world sprouting out of the Earth in spring. We see the plants becoming richer and richer in color, more luxuriant, and then in autumn fading away again. In a certain sense we see them disappear from the Earth when the Earth is covered with snow.

But that is only one aspect of the unfolding of the plant-world. Physical knowledge tells us that this unfolding of the plant-world in spring and its fading towards autumn is connected with the Sun, also that, for example, the green coloring of the plants can be produced only under the influence of sunlight. Physical knowledge, therefore, shows us what comes about in the realm of physical effects; but it does not show us that while all the budding, the blossoming and withering of the plants is going on, spiritual events are also taking place. In reality, just as in the physical human organism there is for example the circulation of the blood, just as etheric processes express themselves in the physical organism as vascular action and so forth, and just as this physical organism is permeated by the soul and spirit, so also the processes of sprouting, greening, blossoming and fading of the plants which we regard as physical processes, are everywhere permeated by workings of the cosmic world of soul and spirit.

Now when we look into the countenance of a man and his glance falls on us, when we see his expression, maybe the flushing of the face, then indeed the eyes of our soul are looking right through the physical to the soul and spirit. Indeed, it cannot be otherwise in our life among our fellow-men. In like manner we must accustom ourselves also to see spirit-and-soul in the physiognomy—if I may call it so—and changing coloring of the plant-world on our Earth.

If we are only willing to recognize the physical, we say that the Sun's warmth and light work upon the plants, forming in them the saps, the chlorophyll and so forth. But if we contemplate all this with spiritual insight, if we take the same attitude to this plant-physiognomy of the Earth as we are accustomed to take to the human physiognomy, then something unveils itself to us that I should like to express with a particular word, because this word actually conveys the reality.

The Sun, of which we say, outwardly speaking, that it sends its light to the Earth, is not merely a radiant globe of gas but infinitely more than that. It sends its rays down to the Earth but whenever we look at the Sun it is the outer side of the rays that we see. The rays have, however, an inner side. If someone were able to look through the Sun's light, to regard the light only as an outer husk and look through to the soul of it, he would behold the Soul-Power, the Soul-Being of the Sun. With ordinary human consciousness we see the Sun as we should see a man who was made of papier-maché. An effigy in which there is nothing but the form, the lifeless form, is of course something different from the human being we actually see before us. In the case of the living human being, we see through this outer form and perceive soul-and-spirit. For ordinary consciousness the Sun is changed as it were into a papier-maché cast. We do not see through its outer husk that is woven of Light.

But if we were able to see through this, we should see the soul-and-spirit essence of the Sun. We can be conscious of its activity just as we are conscious of the physical papier-maché husk of the Sun. From the standpoint of physical knowledge we say: ‘The Sun shines upon the Earth; it sparkles upon the stones, upon the soil. The light is thrown back and thereby we see everything that is mineral. The rays of the Sun penetrate into the plants, making them green, making them bud.’—All that is external. If we see the soul-and-spirit essence of the Sun, we cannot merely say: ‘The sunlight sparkles on the minerals, is reflected, enabling us to see the minerals,’ or, ‘The light and heat of the Sun penetrate into the plants, making them verdant’—but we shall have to say, meaning now the countless spiritual Beings who people the Sun and who constitute its soul and spirit: ‘The Sun dreams and its dreams envelop the Earth and fashion the plants.’

If you picture the surface of the Earth with the physical plants growing from it, coming to blossom, you have there the working of the physical rays of the Sun. But above it is the weaving life of the dream-world of the Sun—a world of pure Imaginations. And one can say: When the mantle of snow melts in the spring, the Sun regains its power, then the Sun-Imaginations weave anew around the Earth. These Imaginations of the Sun are Imaginative forces, playing in upon the world of plants. Now although it is true that this Imaginative world—this Imaginative atmosphere surrounding the Earth—is very specially active from spring until autumn in any given region of the Earth, nevertheless this dreamlike character of the Sun's activity is also present in a certain way during the time of winter. Only during winter the dreams are, as it were, dull and brooding, whereas in summer they are mobile, creative, formative. Now it is in this element in which the Sun-Imaginations unfold that the Ego and astral body of man live and weave when they are outside the physical and etheric bodies.

You will realize from what I have said that sleep in summer is actually quite a different matter from sleep in winter, although in the present state of evolution, man's life and consciousness are so dull and lacking in vitality that these things go unperceived. In earlier times men distinguished very definitely through their feelings between winter-sleep and summer-sleep, and they knew too what meaning winter-sleep and summer-sleep had for them. In those ancient times men knew that of summer-sleep they could say: During the summer the Earth is enveloped by picture-thoughts. And they expressed this by saying: The Upper Gods come down during the summer and hover around the Earth; during the winter the Lower Gods ascend out of the Earth and hover around it.—This Imaginative world, differently constituted in winter and in summer, was conceived as the weaving of the Upper and the Lower Gods. But in those olden times it was also known that man himself, with his Ego and his astral body, lives in this world of weaving Imaginations.

Now the very truths of which I have here spoken, show us, if we ponder them in the light of Spiritual Science, in what connection man stands, even during his earthly existence, with the extra-earthly Universe. You see, in summer—when it is summer in any region of the Earth—the human being during his sleep is always woven around by a sharply contoured world of Cosmic Imaginations. The result is that during the time of summer he is, so to speak, pressed near to the Earth with his soul and spirit. During the time of winter it is different. During winter the contours, the meshes, of the Cosmic Imaginations widen out, as it were. During the summer we live with our Ego and astral body while we are asleep within very clearly defined Imaginations, within manifold figures and forms. During winter the figures around the Earth are wide-meshed and the consequence of this is that whenever autumn begins, that which lives in our Ego and astral body is borne far out into the Universe by night. During summer and its heat, that which lives in our Ego and astral body remains more, so to speak, in the psycho-spiritual atmosphere of the human world. During winter this same content is borne out into the far distances of the Universe. Indeed without speaking figuratively, since one is saying something that is quite real, one can say: that which man cultivates in himself, in his soul, and which through his Ego and astral body he can draw out from his physical and etheric bodies between the times of going to sleep and waking—that stores itself up during the summer and streams out during winter into the wide expanse of the Cosmos.

Now we cannot conceive that we men shut ourselves away, as it were, in earthly existence and that the wide Universe knows nothing of us. It is far from being so. True, at the time of Midsummer man can conceal himself from the Spirits of the Universe, and he may also succeed in harboring reprehensible feelings of evil. The dense net of Imaginations does not let these feelings through; they still remain. And at Christmastime the Gods look in upon the Earth and everything that lives in man's nature is revealed and goes forth with his Ego and astral being. Using a picture which truly represents the facts, we may say: In winter the windows of the Earth open and the Angels and Archangels behold what men actually are on the Earth.

We on Earth have gradually accustomed ourselves in modern civilization to express all that we allow to pass as knowledge in humdrum, dry, unpoetic phrases. The higher Beings are ever poets, therefore we never give a true impression of their nature if we describe it in barren physical words; we must resort to words such as I have just now used: at Christmastime the Earth's windows open and through these windows the Angels and Archangels behold what men's deeds have been the whole year through. The Beings of the higher Hierarchies are poets and artists even in their thinking. The logic we are generally at pains to apply is only an outcome of the Earth's gravity—by which I do not at all imply that it is not highly useful on Earth.

It is what lives in the minds and hearts of men as I have just pictured it, that is of essential interest to these higher Beings; the Angels who look in through the Christmas windows are not interested in the speculations of professors; they overlook them. Nor, to begin with, are they much concerned with a man's thoughts. It is what goes on in his feelings, in his heart, that in its cosmic aspect is connected with the Sun's yearly course. So it is not so much whether we are foolish or clever on Earth that comes before the gaze of the Divine-Spiritual Beings at the time of Christmas, but simply whether we are good or evil men, whether we feel for others or are egoists. That is what is communicated to the cosmic worlds through the course of the yearly seasons.

You may believe that our thoughts remain near the Earth, because I have said that the Angels and Archangels are not concerned with them when they look in through the Christmas windows. They are not concerned with our thoughts because, if I may use a rather prosaic figure of speech, they receive the richer coinage, the more valuable coinage that is minted by the soul-and-spirit of man. And this more valuable coinage is minted by the heart, the feelings, by what a man is worth because of what his heart and feeling contain. For the Cosmos, our thoughts are only the small change, the lesser coinage, and this lesser coinage is spied out by subordinate spiritual beings every night. Whether we are foolish or clever is spied out for the Cosmos every night—not indeed for the very far regions of the Cosmos but only for the regions around the Earth—spied out by beings who are closest to the Earth in its environment and therefore the most subordinate in rank. The daily revolution of the Sun takes place in order to impart to the Cosmos the worth of our thoughts. Thus far do our thoughts extend; they belong merely to the environment of the Earth. The yearly revolution of the Sun takes place in order to carry our heart-nature, our feeling-nature, farther out into the cosmic worlds.

Our will-nature cannot be carried in this way out into the Cosmos, for the cycle of the day is strictly regulated. It runs its course in twenty-four hours. The yearly course of the Sun is strictly regulated too. We perceive the regularity of the daily cycle in the strictly logical sequences of our thoughts. The regularity of the yearly cycle—we perceive the after-effect of this in our heart and soul, in that there are certain feelings which say to one thing that a man does: it is good, and to another: it is bad.

But there is a third faculty in man, namely, the will. True, the will is bound up with feeling, and feeling cannot but say that certain actions are morally good, and others morally not good. But the will can do what is morally good and also what is morally not good. Here, then, there is no strict regularity. The relation of our will to our nature as human beings is not strictly regulated in the sense that thinking and feeling are regulated. We cannot call a bad action good, or a good action bad, nor can we call a logical thought illogical, an illogical thought logical. This is due to the fact that our thoughts stand under the influence of the daily revolution of the Sun, our feelings under the influence of its yearly revolution. The will, however, is left in the hands of humanity itself on Earth. And now a man might say: ‘The most that happens to me is that if I think illogically, my illogical thoughts are carried out every night into the Cosmos and do mischief there—but what does that matter to me? I am not here to bring order into the Cosmos.’—Here on Earth, where his life is lived in illusion, a man might in certain circumstances speak like this, but between death and a new birth he would never do so. For between death and a new birth he himself is in the worlds in which he may have caused mischief through his foolish thoughts; and he must live through all the harm that he has done. So, too, between death and a new birth, he is in those worlds into which his feelings have flowed. But here again he might say on Earth: ‘What lives in my feelings evaporates into the Cosmos; but I leave it to the Gods to deal with any harm that may have been caused there through me. My will, however, is not bound on Earth by any regulation.’—

The materialist who considers that man's life is limited to the time between birth and death, can never conceive that his will has any cosmic significance; neither can he conceive that human thoughts or feelings have any meaning for the Cosmos. But even one who knows quite well that thoughts have a cosmic significance as the result of the daily revolution of the Sun, and feelings through the yearly revolution—even he, when he sees what is accomplished on the Earth by the good or evil will-impulses of man, must turn away from the Cosmos and to human nature itself in order to see how what works in man's will goes out into the Cosmos. For what works in man's will must be borne out into the Cosmos by man himself, and he bears it out when he passes through the gate of death. Therefore it is not through the daily or the yearly cycles but through the gate of death that man carries forth the good or the evil he has brought about here on Earth through his will.

It is a strange relationship that man has to the Cosmos in his life of soul. We say of our thoughts: ‘We have thoughts but they are not subject to our arbitrary will; we must conform to the laws of the Universe when we think, otherwise we shall come into conflict with everything that goes on in the world.’—If a little child is standing in front of me, and I think: That is an old man—I may flatter myself that I have determined the thought, but I am certainly out of touch with the world. Thus in respect of our thoughts we are by no means independent, so little independent that our thoughts are carried out into the Cosmos by the daily cycle of the Sun. Nor are we independent in our life of feelings, for they are carried out through the yearly cycle of the Sun. Thus even during earthly life, that which lives in our head through our thoughts and, through our feelings in our breast, does not live only within us but also partakes in a cosmic existence. That alone which lives in our will we keep with us until our death. Then, when we have laid aside the body, when we have no longer anything to do with earthly forces, we bear it forth with us through the gate of death.

Man passes through the gate of death laden with what has come out of his acts of will. Just as here on Earth he has around him all that lives in minerals, plants, animals and in physical humanity, all that lives in clouds, streams, mountains, stars, in so far as they are externally visible through the light—just as he has all this around him during his existence between birth and death, so he has a world around him when he has laid aside the physical and etheric bodies and has passed through the gate of death. In truth he has around him the very world into which his thoughts have entered every night, into which his feelings have entered with the fulfilment of every yearly cycle ... “That thou hast thought; that thou hast felt.” ... It now seems to him as though the Beings of the Hierarchies were bearing his thoughts and his feelings towards him. They have perceived it all, as I have indicated. His mental life and his feeling-life now stream towards him.

In earthly existence the Sun gives light from morning to evening; it goes down and night sets in. When we have passed through the gate of death, our wisdom rays out towards us as day; through our accumulated acts of folly, the spiritual lights grow dark and dim around us and it becomes night. Here on Earth we have day and night; when we have passed through the gate of death, we have as day and night the results of our wisdom and our foolishness. And what man experiences here on this Earth as spring, summer, autumn and winter in the yearly cycle, as changing temperatures and other sentient experiences, of all this he becomes aware—when he has passed through the gate of death—also as a kind of cycle, although of much longer duration. He experiences the warmth-giving, life-giving quality (life-giving, that is to say, for his spiritual Self) of his good feelings, of his sympathy with goodness; he experiences as icy cold his sympathy with evil, with the immoral. Just as here on Earth we live through the heat of summer and the cold of winter, so do we live after death warmed by our good feelings, chilled by our evil feelings; and we bear the effects of our will through these spiritual years and days. After death we are the product of our moral nature on Earth. And we have an environment that is permeated by our follies and our wisdom, by our sympathies and antipathies for the good.

So that we can say: Just as here on Earth we have the summer air around us giving warmth and life, and as we have the cold and frosty winter air around us, so, after death, we are surrounded by an atmosphere of soul-and-spirit that is warm and life-giving in so far as it is produced through our good feelings, and chilling in so far as it is produced through our evil feelings. Here on Earth, in certain regions at least, the summer and winter temperatures are the same for all of us. In the time after death, each human being has his own atmosphere, engendered by himself. And the most moving experiences after death are connected with the fact that one man lives in icy cold and the other, close beside him, in life-giving warmth.

Such are the experiences that may be undergone after death. And as I described in my book Theosophy, one of the main experiences passed through in the soul-world, is that those human beings who have harbored evil feelings here on Earth, must undergo their hard experiences in the sight of those who developed and harbored good feelings.

It can indeed be said: All that remains concealed to begin with in the inner being of man, discloses itself when he has passed through the gate of death. Sleep too acquires a cosmic significance, likewise our life during wintertime. We sleep every night in order that we may prepare for ourselves the light in which we must live after death. We go through our winter experiences in order to prepare the soul-spiritual warmth into which we enter after death. And into this atmosphere of the spiritual world which we have ourselves prepared we bear the effects of our deeds.

Here on Earth we live, through our physical body, as beings subject to earthly gravity. Through our breathing we live in the surrounding air, and far away we see the stars. When we have passed through the gate of death we are in the world of spirit-and-soul, far removed from the Earth; we are beyond the stars, we see the stars from the other side, look back to the world of stars. Our very being lives in the cosmic thoughts and cosmic forces. We look back upon the stars, no longer seeing them shine, but seeing instead the Hierarchies, the Spiritual Beings who have merely their reflection in the stars.

Thus man on Earth can gain more and more knowledge of what the nature of his life will be when he passes through the gate of death. There are people who say: ‘Why do I need to know all this? I shall surely see it all after death!’—That attitude is just as if a man were to doubt the value of eyesight. For as the Earth's evolution takes its course, man enters more and more into a life in which he must acquire the power to partake in these after-death experiences by grasping them, to begin with in thought, here on the Earth. To shut out knowledge of the spiritual worlds while we are on the Earth is to blind ourselves in soul and spirit after death. A man will enter the spiritual world as a cripple when he passes through the gate of death, if here, in this world, he disdains to learn about the world of spirit, for humanity is evolving towards freedom—towards free spiritual activity. This fact should become clearer and clearer to mankind and should make men realize the urgent necessity of gaining knowledge about the spiritual world.