The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century
22 October 1915, Dornach
In a recent lecture I said something to which I want to return today, because in its logical conclusion it forms a kind of foundation for what I still have to say. I said that a spiritual-scientific Movement such as ours must be one which takes full account of the demands of the present cycle of the evolution of humanity and of the necessary consequences of this evolution. Such a Movement must therefore necessarily regard atavistic clairvoyance, and knowledge that is a residue of atavistic clairvoyance, as out of date and no longer suitable for our times; it must be a Movement which sets no store by anything that stems from atavistic sources.
This meant that a great deal of the knowledge given out in the so-called Theosophical Society had simply to be rejected or ignored in the form in which it was there presented, and in certain cases built up entirely anew. Hence from the beginning onwards, strenuous efforts were made by the old representatives of that Society to oppose us. I will give only one example.
You can compare what I said in the year 1904 in the first edition of my book Theosophy about the soul-world and the spirit-land with what had formerly been stated. You must bear especially in mind the distinctions made by me in connection with the soul-world and in the inner soul-life of man and you will see that great stress was laid upon the distinction to be made between the Sentient Soul, the Intellectual or Mind-Soul, and the Consciousness Soul (Spiritual Soul). This threefold distinction had never been made in the literature of the Theosophical Society, but among us it was emphasised from the very beginning.
The other side were at pains to eliminate this distinction, not to allow it to gain ground. I remember vividly what efforts were made to win back our friend the late Ludwig Lindemann, when he was trying to make our Movement known in Italy. It was asserted: You are simply saying in other words what has already been said in our teaching. — Briefly, these people did not wish it to be realised that this threefold distinction was something entirely new and it was necessary to indicate it again and again. And the same kind of thing happened in many, many instances.
From the very beginning we ourselves set out in the direction demanded by the needs of the present age, taking into consideration all the matters of which I have been telling you briefly during recent weeks. But in order to follow this course strictly, it was necessary to give a different form to the way of working adopted everywhere in the Theosophical Society. This naturally entailed effort, really strenuous effort. There was also the difficult question of how my own work could find a place in the literature. During the first years I was obliged to present certain things with great reserve, for the simple reason that years of testing and strict verification were needed in connection with certain subjects and because from the outset I had resolved never to publish or to say anything except that for which I could be answerable, having submitted it all to thorough testing.
Now as you will have realised after what I have been saying, confusion had arisen because investigation of the life between death and rebirth had been brought into an entirely false channel. I spoke about this in the foregoing lectures. But it has not always been easy to test these things as they should be tested. If one resolves to work conscientiously and with a sense of full responsibility, every opportunity that offers itself for stringent testing must be seized, but these opportunities must never be forced. In spiritual investigation it is a matter of waiting. Opportunities must never in the slightest degree be forced.
Most obvious of all was the inaccuracy of the statements purporting to give information about the life between death and a new birth. But whereas on the physical plane, false results of investigation can be rectified by testing them with physical means which make their inaccuracy immediately evident, it is of course quite another matter when things of the spiritual worlds are involved. In the spiritual worlds, the existence of a false, erroneous conception of the real facts is confusing for investigation itself. If, then, through mediums, statements had been made which were not communications from the dead at all, but deliberately inspired by living persons with every kind of bias, these results of what purported to be investigation were in existence. They confront one, and if one is trying to verify things in this domain one has to battle with these results of investigation as actual powers. Anything that is said on the physical plane can be refuted; one sits down at the writing-table and refutes it. But a false result of investigation in the spiritual world is a living reality: it is there and one has to battle with it, do away with it.
Just as thoughts are living realities, false results of investigation are real powers which are there directly one crosses the Threshold of the spiritual world. One enters the spiritual world with the endeavour to bring to light knowledge of the life between death and a new birth; but now the false thoughts that have been produced stand there as living beings before one. To begin with, they give the appearance of truth, of reality. Hence one has first to battle with them, to test them, in order to discover whether they have the attributes of untrue thoughts, or the attributes of true and really living thoughts.
This process of testing and verification often takes a very long time. In the nature of things, therefore, when one had resolved that the testing should be thorough and exact, it was difficult to investigate this realm of the life between death and a new birth, because so many false conclusions had been drawn. Hence in these matters particularly it was necessary to exercise great reserve, speaking of them only when they could be presented as absolutely and strictly true. A great deal of work had therefore to be done before it was possible to give, for example, the course of lectures now available under the title The Inner Nature of Man and Life Between Death and a new Birth. 1Six lectures given in Vienna, 9th to 14th April, 1914. Anthroposophical Publishing Co. (Rudolf Steiner Press) 1959.
In a general way it is easy to describe the life between death and a new birth. It begins when, after completing the backward review arising in the process of the separation of the etheric body from the physical body, the human being passes into the sphere which in theosophical literature was usually called Kamaloka. But if you compare what was called Kamaloka in that literature with what has been made known among us during the course of the years, you cannot fail to perceive the considerable differences. Now please do not misunderstand me here. — I do not assert that at the present time it is the task of each individual to put everything to the test. The task of one is not that of the other. I regard it as my task to say nothing which I cannot guarantee to have been tested and proven. That is what I consider to be my particular, entirely individual task.
I want now to speak of something that it is important to remember when speaking of the first years of the life between death and a new birth. A really positive and faithful picture of these first years or decades can be gained only by using certain parallels. Only so is it possible, by adding many details, to fill out the general picture given in the book Theosophy. Our whole development depends upon this being done. In that book a broad ground-plan is given, and our work should consist in filling out each of the various sections outlined in the general plan. It is a matter, therefore, of gathering together many things that have been said, and if, starting from what is contained in the book Theosophy, you go on to the many more intimate details given in the lecture-courses which have now been printed, you will see that real progress has been made in acquiring more and more intimate knowledge.
To have an accurate picture of the first years or decades of the life after death, it is necessary to compare what is to be perceived in the case of human beings who died very young, let us say in earliest infancy, with what is to be perceived in the cases of those who died in middle age and again at an advanced age. There are very great differences here. The life after death differs enormously according to whether the human being has died in early or advanced years; and a really reliable picture can be gained only from what is experienced in connection with human beings whose deaths occurred at different ages.
So, for example, an essential foundation for discovering certain matters was to become fully aware of the conditions of those who died in very early infancy and again of those who died at the ages of 11, 12 or 13. A very great difference in the conditions of life after death is to be observed according to whether death took place before the age of 8 or 9, or before the age of 16 or 17. This is clearly disclosed by certain experiences one can have with the dead. It can be observed that human beings who died during the tenderest years of infancy are very much occupied with the tasks devolving upon mankind during the period immediately following these deaths.
Now the outer representatives of religious communities do nothing to prevent certain ideas that are at variance with the truth from taking root among men. You will know from your own experience that little is done by these representatives of religion to refute the idea that when an old man or an infant dies, the old man lives on as an old man and the child as a child. But the mode of life of souls on the Earth has nothing directly to do with the mode of their life in yonder world. If a child dies at the age of three or six months, all its earthly lives come into consideration, and it may enter the spiritual world as a very mature soul. It is therefore entirely false to imagine that an infant lives on as an infant. We find that souls who died in early infancy have tasks connected with what the Earth needs in order that the necessary store of spiritual strength may be acquired for further activities. Human beings cannot work adequately on the Earth unless impulses come to them from the spiritual worlds. These impulses, however, do not come in the vague, nebulous way imagined by Pantheism; they come from actual beings, among whom are also to be found the souls of children who died in early infancy.
As a concrete example, let us think of how Goethe developed. Naturally, some part of Goethe's genius was due to the help he received from the spiritual world. If we investigate this, we come to the souls of children who died in early age. The spirituality there present in the universe is connected with the souls of children who died in infancy. On the other hand, children who died at the ages of 9 or 1o but before they are 16 or 17 are found very soon after death in the company of spiritual beings — but these spiritual beings are human souls. Many of these children are found in the company of human souls, and indeed of those souls who must shortly come down to the Earth, who are awaiting their next incarnation. And so those who die in early infancy, say up to the ages of 7 or 8, are found to be much occupied with human beings here below on the Earth; but those who died between the ages from about to to 15 or 16 are found to be occupied with souls whose endeavour is to incarnate soon. They are vital supporters and helpers, important messengers for what these souls need in order to prepare for their earthly existence. It is important to know this if we want to avoid generalities and are intent upon penetrating into these spiritual worlds.
It is not easy to investigate these matters. — One can make an approach by asking, for example: What is the best way to find the dead? It then proves to be the case that those who died years or decades ago, or quite recently, are most easily found when consciousness of the spiritual world awakens in sleep.
I have often told you that awakening can be of two kinds. An awakening can take place in sleep itself, and then a man knows that now he is not asleep in the ordinary way but is in the spiritual world. Indications on this subject are to be found in the book A Road to Self-Knowledge. Eight Meditations. Or an awakening can take place in waking life itself. But investigation into the life of the dead is best pursued when the awakening takes place during actual sleep, because then one's own activity is most closely related with that of the dead.
A remarkable discovery is then made. — Here, in physical life between waking and sleeping, man always remembers the periods of his waking life. In what does his life really consist? Waking, daily life, sleeping; waking, daily life, sleeping and so on. During the life of day his remembrances are always of what happened during a former life of day. Our everyday waking life is full of such remembrances. But it is different when the life of our Ego is interrupted by the periods of sleep. The curious thing is, however, that during sleep we remember only the preceding sleep-conditions only we are unconscious of this. In most cases there is no such remembrance. But during sleep a subconscious process of remembrance continues through the whole of life.
If we consider the life that embraces both sleeping and waking, night-life and day-life, we can say: the night-life is interrupted by the day-life, just as the day-life is interrupted by the night-life. Nevertheless the stream of life is continuous. The remarkable thing, however, is that whereas in remembrances during the life of day we are passive—for they rise up and it is only in exceptional cases, when we want to remind ourselves of something in the past, that we have to make efforts—during sleep, when we want to remember something for a particular purpose, efforts are essential. As a rule, however, man lacks the strength to become conscious of this activity and that is why he has no remembrances during sleep. In his soul, however, he is much more active during sleep than during waking life. Dreaming does not cut across this activity. Dreaming corresponds to what goes on in our waking life when we make great efforts to remember; but if during sleep, we exert ourselves only slightly, this corresponds to the ordinary process of remembering during the day, when we make no efforts because the remembrances come of themselves. After death, the remembrances we have of the waking life now ended are soon over. Then in the period of Kamaloka man lives through all the experiences of the nights in backward order.
In our life here on Earth we are occupied with what the days brought to us and also — although without being aware of it—with what we experienced during the nights. After death, however, everything we lived through during the nights comes into our consciousness. Night by night — everything comes back to us. And it is important to realise that, to begin with, the dead lives through his nights. This is by no means easy to realise and can only gradually be discovered. Naturally a man lives through his life, but he lives through it by way of his experiences during the nights.
I have often said that the time spent in Kamaloka is approximately one third of the lifetime on Earth. If you reflect that a man who does not die in childhood spends about a third of his life asleep, you will understand why the time in Kamaloka amounts approximately to a third of the time of the earthly life; the Kamaloka period lasts for as long as the time spent in sleep — about one third of the whole lifetime on earth.
It is very necessary to gather together carefully the items of concrete knowledge that have been given and to correlate them. And that is why — how shall I put it? — that is why it has such a jarring effect (although that does not quite express what I mean) when one who is trying to speak about the spiritual world with full responsibility, is asked all kinds of questions about this or that point after the lectures. These people want to know everything, but on the other hand one has been endeavouring to speak only of what has actually been thought through to the end. One is forced, then, to speak about a whole number of matters into which there has not yet been opportunity for thorough investigation. It is, of course, possible to give some reply, for the science of occultism is there; but when one has laid it down as a fundamental principle to speak only of what one has actually tested and verified, this kind of talking goes against the grain.
And now recall that I said: when we cross the Threshold of the spiritual world, we find that comparatively soon after his death a human being who died at the age of 11, 12, 13 or 14 years, is living among those who are shortly to return to the Earth and discharge their tasks there. This soul helps them to find the right paths to incarnation. It may seem strange to say this, but it is the case nevertheless.
Now these things are in turn connected with certain secrets of life, with very definite secrets of life. The fact of the matter is that we discover certain things in the real sense only when we can put the right questions. Not every question is rightly put; we have to wait until we become worthy, as it were, of putting the question in the right way.
I shall now say something that may seem strange, although it is correct. The human being gets two sets of teeth: first he gets the teeth which fall out about the seventh year, and then he gets the second teeth. I do not believe that it occurs to many people to ask anything about the coming of these second teeth, for I have always found that when the subject is under discussion among specialists, they speak as though there were no difference between the first and second dentition. To an occultist, however, the first dentition is an entirely different matter from the development of the second teeth. I once had to give what seemed a grotesque answer to a point raised to me by a medical expert. The answer amused him, but from the standpoint of occultism it was quite correct. He said that children with milk-teeth ought to be taught to bite as soon as possible, because the sole purpose of the teeth is to enable human beings to bite. This line of thought, however, is not correct — from the occult standpoint, at least, it is only half correct, and the matter must in any case be gone into more exactly. There is no question that man has the second teeth for the purpose of biting; but as regards the first teeth there is a question. The first teeth come through heredity. The human being has them because the parents and grandparents have had them. Only when he has shed these first, inherited teeth does he develop the second teeth. These are then an individual acquisition; the first teeth have been inherited. This is a matter which comes into consideration only if we pay attention to subtle differences. It is not a matter of outstanding importance, nor would particularly grave errors be incurred if the question were not raised. But it is important to know that the first teeth are related to heredity in quite a different way from the second. The second teeth will be found to be connected with the general health of the human being, with his whole constitution, whereas the first teeth, especially as regards their healthiness are far more closely connected with the health of the parents and grandparents. Here there is already a difference which can be followed up empirically. These distinctions are subtle, but when attention is directed in this way to how matters stand with the teeth, something else comes to light, and this is the point that may strike you as strange, although it is quite true.
Suppose a child dies before he has cut all his second teeth, or very shortly afterwards. Strangely enough, occult investigation discovers that whether the child has not yet or had already cut the second teeth has an actual effect in the spiritual world. Assuming that the child died at the age of 8 or 9, we discover that some of the impulses which otherwise penetrate into the physical world are working there; we discover that these are the forces which should have penetrated into the teeth, but are now at the disposal of the child. Especially in the case of a child who died early, who had lost the first teeth but had not yet, or had only just, cut the second teeth, it can be observed, strangely enough, that this child has certain forces and that these forces are of exactly the same kind as those which, on the physical plane, promote the growth of the teeth out of the organism as a whole.
When a human being is in the physical world he must unfold certain physical forces in order that the teeth may develop out of the organism. If he dies before the teeth have developed or have only just developed, these forces are free for him in the spiritual world and he can work with them into the earthly world; if he is living in the physical world these forces build up the teeth which he then uses in the physical world.
Here we have a vista of a wonderful connection with the Cosmos, and can recognise the profound truth of what is described in the first scene of the second Mystery Play, The Soul's Probation: how the spiritual worlds work by means of their Beings to bring Man into existence, and how when this knowledge goes to his head, Capesius is filled with arrogance on learning that Man is the goal of all the activities of the Gods. — But this great truth is hardly noticed.
I said further that human beings who died between the ages of 8 or 9, and 9 to 16 or 17, are found among souls who are trying to incarnate as soon as may be. These souls of human beings who died in youth again have special forces which are also the result of metamorphosis. At the age of 14, 15 or 16, the human being reaches puberty: if puberty had not been reached or had only just been reached, the forces leading to it are transformed in the spiritual world into forces by means of which such a soul can work among those souls who are awaiting their next incarnation on Earth, helping them to prepare for this incarnation.
Think of the infinitely profound connection here. — The forces of reproduction are transformed in the spiritual world into forces of help for the souls who are trying to come down as soon as may be into the physical world. These are connections which show us how the spiritual on yonder side of the Threshold works on in the physical world in individual, concrete realities. Moreover, we do not learn to know the physical world truly until we realise that forces are unfolded as a result of the fact that the human being discards certain teeth and develops others. Puberty again is brought about by the unfolding of forces. When the human being has actually reached puberty the forces have quite different functions.
All this leads to the question: Why is man prevented in his ordinary life from looking into the spiritual world? The spiritual world is barred on two sides. On the one side, it is barred by outer nature. We see outer nature as a veil covering what lies behind it. If a man can pierce the veil, he is in the spiritual world. Materialism endeavours in every way to prevent men from recognising that spirit is behind that veil. I have often said, even in public lectures, that an unconscious fear underlies this — but it is the same with regard to the inner life. Man is aware of his thinking, his feeling and his will; but behind these there is something else, namely, the being of soul who passes from incarnation to incarnation. And in that domain the religious communities of the present day do not want it to be discovered that behind thinking, feeling and willing there lies the other reality.
For this reason the book Riddles of Philosophy will be very unwelcome, because I have dealt with this point in the last chapter. The path to the world of spirit is barred on two sides. Whereas natural scientists on the one side are at pains to produce nothing that might lead into the world lying behind nature, the representatives of the religious communities are at pains to prevent anything coming to the knowledge of souls that can enlighten them on what it is that passes beyond death and then on to the next incarnation.
Why, on the one side, do the natural scientists hinder man from penetrating behind nature, and, on the other, why do the priests hinder him from penetrating behind the secrets of the life of soul? This question is important and worth consideration, for you will find these things coming more and more to a head. Those who build up a view of the world on the basis of natural science will be our opponents because they do not wish the spiritual world behind nature to come into evidence. And the priests will be our opponents because they do not wish to allow the reality of the being who lies behind thinking, feeling and willing and passes from incarnation to incarnation, to be grasped. On the one side the natural scientist says: here are the boundaries of knowledge. And on the other side the representatives of religion say: to go further is sinful, it is presumption on the part of man. Tomorrow we will consider the reasons on which the contentions of these two categories of opponents are based, and then pass on to other matters.