Mans Life on Earth and in the Spiritual Worlds
30 August 1922, London
When we can meet so seldom, one has naturally the desire to put as much as possible into a lecture, and it may sometimes happen that one gives perhaps too much. I intend nevertheless making the bold attempt to give you today a description from one point of view of what may be called the other side of man's earthly existence; and I want to make clear to you at the same time the importance and significance for our age of this deeper kind of knowledge, — this spiritual knowledge.
How much, after all, does man know ordinarily of his existence here on Earth? What can his senses and his sense-bound intellect tell him? With ordinary consciousness he is conscious only of his waking life, Yet it is surely not without meaning that the guiding Spiritual Powers of the World have inserted into man's life on Earth the condition of sleep.
Between the time of falling asleep and the time of awaking a very great deal takes place. In fact, of all that the Spirit has to accomplish on Earth through man, by far the greater part is accomplished during sleep. As long as we are awake, what happens on Earth through us is limited to what we do, — either to ourselves or to the things that are around us. When we go to sleep, however, another activity begins. Whilst we are asleep, lofty Spiritual Beings work upon the human soul, with the object of bringing man to his full and complete evolution in Earth existence,
It is possible for one who has acquired modern initiation knowledge to have clear and detailed insight into the significant events that take place during sleep. We must not of course make the mistake of imagining that these events take place for the initiate alone; they are experienced by all human beings alike. Indeed, human evolution is entirely dependent upon these events that happen with us between the moment of falling asleep and the moment of awaking. The difference with the initiate is just this, — that he is able to draw our attention to these events. And it is increasingly important that all who give any thought at all to the meaning of existence on Earth should be alive to the significance of what happens in sleep.
Let me now sketch for you in bold outline the influences that play into the sleep of man. Suppose someone goes to sleep. As you know, we describe the process in the following way. His astral body, we say, and his I loosen themselves from the physical body and the ether-body, and are in the Spiritual World; they no longer permeate the physical and etheric bodies as they do in the waking state. But when we try to go a little further and form a picture of what really takes place with man during the condition of sleep, we find that it is necessary first to come to a clearer perception of the nature of man's connection with the Earth during waking hours. How is man connected with the Earth while he is awake? First of all, through his senses. With the aid of his senses, he perceives and cognizes the phenomena of the various kingdoms of Nature. But this is not all. Man is also connected with the Earth through activities he performs unconsciously, — unconsciously, that is, even while he is awake. Man breathes, for instance, and is thus connected with the whole Earth. The whole Earth plays into the air man takes in with his breath. In the air he breathes, countless substances are present in a highly rarefied condition. And the very fact that they are present in this rarefied state enables them to exercise an influence that is of no small importance when they are received through the breath into the organism of man. What man perceives with his senses enters into him consciously; but subconsciously, even during waking life a vast amount enters into man that is more substantial than what enters him by the more tenuous and ideal paths of perception and thought. By way of the breath man's environment comes into him in a more material and substantial manner. Nor need I remind you of how utterly dependent the human organism is on what it receives in the way of earthly nourishment. So that altogether we have to recognise many influences working from the Earth upon the awake human being.
We are not, however, at present pursuing the study of that any further; what concerns us today is the influences that work upon man in sleep. And here we find that whereas during waking hours man stands in connection with external earthly substances, when he passes over into sleep, he comes into a certain connection with the whole Cosmos. I do not mean to imply that man's astral body assumes every night the vastness of the Cosmos. That would be an exaggeration. It is nevertheless a fact that every night man grows out into the Cosmos. Just as here on Earth we are connected with the plants, with the minerals, with air, so are we connected in the night with the movements of the planets, and with the constellations of the fixed stars. From the moment we fall asleep, the starry heavens become our world, even as the Earth is our world when we are awake.
Coming now to describe rather more in detail how we take our way after falling asleep, we find we can distinguish different spheres through which we pass. First comes the sphere where the I and the astral body — that is to say, the soul of man as it finds itself in sleep — feel united with the movements of the World of the planets. When we wake up in the morning and slip into our physical body, we have in us, as we know, our lungs, our heart, our liver, our brain. In the first sphere with which we come in contact after falling asleep — and it will also be again the last sphere we enter before awaking — we have in us the forces of the movements of the planets. This does not mean of course that we receive into us every night the entire planetary movements; we carry within us a little picture, as it were, wherein the movements of the planets are reproduced. And this picture is different for each single human being. That, then, is the first experience every one of us encounters after falling asleep. We follow, as it were, with our astral body all that happens with the planets, as they move out there in the wide spaces of the Universe; we experience it all in our astral body in a sort of planetary globe.
Perhaps you will say: But how does this concern me, if I cannot perceive it? True, you do not see it with your eyes, nor hear it with your ears. But no sooner have you passed over into the condition of sleep than the part of your astral body which belongs in waking life to your heart, becomes for you an eye, — becomes, in very fact, what we may call a heart-eye; and with this heart-eye you ‘see’ what is now taking place. For present-day mankind, the perception is a very dim one. Nevertheless it is more assuredly there; the heart-eye perceives the experiences of this first sphere of sleep.
Very soon after you have fallen asleep, the heart-eye begins also to look back at what has been left lying in bed. Your ego and astral body look back with the heart-eye upon your physical and etheric bodies. And the picture of planetary movements that you are now experiencing in your astral body, rays back to you from your ether-body; you behold a reflection of it in your ether-body.
Present-day man is so constituted that as soon as ever he wakes up, he immediately forgets the dim consciousness that he had in the night by means of his heart-eye. There are however, dreams in which we can catch, as it were, an echo of it. Such dreams are astir with an inner movement that is reminiscent of the planetary movements. Then into these dreams come pictures from real life; but that is only when the astral body has begun to dive down into the ether-body, which latter carries and preserves for us the memory of our life.
Let me describe for you something that can easily happen. You wake up in the morning, having passed again on your return through the sphere of the planetary movements. Let us suppose that you have experienced a particular relationship between Jupiter and Venus. Such an experience must be intimately connected with your destiny, otherwise you would not have it; and if you could bring the experience back into life — into your ordinary day-time life — it would shed a wonderful light on your faculties and capabilities. For the fact is, these faculties of ours are not of the Earth, they have come hither from the Cosmos. According as is your connection with the Cosmos, so are your gifts and talents, so is your goodness, — or, at any rate, so is your inclination to good or to evil. If you could bring back into day-life the experience of which we were speaking, you would be able to see what Jupiter and Venus were saying to one another, for you would see what you had seen in the night with your heart-eye, — I could equally well say, heard with your heart-ear, for these finer distinctions do not exist for the experiences of sleep. Since, however, all this is only very dimly perceived, it is forgotten. But the result of the experience remains in your astral body; the mutual relationship between Jupiter and Venus produces a corresponding movement within your astral body. And now there mingles with it some experience you had long ago, perhaps when you were 17 or 25 years old, — let us say at noon one day, in Oxford, for example, or in Manchester. The pictures of this long-past experience of yours intrude themselves into the cosmic experience; the two get mixed up together. As you will see, therefore, the pictures that are given us in dreams have a certain significance, yet are not the essential part of the dream; they are like a garment that weaves itself around the cosmic experiences.
Now, through this whole experience that comes to you in the way I have described, runs a vein of anxiety. In almost every case it is accompanied by a more or less intense feeling of anxiety, — anxiety, that is, of a spiritual nature; and particularly at the moment when the cosmic experience sounds back, shines back, to the soul from the ether-body, Suppose the influence due to a certain relationship between Jupiter and Venus is raying back to you from your ether-body, and one ray — I call it quite simply one ray, but it tells ever so much to your heart-eye! — one ray comes back from your forehead, while a second, that comes from the region below the heart, mingles its music and its light with the first. In every human soul that is not completely hardened, this will give rise to the feeling of anxiety and apprehension of which I have spoken. The soul will be constrained to say to itself in sleep: The cosmic mist has enveloped me, it has received me into itself. We feel indeed as though we ourselves are becoming as dim and as nebulous as the cosmic mist, as if we are now nothing but a cloud of mist floating in the Mist of the Worlds. Such is the character of the first experience that meets the soul after falling asleep.
And then another feeling begins to arise in the soul. Out of this first experience, where we are anxious and apprehensive, feeling ourselves to be no more than a little wave of mist within the Mist of the Worlds, another mood develops within us, a mood of devotion to the Divine, devotion and surrender to the Divine that fills the Universe and pervades it.
This then is how it is with us, my dear friends, in the first sphere into which we come after falling asleep. Two fundamental feelings live in our soul; I am in the Mist of the Worlds, — I would fain rest in the bosom of the Godhead, that I be safe and protected and dissolve not away in the Mist of the Worlds. This is moreover an experience which the heart-perception must needs carry over into waking life in the morning, when the soul dives down again into the physical and ether bodies. For if this experience were not brought over, then the substances we take as nourishment during the day would assume within us their own completely earthly character and throw our whole organism into disorder. And this applies not only to what we eat but to all the substances that undergo within us the process of metabolism. For even if we go hungry, substances are nevertheless continually being taken — in this case, from our own body — and worked upon through metabolism.
Sleep has, as you see, my dear friends, immense significance for the waking condition. And we can only record our acknowledgment of the fact that in this epoch of evolution it is not left to man himself to see that the Divine forces are carried over into waking life. For it would go hard with human beings as they are in the present age, did it rest with them to bring these influences in full consciousness from the other side of existence and bear them into the waking life of day.
And now man comes into the next sphere. This does not mean, he leaves the first; no, for the heart-perception it is still there. This next sphere, which is a much more complicated one, is perceived by another part of the astral body, — the part which belongs in waking life to the solar plexus, and to the whole limb organisation of man. The part of the astral body that permeates the solar plexus and the arms and legs is now the organ of perception, and with the aid of this organ man begins to feel the forces in his astral body that come from the Signs of the Zodiac. These are of two kinds — the forces that reach him from the Zodiac direct, and the forces that have first to pass through the Earth. For it makes a great difference whether a particular sign is above or below the Earth.
Man has therefore in this second Sphere what we might call a solar or Sun-perception. He perceives with the part of his astral body that is associated with the solar plexus and the limbs, — an organ of perception that can rightly be called a Sun-eye. And by means of his Sun-eye man becomes aware of his relationship, not now merely, as before, with the planetary movements, but with the entire Zodiac. The picture you see, is widening; or rather, man himself is growing out further into the picture of the Cosmos. And here again, man is able to behold a reflection of the experience when he looks back on his own physical and etheric bodies.
Every night it is thus given to man, — that is to say, to the part of him that goes out of the body — to come into relationship with the whole Cosmos; first, with the planetary movements, and then with the constellations of the fixed stars. In this latter experience — which may come half an hour after falling asleep, or rather later, but with many people comes quite soon — man feels himself within all twelve constellations of the Zodiac. And the experiences he encounters with the constellations are exceedingly complicated.
I verily believe, my dear friends, you might have traveled far and wide and visited the most interesting and important regions of the whole Earth, and yet not have had such an amount and variety of experiences as your Sun-eye affords you every night in connection with one single constellation of the Zodiac. For the men of an older time, who still possessed in full force the powers of clairvoyance and could perceive in a dreamlike consciousness very much of what I have been describing to you, the experiences of sleep were less bewildering. In our time it is exceedingly difficult for man to attain with his Sun-eye to any degree of clarity in regard to this complicated twelvefold experience of the night. He needs to do so, even if by day-time he has forgotten all about it; but he hardly can unless he has received, with the understanding of the heart, knowledge of the Christ and of all that the Christ willed to become for the Earth in that He passed through the Mystery of Golgotha. If we have once felt what it means for the life of the Earth that Christ has gone through the Mystery of Golgotha, if in our ordinary waking life we have thought about the Christ, then our astral body is able to receive via the physical and etheric bodies, a certain tincture or quality which brings it about that Christ becomes our Guide and Leader through the Zodiac during sleep. For, as in the sphere of the planetary movements, so here again a feeling of anxiety comes over man. He feels: What if I lose myself in the multitude of the stars, and in all the manifold happenings that take place among them! But if he is then able to look back upon thoughts and feelings and impulses of will that he has directed in waking life to the Christ, then Christ becomes for him a Guide, bringing order into the bewildering events of this sphere. And so the fact is brought home to us that only when we turn our attention to the other side of life, are we able to appreciate the full significance of the Christ for the life of Earth, as it has been up till now; and as for what the Christ has yet to become for the life of Earth, — no one within the ordinary civilisation of the present day can really understand this.
There are of course few among us who can be said to go through the experiences of sleep aright; and these experiences are often given a false interpretation. Human beings who have not come in touch with the Christ Event bring these experiences of the night into the waking consciousness of day-time in a disordered and confused manner. We can understand how this happens when we know what it is that really takes place with us during sleep. As we have seen, when we have passed through the sphere of existence where we are enveloped in mist or cloud, we find ourselves approaching a world that confuses and amazes us. Here it is that the Christ appears before us as a spiritual Sun and becomes our Guide; and then all the confusion resolves itself into a kind of harmony that we hear and understand. That this should be so, that we should have in the time of sleep the Christ for our Guide, is a matter of the very greatest importance for us. For, the moment we enter this sphere and begin to have all around us the living interplay of constellations of the Zodiac and movements of the planets — at this moment we encounter also our Karma. With our Sun-eye we behold our Karma. Yes, it is indeed so, every human being has sight of his Karma — in sleep. All that is left of the perception in waking life, is a kind of faint echo vibrating in the feelings.
Suppose a man has begun to tread the path of self-knowledge. He will find perhaps that his soul is imbued at times with a mood and attitude to life that are like a distant echo of the experience he has had in sleep, where the Christ came forward as his Guide and led him in the night from Aries through Taurus and Gemini, etc., making plain to him the World of the Stars, so that he has returned with renewed strength to the life of day. For that is the marvellous experience that awaits man in this sphere, None other than the Christ Himself becomes his Guide through the bewildering events of the Zodiac, going before him and pointing the way from constellation to constellation, that he may be able to receive into his soul in their right order and harmony the forces he needs for waking life.
Such then is the experience man undergoes every night between falling asleep and awaking, — an experience he owes to the fact that his soul and spirit have kinship with the Cosmos. For, even as he is related to the Earth with his physical and etheric bodies, so with his soul and spirit, with his astral body and Ego, is man related to the Cosmos. And when he has come away from his physical and etheric bodies and has grown out into the cosmic world, and the experiences he undergoes there shine back to him, in a kind of inner picture, from the part of him that remains in bed, he feels very deeply connected with the Cosmos and would, in fact, be strongly drawn to go still further out, to go out beyond the Zodiac, — were it not for the presence of another force that draws him back. On account of this other element that enters into all the experiences that befall man during sleep, it is not possible for him, between birth and death, to go out beyond the Zodiac. We have here to do with an influence of an entirely different kind and quality, the influence, namely, of the Moon.
The effect of the influence of the Moon is to tinge the whole Cosmos during the night — and this happens even at the time of New Moon too — with a certain substantiality. This substantiality man experiences, in addition to all else. He feels how the Moon forces hold him back within the world of the Zodiac and bring him again to the moment of awaking. Even in the very first sphere he enters after falling asleep, man already divines dimly within him the presence of this influence; he begins to be acutely sensible of it in the second sphere, where he has a powerful and vivid experience of the mysteries of birth and death. The organ for this experience lies much deeper within man than the heart-eye or even the Sun-eye; it may be said to extend over and involve the entire man. With this organ, man experiences every night how he came down as soul and spirit from the world of soul and spirit, how he entered through birth into a physical existence, and how his body is gradually passing over into death. For the fact is, we overcome death, until the time when death really occurs as a final event. Something else too is associated with this experience. The very forces that enable us to experience how the soul goes on its journey through the earthly and bodily reveal to us also in the same moment our connections with the rest of mankind.
I would have you mindful of the fact, my dear friends, that even a most insignificant meeting or contact with another human being is not without its place and connection in our whole destiny. And whether the souls, with whom we have been together in some past Earth life or with whom we are connected in this present life, are now in the spiritual world or are with us here on Earth, all that we have had to do with one another as man to man, all human ties, intimately related as these are to the secrets of birth and death, show themselves now to the spiritual eye, if I may call it so, of the entire man. And as all this comes before our view, we feel we are indeed standing within the stream of our whole life-destiny.
This has to do with the fact that whereas all other forces — the forces of the planets and of the fixed stars — tend to draw us out into the distant Cosmos, the Moon wants to place us once more into the world of men. The Moon draws us away from the Cosmos. The Moon has forces that are directly opposed to the forces both of Sun and of Stars; it ensures for us our kinship with the Earth. It is accordingly the Moon that brings us back every night, — drawing us away from the Zodiac experiences into the experiences of the planets, and thence into the experiences of Earth, taking us back once again into our physical body.
Here you have the difference, from one point of view, between sleep and death. When man goes to sleep, he remains still in close connection with the forces of the Moon. The forces of the Moon point out to him every night afresh the significance of his life on Earth. This is made possible by the fact that he can see in his ether body the reflection of all his experiences of the night. At death, however, man withdraws his ether body from the physical body. Then begins, as you know, the memory that looks back over the last Earth life. The ether body expands and fills for a few days the cosmic cloud of which I have spoken. I told you how every night we live our way as cloud, as mist, into the Mist of the Worlds. In the night this cloud of mist which we are, is there without the ether-body; but when we die, our ether-body is present with it for the first few days. Then the ether-body gradually dissolves away into the Cosmos, memory fades and disappears, and we have — instead of a reflection of star experiences thrown back from the part of us we left lying in bed — we have now after death an immediate inner experience of the movements of the planets and of the constellations of the fixed stars.
You can read in my book Theosophy a description of these experiences from another point of view. You have there a description of what man finds, as it were, around him between death and new birth. But just as here on Earth you would not have around you colours and sounds, for instance, unless you had in your body eyes and ears, and unless you could breathe and had within you lungs and a heart, so neither could you after death perceive around you what you find described in my book as “soul world” and “spirit land,” unless you had within you Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc. These are within you, they are your organism, your cosmic organism by means of which you experience after death. And the Moon cannot now bring you back, for it could only bring you back to your ether-body, and that has dissolved away into the Cosmos.
Man has however even after death something left in him of the force which he inherits from the Moon, enough to enable him to remain for a season in the soul world, with gaze still fixed upon the Earth. Then he passes on to spirit-land, and here he feels and knows that he is undergoing an experience where he is beyond the Zodiac, beyond the Heaven and the Fixed Stars. Such is the course of man's life in the time between death and new birth.
I could also give you another description of man's nightly journey to the spiritual world, describing it for you in a picture. Only, you must beware of taking the picture too literally, for, as you know, it is well nigh impossible to express these things in earthly concepts. Nevertheless it is a true picture that I am giving you, and it will help you to follow this journey in all its detail.
Imagine before you a meadow. From each single flower on the meadow — from the flowers too that blossom on the trees around — a spiral rises and goes out and out into cosmic space. These circling spirals carry the forces whereby the Cosmos fosters and regulates the growth of plants on Earth. For plants do not grow merely out of their seed; they need also for their growth the cosmic forces that surround the Earth with their spirally directed influences. And the cosmic forces are there in winter too; they are there even in the desert where no plants grow. When night comes for man, he has to use these spiral forces as a kind of ladder whereon he may mount up into the realm of the planetary movements. Man ascends into the movements of the planets on the ladder of the spiral rays that circle upwards from the plants. And then there is another force, the force that makes the plant shoot upwards from its root, — for there must be a force at work, to enable the plant to grow upwards. With the aid of this force man is carried up into the second sphere that I described.
Recall for a moment those experiences I related to you, where man comes into a state of anxiety, and feels: I am no more than a tiny cloud of mist in the great Mist of the Cosmos, — I must rest in the bosom of the Godhead. If we would relate this experience of the soul to the conditions within which we live on Earth, we would have to express it in the following way. It is as if the soul would say: I rest in the blessing of the Cosmos as it hovers over a cornfield that is just opening into flower, I rest in the blessing of the Cosmos as it hovers over a meadow whose blossoms are unfolding to the light. For what is it that sinks down to the plants in spiral lines of force? It is the bosom of the Godhead, quick and instinct with life, the same within which man finds himself sheltered and enclosed every time he falls asleep.
The Moon, on the other hand, leads man back to the animal aspect of his nature. The forces of the plants tend perpetually to carry him out — farther and farther out into the wide universe. But man has also in his make-up something that he shares with the animal kingdom, and because of this the Moon is able to bring him back again every morning, — back into his own animal nature.
Here, then, you have a picture of man's connection with the Cosmos, and of its influence upon him during sleep. We can carry the picture a little further. With the heart-eye, the Sun-eye and the eye that is entire man, we may experience in sleep the kind of feeling to which we are accustomed in waking life when we are drawn into an intimate and near relationship with some other person. It is not said to us in words, nor do we reason it out. The plants it is who tell us of it; we hear of it from the plants that lift us up, as though on a spiral ladder, into the world of the planets, whence we are sent forth again into the world of the Zodiac.
If we wanted to put into words what we experience in this way, we could say: I have a relationship to this person; the lilies tell me so, the roses tell me; the power of the rose, the power of the lily, the power of the tulip has moved me to experience this relationship. Thus does the whole Earth become a book of life which interprets for us the world of the human soul, — that world into which we have to find our way as we go through our life,
Now, these experiences that come to man during sleep have not always been the same, they have varied in different epochs. If we go back to ancient India, we find that in those times men who wanted to learn what sleep could teach them by bringing them into relation with the world of the stars, limited their search to those constellations of the Fixed Stars which were above the Earth — above, that is, at the particular moment of time, for the constellations are, of course, continually changing their places in the Heavens. The ancient Indian had no desire to make connection with the constellations that are below the Earth, whose forces can reach man only through the Earth.
Look at the characteristic posture of a Buddha, — or of any wise man of the East who sets out to perform exercises that shall enable him to achieve spiritual wisdom; He sits with his legs crossed under him. The upper part of his body where he is in relation with the upper constellations, — that he wants to be active, and that alone. Through the Sun-eye, there is also working in him what works through the limbs; but this he does not want to activate. He wants, as it were, to eliminate the forces of the limbs during his spiritual exercises. One can see quite plainly from his posture that the Eastern seeker after wisdom desires to find relation with what is above the Earth, and only that. His whole interest is directed to knowledge that concerns the soul.
The world would however be incomplete if man's quest for knowledge had remained limited in this way, if men had continued to assume always and exclusively the Buddha posture when they set out on the path of knowledge. It was not so. In the age of Greece, men began to feel impelled to make connection also with the forces working from the constellations that are — at the particular moment — below the Earth. Greek mythology contains beautiful intimations of this. Again and again we are told of a kind of initiation where the candidate descends to the underworld. Whenever you read of some Greek hero that he goes down into the underworld, you may be sure the meaning is that he is going through an initiation which yields him knowledge of those forces of the Cosmos that work through the Earth and that were known to the Greeks as the Chthonic forces.
Each epoch of time has, you see, its own task and mission. The oriental initiate had to learn, in order that he might then communicate the knowledge to his fellowmen, about the region of soul and spirit where man was before birth — or I should say, before conception — and about man's experiences there before he descends to the earthly world. All that we feel to be so grand and majestic in the poetry of the East and in its conceptions of the universe, is due to the fact that in those far-off days men were able to look into the life they had lived before they came down to Earth. In Greece, men began to take knowledge of the Earth and of all that belongs to the Earth. The Greek takes Uranus and Gaia — the Earth — as the starting point for his cosmology. He aspires to know also the Mysteries of the Earth itself, which include at the same time the cosmic Mysteries that work through the Earth. The Mysteries of the underworld, — these too the Greeks were wanting to discover, and in this way they developed their true cosmology.
Think how little there is among the Greeks — none whatever among the Orientals — but how little among the Greeks of the study of history in our sense of the word. The Greek is much more interested in the far-off beginnings when the Earth was being formed within the Cosmos, when the interior forces of the Earth, the Titanic forces, waged war on those other forces, those mighty spiritual forces which the Greek conceived as underlying the web of earthly conditions within which man finds himself enwoven. But we men of modern times are called upon to understand history; we must be able to show how man started from an ancient dream-like clairvoyance and has now arrived at a consciousness that is intellectual in character and tinged only with a memory of the mythical, and then go on to show how there is need for man now to work his way out of this intellectual consciousness and learn to look right into the world of the Spirit. For the present epoch of time marks the transition to the attainment of conscious experience in the spiritual world. That is why it is so very important for us that we should turn our attention to history. You will find that in our anthroposophical work we give ourselves again and again to the study of the different epochs of history, going back first of all to the time when men still received their knowledge from higher Beings, and then following the whole development right up to our own age.
The study of history has, of course, become hopelessly abstract in our schools and universities today. Could anything be more abstract then the lines of demarcation that people draw when they are developing some historical theme! For the men of olden time, history was still clothed in the garment of myth and was brought into connection with Nature and with all that goes on in her world. People cannot do this any more. Neither do they show any readiness as yet to enquire more deeply into the times of long ago. They do not feel any need to ask how it was with man in the days when he received wisdom from higher Beings, how it was with him later when less and less of the wisdom came through to him, or how it was with him when a God Himself descended to incarnate through the Mystery of Golgotha in a human body and carry out a sublime cosmic mission with the Earth, so that it was given her at last to have her real meaning.
The whole theology of the 19th and 20th centuries has failed, because it cannot understand the Christ in His spiritual significance. That, my dear friends, is what modern Initiation Science must bring, — understanding of the Christ. We need an Initiation Science that can penetrate again into the spiritual world, that can speak again about birth and death, about the life between birth and death and the life also between death and a new birth, and about the life of the soul in sleep, — can speak of these things in the way we have been speaking of them together today. The possibility must be there for man to come again to a knowledge of the other side — the spiritual side — of existence. Otherwise, he will simply not be able to go forward into the future.
Once, long ago, men directed their search for knowledge to the upper worlds — we see it demonstrated in the posture of the Buddha. Then, in later times, man took the evolution of the Earth as his starting-point and read his cosmology out of the evolution of the Earth; he became initiated in Greece into the Chthonic Mysteries, as we find related in many a Greek myth, where the account of such initiation is often a prominent feature of the story. Our search, has to take a new turn. Having studied in the past the Mysteries of the Earth and the mysteries of the Heavens, we need in our day an Initiation Science that is able to move rhythmically between Heaven and Earth, an Initiation Science that asks of the Heavens when it wants to understand the Earth, and asks of the Earth when it would inform itself of the Heavens.
And this is how you will, find the questions put and answered — insofar as they can be answered today — in my book An Outline of Occult Science. Let me say here in all humility that the attempt has been made in this book to describe the knowledge of which modern man stands in need, — needing it as surely as ever the Oriental needed the Mysteries or the Heavens or the Greek the Mysteries of the Earth, For it is required of us to take note and observe how it stands with initiation in modern times and what is man's relation to it in this present age. Let me endeavour therefore to describe for you quite briefly in the third part of my lecture the tasks that lie before modern initiation.
In order to give you some idea of the tasks of modern initiation, I shall have to repeat here what some of you will have heard me say in Oxford a few days ago,
I was pointing out just now that whereas the initiates of very ancient times laid particular emphasis on the looking upwards into the spiritual worlds whence man descends to clothe himself in an earthly body, while on the other hand for the initiates of a somewhat later time it was what we find described by the Greeks as the descent into the underworld that was of first importance, the initiate of our own time has yet another task. He has to look, in search after knowledge, at the rhythmic relation of the Heavens to the Earth. To this end he has to know the Heavens and the Earth, but he must in his search hold always before him the thought of Man, in whom alone, among all the beings that are around us, Heaven and Earth work together to form a complete whole. Yes, Man himself must be the goal of his study. The heart-eye, the Sun-eye, the spiritual eye (which is formed of the whole human being) must all be turned upon Man. For Man carries within him, my dear friends, infinitely more secrets and mysteries than the worlds we can perceive with our external senses and explain with the sense-bound intellect. To achieve a knowledge of Man as a spirit, to achieve a spiritual knowledge of Man, is the task of modern initiation. On this path of initiation knowledge we have therefore to set out in quest of a universal knowledge, but always with this goal in view, — that, through learning to understand the world, through learning to understand the whole Cosmos, we may attain at last to understand Man.
And now compare the situation of an initiate of our own age with the situation of an initiate of ancient times. The men of those early times had faculties of soul that made it possible for the initiate to awaken within them a memory of the time we pass through before we descend into an earthly body. It was therefore for the initiate of those days a question of awakening cosmic memories. And for the Greeks it was a matter of looking into Nature, of beholding Nature. But the initiate of modern times has to set before him as his goal the knowledge of Man; he is called upon to learn to know Man, directly, as a spiritual being. For this, he must learn to free himself from his present limited and earthly understanding of his connection with the Universe. Let me repeat an example I gave recently to Oxford of how this liberation has to be effected.
One of the tasks undertaken by initiation knowledge, that presents unusual difficulty, is that of making connection with souls who have left the Earth and gone through the gate of death. It is not at all easy to establish such connections, but it can be done by arousing the deeper forces of the soul. It is necessary to realise from the first that one has to accustom oneself, by the careful pursuance of certain exercises, to the only kind of language it is possible to speak with the dead. This language is, in a way, a child of our ordinary human speech. Yet you would fail completely, were you to set out with the idea that ordinary human speech, just as it is, would be of any assistance to you in establishing intercourse with the dead. One of the first things we discover is that the dead can understand only for a very short time what we call nouns. There is in their language no way of expressing a ‘thing,’ an isolated thing, which we denote with a word we call a noun. The words in their language all convey the feeling of movement, they are all full of inner activity. Consequently we find that when a little time has gone by since the soul passed through the gate of death, he is responsive only to words that denote activity, — that is, to verbs. In our intercourse with the dead, we shall, from time to time, want to put questions to them; we must then put our questions to them; we must then put our questions in a form they can understand. If we are able to do this, after a time the answer will come; only, we must know how to be watchful for it, how to give heed to it. As a rule, a few nights will have to elapse before the one who has died can answer the question we put to him. It is, as you see, a matter of finding our way gradually into the language of the dead, and it takes a long time before this language shows itself to us. The dead themselves have had to live their way into it; for they have, as you know, to withdraw their soul-life completely from the Earth. The proper language of the dead bears no relation to earthly conditions, it arises from the heart, — yes, it is verily a language of the heart. It is formed rather in the same manner as exclamations or interjections are formed in earthly languages. You know, for instance, how we say ‘Ah!’ when we are moved to wonder or admiration. The language of the dead takes its origin in the same kind of way. Sounds and combinations of sounds enjoy in this language as in no other their full and real significance. From the moment of death, language begins to change for us altogether. It is no longer something that is uttered forth from the organs of speech. It becomes the kind of language of which I spoke a little while ago, when I told you how what rises up from the flowers, gives tidings to us concerning some fellow human being. We begin ourselves to speak, instead of with speech organs, with that which comes from the flowers. We ourselves become flowers, we blossom with the flowers. We enter, for instance, with the forces of our soul into the flower of the tulip, and express, in the imagination of the tulip, the same that came to expression here on Earth in the formation of the word. We grow again into the spirit, the omnipresent spirit.
You will easily see, from this one example of language, that man has to feel his way into entirely different conditions, when he has gone through the gate of death. In reality, our knowledge of man is small indeed, if we know of him only what we see with our eyes. Modern initiation knowledge has to learn about the other side of man. What I have shown you in the case of language is a beginning. We shall find that the very body of man is something altogether different from the descriptions that are given us in scientific books. As we go farther in initiation knowledge, the human body becomes for us a world in itself. It was the task of the initiate of olden times to re-awaken in man a lost faculty, to bring to remembrance in him what his life was like before he came down to Earth, The initiate of the present day has an altogether different mission. He has to accomplish something new, something that means a new step forward. What he does will continue still to have significance even when man has left the Earth, — yes, even when Earth itself is no longer there in the Cosmos. That is the nature of the task modern initiation knowledge has to fulfil; and in the strength and power of that task, it must stand forth and speak.
It is well-known to you, my dear friends, that initiation science has from time to time taken a part in the spiritual evolution of the Earth. Again and again it has made its appearance among men. The initiation knowledge that has to come into the world today and that cannot but regard all the knowledge of our time as a mere beginning of the whole knowledge man should really possess, will assuredly meet with increasing opposition and resistance. So great are the forces arrayed against it, that you will need all your strength to win through. Even before modern initiation — which opens the way for man to have intercourse again with Supersensible Powers, — even before this modern initiation began to take its true place in the world in the last third of the 19th century, opposing powers were already at work, were at pains to imbue civilisation — quite unconsciously, for the most part, as far as the human beings themselves are concerned — with tendencies that would ultimately destroy modern initiation, would wipe it clean off the face of the Earth.
Have you ever observed how constantly one hears people say, when some new fact of knowledge is brought forward: “This is how I look at it! This is my point of view!” And they say this so easily, without having undergone any special development of mind or soul. It is indeed quite generally accepted that everyone has a right to pronounce his verdict, speaking from the point of view of wherever he stands at the moment. And people are even deeply offended and grow quite angry if one ventures to suggest that there is a kind of knowledge for the attainment of which it is necessary to undergo inner development. I said just now that when in the last third of the 19th century the possibility began to arise for men to seek initiation in the modern way, enemy powers were already in action. As you see, they wanted to carry the principle of equality even into the realm of mind and spirit, so that there too all human beings shall be regarded as on the same level. I could point to many persons in whom this method of resistance to modern initiation has been at work.
My dear friends, do you think that when I have to speak out of the spirit of initiation science, the words will have the same ring as when one is speaking from an ordinary earthly standpoint? I have just been trying to explain to you how language has to change and become something quite different when it is a question of carrying on intercourse with beings of the spiritual world, and I think you will not now misunderstand me if I tell you how initiation science sees, for instance, such a man as Rousseau. Speaking from the earthly standpoint, I shall never fail to recognise the greatness and significance of Rousseau, and I am fully prepared to associate myself with the high praise and favourable criticism to which others have given expression. Should I however make bold to clothe in earthly words how Rousseau appears when one sees him from the standpoint of initiation knowledge, I should have to say: Rousseau, with his spiritual leveling of human beings, — what is he, after all, but one of the many everlasting talkers of our modern civilisation! A prince and a leader, shall we say, among them all! People do not readily understand how it is possible, from an earthly point of view to call a man great, and at the same time, from the point of view of initiation to call him an arch-talker! But if we honestly desire to attain a knowledge of man, and if we recognise that to this end we have, as I said, to take the Heavens and the Earth for our province and then discern the rhythm that beats between them, we shall find that even such a seemingly paradoxical utterance is true and requires to be said. For it is, in fact, as we learn to listen to both, — to what sounds forth from the one side and from the other side of existence, it is as we learn to hear these together, that guidance can come to us in our quest for a true knowledge of Man.
A true knowledge of Man has to build on the same foundation whereon the initiates of olden times built, on the EX DEO NASCIMUR; in recollection it must build on that which meets us when we look out into the universe where — all unconsciously to us — the Christ becomes our Guide, as I have described to you. It is however our task to bring the Christ more and more into our consciousness, so that we may gain knowledge under His guidance of the content of this world, to which death belongs. Then shall we know for a surety that we live our way into this dead and dying world with Christ; IN CHRISTO MORIMUR.
And inasmuch as we go down with Christ into the grave of Earth life, so will there follow for us too, with Him, the Resurrection and the Bestowal of the Spirit: PER SPIRITUM SANCTUM REVIVISCIMUS.
This PER SPIRITUM SANCTUM REVIVISCIMUS the modern initiate has to set before him as the goal of all his strivings. Ponder it well, and compare it with the manner and mood of thought that belongs to the science of the present day; and you will see for yourselves that opposition to modern initiation is inevitable. A terrible resistance will, without doubt, be put up to the new initiation, — perhaps a resistance of which we can have today no conception, a resistance that will take the form of deed rather than word and express itself in drastic attempts to make initiation knowledge utterly impossible and inaccessible.
It was accordingly my earnest desire, speaking as I do now in a smaller and more intimate circle, to give you descriptions of what modern initiation science can attain to know, in the hope that these descriptions may strike home to your hearts and souls and awaken strength within them; so that there may be a few at least in this generation who know how to relate themselves rightly, — on the one hand, to that which is seeking entrance to our world from the worlds of the Spirit, and on the other hand, to that which is doing all it can to prevent and make impossible the permeation of Earth life with spirituality. This is what I wanted to lay upon your hearts, my dear friends; gathered as we are here in a smaller circle, after having has, to my great satisfaction, opportunity in Oxford for lectures of a more public character. I was able in those lectures to deal with the more external aspects, and it was important that here in this smaller circle we should be able to touch on the more esoteric side of initiation knowledge.
And it is surely time we got beyond feeling puzzled and embarrassed because statements about the spiritual worlds seem paradoxical. They are bound to do so. The language of the spiritual worlds is quite another language from the languages that belong to Earth; one has actually to take great pains and put forth all one's strength before one can render in the words of earthly speech truths that should really be expressed in some entirely different way. You must therefore be quite prepared to find that it will often give people a shock when you tell them, quite simply and directly, of something that takes place in the spiritual worlds.
I wanted in this way to draw your attention to the feeling and impulse that lay behind today's lecture, and I would like now to unite what I have said with an expression of deep satisfaction at being able once again to speak to you here in London. It is always a source of satisfaction to me to be able to do this. As we said before, it happens very seldom. But on the rare occasions when we are for a short time together, may it indeed be that we use the opportunity to stimulate anew in our hearts and souls that stronger kind of ‘togetherness’ that should subsist, the world over, without interruption, among those who espouse the cause of Anthroposophia. This has been my endeavour today, and it is in this sense that I would express in conclusion the earnest desire, my dear friends, that we may in future remain together, however far we are in space from one another.