Theosophy of the Rosicrucian
IV. The Descent to a New Birth
26 May 1907, Munich
In the last lecture we described the worlds through which the human being has to pass after death, when everything that binds him to his physical instrument has been laid aside in Kamaloca or — as we say in Rosicrucian Theosophy — in the Elemental world. We also spoke of “Rupa-Devachan,” or the region known as the Heaven world, the world of Inspiration. We heard that this region-the Spirit-Land proper-has a fourfold constitution, like the physical world. There is the Continental region, permeated by a flowing oceanic region which is more aptly to be compared with the blood circulation in the human organism. In the surrounding “air” of Devachan which is analogous to the atmosphere of our earth, is to be found all that pervades the souls of beings in the physical world in the way of joys, sufferings, sorrows, afflictions, only this air must be conceived in a much wider sense because this world is the dwelling-place of other, quite different Beings who are not incarnate in physical bodies. Finally we heard how in the fourth region of Devachan everything that is truly original, from the most trivial to the most lofty inspiration of the inventor or artist, exists as an archetype. In this world Lies the motive force of the progress of our earth. But in addition to these constituent realms of the spiritual world proper, we find that which links our earth with still higher worlds.
Up to now we have been considering things that have reference only to earth-evolution, not those that transcend this evolution. A man who attains Initiation acquires knowledge of what our earth was in the past and will be in the future, of what links the earth with worlds beyond our system.
Important above all in Devachan, in this “world of Reason”, is the Akasha Chronicle as we are accustomed to call it. The Akasha Chronicle is not actually brought into being in Devachan but in an even higher region; when, however, the seer has risen to the world of Devachan, he can begin to perceive what is known as the Akasha Chronicle.
What is the Akasha Chronicle? We can form the truest conception of it by realising that what comes to pass on our earth makes a lasting impression upon certain delicate essences, an impression which can be discovered by a seer who has attained Initiation. It is not an ordinary but a living Chronicle. Suppose a human being lived in the first century after Christ; what he thought, felt and willed in those days, what passed into deeds — this is not obliterated but preserved in this delicate essence. The seer can behold it-not as if it were recorded in a history book, but as it actually happened. How a man moved, what he did, a journey he took — it can all be seen in these spiritual pictures; the impulses of will, the feelings, the thoughts, can also be seen. But we must not imagine that these pictures are images of the physical personalities. That is not the case. To take a simple example. — When a man moves his hand, his will pervades the moving hand and it is this force of will that can be seen in the Akasha Chronicle. What is spiritually active in us and has flowed into the Physical, is there seen in the Spiritual. Suppose, for example, we look for Caesar. We can follow all his undertakings, but let us be quite clear that it is rather his thoughts that we see in the Akasha Chronicle; when he set out to do something we see the whole sequence of decisions of the will to the point where the deed was actually performed. To observe a specific event in the Akasha Chronicle is not easy. We must help ourselves by linking on to external knowledge. If the seer is trying to observe some action of Caesar and takes an historical date as a point of focus, the result will come more easily. Historical dates are, it is true, often unreliable, but they are sometimes of assistance. When the seer directs his gaze to Caesar, he actually sees the person of Caesar in action, phantom-like, as though he were standing before him, speaking with him. But when a man is looking into the past, various things may happen to him if, in spite of possessing some degree of seership, he has not entirely found his bearings in the higher worlds.
The Akasha Chronicle is to be found in Devachan, but it extends downwards into the astral world, with the result that in this lower world the pictures of the Akasha Chronicle may often be a mirage; they are often disconnected and unreliable and it is important to remember this when we set about investigating the past. Let me indicate the danger of these possible mistakes by an example. — If through the indications of the Akasha Chronicle we are led back to the epoch in the earth's evolution when Atlantis was still in existence, before the great Flood, we can follow the happenings and conditions of life in old Atlantis. These were repeated later on, but in a different form. In north Germany, in central Europe, eastwards of Atlantis, long before the Christian era and long before Christianity made its way thither from the south, happenings took place which were a repetition of conditions in Atlantis. Only afterwards, through the influences coming from the south, did the peoples begin to lead a life that was really their own. Here is an example of how easy it is to be exposed to error. — If someone is observing the astral pictures of the Akasha Chronicle, not the devachanic pictures, he may be confused in regard to these repetitions of Atlantean conditions. This was actually the case in the indications about Atlantis given by Scott-Elliot; they tally with the astral pictures but not with the devachanic pictures of the true Akasha Chronicle. The truth of this matter had sometime to be made known. The moment we know where the source of the errors lies, it is easy to assess the indications correctly.
Another source of error may arise when reliance is placed upon indications given by mediums. When mediums are possessed of the necessary faculties, they can see the Akasha Chronicle, although in most cases only its astral reflections. Now there is something singular about the Akasha Chronicle. If we discover some person there, he behaves like a living being. If we find Goethe, for example, he may not only answer in the words which he actually spoke in his life but he gives answer in the Goethean sense; it may even happen that he utters in his own style and trend, verses he never actually wrote. The Akasha picture is so alive that it is like a force working on in the mind of the human being. Hence the picture may be confused with the individuality himself. Mediums believe that they are in contact with the dead man whose life is continuing in the spirit, whereas in reality it is only his astral Akasha-picture. The spirit of Caesar may already have reincarnated on earth and it is his Akasha picture that gives the answers in seances. It is not the individuality of Caesar but only the enduring impression which the picture of Caesar has left behind in the Akasha Chronicle. This is the basis of errors in very many spiritualist seances. We must distinguish between what remains of the human being in his Akasha-picture and what continues to evolve as the true individuality. These are matters of extreme importance.
When the human being has passed out of Kamaloca, he has weaned himself from all the habits for which a physical instrument is necessary. He enters into the region described above. The period that now begins for him is exceedingly important and we must understand what it is that happens.
All the man's earlier experiences in his life of thought and feeling, all his passions, confront him in Devachan as his environment. Firstly, he sees his own physical body in its archetypal form. Just as on the earth we move among rocks, mountains and stones, in yonder world we move among the archetypes of all the structures that exist in the physical world. A man, therefore, moves over his own physical body. The fact that his own physical body is an object outside him is a pointer to him after death, for he recognises by this that he has left Kamaloca and has entered into Devachan. On the earth he says to his body: “I am that!” In Devachan he sees his body and says: “Thou art that!”
The Vedanta Philosophy teaches its pupils to meditate upon the “Thou art That!” in order that through such exercises they may understand what it means to say to the body: “Thou art That!”
In Devachan the human being sees around him what he experienced inwardly here on earth. If he has harboured revenge, antipathy and other evil feelings towards his fellow men on earth they confront him externally like a cloud and this teaches him what significance and effect all these things have in the world.
Let us be clear about what happens to the human being in Devachan. How have the organs, the eyes, for instance, of physical man on the earth been formed? There was a time when no eye was yet in existence. The eye has been formed out of the physical Organisation by light. Light is the progenitor of the eye. What is around us on the earth creates organs in physical bodies and substances; in Devachan, what is around us works upon our being of soul. So that everything a human being has developed here on earth in the way of good and reprehensible feelings is to be found, in yonder world, in his environment; it works upon his soul and so creates organs of the soul. If a man has lived a righteous life on earth, his good qualities live around him in the “air” of Devachan; they work in the Spiritual, creating organs. These organs serve as architects and moulders for the building of the physical body in a new incarnation. What was within the human being on earth is transferred to the outer world in Devachan, and prepares the forces which build up the human body for the next birth.
But let it not be imagined that the human being has nothing to do except to care for himself; as well as this he has very important work to do in Devachan. We can form an idea of this if we consider for a moment the evolution of the earth. How greatly certain regions have changed since a couple of thousand years ago! There were then quite different plants, different animal forms, even the climate was different. In respect of the products of nature the earth's surface is continually changing. In Greece, for example, there could never again arise what sprang forth from the soil in the days of ancient Greece. Evolution proceeds precisely through the fact that the face of the earth undergoes constant change.
When a human being dies, a very long period elapses before he is born again. When he appears again on the earth he does not find the same conditions as of yore; he has to have new experiences; he is not born a second time into the same configuration of the earth; he remains in the spiritual worlds until the earth has entirely new conditions to offer him. There is good purpose in this for thereby he learns something entirely new and his development goes forward quite differently. Think, for example, of a boy in ancient Rome. His life did not in the least resemble that of a modern schoolboy; and when we ourselves are born again we, in turn, shall find quite different conditions. Thus does evolution proceed from incarnation to incarnation. While the human being sojourns in the spiritual regions described, the face of the earth is perpetually changing.
What beings are active here? By what beings are the changes in the earth's physiognomy brought about? This leads at once to the answer to the question: What is the human being doing in the period between death and a new birth? He himself is working from out the spiritual worlds, under the guidance of higher Beings, at the transformation of the earth. It is human beings themselves, between death and rebirth, who carry out this work. When they are born again they find the face of the earth changed, changed into a form which they themselves have helped to fashion. All of us have been engaged in this work.
To the question: Where is Devachan, where is the spiritual world? — I answer: It is around us all the time. In very truth it is so. Around us too are all the souls of discarnate human beings; they are at work around us. While we are building cities and machines, human beings who are living between death and a new birth are around us, working out of the spiritual realms.
When, as seers, we seek for the Dead, we can find them within the light-if we perceive the light not merely in a material way. The light that surrounds us forms the “bodies” of the Dead; they have bodies woven out of light. The light that enfolds the earth is “substance” for the beings who are living in Devachan. A plant nourished by the sunlight receives into itself not the physical light alone but in very truth the activity of spiritual beings, among whom there are also these human souls. These souls themselves ray down upon the plants as light, weaving as spiritual beings around the plants. Looking at the plants with the eye of spirit, we can say: the plant rejoices at the influences coming from the Dead who are working and weaving around it in the light. When we observe how the vegetation on the face of the earth changes and ask how this comes about, the answer is: The souls of the Dead are working in the light which enfolds the earth; here is Devachan, in very truth. After the period of Kamaloca we pass into this realm of light. Only those who are able to point to where, in truth, the Dead are to be found have any knowledge of Devachan in the sense of Rosicrucian Theosophy.
When the faculties of the seer develop, he often makes a striking discovery. When he stands in the sunlight, his body holds up the light and casts a shadow; very often he will discover the spirit for the first time when he looks into this shadow. The body holds up the light but not the spirit; and in the shadow that is cast by the body the spirit can be discovered. That is why more primitive peoples who have always possessed some measure of clairvoyance, have also called the Soul, the shadow they say “shadow-less” — “soul-less.” A novel by Adalbert Chamisso is unconsciously based on this idea: the man who has lost his shadow has also lost his soul — hence his despair.
Such, then, is the work that is performed by human beings in Devachan between death and a new birth. They are by no means in a state of inactive repose; they work creatively from Devachan at the evolution of the earth. They are not, as is often said, in a state of blissful rest or dream. Life in Devachan is just as full of activity as life on the earth.
When the human being has reached the point where he has transformed into spiritual forces his activities in the last earthly life, when these experiences have come to him from the outer world of Devachan and have worked upon him, then he is ready to come down from Devachan to a new birth. The earth draws him once again to her sphere.
When the human being descends from Devachan, he passes, first, into the astral region, the “Elemental World.” Here he receives a new astral body... If iron filings are scattered on a piece of paper and a magnet is moved about underneath, the filings arrange themselves into forms and lines, following the forces of the magnet. In exactly the same way, the irregularly distributed astral substance is attracted and arranged according to the forces which are in the soul and correspond with what this soul has achieved in the previous life. Thus the human being himself gathers together his astral body. These human beings in the making, who to begin with have only an astral body, appear to the eye of the seer like bell forms opening downwards. They shoot and whirl through the astral world with tremendous speed-with a speed that can hardly be conceived.
These incipient human beings must now receive an etheric body and a physical body. What happened hitherto, up to the stage of the formation of the astral body, depended upon themselves, upon the forces they themselves had developed. But the forming of the etheric body does not, in the present phase of evolution, depend upon the human being alone; in respect of the forming of an etheric body, man is dependent upon beings external to himself. Consequently the human being always has a fitting astral body but there is not in every case perfect accordance between the astral body and the etheric and physical bodies; this is often the cause of maladjustment and lack of satisfaction in life. These incipient human beings whirl around space as they do because they are seeking for suitable parents, parents who will afford the best possible opportunity of receiving an etheric and a physical nature befitting the astral being.
The parents who can provide this can only be relatively the best and the most suitable. Co-operating in this search are Beings who member the etheric body to the astral body and whose rank is similar to that of the Folk-Spirits. The Folk-Spirit is not the intangible abstraction it is usually considered to be. A Folk-Spirit is as real to the eye of the seer as our soul that is incarnate in our body. A whole people, although it has not a common physical body, has a common astral body and the rudiments of a common etheric body. This lives within a kind of astral cloud and is the “body” of the Folk-Spirit. Of this nature are the Beings who guide the ether-formations around the human being who is thus no longer entirely under his own control.
Now comes a moment of extreme importance, equally as important as the moment after death when the whole of the past life is seen as a memory-picture. When the human being passes into his etheric body but has not yet acquired his physical body — it is a brief moment but of supreme importance — he has a pre-vision of his coming life, not in all its details but only as a survey over what his future life has in store for him. He can say to himself (but he forgets it when he actually incarnates) that he has a happy or an unhappy life in front of him. It may happen, if a human being has had many unfortunate experiences in a previous life, that he now gets a shock and is hesitant to enter into the physical body. The result of this may be that he does not come right down into the physical body and so the connection between the several bodies is not fully established. This produces idiocy in the coming life; it is not always the cause of idiocy, but frequently so. The soul rebels, as it were, against physical embodiment. Such a human being cannot make right use of his brain because he is not properly incarnate in it. He can only use his physical instrument aright when he allows himself to be born into it in the full and proper sense. Whereas in other circumstances the etheric body extends only slightly beyond the physical body, in the case of idiots portions of the etheric body are often to be seen as an etheric sheen extending far beyond the head. Here is a case where something that is left unexplained by physical observation of life, is explained through Spiritual Science.