[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

Highlight Words

Life Between Death and Rebirth

Schmidt Number: S-2656

On-line since: 27th October, 2004


Life Between Death and Rebirth

Munich, November 28, 1912

The lecture given the day before yesterday on the conditions between death and a new birth shows how closely the whole being of man is connected with the universal life in the cosmos. It is really only during his earthly life that the human being is fixed to one place, occupies a small space, whereas during the period between death and a new birth he is part of the planetary system and, at a later period after death, even of the world beyond the planetary system. In his development between birth and death the human being is the expression of a microcosmic image of the macrocosm, so between death and a new birth he is macrocosmic; he is poured out into the macrocosm. He is a macrocosmic being, and he must draw forth from the macrocosm the forces he needs for his next incarnation.

During the first period after death man still bears the shells of earthly life around him. He is connected with what earthly life gave him and was able to make of him. This period is especially close to the needs and the interests of the heart. Occult vision observes someone who has left the physical plane a comparatively short time ago in the sphere of kamaloca, which extends in the macrocosmic sense to the orbit of the Moon. Man's soul and spirit expand in such a way that he dwells in the whole Moon sphere. During this period he is still entirely bound up with the earthly world. The wishes, desires, interests, sympathies, antipathies he has developed formerly draw him back to the earthly world. During the kamaloca period he is enclosed within the atmosphere of his own astral nature acquired on the earth. He still wishes to have what he wished to have on earth. He is interested in the things that interested him on earth. The reason for this kamaloca period is that he may put away these interests, and inasmuch as they are dependent on physical organs, and this is true of all sense enjoyment, they cannot be satisfied. Gradually he is weaned from them precisely because they cannot be satisfied. It will be understood that this refers to the individuality of man in the narrowest sense, to that part of the astrality of a human being that has to be extirpated, removed.

In yet another respect man bears his earthly connections with him into kamaloca, for the beings or events that he will encounter there are dependent upon the nature of his inner life, the disposition of his soul. For instance, let us consider a man who goes through the gate of death and another to whom he had a close relationship who passed somewhat earlier through the gate of death. Both are in kamaloca and they may find one another. Occult investigation shows that man is not only concerned with his own development — the process of getting rid of his desires and interests, for instance — but soon after death, following a brief embryonic period of sleep, he is reunited with those individuals to whom he was closely connected on earth. Yet, generally speaking, there is little prospect that a man finds all those who are with him in kamaloca. Space and time relationships, and especially those of space, are quite different there. It is not that one does not approach such beings. A man may come close to them but may not notice them because perception there is born out of the closeness of a connection in life. So, shortly after death in the kamaloca period, a man finds himself in the environment of those with whom he was closely related in life, and thus in the beginning hardly any other beings come into consideration. The relationships after death are still in accordance with what we formerly have developed. In kamaloca we are related to others in exactly the same way as we were on earth except that we cannot do what is still possible here, that is, change the relationship. It remains as it was on the earth. Here we can develop hatred for someone we once loved, or love for one whom we once hated. We can endeavor to transform our relationship. This is not possible in kamaloca.

Suppose we come across a person who died before us. At first we feel related to him in a way that corresponds to the last relationship we had with him on earth. Then, as you know, we live backwards in time. If formerly we had a different relationship, this cannot be produced artificially. We must live backwards quietly and reach the corresponding period of time when we can again experience the relationship we formerly had with him. This again cannot be changed. It expresses itself as it did on earth. One can readily imagine that this is an exceedingly painful experience, and this is true in a certain sense. It is just as if one wished to move, but were chained to the ground. One feels spiritually bound to a relationship that was established on earth. One literally feels in a state of coercion. Naturally, if this condition of coercion is sufficiently intense, the relationship will be painful. Now in order to understand this condition rightly and sense it from the heart, we should not merely imagine it to be painful. In many respects it is so but the dead one is not conscious only of the painful aspect. He is definitely aware that this condition is necessary, and that to avoid such pain would merely mean to create future obstacles in one's path.

What happens as a result of this process? Imagine that after death we are experiencing the relationship we had formed with another person in life. Through the fixed gaze of our perception, through the experience of the relation, forces are formed in our soul, at first in their spiritual prototypes. These are needed so that our karma might lead us rightly into the future, so that we may find ourselves together with the other person in a next incarnation in such a way that the karmic adjustment may come about. The forces necessary for this karmic adjustment are welded together technically, as it were.

To begin with, the dead one can hardly bring about any change in his environment, and yet the instinctive longing to do so does arise at times. Unfulfilled wishes acquire great significance for him but mostly those that do not always come to the surface of consciousness in life. In this connection it is exceedingly important to pay attention to the following. In our everyday life on the physical plane we are conscious of our sympathies and make mental representations of them, too, but below this lies the subconsciousness. This does not rise powerfully into our upper consciousness, into the true ego-consciousness. As a result, something incomplete rises into the consciousness of the human being. Indeed, he hardly ever lives himself out fully as a conscious being in life. Our soul life is exceedingly complex. Man is seldom truly himself. It may happen that out of prejudice, indolence or for some other reason, a man in his ordinary consciousness strongly dislikes or even hates something, while in his subconsciousness there is a powerful longing for the very thing he hates in his upper consciousness. Moreover, the soul frequently tries to delude itself about such matters.

Let us take an example. Two people are living together. One of them comes to anthroposophy and is enthusiastic about it, the other does not share this enthusiasm. In fact, the more the former becomes interested in anthroposophy, the more the latter rages against spiritual science and slanders it. Now the following is possible, for human soul life is complicated. The one who slandered anthroposophy would have become an anthroposophist himself at some time if his friend or the person related to him had not become an anthroposophist. The one who is living with him is the hindrance to his becoming an anthroposophist. This certainly can happen. The one who slanders anthroposophy, bringing forward all manner of things against it in his ego-consciousness, may have the most intense longing for it in his subconsciousness or astral consciousness. Indeed, the more he slanders spiritual science the stronger is his wish for it. It may well occur that a man slanders those things in his upper consciousness that appear all the more strongly in his subconsciousness.

Death, however, transforms untruths into truths. Thus one can observe that human beings passing through the gate of death who out of indolence or for similar reasons have slandered spiritual science, and this is applicable to many other things, experience after death a profound longing of which they were unaware during life. So it can be observed that human beings pass through the gate of death who apparently showed no wish for some particular thing, and in whom, nevertheless, after death a most intense desire for it arises. During our trials in the kamaloca period it is therefore immaterial whether our wishes, desires and passions are present in our upper ego-consciousness or whether they dwell in our astral subconsciousness. Both work as burning factors after death, but those wishes and desires we have concealed during life are even more active after death.

It should be borne in mind that by the very nature of the soul everything connected with it will, under all circumstances, make an impression on it. The following has been carefully investigated and it is good if we take an example in connection with anthroposophy. Suppose two people are living together on earth. One of them is a zealous anthroposophist, the other does not wish to hear anything about spiritual science. Now because spiritual science is in his environment, the latter does not remain uninfluenced by it in his astral body. Things of considerable significance and of which we are not aware are constantly happening to our souls. They work in a spiritual way and there are influences that transform our soul life.

So we find hardly anyone who has lived in the environment of an anthroposophist, however obstinate his opposition, who in his subconscious does not show a leaning towards spiritual science. It is precisely among the opponents of anthroposophy that one finds after death a sphere of wishes in which a passionate longing for spiritual science is manifest. This is why a practice that has become customary among us has proved to be so beneficial for the dead, that is, to read to those who during their lives were unwilling to receive much anthroposophy. This proves to be extraordinarily beneficial for the souls concerned. This should be done by vividly picturing the face of the person who has died as he was during the last period of his life on earth. Then one takes a book and quietly goes through it sentence by sentence with one's thoughts directed towards the dead person as if he were sitting in front of one. He will receive this eagerly and gain much from it.

Here we reach a point where anthroposophy enters into life in a practical way. Here materialism and spirituality do not merely confront one another as theories but as actual forces. In fact, by means of spirituality bridges of communication are created between people irrespective of whether they are living or dead. Out of an active spiritual life we can help the dead in this and many other ways of which we shall speak when the opportunity arises.

If we do not stand within the spiritual life, however, the result is not only a lack of knowledge. It also means that we dwell within a limited space of existence encompassed only by the physical world. A materialistically minded person at once loses the connection with one who has passed through the gate of death. This shows how very important it is for the one world to work into the other. If, for instance, the dead person, who has an intense longing to learn something of spiritual wisdom, must forego this wish, it will remain a burden to him. At most, it might be possible, although even in kamaloca this is hardly likely, that he would encounter another soul who has died and with whom he has had such a connection on earth that by the mere nature of the relationship he would find some limited satisfaction. In fact it hardly comes into the picture as compared with the considerable service and the acts of charity that the living can perform for the dead.

Consider the situation of the dead one. He has some intense wish. In the period after death this wish cannot be satisfied because what we bear in our soul is unchangeably rigidified, but from the earth a stream can flow into this otherwise fixed longing. That is actually the only way in which the things that play into our soul can be altered. Therefore, during the first period after death, for the experience of the dead person much depends on the kind of spiritual understanding that is unfolding by the living who were closely related to him.

By acting in accordance with what may be learned through spiritual science, relationships of quite a different kind can be formed in life, relationships that work over from the one world into the other. In this connection there has not yet been much progress, particularly in making anthroposophy into a life force. So much has to be done still in developing anthroposophy so that real powers arise. It is therefore good to make oneself familiar with the truths of spiritual science and then to direct one's whole way of life in accordance with them. If anthroposophy were understood in this deeper sense, it would pulsate like life blood and there would be less discussion and strife in the world about spiritual theories. We should remember that not only our existence on earth but the whole life of mankind is transformed through spiritual science. Once anthroposophy becomes, by way of an understanding of the ideas, more a matter of the heart, men will act and behave in the anthroposophical spirit, to use trivial words. Then such interrelationships will arise more and more often.

We must now broach a matter that is not so easily acceptable, although it can be grasped if one gives thought to it. Man's knowledge on the physical plane is extraordinarily misleading. It is really most deceptive because on the physical plane he knows no more than the facts and connections that he observes. Whereas for the ordinary scientists of the materialistically minded this is the be-all and end-all of what he terms reality, it constitutes the merest trifle of soul life.

Let me give you an apparently paradoxical example. No doubt we remember Schopenhauer's words that truth must blush because it is paradoxical. Man is aware of facts and combines them intellectually. He knows, for example that it is half past seven. He goes out of his house and crosses the street. At eight o'clock he has arrived somewhere. He knows this by means of sense perception, through intellectual combination, but in most cases he does not realize why he did not leave his house two or three minutes later than intended. Few people will bother to consider such a fact as leaving a few minutes earlier or later. Nevertheless, this may be of significance.

I will take the grotesque example, but examples of this kind in miniature are constantly happening in life, of a man being three minutes late. Had he left his house punctually he would have been run over and killed, and he was not killed because he was three minutes late. It is unlikely that events will happen in this grotesque manner, and yet they are occurring all the time in such a way more or less, but people are not aware of them. The man started out three minutes late, and just as it is true that he would be dead had he left his house punctually at eight o'clock, it is true that he is now alive. His karma saved him from death because he started three minutes late. Now this may appear unimportant, but it is not so. In fact, a person is only indifferent to such an event to the extent that he is unaware of the true reality. If he knew, he would no longer be indifferent.

If you were aware of the fact that had you left punctually you would be dead then it would not be a matter of indifference to you. It would actually make a deep impression on you and a profound influence would radiate into your soul as a result of this awareness. You need only recall the significance of such an event for our soul life when such an event actually happens. But is this not tantamount to saying we are constantly going through life with firmly closed eyes? This is in fact true.

A man knows what is occurring externally but he is not aware of what would have happened to him had things gone just a little differently. That means that knowledge of the different possibilities is withheld from his soul. The soul lives indifferently, whereas the knowledge of the various possibilities would shatter or uplift our inner consciousness. Man knows the merest trifle about existing connections. He only knows what emerges from the circumstances. As a result, the life of soul is poor, and what would otherwise be expressed fails to be so. One perhaps would not make such a seemingly paradoxical statement if it were not for the fact that one runs one's head up against it in investigating life after death. Among the many things that arise in the soul we must include what has just been described. After death many things appear vividly before the soul of which it had no inkling that at such a moment you were in danger of your life ... at such and such a time you threw away your happiness ... here you were lazy, and had you not been so easy-going you might have been able to do some good. A host of things that one has not experienced confronts one after death. What appears ludicrous actually becomes reality after death. A whole world of which one is not aware in life then comes to expression.

Are not the things of which we have been speaking really there? Let us again take the example in which we started out three minutes later than intended, and that we thereby have avoided death. We are unaware of this. To the materialist the fact of not knowing something is regarded as unimportant. An intelligent person does not attach undue importance to the fact that he knows or does not know something because he realizes that things are simply there whether he be aware of them or not. The play and opposition of forces was there and so were we. All the preparatory conditions for our death were present. Forces were working towards one another. They passed on another by, and yet they approached one another. There are many such cases in life. Something is actually there. We do not perceive it, but it is around us nevertheless.

If in our present cycle of evolution people continually acquire an understanding for the spiritual world, things that cannot exist for sense perception but are nevertheless in our environment will work upon us in a definite way. This leads us to an extraordinarily interesting fact. Suppose that events happen as they have been described, and that we avoid death because we left three minutes late. This will make no impression whatsoever on the materialist. But in the man who gradually unfolds an understanding in his heart for such connections there will be a change. Remember that the development of anthroposophy is only just beginning. If he has understood and lived in anthroposophy, not merely acquired an external understanding of it but really lived in it with his heart and mind, then his experience will be different. He may start three minutes late, thereby avoiding death, but at the moment when death would have struck had the circumstances been different, he will sense something within him that will manifest as a feeling for the various possibilities. This will be the result as anthroposophy becomes the life blood of the soul.

What will happen when we gradually unfold such feelings, when human nature directs itself according to spiritual-scientific understanding? Moments in which something might have happened to us lift us for a short time into a kind of temporary mediumistic condition during which we are able to let the spiritual world shine into our consciousness. Such moments may be exceedingly fruitful when a person is to know consciously something of the working of the dead on him. Moments when events that have not happened are experienced in the way described awaken impressions out of the spiritual world. The whole strange realm of a world of subtle sensing will unfold in those who draw near to anthroposophy.

Humanity is evolving, and only an obtuse person would maintain that the human race has always been endowed with the same soul forces.

Soul powers change, and although it is true to say that today man is primarily equipped for external perception upon which he works with his thinking, it is equally true that through experiences of the kind that have been described he will evolve into a period when soul-spiritual forces will develop. In this respect, too, we have the prospect of spiritual science becoming a real force intervening creatively in life. Earlier we considered how influences from the physical plane can be exerted on the life after death, and now we have seen where doors or windows can be created so that the experiences of the dead can be perceived here in earthly life. I also wanted to give you an idea of how opportunities arise to establish communication between the two worlds.

Among the many things that can be said about the life between death and rebirth, and we shall get to know them as time goes on, let me just mention this one today. During the life between death and a new birth we find that essentially three forces — of thinking, of feeling and of will or wish — come to expression in the soul. The forces of thinking or of the intellect express themselves in such a way that our consciousness is either clear or vague; for forces of feeling in that we are more or less compassionate or hardhearted, more or less religious or irreligious in our attitude; the forces of volition and wish in that our deeds are more or less egotistical. Thus these three kinds of forces assert themselves. These soul forces each have a different significance for the life after death.

Let us first consider the intellectual forces. How do they assist us after death? They help to render our conscious experience of the period between death and a new birth particularly clear. In fact, the more we endeavor to think clearly and truly during our physical existence, the greater our efforts to acquire a true knowledge of spiritual realities, the brighter and clearer will be our consciousness between death and a new birth. I will speak quite concretely here. A man, for example, who is untrue in his intellectual qualities, who lacks interest in acquiring real knowledge of the conditions obtaining in the spiritual world, will find that, although a consciousness develops, slowly it will become dim. Strange as it may seem, this dimming of consciousness after death causes us to pass through a certain period more rapidly. We pass the more quickly through the spiritual world the more asleep we are. If, therefore, a man is obtuse in his intellect, although he will retain his consciousness for a time, he will not be able to maintain it beyond a certain point. His obtuseness will bring about a twilight condition, and from then onward his life in the spiritual world will pass rapidly and he will return comparatively soon to a physical body.

It is different with the forces of will and wish. They help us to draw forth from the macrocosmic environment between death and rebirth strong or weak forces that are needed for building up our next earthly existence. A man who enters into these macrocosmic conditions with an immoral attitude of soul will not be able to attract the forces essential to a proper building up of the astral and etheric bodies, which will then be stultified. This produces weaklings or the like. Thus it is morality that makes us capable of drawing the forces from the higher worlds that we need for the following incarnation. Intellectuality and morality are closely connected with what the human becomes as a result of his sojourn in the super-sensible world between death and rebirth.

The forces of the heart and of feeling, the innermost forces in the human soul, come before us objectively in the corresponding period between death and a new birth. They are outside us. This is significant. One who is capable of love and compassion lives through his life between death and a new birth surrounded by pictures that promote life and happiness corresponding to the measure of his compassion. These come before the soul as his environment. Pictures of hatred appear to the one who has hated.

At a certain stage of the period between death and a new birth we behold as an outer cosmic painting what we are in our innermost being. There is no better painter than these forces, and the firmament after death is filled with what we truly are in heart and mind. We behold this innermost tableau just as here on earth we behold the firmament of the heavens. Thus we have a firmament between death and a new birth, and it remains with us. It is conditioned by whether we have received the Mystery of Golgotha into the innermost depths of our soul in the sense referred to previously as expressed in the words of St. Paul, “Not I but the Christ in me.” If we experience the Christ within us, then we have the possibility during our Sun existence to experience in the surrounding Akasha picture-world the Christ in His most wondrous form, in His manifested glory, as the element in which we live and dwell. This thought need not merely have an egotistical significance. It may also be of objective significance because in our further existence this outspread picture is again taken into the soul and is brought down into our next incarnation. As a result, we do not only make ourselves into better human beings, but also into a better force in the evolution of the earth.

So the efforts we make to transform our heart forces are intimately connected with our faculties in the next life, and we see the technique that is at work in transforming our heart forces into a great cosmic panorama, a cosmic firmament between death and a new birth that is then again incorporated into our being, giving us stronger forces than previously. Thus an all-around strengthening process is the result of the fact that we behold in the period between death and a new birth what has been experienced inwardly in life.

We have once again considered matters of considerable importance in relating to the conditions of existence between death and a new birth. They are significant because on earth we are in fact nothing else than what life between death and a new birth has made of us. Furthermore, if we ignore them, we shall be less and less able to gain a true knowledge of our own being. If we ignore the conditions of existence between death and a new birth, we shall be incapable of true action and thinking in times to come. These studies are part of wider matters that can be mentioned in relation to the life between death and a new birth. I wished to make a beginning with a content that is to become more and more the substance of spiritual science.

Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com