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History of the Physical Plane and Occult History

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History of the Physical Plane and Occult History

History of the Physical Plane and Occult History

Schmidt Number: S-1847

On-line since: 12th December, 2014

History of the Physical Plane and Occult History

Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Lectures Section

This is the 3rd of 19 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Berlin, that date from October, 1908 through March of 1909. The title of these lectures is: Spiritual-Scientific Anthropology/Knowledge of Man, in German the title is: Geisteswissenschaftliche Menschenkunde.

A Lecture given
by Rudolf Steiner
Berlin, October 23rd, 1908
Bn/GA 107

This is the 3rd of 19 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Berlin, that date from October, 1908 through March of 1909. The title of these lectures is: Spiritual-Scientific Anthropology/Knowledge of Man, in German the title is: Geisteswissenschaftliche Menschenkunde. This lecture, which is also known as Anthroposophical Knowledge of Man, was translated from a shorthand report, unrevised by the lecturer, by an unknown translator. It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. The Bn/GA is 107.

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History of the Physical Plane
and
Occult History

October 23, 1908

“History” refers to the external physical world: By means of external documents and information we look back into past ages in the history of nations, of humanity. You know that through the recent discovery of many a document we can look back to thousands of years before the birth of Christ. Now from the lectures you have heard in the domain of Spiritual Science you can gather that by means of occult documents we can look back still further into unlimited distances of the past. Thus we know of the outer physical world by means of external history. When we speak regarding the habits of life, the knowledge above all, regarding the experience of the nations which lived in the centuries immediately behind us, when we speak of their discoveries and inventions we know that we must use a different language than we do when we go back one or two thousand years and speak of the habits and customs, the learning and power of discernment of nations which belong to the distant past. The further we go back into ages, the more different does history become. It behooves us perhaps to ask whether the word “history”, historical development, has only a meaning for this external physical world, whether only in the course of time the events, the aspect of events alters; or whether perhaps the word history can also have a significance for the other side of existence, for that side which we describe by means of occult science and which man has to live through in the time between death and a new birth.

At first from a purely external point of view, we must say that from all we know, the life of man in those other worlds, invisible to man today, is a longer life than that in the physical world. Has the word “history” a significance for that world, for that other side of existence? Or are we to fall in with the idea that in the regions in which man lives between death and re-birth, everything remains permanently the same, that it is the same if we go back through the 18th and 17th centuries into the 8th, 7th and 6th centuries after the appearing of Christ Jesus upon the earth and even further into the centuries before Christ? The people who enter earthly existence meet with different conditions upon the earth at each new birth. Let us imagine ourselves within the soul of a man incarnated in ancient Egypt or ancient Persia, — Let us picture vividly the conditions of a man born in ancient Egypt facing the gigantic Pyramids and Obelisks and all the conditions of life which present themselves to us in ancient Egypt. Let us imagine these conditions during the time between birth and death. Now let us suppose that the man dies he goes through the period between death and a new birth and is then reborn in the 7th or 8th century of the post-Christian epoch. Let us compare the ages. In earthly existence how differently is the world presented to the soul in the ages before the external appearance of Christ Jesus on the physical plane! Further let us enquire into the experiences of a soul appearing in the first centuries of post-Christian times and then entering our physical plane at the present time. It now finds modern political arrangements of which at that time there was no question. It experiences that which our modern means of civilisation have brought about, in short, a very different picture is offered to such a soul. If we compare these separate incarnations we become conscious of how they differ from one another. Then is it not justifiable to enquire into the life conditions of a man between death and re-birth-between two incarnations? If a man previously lived in ancient Egypt and after death passed into the spiritual world, there he found definite facts, definite beings; then if he again entered physical existence during the first Christian centuries, and again died and passed into the other world, and so on, are we not justified in asking whether on the other side of existence “history” is not being enacted in all the experiences a man goes through there, does not something take place there as time rolls on? You know that when we describe the life of man between death and re-birth, we give a general picture of what this life is. Starting from the moment of death, we describe how after the man has developed the great memory tableau before his soul, he enters into a period in which the impulses, longings, passions, to be found in the astral body, in short, everything which still connects him with the physical world and is still present within him, how he passes through what is usually called “Kamaloca”, and how after he has stripped off that connection he passes on into Devachan, into a purely spiritual world. We further describe what is developed for the man in this period between death and re-birth, in this purely spiritual existence. You have seen that what we describe is always at first spoken of in connection with the fact that it is always related to the present, to our immediate life, as indeed it is. We must naturally have some starting point for our descriptions. Just as in describing the present we must start from the observations and experiences of the present, so also in descriptions of the spiritual world it is necessary to describe the picture which is offered to clairvoyant vision of the life between death and re-birth approximately as things are enacted in the present.

To comprehensive occult observation it is absolutely proved that for that world also in which man lives between death and rebirth, the word “history” has a real significance. Even there something takes place just as here in the physical world. We relate distinctive events following one another, beginning from the 4th century before Christ and describing the events on into our post-Atlantean epoch. In the same way there is a “history” for the other period of existence, we must be aware that the life between death and a re-birth at the time of the Egyptian, the ancient Persian, the ancient Indian civilisations was not just as it is in our time. If in the first place we form a preliminary conception of our present time of the life in Kamaloca and of that in Devachan, it is well to extend these descriptions and advance to a historical consideration. We will bring forward something regarding the chapter of “occult history” and in order to make these matters clear we will keep to quite definite spiritual facts. In order to be able to understand we must begin far back, right back in the Atlantean period. Today we have progressed so far that when we speak of such an epoch we assume something known to you all.

We ask ourselves how in that age when birth and death could first be spoken of, how the life of man played its part beyond the veil. The difference between that life and this was not the same as today. When the man of Atlantis died, what happened to his soul? It passed over into a condition in which it felt itself absolutely one with a spiritual world, in a world of higher individualities.

We know that even here upon this physical earth the life of the Atlantean was quite different from our present life. The present alternation of waking and sleeping and the unconsciousness of the night, as it has often been described, did not exist in the Atlantean age. When man fell asleep and when the knowledge of physical things around him withdrew from his consciousness, he entered a world of the spirit. There appeared to him the vision of spiritual beings. Just as here by day he is together with plants, animals, and human beings, so over there during the sleep-consciousness there appeared a world of higher and lower spiritual beings according to the depth of his sleep. Man grew accustomed to this world; and when at death the Atlantean passed into the world beyond, this world of spiritual Beings, spiritual events, appeared all the more clearly. The man with his complete consciousness felt himself at home in these higher worlds in these worlds of spiritual events and spiritual Beings. If only we were to go back into the first Atlantean age we should find that people looked upon this physical existence — all your souls did so — as a visit to a world in which one tarries for a while and which is quite different from the real home. In the Atlantean Age there was however one peculiarity of this life between death — a re-birth — of which it is difficult for present day man to gain an idea, because he had so completely lost it. The capacity of saying “I” to oneself, of feeling oneself as a self-conscious being, of feeling oneself as an “Ego” which is the essential thing in present day man, was completely lost to the Atlantean on leaving the physical world. When he passed up into the spiritual world whether in sleep or to a higher degree in the life between death and re-birth, in place of the self-consciousness, instead of the feeling: “I am a self-conscious being, I am in myself,” arose the consciousness: “I am one with higher Beings, I plunge, as it were, into the life of these higher Beings”. The man felt himself one with the hither beings and in this feeling of oneness with them he there experienced an immense bliss. This bliss increased more and more the further he withdrew from consciousness of the physical sense existence. This was a life of bliss the further we go back into the ages. We have often heard wherein the purpose of the evolution of humanity in earthly existence consists. It consists in man becoming more and more enmeshed in the physical existence on our earth. In the Atlantean epoch, during the sleep condition man felt himself completely at home in the spiritual world, he felt that world to be bright, clear, and friendly, so his consciousness on this side was still partially dreamlike. There was as yet no real taking possession of the physical body. On waking he forgot to some extent the Gods and Spirits who were his companions during sleep but he did not enter so completely into physical consciousness as he does today. The objects around him had no clear outlines. To the Atlantean it was just as it is to us on a foggy evening when the street lamps appear surrounded by a halo, an aura of all sorts of colours; all the objects of the physical plane were indefinite. The consciousness of the physical plane was only dawning. The strong consciousness of the “I am” had not yet entered into man. Only towards the end of the Atlantean epoch did the human self-consciousness; the consciousness of the personality developed gradually in proportion as man lost his blissful consciousness during sleep. Man gradually conquered the physical world, as he learnt the use of his physical senses — the objects of the physical world gained firmer and more definite outlines. In proportion as man conquered the physical world, the consciousness in the spiritual world altered.

We have followed the various epochs of the post-Atlantean age. We have looked back into the ancient Indian civilisation. We have seen how man then had so far conquered the external that he perceived it as “Maya” — he longed for the spheres of the ancient spiritual country. We have seen that in the Persian epoch the conquest of the physical plane had advanced so far that man wished to connect himself with the good forces of Ormuzd, in order to develop the forces of the physical world. Further we have seen that in the Egypto-Babylonian-Chaldean-Assyrian epoch in the art of measuring the land, which led to working upon the earth, also in star law, men found the means of advancing in the conquest of the external world. Finally we saw that the Graeco-Latin age went still further, that in Greece that beautiful union took place between man and the physical world, in the formation of Grecian cities and also in Greek Art. We saw too that in the fourth epoch the personal element which then came into existence for the first time, appeared in the ancient Roman laws. Whereas formerly man had felt himself part of a whole, part of a reflection of earlier spiritual Beings, the Roman for the first time felt himself to be a citizen of the earth. The concept “citizen” arose — the physical world was conquered little by little, therefore it had become dear to man. The desires and sympathies of man were connected with the physical world and in proportion as sympathy for the physical world grew, his consciousness was connected with physical things. In the same degree the consciousness of man was darkened on the other side, in the time between death and re-birth. That blissful feeling of being part of the existence of higher spiritual Beings was lost to man on the other side to the same extent as this side became dear to him in the course of the conquest of the physical world. Stage by stage man's conquest of the physical world advanced, he was always discovering new forces of Nature, he was always inventing new instruments. Life between birth and death gained an increasing value, and the old dim clairvoyant consciousness of that other world became obscured. It never completely ceased but darkened. As man was conquering the physical world, the history of the other world shows a decline. This descent is in connection with the ascent of civilisation; we observe man in early primitive stages of civilisation, when he grew his corn between two stones, and then see how he ascended stage by stage, how he made the first discoveries, learnt to make and to use implements, and continued to advance in the course of time. Life on the physical plane became ever richer. Man learnt to construct gigantic buildings. In following history through the Egypto-Babylonian-Chaldean-Assyrian age, through the Graeco-Latin age into our own time, we must realize a parting of the ways, if we wish to describe a progress in historical civilisation. In proportion we have to describe a declining path between the upper Gods and that which man was to render to them, that which he performed according to the spiritual world and in the midst of the spiritual world. We see how in later times man continued to lose his connection with the spiritual world and in the spiritual capacities. We have to describe for the other side a history of decline with regard to man, just as for this side we can describe a history of advance, of progressive conquests of the physical world. So may the physical world and the spiritual world be said to supplement one another, or rather to qualify one another.

There is as you know a connection between the spiritual world and our physical world. We have often spoken of the great intermediaries between them, of the Initiates; those who certainly were incarnated in physical bodies, but whose souls towered up into the spiritual world between birth and death, when as a rule man is completely shut off from it; even in this period they were able to have experiences in the spiritual world, and be at home in it. What sort of men were these greater or lesser messengers of the spiritual world, the ancient holy Rishis of India, Buddha, Hermes, Zarathustra, Moses, or all those who in more ancient times were the great “messengers of the Gods”? When we speak of all these who were messengers of the Gods or spirits to men, what was their relation to the Physical world and the spiritual world?

During their initiation and by means of it they experienced the conditions of the spiritual world. Not only could they see with their physical eyes and perceive with their physical intellect the events of the physical world but through their enhanced powers of perception they could also perceive those of the spiritual world. The Initiate not only lives on the physical plane with mankind but he can also trace what the dead are doing in the period between death and re-birth. To him they are just as familiar forms as are men upon the physical plane. From this you see that everything related as occult history flows from the experience of the initiates — A mometuous turning point for all history including that of our own time appeared upon the earth through the Coming of the Christ. And we gain an idea of the progress of history in the other world if we ask ourselves: What significance has the deed of Christ for the Earth? What significance has the mystery of Golgotha for the history of the other side? In many lectures at many places I have been able to point out the incisive significance of the Event on Golgotha for the evolution of the history of the physical plane. Now let us ask: How does the Event of Golgotha present itself when we observe it from the perspective of the other side? — We gain an answer to this question if we fix our eyes upon the point of time in evolution on the other side when men had reached the utmost height of development on the physical plane, when the consciousness of the personality was most strongly developed; the Graeco-Latin epoch. That was the point of time of the appearing of Christ Jesus upon the earth. On the one hand there was the most intense consciousness of the personality, the most intense joy in the material world, and on the other hand the strongest, the mightiest summons towards the other world in the Event of Golgotha, that great deed which represents the conquest of death by life. These things completely coincide if we fix our attention on the physical world. In the Grecian epoch there was truly great joy in external existence and enhanced sympathy with it. Such people alone were capable of building those wonderful Grecian Temples in which the Gods dwelt. Such a life was needed to produce those works of art and sculpture, showing a wonderful union of spirit with matter. Joy in the physical plane and sympathy with it contributed towards this. This only developed gradually and we plainly trace the advance in history if we compare the arising of the Greek in the physical in with the exalted conception of the world which the people of the first post-Atlantean epoch received from their holy Rishis. They had no interest in the physical world, they felt at home in the spiritual world; enraptured, they looked to the world of spirit to which they endeavoured to attain through the teachings and exercises given them by the holy Rishis. Between this disdain of the pleasures of the senses and the great joy in the sense-world of the Graeco-Latin age — that point of union of spirit and the sense-world, in which both had their rights — between these two points lies a long stretch of human history, yet did such counterpart of this conquest of the physical plane exist within the spiritual world in the Graeco-Latin age? He who is able to look into the spiritual world knows that it is no myth, but is actually founded on truth, related to us by the Greek Poets of the foremost men of their civilisation. How did the latter feel in the spiritual world, they who had been so completely in truth and sympathy with the physical world? It is absolutely in conformity with truth when the sages attributed the words to them: Better be a beggar in the upper world than a king in the realms of shades:! The dimmest weakest conditions of consciousness existed at this period between death and re-birth. With all his sympathies in the physical world man did not understand the existence in the world beyond. He felt as if he had lost everything and the spiritual world appeared valueless to him. In proportion as sympathy for the physical world increased did the Greek heroes feel themselves lost in the spiritual world. An Agamemnon, an Achilles, felt himself to be a depleted being, a Non-being in this world of shades. Of course there were intermediate periods — for the connection with the spiritual is never completely lost, — in which even these people took part with spiritual Beings and spiritual activities, but the condition of consciousness which has just been described certainly existed. Thus we have a history of the world on the other side, a history of descent, just as we have a history of ascent on this side.

Those who were called the messengers of the Gods or spiritual messengers always had the power of going to and fro, from one world to the other. Let us try to picture what the spiritual messengers were upon the physical plane in the pre-Christian ages of humanity. They were those who from their experiences in the spiritual world were able to tell the people of the ancient world what the spiritual really was. Of course there they also experienced the extinguished consciousness of the physical earth man, but as compensation the whole spiritual world in its resplendent abundance was also open to them and they were able to bring to the men on earth the information that there was a spiritual world and what it looked like. They could bear witness of this spiritual world. This was specially important in the ages in which man stood forth more and more on the physical plane with his interests in it. The more man conquered the earth, the more his joy and sympathy were centered in the physical world — the more these messengers of the Gods had to emphasize the fact that the spiritual world existed. They could always speak in this way: You know this and that regarding the Earth, but there is also a spiritual world; of which such can be said — In short the complete picture of the spiritual world was revealed to man by the messengers of the Gods. This was known in the various religions. And always when the messengers of the Gods returned after their initiation or after a visit to the spiritual world, they could bring with them to the physical world, which was becoming more and more beautiful to those living on the physical plane — comfort and exaltation from the spiritual world, something of the treasures of the spiritual world. They brought the fruits of the spiritual life into physical life. And it was always the case that people were led into the spirit by means of that which the messengers of the Gods brought to them. The physical world, the world on this side, profited by the messengers of the Gods and what they brought. But these spiritual messengers could not work fruitfully in like measure for the world beyond. You can picture it in this way. When the initiate, the messenger of the Gods, passed over into the other world the beings there were his companions just as were the beings in the physical world. He could speak to them and give them information as to what was happening in the physical world. But the nearer the Graeco-Latin epoch approached, the less could the initiate, when he passed over from the earth to the other side, offer to the souls there anything of value, for they felt too keenly the loss of that upon which they had depended in the physical world. That which the initiate could impart to them was no longer of any value to them. Thus in pre-Christian times that which the initiates brought over as their messages to men in the physical world was in the highest degree fruitful, but that which they were able to take over from the physical world to the deceased was unfruitful for the spiritual world. Great as was the message which Buddha, Hermes, Zarathustra brought to men of the physical plane, they could accomplish but little on the other side, for they could bring little of what was satisfactory or animating as a message to the other side — Now let us compare that which came about for the other side through the Christ, that which took place in the period of deepest decadence, in the Graeco-Latin period, with that which previously came about by means of the initiates. We know what the Event of Golgotha signifies for the history of the earth. We know that it was the conquest of earthly death by the life of the spirits, the overcoming of all death through the evolution of the earth. Even if today we cannot enter into all that the Mystery of Golgotha signifies, we can summarize it in a few words: it signifies the final and incontestable proof of the fact that life has conquered death. When upon Golgotha life conquered death, spirit laid down the germ of the final conquest of matter! That which is related in the Gospel regarding that visit which Christ made after the Event upon Golgotha to the dead in the underworld is not a legend or a symbol. Occult investigation shows you that it is the truth. Just as truly as Christ wandered among men during the last three years of the life of Jesus, so did he cause the dead to rejoice by visiting them immediately after the Event of Golgotha. He appeared to the dead, to the souls of the deceased. This is an occult truth. He could then tell them that in the physical world spirit had incontestably gained the victory over matter. To the souls of the departed on the other side this was a flame of light which sprang up like spiritual electricity, and the dying consciousness of the Graeco-Latin age in the other world was stimulated, a completely new phase began for man between death and re-birth. And ever since that time clearer and clearer has grown the consciousness of man between death and re-birth.

Thus if we describe history, we can supplement the statements regarding Kamaloca and the life in Devachan, and we must point out that with the appearing of Christ upon the earth a completely new phrase began for the life on the other side. The fruit of that which the Christ accomplished for the evolution of the earth was experienced in a radical change in the life beyond. This visit of Christ to the other side signified a revival of the life there between death and re-birth. since that time the departed who at that important point of the Graeco-Latin age, in spite of all the pleasure they had had in the physical world, had felt themselves mere shadows, so that they preferred to be beggars in the upper world rather than kings in the realm of shades — now began to feel more and more on the other side. Since that time man has grown more into the spiritual world, and a period of ascent, of blossoming, has dawned for the spiritual world. We shall always see what we acquire for the observation of human life upon the earth, if we place before us the true qualities of the spiritual world.




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