Further Facts About Life Between Death and Rebirth
Breslau, April 5, 1913
together in our group meetings we can speak more precisely about
things than is possible in public lectures and written works. Today I
would like to present supplementary considerations to add to what is
to be found in the books and cycles of lectures.
You can imagine, my dear friends, that life between death and a new
birth is as rich and varied as life here between birth and death, and
that whenever one describes what happens after death one can
obviously only deal with certain aspects. Today I will not touch so
much on what is already known, but draw attention to what can shed
further light upon it.
If one is able to look into the spiritual worlds where man dwells
between death and a new birth, then particularly in our time the
necessity of what is intended with our spiritual scientific work is
confirmed, that is, the need to give something to the hearts and
souls of men by way of spiritual science.
Let us take our starting point from a particular instance. A man
died. He loved his wife deeply and was much attached to his family.
Spiritual observation showed that he suffered deeply from the fact
that when he looked down on the earth he was unable to find the souls
of his wife and children. Now in the manner of which the seer can
enter into communication with a person after death, the man informed
the seer that with his thoughts and with all his feelings he was able
to relive the time when he was united with his beloved on the earth.
But he added, “When I lived on earth my wife was like sunshine
to me. Now I must forego this. I am able to direct my thoughts back
to what I have experienced but I cannot find my wife.”
Why is this? For this is not the case with all who pass through the
gate of death. If we were to go back several thousand of years, we
would find that the souls of men were able to look down from the
spiritual world and participate in the affairs of those who remained
behind on the earth. Why was this the case for all souls in ancient
times before the Mystery of Golgotha? In ancient times, as you know,
men so lived on the earth that they still possessed an original
clairvoyance. They not only saw the sense world by means of the eyes.
They also gazed into the spiritual
origins, into the archetypal beings behind the sense world. The
capacity to live with the spiritual world during physical existence
brought with it the ability of the soul to perceive what it had left
behind on the earth after death. Today souls no longer have the
faculty of living directly with the spiritual world because the
evolution of humanity has consisted in man's descent into
physical existence out of the spiritual world. This has resulted in
the faculty of judgment and so forth, but it has robbed man of the
faculty to live with the spiritual world.
During a period immediately following the Mystery of Golgotha when
souls were deeply moved by the Christ impulse, at last a part of
mankind was able to regain this faculty to some extent. Now, however,
we again live in an age when souls who go through the gate of death
and have not concerned themselves with the realities of the spirit
lose the connection. Mankind needs a spiritual revelation and we can
have a justified conviction that it should permeate human souls.
Today the old religious confession does not suffice. Souls who seek
to gaze down spiritually from the other world to ours need what they
can receive by means of a spiritual scientific understanding of the
Mystery of Golgotha. It is therefore our endeavor that spirit light
may develop in their souls.
The man of whom we have spoken had not concerned himself in any way
with thoughts or feelings about the spiritual world. He went through
the gate of death but no thoughts of the spiritual world had occupied
his mind. He therefore was able to say, “I know by means of my
memory that my wife is down there. I know she is there, but I cannot
see her, cannot find her.”
Under what conditions would he have been able to find her? At the
present time only such souls can be perceived in whom spiritual
faculties dwell. Such souls can be seen from the other world, souls
in whom thoughts live with understanding for the spirit. As the dead
one gazes down, a person who has remained behind on the earth only
becomes visible for him when spiritual thoughts live within the soul
of that person. The dead person sees these thoughts. Otherwise the
person remains invisible and the dead one suffers from the anguish of
knowing that the person is there but he is unable to find him. As
soon as one succeeds in conveying to such a soul thoughts concerning
the spiritual world, however, the soul of the one who remains behind
on earth begins to light up, to exist for the dead.
Do not object by saying that it is an injustice that people who have
no spiritual thoughts here on earth, and perhaps it is not even their
fault, should remain invisible to the dead. If the world were
arranged otherwise, man would never seek to strive for perfection.
Man has to learn by what he foregoes. Such a soul, as a result of the
pain and loneliness it suffers during life between death and rebirth,
is given the impulse to receive spiritual thoughts. From this aspect
we see that spiritual science is like a language by means of which
the living and the dead may understand one another, and can be
present for and perceptible to each other.
Spiritual science has yet another mission in connection with bridging
the abyss between the living and the dead. When human souls go
through the gate of death they enter a realm where the connection
with life on earth is maintained by the recollection of what has
happened there. I am not repeating what can be found in my written
works. What I am now saying is intended as a supplement. For a long
period after death man re-experiences what has happened on earth and
has to rid himself of the longing for his physical body. During this
time he learns to live as a soul-spirit being. Let us vividly imagine
how this appears to super-sensible perception. To begin with, the soul
has a connection with itself. One sees one's own inner life
that has run its course in thoughts, in mental representations, etc.
One recalls the relationships one has had with his fellow men.
If one seeks to look down upon it, the earth offers a special aspect.
One has the urge to look down. The urge to remember the earth
accompanies one throughout the whole of life between death and a new
birth. As long as man is called to journey from life to life the
consciousness remains that he is destined for the earth, that he must
return again and again to the earth if he would develop himself
rightly. We can see this with the dead because if he were to lose
completely the thoughts that link him to the earth, he would also
lose the thought of his own ego. Then he would no longer be aware
that he is, and this would result in the most dreadful feeling of
anguish. Man must not lose his connection with the earth. The earth
must not escape his mental representation, so to speak. In general,
too, the earth cannot completely disappear from him. It is only in
our period of the materialistic deluge, during which the spiritual
revelation has to come so that the link between the living and the
dead may be maintained, that souls having no connection with people
who have spiritual thoughts and feelings on earth find it difficult
to look back.
It is important for the dead that those with whom they were connected
on earth carry every evening thoughts of the spiritual world with
them into sleep. The more thoughts about the spiritual world we carry
with us into sleep, the greater the service we perform for those we
have known on earth who have died before us. It is difficult to speak
of these connections because our words are taken from the physical
plane. In the spiritual world that we bring with us as spiritual
thoughts in sleep is the substance by means of which, in a certain
sense, the dead can live. One who died and has no one on earth who
carries spiritual thoughts with him in sleep is famished and may be
compared to one banished to a barren island on earth. The dead person
who cannot find a soul in whom spiritual feelings dwell experiences
himself as if in a desert void of everything that is needed to
sustain life. In view of this, one cannot stress too much the
earnestness with which thoughts of spiritual science should be taken
in a period like our own, when world-conceptions that are alien to
the spirit gain the upper hand more and more.
It was different in past times when an evening prayer was said before
going to sleep and its after-effects accompanied one. Today it is
more likely than not that a person falls asleep after a meal or some
other form of enjoyment without a thought devoted to the
super-sensible. In this way we rob the dead of their spiritual
nourishment. Such insight should lead to the practice, proven to be
effective by many of our friends, that I would like to term,
the reading to the dead.
To read to the dead is of untold significance.
Let us assume that two people lived side by side here on earth. The
one finds his way to spiritual science out of a deep, heartfelt
impulse, the other is increasingly repelled by it. In such a case
little is achieved in attempting to bring the person to a spiritual
concept of the world during life. In fact, one's endeavors in
this direction may indeed cause the other to hate it all the more.
Now when such a person dies we have the possibility of helping him
all the more.
What lives in our soul is exceedingly complex and the area bounded by
our consciousness is only a small part of the total content of our
soul life. Man does not know much of what lives in his soul and often
something is present that he takes for the opposite of what is
actually there. Thus it can happen that a person comes to hate
spiritual science. He becomes aware of this with his consciousness.
In the depths of his soul, however, this can reveal itself as an all
the more profound longing for spiritual science. When we have gone
through the gate of death we experience the depths of our soul
existence that come to the surface. When we meet the dead we have
known on earth, they often show themselves to be different from what
they were on earth. A person who has hated spiritual science with his
normal consciousness but longed for it in the depths of his soul
without being aware of it will often display this longing powerfully
after death. We can help him by taking a book with a spiritual —
scientific content, forming a vivid inner picture of the one who has
died, and reading to him as we would to a living person, not with a
loud voice, but softly. The dead can understand this. Naturally,
those who have made a contact with spiritual science during their
lifetime understand it all the more readily. We should not fail to
read to the dead or converse with them in thought. I would like to
draw attention to a practical matter, namely, that for a number of
years after death, for a period of some three to five years, a person
can understand the language he has spoken on earth. This gradually
wanes, but he preserves an understanding of spiritual thoughts. Then
we can also read to the dead in a language that he did not understand
on earth but that we have ourselves mastered. In this way we can
perform the greatest service to the dead.
It is particularly in such realms that one realized the full
significance of spiritual science because it bridges the gulf between
the living and the dead. We can imagine that if we succeed in
spreading spiritual science on earth in ever wider circles, more and
more souls will become conscious of a communion with the dead.
Thus for a period after death man is still directly connected with
the earth. Then he has to grow into and become a citizen of the
spiritual world. This requires preparation. He first must possess a
sensitivity and understanding for the spiritual world. Spiritual
investigation observes a considerable difference after death between
souls who have cultivated moral feelings and inclinations on earth
and those who have failed to do so. A person who has not developed
moral feelings on earth becomes a hermit after death. He will be
unable to find his way both to other human beings and to the higher
hierarchies. Consciousness is not extinguished then, and what awaits
man is a sense of utter loneliness. From a certain period called the
Mercury period onward man gains the possibility of living together
with other beings by virtue of his moral life. We may say therefore
that the way a person lives on earth determines his existence in the
Mercury sphere, determines whether he experiences a dreadful
hermit-like existence or establishes contact with other human souls
or the beings of the higher hierarchies.
This is followed by another period during which man must be
differently prepared if he does not again condemn himself to
loneliness. Loneliness comes to pass if he has not developed any
religious feelings here on earth. This period is called the Venus
period. There a person who has failed to develop religious feelings
experiences himself as blind and dead in relation to everything that
In a subsequent period, so as not to remain insensitive toward the
beings of the higher world, a preparation in the complete
appreciation of all religions is necessary. That is the Sun period.
We prepare for it here on earth by an understanding for all that is
human, and for the different religious denominations. In former times
in the Sun period it sufficed for one man to belong to the Brahma
religion, for another to that of Lao-Tse, and so forth. Today,
however, because times have changed men stand opposite one another
through their religious creeds and therefore the Sun period cannot be
rightly experienced. For this a spiritual sensitivity is needed.
In the Sun period, which man has to traverse between death and a new
birth, it is as if one entered into a world where one found a
particular place empty or filled, depending on one's
preparation. We do not find the place empty if we understand the
Mystery of Golgotha. The Christ impulse affords the possibility of
understanding every human experience. Christianity is a general
religion, valid for all people. Christianity is not limited to a
particular folk, race or nationality, as is the case with Hinduism
and other national religions. Had the people of middle Europe
preserved their old folk religion, we would still today find a Wotan
cult, a Thor cult, and so on. But the European people have accepted
the Christian creed. One is not a Christian in the true sense because
one adheres to one or the other Christian dogma, however, but because
one knows that Christ died for the whole of humanity. Only gradually
will people learn to live truly as Christians.
In our time most Europeans in India pay mere lip service to their own
belief. The attitude that one should develop is that wherever we meet
a human being in the face of the earth the Christ impulse can be
found. The Hindu will not believe that his god dwells in every man.
The Christian knows that Christ lives in every human being. Spiritual
science will reveal that the true core of all religions is contained
in a rightly understood Christianity, and that every religion,
inasmuch as it becomes conscious of its essential kernel, leads to
the Mystery of Golgotha.
In considering other initiates or religious founders it is evident
that they seek to reveal certain things out of the higher worlds
because they have gone through a process of initiation. We do not
understand the Christ correctly if we do not clearly see that the
Christ has not gone through one or the other form of initiation on
earth. He was initiated by virtue of the fact that He was there and
united everything within Himself.
When the seer looks at the life of the Buddha and then follows it
through in the spiritual world, he realizes more clearly the true
nature of the Buddha. This is not so with the life of Christ. The
Christ life is such that one must first establish a connection with
it on earth in order to understand it in the spiritual world. If one
does not gain such a connection and one is nevertheless initiated,
one can behold many things, but one cannot see the Christ if one has
not first gained a connection from Him on earth.
That is why so few people understand the Mystery of Golgotha. The
Christ is a Being who is of equal importance for the most primitive
human being and for the highest initiate. The most primitive soul can
find a relationship to Christ, and the initiate must also find it.
One learns to know many things when one enters into the spiritual
world. There is only one thing that does not exist there, one thing
that cannot be learned there and that is death. Death exists only in
the physical world. In the spiritual world there is transformation
but not death. Therefore, all the spiritual beings who never descend
to the earth and only dwell in spiritual realms do not go through
Christ has become the companion of man on earth and the event of
Golgotha, if one understands it as the unique death of a god, is what
prevents us from confronting emptiness in the Sun period. The other
initiates are human beings who through a number of incarnations have
developed themselves in a special way. Christ had never been on the
earth before His advent but dwelt in realms where there is no death.
He is the only one among the gods who has learned to know death.
Therefore, in order to become acquainted with the Christ one has to
understand His death, and because this is essential the Mystery of
Golgotha can be understood only on earth where death exists. We do
not experience the Christ in higher worlds if we have not gained a
relationship to Him on earth. We find His place empty during the Sun
period. If, however, we are able to take the Christ impulse with us,
then the throne in the Sun is not empty. Then we find the Christ
During our present phase of human evolution it is important that we
should find the Christ in the spiritual world at this stage and
recognize Him. Why? In the Sun period we have gradually entered a
realm in which we are dependent on spiritual light. Previously,
before the Sun period, we still experienced the after-effects of the
earth, the after-effects of what we have been personally, including
our moral and religious feelings. Now we require more than these. Now
we require the faculty to see what is in the spiritual world, but
this cannot be prepared for on earth. We have to journey through
realms of forces of which we cannot know anything here on earth.
As he enters into life through birth, man has not as yet got a
developed brain. He first must form it in accordance with the
achievements of previous earth lives. For if one needs a particular
faculty it is not sufficient that one has acquired it. One also has
to know how the requisite physical organ has to be formed.
There exists an important but dangerous leader. Here on earth he
remains unconscious, but from the Sun period onward he is necessary.
The leader is Lucifer. We would wander in darkness if Lucifer were
not to approach us. However, we can only walk beside him if we are
guided by the Christ. Together they lead man after the Sun period in
subsequent forms of life, that is, through the Mars, Jupiter and
Saturn periods. During the times following the Sun period, man is
brought together with forces that he requires for his next
incarnation. It is sheer nonsense to believe as materialistic science
does that the physical body is inherited. Today science cannot see
its error but spiritual truths will be acknowledged in the future and
the fallacy, too, will be recognized. For nothing can be inherited
apart from the basic structure of the brain and the spinal cord, that
is, everything that is contained within and bounded by the hard skull
cap and the vertebrae of the spinal column. Everything else is
conditioned by forces from the macrocosmos. If man were only given
what he inherits he would be a totally inhuman lump, so to speak. The
inherited part has to be worked through by what man brings with him
out of the spiritual world.
Why do I use the terms Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn
for the periods after death? When man has gone through the gate of
death he expands more and more. In fact, life after death is such
that one knows oneself to be spread out over a vast space. This
expansion goes so far that one finally occupies the space bounded by
the orbit of the moon. Then one grows out to the orbit of Mercury in
the occult sense, then out to the orbits of Venus, Sun and Mars. One
grows out into the vast celestial spaces. But the spatial
togetherness of the many human souls is not significant. When you
permeate the whole of the Venus sphere this is also the case for the
others, but it does not mean that because of this you are aware of
them. Even if one knows that one is not alone, one can still feel
Finally one expands into the universe in a sphere circumscribed by
the orbit of Saturn and beyond. As one grows in this way one gathers
the forces needed to build up the next incarnation. Then one returns.
One becomes ever smaller until one unites oneself again with the
Between death and rebirth man expands into the whole cosmos and
however strange it may appear, when we return to the earth we bring
all the forces of the solar system with us into life and unite them
with what is inherited out of the physical substances. By means of
the cosmic forces we build up our physical body and our brain. Here
between birth and death we dwell within the narrow confines of our
physical body. After death we live, expanded, into the entire solar
The one person has a deep moral sense, the other less so. The one who
on earth had a deep moral sense goes through the spiritual world in
such a way that he can experience everything as a sociable being. The
power for this flows from the starry realms. Another who is not thus
prepared is unable to make any connections and because he did not
bring any spiritualized forces with him, he also is unable to receive
any moral predispositions. He will journey alone through the various
spheres. Such spiritual knowledge throws significant light on
everything that a man is and on his relationship to the world.
Kant uttered the saying, “There are two things that fill my
mind with an ever new and increasing sense of wonder and devotion:
The starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” He
thereby expressed something significant. Spiritual science reveals
that both are one and the same. What we experience between death and
rebirth we bring with us as moral law. We carry the starry heavens
through which we journey between death and a new birth into our
earthy life where it must become moral law.
Thus spiritual science brings us insight into the magnitude of the
human soul and the idea of human responsibility.