In the lecture yesterday we heard that man spends the first period of his life between death and a new birth in the Moon sphere, preparing the forces that will eventually take effect in his karma. In the Moon sphere he encounters Beings who were once together with him on the Earth as the great primeval Teachers of humanity. These are the Beings with whom he comes into contact almost immediately after death; he also comes into contact with the Hierarchy of Beings to whom the book Occult Science: An Outline refers as the Angeloi. The Angeloi have never been inhabitants of the Earth in the literal sense; they have never borne earthly bodies, nor even etheric bodies resembling those of men. The etheric bodies of the other Moon Beings of whom I spoke were not altogether dissimilar from those of men, but those Beings did not incarnate in physical bodies.
The Angeloi are the Beings who in the present period of our cosmic evolution guide us from one earthly life to another, and it is from the Moon sphere that they guide us. We have heard how in this same sphere the human being lays the foundations of his karma, gathers into himself the impulses which will bring about its ultimate fulfilment. But whatever has passed with a man through the gate of death as the result of unrighteous deeds, deeds which cannot be tolerated by the spiritual worlds — all this ‘bad’ karma, if I may so express it, must be left behind in the Moon sphere. For as he moves onwards through his life between death and a new birth, a man could not be encumbered with the consequences and effects of his unrighteous deeds. When he passes beyond the Moon sphere his inner life has expanded into a still wider region of the Cosmos, and he enters the Mercury sphere. Here he lives, primarily, in communion with the Beings belonging to the Hierarchy of the Archangeloi. In all these realms, of course, he is in contact with human souls who have also passed through the gate of death. In the Moon sphere, these are the third class of beings among whom he lives — they are disembodied human souls who, like himself, have passed through the gate of death. We shall presently see why the spiritual effects of the bad karma must remain behind in the Moon sphere. For the moment, the fact itself will suffice.
When man enters the Mercury sphere, he undergoes further purification. Even when he has laid aside in the Moon sphere those moral attributes which are unfit for the Cosmos, the spiritual counterparts of his physical weaknesses, of his physical infirmities, still remain with him, as do the tendencies to illness and the effects of the illnesses from which he suffered here on Earth. Surprising as it may seem, it is the case that in the life between death and a new birth, man lays aside his moral failings first and his physical infirmities only later, when he enters the Mercury sphere. In the Mercury sphere his soul is purged of the inner effects of those morbid processes which came to expression in illness during his life on Earth and in his soul he becomes completely healthy. You must remember that man is a single whole. From the occult standpoint it is erroneous to speak of him as a compound of spirit, soul and body. He is not a compound of these three constituents, but when we observe him he is revealed on the one side as body, on the other as spirit, and between body and spirit, as soul. In reality, man is one whole, a self-contained unity. The soul and the spirit too are involved in the conditions which prevail in illness. And when man has laid aside the physical body at death, the effects of the experiences resulting from the disease-processes are, to begin with, still present in his soul. But in the Mercury sphere these effects are obliterated under the influences of the Beings we know as the Archangeloi.
You see, therefore, that having passed stage by stage through the Moon sphere and the Mercury sphere, man becomes a being from whom moral and physical weaknesses have been removed. Then — after the lapse of many decades — he enters the Venus sphere and there, as one who has lived through the spheres of Moon and Mercury, he is ready to pass from the Venus sphere into the Sun sphere where the longest period of life between death and a new birth is spent. The indications I am giving will show you how well-founded were the practices of those ancient Mysteries where men acted out of wisdom which, although it was an instinctive wisdom, was the outcome of wonderful powers of clairvoyance. In those olden times it would have been unthinkable to study medicine, for example, in the way that is customary nowadays. What happens now is that the purely physical symptoms of disease are observed and efforts are made to discover ameliorative measures by dissecting the corpse and observing the changes in evidence there, as compared with those which take place in the normal, living organism — and so forth. Such procedure would have been regarded as futile in the days of the ancient Mystery-wisdom when it was known that illumination leading to the healing of illness must come from the Beings of the Mercury sphere. For it was known that only if illumination proceeds from the whole nexus of cosmic processes can a man be healed fundamentally. The description of the Oracle of the Mercury Mysteries given from a different point of view in the book Occult Science indicates the nature of the practices in these Mysteries which were dedicated primarily to the ancient Art of Healing.
In the lecture yesterday we heard of the great primeval Teachers who were once together with men on Earth; wherever human beings dwelt, these Teachers were among them, peopling the etheric sphere of the Earth as a kind of second race. But in their dim, dreamlike consciousness men were aware that other Beings too came down among them, Beings whose abode has never been on the Earth. What has to be said about these things will of course seem not only paradoxical but sheer nonsense to the modern mind with its devotion to materialistic science. Nevertheless this ‘nonsense’ is the truth. The sages in the ancient Mysteries knew well that illumination on the processes of healing can be given only by the super-sensible Mercury Beings. And so through the sacred rites enacted in these Mysteries, spiritual Beings were able to come down from the Mercury sphere to the altars in the sanctuaries where the priests of the Mysteries conversed with them. The Beings who thus descended to the altars were known in the Mysteries simply as the God Mercury. The influence was the same, although it was not necessarily the same Being who descended on every occasion. Men's attitude to this sacred medicine in olden times was such that they said: the Art of Healing has been imparted by the God Mercury to his priest-healers.
Even to-day it cannot be said that Spiritual Science does not depend upon the help of Beings of the Cosmos who, when the necessary preparation has been made by Initiates, are able to come down to the Earth. Initiates of the Mystery-wisdom belonging to the modern age know well how much depends upon the possibility of conversing with Beings of the Cosmos. But the mentality prevailing to-day is utterly different from that of olden times. A doctor nowadays is one upon whom some University has conferred a medical degree, whereas in days of antiquity a doctor was one who had conversed with the God Mercury. But as time went on this converse took place no longer and only traditions remained of what was once achieved in the Mysteries when the priest-healers had conversed with the God.
In the Venus sphere it is a matter of leading over into the Sun sphere whatever still remains of the human being when his tendencies to unrighteousness and to illness have been eliminated. To understand this we must think of something that is characteristic of man. Here on Earth a man is always one whole, one undivided whole. Only if he is executed for some terrible crime is he no longer a single whole in respect of the physical body. However severe the punishment he may receive for lesser transgressions, he is still one whole. But this is not the case with the soul-and-spiritual counterpart which has passed through the Moon sphere and the Mercury sphere. When as a being still possessed of soul and spirit in the super-sensible world after death, man has cast off the weaknesses due to the wrongdoings and to illnesses, he is in a certain sense no longer whole. For a man is one with his wrongdoings; his sinfulness is part of him. If someone were so utterly villainous as to possess no good qualities at all, his whole being would have to remain in the Moon sphere and he could make no further progress; for to the extent to which we are evil, to that extent we leave our own being behind in the Moon sphere. We are one with, identical with, what is evil in us according to the standards of the spiritual world. Therefore when we arrive in the Venus sphere, we have been mutilated in a certain respect. In the Venus sphere the element of purest Love prevails — purest Love in the spiritual sense; and it is this Cosmic Love that bears what now remains of the human being from the Venus sphere into the Sun existence.
There, in the Sun existence, man has to work in a very real way at the moulding and shaping of his karma. Now if our physicists were ever to reach the Sun they would be astonished, to say the least of it! For everything that men claim to have discovered about the Sun is at variance with the facts. The Sun is supposed to be a kind of globe filled with incandescent gas — but that is far from the truth. Let us take a rather commonplace illustration. If you have some Seltzer water in a glass you will have to look carefully if you want to see the actual water, for what you see are the bubbles in the water. These bubbles are less dense than the water itself and you see what is the less dense. And now, what about the Sun? When you look at the Sun you do not see it because it is a globe of densified, incandescent gas in empty space, as science alleges, but you see it because just at that place there is a condition of utmost rarefication. — And now you must get accustomed to an idea that is far from familiar.-
You look out into space — I am not going to speak now about the nature of space. Here, when you look into the water, there are bubbles everywhere — bubbles which are thinner, less dense than the water. Where the Sun stands in the sky, conditions are less dense even than space. You will say: ‘but space itself is void, it is nullity.’ Nevertheless at the place where the Sun is situated there is actually less than nullity. It should not be difficult, especially in these days, for people to think of something else that is less than nothing. If there were originally five shillings in my pocket and I spend them one by one, in the end I have nothing. But when I get into debt I have less than nothing — which is the plight of a good many people to-day! Very well, then: where there is space, space alone, there is nothing; but where the Sun is there is less than nothing, there is a lacuna in space — and there dwell the spiritual Beings referred to in the book Occult Science as the Exousiai, the Dynamis, the Kyriotetes. There they have their abode, sending their own essence and power through all creation. Among them man spends the greater part of his life between death and a new birth. In association with the Exousiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes, with human souls karmically connected with him who have also passed through the gate of death, and with yet other Beings whose existence is hardly even conjectured, the karma for the next earthly life is worked out and formulated. Conditions in this Sun region are not as they are on Earth. Why do our clever scientists — and clever they certainly are — picture the Sun as a globe of incandescent gas? It is because a certain illusory, materialistic instinct makes them want to detect physical processes in the Sun. But there is nothing physical in the Sun. One may at most speak of physical processes in the Sun's corona, but certainly not in the Sun itself. In the Sun there is nothing like natural law, for it is a world of purest spirit. Materialists would like to insist that the Sun too is under the sway of natural law, but it is not so. The only laws prevailing in the Sun are those which give effect to the karmic consequences of the Good and which operate in restoring the mutilation man has undergone as the result of his ‘bad’ karma when he has been transported by the Love of the Venus Beings into the Sun sphere. When the life of man between death and a new birth is described many will wonder how this very lengthy period is spent. Many things that happen on the Earth command admiration and awe, but the most sublime achievements of earthly civilisation are puny and insignificant in comparison with what is accomplished in a purely spiritual way during this Sun existence, when mighty Powers are all around and within us, working to the end that our karma shall take effect in the next earthly life.
The elaboration of part of man's karma is completed in the Venus sphere, and some part even in the Mercury sphere. Later on we shall hear of a certain well-known historical personality whose destiny in his incarnation in the nineteenth century was due to the fact that his karma was very largely wrought out in the spheres of Venus and Mercury. Souls who begin to give shape to their karma in these spheres often become personalities of outstanding significance in the subsequent incarnation. But in the great majority of cases the main part of the karma for the following earthly life is worked out in the Sun sphere, where the longest period is spent. We will speak in greater detail later on but to-day I will give an outline of how the foundations of karma are laid, stage by stage, in the various spheres. In order not to be confused by other descriptions I have given of the life between death and a new birth, you must be clear that in moving through these spheres man enters into entirely different conditions of cosmic existence. When the time comes for him to enter the Mars sphere, he is still not altogether outside the Sun sphere, for the influences of the Sun are still active in this part of the Cosmos which was once cast off by the Earth. In the Sun sphere, man is concerned only with his moral qualities and with those attributes of his being which have remained healthy; the rest has been laid aside. It persists in him as a kind of incompleteness but this is made good in the Sun sphere. During the first half of existence in the Sun sphere we are engaged in making preparation for the appropriate physical organisation of the next earthly body. During the second half of the Sun existence, in union with the Exousiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes, and with human souls karmically connected with us, we are concerned with the preparation of the moral side of karma, the moral qualities which will then be present in the next life. But this moral part and the spiritual part of karma — for example, specific talents in one direction or another — are then further elaborated in the Mars sphere, in the Jupiter sphere and in the Saturn sphere. And in passing through these spheres we come to know what the ‘physical’ stars are in reality.
To speak of a ‘physical’ star is not really correct. For what is a star? Physicists imagine that combustion of gas or some process of the kind is taking place in the sky. But as I said, if they could actually get there they would be amazed to find no burning gas in the Sun but actually a lacuna, a gap in space, in a condition infinitely more rarefied than any particles of earthly matter could ever be. Everything is Spirit, pure Spirit. Nor are the other stars so many bodies of incandescent, burning gas, but something entirely different. Bordering on this Earth with its physical substances and physical forces, is the universal Cosmic Ether. We are able to perceive the Cosmic Ether because, as we gaze into it, our field of vision is circumscribed and the surrounding ether appears blue. But to believe as materialistic thinkers do, that physical substances are roaming around up there in the Cosmos is just childish fancy. No physical substances are moving around, for at the place where a star is seen, there is something altogether different. The farthest reaches of the etheric would lead out of and beyond space, into the spheres where the Gods have their abode. And now picture to yourselves a certain inner relationship which may exist between one person and another and comes to physical expression. Picture it quite graphically. You are caressed by someone who loves you. You feel the caress but it would be childish to associate it in any way with physical matter. The caress is not matter at all, it is a process, and you experience it inwardly, in your soul. So it is when we look outwards into the spheres of the Ether. The Gods in their love caress the world. But the caress lasts long, because the life of the Gods spans immense reaches of time. In very truth the stars are the expression of love in the Cosmic Ether; there is nothing physical about them. And from the cosmic aspect, to see a star means to feel a caress that has been prompted by love. To gaze at the stars is to become aware of the love proceeding from the divine-spiritual Beings. What we must learn to realise is that the stars are only the signs and tokens of the presence of the Gods in the Universe. Physical science has much to learn on its path from illusion to truth! But men will not achieve self-knowledge nor will they understand their own true being until this physical science has been transformed into a spiritual science of the worlds beyond the Earth. Science in its present form has meaning only for the Earth, for physical matter in the real sense [The difference between physical and mineral matter must be remembered here.] exists only on the Earth. And so when we depart from the Earth at death, we enter more and more into a life of purely spiritual experiences. The reason why our physical life presents an entirely different aspect in these backward-streaming experiences which continue for a third of the length of earthly existence, is that we have been permeated with the essence and substance of the Moon sphere. The preparation of karma is one of the many things that have to be accomplished in the worlds of the stars.
In order that one set of facts may be supported by others, let me explain how such observations are made by one who is versed in modern Initiation Science. For some time now, even in public lectures, I have been describing how when a man develops the faculty of genuine super-sensible perception through the methods indicated in the book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, he looks back over his earthly life, seeing it as a kind of tableau. Everything is present simultaneously, in a mighty panorama of the whole of life since the birth of the ‘I’; but the several epochs are in a certain respect distinct from each other. We survey our experiences from birth until the change of teeth, then again, as one complete series, the experiences occurring between the time of the change of teeth and puberty, then the experiences of the period from puberty until the beginning of the twenties, and so forth. Further concentration and application of the methods for the attainment of spiritual knowledge enable us, as we survey this tableau, to observe, firstly, our life from birth to the seventh year. But later on these pictures are allowed to fade away and we see right through our life; when the consciousness has been emptied of all pictorial impressions and we have achieved Inspiration, we behold the living, weaving activity of the Moon sphere in place of the tableau of early childhood from birth until the seventh year. We behold this living, weaving activity. And so Initiation in the form that is normal and right for this present age brings us knowledge of the secrets of the Moon sphere, when the pictures of our own life up to the seventh year are obliterated in the consciousness of Inspiration and we perceive what now flashes up in their place.
Then, if we observe the tableau of life between the seventh and fourteenth years and again obliterate the pictures in the consciousness of Inspiration, we gaze into the Mercury sphere. Everything has to do with the being of man, for man is an integral part of the whole Universe. If he learns to know himself as he really is, in the innermost core of his being, he learns to know the whole Universe. And now I would ask you to pay attention to the following. — Deepest respect arises in us for the old, instinctive Initiation Science which gave things that have remained in existence to this day, their true and proper names. Designations that are coined nowadays result in nothing but confusion, for modern scholarship is incapable of naming things in accordance with reality. An unprejudiced observation of life will fill us with reverence for the achievements of ancient Initiation Science. Ancient Initiation Science knew by instinct something that is confirmed to-day by statistics, namely, that the illnesses of childhood occur most frequently in the first period of life; it is then that the human being is most prone to illness, and even to death; after puberty this tendency abates, but the healthiest period of all, the period when mortality is at its lowest, is between the ages of seven and fourteen. The wise men of old knew that this is due to the influences of the Mercury sphere and again to-day we may make the same discovery when through modern Initiation Science we penetrate the secrets of existence. Such things fill us with reverence for these sacred traditions of humanity.
By looking back into our experiences from the fourteenth to the twenty-first years and obliterating the pictures in the consciousness of Inspiration, we are led to the secrets of the Venus sphere. Here again the wonderful wisdom of ancient Initiation Science comes into evidence. The human being reaches puberty; love is born. When the pictures of this period of life are illumined by Initiation Science, the secrets of the Venus sphere are disclosed. Everything I am now describing is part of the true self-knowledge which unfolds in this way.
When the pictures of experiences occurring between the twenty-first and forty-second years of life are eliminated in the consciousness of Inspiration, we are led to the Sun sphere. Through deepened self-knowledge the secrets of the Sun sphere can be experienced in this retrospective contemplation of the events of our life between the twenty-first and forty-second years. To acquire knowledge of the Sun existence our vision must cover a period three times longer than that of the periods connected with the other planetary bodies.
I told you that the karma of a certain well-known personality in history had taken shape paramountly in the spheres of Mercury and Venus, and you will now understand how such things are investigated. We look back, firstly, into the period of our own life between the seventh and fourteenth years, and then into the period between the fourteenth and twenty-first years; when the pictures have been eliminated in the consciousness of Inspiration, light is shed upon the secrets of the Mercury sphere and the Venus sphere. Through this illumination we perceive how such an individuality worked together with the Beings of the higher Hierarchies and with other human souls, and how his subsequent earthly incarnation in the nineteenth century took shape.
Now if the elaboration of karma has taken place mainly in the Mars sphere, investigation is more difficult. For if a man attains Initiation before the age of 49, it is not possible for him to look back into the period of life which here comes into question, namely, the period between the forty-second and forty-ninth years. He must have passed his forty-ninth year if he is to be able to eliminate the pictures of this particular set of experiences and penetrate the secrets of the Mars sphere. If Initiation is attained after the age of fifty-six it is possible to look back into the period between the forty-ninth and fifty-sixth years of life, when karma that is connected with the Jupiter sphere takes shape. And now we are at the point where the various sets of events come together in one connected whole.
It is not until the period between the fifty-sixth and sixty-third years can be included in this retrospective vision that we are able to survey the whole range of experiences and to speak out of our own inner knowledge. For then we can gaze into the profoundly significant secrets of the Saturn sphere. Karmas that were wrought out mainly in the Saturn sphere operate in mysterious ways to bring men together again in the world. In order to perceive all these connections in the light of Initiation Science itself — they can of course be explained and so become intelligible — but in order to perceive with independent vision and be able to judge them, we must ourselves have reached the age of sixty-three. A human being appears in some earthly life — thus for example there is a certain great poet of whom I shall speak later — and we find that through his faculties, through his literary creations, he was giving expression to that in his karma which could have been wrought out only in the Saturn sphere.
When we look up to the Sun, to the planetary system — and the same applies to the rest of the starry heavens for they are connected in a very real way with the being of man — we can witness how human karma takes shape in the Cosmos. The Moon, the planets Venus, Jupiter — verily these heavenly bodies are not as physical astronomy describes them. In their constellations, in their mutual relationships, in their radiance, in their whole existence, they are the builders and 1 shapers of human destinies, they are the cosmic timepiece according to which we live out our karma. As they shine downwards from the heavens their influences have real power. This was known in the days of the ancient Mystery-wisdom but the old Astrology — which was a purely spiritual science, concerned with the spiritual foundations of existence — has come down to posterity in a degraded, amateurish form. Anthroposophy alone can contribute something that will enable us to perceive the spiritual connections as they truly are and to understand how through the great timepiece of destiny, human life on Earth is shaped according to law.
From this point of view let us think of the human being and his karma. Those who with the help of Anthroposophy evolve a healthy conception of the world as against the unsound views prevailing to-day, will unfold not only quite different concepts and ideas but also quite different feelings and perceptions. For you see, if we really understand the destiny of a man, we also learn to understand the secrets of the world of stars, the secrets of the Cosmos. But nowadays people write biographies without the faintest inkling that something is really being profaned by the way in which they write. In times when knowledge was held to be sacred because it issued from the Mysteries, nobody would have written biographies in the way that is customary to-day. Every ancient ‘biography’ contained indications of the influences and secrets of the world of stars. In human destiny we can perceive, firstly, the working of the Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai; then of still loftier Sun Beings, Exousiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes; then of the Thrones who are concerned mainly with the elaboration of karma in the Mars sphere; then of the Cherubim who elaborate the karma belonging to the Jupiter sphere; and then of the Seraphim who work together with man at the elaboration of karma in the Saturn sphere — Saturn karma. In a man's destiny, in his karma, we behold the working of the higher Hierarchies. This karma, at first, is like a veil, a curtain. If we look behind this veil we gaze at the weaving deeds and influences of Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai, Exousiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes, Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim. Every human destiny is like script on a sheet of paper. Just imagine that someone looking at the writing on the paper were to say that he can see signs - K - E - I, and so forth, but he is quite unable to combine these letters into words! As there are some twenty-two to twenty-eight letters (to be exact, about thirty to thirty-four in all) such a man could only conceive that the whole of Goethe's Faust is made up entirely of those thirty-four letters. He cannot read, therefore he sees only the different letters. When someone else finds a great deal more in Faust because he can combine the letters into the words of which this wonderful work is composed, an out-and-out illiterate with no notion of how to read may say with horror: Here is someone who actually thinks that all kinds of things are contained in Faust — but he is an utter fool! Yet the whole of Faust does actually consists of these letters. Similarly, when we observe the karma of a human being in the ordinary way, we see letters only; but the moment we begin to read this karma we behold the Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai and their mutual, interrelated deeds. The destiny of an individual human life becomes the richer, the more we get beyond the thirty-four letters and find in them — Faust! And the picture of a human destiny is enriched beyond measure when earthly ignorance is transformed into knowledge of the Cosmic Alphabet, when we realise that the letters of that script are the signs and tokens of the deeds of the Beings of the higher Hierarchies.
To a man who beholds it, the vista of karma as the shape taken by destiny in life is so overwhelming, so sublime and majestic that simply by understanding how karma is related to the spiritual Cosmos he will unfold quite different qualities of feeling and discernment. It will not remain so much theoretical knowledge. What we acquire through Anthroposophy should not be a mere accumulation of theoretical information but should work more and more upon our life of thought and feeling, in that it rids us of the notion that we live an earthworm's existence and makes us aware that we belong to the land of Spirits. Verily, we are citizens not of the Earth alone but of the land of Spirits. The whole existence we have spent between death and a new birth converges in that which, on Earth, is enclosed within our skin. The secrets of worlds are contained in a particular form within this encircling skin.
Self-knowledge is by no means the trivial sentimentality of which there is so much talk nowadays. Human self-knowledge is world-knowledge. And so when friends have given me an opportunity, I have often written down for them the following lines:
thou would'st know thy Self,
Du Dein Selbst erkennen,