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Origin and Destination of Humanity
GA 53

VI. The Soul-world

10 November 1904, Berlin

In these talks I have repeatedly pointed to the fact that the theosophical world view does not lead the human beings away from the work in the sensuous field that it does not lead to fantastic, illusory fields as the adversaries of this world view suggest so often. I have rejected this repeatedly. Today I have to emphasise this in particular before we enter the world which the human being transmigrates between death and a new birth. For the adversaries of the theosophical world view are inclined only too easily to explain everything that I describe in this field as something imaginary, as something completely fantastic. Nevertheless, someone who is able to look deeper in the nature of things recognises these super-sensible worlds that are beyond the sensuous world as the real nature of all beings. As well as nobody is able to construct a vapour machine unless he knows the being of vapour, nobody is able to understand and to explain what takes place before our sense-organs unless he knows the being of the psychic and spiritual. The causes of the physical are in the super-sensible, in the supra-physical. As true it is that we climb up to the higher fields, it is true that we try to understand this super-sensible being only to be able to work here in this world. We have to know the nature of the super-sensible to bring it into the sensuous world. That is why this must be emphasised because we enter fields that escape completely from the sensory eye. To the sensory observation the human being is dead at the moment when the psycho-spiritual has separated from the physical. No eye and no ear can give information of the human destiny in that time when the human being progresses to a new embodiment after death.

We want to consider this destiny between death and rebirth. For this purpose we want to become engrossed in two fields of our existence which belong to our life which belong also to our life like the sun and the moon and like all things which are on our earth. The human being only equipped with the physical senses knows nothing about these higher worlds. He lives in them; however, living in a world and knowing about it are two completely different matters. The German philosopher Lotze (Hermann L., 1817–1881, German philosopher) and also the poet and philosopher Hamerling (Robert K., 1830–1889, Austrian poet) expressed very well again and again that if the human being were without eyes and ears the whole world around us would be dark and silent. Only because we have these sense-organs the world gleams in colours and sounds. We must say of this world that we only know as much of it as it is accessible to us by our sense-organs.

Just an interesting book has appeared which tells of the soul-life of a lady — Helen Keller (1880–1968, American author, The Story of My Life, (1903) — who became deaf-mute and blind at the age of one and a half years and has still developed a wide-ranging and virtually ingenious soul-life. Imagine clearly once how the world, which gleams and sounds to the other human beings, must appear to such a human being, and we imagine how to a blind-born whose eyes are operated the world, which had no colours before and was without light, gleams and is enriched with new qualities; then we have an idea of the human being who awakes from the sensory view, who comes from the darkness to light like after an operation. About the everyday world lies a soul-world which is real for that whose spiritual eyes are opened. Theosophy also calls this soul-world the astral world. One has argued a lot against the term astral world because one believed to find a medieval prejudice. But not without reason this world has been called astral by those who are able to behold in the soul-world. For just as colours and sounds appear to the physical senses, all those facts appear as true realities in this astral world which we subsume with the terms: desires, instincts, passions, impulses, wishes and feelings.

Just as the human being digests as he sees and hears, he wishes, has passions and feelings. He lives in the world of passions, impulses, desires, feelings and wishes, as well as he lives in the physical world. And like the physical eye if it faces another human being sees his physical qualities, the opened spiritual eye sees what we subsume as soul qualities. Just as the physical senses can distinguish electricity from light or light from heat, the opened soul-eye can make a distinction between an impulse, a desire, which exist in the soul of the fellow man, and the feeling of love, devotion, and piety. As heat and light are different, love and piety are different in the soul-world. Because these qualities gleam to the opened soul-eye like colour phenomena, which are full of sounds like the astral, they were called astral.

Here I have to insert some occult ideas. We understand them as those ideas which refer to the super-sensible which can only be obtained by such whose spiritual and psychic senses are opened. Nothing is absolutely hidden. Wishes, desires and passion are hidden only for that whose soul-organs are not opened. We can recognise with our soul-organs which qualities of the soul-world the human being has in him. As he faces us with a particular countenance, every human being faces us with a particular countenance of his soul. As he has a physical body, he also has a body gleaming in the soul-light which is bigger than his physical body in which he is wrapped up like in a light cloud which gleams in the most different colours.

I mention both intentionally, because both exist. One sees some of the qualities that refer to thoughts and ideas shining, other only gleaming. One calls this light cloud that is invisible for the usual eye however, visible to the seer the human aura. It contains everything that I have called soul qualities. We can make a distinction just between those qualities which the soul has because it inclines towards the sensuous because it clings to the sensuous, to the desires which come into being because the human being desires the sensuous and those which concern unselfish devotion, feelings of love or piety. If the aura is irradiated with feelings that come from the lower instincts that are connected with the material life, various figures, lightning-shaped or other figures of blood-red or reddish-orange or reddish-yellow colours flow through the soul, while everything that is connected with nobler feelings, with nobler passions, like with enthusiasm, with devoutness, with love, appears in the human aura in marvellous greenish, greenish-blue, blue-violet and violet-reddish colours.

Thus the human being has his soul on one side pointing to the material, longing for the material, clinging to it, and on the other side this soul is equipped with the opposite pole with which it rises to the noble and is glowed through and flowed through with the noble again and again. Between these both qualities the soul-life is split. Those who live in the green, blue, violet colours go through many reincarnations to acquire these nobler qualities to themselves. The soul is equipped with the lower qualities at first, with impulses, desires, passions, instincts. It must have these, for the soul would not have what we call the desire for the sensuous in the occult philosophy, the soul would not get round to acting in the sensuous world. The fact that the human being is active in the sensuous world that he acquires property, forms tools with the materials of the sensuous world for his life results from the human desires for the sensuous life. This desire is the only driving force for the still undeveloped soul in the times in which it goes through its first reincarnations.

The youthful soul is induced to act only that way. If the soul walks then through the reincarnations, it brings itself to work more and more not only out of the desires, but out of knowledge, out of devotion and love. Thus the soul progresses on its pilgrimage through the world from desire to love. This is the way of the soul: from desire to love. The desiring soul sticks to the physical-sensuous. However, the loving one can be penetrated by the spirit, obeys the spirit, and fulfils the commandment of the spirit. This is the difference of the age of the souls. The young souls are the longing ones, the ripe souls are those which love, which make the spirit work in them. In the soul-world or in the astral world we see this soul body of the human being gleaming in its different qualities, and we can thereby distinguish the degree of maturity of a human soul. All qualities which we can observe in this soul body come from the devotion to the sensuous or from the devotion to the spiritual.

Now we also understand what death means, actually. We want to try to understand the concept, the idea of death once with this idea just won. What happens at first when the human being dies? That which has followed not only the physical principles in his physical body up to now, but what has also complied with the soul principles: the hand which has moved in accordance with the feelings which have surged through the soul, the look which has looked out into the world because it has been carried by the spiritual qualities in the soul, the countenance which has changed its expression depending on the soul , everything that has obeyed the soul in life goes its own ways after the death of the body.

The human body, in so far as it is a connection of physical and chemical forces, does no longer follow the impulses of the soul but the physical forces of the world which has now completely claimed it for itself. It belongs to the external physical world from now on, and nobody who has only occupied himself with those who have ignored this can decide about the fact that the psycho-spiritual, which has controlled the body, has disappeared, because now the psycho-spiritual is merely accessible to the open eye of a clairvoyant person. We will hear in the last hours, which deal with the theosophical basic concepts, how the human being already gets opened his eye for the higher life in this life and becomes aware of that which I have told. But you see from the start that the post-mortal destiny of the spirit can only be understood from the point of view of the super-sensible. Somebody who occupies himself only with natural sciences does not have a vocation to recognise anything of the spiritual. The human being was equipped with physiological-chemical forces. He does no longer control them after death; then his “body” is only a soul body.

What had lived in him as wishes, desires, passions, love, enthusiasm and piety was not engaged in the physical-chemical principles, and it has drawn them rather in its influence. The soul is there after death as it was there before, only not intermingled with the physical body. If the human being consists of mind, soul and body during his physical life, as we have seen, he consists of mind and soul after death. And as the human life takes place in the physical world, it also takes place in the higher world, in the soul-world or in the spiritual world. These are the places of residence which the human being has to go through, the soul-land and the spirit-land.

Let us look at these closer. One can look at them, the astral world or mental world, as at our physical world. As there are the most manifold natural forces in our physical world, like heat, electricity, magnetism, there also are the most manifold forces. These can be divided into particular groups which we must get to know because we can thereby gain an insight of the destinies of the soul after death only. There we have the lowest class of soul qualities, the real world of desires which the occultist calls the region of desires. It is that world which is generated in our soul by its lowest propensities to the physical body. All those emotions of our soul express themselves in the world of desires which come from the desires of the soul for the physical. This is the lowest form of the soul life, the region of burning desires which one has called the burning fire of desires in mysticism.

Let us now look ahead at the nature of the consideration; this explains to you which difference exists between the life in the body and the life without body if you look at this soul quality which is connected with the burning desires. What is desire for the soul living in the body? The soul desires a physical object, a physical satisfaction. The colour of the burning desire, which streams out of the soul as electric current streams out of a point of a needle, changes only if the desire is satisfied.

The current changes immediately if the desire is satisfied. Then the fire stops burning. This is a significant moment for the soul researcher if a desire finds its satisfaction. It looks for the soul observer as if a fire is extinguished with water. The fact that this fire can be extinguished with giving satisfaction results from the fact that the human being has a body. The sensual desire can be satisfied only sensually. There is the palate which desires something tasty. At the moment, however, when no palate is there, it is impossible to satisfy the desire. The soul clings to the feeling, to the sensuous world. The desire can be satisfied as long as the soul is connected with the body. At the moment when it is no longer connected with the body it cannot satisfy the desire, and that is why the soul suffers inexpressibly. This is one of the conditions which the soul has to go through in kamaloka. It has to get to know that condition which allows the desire to exist but shows the impossibility of satisfaction. Then the soul learns gradually to take off the desire. This is an idea which the human being has to attain if he wants to get a concept of that which happens between death and a new birth. We get to know the further processes only after we have cast a precise look at the soul-world and the spirit-land.

Before I describe the destinies between death and a new birth, I want to describe this group of soul qualities and processes exactly which we find in the super-sensible world. The desire was the first. The second is the psychic stimulus, that which is not directly a desire. However, what surrounds us if we speak of the human sensuousness is connected with the sensuous. It is the stimulus which expresses itself in nobler colours which signifies the joy of devotion to the immediate sensuousness. It provokes the sensations of colours and forms round us, of smells approaching us. We call this susceptibility to the sensuous, this weaving and living with the sensuous organs in the environment the force of the emotional stimulus.

Another region of the soul-life is the region of wishes. The wishes refer to the fact that the soul feels sympathy for that which lives in its environment, and, hence, turns its emotions to this object of the environment just in the form of a wish. It does no longer live only with the senses in the sensuous environment, but it fulfils itself with the feeling of love for this environment. However, it is still completely fulfilled with selfishness, with egoism. The theosophists call that soul love which is still fulfilled with egoism the real quality of the soul wishes, the region of wishes. With it we have got to know the third group of soul experience, the region of wishes.

The fourth group is that where the soul no longer tends to anything in the surroundings, but to that which lives in the own body; where the feeling tends to that which occurs in the own body as weal and woe, as pleasurable sensations and as reluctances. We call these internal waves of the feelings in the own existence, this self-desire, this desire for existence with every being the fourth group of soul forces. And the fifth group leads us from the region of desires to the region where the soul pours out in sympathy.

Everything that we have got to know up to now was connected with desire, with the fact that the soul has referred the matters to itself. Now we get to know the matters where the soul spreads out its being, where it sympathises with other beings of its surroundings. There are two types. First we deal with love of nature and then with the love for our fellow men. We call this fifth group of soul facts soul-light. Just as the sun gives off its physical light, the soul gives off its light if it sympathises with the world, if it wraps it, if it illuminates it with the light of its love. This appears to that person, who only has organs for the physical, as something illusory. However, it is much more real for somebody who has spiritual eyes and ears than the table and the walls round us, much more real as the light of the physical flame.

The sixth group of soul facts is that which the occultist calls the real soul-force, what fulfils the soul with enthusiasm for its task in the world, the affectionate devotion to the duty which shines in marvellous violet and blue-violet colours. This forms the spiritual light which gets the driving forces and impulses for the human activity from the soul. This is developed in particular with philanthropical human beings. These feelings accompany the big devoted actions of the human soul in the physical world. These are the experiences of the sixth group.

The experiences of the seventh and highest group are the forces of the most real spiritual life. It is there where the soul no longer refers to the only sensuous with its emotions, but where it makes the light of the spirit shine in itself where the soul addresses itself to higher tasks than it can get in the sensory world where its love goes out to that spiritual love, which Spinoza (Baruch S., 1630–1647, Jewish-Dutch philosopher) describes at the end of his famous Ethics where he speaks of the fact that the highest pours into the soul and that it reappears as God's light.

We have observed and pursued the aspects of the human soul from the selfish desire up to the spiritual all-love. These seven levels of spiritual facts meet someone everywhere in the world whose eye is opened. The world shines not only in colours and sounds not only in acoustic phenomena, but shines also in the world of wishes, desires and passions, shines also in the world of love effects. All that is reality. And if the soul is taken away from this scene, it is on another scene which differs from the external sensory scene in this respect that this external sensory scene only offers what eyes and ears and the other senses can perceive at first. The sensuous just covers the soul because the soul expresses itself in the sensuous. Thus the soul comes to the fore only by the sensuous. The soul hears by the sounds of the language, feels by touching et etcetera.

The spiritual eye sees beyond that, it sees the sheer nature, the nakedness of the soul facts. If the soul is taken away from the scene of the senses, it lives in the soul-world. These are the experiences of the soul in the soul-world which it goes through immediately after death. There it lives in a world free of all physical and chemical forces, in a world of suffering, of desires and impulses. At first it has to develop everything that can be developed there. Uncovered, that is without physical cover, it is given to that which flows to it and through it. It purifies itself gradually by these qualities flowing through it, while it gets to know the desires without being able to satisfy them. There the soul learns to live without the physical body. There it learns to be a self without physical desire and without physical pain, without physical feeling of well-being and without physical discontent. There it does no longer feel as a self at first.

The incarnated soul feels as a self because it is in the body. The soul in the body says to its body “I”. However, if it wants to say “I” after death, it gets to know the feeling of the body without being able to live it. If it stopped this, it learns to regard itself as a soul. The human being learns to regard itself as a soul in the fourth region, and the more often the human being has gone through this region, the longer his pilgrimage has lasted, the stronger his sense of self is developed, the more he knows also when he is re-embodied to say “I” not only to his body, but also to his soul, the more he feels as a soul-being. This is the difference between a human being, who has gone through many, and a human being, who has gone through few incarnations. The advanced human being feels as a soul-being.

Then the human being also gets to know this higher region which we have called soul-light, soul-force and the spirit soul. There the human being settles and works. One is used to calling these highest regions of the astral world the summer land in the theosophical literature. This is that region in which the soul moves on the spheres of sympathy, on the spheres where it learns to live in pure love for the environment and in pure love for the colours. Only if the human soul has gone through these different regions after death, his mind, his third part, the highest part of the human being, is enabled to leave behind everything astral that is filled with wishes, desires and passions and which still clings to the sensuous. And only what of the soul belongs to the spirit, what has developed spirit in the soul lives on, after the human being has cast off the tendency, the desire for the sensuous.

The soul now enters that region where it has to do nothing more with the forces which go downward. Because the spirit penetrates it completely, it enters the devachan, the real spirit-land. The spirit-land which the soul experiences takes up the longest time of the life after death. The time of purification in the kamaloka is relatively short. Afterwards, in the devachan, the soul acts out the experiences which it has obtained in the earthly, physical world freely and uncheckedly, so that it can work in love in this physical sensuous world. The spirit cannot come completely to expression in the physical-sensuous world. We acquire experiences between birth and death perpetually. But these are got hemmed like a plant is got hemmed in a rock crevice. In the spirit-land the soul strengthens and invigorates itself. The next lecture deals with this stay of the soul in the spirit-land.

It shows which destiny the soul has to go through in the time longest by far between death and a new birth. The astral world still appears as something depressing destined to take off a lot. The spirit-land is a realm which one not needs to fear. Nothing connects the spirit flowing through a soul with that which tends to the only sensuous-material. We will have to describe the destiny which the human being experiences there and which should reveal the true nature of the human being to us on account of the experiences in the devachan. Let me only mention one matter. It could seem easily that the single regions of the astral world lie on top of each other like single layers. This is not the case. They are to be understood more like different states of consciousness. Not the place changes in which the human being is, but the state of consciousness changes. The soul land, the spirit-land is everywhere around us. Everywhere a soul-world and a spiritual world is around us, which like colour and light light up if the soul becomes able to use the spiritual eyes, the spiritual ears. This makes the whole physical world disappear to the soul. Just as you could see a veil and if the veil sinks you can see behind the veil, the soul experiences what takes place in the world of desires if it removes the veil of the sensory touching, seeing, and hearing. Then another world comes to the fore round it, a world which was there also round it before, but was not experienced, which is experienced now. It is another state of experience which the soul undergoes. It is a metamorphosis of the human life not a change of place or region. The human being advances step by step on his pilgrimage of life.

This teaches us that we have to seek for the reasons of the sensuous. We want to look at the super-sensible in order to go back strengthened that way into the real world with the full consciousness that we are not only sensuous beings, but that we are beings with soul and mind. With this full consciousness we work in the world hard, full of courage and more confidently, as if we only thought that we are only sensuous beings. It is that which the theosophical world view brings immediately. It has to make the human being not more inefficient, but stronger, more courageous, more audacious. This is not the right theosophy which draws the human being off from life. We want to provide the knowledge of the super-sensible because in the super-sensible the origin and the nature of the sensuous are to be sought. All true recognisers and occultists have said this at all times, and this is also to be found in the inspired writings of nations of all times. And it sounds to us from our own mystics, particularly from the marvellous, artistically perfect literature of the East. We find there a passage in the Upanishads with which I would like to close this consideration today which speaks of the interrelation of the sensuous-limited and the super-sensible, the eternal. It shows how the sensuous-limited comes from the eternal, how the single spark comes from the flame. The flame remains a whole, something permanent, even if the sensuous spark dies away. The single sensuous phenomenon separates from the eternal and returns to the eternal again. The Upanishads say: “As well as the sparks issue a thousand and one times from the well burning flame and are of equal nature, the manifold beings issue form the imperishable and return to it again.”