5. The Physical World as an Expression of Spiritual Forces and Beings.
Budapest, June 7, 1909
Some explanation must now be given of how the conditions prevailing in our physical world are related to the spiritual world through which man passes between death and a new birth. For anyone who concerns himself with the truths of spiritual science it is self-evident that every happening in the physical world is an expression of spiritual influences, facts and beings. The foundations of all physical happenings are therefore to be sought in the spiritual world, in Devachan. You may now ask if, inversely, our physical world produces effects in the spiritual world. Yes, that is the case, and the best way to understand these relationships will be to study the life of a human being. Threads from soul to soul are woven here in the physical world as the result of the manifold circumstances of existence. Bonds of friendship, of love, and so on, are firmly knit, and every contact made between one human being and another has significance and reality not only for this physical world but also for the spiritual world. Indeed, it may be said that the more spiritual the relationships here have been, the more significant they are for the world of Devachan. When the individual dies, everything that is physical in these relationships of love and friendship falls away from them and only what was of the nature of soul and spirit remains. The relationship between mother and child is an example. To begin with, this relationship is founded upon nature; it becomes more spiritual as time goes on, until finally the original, natural circumstances simply provide an opportunity for a bond to be woven between soul and soul. When the human being dies, the factors provided by nature are eliminated but the bond that has been woven remains. If you try to picture the whole human race on the earth and all the bonds of friendship and of love that have been woven, you must picture these relationships as a great network or web, which is, moreover, actually present in Devachan. When a clairvoyant gazes at the earth from the standpoint of Devachan, he perceives this web of spiritual relationships that a human being finds again when he passes into Devachan after death. He is involved in all the spiritual relationships he himself has woven.
This is also the answer to the question: In Devachan do we see again those who were dear to us? Yes, we see them again, freed moreover from all the obstacles of space and time that here on earth lie like veils over these relationships of the soul. In Devachan, souls confront each other directly. The relationship of soul to soul is far more intimate and inward than it is in the physical world. There can never be any doubt in Devachan about one soul recognizing the other again, even when one of them passes into Devachan before the other. Recognition of loved ones is not particularly difficult there, for each soul bears his inner, spiritual reality inscribed as it were upon his spiritual countenence. He himself proclaims his name, indeed, in a much truer form than is possible here, as the basic tone, which, as it is said in occultism, he represents in the spiritual world. An absolutely undisturbed communion is actually possible only when both souls are in Devachan. Nevertheless, the disembodied soul does not lose all consciousness of the one who is still on earth; he can actually follow the latter's actions. The soul who is first in Devachan is naturally unable to see physical colors and forms belonging to the earth because in that spiritual realm he has no physical organs. But everything in the physical world has its spiritual counterpart in Devachan and that is what is perceived by the soul already there. Every movement of the hand in the physical world, because it is preceded by an impulse of will that is either conscious or unconscious, every change in the physical human being, has a spiritual counterpart that can be perceived in Devachan by the soul whose death preceded that of the other human being concerned. Existence in Devachan is not a kind of dreaming or sleeping but in all respects a conscious life. It is in Devachan that a human being develops the predispositions and impulses that enable the bond with those whom he loved to remain closer, in order that in a later incarnation he will find them again on earth. In many respects the purpose of incarnation on earth is to forge bonds of ever greater intimacy. Companionship in Devachan is, to say the least, as intimate as any life here on earth. Fellow feeling in Devachan is much more alert, much more intimate than it is on earth; one experiences another's pain there as one's own. On earth, greater or less personal prosperity is possible at the cost of others but in Devachan that is out of the question. There, the misfortune caused by someone to another human being in order to better himself, would reverberate upon him; nobody could prosper at the expense of another. Adjustment starts from Devachan. It is from there that the impulse is brought to make brotherliness a reality on the earth. A law that is a matter of course in Devachan is a task that has to be fulfilled on earth.
A great deal more could be said about the connection between the spiritual world and the earth. You can now think exhaustively about this and be able to answer many questions yourselves about meeting and being together in Devachan with those we love.
It was said yesterday that when the human being in Devachan has developed his spiritual archetype, the impulse comes to him to descend again to the physical plane. To express it more or less abstractly, it is rather as if a thought matures and you feel an urge to turn it into deed. What is it that actually induces the soul to descend again into the physical world, that gives it the definite impulse to do this? During the kamaloka period, when the soul gradually rids itself of the urge to cling to physical life, it is continually receiving, in the experience it undergoes, impulses that kindle the will to sweep away hindrances to evolution. The soul itself experiences the pain and harm it has caused to others. In thus experiencing the pain of the other being, there arises in the soul the temporarily ineradicable impulse that reparation must he made for this. Thus, step by step the soul takes with it from kamaloka into Devachan the impulse to rectify its faults. In the higher worlds there is even more possibility of everything remaining preserved in the suitable way. When, after the period of kamaloka, the human being lays aside his astral body as a third corpse, everything upon which the ego has not yet worked separates from him. But in the astral world there remains behind something like a web, consisting of whatever hindrances to evolution he has himself brought into the world. The human being himself paves his path through the world with all the forms that are evidence that he has caused injury of some kind to others. If the human being concerned has completed the development of his archetype in Devachan and has woven into it everything that came with him from the last incarnation as the extract of his etheric body, a kind of fecundation now takes place. The archetype is permeated by the web of its own unrequited deeds. Thus, the first thing that happens to the soul after it has reached maturity in Devachan is that it is permeated with what we call karma, and this gives it the impulse to descend again to the earth in order to make compensation for as much as possible of the harm previously caused. At the end of the period in Devachan the soul is permeated with the consequences of its own deeds. Not until then is there complete readiness for the descent into a new existence on earth.
Everywhere in the astral world a clairvoyant sees souls who want to incarnate. Conditions of space and time in the astral world are of course different from those in the physical world. Such a soul can move with tremendous rapidity in the astral world and is impelled by certain forces to the locality where a physical and an etheric body befitting this soul are produced. Distance such as that between Budapest and New York plays no part whatever. Time factors come into consideration only insofar as the earthly possibilities of the most favorable conditions for incarnation can be achieved. From the earth there comes to this soul, which has the form of a bell, widening from above downwards as it flies through astral space, the physical element produced by the line of heredity.
We must now speak briefly of what draws the soul down to the earth and what it is that will incarnate. You know that procreation is connected with certain impulses of feeling, impulses of love, sympathy born of love. The process of procreation is preceded by “sympathy born of love,” which is perceived by a clairvoyant as a play, a surging hither and thither of astral forces, of astral streams, between the man and the woman. Something is alive there that is not present if the human being is alone; the companionship between the souls themselves is expressed in the play of the astral streams. But of course every process of love is individual and issues from a specific individuality. Now, before earthly fertilization, before the physical act of love, there is reflected in this play of astral forces, the individuality, the being who is coming down again to the earth. That is the essential reality in the procreative act. So one can say that before physical fertilization, what is descending from the spiritual world is already beginning to be active. The spiritual world is also instrumental in bringing about the meeting of the man and woman. A wonderfully intimate play of forces from the spiritual world is taking place here. The being who is descending is, generally speaking, connected from the beginning with the product of fertilization. It is emphatically not the case that an individuality connects with it only after a certain time. From the moment of conception this individuality is in touch with the outcome of physical procreation. There are exceptions, of course, there, too. During the first days after conception, this spiritual individuality who is descending does not yet actually affect the development of the physical human being, but it is close by, as it were, is already in contact with the developing embryo. The actual attachment takes place from about the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first days after conception; what is descending from a higher world is then already working together with the being who is in process of coming into existence. Thus the delicate, organic texture that is necessary if the human individuality is to use the physical body as an instrument, is prepared from the beginning in accordance with the earlier faculties. That the human being is an integrated unity originates from the fact that the smallest organ is in keeping with the organism as a whole, that is to say, even the smallest unit must be such that the whole structure is able to ensure that from the eighteenth to the twenty-first day after conception, the ego can participate in the development of the physical and etheric bodies.
Now to what extent have the female and male elements influence upon the development of the being who is coming into existence? If you study what occultly and spiritually underlies the physical creation, a great deal will become intelligible to you; naturally only the essentials can be touched upon here. We shall hear presently that in earlier times, before the separation of the sexes, procreation took place without participation by the male. If it were still the same today, what would happen? If the female element alone were to participate in the process of human procreation, to what extent would it be involved? If the female element alone were to operate, the further evolution would result in the child resembling the forefathers to the highest possible extent. Beings coming into existence would all be completely homogeneous. The principle of generality, homogeneity, originates from the female element. Only through the separation of the sexes has it become possible for human individuality to develop, for it is due to the influence of the male that there are differences between the successor and his forefathers. The male element provides individuality.
Hence, not until bi-sexuality had been established on the earth were successive embodiments or reincarnations possible. Not until then was man able to embody on the earth the product of earlier existence. That there is harmony between what is executed below on the earth and the individual entity who must evolve and be enriched from incarnation to incarnation, is due to the fact that the male element and the female element work together. The human ego would no longer find a suitable body today if the principle of the “universal human” were not modified by the activity of the male element, that is to say, if the universal type were not individualized. It is essentially the etheric body that is worked upon by the female element. In the etheric body, where the permanent tendencies are rooted, the driving force of the female element is at work. The principle of generality, of the generic., is anchored in the etheric body. In the etheric body of the woman there is still present today the counterpart of what exists outwardly as the folk soul, the race spirit. Folk soul and race spirit are identical.
If we now bear in mind the spiritual reality underlying conception, we must say that conception in itself is nothing else than a kind of deadening of the living forces of the etheric body. Death, at conception, is already woven into the human body. It is a happening that hardens, as it were, and deadens the etheric body, which otherwise would multiply ad infinitum. The etheric body, which originates from the female principle and would otherwise produce copies only, is densified as a result of the male influence and thereby becomes the producer of the new human individuality. Propagation consists in the production of a copy of the etheric body of the woman; through being hardened, in a certain respect killed, it is at the same time individualized. In the deadened etheric body there lies hidden the formative force that brings forth the new human being. Thus do conception and propagation amalgamate. Thus we see that two conceptions take place: below, the physical, human conception, and above, the conception of the archetype as the result of its own karma. We said that from the eighteenth to the twenty-first day after conception onwards the ego is already working on the embryo; but not until much later, after six months, do other forces also work on the embryo, forces that determine the karma of the human being. This can be expressed by saying that the web woven out of karma there takes hold; gradually these forces come into play. Now exceptions occur here, too, so that later on an exchange of the ego may take place. We will speak of that later. The ego is the first factor to intervene for the purpose of development.
If we want to have an approximate picture of what exists in the spiritual world and is about to descend, we must say that it is the individual who is in the process of incarnating who brings together those who love one another. The archetype wishing to incarnate has drawn to itself the astral substance that now has an effect upon the passion, the feeling of love. The astral passion surging hither and thither on the earth below, mirrors the astral substances of the descending entity. So the astral substance coming from above is encountered by the astral feeling of those who love each other, which is itself influenced by the substance of the entity descending to incarnation. When we think through this thought to its conclusion, we must say that the reincarnating individual definitely participates in the choice of his parents. According to who and what he is, he is impelled to the parental pair concerned. It is often glibly stated that if the choosing of parents were accepted as a fact, the feeling of finding a new life in one's children would be lost and that the love based upon having transmitted one's own nature to them would thereby be lessened. This is a groundless fear, for maternal and paternal love assume a higher and more beautiful meaning when we realize that in a certain sense the child loves the parents even before conception and is thereby impelled to them. The parents' love is therefore the answer to the child's love, it is the responsive love. We have thus an explanation of parental love as the reproduction of the child's love that precedes the physical birth.
It has already been said that higher beings participate in the embodiment of the new human being. You will grasp what this means if you realize that there is never a perfect correspondence between what is coming down from above to embodiment and the sheaths that this entity acquires down below. A perfect correspondence between the higher and the lower cannot take place until man has reached the goal of his evolution, when he has attained spirit man. When he has transformed the physical body into spirit man, the etheric body into life spirit, and the astral body into spirit self, man stands at the point in evolution where, with a will that is completely free, he himself chooses his final incarnation. Before this point, full accordance is not possible. As he is today, man has transformed only part of his astral, etheric and physical bodies, and of this part alone is he master. But what he has not yet transformed must be integrated into him from outside by other beings. Two different categories of beings participate in this process, those who integrate the etheric body into him and those who lead him to the parents. At the present stage of his evolution, man could not himself make the etheric body an integral member of his constitution. It is through the forces contained in the etheric body that the human being has the pre-vision spoken of in the lecture yesterday.
When the human being already has the etheric body and the astral body, and the physical body is added, the moment comes when the pre-vision must disappear; the etheric body must blend with the physical body. The etheric body is, of course, not only the bearer of memory but of everything to do with time, that is, remembrance and foresight. But when the etheric body passes into the physical body it becomes subject to the laws of physical existence and these laws extinguish its power in a certain respect. Just as through the influence of the physical body a man can unfold his memory only to a certain degree, whereas after death, when the etheric body is again free, it presents the whole tableau of memories, so it is with the pre-vision; in the physical world, vision of the future is limited by the physical body. That is the normal course of incarnation. The shock mentioned previously is experienced by the soul as the result of an abnormal pre-vision of difficult circumstances in the future life.
We have now come to the point when the ego itself, the real man, begins to work upon what has been given him and with which he has been connected in the physical world. The forces of the various spiritual members of man that are at work in the period before birth, are first active through the corresponding members of the maternal organism. During the period just before birth, the human being is able to live only because he is enveloped on all sides by the maternal sheath. At birth the human being thrusts away this physical maternal sheath. At first, it is only the physical body that becomes free; the etheric body — the clairvoyant sees this — is still enveloped by a maternal etheric sheath and remains protected and guarded by this sheath until the time of the second dentition. It is an important point in the evolution of humanity when the maternal etheric sheath is cast off and a second birth takes place. Then, when the etheric body has cast off its maternal sheath, the etheric body as such is born, it becomes free. This is an event of great significance for the evolution of a human being. Until the change of teeth there is still the possibility of the bodily structures remaining elastic in one direction or another, of changing in certain respects. From this time onwards they will only be subject to growth. When the change of teeth takes place, the development of the bodily forms has, in essentials, been completed. It is important that this should be known. Hence, everything that from outside is to become a formative influence on the physical body, to be a permanent quality of it, must be thoroughly taken into consideration and carefully formulated until the time of the change of teeth. But now, every external factor — light and color, for example — that has an effect upon the human being, has a formative effect upon his finer members and organs. All external factors have an essentially formative effect until the seventh year of life. Hence, it is not a matter of indifference what color, what environment the child has around it, and what he is allowed to do. If you were never to use your hands, they would atrophy. The same applies to all organs; the more delicate ones also develop through activity. The effect of red, for example, upon the finer organs in the hurnan being, is different from the effect of blue. Thus the effect differs according to the color that is around the child. While there is activity, the organs develop. The eye sees by habit, certainly, but what it sees has an effect upon the whole of man's nature. For the child's development it is not a matter of indifference whether the eye is looking at red or blue. It is here that spiritual science, in a time by no means far distant, will prove to be eminently practical. Why do we put spiritual science into practice? We do this out of love for man, because it equips us even in this sphere of activity to play a useful part in such subtle matters.
At the seventh year of life, then, the etheric body becomes free. It is the bearer of memories. In regard to a child's memory, the most important thing of all is that before the seventh year of life it shall not be developed by current pedagogical methods. Only from the seventh year onwards has the time come when a true art of education should influence the training of the memory. It is often argued that nature sees to it that the child uses memory long before the age of seven. That is true, but it is the preliminary work that is accompanied by nature. The eyes of a child have been made ready by nature before birth in the mother's body, but what would happen if you were to allow the sunlight to work upon the eye of the embryo? Precisely in order that later on the sunlight can have the right effect upon the eye, the preliminary work upon it must be done by nature, before birth. The same applies to the other organs before physical birth. Nature produces them in advance but they are protected by the outer covering of the maternal sheath. So up to the seventh year of life, the child's memory should be worked upon by nature in order that then, from the seventh year onwards, it can be further developed in the right way. How, from then onwards, ought one to work on the child's memory? Just in the way that nature works until the child's physical birth.
The human being bears a maternal astral sheath around him until puberty in his fourteenth or fifteenth year. Then this sheath is cast aside and the astral body becomes free; a third birth, so to speak, takes place. The astral body is the bearer of the faculty of human judgment, of discrimination. The opinion that the child ought to develop the faculty of independent judgment at as early an age as possible, should be abandoned. From the seventh to the fourteenth year it is essential to amass a rich store of memories for the purposes of life, in order that when the astral body is born, as ripe and rich a content of soul as possible shall be produced. Only then should the power of judgment begin to be exercised. The earlier method used in schools which let the “one times one” be learned by heart, that is, 1 x 1 = 1, and so on, being a matter of actual memorizing, is decidedly preferable to the abstract method at present in vogue of demonstrating the “one times one” with red and white beads on the abacus. This method is decidedly harmful. The same principle applies here as in the case of the young child; he understands speech a long time before he is able to speak himself. He should therefore not be encouraged to excercise judgment until he has gathered a good store of memories for the etheric body, until he has developed certain lasting inclinations and habits.
It is important to develop the life of feeling. Gratitude, reverence and holy awe are feelings that in later life come to expression as the power of blessing, as outstreaming human love. The strongest impulses are given to the etheric body through religious experiences, through the feeling of being attached to the divine-spiritual, to the cosmic All. The faculty of abstract judgment should first be developed about the time when what flows from the etheric body has been made by the human being so pliable and flexible that the danger of forming the habit of abstract thinking lacking in piety is averted. The more the knowledge conveyed to the child is illustrated with imagery and symbols, the better. The world of feeling develops through being made acquainted with allegories and symbols, especially through the narration of the history of representative men and through intense absorption in the mysteries and beauties of nature.
How a child's questions are answered is of great importance; for example, as explanation of the birth of a human being, of death and birth, the butterfly coming into existence out of the chrysalis. This is a picture of man's soul nature emerging from the physical body. But naturally, when we tell this to the child, we must believe it ourselves, for otherwise the child will not believe it either. Facts that confirm the truth of this imagery are to be found in nature everywhere. The occultist knows that the imagery of the butterfly and the chrysalis can serve as a symbol of a process at a much higher level. We must learn to believe again in what only an abstract philosophy will stigmatize as saga and fairy tale. The fairy tale of the stork, also songs such as, “Fly, beetle, fly,” can be ingeniously interpreted. The fairy tale of the stork was not invented in days of yore in order to tell children an untruth, but it was devised by one who knew that at birth something comes down from the spiritual world. In future time it may well be declared that it is a lie that in the past there were people who were expected to believe that at the birth of a new human being the only process that takes place is the physical connection of man and woman. This is a fairy tale, the fairy tale of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. “We ourselves know better,” that is what will be said in the future. It is to be hoped that those who come after us will understand and be more lenient with our weaknesses than we are with those of our predecessors!
The symbol is the best means for working on the astral body. Ideation, mental pictures, should he cultivated until the time comes for the training of the liberated astral body, and only then should the power of judgment be developed. Why is it that so many human beings of the present age are, sad to say, crippled in their life of soul? Why is this? Because they have to say “Yes” and “No” to things at much too early an age. In the period until puberty they should learn to revere the great prototypes, the great processes in nature; only between the fourteenth and twenty-first years should the power of judgment come to maturity. Fewer voluble authors would then be let loose upon humanity. The outcome of premature forming of judgment in immature, though literary-minded men, is the shallow materialism of our present age. This veiled materialism is far more sinister than the scientific kind. An opinion has weight only when it is supported by what the soul has genuinely experienced. Human beings must learn how to form judgments; opinions are so deeply at variance because they have been formed at far too early an age. It is not until the twenty-first year that the ego is born and only from then onwards can there be any question of the individual being able to judge the world correctly, because it is only now that he confronts the world as a truly independent being.
Further, from about the twenty-first to the twenty-eighth year the development of what is called sentient soul takes place, then the mind soul and the consciousness (or spiritual) soul in periods each of seven years duration. Hence it is an occult law that no individual before his thirty-fifth year is in the position of being capable of imparting or attaining anything in the field of occultism. The thirty-fifth year is particularly important. Let me remind you of Dante, of his vision of the spiritual world; if you can calculate it you will find that he had the vision in his thirty-fifth year.
Where occult tradition survived it was known that such cycles also occur in the lives of individuals. It was known how the spiritual forces of the human being who is descending, work, where they take hold and how long they need for their proper development. It was known that all life is one great whole and that community in human society must be formed on the basis of this insight. Theosophy should teach us that wisdom must pass into deed, into social deed and into the daily round of life. The value of theosophy is that the greater it is, the less it remains abstract wisdom and the more forcibly it streams through the soul into the dexterity of the hands. Manual skill is then a kind of physical expression of the spirit of the world, a material expression of the spiritual.