9. Man's Experience after Death
Budapest, June 11, 1909
It has often been emphasized that the present can best be understood in the light of the past and its happenings, and we shall most easily discover and understand the characteristics of our spiritual ideals for the future by looking back into times of remote antiquity. Today, therefore, we will consider developments that took place after the destruction of ancient Atlantis and, in connection with those developments, man's experience during the life after death.
The conditions experienced by the soul between death and a new birth have not always been the same. They, too, have changed in the course of evolution. During the great cultural epochs — the ancient Indian, the epoch of the Holy Rishis; the ancient Persian, epoch of the Zarathustrian culture; the Egypto-Chaldean, Greco-Latin and our present epoch — man has connected himself ever more closely with the physical plane, which he grew to love more and more intensely. In every such epoch the human soul descended deeper into the material world. The greater the understanding acquired by man for this world, the stranger the spiritual world became for him after death. This was the case most strongly in the Greco-Latin epoch. The Greeks loved the physical world because in their glorious art, in that splendid adornment of physical existence, their whole soul could live joyfully. The physical world was dear to the Roman because in his discovery of the ego, the “I,” the feeling of his own personality could develop to the full. The concepts of Roman citizenship and Roman rights are hallmarks of this cultural epoch. The Roman felt at home in this physical, material world. The concept of rights has existed only since that epoch, so it is quite correct to say that jurisprudence began in the Roman Empire; it is the sign of reverence for the single personality. Death was the great unknown and evoked fear. The utterance of Achilles: “Better it is to be a beggar in the upper world than a king in the realm of Shades,” aptly indicates the conception prevailing in that epoch of the soul's experience during the life after death in the spiritual world. The more fully these souls had given expression in the realm of earth to all their faculties, the more did the capacity to find their bearings in the spiritual world after death depart from them. The soul felt isolated in the spheres it had now entered. Even in spiritland (Devachan) the soul felt that everything around it was dark, empty and cold. The soul was no longer capable of experiencing the spirituality of yonder world. Even the great leaders of mankind, the initiates, could not change this condition, yet they are the teachers of men not only here on earth but also in yonder worlds. When they told the dead anything about the world this side of the threshold, these souls felt still greater pain at having been obliged to leave the physical world that had become so dear to them. The teachers could bring with them nothing that would help or be of value to the dead, all of whom longed for reincarnation. A human being felt as though he were shut away from his brothers, abandoned even in the realm of the spirit. Had these conditions remained, love and brotherliness would also have gradually disappeared from the earth. For this sojourn in the realm of spirit would have meant that these souls would bring egoism with them into the physical world and into a life wholly centered in the individual self.
In the ancient. Indian epoch man still regarded the earthly world as maya, but things changed in the course of evolution. Zarathustra already proclaimed that the spiritual can also be found by man in the physical world. He revealed the path by which the people were ultimately to realize that the sun with its light is only the external body of a sublime spiritual being whom he called Ahura Mazdao, the Great Aura, in contrast to the little human aura. His aim was to proclaim that this being, as yet far off, would one day come down to the earth in order to unite with its very substance and to work further in the evolution of humanity. For the people of Zarathustra this heralded the same being who in later history lived on the earth as Christ. To his pupils Zarathustra proclaimed, “If you learn to understand that the spiritual is present in everything physical and material, that the physical is permeated by the great Sun Aura, by Ahura Mazdao, then Ahriman will no longer lead you astray.”
At other times Zarathustra said, “So great, so mighty is He who has revealed Himself to me in the sun that I sacrifice everything to him. Gladly I offer to Him the life of my body, the etheric existence of my senses, the expression of my deeds, the astral body.”
This was the pledge once made by the great Zarathustra. He announced to his pupils that the great Sun Spirit would reveal Himself directly in the earth itself, in the realities of earthly existence. Thus did Zarathustra inaugurate the teaching that the material is only the physiognomy, the expression of the spiritual.
Then came the time when the being who had been heralded by Zarathustra revealed himself to Moses in the burning thornbush and on Sinai. Moses taught that this Sun Being is also the Ego Being, the highest principle that can be membered into man. But it is not only into man that a particle of the Sun Spirit has descended; it has also descended into everything in external nature, into the elements, everywhere. The same divinity who, in the name of the “I am the I am,” the principle once revealed to Zarathustra as Ahura Mazdao, as the innermost core, the primordial ground of all existence, was proclaimed by Moses to a whole people as the supreme being whose name was inexpressible and might be uttered only in the innermost sanctuary by the officiating priest. The Godhead who dwells in man, who does not reveal Himself only in the elements, in the flaming fire, is He who is here proclaimed.
Thus we can regard Zarathustra as the herald of Jehovah, of the same being who at the beginning of our time-reckoning dwelt for three years in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. This is the same God who had been proclaimed by Moses and Zarathustra.
Christ says, “How shall ye believe me if ye have not believed )Moses and the prophets?” Herewith Christ confirms that the Old Testament had proclaimed in advance, only under different names, the same God whom He, Christ also proclaims. All events in the world need a certain time to take effect. On Sinai, in the burning thornbush, this Sun Being, descending from the heights of the spiritual world, had reached the point where He could announce Himself to man through the elements. He now came nearer and nearer to the earth, into the sheaths of Jesus of Nazareth at the Baptism in the Jordan, and when the Mystery of Golgotha took place on the earth and the blood flowed from the wounds of the Redeemer, this was not only the expression of a great cosmic event but also of the greatest of all earthly events: the Christ passed into the earth's aura as the Spirit of the earth. A new impetus had been given and could be perceived by clairvoyance, for at that moment the earth's aura changed, revealing particular colors. New colors were revealed and new powers were incorporated in the earth's aura. At the moment when the blood that is the physical expression of the ego flowed from the wounds of the Redeemer on Golgotha, at that moment the ego of Christ united with the earth. But the moment had also come when conditions in the spiritual world could begin to change for souls after death. This was the meaning of Christ's descent into Hell.
A clairvoyant, living before the event of Golgotha, would not have seen in the earth's aura what could be seen there later on, when Christ Jesus had passed through the death on Golgotha. Let us now think of the event of Damascus. Saul who, as an initiate of the Jewish Mysteries, knew full well that the “Great Aura,” Ahura Mazdao, would one day unite with the earth, rebelled against the belief that this being could have died on the shameful cross. Although he had participated in the events in Palestine, he did not believe that this great spirit had dwelt on the earth in Jesus of Nazareth. It was when he became clairvoyant near the gates of Damascus that in the earth's aura he beheld the Christ spirit, the living Christ, who could not previously have been seen there. He then said to himself, “Yes, it was predicted that the earth's aura would change, and that has now come to pass.” Then Saul became Paul. Paul spoke of himself as one who had been born prematurely, one who had become clairvoyant through grace; his was a premature birth because maturity had not yet been fully reached; he had not descended so deeply into matter and was less firmly connected with the physical body. Those who follow the course of Christianity know that the personality in it of supreme importance is Paul. He achieved more than anyone else for its propagation.
It was an occult fact, an occult event, by which Paul was converted, and it can justly be said that through that clairvoyant experience humanity was led to Christ. At that time a change took place in the earth's aura, and since then it has been changed. The words of St. John's Gospel were thus fulfilled: “He who eats my bread treads upon me with his feet.” Since then Christ has been the Spirit of the earth, the planetary Spirit. The earth is the body of Christ; His habitation is within the earth. This profound utterance in St. John's Gospel is not to be understood in an adverse sense or as a pointer to Judas who betrayed Christ. Rather, the reference is to the Christ-Jehovah Divinity and His relation to the earth.
When the occult investigator compares the effect of the art of the Greeks and post-Christian art upon the world man enters after death, he still finds that when a clairvoyant contemplates with physical eyes a Greek temple with its Doric pillars — for example, the ruins at Paestum-he may well be entranced by the harmonious forms that follow the spiritual lines of direction and thereby make this temple an actual dwelling place of the god. Just as a soul feels drawn to the body that is fitting for it, so does the god descend into these forms that harmonize so perfectly with his nature and being. But when a seer turns his eyes to the spiritual counterpart of his temple, he finds nothing in the spiritual world. The temple seems to have been obliterated from that world and a space left empty there: nothing of the temple is to be seen. If, on the other hand, a seer is contemplating works of art of the post-Christian era or, for example, contemplating the Gospel of St. John or the passages in the Old and New Testaments that have to do with Christ-Jehovah or Raphael's Madonnas — if the seer contemplates these creations first with physical eyes and then with clairvoyant sight, they are by no means invisible in the spiritual world but radiate there in even greater splendor. This is especially true of the Gospel of St. John. It is in the spiritual world that the greatness of that creation is first realized. It is in the spiritual world that whatever is connected with the Mystery of Golgotha first becomes radiant and clear in the fullest sense.
Simultaneously with the historical event on the physical plane, a spiritual happening, which was also a symbolic happening, took place when the blood flowed from the Redeemer's wounds. When Christ was no longer living in the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth, at the moment when He died on Golgotha, He appeared in the spiritual world to the souls living between death and rebirth, and the darkness abated. The spiritual world was suddenly filled with light. Just as the objects in a dark room suddenly become visible when a ray of light shines into the room and you see the objects that were always there although you could not previously detect them, thus did light pour into the world of the dead. The souls there were again able to perceive what was around them, to feel united in the realm of spirit with their brothers and could now bring into the physical world the qualities of love and brotherliness. Thus a new light came into this world of the dead, for the Mystery of Golgotha has significance not only for the world in which it took place physically but for all the worlds with which man is connected in the course of his evolution. If the spiritual world had remained as the dead experienced it during the Greco-Latin epoch, if the human soul had remained in the icy coldness and loneliness then prevailing, brotherliness and love would have gradually vanished from the world. Man would have brought with him from Devachan the longing for seclusion. For the light that then streamed into the earthly world and also into the world of the dead was meant to establish the kingdom of brotherliness and love on the earth. That is the mission of the Christ impulse.
We will now consider from still another side the Mystery of Golgotha and the secret of the blood flowing from the wounds of the Redeemer.
We know that man on the earth has received an inheritance from Old Moon. The three lower bodies, physical body, etheric body and astral body had been prepared for him and it was on the earth that the ego was first added — the ego as the expression of human freedom and independence. In ancient times it was important to establish the homogeneity of mankind. At the beginning, conditions were such that the relations of one human being to another were saved only by being given a physical foundation. The blood is the expression of the ego. Blood kinship and the ties of blood were the ruling principles. The physical blood was the medium operating from man to man. This was how things were in times of antiquity. But through Christ Jesus love became a non-material bond. The activity of the human group ego declined. In earlier times the human being belonged to a communal tribal ego and he felt safe and secure within it, within the bosom of Father Abraham. This kinship was much more important to him than his personal identity. His higher self continued to exist in the ties of blood kinship. In the Old Testament we hear of Noah and other tribal fathers that they lived for hundreds of years. We are there led back to times when the human being not only had a memory of what he himself had experienced but also to a time when this memory extended far back into the generations. He did not say “I” of himself but he lived in his “I” right back to remote ancestors. His life did not begin with his birth; it was not then that he began to say “I” of himself but he said “I” of everything his ancestors had experienced.
It was against love based on blood that the luciferic beings at all times directed their sharpest attacks. Their aim was to make each single human being dependent upon himself alone, to instill consciousness of self into man even between death and a new birth. But divine beings, bearers of love, strove to bring individuals together through bonds other than those based on ties of blood, which take no account of freedom. The Christ principle unites with the full expression of the “I” the power flowing from the spirit of love and lets it hold sway from individual to individual. Hence there is a saying, Christ is the true Lucifer (Christus verus Luciferus) or Light-bringer, and finally the opponent of the fallen Lucifer. The love based on blood was transformed by Christ into spiritual love, into the brotherly love streaming from soul to soul. Christ's utterance, “He who forsakes not father and mother cannot be my disciple,” is to be understood in the sense that love based on blood must be transformed into the brotherly love that embraces all human beings with equal strength. Spiritual science takes nothing away from any of these biblical utterances but when it is rightly understood can only enrich them with a deeper understanding of Christian grace. The power of spiritual love was brought to the souls of men for the first time by Christ when He appeared on the earth; and with the blood that flowed on Golgotha from the wounds of the Redeemer the superfluous blood of humanity was as it were sacrificed. Through this act the teaching was confirmed that individual must confront individual as human brothers. In the world today there is still little understanding of Christ. Mankind has first to learn to realize the greatness of this most. mighty cosmic event. A few individuals have always had a divining of the whole significance of the Christ Being and His appearance on the earth. How have they thought of that event? Think of the human beings and peoples who preserved for some considerable time the connection with the spiritual world. The ancient Indian set little store by his connection with the physical world. He was intent upon the acquisition of super-sensible truths and lofty spiritual life in the spiritual world but had no desire to love physical existence. Let me tell you about an Eastern saga, which indicates in a splendid way how the Christ principle was tentatively grasped there.
In the course of time, so runs this saga, there appeared the power that guides our earth. An oriental legend, which reports it, was narrated in the temples of Northern Tibet to the pupil of the wisdom of the Buddha, and has been preserved ever since. This Eastern legend narrates that Kashyapa, the worthiest pupil of the Buddha, lived at a time when, even in the East, little understanding of wisdom was to be found. When he felt his end approaching he withdrew into a cave where he lived for long ages; his corpse was to be preserved there to await the appearance of the Maitreya Buddha in order then to ascend to heaven.
The gist of this legend follows. If there had been no special event, that is to say, if Christ had not appeared on the earth, neither the East nor the West would have been able to find the path into the spiritual world. The body of Kashyapa is pre-served until the Maitreya Buddha releases the corpse from the earth. This means that in the future man will again have powers whereby what is earthly can be spiritualized. The sublime being who conducts Kashyapa's body into the spiritual world will have descended more deeply than any being has ever done. Christ Himself releases the body of Kashyapa. In the period following this event the body is no longer there. What does this mean? It means that the body was immediately transported into the spiritual world. The body of Kashyapa can be liberated in the element of fire. Where is this fire? When seen by Paul before Damascus it was spiritualized. Thus the appearance of Christ on the earth is the great turning point when man can ascend again from the physical into the spiritual world.
Now think of the Buddha's teaching. Through observing old age, illness, death, and so forth, the great truth concerning suffering dawned in him. He now taught of the cessation of suffering, of release from suffering through the elimination of the desire for birth, for physical incarnation.
Now think of humanity six hundred years later. What do you find? Humanity reveres a corpse. Men gaze at Christ on the cross, Christ who dies and through His death brought life. Life has vanquished death.
One: To be born is suffering? No, for Christ entered into our earth and henceforward for me, a Christian, to be born is no longer suffering.
Two: Illness is suffering? But the great medicine will exist, that is, the power of the soul that has been kindled by the Christ impulse. In uniting himself with the Christ impulse, man spiritualizes his life.
Three: Old age is suffering? But whereas man's body becomes frail and infirm, in his real self he grows ever stronger and more powerful.
Four: Death is suffering? But through Christ the corpse has become the symbol of the fact that death, physical death, has been vanquished by life, by the spirit; death has been finally overcome by life.
Five: To be separated from the being one loves is suffering? But the man who has understood Christ is never separated from the one he loves, for Christ has brought light to the world stretching between death and a new birth; so a man remains united with the object of his love.
Six: Not to receive that for which one craves is suffering? He who lives with Christ will no longer crave for what does not come to him, or is not given to him.
Seven: To be united with what one does not love is suffering? But the man who has recognized Christ kindles in himself that universal love that envelops every being, every object according to its value.
Eight: To be separated from what one loves is no longer suffering, for in Christ there is no more separation.
Thus for the illness of suffering, which Buddha proclaimed and recognized, the remedy has been given through Christ.
This turning of humanity to Christ and to the dead body on the cross is the greatest transformation that has ever come to pass in evolution.