Between Death and Rebirth
20 November 1912, Berlin
It has already been announced that our studies in these Group Meetings during the winter are to be concerned with the life between death and the new birth. Obviously, what will be said from a comparatively new point of view will become thoroughly clear only when the whole course of lectures has been given. It must be taken for granted that a great deal will consist in the communication of findings of investigation carried out during recent months. It is only as our studies progress that understanding can become more complete. Let us, however, begin with a brief consideration of man's nature and constitution — a study that everyone can undertake for himself.
The most important and most outstanding fact revealed by an unprejudiced observation of man's life is surely the existence of the human Ego, the ‘I’. A distinction must however be made between the ‘I’ itself and the ‘I’ consciousness. It must be clear to everyone that from the time a child is born the ‘I’ is already active. This is obvious long before the child has any ‘I’-consciousness, when in the language he uses he speaks of himself as if he were another person. At about the third year of life, although of course there are children in whom this happens at an earlier age, the child begins to have some consciousness of himself and to speak of himself in the first person. We know too that this year, although it varies in many individuals, marks the limit before which, in later life, a human being is unable to recall what his soul has experienced. There is thus a dividing line in the life of a human being: before it there is no possibility of any clear and distinct experience of himself as ‘I’. After that point he can experience himself as an Ego, as ‘I’; he finds himself so at home in his ‘I’ that he can again and again summon up from his memory what his ‘I’ has experienced.
Now what does unprejudiced observation of life teach us about the reason why the child gradually passes from the stage when he has no experience of his ‘I’ to the stage when this experience comes to him? A clear observation of life can teach us that if from the earliest periods after birth a child were never to come into any sort of collision with the outer world, he could never become ‘I’-conscious. You can discover for yourselves how often you become conscious of your ‘I’ in later life. You have only to knock against the corner of a cupboard and you will certainly be made aware of your ‘I’. This collision with the outside world tells you that you are an ‘I’ and you will hardly fail to be aware of that ‘I’ when you have given yourself a hard bump! In the case of a child these collisions with the outside world need not always cause bruises but in essence their effect is similar — to some extent at least. When a child stretches out his little hand and touches something in the outside world, this amounts to a slight collision and the same holds good when a child opens his eyes and light falls upon them. It is actually by such contacts with the world outside that the child becomes aware of his own identity. Indeed his whole life during these early years consists in learning to distinguish himself from the world outside and thus becoming aware of the self, the ‘I’, within him. When there have been enough of these collisions with the outside world the child acquires self-consciousness and says ‘I’ of himself. Once ‘I’-consciousness has been acquired the child must therefore keep it alive and alert. The only possibility of this, however, is that collisions shall continue to take place. These collisions with the world outside have completed their essential function once the child has reached the stage where he says ‘I’ of himself, and there is nothing further to be learnt by this means as far as the development of consciousness is concerned. Unbiased observation, for instance, of the moment of waking will, however, help everyone to realise that this ‘I’-consciousness can be maintained only by means of ‘collisions’.
We know that this ‘I’-consciousness, together with all the other experiences, including those of the astral body, vanishes during sleep and wakens again in the morning. This happens because as a being of soul-and-spirit, man returns into his physical and etheric bodies. Again collisions take place — now with the physical and etheric bodies. A person who is able — even without any occult knowledge — to observe the life of soul accurately, can have the following experience. When he wakes in the morning he will find that a great deal of what his memory has preserved rises again into his consciousness: mental pictures, feelings and other experiences rise up into consciousness from its own depths. If we investigate all this with exactitude — and that is possible without any occult knowledge provided only there is some capacity for observing what the soul experiences — we shall find that what rises up into consciousness has a certain impersonal character. We can observe too that this impersonal character becomes more marked the longer ago the events in question took place — which means, of course, the less we are participating in them with our immediate ‘I’-consciousness. We may remember events which took place very long ago in our life, and when memory recalls them we may feel that we have as little directly to do with them as we have with experiences in the outside world which do not particularly concern us. What is otherwise preserved in our memory tends continually to break loose from our ‘I’. The reason why, in spite of this, we find our ‘I’ returning each morning clearly into our consciousness is that we come back into the same body. Through the resulting collision our ‘I’-consciousness is awakened again each morning. Thus just as the child develops consciousness of his ‘I’ by colliding with the external world, we keep that consciousness alert by colliding each morning with our inner being. This takes place not only in the morning but throughout the day; our ‘I’-consciousness is kindled by the counter-pressure of our body. Our ‘I’ is implanted in the physical body, etheric body and astral body and is continually colliding with them. We can therefore say that we owe our ‘I’-consciousness to the fact that we press inwardly into our bodily constitution and experience the counter-pressure from it. We collide with our body.
You will readily understand that this must have the consequence which always results from collisions, namely that damage or injury is caused, even if it is not at once noticed. Collisions of the ‘I’ with the bodily constitution cause slight injuries in the latter. This is indeed the case. Our ‘I’-consciousness could never develop if we were not perpetually colliding with our bodily make-up and thereby destroying it in some way. It is in fact the sum-total of these results of destruction that ultimately brings about death in the physical world. Our conclusion must therefore be that we owe the preservation of our ‘I’-consciousness to our own destructive activity, to the circumstance that we are able to destroy our organism perpetually.
In this way we are destroyers of our astral, etheric and physical bodies. But because of this, our relation to those bodies is rather different from what it is to the ‘I’. Everyday life itself makes it obvious that we can also work destructively upon the ‘I’, and we will now try to be clear as to how this may happen.
Our ‘I’ is something — never mind for the moment exactly what — that has a certain value in the world. Man feels the truth of this, but it is in his power to reduce that value. How do we reduce the value of our ‘I’? If we do harm to someone to whom we owe a debt of love, we shall actually at that moment have reduced the value of our ‘I’. This is a fact that every human being can recognise. At the same time he can realise that as a human being never fulfils his ideal value, his ‘I’ is really occupied throughout his life in reducing his own value, in bringing about his own destruction. However, as long as we remain poised in our own ‘I’, we have constant opportunity in life to annul the destruction we have caused. We are capable of this even though we do not always manage to do it. Before we pass through the gate of death we can make compensation in some form for undeserved suffering caused to another person. If you think about it you will realise that between birth and death it is possible for man to reduce the value of his ‘I’ but also ultimately to make good the destruction that has been brought about.
But in the case of the astral, etheric and physical bodies there is no possibility of being able to do this at the present stage of man's evolution. He is unable to work consciously on these bodies as he can do in the case of his ‘I’, for the reason that he is not, in the real sense, conscious in these members of his being. The destruction for which a man is continually responsible remains in his astral, etheric and physical bodies but he is not in a position to repair it. And it is easy to understand that if we were to come into a new incarnation with the forces of the astral, etheric and physical bodies as they were at the end of our previous incarnation, those bodies would be useless. The content of the life of soul is always the source and the sum and substance of what comes to expression in the bodily constitution. The fact that at the end of a life we have a brittle organism is evidence that our soul then lacks the forces necessary to sustain its vigour. In order to maintain our consciousness and keep it alert we have been continually damaging our bodily sheath. With the forces that are still available at the end of one incarnation we could do nothing in the next. It is necessary for us to reacquire the forces that are able to restore freshness and health within certain limits to the astral, etheric and physical bodies, and to make them of use for a new incarnation. In earthly existence — as is evident even to external observation — it is possible for man to damage these bodies but not to restore them to health. Occult investigation reveals that in the life between death and the new birth we acquire from the extra-terrestrial conditions in which we are then living the forces able to restore our worn-out sheaths. Between death and the new birth we expand into the Universe, the Cosmos, and we have to acquire the forces which cannot be drawn from the sphere of the Earth from the heavenly bodies connected with the Earth. These heavenly bodies are the reservoirs of forces needed for our bodily sheaths. On the Earth man can acquire only the forces needed for the constant restoration of the ‘I’. For the other members of his being the forces must be drawn from other worlds.
Let us consider the astral body first. After death the human being expands, quite literally expands, into all the planetary spheres. During the Kamaloka period, as a being of soul-and-spirit, man expands to the boundary demarcated by the orbit of the Moon around the Earth. Beings of various ranks are involved in the process. After that he expands until the Mercury sphere is reached — Mercury as understood in occultism. Thence he expands to the spheres of Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and finally Saturn. The being who has passed through the gate of death becomes in the real sense a Mercury dweller, a Venus dweller and so on, and in a certain sense he must have the faculty to become thoroughly acclimatised in these other planetary worlds. How does he succeed or fail in this respect?
In the first place, when his Kamaloka period is over, a man must himself possess some quality that will enable him to establish a definite relationship with the forces in the Mercury sphere into which he then passes. If the lives of various human beings between death and the new birth are investigated, it will be found that they differ greatly in the Mercury sphere. A clear difference is evident according to whether an individual passes into the Mercury sphere with a moral disposition of soul, with the outcome of a moral or an immoral life. There are of course nuances of every possible degree. A man with a moral quality of soul, who bears within him the fruits of a moral life, is what may be called a spiritually ‘social’ being in the Mercury sphere; it is easy for him to establish relationships with other beings — either with people who died before him or also with beings who inhabit the Mercury sphere — and to share experiences with them. An immoral man becomes a hermit, feels excluded from the community of the other inhabitants of this sphere. Such is the consequence in the life between death and the new birth of a moral or immoral disposition of soul. It is important to understand that morality forges our connection and relationship with the beings living in this sphere and an immoral disposition of soul encloses us as it were in a prison. We know that the other beings are there but we seem to be within a shell and make no contact with them. This self-isolation is an outcome of an earthly life that was unsociable and lacking in morality.
In the next sphere, which we will call the Venus sphere — in occultism it is always so named — a man's contact with it is mainly dependent upon a religious attitude of soul. Contact with the beings of this sphere can be established by individuals who during their life on Earth came to realise that everything transitory in physical things and in man himself is after all related in some way to immortality; thus they had a feeling that the attitude of soul in every individual should incline to divine-spiritual reality. On the other hand, anyone who is a materialist and cannot direct his soul to the Eternal, the Divine, the Immortal, is condemned in the Venus sphere to be imprisoned within his own being, in isolation. Particularly in connection with this sphere we can learn from occult investigation how in our astral body during life on Earth we create the conditions of existence as they will be in the Venus sphere. On the Earth we must already develop understanding of and inclination for what we hope to contact and experience in that sphere. Let us consider for a moment the fact that human beings living on the Earth during entirely different epochs — as was both inevitable and right — were connected with divine-spiritual life through the various religions and prevailing conceptions of the world. The only way in which human evolution could progress was that out of the one source — for example the religious life — at different times and for very different peoples, according to their natural traits and climatic and other conditions of existence, the varying religious principles were imparted by those destined for this mission. These religious principles stem from one source but are graduated according to the conditions prevailing among particular peoples. Humanity today is still divided into groups determined by their religious tenets and views of the world. But it is through what is thereby formed in our souls that we prepare our understanding of and possibility of contacts in the Venus sphere. The religions of the Hindu, of the Chinese, of the Mohammedan, of the Christian, prepare the soul in such a way that in the Venus sphere it will understand and be attracted to those individuals whose souls have been moulded by the same religious tenets. Occult investigation shows clearly that whereas nowadays men on Earth are divided by race, descent and so forth, and can be distinguished by these factors — although this will change in the future and has already begun to do so — in the Venus sphere in which we live together with other human beings there are no such divisions. The only division there depends upon their religious principles and conceptions of the world while they were on the Earth. It is true that to some extent a classification according to race is possible because this classification on Earth — even according to religion — is still, in a certain respect, a matter of racial relationships. All the same, it is not the element of race that is decisive, but what the soul experiences through its adherence to the principles of a particular religion.
We spend certain periods after each death within these spheres; then our being expands and we pass on from the Venus sphere to the Sun sphere. In very truth we become, as souls, Sun dwellers between death and the new birth. Something more than was necessary in the Venus sphere is required for the Sun sphere. If we are to fare well in the Sun sphere between death and the new birth, it is essential to be able to understand not merely one particular group of human beings but to understand and find points of contact with all human souls. In the Sun sphere we feel isolated, like hermits, if the prejudices of one particular faith render us incapable of understanding a human being whose soul has been filled with the principles of a different faith. An individual who on the Earth regarded one particular religion only as valuable is incapable in the Sun sphere of understanding adherents of other religions. But the consequences of this lack of understanding are not the same as they are on Earth. On the Earth men may live side by side without any inner understanding of each other and then separate into different faiths and systems of thought. In the Sun sphere, however, since we interpenetrate one another, we are together and yet at the same time separated in our inner being; and in that sphere every separation and every lack of understanding are at once sources of terrible suffering. Every contact with an adherent of a different faith becomes a reproach which weighs upon us unceasingly and which we cannot escape because on Earth we did not educate ourselves in this respect.
Taking the life between death and the new birth as a starting-point, what is now to be said will in a certain sense be easier to understand if reference is made to Initiation. What the Initiate experiences in the spiritual worlds is in a certain respect closely akin to experiences undergone in the life between death and rebirth. The Initiate has to make his way into the same spheres, and were he to maintain the prejudices resulting from a biased, one-sided view of the world, he would undergo similar suffering in the Sun sphere. It is therefore essential that Initiation should be preceded by thorough understanding of every religious faith spread over the Earth, also understanding of what is taking place in every individual soul regardless of the creed or system of thought to which it adheres. Otherwise, whatever has not been met with understanding becomes a source of suffering, as if towering mountains were threatening to crash down upon one, as if explosions were discharging their whole force upon one. Whatever lack of understanding due to one's own narrow prejudices has been shown to human beings on Earth, has this effect in the spiritual worlds.
It was not always so. In pre-Christian times the process of evolution did not require men unconditionally to acquire this understanding of every human soul. Humanity was obliged to pass through the phase of a one-sided attitude. But those who were trained for some kind of leadership in the world were obliged to acquire, either consciously or less consciously, an understanding for every human being without distinction. Even when some individual was to be the leader of a particular people he would be required to develop a measure of understanding for every human soul. This is indicated magnificently in the Old Testament in the passage describing the meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High. Those who understand this passage know that Abraham, who was destined to become the leader of his people, underwent an Initiation at this time — even if not in full consciousness as is the case in later Initiations. Abraham's Initiation was connected with realisation of the Divine element that can flow into all human souls. The passage which tells of the meeting of Abraham with Melchizedek contains a deep secret connected with the evolution of humanity. But men had gradually to be prepared to become more and more qualified for a fruitful existence in the Sun sphere.
The first impulse in the evolution of our Earth towards a fruitful existence in the Sun sphere was given by the Mystery of Golgotha, after preparation for it had been made by the people of the Old Testament — about which there will be more to say. It is not essential at the moment to deal with the question as to whether Christianity in its development hitherto has achieved all its goals and possible fruits. Needless to say, in its various sects and denominations Christianity has produced only one-sided aspects of its essential principle; in certain of its tenets, and as a whole, it is not on the level of certain other faiths. What really matters, however, is its potentiality of development, what enrichment it can give to one who penetrates more and more deeply into its essential truth.
We have already tried to indicate these possibilities of development. There is infinitely much to be said, but one matter only shall now be mentioned because it can throw light upon the point under consideration at the moment. If we have a genuine understanding of the different faiths we find one outstanding characteristic, namely that in the earlier periods of Earth evolution the individual religions were adapted to the particular races, tribal stocks or peoples. There is still evidence of this. Only one who has been born a Hindu can be an orthodox adherent of the Hindu religion today. In a certain respect the earlier religions are racial religions, folk-religions. Do not take this as disparagement but simply as characterisation. The different religions, although deriving from the primal source of a universal world-religion, were given to the peoples by the Initiates and adapted to the specific tribal stocks and races; hence in that sense there is something egoistic about them. Peoples have always loved the religion that has been determined by their own flesh and blood. In ancient times, when a religion stemming from a Mystery Centre had been established among a particular people, a bodily stranger who wanted to start another religion among them did not do so, but instead founded a second Mystery Centre. People were always given a leader from their own tribe or clan.
In this respect true Christianity is very different. Christ Jesus, the Individuality to whom the Christians turn, was least active among the people and in the area on the Earth where He was born. In respect of religion, can conditions in the Western world be equated with those existing in India or China where folk-religions still survive? No, they cannot! The regions where we ourselves are living could be equated with India and China only if here, in Middle Europe, we were, for example, faithful followers of Wotan. We should then be at the same stage and the element of religious egoism would be in evidence here too. But in the West this aspect has disappeared, for the West accepted a religion that was not confined to any particular folk-community. This fact must be remembered. The influences which bound blood to blood and were a determining factor in the founding of the old religious communities, played no part in the spread of Christianity. The life of soul was the essential factor and in the West a religion unconnected with a single people or folk-community was adopted. Why has it been so? It is because in its deepest roots and from the very beginning Christianity was meant to be a religion for all men without distinction of belief, nationality, descent, race, and whatever separates human beings from one another. Christianity is rightly understood only when it is realised that it is concerned solely with the essentially human element in all men. The fact that in its early phases and also in our own times sects have arisen from Christianity should be no cause of apprehension; for Christianity makes possible the evolution of the “human universal”. It is also true that a great transformation will have to take place within the Christian world if the roots of Christianity are to be rightly understood. A distinction will have to be made between knowledge of Christian tenets and the reality of Christianity.
St. Paul did in fact begin to make this distinction and those who understand his words can realise something of what they mean, although up to now understanding has been rare. When St. Paul made it clear that belief in Christ Jesus was not the prerogative of Judaism, and spoke the words, “Christ died not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles”, this was an enormous contribution to the true conception of Christianity. It would be quite false to maintain that the Mystery of Golgotha was fulfilled only for those who call themselves Christians. The Mystery of Golgotha was fulfilled for all men! This is indeed what St. Paul meant in the words just quoted. What passed over from the Mystery of Golgotha into earthly life has meaning and significance for all that life. Grotesque as it may still seem today to those who do not distinguish between knowledge and reality, it must nevertheless be said that he alone understands the roots of Christianity who can view an adherent of a different religion — no matter whether he calls himself Indian, or Chinese, or anything else — in such a way that he asks himself: To what extent is he Christ-like? The fact of knowing this is not what really matters; what does matter is that such a person knows the reality of Christianity — in the sense that it is not essential to know physiology provided that digestion takes place. A man whose religion has failed to bring about in him a conscious relationship to the Mystery of Golgotha has no understanding of it, but that does not entitle others to deny him the reality of Christianity. Not until Christians become so truly Christian that they seek for the Christ-like principle in all souls on Earth — not when they have implanted it in the souls of others by attempts at conversion — not until then will the root principles of Christianity have been understood. All this belongs to Christianity when rightly understood. Distinction must be made between the reality of Christianity and an understanding of it. To understand what has been present on the Earth since the Mystery of Golgotha is a great ideal, the ideal of supremely important knowledge for the Earth — knowledge that men will gradually acquire. But the reality itself has come to pass; the Mystery of Golgotha was fulfilled.
Our life in the Sun sphere after death depends upon what relationship we have established with the Mystery of Golgotha. The contact with all human souls that can be experienced in the Sun sphere is possible only if a relationship with the Mystery of Golgotha has been established in the way described. It is a relationship which ensures freedom from any still imperfect form of Christianity as practised in this or that sect. If we have no such relationship with the Mystery of Golgotha we condemn ourselves to becoming solitary individuals in the Sun sphere, unable to make contact with other human souls. There is a certain utterance which retains its power even in the Sun sphere. When in the Sun sphere we encounter another human soul we can become companions and not be thrust away from that soul, if these words have been preserved in our inner being: “When two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.” In the Sun sphere all human souls can be united with one another in a true recognition of Christ. And this union is of tremendous significance. For in the Sun sphere a man must make a decision; he must acquire a certain understanding. And what this means can best be explained by referring to an extraordinarily important fact which every human soul would be able to realise but does not always do so. One of the most beautiful sayings in the New Testament occurs when Christ Jesus is endeavouring to make men conscious of the divine-spiritual core of being within them, of the truth that God is present as the divine spark in every human soul, that every human being has divinity within him. Christ Jesus emphasises this, declaring with all power and intensity: “Ye are Gods!” The emphasis laid upon the words shows that He recognised this as a rightful claim when a man applies its implications to himself. But this utterance was also made by another Being. The Old Testament tells us in symbolic words at what point in evolution it was made. At the very beginning of man's evolution, Lucifer proclaimed: “Ye shall be as Gods!” This is something that must be noticed. A saying in identical terms is uttered by two Beings: by Lucifer and by Christ! “Ye shall be as Gods.” What does the Bible imply by giving emphasis to these two utterances? It implies that from Lucifer this utterance leads to a curse, from Christ to the highest blessing. Is there not a wonderful mystery here? The words hurled into humanity by Lucifer, the Tempter — when uttered by Christ to men are supreme wisdom. That what is really important is not the content of an utterance but from whom it comes — this fact is inscribed in letters of power into the biblical record. From an instance such as this let us feel that it behoves us to understand things in adequate depth and that we can learn a very great deal from what may lie openly before us.
It is in the Sun sphere between death and the new birth that again and again we hear the words spoken to our soul with all their force: Thou art a God, be as a God! We know with all certainty when we arrive in the Sun sphere that Lucifer meets us again and impresses the meaning of this utterance forcibly upon us. From then onwards we can understand Lucifer very well, but Christ only if on Earth we have prepared ourselves to understand Him. Christ's utterance will have no meaning for us in the Sun sphere if by our relationship on Earth to the mystery of Golgotha we have not gained some understanding of it. Trivial as the following words may be, let me say this: In the Sun sphere we find two thrones. From the throne of Lucifer — which is always occupied — there sound the words of temptation, asserting our divinity. The second throne seems to us — or rather to many human beings — to be still empty, for on this other throne in the Sun sphere between death and the new birth, we have to discover what can be called the Akashic picture of Christ. If we can find the Akashic picture of Christ it will be for us a blessing — this will become evident in later lectures. But it has become possible to find that picture only because Christ came down from the Sun and has united Himself with the Earth and because we have been able to open our eyes of spirit here on Earth through understanding in some measure the Mystery of Golgotha. This will ensure that the throne of Christ in the Sun sphere does not appear empty to us but that the deeds He performed while His dwelling-place was still the Sun sphere become visible. As I said, I have to use trivial words in speaking of these two thrones; this sublime fact can only be spoken of figuratively. But anyone who acquires more and more understanding will realise that words coined on Earth are inadequate and that one is obliged to resort to imagery in order to be intelligible.
Now we shall understand and find support for what we need in the Sun sphere only if on the Earth we have acquired something that plays not only into the astral forces but into the etheric forces as well. You will know from what I have previously said that the religions influence the etheric forces and the etheric body of man. A considerable spiritual heirloom is available for all of us inasmuch as forces from the Sun sphere are instilled into us if we have acquired understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. For it is from the Sun sphere that we must draw the forces necessary for the renewal of our etheric body for the next incarnation; whereas the forces necessary for our astral body in the next incarnation must be drawn from the other planetary spheres.
Let nobody believe that what I have been saying is unconnected with the whole course of evolution. I have told you that already in pre-Christian times a leader of humanity such as Abraham was able at his meeting with Melchizedek (or Malkezadek) to acquire the forces needed for the Sun sphere. I am making no intolerant statement implying that man can acquire the forces necessary for establishing a right relationship to the beings of the Sun sphere through orthodox Christianity alone. I am stating a fact of evolution; another fact is that the time when it was still possible, as in ancient days, to behold the Akashic picture of Christ as the result of different means is drawing nearer and nearer to a close as evolution proceeds. Abraham's spiritual eyes were fully open to the Akashic picture of Christ in the Sun sphere. You must not argue that the Mystery of Golgotha had not then taken place and that Christ was still in the Sun sphere; for during that period Christ was united with other planetary spheres. It is indeed a fact that at that time and even down to our own epoch, human beings were able to perceive what could be perceived in those spheres. And if we go still further back to those primeval ages when the Holy Rishis were the first Teachers of the people of ancient India, those Teachers certainly had knowledge of Christ who at that time was still in the Sun sphere, and they imparted this knowledge and understanding to their followers, although of course not using the later nomenclature. Although in those ancient times the Mystery of Golgotha was not yet within their ken, men were able, by drawing intimate truths from the depths of their being, to acquire from the Sun sphere what was needed for the renewal of their etheric bodies. But these possibilities ceased as evolution proceeded and this was necessary because new forces must perpetually be instilled into humanity.
What has been said is meant to indicate a fact of evolution. We are moving towards a future when it will be less and less possible for men during the period between death and the new birth to live through their existence in the Sun sphere in the right way if they alienate themselves from the Christ Event. True it is that we must look for the Christ-like quality in each soul. If we are to understand the root of Christianity we must ask ourselves in the case of everyone we meet; how much in his nature is Christ-like? But it is also true that a man can sever himself from Christianity if he fails to become conscious of what it is in reality. And when we remind ourselves again of St. Paul's words, that Christ died not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles, we must also add that if in the course of further progress men were more and more to deny the reality of the Mystery of Golgotha they would prevent what was done for their sake from reaching them. The Mystery of Golgotha was a deed of blessing for all mankind. Every human being is free to allow that event to influence him or not; but the effect of the influence will in future depend more and more upon the extent to which he is able to draw from the Sun sphere the forces required to ensure that his etheric body shall be rightly formed in his next incarnation. The immeasurable consequences of this for the whole future of the human race on Earth will be considered in the forthcoming lectures.
Thus Christianity, admittedly little understood, yet always connected with the Mystery of Golgotha, is the first preparation if humanity is to regain the relationship to the Sun sphere. A second impulse would be the genuine anthroposophical understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. After a human being has adjusted himself to existence in the Sun sphere his life expands further outwards, into the Mars sphere, for example. What is essential is that he not only establishes the right relationship to the forces of the Sun sphere but maintains this relationship when his life expands into the Mars sphere. In order that his consciousness shall not become dim, shall not fade away altogether after the Sun sphere but that he can carry it over into the Mars sphere, it is necessary in the present cycle of human evolution that spiritual understanding of the gist of our religions and conceptions of the world shall take root in the souls of men. Hence the endeavours to understand the essence of religions and systems of thought. Spiritual-scientific understanding will eventually be replaced by another, quite different understanding of which men today cannot even dream. For certain as it is that a truth is right in an epoch possessed of a genuine sense of truth, it is also a fact that continually new impulses will make their way into the evolution of humanity. True indeed it is that what Anthroposophy has to give is right for a particular epoch, and humanity, having assimilated Anthroposophy, may bear it into later times as an inner impulse and through these forces also acquire the forces of the later epoch.
Thus it has been possible to show the relationship of man’s life on Earth to the life between death and the new birth. Nobody can fail to realise that it is just as necessary for a human being to have knowledge, feeling and perceptiveness of the life between death and the new birth as of earthly life itself. For when he enters earthly life at birth, the confidence, strength and hopefulness connected with that life depend upon what forces he brings with him from the life between the last death and the present birth. But again, the forces we are able to acquire during that life depend upon our conduct in the earlier incarnation, upon our moral and religious disposition or the quality of our attitude of soul. We must realise that whether the future evolution of the human race will be furthered or impeded depends upon our active and creative co-operation with the super-sensible world in which we live between death and the new birth. If men failed to acquire the forces able to provide them with healthy astral bodies, the forces in their astral bodies would become ineffective and sterile and humanity would sink into moral and religious turpitude on the Earth. Similarly, if men failed to acquire the forces needed for their etheric bodies, as members of the human race they would wither away on the Earth. Every individual can ask himself the question: In what measure must I co-operate with the spiritual world in order that the Earth shall not be peopled by sickly bodies only? Anthroposophy is not knowledge alone but a responsibility that brings us into connection with the whole nature of the Earth, and sustains that connection.