First Steps in Supersensible Perception
I. First Steps in Supersensible Perception
17 November 1922, London
There is no doubt that at the present time numbers of people are longing to know something of the spiritual worlds and even modern scientists have been at pains to discover paths leading to knowledge of the Supersensible. But in all these attempts to penetrate to the supersensible world, modern man finds stumbling-blocks created by the judgments issuing from modern scientific thinking with all the authority it commands; and in regard to the many sources from which people imagine that knowledge of the supersensible world can be derived, the prevailing opinion is that concerning the supersensible worlds there can be no exact knowledge in the sense of modern science, for none of the evidence put forward stands up to any valid test.
Now the anthroposophical Spiritual Science of which I am venturing to speak to you in these lectures, strives to reach exact, genuinely exact, knowledge of the supersensible world: “exact,” not in the sense that experiments are made as in domains of science concerned with the external world, but in the sense that inner faculties of soul otherwise slumbering in man during his everyday life and ordinary scientific pursuits are unfolded in such a way that the full clarity of consciousness implicit in really exact science is maintained throughout. Whereas, therefore, in exact scientific thinking, consciousness is maintained as it is in ordinary life and exactitude of method is strictly adhered to during investigation of the external world, in anthroposophical Spiritual Science we proceed by adopting an initial attitude of what I will call intellectual humility, saying to ourselves: “I was once a child and my faculties then fell far, far short of those I have acquired through education and through life and now possess as an adult human being.” It is quite evident that certain faculties which did not previously function have unfolded since childhood, and the question arises naturally: Is it not possible, then, that faculties are slumbering in the adult human being just as his present faculties were slumbering in his soul during childhood? Provided that certain methods are put into practice, these faculties can indeed be drawn forth from the soul.
In anthroposophical Spiritual Science these inner faculties must be drawn out in such a way that the methods whereby the actual approach to supersensible knowledge is made, are in line with our own development. The preparation for looking into the higher world presupposes exactitude of method. As I said in my last lectures here, 1Knowledge and Initiation, 14th April 1922; Knowledge of Christ Through Anthroposophy, 15th April 1922. it is possible for “exact clairvoyance” to be acquired by methods as precise and systematic as those employed when the facts of ordinary knowledge are being used in the investigation of nature.
I shall speak less to-day of how this exact clairvoyance can actually be attained — I shall mention this merely in passing, for the two previous lectures dealt with the methods for the attainment of exact clairvoyance, and information about these methods is available from the book that has been translated into English under the title, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment.
I want to-day to indicate why it is that in his ordinary life the human being is unable to penetrate into the higher worlds. This is denied to him, primarily because he is only capable of perceiving the world in the actual present. Our eyes can perceive the world and its phenomena, our ears can hear sounds in the immediate present only. So it is with all our senses. We can only know the past of our earthly life in recollection or remembrance, that is to say, in pale, shadowy thoughts. Just think how living and concretely real were experiences undergone ten years ago and how pale and shadowy are our thoughts and recollections of them to-day.
Everything that lies outside the present moment can only live in man's ordinary consciousness in the form of shadowy remembrance. But this shadowy remembrance can be kindled and fired into higher reality through the methods which, as I have said, I do not propose to discuss in detail to-day — through methods of mediation in thought, concentration upon thoughts, self-training and the like.
A man who applies such methods to himself, learning thereby to live in his thoughts with all the intensity with which he otherwise lives in his external sense-impressions only, acquires a certain faculty of observing the world not only in the immediate present. Depending upon the aptitude of the individual concerned, exercises leading to this result must of course be practiced for a long time, in conscientious, systematic meditation and concentration. Many a human being, especially in the present age, already brings with him at birth the faculty which can be developed by these methods. This does not mean that the faculty is immediately evident at birth, but at a certain moment in life it emerges from within the human being and he knows that had it not come with him at birth it would have been impossible for him to acquire it in the ordinary course of his existence. This faculty consists in being able to live within the thoughts themselves, just as through his body, man lives in the physical world.
Such a statement must not be taken lightly. Let it be remembered that man owes to his living participation in the physical world everything that enables him to claim an existence of his own. When he reaches the stage where without depending upon impressions received through the eyes, ears and other senses he can unfold an inner life as active and intense as the life of these outer senses, an inner life consisting not merely of shadowy thoughts but of inwardly living thoughts experienced with all the intensity otherwise implicit only in sense-impressions ... then he knows the reality of a second kind of existence, a different form of self-consciousness. I will call it an awakening — an awakening to a life not outside the body but within the innermost core of being, while the physical body is as quiescent and as insensible to impressions from outside as is otherwise the case only during sleep.
If we think about our own inner life and being, we find that in ordinary existence we really only know what has been conveyed to us via the senses. But sense-perceptions tell us nothing whatever about our inner life and being. With ordinary consciousness we cannot look inwards in the real sense. But when the new kind of self-consciousness in the realm of pure thinking is unfolded, we learn to look inwards just as in ordinary existence we can look outwards, into the external world.
The experience then arising can be described somewhat as follows: — As we look into the external world, the sun or some source of light must be there to illumine the objects around us. Through the light that is outside us, we perceive these objects. When, in the process of pure thinking, consciousness of this second existence awakens — it is however a process of actual “beholding” as colourful and rich in content as sense-perception — then we can become aware of an inner light ... not in a figurative sense but as a spiritual reality ... a light which illumines our own inner life and being just as in the ordinary way objects are illumined for us by some external source of light.
This condition of human experience, therefore, may be called “clairvoyance,” “clear seeing.” And this clairvoyance in the spiritual self-consciousness that has now been awakened, engenders, in the first place, the faculty whereby a man is able once again to be consciously present in every moment he has lived through during his earthly existence.
The following, for example, is possible — I say to myself: When I was 18 years old, I had certain experiences. But now, when the new consciousness has awakened, I no longer merely remember these experiences; I can actually live through them again with greater or less intensity. Once again I am the human being I was at the age of 18 or 15 or 10 ... A man can transfer himself in consciousness into every moment of his life and he thereby unfolds an inner, illumined perception of what, in contrast to the spatial body in which the senses are contained, may be called a “Time-body.”
But this Time-body is ever-present, ever in operation; it is not experienced in a succession of separate moments, but as one complete whole. It is present in all its inner mobility. A vista arises before the human being of the whole of his previous earthly life, whereas in ordinary circumstances he merely recollects this earthly life in shadowy thoughts. The whole course of his earthly existence lights up for him, but in such a way that he lives consciously in each single moment.
When this inner illumination arises, a man knows that he is the bearer not only of a physical, spatial body. He knows that he is the bearer of a second: ethereal body, a body actually woven from the pictures of his past earthly life, but pictures which, with creative power, shape this earthly life itself, shape and mould the very organism and its activities. He thus learns to know the reality of a second man within himself. This second man is conscious of living within a delicate, ethereal world of light — just as the spatial body lives in a physical world. The world is revealed in its finer, more delicate formations; the delicate, ethereal formations perceived in this way underlie everything physical.
Strange to say, it is only possible to keep very brief hold of what is experienced in this finer body. A man who by the development of exact clairvoyance has filled his ether-body, or “body of formative forces,” with light, is able to perceive the etheric reality of the world and of his own being; but in most cases he will find that the impressions pass away very quickly; they cannot be retained. And he is aware of a kind of anxiety to return as quickly as may be to the perceptions of the physical body in order to be assured of an inner sense of consolidation as a human being, as a personality. He experiences his own self in his ether-body. In this ether-body he also perceives etheric realities of the higher world. But at the same time, he finds how fleeting all these impressions are; he cannot keep hold of them for any length of time, indeed he must always resort to some means of help.
By way of example, let me tell you what procedure I myself adopt in order to prevent the impressions of this etheric vision from vanishing too rapidly. Whenever such impressions come, I try not only to perceive them but to write them down; in this way, the inner activity is carried out not only by abstract faculties of soul but is strengthened by the act of writing down the impressions. The point of importance is not the subsequent reading of what has been written but the strengthening of the activity which, to begin with, is purely etheric.
In this way a quality so fluid and evanescent that it quickly passes away pours as it were into the ordinary human faculties. This condition is not induced unconsciously as in the. case of a medium, but in full consciousness. An ethereal quality is poured into the ordinary human faculties. This enables us, too, to understand something of great importance, namely, how we can “keep hold” of a supersensible, etheric world (later on we shall be speaking of other supersensible worlds) ... a world which embraces the course of our life hitherto and also the etheric realities of outer nature extending to the sphere of the stars. This ether-world becomes a reality and consciousness of the self within this ether-world arises; moreover, we know that it is impossible, without returning again to the physical body, to keep a hold on this world for longer than at most two to three days — even when the faculties have been developed to a high degree. Certain powers of which I will speak presently enable one who is an Initiate in the modern sense to perceive all this with clear vision; such a man knows, too, what it is that he is able in this way to hold within his ether-body, or body of formative forces, without the support of the bodily faculties. It is the same as the vision that arises before the higher self-consciousness when, as the human being passes through the gate of death, the physical body is laid aside and >begins to decay. This vision, too, for the reasons given above, can remain only for some two or three days after death.
Through the development of exact clairvoyance, therefore, the first conditions of existence into which man passes after death, can be experienced; they are experienced in advance, with conscious knowledge. The conditions which the Initiate is able to experience consciously in advance, set in for every human being when the physical body is laid aside at death. But in the ordinary way a man can retain consciousness of these conditions for no longer than two or three days — that is to say, for as long as he is able, having developed higher knowledge, to hold fast his ether-body, or body of formative forces. (I shall explain presently why it is that the human being is, nevertheless, conscious during the existence after death.)
For two or three days after death the human being has, in his ether-body, consciousness of the etheric world. Then this consciousness fades away; he becomes aware that the ether-body is falling away from him just as the physical body fell away and that he must pass into a different state of consciousness in order to live on after death as a conscious individuality.
The reality of what I am now describing to you as the first moments after death (they are the first moments of the cosmic existence to follow) can be affirmed by one who has acquired the faculty of seeing into the higher world, because he experiences in advance the conditions which in the normal life of man set in only after death. Because he has developed the intensified consciousness of self that is no longer dependent upon the body, he experiences in advance, in his present consciousness, these moments which immediately follow death. He is able to shed light upon his own higher existence and to realise that he has within himself the light which during the first two or three days after death will reveal to him a world quite different from the world revealed to him by his senses during earthly life between birth and death. 2The lectures were delivered by Dr. Steiner in three sections as indicated in the text, translations being given after each.
This inner illumination is necessary before it is possible to survey that supersensible picture of the course of earthly life which, as I have said, lasts for a few days after death. A man must kindle within himself a spiritual light which shines inwards. Instead of being aware only of the present moment in the way made possible by the senses, he will then reach a higher stage.
The attainment of further knowledge of the Supersensible depends not only upon a change in perceptive consciousness but also upon a change in the state of ordinary existence. Our ordinary existence as human beings is enclosed within the spatial, physical body; the boundaries of our skin also constitute the boundaries of our actual life. Our life extends as far as our body. Within this field of experience, we cannot reach what I have so far been describing as knowledge of the higher worlds. Knowledge of the higher worlds can only be attained when ordinary experience is transcended by consciousness that is not confined within the boundaries of the spatial body but participates in the life of the whole world around. This extended consciousness leads to knowledge of the higher worlds. As I have said, on this occasion I propose merely to speak about the methods through which a modern Initiate acquires exact knowledge of the higher worlds. The rest is to be found in the book mentioned above.
When we have acquired the faculty not only of experiencing a second existence in the life of thought — an existence that still remains within the confines of the spatial body — but also the faculty of living outside the body, a further stage is reached. It is attained when we are capable not only of letting thoughts live with full intensity in our consciousness but of eliminating them at will as the result of systematic exercises and practice. By this means, consciousness arises of experiences outside the body. Let me give a simple example.
Suppose we are looking at a quartz crystal. It is there before our eyes. A person who is trying to make himself into a medium or to induce some kind of self-hypnosis stares fixedly at the crystal and the impression it makes puts him into a state of confused consciousness. Such procedure is altogether alien to anthroposophical Spiritual Science. The exercises it adopts are of an entirely different character and can be described as follows: — We look steadily at, say, a crystal, until we can entirely ignore it as an object physically perceived, and re-orientate our attention. A crystal is there before us and we learn gradually to see it not with physical eyes but with eyes of soul; the physical eyes are open but are not used for the purpose of looking at the physical crystal and in this act of inner cognition the crystal in front of us is eliminated, as a physical object, from our vision. — The same procedure may also be adopted with a colour; it is there before us but we no longer look at it as colour, we eliminate it from our physical vision.
Such an exercise can also be applied to thoughts engendered in the immediate present by circumstances of external life, or to those which arise in the form of remembrances or recollections of earlier moments of earthly life. — Such thoughts are eliminated, emptied from the consciousness, so that we are simply awake and in a state of consciousness from which the external world is altogether excluded.
If such exercises are conscientiously carried out, we discover that it is possible for our life to extend beyond the boundaries of our spatial body. Then, in the real sense, we share in the life of the whole surrounding world instead of perceiving its physical phenomena only.
Thereby, in complete clarity of consciousness, an experience arises which may be compared with recollection of the life passed through during sleep. Just as acts of ordinary perception are limited to the immediately present moment, so is our ordinary life limited to the experiences that have arisen in the hours of our waking consciousness.
Just think of it — When you think back over your life, the periods of sleep are always blanks sofar as ordinary consciousness is concerned. Nothing that has been experienced by the soul during these periods of sleep is remembered; remembrance, therefore, is a stream in which there are constant interruptions, but this fact is usually ignored.
The experiences of the soul during sleep arise like intensified remembrances in consciousness which has awakened to such a degree that with it the human being is able to live outside his body. This condition leads to the second stage of knowledge in the supersensible world and we become aware, to begin with, of what we experience as beings of soul when the physical body is asleep and quiescent, when it has no perceptions, when the will is not functioning and when the soul has, so to speak, temporarily departed from the body. In ordinary waking life we can in this way recollect the experiences through which we have passed while outside the body during every period of sleep. But it is very important to understand what these experiences really are. The experiences of the soul from the moment of falling asleep to that of waking are, of course, experiences in a realm outside the body, and actual awareness of them is possible only when consciousness of life outside the body has awakened. At this stage, knowledge comes to us not only of something which, like the “time-body,” is illumined by an inner light, but with the faculty of waking remembrance that is now illumined by exact clairvoyance, we learn to know what really comes to pass in us during sleep. This experience will, at first, cause astonishment. Living in the physical body with our ordinary consciousness, we have within us, lungs, heart, and so forth; from the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking we have, in very truth, not a personal, human consciousness but a cosmic consciousness. In this higher state of consciousness, it is as though the after-images of the planetary and starry worlds were within us. This may sound strange, but it is perceptible reality at this stage of higher knowledge. We feel ourselves within the all-pervading cosmic life and contemplate the world from this cosmic vantage-point.
Experiencing as inner reality what was round about us in ordinary life, during every period of sleep we live through in backward sequence, all the experiences that came to us here, in the physical world, from the previous moment of waking to that of falling asleep. If, for example, after a normal day we go to sleep, we live backwards over the experiences of the day — first the experiences of the evening, then those of the afternoon, then those of the morning. Thus during sleep at night, we live backwards through all the experiences of the day.
The development of the exact clairvoyance of which I am speaking here, is connected with this power of conscious recollection of the experiences of sleep. Just as in the ordinary way we can remember things experienced years ago in full waking consciousness, by means of this exact clairvoyance we can call up remembrance of this backward sequence of the day's experiences. And so in actual fact, this exact clairvoyance is an extension of the ordinary faculty of recollection or remembrance. We look back upon our experiences during sleep, knowing that in sleep we have been living outside the boundaries of the physical body in a cosmic existence which is a reflection of the whole life of the universe; during this cosmic existence we live backwards through the happenings of the day. We find then, that the time taken by this backward review is shorter than that taken by the experiences themselves in physical life. When we are able in the real sense to investigate this realm of existence through systematic practice and increasingly exact knowledge, we discover that this backward review takes place three times more quickly than the physical experiences in our ordinary consciousness. Let us say that a man is awake for two thirds of his whole life and asleep for one third — During the one third spent in sleep, therefore, he lives through the experiences which, in the physical world, have occupied two thirds of his existence.
When exact clairvoyance enables us in waking consciousness to remember the life of sleep, we also realise that this backward review is significant, not so much in itself, but as a foreshadowing. Ask yourselves what you think about a recollection of something that happened to you 20 years ago — You say: “I experience it now in shadowy thoughts of remembrance; but the remembrance itself is the guarantee that it is not phantasy but a picture of an actual experience in my past earthly fife.” — Just as remembrance itself is the guarantee that it is related to a real experience in the past so the conscious recollection of the experiences of sleep is the guarantee that in itself it is only the foreshadowing of something belonging to the future.
Proof that a remembrance relates to something in the past is not needed. When exact clairvoyance has been acquired, it is equally unnecessary to prove that the recollection of these night-experiences is not a phantastic picture of the present. It reveals in itself that it has to do with the future — indeed with that moment in the future when the physical body of a man will be actually laid aside at death, whereas now, in exact clairvoyance, it is only figuratively laid aside.
By this means, knowledge arises of what the human being experiences after death, when the three days of which I have spoken, have elapsed. This process also enables us to understand the significance of those two or three days after death when the human being is aware of living in a cosmic consciousness, when from the vantage-point, of the Cosmos he once again surveys the etheric picture of his life, looking back over the course of his earthly existence. We learn to know that these first days after death are followed by a life which runs its course three times more quickly than earthly existence. This same knowledge, after all, resulted from conscious recollection of the experiences passed through during sleep. The etheric vision which persists for only a short time after death is followed by a life lasting some 20 or 30 years, or maybe less — according to the age reached in earthly existence. Approximately — for everything here is approximate — this life runs its course three times more quickly than earthly existence. If therefore a man dies at the age of 30, the life of which I am speaking now will last for about 10 years; if someone has reached the age of 60 and then dies, he lives through his life in the backward sequence of events, in 20 years ... but all these periods are approximate.
With exact clairvoyance these things become known, just as a past experience is known through an act of recollection or remembrance. Thus, we learn to know that death is followed by a life in the supersensible world during which we live through the whole of our past earthly life in backward sequence. Every night we live backwards through the events of the preceding day; after death we live back over the whole of our earthly life. We experience it all once again in its spiritual aspect and thereby unfold a true judgment of our own moral worth. During the period after death we unfold consciousness of our personal, moral qualities, of our moral worth, just as here on Earth we are conscious of life in a body of flesh and blood. After death we live in a world that is conditioned by our own moral qualities and our deeds on Earth. By living through earthly life again in backward sequence and because we are not diverted from true moral judgment by instincts, natural urges and passions but survey our life from a purely spiritual standpoint, it is possible for us to form a true judgment of our own moral worth.
The forming of such a judgment requires the length of time of which I have just been speaking. When this period after death has come to an end, the backward-flowing remembrance of our moral life on Earth fades away and we must now pass onwards through the spiritual worlds with a different kind of consciousness. Knowledge of this different kind of consciousness can also be attained by exact clairvoyance.
The attainment of such knowledge depends upon the capacity not only to live outside the confines of the spatial body but to unfold a kind of consciousness entirely different from that belonging to the physical world. At this stage the human being discovers that a supersensible, purely spiritual state of existence follows the period during which judgment of the moral qualities is formed — this period lasts, as we have heard, for a third of the time spent in earthly life. This is followed by a different kind of existence, by a life that is purely spiritual. But before knowledge of it can be acquired, exact clairvoyance must have developed to a still higher stage.
If you think about the experiences undergone during sleep, you will realise that the human being does indeed lead a life outside his physical, spatial body. But he has no real freedom of movement in this life. He has to make his way through the experiences that have come to him during the hours of waking consciousness — only in reversed order. And a man who through exact clairvoyance has attained supersensible insight into these experiences — he too feels as though he is confined in a world which he is able to call up into his clairvoyant vision but in which he cannot move, in which he is fettered. Freedom of movement in the spiritual world — this is what must be acquired as the third stage of supersensible knowledge. Without such freedom of movement, it is not possible for spiritual consciousness in the real sense to arise.
In addition to exact clairvoyance, a power which I will call that of “ideal magic” must be acquired. I use this term in order to distinguish it from the unlawful form of magic which resorts to external means and is fraught with a great deal of charlatanism. A firm distinction must be made between such practices and what I now mean when I speak of “ideal magic.” I mean the following: —
When a man surveys his life with ordinary consciousness, he can perceive how in certain respects he changed with the passing of every year or decade. His habits have changed — slowly maybe, but definitely nevertheless. Certain faculties have developed, others seem to have disappeared. Anyone who honestly observes certain faculties of his earthly life can say to himself that more than once he became a changed being. But this change has been wrought by life; he has surrendered himself to life and life educates him, trains him, moulds and shapes his soul.
A man who is intent upon finding his way into the supersensible world as a real knower, in other words one who strives to acquire the power of ideal magic, must not only be able to make his thoughts so inwardly forceful and intense that he becomes aware of a second existence as described above, but he must be capable of freeing his will, too, from bondage to the physical body. In ordinary life the will can only be brought into operation by making use of the physical body — be it through the legs, arms, or organs of speech. The physical body provides the basis for the life of will. But the following is possible and must, furthermore, be systematically carried out by anyone who as a spiritual investigator wishes to add to the power of exact clairvoyance that of ideal magic. He must develop such strength, of will that at a certain point in his life he can, at his own bidding, get rid of some habit and acquire an altogether different one. Even with the most resolute will, it may take a man several years to change certain forms of experience, but it is possible, nevertheless. Instead of allowing life in the physical body to be his educator, he can take this education and self-training into his own hands.
Exercises of will such as I have described in the book mentioned above, will lead one who is striving to be an Initiate in the modern sense to the stage where he is able not only to be conscious during sleep of what he has experienced by day. He will be able to induce a condition which is not that of sleep but is lived through in full, clear consciousness. At this stage he is capable of movement and action even during sleep; he is not, as in ordinary consciousness, a merely passive being while outside his body, but he can act and be active in the spiritual world. If he is incapable of this, he will make no progress during his sleep-life. One who becomes in the true sense a modern Initiate has acquired the faculties whereby he can also be active as a self-conscious human being in the life which runs its course between the onset of sleep and the moment of waking. And when the will becomes operative while he is actually living outside the body, he will be able gradually to unfold an altogether different kind of consciousness, namely, the consciousness that can actually perceive what the human being experiences during the period after death following the one described. With this more highly developed consciousness, vistas open out of the existence which follows earthly life and of the existence which precedes it. We behold a life which runs its course through a spiritual world just as physical life on Earth runs its course through a physical world. We learn to know ourselves as beings of pure Spirit in a spiritual world just as here, on Earth, we know ourselves as physical beings in the physical world. And it is now possible to ascertain the duration of this life — the period during which we assess our own moral worth.
By integrating will into the life of soul in this way through ideal magic, we learn to understand the nature of the consciousness that awakens in us as adult human beings, and to compare it with the dim consciousness of earliest childhood.
As you well know, ordinary consciousness has no remembrance of these first years of childhood. The consciousness of the human being in this period of his life is dull and dim; his entry into the world is wrapped in sleep. The ordinary consciousness of an adult human being is clear and intense in comparison with the dim, dark consciousness of the first years of earthly life. But one who has acquired the power to put ideal magic into operation in the way described, understands the difference between his waking consciousness as an adult and this dim consciousness of early childhood; he knows that he rises to a higher level as he passes from the dim consciousness of childhood into the clearer consciousness of adult years. And with knowledge of how the dreamlike consciousness of childhood is related to that of adult life he is able to understand how his adult consciousness is related to that illumined consciousness which, imbued with the power not only of exact clairvoyance but also of ideal magic, makes him capable of moving freely in the spiritual world. He learns to move freely in the spiritual world just as after early childhood when he had no such freedom of movement, he learnt to move about freely in the physical body. In addition, therefore, to knowledge of how the consciousness of childhood is related to that of ordinary adult life, he learns to know how ordinary consciousness is related to a higher, purely spiritual consciousness.
Thereby a man is led to the realisation that in his life after death he is not only a spiritual being living among spiritual beings, but he can discover how long this life lasts. Here again I must quote as an example the recollection of an experience of earthly life. We realise that just as this recollection bears within it a reality belonging to the past, so this new experience bears within it the knowledge that the higher consciousness of the Initiate anticipates as it were this spiritual existence after death. And then we learn to know how this purely spiritual life is related to the earthly life that has stretched from birth to death.
When an Initiate looks back to his earliest childhood, he knows that as the years advance, the easier it is for him to look into the spiritual world. There are, of course, human beings who while still comparatively young have the power to see into the spiritual world. But this vision increases in clarity and exactitude with every year that passes. The faculty of entering into this other state of consciousness grows constantly stronger and with it comes clearer and clearer knowledge of the relation between the one state and the other. For example: a man has reached the age of forty and is only able, let us say, to remember back as far as his third or fourth year. By studying how the length of the period of the dreamlike consciousness of childhood is related to these forty years, we learn to recognise that the spiritual life after death will be longer than the span of an earthly life by as many times as this earthly life as a whole is longer than the dreamy life of earliest childhood; hence the life after death lasts for many centuries. The period during which the moral life is re-experienced and assessed after death is followed by a purely spiritual life during which man lives for many centuries as a spiritual being among other spiritual beings. During this period of existence, he has around him the tasks which belong to the spiritual world, just as here, in earthly existence, he has around him those which belong to the physical world.
When exact clairvoyance and the power to move freely in the spiritual world have been acquired, the nature of these tasks is revealed. — All the forces which finally lead over to a new life on the Earth are drawn from this spiritual world in which the human being lives after death. The future life on Earth stands there as a goal from the very beginning of the life after death. And this life on Earth as a human being ... it is in very truth a microcosm ... this microcosm is the outcome of great and mighty experiences in the spiritual world after death.
Now a seed in the physical world is minute — nevertheless it unfolds and later on will grow into a large plant or animal. It is also possible to speak of a spirit-seed which the human being unfolds and develops when his physical life on Earth is over. In communion with Spiritual Beings and out of the spiritual forces of the universe, he elaborates a spirit-seed for his new earthly life. This process is not a recapitulation of the past earthly life but embraces modes of activity and realities of being far greater and mightier than can ever exist on Earth. In his post-earthly existence, amid the experiences and realities of the spiritual world, the human being prepares his future earthly life.
I have spoken of the cosmic consciousness which arises in human beings after their death. — This cosmic consciousness is, after all, present every night during sleep, although in such dimness that, to use a contradictory expression, it is really an ‘unconscious consciousness.’ — Because they have this cosmic consciousness in their post-mortem, spiritual existence, human beings live together not only with other spiritual beings who never come down to the Earth, having their abode in worlds of pure Spirit, but paramountly with all the souls who are either incarnate in human physical bodies or, having themselves passed through the gate of death, have also entered into the cosmic consciousness that is common to all.
The relationships woven on Earth between soul and soul, in the family, among individuals who have found one another inasmuch as they have met in physical bodies — all such ties in their earthly form are laid aside. What men experience as lovers, as friends, as associates of other human beings near to them in some way, in short, all experiences in the physical body — all are laid aside just as the physical body itself is laid aside. … But because these ties of family, of friendship, of love and affection have been unfolded here, on the Earth, they are transmuted after death into those spiritual experiences which help to build a later life.
Even during the period when the moral worth of the past life is assessed, the human being is working not for himself alone but for and in communion with souls who were esteemed and loved by him on Earth.
Through exact clairvoyance and through ideal magic these things become matters of actual knowledge, of direct vision, not of mere belief. Indeed, it may truly be said that in the physical world an abyss stretches between souls, however dear they may be to one another, for their meeting takes place in the body and the relationships between them can only be such as are determined by the conditions of bodily existence. But when a human being himself is in the spiritual world, the physical body belonging to one whom he loved and has now left behind does not constitute an obstacle to living communion with the soul. Just as the faculty for “seeing through” physical objects must be acquired before it is possible to gaze into the spiritual world, so the human being who has passed through the gate of death can penetrate through the bodies of those he has left behind, and enter into communion with their souls while they are still living on the Earth.
I wanted to speak to you in this first lecture of how perception of the supersensible life of man can be developed. I have tried to indicate that when we strive to unfold exact clairvoyance and the power of ideal magic, it is possible to speak with real knowledge of the higher worlds, just as exact natural science is able to speak about the physical world. As we learn to penetrate more and more deeply into these higher worlds — and undoubtedly there are human beings who by developing their faculties will be capable of this — we shall find that no branch of science, however highly developed, can deter us from accepting the knowledge which can be revealed through exact clairvoyance and ideal magic concerning man's existence not only on the Earth between birth and death but also between death and the return to earthly life through a new birth.
In the lecture to-morrow I shall speak of the impulse brought into the life of man on Earth by the Christ Event, the Event of Golgotha. It will then be my task to show that the knowledge of which I have been speaking, inasmuch as it is a concern of every single individual, sheds light upon the whole evolution of the human race on Earth and can therefore also reveal what the entry of Christ into earthly existence signified for mankind.
The aim of these lectures is to show, on the one hand, that in speaking of supersensible knowledge there is no need to be at variance with the exact scientific thinking of modern times. The theme of the lecture to-morrow will be that the Mightiest of all Events in the life of mankind on Earth — the Christ Event — is revealed in a new and even more radiant light to souls who are willing to receive knowledge of the supersensible world in the way set forth.
To-morrow, then, I shall be speaking of the relation of anthroposophical Spiritual Science to Christianity.