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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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From Mammoths to Mediums
GA 350

V. The way our guardian angel works

13 June 1923, Dornach

Does anyone have a question?

Mr Burle: I'd like to tell you something that happened when I was young, something connected with destiny. Religious people will say, for example, that it is because we have a guardian angel. I was a skittle boy once, setting up the skittles, I'd have been 9 or 10 then, and as I was busy setting them up a voice called 'Move!' with such intensity that I quickly jumped aside. And a moment later the big skittles ball came to the place where I'd just been, it was tremendously powerful. I asked who'd called out to me. But everyone said it was not them, and it was also that the voice could not have come from there.

The other occasion was in a smithy where people sharpened their ploughshares. There was a big wheel there. We were five or six boys amusing ourselves in the place. I was about 11 then. I got up on a spoke to force the wheel down. I liked that. I then said to the other boys, pull out the rebound stopper because then I can get from one spoke to the next. They all pulled as hard as they could but did not manage it. I was the smallest, but I went to take a look. The wheel had gone round very fast, and it clearly would have been my death if they'd managed to raise the rebound stopper.

I'd be pleased to hear if Dr Steiner has anything to say about whether a higher power can show itself in such situations.

Rudolf Steiner: Well, gentlemen, I'd like to talk to you about such things, but we always have to discuss them in a way that is properly scientific. Things like this are not simply accepted in the anthroposophical science of the spirit, the way people often do accept them, but they must of course be considered scientifically, for they are much more important in life than people think. I'll start by telling you one thing, as a kind of preparation.

You see, people really only give thought to a very small part of life. There is a great deal they do not consider, and because they do not consider it they also think it does not exist. Let us assume, for example, someone walks past a house somewhere and at that moment a tile drops down from the roof and kills him. This will get a lot of attention, and a lot will be made of it of course among the man's friends and acquaintances. People will talk about it. It is something they have observed and so they'll talk about it.

But now assume the following. Someone wants to go out in the morning. At the last minute, just as he is about to leave the house, he realizes he has forgotten to do something that absolutely has to be done. He is therefore five minutes late. He now leaves the house. The tile fell off the roof five minutes before he went past, and therefore did him no harm. If he had gone that way five minutes earlier the tile would have stove in his head. Nobody can possibly know about it—he himself forgets, of course, and no one pays attention to what would have happened if he'd not been delayed by a few minutes. Now you see, no note is taken of these things, but they are just as much part of life. Countless such things, where destiny prevents disaster, happen, but no note is taken of them. They are not considered because it is not so easy to track them down. You can only track them down if the situation is really noticeable in some way, drawing your attention. Then one does take note of such things.

There was someone once17This incident was more fully described in a lecture Rudolf Steiner gave in Berlin on 20 April 1915. Published in Steiner, R., Destinies of Individuals and of Nations (GA 157). Tr. A. Meuss. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1984. The story was originally published in G. H. v. Schubert, Die Symbolik des Traumes, 3. verb. u. verm. Aufl. Leipzig, pages 10 and 11, as follows:
Erasmus Francisci dreamt... when he was a young man that someone who even in his dream called him by a familiar first name wanted to shoot him dead but that he was saved by his aunt who grabbed the barrel and pulled it aside. In the middle of the day he told the dream, jokingly, to his aunt in whose house he was staying. She took the matter more seriously, however, and asked him not to go out that day, all the more so since a child had recently been shot dead by someone who was careless. To encourage the young man to stay at home, she gave him the key to the room above his, where fruit was stored. The young man went to his room, having had a brief conversation first with the servant who was on the side of the passage directly opposite to his room, cleaning some rifles that had been lent out and only just returned. At that moment he escaped the imminent danger of which his dream had warned him, for the person who wanted to shoot him in the dream had had the same first name as the manservant. The young man had barely sat down at his desk, reading for a few moments a book that he normally enjoyed, when his hand and eyes fell on the key his aunt had given him. This drew him away irresistibly from his book and to the room where the apples were kept. He had only just moved from his seat when the rifle, unbeknownst to the servant loaded with two bullets for a wolf hunt, went off and the whole charge hit the wall immediately above the chair. If the chair had not just been moved, it would inevitably have struck the young man right in the middle of his chest. In this strange case, therefore, the dream had without doubt saved the life of someone who later became a most useful and learned man.
who spent a lot of time at his desk, with the rest of the family living below. One day he dreamt that something terrible was going to happen to him on a particular day and that he would be shot. What did the man do? He told the others about it; people said he should be very careful, for he might be shot dead one of these days. So he did not leave the house but stayed in his room all day. But the dream had made such an uncanny impression on him and he knew from a number of earlier experiences that such dreams might come true—this happened some time ago, when people still paid more attention to such things. He had an unpleasant feeling. Because it all felt so unpleasant he became aware of himself. And it then happened that he grew restless at a particular moment and because of this inner restlessness had to get up from his chair. At that moment a shot went very close to his chair! The situation was that an old gun from much earlier times hung in the ante-room. The door stood open and his servant had taken the gun in his hands. He did not think it was loaded and rather carelessly held the gun in such a way that it went off and the bullet went just where the man had been sitting.

So you see a double destiny link here. First a banal dream. On the other hand, because his destiny was not yet fulfilled and he was meant to live on, he was driven away by an inner urge at just the right moment. But now there is also something else to be considered. You see, he might just as well have heard the word 'Move!' at that moment, as you did [turning to Mr Burle]. He might equally well have heard that. How would that have come about? You see, when we speak of a world of the spirit we must clearly understand that one must not talk about it in a stupid way. But we would always be talking about it in a stupid way if we were to believe—and many people do believe it, at least those who are spiritualists—that there are Germans and French people and English people and Spaniards and Chinese people in the world of the spirit. They would have to be there, of course, if one were to hear the word 'Move' from the world of the spirit, for in that case some spirit or other would have to be speaking German. It would speak in French to a French person, for if it were to speak English or German the person would think it was an unarticulated sound and might even think it was something quite evil. So it would be rather silly to think that a spirit had said 'Move!', for a spirit cannot be a German or a French or an English person. That is the silly thing with spiritualists that people think they connect with the dead through a medium and get answers, believing that spirits talk like that. They don't, of course. They are there, but they don't do that.

The situation is like this. This kind of connection with the spiritual world, which also makes it possible for us to speak of the spiritual world in a scientific way, requires us first of all to get out of the habit of thinking that the spirits talk in some kind of earthly language. You must first get to know the world of the spirit and then be able to translate what the spirits are saying in a supersensible language into an ordinary language. If the man sitting at his desk had heard the word 'Move!' that might have been quite good, too. But the thing is like this, gentlemen. You have heard me say that the whole human being is filled with good sound sense. I once told you how the liver perceives processes in the human abdomen, the lung perceives things, the whole human being is a sense organ. The heart perceives; through the heart we perceive the blood circulation. But in ordinary life we don't use those other organs for our sensory perceptions. We use our eyes and nose, but we do not use those other organs for sensory perception. These organs have a quite specific peculiarity. Take the liver, for example, gentlemen. You see if the liver is removed from the body it is this organ which you know from animals, because you've probably all seen a liver some time or other—a goose liver if nothing else. But this organ has an ether body which is connected with the rest of the ether body [Fig. 13, yellow], and it also has an astral body [violet], and then there is also the I in it. This liver therefore has something that is of the spirit. You can be aware of things that are of the spirit in your head, but you do not perceive them consciously in your liver. The way you are made in ordinary life you cannot gain a view of anything there, just as I explained to you the other day that you do not perceive the spiritual element in the small lens in your eye. But it is possible to perceive the whole of the heavens with the small lens in the eye. Spirits hardly ever speak through any of the organs in the head. The whole world speaks there; the stars in their motions and so on; they speak through the organs in the head. But spiritual entities do indeed also speak to us, and they do so through the other organs, such as the liver. The stomach speaks to the liver, but so do spirits, and also to the lung. Spiritual entities speak to all the organs which we do not use for our ordinary life in the conscious mind.

liver
Figure 13

Now, gentlemen, as the head really has to depend on perceiving only the things it sees there in the outside world, the inner part of the human being, the lower organs, are actually designed to perceive things in the world of the spirit. These organs are, however, extraordinarily subtle. They are really quite subtle. And you can see that they are subtle even if you just consider the conditions that sometimes arise from those organs. People don't usually pay attention to those conditions, and they don't pay attention to them because our medicine is so imperfect. You see, I'm sure you'll have known someone get diarrhoea because he was terribly afraid. No attention is paid to this because people can't think that diarrhoea may come from fear. But it does. An influence is there from the outside world, but the influence may also be from the realm of mind and spirit. And it does come from that world in such a way that those organs do indeed perceive things, but things that are quite different from those that exist in the outside world.

I have told you a few times now that we human beings go through different lives on earth. Now if until now people had been expected to go through different lives on earth without much ado, they would not have been able to do it. If a human being is to develop from infancy here on earth he must have a guide, someone to bring him up and teach him, or someone like that, otherwise he'd always be quite stupid. And the human being actually has such a guide in the world of the spirit, who guides him from earth life to earth life and really looks out in the individual life on earth not for things where we are acting freely, things we can think about sensibly ourselves, but for things we cannot think about, though our human organization depends on them. And so it happens that if someone is sitting there and feels a certain anxiety he grows particularly sensitive to something that lies ahead. This sensitivity must be considered in the right way. We have to distinguish quite clearly: does the sensitivity relate to the spiritual side or is it after all something for which a physical explanation can be found? It is impossible to talk about these things properly unless one takes a critical view.

Let me give you another example. A sick woman lived on the fourth floor of a house and the doctor had to come and see her daily, even when she was getting better, for it was a fairly dangerous condition. The doctor would not come at the same time each day but at different times, but the woman up on the fourth floor would always know he was coming, even if he was still down below. He'd still be at the front gate, but she'd know: The doctor's coming. Above all she'd be sure of it when he was in the hall on the ground floor, though he had not yet taken one step up the stairs. People told the doctor, saying she was clairvoyant. Well, the doctor was a bit edgy about this at first. Doctors don't believe such things straight off. But when the people went on and on at him, saying their daughter was clairvoyant for she'd know when he was there downstairs, he decided to put the matter to the test. He quietly took off his boots before he went in through the gate. And then she did not know! So you see, there are also such cases, and one needs to put them to the test. The patient's hearing had simply grown very acute from lying in bed for so long and she had heard steps down below which one normally does not hear. If you always say right away that all of it is clairvoyance, you have no right, of course, to speak of spiritual worlds. You must learn to distinguish carefully between things the senses are still just able to perceive and things that cannot be perceived with the senses.

Developments like these show us that the senses may grow extraordinarily acute. In ordinary life one is of course unable to hear someone's steps below if one is on the fourth floor. But just as the senses in the head and elsewhere may grow acute, so our internal organs, also being senses, may grow more sensitive to spiritual elements. And if the liver, for instance, has the impression that it might be shot that day, it will be particularly sensitive, with the result that the liver is able to hear the warning given by the spiritual entity which really does exist, but not, of course, in Italian, German or some other language.

But just think, now something amazing happens. The liver must first pass this on to the head, otherwise the human being cannot be aware of it. And on the way from the liver to the head the matter is translated into the language which the person speaks. This is the remarkable thing, something truly mysterious. And it is only here that you can really say what a remarkable creature man is. Not only is he able to have premonitions but, and this is much more to be marvelled at, he unconsciously translates something that comes to him in the language of the spirit into his own language.

You can see from this that everything people in various spiritualist organizations record in writing is something that is said to the abdomens. People would prefer not to admit this. They believe the spirits speak Italian or French, but it all comes from the human being himself. And yet, there is a connection with the spiritual world even in those seances, but it is something very bad. This is then translated into all kinds of things.

But you'll realize that when there's something like this Move!' one has to understand that the actual connection with the world of the spirit would still not be clear to one. It is not the right idea to imagine that the guardian spirit has murmured something in one's ear. Instead we must know the roundabout route that is taken. You then also understand something else. You understand that people can easily refute such things. For an ordinary person the business of the man who took off his shoes is equal to a refutation. He'll say: 'People believe it to be clairvoyance, clairaudience, but it was not a case of clairaudience but of ordinary hearing. And that is also how it must have been in the other situation.'

Well, gentlemen, this is exactly what needs to be investigated first. And one will then see, proceeding with the necessary caution, that human destinies are indeed being worked on all the time out of the spiritual world, using these roundabout routes—most of all, of course, in childhood. Why in childhood? Well, the astral body is much more active in childhood, working with much greater intensity. Later on it no longer works with the same intensity. When the liver is still soft in the child, the astral body is able to transmit the things it hears in the world of the spirit to the liver. Later, when the liver has grown harder, it can no longer transmit things.

Now you have to consider the significance of an event like the one Mr Burle has known, when death is really about to come and then the event, perfectly well arranged for in terms of the outer nature of things, does not happen. For it might have been your death at that time, when you heard the word 'Move!'? [Affirmed] So it would have been your death. There are many such instances in human life. It is merely that many go unnoticed. But that was one you certainly took note of.

However, you went through many other lives on earth before you came to this one. Yes, gentlemen, the things one has gone through in earlier lives on earth now want to come into their own in the right way. They want to come into their own in such a way, for example, that one may have a long life this time, so that everything laid down in earlier lives can develop fully in this one. Outer nature may actually go against this. External circumstances may put me in danger of having an accident one day, so that I'd have to die, and the matter might turn out in such a way that if I were to die, let us say, I'd really die disproportionately early as far as my earlier life on earth is concerned. According to my earlier life it is not right that I should die so soon, because I still have something to do on this earth. Now I might indeed die. Don't think there is any absolute certainty that I won't die. I might indeed die, the accident might happen. I might die, and this would change the whole of my destiny. The spiritual entity that guides the human being from earth life to earth life intervenes at this point. It is able to warn the person. There is always a reason why it is able to warn him. But the situation is of course extremely complex, and on some occasion it may also be that this entity which wants to protect the individual, if we want to use the term, has to obey other spirits which will prevent it, stop it. Such conflicts can certainly also arise in the world of the spirit. But when evil spirits do not have a special interest, if I may put it like this, the warning will come through. And it does happen on countless occasions that quite unusual things may happen, even externally.

You were wondering, weren't you, why the wheel did not go on turning in the second event you told us from your life. For if it had gone on turning you would have perished. The others could not make the water run, only you could. So what was the reason? You were quite unable to see any outer reason why this should happen? [Mr Burle: No.] It happened because the spiritual entity wanting to warn you or keep you alive paralysed the other boys' will at that moment. This always works through the person concerned, not in an external way, not through another person. The others' will was paralysed at that moment; they did not manage to move their muscles.

So that is how things are, that's how they are connected. And whenever one wants to speak of the world of the spirit one must realize that the spiritual world works through the human being. Just as you cannot see a colour unless you have an eye, so one cannot perceive the spiritual world without this inner activity of the human being. This is something we must always take into account if we want to be truly scientific and not fall into superstition. For the fact is that the different languages we have on earth are no longer valid in the world of the spirit. We first have to learn the languages that can be used there. To penetrate into the world of the spirit—I have spoken of the exercises that need to be done to enter into the world of the spirit—one must above all be able to get out of the habit of thinking. Not all the time, that would be a bad thing, but for the moments when one wants to enter into the world of the spirit. For human thinking belongs to this earthly world. This is also why thinking relates so closely to talking. We really think in words in the physical world, and it is only by gradually learning not to think in words that one gets close to the world of the spirit.

Now let me explain to you what it is like when one looks directly into the world of the spirit. Imagine Mr Burle had been a clairvoyant, a proper clairvoyant, at the moment when he was told to 'move'. What would have happened then? If Mr Burle had been a clairvoyant he would not have had to do the terribly ingenious work inside of translating what a spiritual entity told him into his own language. Something else would have happened instead. For he would have known that spirits can indicate the same tiling by gestures, signs. For the spirits do not use words, they make gestures. Not the kind of signs deaf and dumb people use, but they make gestures. It is just that people do not usually find the gestures enough; they want to hear something, like the spiritualists. But it is not like that in the real world of the spirit. There things cannot be heard with the physical ear. It is impossible to see why a reasonable human being would imagine he can hear spirits with his physical ears, for physical ears cannot hear things there. It is nonsense to think that physical ears can hear the spirits. It has to be the astral body of some organ, of course, which hears the spirits. But then that also is not a real, external way of seeing and hearing. It is knowing how to take the signs the spirits make. And if Mr Burle had been clairvoyant he would not have heard the word 'Move!', but he would have seen a spiritual image, you know, as if someone were pushing him aside. And if he had truly perceived it in the spirit he would not have needed to translate it into 'Move!' But all of this happens calmly and quietly, and people are not in the habit of taking in the world of the spirit calmly and quietly, in silence. And of course if there was danger threatening somewhere one would never think of wanting to be particularly quiet. You're excited then, but it is exactly because of your excitement that you'll not perceive the world of the spirit. And if destiny has to speak after all, it will speak in such a way that the person then translates it inwardly.

You see, there are people, as you know, who find it easy to think mathematically, and others who cannot think mathematically at all; people who are good at doing sums and others who can't do sums at all. People have different abilities. But it is easier to get into real clairvoyance if one makes a real effort to think mathematically than if one has no idea at all of mathematical thinking. And there we already have the reason why people find it so hard today to gain insight into the world of the spirit. For those who seek to develop inwardly are after all mostly people who have gone through Greek and Latin and all kinds of things, everything that makes for sloppy thinking. Yes, most of the people we call educated and learned have really only learned to think in a sloppy way, for their thinking moves within the thinking of the ancient Romans or Greeks, and other people then learn it from them. Today's thinking is terribly sloppy, therefore; it is not a thinking that has real power to it. Because of this, people are not at all able to have a proper understanding of things brought to them from the world of the spirit. If they were able to think really clearly they would find it much easier to understand what is going on in the world of the spirit. You can see from events that have happened in recent centuries that people are actually trying very hard not to consider the world of the spirit. I'll explain this to you by means of an example.

You see, when a man called Stephenson18George Stephenson (1781-1848), English railway engineer who constructed the first locomotive in 1814. Stephenson was engineer for the construction of the Stockton & Darlington mineral railway which opened in October 1825. said one could make carriages with iron wheels that would move on iron rails, the matter was presented to the academics of his day. This was not all that long ago. The academics started to make calculations, quite correct calculations. What did they find? They found that if you have a rail here [drawing on the board] and a wheel here, a carriage would never move if the wheel was meant to run on a rail like this. They did further calculations and found that the wheel would only move along the rail if the rail had teeth cut into it, like this [drawing]. So they worked out that if the carriages had cogwheels and the rails had teeth cut into them for the cogs to engage in, that would be the only way for trains to move on rails. Well, gentlemen, you can see it works fine today, with no need for cogwheels and teeth cut in the rails! What did those people do? This wasn't all that long ago. Well, they did their sums. But they only kept those sums in their heads and did not let the rest of the human being play a part in them. With this, the sums lost their edge. Doing sums is actually something that can make you bright. But in the last century people actually went against doing sums. This then also threw all the rest of their thinking into confusion. And in 1835, when people were no longer debating about 'cogwheels' but the first railway line from Fürth to Nürnberg was about to be built, the authorities consulted the Bavarian Medical Council19See Hagen, R., Die erste deutsche Eisenbahn, 1885, S. 45. and asked them if the railways should be built, if it would be a healthy thing to do. The document about this is extraordinarily interesting. It is much more recent than you'd think—less than a hundred years. The body of learned gentlemen produced a document saying that it would be better not to build railways, for people sitting in the trains would grow very nervy. But if people were to insist on having them built, wanting to go that fast, one would at least have to put high wooden walls on either side of the track, so that farmers would not suffer concussion of the brain as the trains rushed past. This is what the document issued by the learned gentlemen says.

Yes, that was the opinion then. But don't think people form different opinions today about things that really point the way ahead as they come into this world. We may laugh about what happened in 1835, but that is after the event, and people will also only be able to laugh later on about what is happening today, when it will be almost 100 years in the past. It was not all that easy with the railways because it really went against people's way of thinking. When the first railway line from Berlin to Potsdam was to be built, the postmaster general had to be consulted,20Karl Ferdinand Friedrich von Nagler (1770-1846), who developed the modem postal services. for he had been in charge of the four mail coaches that went from Berlin to Potsdam and back again every week and he had to be asked to give his professional opinion about building a railway. His professional opinion was that he had four coaches going from Berlin to Potsdam every week and hardly anyone ever travelled in them. So why build a railway when no one ever travelled in the mail coaches? Today, 10 or 12 trains go from Berlin to Potsdam every day and they are always full. Not just now, at this moment, but they were always full. You see, that is how hard people have been finding it for some centuries now to relate to what is really going on in the world. They therefore do not notice what is really happening and will at most only believe someone who's an authority in an outer way, I'd say. People will sometimes believe him.

Let me tell you a story. Not long ago, it's about 40 years now, a very famous engineer lived in England, I think he was called Varley,21Cromwell F. Varley (1828-83), electrical engineer and inventor of an early kind of telephone. The passage which follows comes from Carl du Prel, Die monistische Seelenlehre. Ein Beitrag zur Losung des Menschenrätsels, Leipzig 1888, S. 195:
Varley, a member of the Royal Society in London, electrical advisor to the Atlantic Cable Society, tells of an even more complicated case, and it is truly helpful that we have a witness who really counts in this peculiar case. He once went to the country with his wife to visit his sister-inlaw—for the last time, it was feared, for she suffered from heart disease. During the night, Varley had a nightmare and could not move a muscle. Whilst in this state, he saw his sister-in-law's double stand by his bed, for he knew the lady was in a closed room. She said: 'You'll have to die unless you move!' Varley tried, in vain, and she went on to say: 'If you submit yourself to me, I'll give you a fright, and you'll then be able to move.' He resisted at first, for he wanted to learn more about her presence in the spirit, and when he finally agreed, his heart had ceased to beat. Her efforts to give him a fright proved unsuccessful at first; but when she called out: 'Oh, Cromwell, I am dying!' he woke from his paralysed state. He found the doors closed and made a note of the time. In the morning the sister-in-law, who had been told nothing of all this, told of the whole event as of a terrible dream she had had. (Berichte der dialektischen Gesellschaft II, 108)
and no one doubted his intelligence. The following thing happened to this very famous man. He went from London into the country with his wife, for his sister-in-law, his wife's sister, was very ill; she was practically dying. They were going to stay in the country for a few days. The first night this gentleman, who was such a famous engineer, suddenly had a nightmare, as it is called, and found himself lying in his bed unable to move a muscle. Now you know, it's not so bad if such a nightmare passes quickly, but if it goes on a long time and a person is unable to move a muscle and stays awake, he may die from lack of breath. So he lay there, quite benumbed already, and was still just able to think: I'm going to suffocate. Well, you know, someone was there in the house who, it was believed, would die within a few days. And the house had to be kept quiet. He therefore tried to pull himself together, but he could not. Suddenly he saw the sick woman standing by his bedside, and she addressed him by his first name, saying: 'Get up!' This gave him such a fright that the shock enabled him to move again. Being an intelligent man he knew that this had saved him. He was glad, of course, that such a thing had been possible.

You can understand this, for such things happen in the world. People who have been dumb for 15 or 20 years would suffer a sudden major shock and be able to talk again. A big shock can thus have a terrible effect on a person, but it may also be beneficial. And in the morning, when the gentleman had got up, he went to see his sister-in-law, who had been lying in her bed all night. But the first thing she told him, without him having made any reference to it first—wanting to spare her he did not want to mention the dream to her—was that she said: 'You know, I had the most peculiar dream last night. I dreamt I had to go to you and give you a fright so that you would not die from want of breath. And I went therefore and gave you a fright so that you would not suffocate. That was my dream.' Her room was quite some distance from his.

You see, this is a story about which there can be no doubt. I am telling it to you merely because it was told by someone who was otherwise very factual in his thinking, being an electrical engineer and famous in his field. I don't want to tell you any old story, but this one is confirmed to be true, just like something someone reports from a laboratory.

What was going on here? I have told you, gentleman, that the human I and the astral body go out of every human being at night. So when the sick woman was asleep, her I and astral body were not in her body. Now the principle which is known as the guardian spirit was unable to reach the man, for his thinking was of the factual kind that has become a habit over the centuries. If Mr Burle had had that kind of factual thinking—he definitely did not have it as a young boy, of course, for he'll have been no more of an academic at that age than he is now—he would not have heard what he did, for factual thinking drowns it out, blows it away. Mr Varley was a factual thinker. His guardian spirit could not have given him a fright just like that. And so this guardian spirit chose a roundabout way, using the astral body of his sick sister-in-law as she lay asleep, guiding that astral body to his bedside, so that he did get a fright. His sister-in-law would never have known about this, would not have been able to speak of it, if she'd been in good health. She died a few days later, which is when the astral body goes into the world of the spirit anyway. At the time, the astral body was already prepared. Because of this the sick woman found it easier to recall something she perceived a few days before she died, for it was something she was soon to experience. And the result was that she also knew about the matter.

So you see that if one observes these things properly one is able to talk about them exactly the way one talks about situations of the kind where you have a flask in a laboratory somewhere, a flame beneath it, and put in sulphur, let's say; the sulphur will be yellow at first and then turn brown and later red. One can describe it. And one can also describe how things are with phenomena in the spirit, providing one is really sound in one's thinking. And that must, of course, be the basic requirement. It is just that in our time everything is thrown into confusion, and the confused thinking I have mentioned predominates. And I did not describe this confused thinking for you just in order to describe it, but because I wanted to make you see how the roundabout way involving the sick woman was chosen in order to intervene in the destiny of someone who still had something more to do on this physical earth. But you have to see the matter in the right way.

I think I have told you before about what happened to me with Dr Schleich, the medical man who died recently in Berlin.22Schleich, Carl Ludwig (1859-1922), Vom Schal twerk der Gedanken, Berlin 1916, S. 261. See also R. Steiner, Spiritual Science and Medicine (GA 312). Tr. not known. London: Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co. 1948, 3rd lecture. He was quite a famous man in Berlin, a famous surgeon, but he also had a tendency—he was more intelligent than his colleagues—to understand such things. The following once happened to him. Someone came to him one evening and told him: 'I just stuck a steel pen into my hand in the office, and some ink got in. You must remove that hand right away, amputate it, or I'll die of blood-poisoning.' Schleich said: 'But sir, I have to look at the wound first.' 'No,' said the man, 'it must be done right away!' 'It won't do,' said Dr Schleich, 'I am not permitted to do this!' He then looked at the wound and said: 'It will be quite easy to remove the stuff from the wound by suction.' And he did so. The patient insisted on having his hand removed. ‘I can't amputate your hand,’ the surgeon said. And the man replied: ‘In that case I must die!’ He did not believe that the wound was harmless and said he must die.

Dr Schleich had an uneasy feeling. Later on another medical man telephoned to say that the patient had told him he'd seen Dr Schleich who'd refused to amputate his hand and that the man was now with him. But he, too, could not amputate the hand because of a small puncture wound. Dr Schleich could not sleep all that night, for the whole thing seemed most uncanny to him.

The next day he went to the house where the man lived. He'd died in the night! A post-mortem examination showed no signs of blood poisoning. But the man had to die. Well, Schleich simply said to himself that his death had been due to suggestion—it is known nowadays, of course, that such a thing as suggestion exists. All kinds of things are done under suggestion. One can make all kinds of things happen due to suggestion.

To give you an idea of what can be done by means of suggestion, let me tell you the following. You can say to someone, for instance: 'I'm applying a blistering plaster, a Spanish fly plaster.' But in fact you are only applying a little piece of blotting paper, yet the man will develop a huge blister! There the soul principle is entering into the physical. One can do such things. Today everyone who studies such things knows that it is possible to do this. Schleich said to himself that the man had imagined he'd die and he did die. The idea had a suggestive effect on him, hence death by suggestion.

He simply did not want to believe me that that is nonsense. But it was nonsense in this case to say the man died by suggestion, for something quite different was going on. You see, the stress he had suffered in more recent times as an office worker and business man had completely destroyed the man's nerves; blood had got into the nerves. The blood in his veins could be examined quite easily, and it was all right. And when the nerves were examined, the amount of blood that had got in was so small that it could not be detected by external means; but the nerves had been destroyed due to blood getting in. The man had therefore grown nervy and irritable and stuck the pen into his hand because he'd grown clumsy. And without anything much being apparent on the outside, he was already a marked man—for the following night. He had to die for internal reasons, because blood had got into his nervous system. And he had a premonition and grew anxious, so that the psychological effect was exactly the opposite. Schleich thought he had suggested his own death. He did not suggest his death, however; death had come because of his physical organization, but he had an inner premonition that death would come.

You see, this is a striking example of how one has to think in the right way if one wants to see into the world of spirit. One has to know exactly where the problem lies, or you can be a great and learned man and still get the wrong idea.

This is exactly what happened to Sir Oliver Lodge,23Lodge, Sir Oliver Joseph (1851-1940). See his book Raymond; see also R. Steiner, Cosmic and Human Metamorphoses (in GA 175), lecture of 6 February 1917. Tr. H. Collison. London: Anthroposophical Publishing Co. 1926. one of the greatest physicists in England. For he put entirely the wrong interpretation on the world of the spirit. His son had been killed in one of the battles fought in the recent [First] World War. He mourned his son, Raymond Lodge, deeply, and then got himself embroiled with a whole tissue of mediums. A very clever medium was brought to his house and arrangements were made for his son to speak to him after death. In view of the fact that his son had died on a German battlefield, this did of course make a tremendous impression, and it was also a consolation to him.

But Sir Oliver Lodge is an extraordinarily great scientist who does not believe anything just like that. But then something else happened which meant he could hardly do anything but believe. What happened is the following. The medium had gone into a trance, which is a half-conscious state, and told him that his son had his photo taken a few days before he died, saying that there were two photos, however.

Now it is quite common for several shots to be taken when photographing someone, and people will usually be asked to sit in a slightly different way for the second photo. The medium therefore said that Raymond Lodge was sitting in a slightly different way in the second photo, and gave a perfectly correct description of the difference. Oliver Lodge immediately said to himself: 'Wow, if only that were true what she is saying—photos taken a few days before his death, in two different positions!' At the time, no one in England would as yet have been able to know if this was true, for it had only happened a few days before the death. And lo and behold! A week later the two photographs arrived by post in London—the mails were very slow then—and it was correct, absolutely correct. He then could not think anything else, from his point of view, but that his son had told him this from the other world.

And yet that was not the case, for the medium had already gone into a trance and had a prophetic vision, which is something that does happen. The people sitting around the medium only knew about the photographs a week later, when they arrived, but the medium had a prophetic vision and saw them a week earlier. So there was no link with the other world, but it all happened on earth. The medium just had a prophetic vision, and Oliver Lodge was deceived after all. That's how careful one has to be! So it is all true, that human beings live on beyond death, and they can also tell us things, but one has to be sure. If Raymond Lodge was telling them in English: 'I've had two photos taken just before my death, and the positions were different,' one has to ask oneself if that did in fact come from him. For after death this is no longer conveyed in the English language; otherwise the spirit would also have to know English. The information must have come from the medium's subconscious, from something that does not come to conscious awareness in ordinary life.

Mr Burle's question has made me discuss some rather difficult things today, but I also wanted to tell you how careful one has to be, for we are responsible for the things we say. I wanted to show that one cannot simply accept some idea or other, but has to follow everything up. And it is only after thinking about it for a long time that one is able to say: 'Yes, in that case a guardian spirit was indeed speaking.' But that the words were in German, that could only happen through human mediation. And when people are not able to do something somewhere sometime, their muscles have to be paralysed first out of the world of the spirit. Everything has to come through the human being.

Having gained these basic insights, one is then able to go further. We'll talk more about this next Saturday.