Introduction to reincarnation

From Anthroposophy



Lecture coverage and references

Coverage by Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner covered the process between death and a new birth throughout his 20 years of lecturing between 1904 and 1924. Besides the standard works (books), we can list some 45 lecture cycles that, relevant lectures taken together, contain an extensive foundation for study.

Below are some starting points selected to initialize one's understanding by studying a number of complementary perspectives:

  • books:
    • 1904-GA009: Theosophy
    • 1910-GA013: OES or Outline of Esoteric Science
  • selected lecture cycles
    • first phase
    • second phase
      • 1923-08-GA227 (Penmaenmawr) - 4 lectures 8 to 11
      • 1923-11-GA231 (The Hague) - 3 lectures
      • 1924-05-GA236/239 (Dornach/Paris) - 5 to 6 lectures
      • 1924-06-GA239/240 (Stuttgart/Breslau) - 5 lectures
Notes about coverage

1/ At the end of 1912, Rudolf Steiner gave an extensive courses GA140 'Investigation of life Between death and rebirth' and GA141 'Between death and rebirth', and he positions that he had been doing extensive research for a periode of two years, so 1910-1912. He thereby complements earlier descriptions already give in works such as Theosophy (1904) and Outline of Esoteric Science (1910).


In the domain of spiritual science — using the word in its true sense — investigation is difficult and full of complications.

Suppose a man with good sight goes to some district in Switzerland, climbs a high mountain and then, when he has come down again, gives you an accurate description of what he has seen. You can well imagine that if he goes to the district again and climbs higher up the same mountain, he will describe what he has seen from a different vantage point. Through descriptions given from different vantage points it is obvious that an increasingly accurate and complete idea of the landscape will be obtained. Now people are apt to believe that if someone has become clairvoyant, he knows everything! It is by no means so.

In the spiritual world, investigation always has to be gradual — ”bit by bit,” as it were. Even in respect to things that have been investigated with great exactitude, new discoveries can be made all the time. During the last two years it has been my task to investigate even more closely than before the conditions of life between death and rebirth, and I want to tell you now about the findings of this recent research.


In spiritual scientific research one cannot check often enough the facts one has repeatedly investigated, and about which one has spoken, for they are facts of the spiritual world that is not easily accessible and comprehensible to man. There is a constant danger of misinterpreting in one way or another, and events may be viewed incorrectly. This is the reason the results obtained must be checked again and again.

The principal events of life in the spiritual world have, of course, been known for thousands of years, yet it is difficult to describe them.

I am deeply grateful that recently I had the opportunity to concern myself more intimately again with an important aspect of spiritual science, namely, the realm of life between death and a new birth. It is not so much that new facts come to light, but that one has the possibility to present things in a more exact and accurate way.

So today I would like to speak of the period that for super-sensible perception is of the utmost importance, that is, the period between death and rebirth. I will not deal so much with the period immediately following death, the kamaloca period, descriptions of which can be found in my writings, but with the succeeding period, the actual sojourn of man in the spiritual world between death and rebirth. This description will be prefaced briefly by the following remarks.

2/ The second time that Steiner comes back to covering this subject extensively is in the approx. one year period of end 1923 to end 1924. Starting with 1923-GA227 over 1923-GA231 to the full cycle of about 80 Karmic Relationship lectures - see overview Schema FMC00.265

3/ It is interesting to note that whereas GA140 and GA141 provide a foundational coverage with 30 dedicated lectures, this would be thé reference that Rudolf Steiner refers to later.

That is not the case, however, and there is one cycle that he doés explicitly refer to again and again when covering the process between death and a new birth. That is the Vienna cycle of April 1914, held between 9 and 14 April, published first already in 1914 and 1928 as the then 'Zyklus 32' and later as part of the small six-lecture cycle in the GA as GA153, so 1914-04-GA153.

The cycle is different because it is about the inner experience of Man between death and a new birth, so rather than descriptive, or conceptual-intellectual, the human inner experience of the process id described. The cycle builds up to this with the first four lectures and then culminates in the two unique lectures of 1914-04-13-GA153 and 1914-04-13-GA153. The first covers ascent from death to midnight hour, the descond descent from midnight hour on.

Rudolf Steiner keeps referencing this cycle and lectures, because never again did he give such beautiful intense description that we can 'feel our way into', which is obviously the whole purpose of such description: to feel and not just to think and intellectually process the information.

Coverage in broad popular media in the 20th century (after WWII)

Already early, in 1950, the first influential book 'Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce story on reincarnation' was published.

In the period 1960-1980, a number of authors started to publish their work in the area of reincarnation and research into past lives. This provided a foundation on which many more authors could build to take this work into the mainstream in the period 1980-2020.

  • Ian Stevenson, and Jim B. Tucker
    • Stevenson wrote his first paper with 44 cases suggestive of reincarnation in 1960. His first book dates from 1966: 'Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation'. His systematic research was published in four volumes in 1975, 1977, 1980, 1983, with follow up books in 1984 and 1987.
    • Tucker followed into his footsteps and published Life before life in 2005 and Return to life in 2013
  • Other well known books were eg Joan Grant's 'Many lifetimes' (1968) and Raymond Moody's bestseller 'Life after life' published in 1975
  • Morris Netherton and Roger Woolger pioneered regression therapy with books in 1978 and 1987.
  • Helen Wambach (1978, 1983) and Carol Bowman (1997, 2001)
  • bestselling books on the theme came from eg Brian Weiss (Many lives, many masters, 1988) and Michael Newton (Journey of Souls, 1994)


This has to be put in perspective with parallel developments, in the same timeframe, in the areas of Near Death Experiences (NDE).

Kenneth Ring did research into this with publications in 1980, 1984, 1998, 1999. Another influential book was ao George W. Ritchie's 'Return from tomorrow' (1978).

This was the time period when much new material was being published on other states of consciousness: Out of Body experiences (OBE) or (OoB), astral travel, remote viewing, and lucid dreaming.

Examples illustrations are:

  • Albert Taylor's 'Soul Traveler' (1996), Robert Petersen (2002, 2013) books on Journeys out of the body. As well as Robert Bruce's books (1999, 2004) such as ao 'Astral dynamics' as well as books by William Buhlman (2009, 2011) on the topic.
  • Stephen LaBerge's on Lucid dreaming (1985, 1990 onwards), see refererences here.
  • Joseph McMoneagle's 'Mind trek' on remote viewing (1993).


In summary, the above shows how a new wave of interest has arisen through these and many other authors bringing topics of spiritual scientific nature to the mainstream media in quite a different way then the theosophical and anthroposophical wave of say 1880-1930.

Survey mainstream media - popular books on reincarnation (2022)

A survey of 'books on reincarnation' compared the top 6, 9, 18, 25, 100 books listed on > 10 websites.

This included, the amazon bestsellers, etc.

Main findings of this assessment:

1/ there are about as many fiction novels and non-fiction books, in fact the fiction novels overwhelm the non-fiction literature by sheer volume. But unfortunately there is also a whole area with much non-sense including reincarnation of dogs etc.

2/ Non-fiction literature on the theme of reincarnation is by contemporary authors, and not directly about reincarnation but about individual case stories of:

  • Near Death Experiences (NDE)
  • Individuality-remembrance (memories of previous lives): in children, famous cases, by psychologists, and regression therapists

So the theosophical or anthroposophical or spiritual scientific literature does not appear in any mainstream list.

3/ Most lists contain classics such those by Brian Weiss, Raymond Moody, Michael Newton.

Some include Ian Stevenson, Roger Woolger, or others.

But then - mostly - the lists are filled with:

  • a mixed bag of new age and/or greyzone spirituality, of the likes of the Seth material, Conversations with God, etc
  • and and really mostly: numerous authors of unknown credentials whose books are marketed. The topic is used because it sells, and so would-be-mediums or spiritual teachers write books on the topic, more than one can list or want to know.

Last, to further illustrate or qualify what is meant with 'mixed bag', without applying any judgement whatsoever: this goes from the interesting 'Egyptian book of the dead', to many American 'spiritual leaders' such as Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Ballard (and the I Am activy and the Saint Germain foundation), etc.


Related pages

References and further reading