Journey between death and a new birth

From Anthroposophy

At death, the physical corpse falls away from that part of a Man's being which passes onwards through the gate of death.

The corpse is discarded and as a being of soul-and-spirit, Man lives through an intermediate period between death and a new birth, passing over from one state of existence to another.

Main stages

For the human Christ experience and impact of the Christ Impulse in the stages of this journey, see Christ Module 20 - After death

The ascent

  • death of the physical body on Earth
  • Laying off the etheric body after death - and the so-called 'memory tableau' experience
  • Journey in the astral world after death: the path of the soul in the Astral world, living one's life backwards as in a rewind, also called kamaloka, the purification of the astral body, the link with the Third Hierarchy (H3)
  • the transition to the spirit world in the Sun sphere, the link with the Second Hierarchy (H2)
    • the importance of Christ as a guide to the spirit world
  • the journey in the Spirit World, consisting of seven regions
    • focus on the lowest three regions (Mars, Jupiter and Saturn spheres; or continents, ocean and atmosphere)
    • the higher spirit world - spiritual sleep or pralaya
  • the cosmic twilight or midnight hour

The descent

  • descending through
    • the Spirit world
    • the Astral world
  • heriditary stream
  • role of the Folk Soul in the etheric body before incarnation (1907-06-21-GA100)
  • conception
  • development process of the Embryo in the womb
  • upto physical birth


FMC00.287 depicts the cycle of incarnate life with the journey between death and a new birth. The drawings are taken from George O'Neil's book 'The human life'.

One can map this to the PDCA cycle of Plan Do Check Act

  • plan one's life based on learnings (red)
  • do by living the incarnate life (blue)
  • check by the learning path in kamaloka (astral rewind) and the spirit world, and then (green)
  • act by incorporating the learnings in the plan for the next life in the higher spirit world (red)

FMC00.136 summarizes the experience of Man's spirit between death and a new birth, as he rises to the Spirit World and upto a certain subregion, depending on spiritual maturity.


Schema FMC00.321 provides a schematic overview of the process of descent from the so-called 'midnight hour' in the spirit world, upto physical incarnation on Earth, and the connection between the spiritual process and the physical process. Adapted from Hoffmeister, see Embryo in the womb.


Lecture coverage and references

GA099 - the after death tableau review of the past earthly life (after separation from the etheric body ) is ‘objective’

It is characteristic of this tableau that, because of the way it presents itself immediately after death, all subjective experiences of the human being during its time on earth are deleted from the tableau. Our experiences are always accompanied by feelings of pleasure or pain, joy or sadness. But the joys and pains that are attached to the images of life are not part of this review. We stand as objectively before this memory tableau as we stand before a painting. If it presents a person who is sad or full of pain, we look at the person objectively. Although we can sympathize with the sadness, we do not feel the actual pain that this person felt.

Regarding the process between death and a new birth, RS points out the importance of being able to connect to the H3 hierarchy, see eg 1921-10-07-GA207, 1922-11-12-GA218.

In the latter lecture, examples are given of the importance and effect of how a soul passes through a sphere (eg disregarding the Venus sphere - no great connection with family). One could imagine this may also be relevant for the link someone has with the gender choice.

That things are never simple and many other effects coud be playing is ao illustrated by

  • what is explained in 1924-08-08-GA237, regarding the confusion in karma being caused by the lack of alignment between angels.
  • is the fact that souls can and/or will be able to make a choice regarding their karma towards others they are heavily indebted to, see 1922-11-19-GA218. This is related to Christ as Lord of Karma (see eg 1911-10-07/14-GA131).

.. the following possibility will arise for mankind in coming time. When at the point of descending into a next earthly life, man will be able to say to himself: ‘This is the body I have been preparing; yet, having sent it down to Earth and having now received my Karma into the ether-body which I have drawn together from the Cosmos, I see how it is with this Karma. Through something that I did in former lives I see that I have gravely hurt some other human being.’ For we are always in the danger of hurting others through the things we do. The light of judgment as to what we have done to another man will be particularly vivid at this moment when we are still living only in our ether-body, having not yet put on the physical. Here too in future time the light of Michael will be working, and the love of Christ. And we shall then be enabled to bring about a change in our decision, — namely to give to the other man the body we have been preparing, while we ourselves take on the body he prepared, whom we have injured. Such is the mighty transition which will be taking place from now onward in the spiritual life of men. It will be possible for us of our own decision to enter into the body prepared perforce by another human soul to whom we once did grievous harm; he on the other hand will be enabled to enter into the body we prepared. What we are able to achieve on Earth will thus bring about Karmic compensation in quite another way than heretofore. We human beings shall be able even to exchange our physical bodies.


Rudolf Steiner describes this pathway using various languages ..

  • the language of the planetary spheres
  • the theosophical language (of the planes of astral and devachanic world)
  • the language of the spiritual hierarchies.

.. and from various perspectives:

  • the technical aspects of each stage are described in general characterizations,
  • the personal experience of the soul

Related pages

References and further reading