Laying off the etheric body after death

From Anthroposophy

At death, the physical body dies and dissolves, and so does most of the Human etheric body for most people today. A new etheric body for the next new life will be created in the spirit world during the process between death and a new birth.

The distinction needs to be made however between the higher and lower triad of Man's bodily principles:

  • The unrefined etheric body disperses after death, and dissolves after a while in the general cosmic or universal ether. The ideas or powers of thought become like active forces spreading out into the universe.
  • The refined or transformed etheric body, the life-spirit, Man takes with him further to the spirit world. See also Man's higher triad and Structure of Man between death and a new birth

Aspects

  • the 'life memory tableau' experience
    • as one sees pictures of the past life as in a panorama, a strange feeling of expansion, growing out of oneself arises during the experience of this great tableau (1907-05-31-GA099). The tableau widens out and in an astonishingly brief span of time man sees all the detailed events of his life. (1907-05-26-GA099)
    • this experience is objective, all subjective experiences such as joys and pains that were experienced during life on earth are not part of it (1907-05-26-GA099)
    • we use our etheric body during the few days we have it before it dissolved: it shows us the all the fruits of the life we have lived through in the whole life-panorama or the finished earth life tableau that spreads out before us, so that we may learn and acquire from this panorama everything that can be extracted from our past experiences. In these few days, the astral body related to the etheric body in a way that lets it feel and perceive and sense the fruits gathered from the life just ended. When later the astral body separates from the etheric, the entire product of that life is contained in the astral body (1915-09-05-GA162)
    • there is a major difference between people dying young or old, as the etheric body grows young with physical aging (1915-09-05-GA162):
      • the (old) etheric body of a person who dies young streams out a warm etheric love-element and are more teeming with will
      • the (young) etheric body of a person who dies old streams out an aura filled with light and wisdom.
    • in the spiritual world a continuous mutual interchange takes place all the time, directed by the angelic beings, between those etheric bodies that have grown wholly young and those less young "This interchange is essential; without it, the evolution of humanity on Earth could not proceed properly." (1915-09-05-GA162)
    • The ether body reveals its own individual character and becomes visible to us after death: coloured by the temper and tenor of the soul and the feelings and sentiments we have harboured during life. The temper and tenor of our soul is stamped into the ether-body and becomes visible to us after death. Man sees what happens as the picture expands as the ether-body dissolves, becomes as it were a “firmament” against which everything else stands out in relief. (1914-02-10-GA148)
    • our thoughts during incarnate life reveal themselves as living elemental spirits in the etheric after death, see 1914-04-13-GA153 quote A, on Christ Module 15 - Study of Spiritual Science and the Mystery of Golgotha
    • Duration of this phase
      • the tableau can be maintained as long as we have the power under normal conditions to keep awake in the physical body, it depends upon the power we have within us to keep ourselves awake (1914-04-13-GA153, also in 1914-12-04-GA063 which states 'days')
  • the two parts of the etheric body, dissolving and eternal
    • in contrast with any normal modern Man, the (candidate) initiate (or chela) does not dissolve his etheric body but makes use of it on the astral plane. Such etheric body as a living body from within and stays remains eternally and is re-used. (1905-06-05-GA093)
    • Man even retains fragment(s) of his own non-dissolved etheric body (1910-03-25-GA119) .. a kind of essence remains which can never be lost to the human being but is carried along into all future incarnations as a kind of life-tableau extract, even though he has no remembrance of it. Out of this extract is formed what is called, with concrete reality, the 'causal body'. After every incarnation a new page is added to this Book of Life which augments the life-essence and, if the past lives were fruitful, causes the next life to develop in the proper way and influences whether the life is to be rich or poor in talents, qualities etc (1907-05-26-GA099)

Inspirational quote

from 1924-02-10-GA234 (SWCC)

.. the first few days after death .. is the phase we can describe as the flight of our memories out into the cosmos.

We feel as if they were being received by the universe. What is at first comprised within the memory tableau as in a narrow space, becomes greater and greater, more and more shadowy, until we find it has expanded to a universe, becoming so faint that we can scarcely decipher what we first saw plainly. We can still divine it; then it vanishes in the far spaces and is no longer there.

And all that, like memory, we have bound so closely to our life between birth and death, expands and becomes more and more shadowy ... to be finally lost in the wide spaces of the cosmos.

Illustrations

Schema FMC00.385 depicts Man's short period spent in the etheric after death, with the experience of the 'life memory tableau'. During this period Man's astral body takes in the learnings, that will be carried forth in the next period of the 'astral rewind in kamaloka', and the purification and laying off of the astral body. In this period also Man's etheric body slowly but steadily dissolves into the world ether. It contains two types of forces: those of the mineral world that will eventually vanish and perish with mineral Earth, and the fertile spiritual of Man's higher triad and spiritual future. Whether Man can perceive the latter depends on his relationship to the Mystery of Golgotha during incarnate life.

FMC00.385.jpg

Schema FMC00.386 illustrates the process, orchestrated by angelic beings, of the continuous interchange and flowing together of the etheric substance laid off by souls of people dying young (with and old etheric body) and people dying old (with a young etheric body), each bringing different elements of respectively warm love and will, and light and wisdom. This influences the incarnating souls on their descent into a new birth, see eg Schema FMC00.321 on Embryo in the womb.

FMC00.386.jpg

Schema FMC00.024 is an illustration by Hieronymus Bosch made around 1505-1515, reminiscent of the tunnel of life as appearing in the reports of people having had Near Death Experiences (NDE).

Lecture coverage and references

1905-06-05-GA093

[Etheric body after death]

Take the human etheric body as every human has it. If you look at it clairvoyantly it has nearly the same form as the physical body.

At death man's physical body dissolves, and the etheric body too; the physical body dissolves in the physical world, and the etheric body in the general cosmic ether. But this etheric body has been very elaborately created for Man by the wisdom which first implanted it from out of the astral Globe. This etheric body disperses after death. Only that etheric body which has been built up from within is a living body, that stays eternally. This is the etheric body of the Chela [the candidate for initiation] — and that does not dissolve after death.

If you see a modern civilised Man die, you may see the etheric body for a while, but then it dissolves. With the Chela it remains. The renunciation of the spirit world [devachan] by the Chela consists in the fact that the Chela stays on the astral plane and there makes use of his etheric body. With ordinary human beings a new etheric body has to be formed at each rebirth; the ability to create a new one is attained in the spirit world. The etheric body which the Chela has built up from within will never be lost again; whereas that which is made by cosmic wisdom from elsewhere indeed dissolves itself again.

1905-10-16-GA093a

This extracts mentions that Man takes along parts of his etheric and astral bodies, he does not completely shed them off .

  • Now when Man dies he gives over to the forces of the earth his whole physical body, but the etheric body divides itself into two members.
    •  The one member is derived from the upper formation and this Man takes with him.
    • The remainder falls away, for over this he can exert no mastery; it came to him from outside. He can only exert mastery over it when he has become an occult pupil. This part of the etheric body therefore in the case of the ordinary person is given over to the etheric forces of cosmic space.
  • What clings to the person from that astral body which came with him from the Old Moon compels him to spend a period of time in Kamaloka until he has freed himself from this point as regards that particular life. Then he still has that part of the astral body which has found a state of balance; with this he makes his journey through the spirit world and back to physical life. This is why one sees bell-like formations in astral space rushing about with terrific speed. These are the human souls again seeking incarnation. When here with us such a bell-like human being darts through astral space and an embryo in South America is karmically connected with it, this human bell must immediately be there. So these returning souls rush through astral space. This bell formation is reminiscent of those which appeared in the Lemurian Age, only it has already found its state of balance with the higher astral body.
1907-05-26-GA099

short extract

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.

longer extract

The period immediately following death is of great importance for the human being. It lasts for many hours, even days, during which the whole of the incarnation that is just over comes before the soul of the dead as in a great tableau of memories. This happens to every human being after death. The peculiarity of this tableau is that as long as it remains in the form in which it appears immediately after death, all the subjective experiences of the man during his life are expunged.

Our experiences are always accompanied by feelings either of joy or pain, upliftment of sorrow, in other words our outer life is always associated with an inner life. The joys and sorrows connected with the pictures of the past life are not present in the memory-tableau. The human being confronts this memory-tableau as objectively as he confronts a painting; even if this painting depicts a Man who is sorrowful or full of pain, we still look at him quite objectively; we can, it is true, discern his sorrow, but we do not experience it directly. So it is with these pictures immediately after death. The tableau widens out and in an astonishingly brief span of time man sees all the detailed events of his life.

[Other separations of physical and etheric bodies]

Separation of the physical body from the etheric body during life can take place only in an initiate, but there are certain moments when the etheric body suddenly loosens from the physical body. This occurs when a man has had terrible experiences, for instance, a dreadful fall or has been in danger of drowning. The shock causes a kind of loosening of the etheric body from the physical body and the consequence is that in such a moment the whole of the previous life stands before the soul like a memory-picture. This is analogous to the experience after death.

Partial separations of the etheric body also occur when a limb has “gone to sleep” as we say if a hand, for instance, has gone to sleep, the seer can perceive the etheric part of the hand protruding like a glove; parts of the etheric brain also protrude when a man is in a state of hypnosis. Because the etheric body is woven in the physical body in tiny, pinpoint formations, there arises in the physical body the well-known sensation of prickling in a limb that has gone to sleep.

[continued]

After the lapse of the time during which the etheric body together with the astral body is emerging from the physical body after death, there comes the moment when the astral body, with the higher members, leaves the etheric body. The latter separates off and the memory-tableau fades away; but something of it remains; it is not wholly lost. What may be called ether- or life-substance dissipates in the cosmic ether, but a kind of essence remains and this can never be lost to the human being through his further journeyings. He bears this with him into all his future incarnations as a kind of extract from the life-tableau, even though he has no remembrance of it. Out of this extract is formed what is called, with concrete reality, the “causal body.” After every incarnation a new page is added to the Book of Life. This augments the life-essence and, if the past lives were fruitful, causes the next life to develop in the proper way. This is what causes a life to be rich or poor in talents, qualities and the like.

1907-05-31-GA099

.. what happens immediately after the death of a human being. We heard of the memory-tableau which appears when he is freed from the physical body and is living for a short time in the etheric and astral bodies before passing through the elemental world.

To help you to understand the inner working of karma, let me describe a strange feeling that arises during the experience of this great tableau. It is the feeling of expansion, growing out of oneself. This feeling becomes stronger and stronger as long as the human being is living in his etheric body. He has a strange experience in connection with this tableau. To begin with, he sees pictures of his past life as in a panorama. Then a moment comes, not very long after death and lasting for hours, even days, according to the nature of the individuality, where he feels: I am myself all these pictures. He feels his etheric body growing and expanding as if it embraced the whole sphere of the Earth, as far as the Sun.

[afterwards, astral]

Then, when the etheric body has been abandoned, another very remarkable feeling arises. It is really difficult to describe this feeling in words drawn from the physical world. It is a feeling of expansion into wide cosmic space but as though one were not actually within every place. The experience can only be approximately described. The individual feels as though with one part of his being he were in Munich, with another part of his being in Mainz, with a third in Basle, and with another far outside the Earth sphere, perhaps in the Moon. He feels as though he were dismembered, as though he were not connected with the spaces in between. That is the peculiar way of experiencing oneself as an astral being, spread out in space, transferred to different centres, but not filling the regions between them.

This experience lasts throughout Kamaloca during which period man is living through his life backwards to his birth. He lives through all that belongs to his life and these experiences then become part of the rest of his life in Kamaloca. It is important to know this in order to picture how the law of Karma works. The individual feels, at the beginning, as though he were within that human being with whom he was last connected and then, retrogressively, within all the persons and other beings with whom he was associated during his life.

1910-03-25-GA119

.. expands the perspective on the etheric body as it was experienced in the old mysteries, and how it relates to inheritance (not extracted here, see lecture for context of the extract below)

[Man retains fragment of own non-dissolved etheric body]

Thus during his Initiation the pupil passed through a cycle leading from his last earthly life to his present earthly life. He united himself in an act of spiritual vision with what he had become in his previous incarnation. In spiritual science this process has always been called a “cycle” and it was originally expressed by the symbol of the snake biting its own tail. This same symbol was used in connection with many happenings, among them for the experience just described, the experience undergone by one who was initiated in the Mysteries of Osiris and Isis.

Obviously, therefore, there is much more to be said about the etheric body than merely stating that it is one member of Man's being. The essential nature of the etheric body can only become known by descending into our own inner self; we then come to know the two beings who are united in every man, and we also recognise how karma works. We are then able to explain to ourselves how it happens that we enter existence through birth in a quite definite way.

We were obliged as it were to wait from the preceding death until the new birth, until the old etheric body had dissolved; only then could a beginning be made with forming the new one. This makes it evident that in fact a Man has not completely got rid of the products of his dissolved etheric body.

And by descending into his own inner being he may also find the other part which has actually dissolved, because he has retained an extract of it. If this were not the case it would be impossible for him to find any trace of it again.

1914-02-10-GA148

quote D

[Death – physical body]

A human being passes into the spiritual world through the Gate of Death or through initiation, but we will think now only of one who enters the spiritual world through death. He lays aside his physical body and this outermost sheath is given over to the earthly elements through burial or through cremation. Suppose that after death a man looks back from the spiritual world upon what is happening to his physical body as it passes over through decay or through cremation into the physical elements of the Earth. — What he beholds in the processes here taking place can be called a ‘happening of nature’, like any other, in which no moral concepts, for example, are involved — for we do not apply moral concepts when clouds form, when lightening strikes from one cloud to another, and so forth. Man looks at his physical body in process of dissolution, just as he looks at these phenomena of nature.

[Ether body]

But for a few days, as we know, his connection with the ether-body remains and then the second separation, the separation of the ether-body from the astral body and I takes place.

As man looks back upon the discarded ether-body, the processes in which it is involved are not of the same character as those operating in the discarded physical body. After death we can by no means look at what the ether-body is and what is becoming of it, as if it were a ‘phenomenon of nature’. The ether-body reveals its own individual character, coloured by the feelings and sentiments we have harboured during life. The whole gamut of our feelings — good or bad — is revealed to us by the ether-body. The temper and tenor of our soul is stamped into the ether-body and becomes visible to us after death. Then by a complicated process it dissolves into the universe of ether, is absorbed into the other world.

Looking back in this way upon what becomes of our ether-body, we have before us an image of what we ourselves were in earthly life. And this image tells us: ‘If your feelings were good, if you were truly devoted to the spiritual worlds, then you have given over to the universe of ether something that is good and beneficial; if your feelings were unrighteous, if you turned a deaf ear to information concerning the spiritual worlds, then you have given over to the cosmos of ether something that is injurious and harmful.

In the spiritual world it is part of the destiny of our soul, that is to say of our astral body and I, to behold ourselves in the fate of the ether-body — which cannot be changed once the separation from the physical body has taken place. It is a moment of paramount significance after death when we realise that just as in the world of sense we saw clouds and mountains, so now, after death, we see, as a kind of background, all that we ourselves laid into our ether-body through our feelings and tenor of soul.

The picture expands as the ether-body dissolves, becomes as it were a “firmament” against which everything else stands out in relief. After death, therefore, Man sees what is happening to his ether-body.

[Two types of ether forces]

Something else is revealed as well, namely, two different kinds of properties, or forces, in the now dissolving ether-body:

1/ .. one of these properties gives rise to an impression that must always weigh heavily upon the soul after death. The best way to understand what this means is to think of the destiny confronting the physical Earth.

The destiny of the physical Earth is recognised today even by the physicists, who rightly speak of the “Wärmetod” (equilibration of heat and cold) to which the physical Earth will succumb. The relation of heat to the other physical forces is such that as scientific calculations already show, a time will come when all temperature will be reduced to a dead level. No life or existence in the physical kingdom of Earth will then be possible; the whole physical Earth will perish.

Materialists are bound to assume — for otherwise they would be inconsistent — that this equilibration of temperature, the Wärmetod, also entails the end of everything know to them as culture, the end of all human thinking, reflection, aspiration, endeavour, in short the disappearance of all human existence.

Those who understand the conditions as revealed by spiritual science know what this means, namely, that the physical Earth will fall away from the spiritual like a corpse, just as the physical corpse falls away from that part of a Man's being which passes onwards through the gate of death. At 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. In the same way the spiritual part of the Earth will pass over to the Future Jupiter stage when physical existence comes to an end. This Future Jupiter stage will be a further embodiment of everything that is connected spiritually with the Earth.

And so when we are able after death to look back at the ether body, we realise that in very truth one part of the ether body has to do with everything in the realm of Earth that will ultimately perish. Certain forces in our ether body have to do with the process by which the Earth is led onwards to its end.

2/ But the ether body contains other forces too, quite different forces.

We can picture the relation of these forces to the physical Earth by thinking of the seed of the plant surrounded by substance out of which the next plant arises. Similarly, we perceive in the ether body, forces which have only to be active as long as the Earth exists, until the Earth comes to an end with the Wärmetod.

But there are other forces too, ‘young’, fertile forces, and these are connected with everything that makes the Earth capable of germination in the cosmos, of passing over to its next embodiment.

This ‘fertile’ part of the ether-body can only be perceived — and here we come to another significant secret disclosed by spiritual sciencewhen the human being has established a certain relationship with the Christ, the Christ Impulse.

For this part of the ether body is permeated with the Christ Forces which since the Mystery of Golgotha have poured into the sphere of the Earth. It is these Christ Forces in the ether body which enable the ‘fertile seed’ in the human soul, too, to pass over to the Jupiter embodiment of the Earth.

Our connection with the Christ Impulse therefore, enables us to perceive the fertile seed, the seed of the future within our ether-body.

And this brings the certain knowledge that the power of the Mystery of Golgotha has flowed, in very truth, into the Earth-sphere and that this power was responsible for quickening the spiritual forces of the Earth with which we ourselves, as human beings, are inwoven. When a human being who has attained I-consciousness in the real sense - as is the case in the West today - gazes upon his ether-body after death, he must not find this ether-body devoid of the forces flowing from the Christ Impulse. For it means a life of unblessedness’ after death if the vista of the ether-body reveals that ether-body is not permeated by the Christ Impulse.

I have said many times that Christ has come to the Earth as a real being and that even those who in their surface-consciousness today resist the Christ Impulse... they too will gradually find their way to it, although perhaps one or two incarnations later than the peoples of the West

Man's blessedness after death depends upon the realisation that the Christ Impulse is present in the ether-body; whereas he is doomed to tribulation if he can perceive in the ether-body only that which must inevitably perish with the Earth. A Man belonging to Western civilisation, born as he is with the clear I-consciousness to which the oriental peoples have not yet attained, is doomed to a state of unblessedness if, after death, he must look back upon an ether-body lacking the‘substance’ of the Christ Impulse and containing only those forces by which Earth-evolution is finally led to its end. When a Man cannot perceive the young, fertile forces of the Christ Impulse in his ether-body, it is rather like having to live after death under the constant impression of an earthquake or a volcanic eruption.

[Young fertile forces of Christ impulse are?]

These young, fertile forces of the Christ Impulse... what are they?

[continuation see quote C on Blood is a special fluid]

1914-04-13-GA153

quote B

[Memory-tableau]

As we have already said, that which previously gave our consciousness its content has shrunk together as if into a single star, only that from this star radiates what we might call 'radiating cosmic wisdom'. This radiating cosmic wisdom is what I dealt with in the last lecture and regarding which I said that we possess it in its fullness. It shines and glitters at first as if from a fiery star. It is now not blue, like the firmament, but fiery, shining, reddish, like a fiery star.

And from it streams forth into space the plenitude of wisdom, which in inward motion first presents to us what might be called a memory-tableau of our last earthly life. All the events we have consciously experienced in our soul between birth and death now come before our soul, but in such a manner that we know:

There thou seest all, because the star shining before thee is the background which, through its inner activity, is the cause of thy being able to see what is outspread before thee, as a memory tableau.

That is expressed more from the standpoint of the imagination.

From the standpoint of inwardness the experience is somewhat as follows: The one who has passed the portal of death is entirely filled with the thought:

Thou hast left thy body; now in the spiritual world this body is nothing but will.

Thy body is a star of will, a star whose substance is will; and this will glows with warmth, and into the expanses of the world into which thou hast now poured thyself, it rays back to thee thy own life between birth and death as a great tableau.

To the circumstance of thy sojourn within this star thou owest the privilege that thou art able to draw and absorb from the world what thou hast drawn and absorbed from it while on the physical plane: for this star, this will-star, which now forms the background is the spiritual part of thy physical body, this will-star is the spirit which permeates and strengthens thy physical body.

That which streams to thee as wisdom is the activity, the mobility of thy etheric body.

This period passes. The period during which we have the impression that our life is running its course like a memory-tableau really only lasts for some days. Our thoughts, which became our memories during life on earth, unfold once more before our souls in this memory-tableau.

[Length of memory-tableau]

We can maintain this tableau as long as we have the power under normal conditions to keep awake in the physical body.

It does not depend upon how long we once remained awake in life under abnormal conditions,

it depends upon the power we have within us to keep ourselves awake.

In one case it may be that a person can scarcely keep awake one night without tiredness overcoming him, in another case it may be that he can hold out longer without becoming tired; but the length of time he needs to finish with this memory-tableau depends upon the degree of this power.

[The fruit of our life .. outside of us .. the basis for our consciousness]

We also have the distinct inner consciousness that because this will-star is in the background, there is contained within the memory-tableau what we have gained in our last earthly life, there is contained in it that by which we have become more mature, what we have carried beyond death as a plus quantity as compared with what we had as a minus quantity when at birth we entered into earthly life.

This, which we may describe as the fruit of the last life, we feel in such a way as if it would not remain as it appeared during the memory-tableau, but as if it withdrew, as if it went away into the future and disappeared in those future ages.

In this lecture I shall speak principally of the condition in the life between death and rebirth of those who have reached the normal length of life and have died under normal conditions. Exceptional cases will be dealt with in the next lecture.

Thus the fruit of our life, if we have gained such fruit, withdraws to a distance and we know within our soul: — This fruit exists somewhere, but we have been left behind by it. We have the consciousness that we have remained at an earlier period of time, the fruit of our life hurries forward, it arrives before us at a later period of time and we have to follow after it.

We must grasp correctly what I have just said, this idea of the inward experience of the fruit of our life being in the universe; because it is this inward experience which forms the basis of our consciousness, the beginning of our consciousness after death.

Our consciousness must always be aroused by something.

  • When we awake in the morning our consciousness is enkindled anew through our entering into the physical body and thereby confronting outer objects, through something affecting us from outside, while during sleep we are unconscious.
  • In the state immediately after death, this consciousness is enkindled by our inward feeling and experience of the fruits of our last life, experience of what we have gained. These fruits exist, but outside us.

Our consciousness is first enkindled after death through this feeling and experience of our inmost earthly nature being outside us. By this our consciousness is quickened.

Then begins the period during which it is necessary for us to develop soul-forces which had really to remain undeveloped during our life on the physical plane, because they were used to organise the physical body and all appertaining to it — soul-forces which during physical life have to be changed into something else. These forces have to awaken gradually after death. Even in the days during which we experienced the memory-tableau we notice this awakening of soul-capacities. This happens when the memory-tableau gradually fades away and grows dim, because it is during these days that we actually develop the forces lying at the foundation of the faculty of remembrance, but not acting consciously during physical life.

continues as: our thoughts during incarnate life reveal themselves as living elemental spirits in the etheric after death, see same lecture, quote A, on Christ Module 15 - Study of Spiritual Science and the Mystery of Golgotha

1915-09-05-GA162

.. is called 'the physical body binds us to the physical world, the etheric body to the cosmos'

It is true, of course, that we are always making use of our etheric bodies, except when we are sleeping, but we use them in the sense that they carry on their activity within our physical bodies, so that both the physical and etheric bodies are made use of during our life on the physical plane. But we come to know what the particular characteristics of the etheric body are when it is lifted out of its connection with the physical body and put to use as our sole perceptive instrument. We know that this condition comes about naturally immediately after death, when we have laid the physical body aside. Then, for a short time, we make use of the etheric body, until that too is laid aside.

We have therefore to distinguish the first condition after death, in which we dissolve our bond with the physical body, from the second condition that soon follows it, and brings about the dissolution of our bond with the etheric body.

I have been saying that the physical body binds us to everything that comes to us on the physical plane. What, then, does the etheric body bind us to? It binds us to everything that relates us to the cosmos, to the extraterrestrial, to everything that lives in us that cannot be ascribed directly to any connection with the physical realm.

If, for example, a person is born with a physically defective ear, he won't be able to become a musician. But physical defects are due to physical heredity. This is a radical case that illustrates our dependence upon the ongoing heredity process. But we must turn our attention from the capacities to which our physical bodies predispose us to those occasioned by the etheric. These show up more distinctly in particular predispositions of the soul. Only a poor observer can miss the fact of the great differences of soul manifested by individuals. Dull-witted materialists are sometimes little interested in subtle differences of soul; they want to investigate the external form element alone. But alert observers of life are perfectly aware that nobody resembles any other person as far as his individuality is concerned.

...

[Dying young or old]

There is a riddle I want to bring up here because it deals with the spiritual investigator's connection with the question of what conditions contribute to the development of individuality. ..

I refer to the riddles we encounter in life with respect to the varying ages at which people die. Let's say one person lives to a great old age, while someone else dies very young. People die, of course, at all the various ages. We can state this thoughtlessly; there is particularly little inclination to be sensitive to a riddle so frequently encountered. But the fact is that the most commonplace matters pose the greatest riddles.

[etheric body grows younger with physical aging]

A contemplation of the relationship of the etheric body to the world as a whole brings us closer to this riddle. Everyone knows as a fact of experience that our physical bodies age; we grow older and older physically. And everyone understands what is involved in aging. But where our etheric bodies are concerned the opposite is true: we grow younger, ever younger. When we are very old, our physical bodies are old, but our etheric bodies have grown young. ...

We have to develop our etheric bodies during an incarnation in such a way that when we have come to its close, our astral bodies will be so embedded in these etheric bodies that they feel themselves prepared for their appropriate entrance into the next life. It is really true that when an individual is old and gray and wrinkled, his etheric body burgeons with fresh life, for his astral body must accustom itself at this point to live in an etheric body already teeming with germinal potential. The way the astral body is to permeate and work in the physical body of a child in the following incarnation must already find some degree of expression in its connection with the etheric body grown young.

... you will find a beautiful passage in Goethe's Faust where the term “growing young” is used in place of “being born,” “growing young” rather than “growing old.” In other words, we start to grow young when we are born. This is based, of course, on the conception of the soul pre-existing birth. But the forces it will need to enable it to work through the body into which the child is born must have been acquired while the etheric body is growing young in the aging physical body of the previous earth life.

...

If you apply what I have just been saying, you will see that it makes a tremendous, an enormous difference whether an individual dies in extreme old age or as a youngster, perhaps even in childhood. For the etheric body of someone who dies in youth has not yet grown young. If we are speaking of physical human beings we can say that they are growing old, but in speaking of the etheric body we would have to say that it “grows young.” That would be the proper expression for it. The etheric body grows young but it has not yet grown entirely young in those who die at an early age.

I once tried to suggest this by saying that when a person dies in childhood or in youth his etheric body has not actually been used up. This etheric body would have lasted him a lifetime; he could have reached sixty years or more with it if he hadn't died young. But the force inherent in such an etheric body remains in existence, just as forces in the physical world do; they are not lost. However, we need to make a closer study of the special, unique attributes of this etheric body.

[Old age]

When a person can live to what is considered a normal old age — say seventy or eighty — his etheric body has grown very young. The whole fruit of his life experience lodges in this young etheric body, is imprinted on and expressed in it, and the astral body then takes possession of it. That happens in the following way.

Let us picture the physical body abandoned by the etheric body. So long as the etheric body remains in the physical body, it cannot develop the forces it has acquired in life because it is imprisoned in the physical body. Picture how, in our previous earth life, we acquired this or that capacity. This is to say, we acquired it with the physical body of that incarnation. What we have added to it in the present incarnation has not yet had time to develop organs for its use; we must first create these in our current incarnation for the life to follow. But all this is lodged in the etheric body, which is more elastic, more fluid than the physical. No use can be made of it, however, as long as the etheric body remains bound to the physical body.

But when the physical body has fallen away, the etheric body is freed. And now this etheric body brings forth all the fruits of the life we have lived through up to our death. That is also the reason why it presents the whole life-panorama that spreads out before us for a few days, the tableau of finished earth life, so that we may learn and acquire from this panorama everything that can be extracted from our past experiences. And that takes place during the few days during which we have the tableau before us.

Every morning, on awakening, when our astral body enters our physical and etheric bodies, it has to adapt itself to what has evolved out of the physical and etheric bodies of the past incarnation, and there it encounters what we have made of ourselves.

The astral body never enters the etheric body in a way that allows it to make use of what the etheric body has developed in the present incarnation. But after death it does so. It is related to the etheric body in a way that lets it feel and perceive and sense the fruits gathered from the life just ended. And when, a few days later, the astral body separates from the etheric, the entire product of that life is contained in the astral body as the result of the astral body's having drawn it out of the etheric body during the days it has spent there. The astral body needs to spend only those few days in the liberated etheric body to live through everything that an incarnation has brought forth. But it takes a long time so to shape what it has thus experienced that a new earth life can be fashioned from it.

...

...

But in the case of those who die young the situation is different, for the etheric body has not grown young, and there is consequently less earth-acquired wisdom stored up in it. It is earth-acquired wisdom that is involved here. Something else takes its place. Those who die early have old etheric bodies that have not had time to grow young, and these are all the more teeming with will. Direct will-force in all its immediacy, the love element, creative love-force, permeates them.

That is the difference between the etheric bodies of the old and young. The former bear more the character of wisdom, the latter of will.

  • The etheric body of a person who dies young streams out love, warm love, a warm etheric love-element,
  • while that of an older person streams out an aura filled with light and wisdom.

We can answer the question that interests us here by asking spiritual science what would happen if, for some reason, everyone were to grow very old, living on to eighty or ninety, if not a single person died young. What would the result be?

In that case, all the etheric bodies deserted by their souls would be imbued with loving wisdom. People living on the Earth in the continuity of history would find it possible to learn a great deal during their physical earth lives, for their physical bodies would be wisely fashioned. They would be born somewhat undifferentiated, each similar to all the rest, but they could learn a great deal on the physical plane. They would be delicately and wisely built, and could learn a great deal, since such learning would be connected with an extremely mobile constitution. Due to their extraordinarily sensitive, mechanistically-wisely constituted physical organisms, these people would be in a state of labile balance that could easily shift. A person would learn a great deal, but be terribly nervous, as the current “nervous” age would express it. It would be a humanity tending to fidget and to have a precarious balance, very gifted for learning on the physical plane, but nevertheless very restless and fidgety. We had better say fidgety rather than nervous; why not put it in a way that feels right? In earlier times, even a couple of centuries ago, throughout Europe a person who had strong nerves and could stand a lot was referred to as “nervy” or “nervous.” But nowadays the tone is not set by the same people, so the meaning of the word got turned into the exact opposite.

Now the soul-differentiations we bring with us into an incarnation from the spiritual world would not exist in human development if everybody grew old, if no one were to die young. There would be no talents, no being born with special gifts. People would come into the world more or less like each other, more or less undifferentiated. They would differ from one another and learn different things only as a result of experiencing different conditions on the physical plane, and would be rather similarly adaptable to whatever circumstances they encountered. Special individual needs would be taken care of by karma through the agency of heredity. Beyond this, what we know as predispositions to special soul-qualities would be lacking. People would simply not possess inner differences.

But everything in the world has to be founded on balance, as I've often said, and in these matters too there can be no one-sidedness. Human life must accordingly be built, on the one hand, on the possibility of pouring into the physical body what an individual has stored up as wisdom in the etheric body's growing younger for use in a future incarnation. On the other hand, the will impulses of those who die young are needed. I have shown at hand of many examples how children who die very young have not expended their etheric bodies. Right here at the Goetheanum we ourselves live in the aura of an etheric body out of which those forces that provide artistic stimulus are derived. I explained how a child belonging to the Goetheanum community left his etheric body at his death, and that this etheric body has created an aura that is incorporated into our building. Those able to perceive the nature of the impulses that come from this etheric body find support in them for the artistic impulses to be lived out here.

But this is in general the situation with the etheric bodies of those who die young. They go back; they haven't as yet grown so young as entirely to have worn down the will element; instead, will and creative love-forces accompany them into the spiritual world.

And now a continuous interchange has to take place between those etheric bodies that have grown wholly young and those less young. Continuous mutual support is exchanged in the spiritual world between what ascends from the Earth in the etheric bodies of the very aged and the etheric bodies of young people, or, indeed, of those in the in-between years. When very young children die, those referred to in Faust as “the midnight-born,” their etheric bodies are very old, quite hoary in fact, but they are endowed with strong will- forces. Etheric bodies of this kind are able to work powerfully on the long-lived etheric bodies of those who grow physically old.

Just think what a brilliant idea it was that made Goethe have the centenarian Faust go to heaven surrounded by the etheric bodies of very young boys, the “midnight-born,” hinting thereby that an exchange of the kind described has to take place!

This interchange is always going on. We can therefore say that there exist in the spiritual world the etheric bodies of human beings who have grown physically old, and various things are taking place in them (see drawing, mauve); then, in red, the etheric bodies of deceased young people, with various things taking place in them as well; and an interchange between them, a process of mutual exchange. And what we encounter in the life between death and rebirth is the result of the situations that develop in this exchange between the etheric bodies of those who died young and those who died old. This interchange is essential; without it, the evolution of humanity on earth could not proceed properly.

The beings who direct this interchange are to be found in the realm of the angel hierarchy, so that we really have to recognize such an interchange between the two kinds of etheric bodies in the spiritual world in which we are immersed. The two kinds of activity coalesce, like two merging rivers. But they are then given proper direction and regulation by angelic beings; that is one of the tasks with which angels are charged. When, therefore, persons are able to come into the world with special talents, this is due not only to the possibility that between death and rebirth wisdom of a materialistic nature that is a fruit of the Earth has been imprinted into physical bodies, but that something not as yet fully developed on Earth, the product of the etheric bodies of those who died young, has brought about effects present as forces that can be interwoven in the process of fashioning human talents.

You see how spiritual science can bring about a living feeling for things when we really immerse ourselves in its secrets. We learn from spiritual science to lift ourselves in spirit to a contemplation of the mystery of death in an older person. For then we tell ourselves that people grow old in order that human evolution may go forward in the right way for as long as physical bodies are needed as vehicles. We have a premonition, whenever an older person dies, of the fruits that human evolution on earth will bear as a result. And when we give ourselves up to a contemplation of what the future holds, we realize that there has to be a continuous development of talents in mankind's progressive evolution. This person must be gifted in this direction, another in that, with capabilities ranging all the way to the genius level. That could not be the case if nobody were fated to die young. And as we look up to people of special genius, we can attribute their gifts to the fact that some individuals have to die young. To contemplate the mystery of death in the case of young human beings is to realize that early death too is part of the wise design, for it gives rise to seed-forces of soul-endowment needed by the human race for its further progress.

If we can lift ourselves above a personal reaction to death to a contemplation of what is needed by mankind as a whole, we encounter the wisdom involved in the deaths of both young and old. It is important to realize that a truly genuine and earnest study of spiritual science does not remain mere theory, but that a proper grasp of theories leads to attitudes and feelings that enable us to achieve greater harmony in our lives than we could achieve if we didn't have it. We need spiritual science to develop the deeper insight that can lead to a perception of the consonance that lies behind life's otherwise unbearable dissonances.

We learn, too, to understand the sacrifices that we have to make in life and the things that pain us, if we know that the entire universe can be rightly maintained only by developments that cannot help but cause us sorrow. We simply have to make the effort to sense that the many hundreds of geniuses: Homer, Shakespeare, Goethe, Michelangelo, Raphael, and so on, are essential to mankind's progressive evolution, and would not have existed as such had the ground not been prepared by people dying young. This has nothing to do with the individual. Those who die young and thus sacrifice their etheric bodies in their youth provide the entire cosmos with a fruitful soil for the growth and maturing of human soul-capacities.

1915-09-06-GA162

[Death of etheric body]

We know that the next outstanding event to take place after death is the laying aside of, the separation from, the etheric body. As I said yesterday, it is the etheric body that connects us with the surrounding cosmos, just as it is the physical body that connects us with the earth.

You can gather from various things I've said that the etheric body is absorbed into the etheric world when we lay it aside after death, just as the physical body is absorbed into the earth world.

But it would be a misconception to picture this absorption of the etheric body into the etheric world as exactly analogous to the disintegration of the physical body into physical matter, for the process is not one of dissolution; instead, what we have imprinted into the etheric body remains there. The etheric body expands. In certain special cases, however, when the etheric body is kept intact because of an early death, it can have a special task too, as I've been describing in the course of these lectures. Generally speaking, however, we can say that the etheric body is absorbed into the etheric world, but that it takes with it the fruits of the life between birth and death, thus enriching the etheric world. We enrich the etheric world at death with what we have given our etheric bodies. It is therefore incorrect to describe the etheric body as dissolving into the surrounding ether. Instead, we need to try to picture a process quite different from any that could take place in the physical realm.

It is desirable to find a term for this that could not apply to any physical process, and I have thought much about this, and if I now wish to describe the way this etheric body is absorbed into the etheric world, I can best do so with the phrase “in-binding.” The physical body, then, is subject to dissolution, the etheric body to “in-binding.” This means that the content we have given it is bound up with, embedded in the whole etheric universe; “in-binding” is thus the polar opposite of dissolution. When we are trying to find the fitting term for something that does not exist in the physical, it is good to find an expression descriptive of the actual fact and inapplicable to the physical world.

“In-binding” is the term to use here because of what actually happens. Let us assume that someone has built this or that into his etheric body. The etheric body is connected with everything extraterrestrial, as I have said. Now insofar as a person has some experience of things beyond the merely earthly in his life here (and everybody has such experiences, even materialists, only they're not aware of it), that content lives in his etheric body. It is incorporated into the etheric world, embedded in it. And if we observe a person's abandoned etheric body with clairvoyant vision, we discover in it the answer to a certain question, namely, what were the heavens (taking the term “heavens” to include everything supra-earthly) able to derive for themselves from that person during his lifetime?

What they were able to take for themselves is totally different from what physical observation can see the earth deriving. If we consider somebody's earthly remains, they amount for physical eyes to nothing more than a little heap of earth like other earthly substances. And people assume, though not quite correctly, that the earth would remain just the same if this little heap of earth, the physical body, did not become part of it at the person's death. They assume that it is of little significance for the earth to receive back that part of itself that was a person's body during his lifetime.

But those who contemplate the developing postmortem relationship of the etheric body to what I have called the heavens come to a different view of the matter. They would have to say that the content a person has created for himself as the fruit of his thinking, feeling, and willing, of his work, of his whole existence, of everything that has happened to him and that has, during his life on earth, been incorporated into his etheric body is something for which the heavens are full of gratitude when they receive it. A cloud of gratitude sweeps over those who direct their clairvoyant gaze upon the abandoned etheric body of a deceased human being. The heavens' attitude is the exact opposite of that of the earth with its total lack of gratitude. When our gaze falls on the graves of human beings, not an earthly word of thanks is heard, acknowledging the return to the earth of the materials it provided for man's fashioning, whereas thanks resound from the heavens for everything with which the human being has endowed his etheric body during his lifetime. The heavens have bound man's etheric body into themselves. This too is part of what was brought up yesterday, when the statement was made that when we make a proper study of spiritual science, every concept we derive from it takes on an ethical aspect, brings about a moral deepening of our souls, while at the same time suffusing us with living warmth.

Now let us focus on what has been stated in these lectures: that a person who ascends into spiritual worlds (which he does also in his life after death) possesses a completely different kind of consciousness, a very different view of things. I have already suggested how inwardly mobile thinking then becomes. But this inner mobility is only the first stage of ascent into the spiritual world. On ascending further after death, upon laying aside our etheric bodies, our consciousness is of an entirely different sort than it is here in the physical world. Here, objects are outside us; we perceive them from outside. But when we have ascended as high into the spiritual world as I am now describing, we no longer confront such objects. What for us here in the physical world is the most impenetrable aspect of animals and human beings, their inner life of soul, is their most easily penetrable aspect for beings of the higher worlds. We participate in the soul life there. We have a world of beings rather than a world of objects surrounding us. That is the significant thing about it.

When we stand beside one another here on the physical plane, you stand there and I over here, both of us holding on to an object, say a table. And now we have to eliminate all objects from our consciousness, picturing ourselves in a world occupied by souls, in inner touch with them in the way we relate on the physical plane to our thoughts and feelings. We have to picture it this way. We don't establish contact with a being of the angelic hierarchy by taking its hand, but rather by living in its being as we live in our thoughts and feelings. I have often described the situation as an entering into our thoughts and feelings by these beings. We express this correctly when we say that these beings live in us.

You will find what I've just been saying in my book, An Outline of Occult Science [ Note 01 ] There is described in detail how we live in the life after death in a much more intimate relationship with the other beings there than can ever be the case with our fellow human beings on the earth, for we are inwardly as connected with them as we now are with our thoughts and feelings. And we can also approach the dead with our souls while we are here on earth if we work towards that by doing the suggested reading to them. We have to develop the capacity for it, but we will be aware of the dead really coming closer to us. It is a matter of making the effort to achieve an inward living together with them in the way we live in our thoughts and feelings.

Materialistically-minded spiritualists best demonstrate how little inclined people are to enter into these higher concepts of true inner reality. The term “materialistically-minded spiritualists” may sound odd, but it is a fact that large numbers of spiritualists are much more materialistically-minded than ordinary materialists. The latter say, “There's no such thing as spirit,” and they call matter “matter.” But a lot of spiritualists are intent upon perceiving spirits materially, either as apparitions of light, a material substance, or through the sense of touch. Such are the nuances in their encounters with spirits, a materializing of the entire spiritual world. We must acquire the ability to look for deeper reality than that transmitted by the senses. There is even something quite absurd in the materialistic spiritualist's seeking to see the dead with physical eyes when he can't expect to see them with physical eyes after his own death. To see a dead person, we have to try to see him as though we were ourselves dead, that is, of course, without physical eyes.

The fact that we must confront the spiritual world with a consciousness wholly different from the one that confronts the physical world is usually expressed as “we see the physical world objectively, the spiritual world subjectively” — meaning that we see the spirit when we extend our subjective experience to include the spiritual world. This is a much more intensive exercise of sight than physical seeing, but it remains subjective, in intimate connectedness with what is perceived. Very few people of recent times have had any inkling of the fact that this spiritual world must really be described in such a way. Those who have had a premonition of it have had to struggle with terminology. One of them, Berkeley, immediately went too far in his attempt to express how the spiritual world must be related to. It was clear to him that a person perceiving the so-called outer world of matter can certainly not say, “There is something behind what I am perceiving,” but only, “When I open my eyes, I see colors, etc.; when I use my ears to listen, I hear tones, and so on. But I cannot say whether anything material exists beyond and behind these perceptions.” It seemed utter nonsense to Berkeley to state anything beyond “There is no existence independent of perception.”

Berkeley was both right and wrong; right, insofar as it is a crude idea that prompts a person to assume that some form of matter accounts for what we perceive; what we perceive is the universe. Nothing exists beyond our perceptions; minds and their perceptions are all there is. Radically stated, the situation as Bishop Berkeley sees it is the following: Here we have so and so many individuals. Judged on the basis of ordinary life, we say that one, two, three, four or however many people are sitting here, with bodies, etc. But Berkeley would declare this to be untrue and say that only souls are present, their bodies being merely what these souls perceive. They are an illusion; only souls exist. Or, every soul here is harboring something like an external illusion of everyone else's body. But Miss M., for example, should not allow herself to believe that Mrs. K. is really sitting there bodily. Miss M. has a picture in her soul of Mrs. K., and Mrs. K. has one of Miss M. All else is illusion; only souls exist. “Nothing exists independent of perception.”

Bishop Berkeley was right only up to a certain point. He was not a spiritual scientist, and could therefore not be aware of something I can most easily express as follows: Let us suppose that Mrs. K. is not observing Miss M., but instead contemplating some event that took place five days ago and that has popped into her mind again just this moment. An event, such as the breaking of a vase five days ago, is not a spirit. Let us picture her reviewing the whole business, how she held the vase in her hands, how it toppled, how it was shattered into fragments. The whole picture rises up within her. We can certainly say that this picture is not another soul. Still, taking the entire soul as presently constituted, this process now rising up in it is something perceived as objectively as any other object existing outside it. In the one case, the object is beheld in confrontation, while in the other it is a past process rising up and becoming conscious. This latter, too, cannot be said to exist within the soul; it had first withdrawn from it. Otherwise we would have had to keep on picturing the breaking of the vase every minute of our waking life during the past five days. Let us take it as a blessing that the picture existed outside our souls and only now returns to consciousness. It existed outside the soul in just the same sense that everything else does. It existed originally inside it, but then withdrew. Here you have something that is not a spirit, for the breaking of the vase is neither of the spirit nor of the soul, but simply re-enters the soul as an objective element.

If you relate this to what I've been saying in these lectures, namely that what is out there in the universe is really of the past, something long forgotten, you will be able to picture what the external world is insofar as we perceive it as an external world rather than as another soul.

I'll make a schematic drawing. Let's picture a soul here, with various earlier events contained within it, such as that involving the broken vase. And it will contain other events as well, but I won't put them all in separately.


All immediate conscious experience is comprised within the circular area. The fact that the broken vase can be remembered is due to its having disappeared from conscious experience; it can return to consciousness only as a memory-image. The event has been thrust into the objective realm. Just think how great the longing of many people is to thrust into the objective realm such events as broken vases, to forget them if possible and not allow them to break through into consciousness! They can be submerged to ever greater depths of objectivity. And when they've reached the ultimate degree of submersion, they live outside us.

The things and processes in our environment are there only because they were thought and then pressed into objectivity by beings during the ancient sun and moon periods. Now they have objective existence. Everything we confront was once thought and felt and existed as conscious content, and was then thrust out of consciousness. We might say that the objective world is what gods and spirits once thought and forgot and thrust out of themselves.

Berkeley is therefore obviously incorrect in stating that there is no world outside us, only souls. For what is outside us is the product of forgetting. Of course, the bodies of the individual souls here have not been forgotten by each soul, for their first beginnings were created and thought by spirits on ancient Saturn, then objectified, and so on. We must be quite clear that consciousness preceded existence, that what exists externally had its origin in consciousness, just like what we have in our memories in the first stage of objectification. The objectification process in the case of the individual souls of today goes only as far as in the case of the broken vase. In the case of beings that developed through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon periods it is so far advanced that the thoughts they had have now achieved the solidity of our mountain ranges. Since we are connected with the whole spiritual world, we perceive what the gods thought so long ago.

It will become clear to you as you think this over how important it is that an objective world emerges from subjective realms. I've often stressed the fact that our memories have to remain intact if we are to maintain ego-consciousness, and the gods had to create a world out of themselves for the same reason. The gods thrust out the entire universe in order to preserve their consciousness, just as we carry memory-images for the period of time since we began remembering. And we human beings thrust out our physical bodies and ether bodies in order to attain a higher level of consciousness.

As I've emphasized from another standpoint, death is a terrible thing only from the perspective of the physical world. Looked at from the standpoint of the spiritual world, where we find ourselves from the moment we have died, death is the launching of our entire later consciousness. To look back to death illumines the consciousness we possess between death and rebirth. Though we cannot look back to our birth into the physical world, we can look back continuously to our death as to the most glorious moment of our past life. Looking back during the time after death, we encounter the moment of dying, and this encounter, visible to us in this time-perspective, provides us after death with a continuous ego-consciousness in the nature of a mirror- image, reflected from the fact of death (See drawing).


As we pass through death, then, we grow out of the way of seeing things that, in the physical world, forces us to look upon objects, and we grow into an outlook experienced as our being increasingly harbored by other spiritual beings, coming closer and closer to them. While we live in our physical bodies here, our thoughts, our feelings, our impulses of will are restricted to ourselves alone. But when we pass through death, these flow out into the world, into the other spiritual beings who then live in us. We reproduce ourselves; our consciousness expands. From a single unit we become a multiplicity, a oneness in the many, and the multiplicity reveals itself as it absorbs our oneness.

So our growing to participation in the world ordinarily referred to as the world of the hierarchies is the process that takes place as soon as we enter the spiritual world. Here on earth we speak of objects and of the experiences we have with them, whereas the dead speak exclusively of beings and of the communications made to them by beings about other beings, speak of a lesser or stronger connection with them, and the like.

Much effort is required to convey an even partially adequate conception of such matters as this growing into the spiritual world. Now that we have tried to form at least a slightly more exact idea of the manner of this growth, let us turn our attention to the facts we spoke about yesterday: those involving death in younger and in maturer years.

1920-05-16-GA201

(see also Rebholz's essay Durchgang, Part III, context enlivened images)

1923-05-17-GA226

[Etheric expands] Immediately after passing through the portal of death, the human being first experiences the withdrawing of his ideational world. The ideas, the powers of thought, become objects, become something like active forces spreading out into the universe. Thus Man feels at first the withdrawal from him of all the experiences he has consciously undergone during his earth-life between birth and death.

1924-02-10-GA234

However, when we go through the gate of death our life on Earth is followed by a few days in which pictures of the life just ended come before us in a gigantic perspective. These pictures are suddenly there: the events of years long past and of the last few days are there simultaneously. As the spatial exists side by side and only possesses spatial perspective, so the temporal events of our earthly life are now seen side by side and possess ‘time-perspective’.

This tableau appears suddenly, but, during the short time it is there, it becomes more and more shadowy, weaker and weaker. Whereas in earthly life we look into ourselves and feel that we have our memory-pictures ‘rolled up’ within us, these pictures now become greater and greater. We feel as if they were being received by the universe. What is at first comprised within the memory tableau as in a narrow space, becomes greater and greater, more and more shadowy, until we find it has expanded to a universe, becoming so faint that we can scarcely decipher what we first saw plainly. We can still divine it; then it vanishes in the far spaces and is no longer there.

That is the second form taken by memory — in a sense, its second metamorphosis — in the first few days after death. It is the phase which we can describe as the flight of our memories out into the cosmos. And all that, like memory, we have bound so closely to our life between birth and death, expands and becomes more and more shadowy, to be finally lost in the wide spaces of the cosmos.

It is really as if we saw what we have actually been calling our ego during earthly life, disappear into the wide spaces of the cosmos. This experience lasts a few days and, when these have passed, we feel that we ourselves are being expanded too. Between birth and death we feel ourselves within our memories; and now we actually feel ourselves within these rapidly retreating memories and being received into the wide spaces of the universe.


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