Midnight hour

From Anthroposophy

The so-called cosmic 'midnight hour' is the term that refers to a phase in the process between death and new birth, and represents the pivotal point in the spirit world between the ascending rise of the soul through the planetary spheres and the spirit world after death, and the descent back towards a next incarnation.

Rudolf Steiner coined this term in one of the Mystery Plays as the midnight hour in the spiritual life of Man, and used it consistently throughout his lecturing to describe this phase whereby Man develops the urge to descent back to a new life on Earth.

It is sometimes also called the 'cosmic twilight'


  • at the cosmic midnight hour
    • the spiritual figure of the human head is formed out of the forces of the rhythmic and metabolic-limb subsystems of the previous life (1923-11-14-GA231)
    • common destiny is formed in mutual work: spiritual relationships arise that allow him to find other people in the next life (1923-11-14-GA231)
  • term 'cosmic midnight hour' as the middle of postmortal life (1912-10-27-GA140 and 1913-08-31-GA147, 1914-04-10-GA153)
  • loneliness increases and consciousness grows dim upto the cosmic midnight. When Man has combined with Christ in the previous life, he can keep up the memory of the I upto that point. Around the cosmic midnight a re-awakening by the Holy Spirit takes place: Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus (1914-04-13-GA153). Having absorbed the Christ Impulse, the human being received abundant power that leads him beyond the cosmic midnight and strengthens the impuls by the Holy Spirit (1914-04-14-GA153)
  • nidanas work like strings drawing us ever and again down into existence
    • nidana is an indian sanskrit term used in theosophy, meaning string or loop. The term is used by Blavatsky and Rufold Steiner uses it in his lecture of 1905-10-10-GA093, see Schema FMC00.512
  • at the cosmic midnight hour a reversal takes place and the will turns into the longing to become world (and combines with the hereditary line), the thoughts turn into the longing to become a human being. (1921-10-01-GA207)
  • comparison with pralaya 'reversal'


Schema FMC00.512 provides an overview with description of the twelve forces which draw Man down again into physical existence, based on the Indian vedantic terminology of the nidanas.


Lecture coverage and references

Blavatsky - Secret Doctrine

on the Nidanas in theosophy - see also theosophy.wiki for nidana

The twelve nidanas or causes of being. Each is the effect of its antecedent cause, and a cause, in its turn, to its successor; the sum total of the nidanas being based on the four truths, a doctrine especially characteristic of the Hînayâna system. They belong to the theory of the stream of catenated law which produces merit and demerit, and finally brings karma into full sway. It is based upon the great truth that re-incarnation is to be dreaded, as existence in this world only entails upon Man suffering, misery and pain; Death itself being unable to deliver Man from it, since death is merely the door through which he passes to another life on earth after a little rest on its threshold - the spirit world or devachan.


Q. Are Nidana and Maya (the great causes of misery) aspects of the Absolute?

A. Nidana means the concatenation of cause and effect; the twelve nidanas are the enumeration of the chief causes which produce the severest reaction or effects under the karmic law.

Although there is no connection between the terms nidana and maya in themselves, maya being simply illusion, yet if we consider the universe as maya or illusion, then certainly the nidanas, as being moral agents in the universe, are included in maya. It is maya, illusion or ignorance, which awakens nidanas; and the cause or causes having been produced, the effects follow according to karmic law. To take an instance: we all regard ourselves as Units, although essentially we are one indivisible Unit, drops in the ocean of Being, not to be distinguished from other drops. Having then produced this cause, the whole discord of life follows immediately as an effect; in reality it is the endeavour of nature to restore harmony and maintain equilibrium. It is this sense of separateness which is the root of all evil.


freely translated

For the human being, the meaning of the outer earthly life gets its clarity in the middle of the spiritual world [devachan].
... it is in the middle between two incarnations that one needs to search for, or gets, the explanation or meaning of what is incarnating.


what comes out in the spirit world in the case of human being, is the human manas


[Slow decay upto the midnight hour]

However, then a time comes when one feels the inner force of light decreasing. This happens when one approaches the middle of the time between death and new birth. There one experiences in such a way that one feels: now the inner force of light decreases more and more; now you can light up less and less what is round you. The light becomes fainter and fainter, and the time approaches, when those times become more significant in which the inner experiences become more intensive. The inner experience becomes wealthier; the survey becomes darker and darker until the middle of the time between death and rebirth where one experiences what I have called the spiritual midnight in my mystery drama The Soul's Awakening (The Soul's Probation). Since you experience a time where you are fulfilled with the spiritual world where you wake, but wake at “night” where you experience yourself as concluded in the spiritual world.

It is a feeling of the most intensive experiencing-in-yourself in the middle between death and rebirth.

This experiencing-in-yourself produces a condition which is intolerable for the soul in the long run. It is knowledge of a knowledge that is intolerable that you do not want to have because it is only knowledge. You feel in yourself: you bear a world in yourself that you experience only knowingly, while you know that you are concluded by it in the reality; you have lost the force of light. Night enters in the spiritual world.

However, in this condition we have the experiences that are mentally passive, otherwise, in the physical body. Now they become something active. While you settle more and more in the twilight and, finally, in the night of the spiritual world, the longing for an outside world becomes bigger and bigger.

While the longing, the desire for the world of the life on Earth is something that must find its satisfaction from the outside, is that what one experiences at spiritual midnight like a longing for a force which develops with us as under suitable conditions the electric or magnetic forces develop. It is a longing in the soul that bears a new force that is able to conjure up an outside world before the soul again.

The soul has settled more and more in a spiritual inside world; this has become bigger and more tremendous. However, the longing lives in it to have an outside world around itself again. This longing is an active force, and the outside world, which it creates, is a quite peculiar one.

  • The first what we experience, after we have reached the middle between death and rebirth, is that an outside world places itself before us which is, however, again none. We face pictures if we awake from the loneliness which appear from our preceding life on earth. Therefore, an outside world that is, nevertheless, again our past outside world is around us, and the longing that is an active force has led us to it. We face our experiences on earth as an outside world for a while and we face them judging. While we have experienced them, we were within them; now we face them.
  • There a second longing originates to compensate the defects and imperfections of the former earth-lives compared with the new consciousness. Now the time enters in which the soul feels what it has to do concerning the thoughts that have hastened away from it. It receives the sure knowledge now that awakes in the second half of the life between death and new birth: your experiences of thought have run ahead of you; you can find them only on the detour of a new life on earth. From this second experience, that compared with the old life on earth and the knowledge that one can only find his thoughts which have run ahead if one calls back them again to a new life on earth, from there the instinctive drive for a new life on Earth originates. It cannot be judged according to the last life on Earth. At the specified time, the soul regards it as a matter of course to unite again with that what as thoughts has gone away from it and what it can only find on the detour of a new earth-life where it finds the possibility only to correct imperfections and defects at the sight of the past earth-life.

When we are fully in the light, then comes the time between death and new birth which you will find described in one of the Mystery Plays as the midnight hour in the spiritual life of man. It is about the middle of the time between death and new birth. This is the time when our consciousness, amid the beings of the hierarchies in the spiritual world, is most steeped in spiritual light. Yet at this very time we also experience most deeply: Down yonder in the planetary sphere is the abiding record of all that you, man, did. You may not abandon it, you cannot leave it thus, — so say we to ourselves — nor can you ever alter it while you are here; you can change it only by going down to Earth. And so the urge arises, to descend again to Earth, — to resolve, as it were, between Moon and Saturn. The forces of the Moon are drawing for us once again and we resolve to follow them, so to set forth on our returning journey. If a man grew to adult life in his last incarnation, it will be centuries later.


.. includes metamorphosis, and work of the hierarchies, but focuses on morality

  • The spiritual-moral has become convention today. Its real source is human understanding and love. Why do we see the opposite in actual life? Hatred and misunderstanding spring not from the spiritual but from the physical. The relation of the bone in man to hatred, and of the blood to misunderstanding and moral coldness. Terror in initiation in perceiving that the body is built of hatred and coldness, which always live in our sub-conscious.
  • We take the coldness and hatred, learnt from the body into the spiritual world at death, where they are taken from us by the third and second hierarchies. This enables us to meet the first hierarchy at the “midnight hour”.
  • Here man's form dissolves from head downward, and a new spiritual form created which becomes the head of the future man. Thinking with the limbs.
  • Rhythmic and digestive organs by the second and third hierarchies.


Related pages

References and further reading