Souls after death

From Anthroposophy

When a person dies, after the death of the physical body also quickly the etheric body is thrown off, and the soul continues on a long in the astral world and later into the spirit world.

However it is not that these worlds are disconnected with our physical world, in fact these are totally intertwined so that these deceased souls are in our feelings life and can influence us, and given certain faculties also communication is possible with the deceased souls.


  • is a deceased soul a star in heaven? (1924-07-06-GA237)
  • the 'language and state of soul of a soul after death
  • Interaction with deceased souls
  • Influence of deceased souls (on physical events on Earth)
  • manipulation of deceased souls by secret societies, ahrimanic immortality (1917-01-22-GA174)
  • death horoscope (1917-01-21-GA174, see also Willy Sucher, Wachsmuth)


Lecture coverage and references

Coverage overview

Main cycles are:

  • GA140 of 1912-1913, an important cycle with 20 lectures, see oa sixteen lectures online here
  • 1914-GA154 with 7 lectures, has as cycle subtitle 'The inpouring of spiritual impulses from the world of the deceased'
  • 1916-GA168
  • 1917-12-GA179 is a cycle of 8 lectures called 'The Influence of the Dead on Destiny'
  • 1918-GA181 with 21 lectures oa on the 'bridge with the dead'

A good introduction is 1918-02-14-GA174a

Reference extracts

1913-02-04 – Steiner, First experience with the dead in train


The Establishment of Mutual Relations between the Living and the So-called Dead


Links Between the Living and the Dead


Links Between the Living and the Dead


Faith and Knowledge, in The Prescence of the Dead


The Presence of the Dead in Our Life


The Blessing of the Dead


Relationships Between the Living and the Dead


Concerning the Life Between Death and a New Birth


I-Consciousness and the so-called Dead


The destructive power of untruthfulness in the relationship between the living and the dead. When the living work on spiritual science this gives the dead the opportunity to work in the physical world. Secret brotherhoods bring about ahrimanic immortality by means of ceremonial magic which leads to an illegitimate relationship with the dead.


[Death horoscope]

Investigations are often made — unfortunately not always with the necessary respect and dignity, but out of egoistic reasons — into the starry constellation prevailing at birth. Much less selfish and much more beautiful would be a horoscope, a planetary horoscope made for the moment of death. This is most revealing for the whole soul of the human being, for the entry into death at a particular moment is most revealing in connection with karma.

Those who decide to conduct such investigations — the rules are the same as those applied to the birth horoscope — will make all kinds of interesting discoveries, especially if they have known the people for whom they do this fairly well in life. For several days the dead person bears within himself, in the etheric body he has not yet discarded, an echoing vibration of what comes from the planetary constellation. So the first phase is that of the direction in the starry constellation. It is meaningful as long as the human being remains connected with his etheric body.

[Influence of the discarnate]

Some aspects of this will be clear to you from what we said yester­day. When, by suitable means, we come to know the life of the dead today, we discover that they have a very strong urge to intervene in what human beings do here on earth. But

  • in earlier times, when there was less materialism on the earth than there is today, it was easier for the dead to intervene in what took place on the earth. It was easier for them to influence the sphere of the earth through what those on earth felt and sensed of the after-effects of the dead.
  • Today it can be experienced very frequently — and this is always surprising in the actual case — that people who have been intensely involved in certain events during their life are unable, in their life after death, to have any interest in the events which take place after their death, because they lack any kind of link. Amongst us, too, there are souls who showed great interest for events on earth while they were here but who now, having gone to the spiritual world, find the events taking place since their death quite foreign to them. This is frequently the case, even with distinguished souls who here on earth were greatly gifted and filled with the liveliest interest.

This has been going on for a long time, indeed it has been on the increase during the whole of the fifth post-Atlantean period, ever since the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Expressed in commonplace terms — which are unfortunately all we have in our language — our experience is that, because they are less and less able to intervene in what human beings do, the dead have instead to intervene in the way people manifest as individual personalities. So we see that since the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the interest and the work of the dead has been concentrated increasingly on individual personalites rather than on the wider contexts concerning mankind. Since I have occupied myself closely with this very aspect, I have reached the con­viction that it is connected with a certain phenomenon of modern times that is very noticeable to those who are interested in such things.

In recent history, unlike former times, we have the remarkable phenomenon of people being born with outstanding capacities. In general they work with tremendous idealism and distinguished endeavour but are incapable of gaining a broader view of life or of widening their horizons. In the whole of literature this has been expressing itself for some time. Individual ideas, concepts, and feel­ings, expressed either in literature or art, or even science, sometimes display strong promise. But an overall view is not achieved. This is also the reason why people find it so difficult to achieve the broader view needed in spiritual science. It happens chiefly because the dead approach individuals and work in them on capacities for which the foundations are laid during childhood and youth. The faculties which enable individuals to gain a broader view when they reach maturity are more or less untouched by the activities of the dead in this materialistic age. Incomplete talents, unfinished torsos — not only in the wide world, but also in individual situations — are therefore very prevalent because the dead can more readily approach individual souls rather than what lives socially in human evolution today. The dead have a strong urge to reach what lives socially in human evolu­tion, but in our fifth post-Atlantean period this is exceedingly dif­ficult for them.


.. in the case of some souls, who had been successfully influenced in this way .. this had actually happened. These souls had indeed been prevented from contact with the world of the archangeloi and they therefore lacked any strong, clear consciousness. So in his way Leadbeater was observing souls who had fallen prey to the machinations of those brotherhoods, only he did not go so far as to observe what became of those souls after a while.

Such souls cannot spend their whole time between death and a new birth without the ingredients which would normally be given to them by the world of the archangeloi, so they have to receive something else instead. And they do indeed receive something that is an equivalent; they are indeed permeated by something; but what?

They are permeated by something that comes from archai who have remained behind at the stage of the archangeloi. So, instead of being permeated by the substance of the real archangeloi - as would be normal  - they are permeated by archai, by time spirits, but by those who have not ascended to the level of time spirits but have remained behind at the level of the archangeloi. They would have become archai if they had evolved normally, but they have remained behind at the level of the archangeloi. That means that these souls are permeated by ahrimanic influences in the strongest manner.

You need to have a proper idea of the spiritual world in order to comprehend the full significance of a fact such as this. When occult means are used in an endeavour to secure for a single folk spirit the rulership over the whole world, this means that the intention is to influence even the spiritual world.

It means that

  • in the place of the legitimate rulership of the dead by the archangeloi,
  • is put the illegitimate rulership by archai who have remained at the stage of the archangeloi and who are, therefore, illegitimate time spirits. With this, ahrimanic immortality is achieved.

You might ask why human beings can be so foolish as to allow themselves to be programmed away from normal evolution and into quite another evolutionary direction. This is a short-sighted judgement, for it fails to take into account that out of certain impulses human beings can indeed come to long for immortality in worlds other than those that would be normal. It is well and good that you do not long for any part in some kind of ahrimanic immortality! But just as all kinds of things are incomprehensible, so you will have to admit that it must be allowed to remain incomprehensible, if people in the normal world — including life between death and a new birth — want to escape from this normal world, saying — as it were: We do not want Christ to be our guide, Christ, who is the guide for the normal world; we want a different guide, for we want to oppose this normal world. From the preparations they undergo — I have described these to you — from the preparations brought about by ceremonial magic, they gain the impression that the world of ahrimanic powers is a far more powerful spiritual world and that it will above all enable them to continue what they have achieved in the physical world — making immortal their materialistic experiences in physical life.

The time is ripe for looking into these things, because those who do not know about them, those who do not know that such endeavours exist today, are not in a position to understand what is going on. Behind everything visible in the physical world there lies something that is supernatural, something physically imperceptible. And there are today not a few who work, either for good or for bad, with means, with impulses that are hidden behind what the senses can perceive. It can be said that the world in which we live will follow its proper evolution if human beings place themselves in the service of Christ. But there are many and varied means by which this can be avoided, and some of these are so close to home that it is not easy to speak about them. People have no idea of what can spread through human souls, yet at the same time work as an immeasurably strong occult impulse.


Lecture 2: Concerning the World of the Dead


Lecture 3: Our Life with the Dead


[The life of the so-called dead and the so-called living]


The Dead Are With Us



Uniting with the universal spirit


The feeling of community and the experience of gratitude


Trust in life and rejuvenation of the soul

1924-07-04 – Memento Mori (Latin phrase that means 'Remember that you must die.')


We have seen how the study of karma, wherein the destiny of man is contained, leads us from the affairs of the farthest universe — from the worlds of the stars — down to the tenderest experiences of the human heart, inasmuch as the heart is an expression of all that man feels working upon him during life, — of all that happens to him in the whole nexus of earth-existence. When we try to arrive at our judgments through a deeper understanding of the karmic connections, we are driven again and again to look into these two domains of world-existence which lie so far removed from one another. Indeed we must say: Whatever else we may be studying, — be it Nature, or the more natural configuration of human evolution in history or in the life of nations — none of these leads us so high up into cosmic realms as the study of karma. The study of karma makes us altogether aware of the connections between human life here upon earth and that which goes on in the wide universe. We see this human life taking its course on earth, unfolding till about the 70th year of life, when in a certain connection it attains its limit. Whatever lies beyond this is in reality a life given by grace. What lies below this limit stands under karmic influences, and these we shall now have to study.

It is possible, as I have often mentioned from varied points of view, to put the length of human life on earth at about 72 years. Now 72 years, seen in relation to the secrets of the cosmos, is a remarkable number, the true significance of which only begins to dawn upon us when we consider what I may call the cosmic secret of human earthly life. We have already described what the world of the stars is from a spiritual point of view. When we enter on a new earthly life, we return, so to speak, from the world of stars to this life on earth.

At this point once more it is astonishing how the ancient ideas — even if we do not take our start from tradition — simply emerge again of their own accord when we approach these domains of life with the help of modern spiritual science. We have seen how the various planetary stars and fixed stars take part in human life and in all that permeates this human life on earth. If we have before us an earthly life that has taken its full course, — one that does not come to an end all too soon, but that has passed through half at least of the allotted earthly time, — then in the last resort we find this truth once more: The human being, inasmuch as he comes down from cosmic spiritual spaces into an earthly life, comes always from a certain star. We can trace the very direction of it, and it is not unreal — on the contrary, it is most exact, to say: — ‘The human being has his star.’ If we take what is experienced beyond all space and time between death and a new birth, and translate this into its spatial image, we can say: Every man has his star, which determines what he has attained between death and a new birth.

He comes from the direction of a certain star. We may indeed receive into our minds this conception. The whole human race inhabiting the Earth is to be found on the one hand by looking round about us upon Earth, passing through these many continents, finding them peopled by the human beings who are now incarnated.

And the others who are not on the Earth, where in the universe shall we find them? Whither must we look in the great universe if we would turn our soul's gaze to them, assuming that a certain time has elapsed since they went through the gate of death?

The answer is: We look in the true direction when we look out upon the starry heavens. There are the souls — or at least the directions which will enable us to find the souls — who are spending their life between death and a new birth.

We see and comprehend the entire human race that inhabits the Earth, when we look upward and downward. Those alone who are now on the way thither or returning thence, we find in the planetary region.

But we can certainly not speak of the midnight hour of existence between death and a new birth, without thinking of some star which the human being as it were indwells between death and a new birth (albeit we must always bear in mind what I have said about the beings of the stars).

Then, my dear friends, we shall approach the cosmos with this knowledge. Away there are the stars, the cosmic signs from which there shines and lightens down upon us the soul-life of those who are between death and a new birth. And then we become aware that we can look also at the constellations of stars, saying to ourselves: ‘How is all this, that we behold in cosmic spaces, connected with the life of Man?’ We look up with a new fulness of heart and mind to the silvery moon, the dazzling blaze of the sun, the twinkling stars at night-time, and we feel ourselves united even humanly with all of these. This is what anthroposophy is to attain at last for the souls of men: they shall feel themselves united even in a human way with the whole cosmos. It is at this point that certain secrets of cosmic existence first begin to dawn upon us.


Friedrich Rittelmeyer

in 'Rudolf Steiner Comes Into My Life', saw the chance to ask Rudolf Steiner a couple of question after a funeral where he did the services

"Are the dead really there when one is giving their funeral oration?" I asked, and waited eagerly to see what he would reply to this unexpected question. ,

"When you spoke of the words which had comforted him on his death-bed, he came and stayed there until Prince X. got up so abruptly and went away. Then I did not see him any more."

Again I tried to realize the extraordinary situation. There among three hundred others was a man who had experienced this. But nobody could have guessed it. What kind of faces would they have pulled if they had suddenly seen what was happening?

"It must often be very unpleasant for the dead to be obliged to listen to these funeral orations!" I continued.

Dr. Steiner replied: "I have never noticed that. If they have no inner relation to what is said they stay away."


Related pages

References and further reading

Death horoscope

  • Willy Sucher:
    • The horoscope of death (Feb 1938, PDF article in public domain)
    • The horoscope of death and the life after death (Jul 1938, PDF article in public domain)
  • Gunther Wachsmuth: 'Kosmische Aspekte von Geburt und Tod. Beiträge zur Karmaforschung.' (1956, 1990) also in FR as 'Ciel de naissance et ciel de mort : Contribution à la recherche sur le karma.'