Home > Roy Wilkinson Book > Chapter 8 "Life Between Death and Rebirth"

LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH

'Into Thy hands, O Lord...' These last words of Everyman in the famous medieval morality play testify to a trust in the Divinity and to a belief in life after death that is no longer quite so acceptable to the modern mind. In our scientific age faith is less in evidence and a spirit of enquiry has taken its place. Thus, among others, questions regarding destiny have assumed a greater importance than formerly and, among these, are matters appertaining to death and life hereafter. Attitudes to these matters are by no means uniform and in our mixed society it is only to be expected that we should find representatives of all shades of opinion.

There are, for instance, those who reject entirely the idea of a continued existence, believing that birth is a beginning and death an end. Possibly this view is due to fear, or to laziness in thinking, or to an unwillingness to face the consequences. Problems, however, do not disappear by being ignored.

Then there are those who admit the possibility of a continuation of life in some other form but take the attitude that they can wait until the time comes to cross the threshold, when all will be revealed.

This is a short-sighted view. If we are to undertake a journey, it is usual and reasonable to make some sort of preparation. If we are to travel into a strange land, it would seem advisable to gather such information as is available. If we are to sojourn in some particularly interesting place, it would be advantageous to learn about conditions there. In particular our stay would be much more fruitful if we had studied the country. If this is true of journeys in this world, then how much more significant must it be in the great adventure that awaits us beyond the grave.

There is a third category of human beings who accept the thought of a continuation of life as self-evident and search for such information as may be available.

Whether interested, apparently indifferent or openly agnostic, the human soul has certain needs and longs for assurances in matters of destiny, even if it does not consciously formulate questions. Such assurances can be found and much information is available.

Those who feel the urge to seek may find some of their requirements met by reference to history or literature since survival after death has been accepted as a fact since time immemorial. All the great religions testify to it and many of them to the idea of a rebirth of the human being on Earth, or what is termed reincarnation. Christianity does not proclaim this idea but at least it points to a spiritual world (Heaven) where human beings continue to exist and where they are united with friends and loved ones.

Philosophical thought, too, supports the idea. When Goethe, speaking of nature, says, 'Life is her fairest invention, death her means to create more life,' he is expressing nothing more than a fact of existence. Although the materialistic age produces a feeling of scepticism, it also stimulates the search for new ideas and many great minds of recent and modern times have expressed belief in a continued existence. (See chapter 2.) There are, however, outstanding personalities who know and who can give knowledge from their own experience. Such individualities are endowed with exceptional powers. They possess the ability to penetrate the veil of physical existence and have direct access to the spiritual world. Rudolf Steiner had such a faculty. What he had to reveal is perfectly understandable and satisfying to an unprejudiced mind. But Rudolf Steiner goes beyond the mere answering of specific questions. He puts the answers in a world context showing how knowledge gained by the seeker is not only of significance for himself but for the whole Earth and evolution of mankind.

This chapter aims to give an outline of his indications with regard to human experience between death and rebirth. It presupposes familiarity with the idea of reincarnation.

The Continuity of Life

Life after death must be seen in the context of life before death but, since life does not begin at birth, we could also speak of life before birth. The child only comes physically naked into the world. Spiritually it brings gifts and qualities.

Let us consider for a moment a few general aspects of life, bearing in mind the title of this chapter.

In early infancy the child is entirely dependent on its surroundings and is naturally influenced by them. As it grows, what and how it learns form a foundation for its understanding and attitudes as a grown-up. The interest awakened in the child, the moral and religious background, will all influence the character of the adult. Skills, intellectual awareness, sociability, these are influenced by early training.

In day-to-day existence we do not start new projects every day but continue where we left off the day before. In the course of life different faculties develop and understanding matures. It is obvious that today's capabilities and capacities are dependent on yesterday's efforts and experiences, today's comprehension on yesterday's lessons. We may have forgotten the reading lesson but we have acquired the ability to read. We may have suffered some setback but it gives us an ability to sympathise with others. We may have exerted ourselves to learn a language; now we can understand and speak it.

Our daily life also brings us into contact with other people. There is our immediate family. We move in certain circles; we have co-workers; we may belong to a certain club, society or church. We realize that the world is peopled by all sorts and conditions of men. We meet new people and make new friends. We help others and are helped in turn. We also make acquaintance with unpleasant characters who radiate negative forces.

We ourselves have certain characteristics. We may be kind, selfish, generous. We may be influenced by evil, succumb to temptation, be strong or weak-willed, independent or easily overruled. We may love and be loved; we may dislike our fellow humans and prefer isolation. Most of us have definite ideas, a particular way of thinking and a certain outlook on life. Some are very interested in what goes on around them, others less so.

Furthermore, in some way or other we are active in the world. We do something and our deeds have consequences. We do a kindness or the opposite; we do something creative or destructive. Everything has an effect. It is a sobering thought that in some measure, whatever we do, we leave our mark on the world. We might go so far as to say that everything we do, positive or negative, has an effect on the whole course of human evolution and should be judged in this light.

In the spiritual world there are corresponding factors and conditions.

As in early infancy the child learns things which last its whole life through and affect the life beyond, so after death (which is birth into the spiritual world) the individuality will learn things to last the whole of the period between death and rebirth and which will affect the new life on Earth.

As life here progresses in some logical sequence so does life there.

On Earth we enjoy sociability. We grow and develop in and by companionship. Here we are together with those who belong to us and the relationships continue. Here we meet people of dubious character, geniuses, men of high moral standing, and there, too, is variety. As we mutually influence one another here, so do we in the spiritual world.

When the human being dies, he casts off his material body and his eternal spiritual entity enters a spiritual world where his experiences and activities are a continuation of what went on before and where a new, wonderful and tremendously interesting phase of life begins.

After he has learned his lessons and reformed his nature, he is ready to embark on a new earthly existence.

Through the alternating experiences on Earth and in the spiritual world, that which lies at the centre of the human being — commonly referred to as the ego or spirit — is enriched. What has been experienced through existence in a physical body is developed in spiritland. There the spirit is refreshed, perhaps one could say recharged, with what is necessary for earthly life.

In considering the riddles of existence there comes a point when a question arises which cannot be answered — as yet. It concerns the goal of human existence.

It is difficult to visualize an ultimate goal and one is led to think that it must be beyond this evolution, beyond our comprehension and imagination at this stage. What can perhaps be said is that the fruits of all experience are incorporated in the ever-evolving human spirit on its path to become 'ideal' man. Greater revelation will come with greater capacity to understand.

One World

Man does not exist for himself alone. He is related in various ways to all the kingdoms of nature and to the universe itself. Everything is in some way related to everything else. In other words, we must think of the whole of the universe as a unity and man as a part of that unity, subject to the same laws. His continuous existence fits in with the whole idea of creation.

All nature works together and all parts of nature are interdependent. Throughout nature there are cycles of life and within the cycle death is a staging post. The plant grows, blossoms, forms seeds, dies, and a similar plant grows from the seed. Water is revitalized in the rain cycle; air is purified by vegetation; the torpor of winter is followed by the vitality of spring. Death and resurrection.

In nature there is order but it exists not only in nature. It is inbuilt in the universe. By day we observe the regular passage of the Sun across the heavens, by night the procession of stars and planets. We note the established rhythm of day and night.

Man is a part of nature and a part of the cosmos. He is one with nature and one with the cosmos although he has a certain independence. He takes part in the rhythms of nature and of the cosmos. In fact cosmic rhythms are reflected in his own. Actual numbers demonstrate the relationship between the Sun's movement and man's breathing and life-span, but the great rhythm of life is that of expansion and contraction. The plant grows on this principle. Day and night, summer and winter illustrate it. It is reflected in man's alternation of waking and sleeping, or, in a wider context, of birth and death. In the state of wakefulness there is continual wear taking place, evidenced by the feeling of tiredness. In sleep there is a restoring process although man is not conscious of this. During sleep the spiritual part of man has sojourned in its own home, the spiritual world, and it has brought back fresh forces for physical existence. Activity between death and rebirth is similar, but it is directed not to restoring the present body but to building up a new one from the forces of the universe.

Man, Earth, nature, cosmos, spiritual beings are all parts of a unity, parts of a spirit-filled, self-sustaining universe. Life and movement are in continuous harmony. There are no sudden endings. Life persists.

We are inclined to think of the spiritual world, if indeed we think of it at all, as something remote, separate and different. Different it is but neither remote nor separate, for physical world and spiritual world are really one.

A simple example will illustrate the point. A plant needs soil, light, air, warmth for its growth but there is a strange power inherent in the plant which gives it the possibility to grow, and to grow into its own particular form. This has nothing to do with physical forces. It is something non-perceptible to ordinary vision and might be termed — in a general sense — spiritual. Thus the plant is a manifestation of a spiritual force and since this force must exist somewhere we can say that it is centred in the spiritual world.

The plant dies and its spiritual force is dissipated, but that is not to say that it is lost. New plants grow, imbued with the same force and hence we could look upon the spiritual as having an enduring quality.

We can look upon the human being in a similar way. On the one hand he has a physical body and, on the other, something less tangible to which we refer — again in a general sense — as the spirit. Normally we consider that the spirit dwells within the body during earthly existence but that its home is in another realm into which it is released at death.

It is interesting to note that in the process of ageing the body changes its substance every seven years so that the adult cannot be the same as the child. Yet the personality remains. Obviously there is something present of lasting character, something which we also term the spirit.

Following the same line of thought we can consider the whole of creation in the same light. In fact we have good authority for it. The Bible tells us that God created Heaven and the Earth, and man in His own image.

Thus the heavenly bodies which appear to us as physical orbs also have a spiritual background. They, too, are manifestations of the spiritual, in this case of higher beings. They represent the spheres through which the human spirit travels.

Nevertheless, our modern minds think in terms of two worlds. Usually we are aware of the physical only but, if the faculty of perception were sufficiently developed, we could be aware of the spiritual world while still living in the flesh. Death would then become a minor experience. In present circumstances death marks the end of one sort of consciousness and the beginning of another.

Earthly Deeds and Attitudes: Their Consequences

It is not intended to give full explanations here but only significant indications.

As mortals we have strengths and weaknesses of character and what we have made of ourselves is reflected in the spiritual world.

Let us consider the case of a person who has lived an immoral, dissolute life on Earth. In the spiritual world such a person will not be in a position to partake fully of the life there. His experiences will be limited. He will have only a dim, twilight consciousness and will not be able to attract to himself the whole of the normally required forces for a new incarnation. Hence when he next appears on the physical plane he will have a weakness of some sort. On the other hand, a morally disposed person will have greater contacts with the helping higher beings, the Hierarchies, and will attract the right assistance for future health and balance.

Or take the case of an out-and-out materialist, one who on Earth has rejected all knowledge of spiritual matters. In his new surroundings he will be like one lost in the wilderness without chart or compass. By contrast, one who has busied himself on Earth with ideas of a spiritual nature will be better orientated and will achieve greater harmony in his next life on Earth.

It is a fact of life that not all people live to a ripe old age. Parting is always a matter of sorrow, and when a young person dies the feeling of loss is all the greater. Though suffering may be caused, it may be a consoling thought that dying young has another aspect. There is a compensating effect in that the person concerned will achieve a strong position in a future life, or that he will be endowed with a strong will, a strong character or strength to fulfil a special mission. The fact of leaving the Earth in early years also has an effect in the spiritual world. Here such individuals are 'idealists', bringing to the dead the unfinished impulses from their lives and showing that there is something spiritual on the Earth. They act as a counter to materialism. Dying young also releases forces that can be used by the higher beings to help souls who are faltering in their progress.

By contrast, the result of living to an old age results in greater inner activity in the next incarnation and a less defined vocation.

Those who have failed to meet life's difficulties and have taken their own lives face particular problems. For them not only are the normal desires appertaining to the body still present, without the means of gratification, but the sudden and violent separation from the body is felt as a greater deprivation than if death had taken place naturally.

(It might be mentioned here that those in difficulty in the beyond can be helped by those still on Earth. See chapter 5.)

Those human beings who have worked on Earth with enthusiasm and devotion, and not merely out of a sense of duty, are in an advantageous position. They can become co-workers and helpers of the higher powers, receiving advancement through the fact of close association. This also applies to those who learn to adapt themselves properly to their environment, that is to say, those who cope with life, however it presents itself. Since a man is on Earth not only to gather for himself the fruits of experience but also to bring impulses into the spiritual world, such beings are strengthened by positive attitudes and in turn they can radiate health-giving forces to the Earth.

It might be said that many people on Earth find themselves in dull routine work where enthusiasm and devotion are difficult to generate. This objection is perfectly valid but it is equally valid that man possesses an inner moral strength and if he can develop this sufficiently he can carry out whatever tasks life imposes. If his work does not inspire enthusiasm, then he can take the opportunity to be creative in some other field.

Moreover the Hierarchies have gifts to bestow on those who are worthy to receive them. Negative attitudes on Earth, no thoughts on the supersensible, result in no awareness of what the spiritual world can offer. It means a lack of some good quality in a future life.

This is particularly the case with those who, rejecting all ideas of a spiritual nature, devote their energies to making for themselves a material paradise of ease and comfort.

A lack of conscience on Earth can also result in a human being coming under the influence of evil spirits in the spiritual world — again with repercussions in a future life.

There is, however, another aspect of these matters which goes beyond the personal. As on Earth we affect our environment so do we in the beyond, although it must be appreciated that environment there is a vastly different matter. It is also possible to take harmful impulses into the spiritual world and these also affect the Hierarchies. These lofty beings are the spiritual background of the terrestrial kingdoms of nature and they are influenced by their association with man. Evil thoughts, evil feelings bring about changes in their character, and, as they change, so do conditions on Earth. This means that man is ultimately responsible for such things as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, even the destruction of continents. As an example one might recall the destruction of Atlantis through the wickedness of men (Noah and the story of the Flood). Evolution is bound up with changes in the Earth.

In spite of appearances we inhabit an orderly world in which there must be balance. Balance is achieved by compensating. In biblical terms it is reaping as one sows. Should we meet difficulties in this life or the next, we should not complain since they are probably of our own making. We may even bring illnesses on ourselves through our failures.

This law of compensation, in particular the idea of carrying over debts or credits into another incarnation, is what is usually understood by the oriental word 'karma'. In older times, a man knew that if he suffered some inability on Earth it was because he had not acquired the right forces on his previous journey through the spheres, and he would resolve to make good the next time round. The physicians, too, who were initiates, could offer guidance.

The Nature of the Spiritual World and the Path through the Spheres

Dr Steiner continually points out the difficulties of explaining, in earthly language, matters appertaining to the spirit. What is said can only be taken as an approximation or as an equivalent. It is necessary to try to form new concepts. In fact even when one uses the expression 'spiritual world' there is something of a contradiction. 'World' infers something solid. Instead of spiritual world one might equally say a state of mind.

Using the language of approximation we can say that at death the human being enters an environment where he no longer perceives the solid objects of the physical world. Instead of stones, plants, animals, stars, he is aware of spiritual beings which are the counterpart of physical existence. Even his own thoughts and those of friends left behind manifest as beings. Time and space do not exist.

We have to try to form a different idea of the being of man and of his relationships with fellow humans. On Earth we are bounded by our skin and separated physically. In the spiritual world there is an intermingling and an interpenetration. Relationships are a matter of consciousness. In a crude sort of way we might think of souls occupying the same place but they are unaware of one another unless the requisite consciousness has been developed. This is enkindled by inward feeling. The ability to perceive has to come from within. Only individuals already acquainted with one another can perceive each other in the spiritual world. Acquaintance can only be acquired on Earth.

There are also higher beings present but no human being is conscious of them unless he has acquired the necessary inner powers. The greater his effort to obtain knowledge of spiritual realities while still on Earth, the greater his consciousness between death and rebirth.

A different experience from that on Earth is for man to feel himself united with the cosmos. At one stage of his progress he feels that the planetary and other heavenly forces are not only outside but also within him, just as, on Earth, he feels that the organs of the heart, lungs, etc, are within him. He feels as if he is spread over the cosmos and looks, so to speak, from the circumference to the centre. It is as if he is duplicated, gathering forces from the different points of the heavens to form his being. A person on Earth with the necessary spiritual development would feel, like the rest of us, that his heart and other organs were within him, but he would also feel that the planetary forces are within these since the body is built up from the forces of the cosmos.

In this connection it is interesting to note that the alchemists of old referred to bodily organs by the names of the planets.

Theology speaks of Heaven and Hell, evoking the concept of regions. The one is a place of eternal bliss and the other of eternal torment. Both must be extremely boring.

Nevertheless the ideas have some justification except that it is more reasonable to think of a series of regions, some of which may be pleasant and some unpleasant, but where there is continual activity as the human being passes through them.

Although one speaks of regions in this context, they must not be thought of as spatially side by side since, in the spiritual sense, they interpenetrate one another. Regions in our case can be equated with spheres but these spheres are not the physical orbs we see in the heavens. They are their spiritual environment, the homes of the Hierarchies.

To speak of a journey is also not quite correct and such an expression in this context must be understood figuratively or imaginatively.

The experience between between death and rebirth is a 'journey' of the human spirit through the planetary spheres to the realm of the fixed stars and back again. As an approximate outline description, we could think that on the outward path we experience the events of our past life, all that we have done on Earth. Now detached from the body we relive them almost as memories but these memories are real, inner experiences. On Earth we know only rudiments of such as, for instance, when pangs of conscience trouble us, or when we rejoice over a good deed.

We meet and accept the judgement of our actions and learn eagerly how they must be compensated. We cannot make amends at this stage. Knowledge and insight will be obtained but only on Earth can things be rectified. What is acquired is a guiding light for a new incarnation.

On our journey we inscribe, as it were, a spiritual record in the planetary spheres. We meet those with whom we have been connected on Earth and also heavenly beings who help us on our way. We reach the highest sphere and turn again towards the Earth, collecting what is our own, the results of our former deeds.

These are woven into the pattern of our future life so that we shall be led subconsciously to situations where we can make good past errors or receive due rewards for work well done. According to what has been deposited on the way up and the measure of sympathy with which we have passed through each sphere, so will forces be given to us by higher beings. They will help in transforming what was learnt on Earth into ability for the next incarnation. With their help we build the prototype of a body to accord with our nature and needs. We must choose the right time to be born, the right place and the right parents, guided by the Hierarchies. All this must be arranged from the spiritual world even to the extent of influencing the coming together of our ancestors many years in advance. The human being is certainly active in all this but not independently active as on Earth, where individual independence is conditioned by bodily existence. Yet we are not passive. Between death and rebirth we co-operate with the higher beings.

The First Experience after Death: The Panorama of the Past Life

In chapter 1 the human being was described in a fourfold aspect: physical body, etheric, astral and ego. The physical body consists of material substance, the other three are non-material. A comparison has already been made between sleep and death. Now the processes involved can be explained in greater detail.

In ordinary waking life all four principles are closely connected. A certain separation takes place in sleep. The life forces are still active in the physical body and we can therefore deduce that the physical and etheric remain united. But in sleep we have no conscious feeling and no consciousness of ourselves and thus we can assume that the vehicles of these are absent. In other words the astral and ego have detached themselves. At death not only the astral and ego but also the etheric leaves the physical body.

Sleep Physical body, Astral, Ego
  Etheric  
Death Physical body Etheric, Astral, Ego

The physical body, now subject only to physical laws, disintegrates. The etheric dissolves into the world-ether from which it was originally formed. The other members progress into other realms, but before describing their path something must be said concerning the separation of the physical and etheric bodies.

If we say that this takes approximately three days, it must be understood that this only applies to earthly reckoning. The individuality concerned has no concept of time but during this period he has a wonderful experience. His whole past life is spread out before him as a vast panorama. It is an experience that is not entirely unknown even in this world. There are records of people who have been on the brink of death by drowning or falling who have seen such a picture but who have lived to tell the tale.

The vision fades as the etheric body dissolves but an after-effect of it is preserved. His constitution is now twofold, soul and spirit.

The Region of Purification (Purgatory, Kamaloka)

In order to understand what is next experienced, we must again consider man's nature. On Earth the human being has many desires and passions which belong to the sense world and which can only be gratified through the physical body. He also has subconscious longings. These feelings belong to the soul and they do not immediately disperse at death. They continue to be felt but now there is no body through which satisfaction can be obtained. The pure spirit in man cannot advance further while connected with and hampered by a soul with bodily desires. The urges must therefore be purged. They cannot now be satisfied and they are experienced as a burning thirst or a consuming fire. This is the explanation of what is usually called purgatory or, in Eastern terminology, Kamaloka. The soul has to learn not to long for those things which can only be satisfied through the body, and through such non-gratification the desires are extinguished. If this appears to be a torment, then it must be remembered that it is a torment which is desired by the human being concerned in order that further progress may be made. It is a process of purification.

In a similar way, thoughts, wishes, remembrances dependent on physical existence must be cast off.

It is obvious that the intensity of experience here will depend on the character of the person. Those with the most earthly desires will have the most to purify.

But this is not the only thing the human being has to endure in this region. Again a little diversion must be made in order that matters may be clear. We must consider what happens during sleep.

In normal day-to-day existence the human being alternates between sleeping and waking. In sleep he is normally unconscious of what is going on around him but this does not mean that he is inactive. It is true that the body rests in bed but the spiritual part of his being leaves it and soars into another realm where the events of the day are recollected. All that a man has done, felt or thought is reviewed and the angelic hosts who dwell in this world pass judgement on events.

After death the human being relives, so-to-speak, his sleep life and he does this in reverse order. He first experiences events immediately preceding his death and goes back to the moment of birth. It is a life of memories but of memories which evoke a reaction, for now he feels the pain, the suffering, joy, etc., which he caused others. In these recapitulations, therefore, he is at the receiving end of his own deeds. What he gave, he now receives. Any distress he has caused others, including the animal world, he will now experience himself. It is a salutary reversal but at this stage nothing can be done by way of compensation. Nevertheless, insight is given. Man realizes that every one of his acts has consequences. He realizes the significance of his deeds for the whole of the rest of the world. An impulse is given to make good where necessary, but this, however, can only be done on Earth in a future incarnation. Thus man begins to form ideas of future destiny.

There is a meeting together here of those who were connected with one another in life and the significance of common destiny begins to unfold. In meeting, however, another sort of lesson is learned. The human being has no way of disguising his moral nature. Whereas on Earth the physical appearance of a man may tell nothing of his moral character, in this region, in his spiritual appearance, this is exposed and cannot be cast off. He is thus recognized by others for what he is and, in turn, he recognizes others. What on Earth was hidden, perhaps in the deep recesses of conscience, now becomes manifest. His own feelings of aversion or affection call forth a reaction in the other person so that he sees himself reflected in others as if in a mirror.

These things are also an objective judgement and give further impulse to correction, improvement or compensation. Another point to note is that perception, and hence progress, depend on a willingness to see. The individual has to become conscious of others in this spiritual world by means of his own individual effort.

Besides fellow humans, there are other beings in this region. On the one hand there are evil creations who derive nourishment from man's passions. The excarnated human being is faced with horrible forms which instil fear into him but in actual fact they are manifestations of his own lower urges. On the other hand, there are also higher beings and man is conscious of their joy or sorrow at what he brings with him from earthly life. This is felt as a judgement. Forces of sympathy or antipathy stream from them according to what is brought and these provide guidance.

As here on Earth there are some people who find life easy and some otherwise, so also in the spiritual world there are those who have a relatively easy passage and others who meet difficulties. There is, however, one great difference. In physical life it is quite possible that the honest and the just may suffer hardships and the rogues and villains have a life of ease and comfort. But the manner of life after death is determined by justice. There is compensation but it must not be thought that justice is something imposed by an outside agency. It is something sought by the individual for it is his means of progress.

With regard to the time-aspect, time can only be reckoned in relation to the Earth but, since we reckon time between incarnations, we can think of periods spent in various regions. In this respect and in earthly terms, the sojourn in this region of purification lasts for about a third of the lifetime, i.e. the same period as has been spent asleep. Those who have lived for a long time are likely to have more to shed than those who die early, while anyone who dies very young would have attracted few burdens and passes through quickly.

The Period of 'Education'

At the end of the Kamaloka period, i.e. when the grossest physical urges have been overcome, the spirit is able to cast off an astral substance, an astral corpse, which falls away like the physical body at death.

Now the individual spirit traverses various soul regions in each of which he has some specific experience. He is 'educated' by beings of a higher order. It is almost like progressing through different classes in school and being taught by different teachers. But his capacity to understand and to receive benefit is conditioned throughout by his previous attitude on Earth. A mind which was orientated towards the spirit will have provided a better basis for understanding than that of a materialist. Earlier feelings of love and sympathy also play a part as well as morality and religious conviction.

Up to now his experience has been one of beholding, of vision, but now he comes into a region where he is made more conscious of the far-reaching consequences of his deeds and how they may influence the future. Angelic beings remind him of his actions on Earth and that he has to reckon with these. He becomes more aware of wrongs committed against others but at this stage he can still do nothing to compensate. It is a further painful experience.

In Kamaloka the human being knew only the reactions of the spiritual beings who showed pleasure or displeasure at what was brought to them. Now he is permeated by their forces which give him a sort of moral consciousness or what one might call a cosmic conscience.

The conditions under which he lives in this region are dependent on morality in the previous Earth existence. A moral person enjoys sociability with others and with higher beings. This, of course, means advancement, but an immoral person lives in isolation, excluded from the community, and leads a restricted and solitary existence. This is felt as a torment for the individual but it also has a negative effect on the world generally.

In the next region the 'teachers' add description and explanation of the former earthly existence. What is decisive for man's understanding of these matters and for his social life is his former religious disposition ('religious' is to be understood in the broadest sense as having some understanding that the physical is transitory, that a spiritual essence permeates the physical, that man is of divine creation and immortal, whatever the creed). Human contacts here are like with like. For example, Hindus will find fellow-Hindus; Christians, fellow-Christians.

In his upward progress man continues to receive instruction from the higher beings at a higher level. He acquires a great knowledge of destiny. He learns more about his relationships with other humans and how these will affect the future. But more than this, he is now expanding so far into the cosmos that he begins to feel at one with it. Whereas in physical life he had felt Earth to be his home, he now feels that he is a creature born out of the spiritual world. He comprehends more of the spiritual realms and their connection with the Earth. He becomes aware of the interworking of the planetary spheres and this awareness becomes auditory. He 'hears' what the old Pythagoreans used to call the 'Music of the Spheres'.

The conditions for full participation and receipt of benefits here are a previous appreciation on Earth for all religions, including what was Christlike in another person even if his faith was not Christianity.

Fulfilment and Transformation

But now it is not only a question of education. Together with the Hierarchies the individuality begins to work on the spiritual pattern of his new physical body. This has a certain relationship with the old one. The previous physical body will be transformed — spiritually speaking — into the prototype of the new head. With a little imagination it is not difficult to observe a threefoldness in the head which corresponds to the whole physical organism. The dome is the head part, cheek bones are like arms and the lower jaw, legs. There are also corresponding functions. Sense impressions belong to the head; nose and lungs are related, and so are the jaws and digestion.

The way is taken into still loftier spiritual realms. As in previous regions, consciousness depends on the attention the individual has given to spiritual values while on Earth. If sufficiently awake, he now finds himself in a world of pure spirit and feels himself as a spirit among spirits. He realizes that thoughts are living realities and that in this world they are beings. He appreciates how the spiritual permeates everything physical and he recognizes the spiritual background of all material things.

If he is sufficiently advanced he has a remembrance of earlier lives and a preview of future ones. He has a survey of all his human connections. Earthly life is seen from a cosmic viewpoint. He recognizes what has been of spiritual value. He has reached the furthest limit of his journey and the point of return.

He comes into closer relationship with mighty divine creative beings who guide, help and influence his future to be in harmony with what is true and spiritual. It is a sublime experience to be among the Hierarchies.

Consciously or unconsciously the human being works with the higher powers, continuing the task already started, transforming the spiritual substance he has brought with him into capacities. The spiritual pattern of the body needs more shaping. Account must be taken of deserts and merits and whatever is required to fulfil the new destiny. This body is built from the ingredients of the whole spiritual universe, by forces streaming in from the cosmos. As a magnet takes its direction from forces outside itself so does the body take shape under the influence of outside forces that are spiritual. Its final appearance on Earth is a manifestation of this spirituality but the finished form must fit the individuality. Time and place of birth as well as ancestry must be determined in accordance with karmic needs.

The forces of the cosmic powers now stream into man, giving him the feeling that they are more and more active within him. He is inspired to work towards their goal of ideal man. He experiences himself far more intensively as an individual, and as this feeling grows richer the vision of the spiritual environment begins to fade. A longing for the physical world develops.

Descent to a New Incarnation

In the outer spheres the spiritual pattern of the new body has been formed in accordance with the individuality's new requirements. Experiences have been changed into capacities, the spirit enriched.

During the upward journey a record of perfections and imperfections has been left in the various regions. Now on the journey to Earth again these records, or rather the compensating aspects, become part of a person's karma, that is, the pattern of life. They are woven into his being.

As the individuality descends into the soul world, he gathers substance or forces from the astral world to form his own astral body. This will contain directives in accordance with former deeds, directives that will influence his future.

The spiritual Hierarchies take part in the weaving of the path of destiny.

Coming into lower regions there is now a feeling of separation and a loss of consciousness of the upper realms. The individual seeks the right basis for a new incarnation.

From the world ether the individuality gathers etheric forces for his new body. The strength or otherwise of these is also determined by previous deeds and character.

There is a right time and a right place to be born to accord with requirements. Birth takes place in both an earthly and a cosmic setting. The personal constellation is a moral inheritance.

The parents provide the physical basis for life on Earth. As the individuality descends and connects himself more closely with her who is to be his mother, he has the longing to be on Earth to fulfil his karma. Immediately before incarnation he has a preview of earthly life in general outline. During the embryo period his consciousness is dimmed to dream consciousness with which he lives at the beginning of earthly existence.

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Rudolf Steiner. An Introduction to his Spiritual World-View, Anthroposophy. © Roy Wilkinson 1998