Lesson 22 - What happens after we die, Rudolf Steiner


Man is totally connected with cosmos

Kant once said very beautifully that there were two things that especially uplifted him “ the starry heavens above him and the moral law within him. This is a beautiful expression in that it is confirmed by occultism. Both are the same “ the starry heavens above us and what we bear as moral law within us. For as we grow out into cosmic space between death and a new birth, we take the starry heavens into ourselves, and then in the soul we bear as our moral attitude a mirror image of the starry heavens.

Edited from Rudolph Steiner: Life between Death and Rebirth p. 97- 99


Our cosmic connections

[…] there are still some who go out on a clear night and delight in the grandeur and glory of the starry heavens, but such people are in a minority. […]. Even when people do go out to look up to the heavens, they only see stars externally in their physical appearance. This was not the case in ancient times. […]. The same souls who now see only the physical stars formerly beheld, when they contemplated the starry heavens, not so much the physical light of the stars but what was spiritually connected with them. Spiritual beings are connected with all the stars. What we term the higher hierarchies in spiritual science today were seen clairvoyantly by the souls of primeval times “ […]. Man then did not merely see the physical world but he also beheld the spiritual world. It would have been sheer foolishness in those times to deny the spiritual world, as much as if today would deny the existence of roses and lilies. The spiritual world could not be denied because it was perceived.

Edited from Rudolph Steiner: Life between Death and Rebirth p. 166

The law of resonance “

[…]. Just as the will is closely connected with the skeletal mechanism, so are our feelings closely connected with the muscular system, which is a symbolic expression of the system of feelings. It needs the planetary system to built the kind of muscles we have, muscles which can be extended and contracted and in turn operate the mechanics of the skeletal system. We gain knowledge of the planetary system when we become conscious of being in the astral body. The whole planetary system lives in our muscles, just as the whole cosmos lives in the skeletal mechanics. [].

Edited from Rudolph Steiner: The Inner Nature of Man p. 70ff

At the moment of death

The actual instant of death brings remarkable experience: for a brief space of time the man remembers all that has happened to him in the life just ended. His entire life appears before his soul in a moment, like a great tableau. Something like this can happen during life, in rare moments of great shock or anger for instance a man who is drowning, or falling from a great height, when death seems imminent, may see his whole life before him in this way. […].
[To understand this let us look at what happens when a limb goes to sleep. What happens here is that the etheric body is loosened. [] A similar loosening of the etheric body occurs when a person is faced with a sudden danger of death. The cause of this similarity is that the etheric body is the bearer of memory; the more strongly developed it is, the stronger a persons faculty of memory will be. While the etheric body is firmly rooted in the physical body, as normally it is, its vibrations cannot act on the brain sufficiently to become conscious, because the physical body with its coarser rhythms conceals them. But in moments of deadly danger the etheric body is loosened, and with its memories it detaches itself from the brain and a man’s whole life flashes before his soul. At such moments everything that has been inscribed on the etheric body reappears; hence also the recollection of the whole past life immediately after death. This lasts for some time, until the etheric body separates from the astral body and the Ego. With most people, the etheric body dissolves gradually into the world-ether. […].

Edited from Rudolf Steiner: At the Gates of Spiritual Science Lecture 3-5 p. 27 “ 50


As long as we dwell within the Moon sphere we are in Kamaloka

Moon dwellers

Where is man during his Kamaloka period? This can be expressed spatially in words that express our physical world. Imagine the space between the earth and the moon, the spherical space described when the orbit of the moon is taken as the outermost path from the earth. Then you have the realm in which man, loosened from the earth, dwells during the Kamaloka period.
[…]. As long as we dwell within the Moon sphere we are in Kamaloka, which means that we are still longing to be connected with the earth. We proceed beyond it when we have learned through life in Kamaloka to forego passions and longings. The sojourn in the spiritual world must be imagined quite differently from what is customary on earth. There we are spread out in space, we feel ourselves in the whole of space. That is why the experience, be it of an initiate or of a person after death, is one of feeling oneself spread out in space, expanding after death (or as an initiate) and being limited by the Moon orbit as by a skin. […].

Rudolph Steiner: Life between Death and Rebirth p. 63f

When we have reached the end of the Kamaloka period, […] we grow farther out into cosmic space, into the whole planetary system, though first into what the occultist calls the Mercury sphere. That is to say, after the Kamaloka period we become Mercury dwellers. We truly feel that we are inhabiting cosmic space. Just as during our physical existence we feel ourselves to be earth dwellers, so then we feel ourselves to be Mercury dwellers. […].

Edited from Rudolph Steiner: Life between Death and Rebirth p. 87f


Like a wanderer in the desert

How does the soul experience all this after death? The soul is like a wanderer in the dessert, suffering from a burning thirst and looking for some spring at which to quench it; and the soul has to suffer this burning thirst because it has nor organ or instrument for satisfying it. It has to feel deprived of everything, so that to call this condition one of burning thirst is very appropriate. This is the essence of Kamaloka. The soul is not tortured from outside, but has to suffer the torment of the desires it still has but cannot satisfy.
Why does the soul have to endure this torment? The reason is that man has to wean himself gradually from these physical wishes and desires, so that the soul may free itself from the Earth, may purify and cleanse itself. When that is achieved, the Kamaloka period comes to an end and man ascends to Devachan.
If a man has been less dependent on material pleasures, he naturally finds the loss of his body easier to endure. Even he, however, has to shake himself free from his physical life, for there is a further meaning in Kamaloka. During his life a man does not merely do things which yield pleasure; he lives also in the company of other men and other creatures. Consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, he causes pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, to animals and men. All such occasions he will encounter again as he lives through the Kamaloka period; he returns to the place and moment when he was the cause of pain to another being. At that time he made someone else feel pain; now he has to suffer the same pain in his own soul. All the torment I ever caused to other beings I now have to live through in my own soul. I enter into the person or the animal and come to know what the other being was made to suffer through me; now I have to suffer all these pains and torments myself. There is no way of avoiding it. All this is part of the process of freeing oneself […].

Rudolf Steiner: At the Gates of Spiritual Science Lecture 3-5 p. 27 “ 50

Immoral and moral attitude of soul

How we live through this period also depends upon how we have prepared ourselves on earth “ on the forces we have imbibed on earth in order to grow into the right or wrong relationship to the Mercury sphere. In order to understand these facts [], let us consider a man who passed through the gate of death with an immoral attitude and one who passed through the gate of death with a moral attitude of soul.
[.] The man with a moral attitude of soul [] can have a certain degree of communion everywhere with other human beings. This is due to his moral attitude.
A man with an immoral attitude of soul becomes a kind of hermit in the spiritual world. For example, he knows that another human being is also in the spiritual world. He knows that he is together with him but he is unable to emerge from the prison of his cloud of imaginations and approach him. Morality makes us into social beings in the spiritual world, into beings who can have contact with others.
Lack of morality makes us into hermits in the spiritual world and transports us into solitude. This is an important causal connection between what lives in our souls here on earth and what occurs between death and rebirth.

Edited from Rudolph Steiner: Life between Death and Rebirth p. 87f

Venus dwellers
Mercury sphere - Venus sphere

At a later period, after having passed through the Mercury sphere, which in the occult we call the Venus sphere, we feel ourselves as Venus dwellers. There between Mercury and Venus, […] the beings of the higher hierarchies are able to approach the human being. Now again it depends on whether we have prepared ourselves in the right manner to be received as social spirits into the ranks of the hierarchies and to have communion with them, or whether we are compelled to pass them by as hermits. Whether we are social or lonely spirits depends upon still another factor. Whereas in the previous sphere we can be sociable only if this has been prepared on earth as a result of morality, in the Venus sphere the power that leads us into community, into a kind of social life, is due to our religious attitude on earth. We most certainly condemn ourselves to become hermits in the Venus sphere if we have failed to develop religious feelings during earthly life, feelings of union with the infinite, with the Divine. […]
Definite feelings for the spiritual that are coloured by this or that religious creed bring it about that in the Venus sphere a man has community only with those of like feelings who shared the same creed during earthly life. In the Venus sphere individuals are separated according to their particular creeds. On the earth they have hitherto been divided into races according to external characteristics. Although the configuration of groups in the Venus sphere corresponds in general to the groupings of people here on earth because racial connections are related to religious creeds, the groupings do not quite correspond because there they are brought together according to their understanding of a particular creed. As a result of experience connected with a particular creed, souls enclose themselves within certain boundaries. In the Mercury sphere a man has, above all, understanding for those with whom he was connected on earth. If he had a moral attitude of soul, he will have real intercourse in the Mercury sphere with those to whom he was related during his earthly life. In the Venus sphere he is taken up into one of the great religious communities to which he belonged during his earthly existence by virtue of his constitution of soul.

Edited from Rudolph Steiner: Life between Death and Rebirth p. 87f

The Sun sphere

The next sphere is the Sun sphere in which we feel ourselves as Sun dwellers for a definite period between death and rebirth.
[…]. We now have the outstanding experience, […], that all differentiations between human souls must cease. In the Mercury sphere we are more or less limited to the circle of those with whom we were related on earth. In the Venus sphere we feel at home with those who had similar religious experiences to ours on earth […]. But the soul is conscious of deep loneliness in the Sun sphere if it has no understanding for the souls entering this sphere […]. Because all religions have sprung from a common source, when the human being entered the Sun sphere he had in him so much of the old common inheritance that he could come near to all the other souls in the Sun sphere and be together with them. […].
[the journey proceeds] out into the universe from the Sun sphere to Mars […]. We expand even further into cosmic space, but as we move out beyond the Saturn sphere our state of consciousness is changed. We enter into a kind of cosmic twilight. We cannot call it a cosmic sleep, but a cosmic twilight. Now for the first time the powers of the whole cosmos can work in upon us. They work from all sides, and we receive them into our being. [], there is a period between death and rebirth when the forces of the whole cosmos stream into our being from all sides, from the whole of the starry realms, as it were.
Then we begin to draw together again, pass through the different spheres down to the Venus sphere, contract and become ever smaller until the time comes when we can again unite with an earthly human germ. […]
We bear the whole cosmos within us when we incarnate again on earth […].

Edited from Rudolph Steiner: Life between Death and Rebirth p. 90 “ 97

The Akasha Chronicle

Between death and rebirth our perfections and imperfections are faithfully recorded in the Akasha Chronicle. Certain attributes are inscribed in the Moon sphere, others in the Venus sphere, […], and so on. When we are returning to an incarnation in a physical body and our being is slowly concentrating, we encounter everything that was inscribed on the outward journey. In this way our karma is prepared. On the path of return we can inscribe into our own being the record of an imperfection we ourselves first inscribed into the Akasha Chronicle. Then we arrive on the earth. Because there is within us everything we inscribed into our being on the return journey […], because of this our karma unfolds. Up above, however, everything remains inscribed. Now these inscriptions work together in a remarkable way. […]. Let us say that a man has inscribed one of his imperfections into the Moon sphere. While passing through the Mars sphere he has inscribed there an [aggressive] quality of his character. […] Now on the return journey he passes through the Mars sphere again and comes back to the earth. He lives on the earth and has received into his karma what he has inscribed into the Mars sphere but at the same time it stands recorded above him. Up there is Mars, in a certain relationship to the Moon. (The outer planets indicate the relative positions of the spheres.) Because Mars stands in a certain relationship to the Moon, the inscription of the aggressive element and the mans imperfections are, as it were, in the same constellation. The consequence is that when the one planet stands behind the other they work in conjunction. This is the time when the individual in question will tackle his imperfection with the aggressive quality acquired from Mars. So the position of the planets really does indicate what the man himself has first inscribed into these spheres. When in astrology we ascertain the positions of the planets and also their relative positions to those of the fixed stars, this gives some indication of what we ourselves have inscribed.

Edited from Rudolph Steiner: Life between Death and Rebirth p. 248-256


The causal body

We have seen how at his death a man leaves behind him the corpse, first of his physical body, then of his etheric body and finally of his lower astral body. What is then left when he has shed these three bodies? The memory-picture which comes before the soul at death vanishes at the moment when the etheric body takes leave of the astral. It sinks into the unconscious, so to speak, and ceases to have any significance for the soul as an immediate impression. But although the picture itself vanishes, something important, something that may be called its fruit, survives. The total harvest of the last life remains like a concentrated essence of forces in the higher astral body and rests there.

But a man has often gone through all this in the past. At each death, at the end of each incarnation, this memory-picture has appeared before his soul and left behind what I have called a concentrated essence of forces. So with each life a picture is added. After his first incarnation a man had his first memory-picture when he died; then came the second, richer than the first, and so on. The sum-total of these pictures produces a kind of new element in man. Before his first death a man consist of four bodies, but when he dies for the first time he takes the first memory-picture with him. Thus on reincarnating for the first time he has not only his four bodies but also this product of his former life. This is the causal body so now he has five bodies: physical, etheric, astral, ego and causal. Once this causal body has made its appearance it remains, though it was first constituted from the products of previous lives. Now we can understand the difference between individuals. Some of them have lived through many lives and so have added many pages to their Book of Life []. Others have been through only a few lives; hence they have gathered fewer fruits and have a less developed causal body. [].

Rudolf Steiner: At the Gates of Spiritual Science Lecture 3-5 p. 27 “ 50

According to Yogananda the causal body is to be understood differently

Inhabitants of other planets are continually passing through our earth sphere.
Apart from an earthly incarnation one can speak of an embodiment between death and rebirth, or rather of an ensouling. What I have elaborated in connection with the spiritual world also applies to the earth. Consider that a human being living between death and rebirth may pass through the Mars sphere without entering it in the slightest connection with the beings who inhabit Mars. He does not see them, and they are not aware of him. This is true of the earth also. Beings belonging to other planets, just as man belongs to the earth, are continually passing through the earth sphere. [] So that in fact inhabitants of other planets are continually passing through our earth sphere. Human beings are unable to establish any contact with them because they live under quite different conditions and because they will in the main not have made the least connection with these beings on Mars.

Rudolph Steiner: Life between Death and Rebirth p. 209f


A man takes with him into Devachan his causal body and the purified, ennobled parts of his astral and etheric bodies; these belong to him permanently and he never looses them.
At a particular moment, just after he has laid aside his astral corpse, he stands face to face with himself as if he were looking at himself from the outside. That is the moment when he enters Devachan.

Devachan has four divisions:

1. The continents
2. The rivers and oceans
3. The airy region; etheric space
4. The region of spiritual archetypes

In the first division everything is seen as though in a photographic negative. Everything physical that has ever existed on this Earth, whether as mineral, plant or animal, and everything physical that still exists, appears as a negative. And if you see yourself in this negative form, as one among all the others, you will be in Devachan. What is the point of seeing yourself in this way?
You do not see yourself once only, but by degrees you come to see yourself as you were in former lives, and this has a deep purpose. […] he forms for himself a picture of a new body, standing one step higher than his previous bodies.
At the first stage in Devachan, therefore, a man corrects his previous life-picture and out of the fruits of his former lives he prepares the picture of his body for his next incarnation.
At the second stage in Devachan, life pulsates as a reality, as though in rivers and streams. [] At the third stage of Devachan, a man is surrounded by all the passions and feelings of his past life, but now they come before him as clouds, thunder and lightning.

Rudolf Steiner: At the Gates of Spiritual Science Lecture 3-5 p. 27 “ 50


Full consciousness

A man has to advance a stage further [in Devachan], so he himself prepares the image of his body for his next incarnation. That is one of his tasks in Devachan; but he has many others also. He is by no means concerned only with himself. Everything he does is done in full consciousness. He lives consciously in Devachan, […]. How is this to be understood? When a man is asleep, his astral body leaves the physical and etheric bodies, and consciousness leaves him also. But that is true only while the astral body is engaged on its usual task of repairing and restoring harmony to the weary and worked out physical body. When a man has died, his astral body no longer has this task to perform, and in proportion as it is released from this task, consciousness awakens. During the mans life his consciousness was darkened and hemmed in by the physical forces of the body and at night he had to work on this physical body. When the forces of the astral body are released after death, its own specific organs immediately emerge. These are the seven lotus flowers the Chakrams. […]
These astral organs are hardly observable in the ordinary man of today. […] Even in Kamaloka as long as the lower parts of the astral body are still united to the man, the astral organs are dimmed. It is only when the astral corpse has been discarded and nothing remains with the man except what he has acquired as permanent parts of himself “ i.e. the entrance to Devachan “ that these astral sense-organs wake to full activity; and in Devachan man lives with them in a high degree of consciousness.

Rudolf Steiner: At the Gates of Spiritual Science Lecture 3-5 p. 27 “ 50



[…] a friendship truly founded on spiritual affinity continues with great intensity [in Devachan]. The circumstances of physical life on Earth bring about real experiences there. The inwardness of friendship brings nourishment to the communion of spirits in Devachan and enriches it with new patterns; it is precisely this which feeds the soul there. Again, an elevated aesthetic enjoyment of nature is nourishment for the life of the soul in Devachan. All this is what human beings live on in Devachan. Friendships are as it were the environment with which a man surrounds himself there. Physical conditions all too often cut across these relationships on Earth. In Devachan the way in which two friends are together depends only on the intensity of their friendship. To form such relationships on Earth provides experiences for life in Devachan. […]
In the first region [of Devachan], the continental, where everything physical is spread out in negative, but like a vast tableau, a man is under an obligation to create the image of his new body. He does this free of all hindrance, and in so doing feels the bliss of creation.
In the second region, the universal life which under physical conditions is tied up with the forms of man, animal and plant, flows freely like the waters of the sea; and a man sees this flow as something both external and internal […]. All forms of spiritual life, for example that of Christian communities, are seen as belonging to the universal flow of life. Hence the first rule for a Theosophist, which is to look for the one life in everything, can be truly practised; for the universal life, common to all things, is seen in flow.
In the third region one sees realised in visible form all the relationships that arise between human beings on the level of the soul. […].

Rudolf Steiner: At the Gates of Spiritual Science Lecture 3-5 p. 27 “ 50


Germinal human beings

Steiner claims, like Yogananda, that we incarnate not only on the earth, but also on other planets in the universe. [Source lost].
Besides these astral forms, the clairvoyant sees another particularly remarkable set of shapes. They are bell-shaped and shoot through astral space with enormous speed. They are germinal human beings not yet incarnated but striving for incarnation. Time and space hardly matter to these beings because they can move about very easily. They are variously coloured and surrounded by an aura of colour […]. These germinal human beings have just come from Devachan into astral space. What is happening here?
After a man has taken with him into Devachan his higher astral body, and the causal body made up of the fruits of his former lives, he now has to gather round him new astral substance rather as scattered iron filings are brought into order by the pull of a magnet. He collects this astral substance in accordance with the forces within him: the substance collected after a good previous life is different from the substance collected after a bad one. The bell-shaped forms are made up of the causal body, the forces of the earlier astral body and the new astral body. The [task of the] germinal human being [] is to build up a new astral body out of undifferentiated astral substance, so that the whole process depends on the man himself. The form and colour of the new astral body are determined by the forces of his previous life: this is a fact to be kept thoroughly well in mind. The reason why the germinal human beings dart about with such enormous speed is that they are searching for parents with suitable characters and family circumstances. Their speed helps them to find the right parents “ they can be here at one moment and in America the next.

Rudolf Steiner: At the Gates of Spiritual Science Lecture 3-5 p. 27 “ 50