The etheric body

The etheric body surrounds the physical body and is much finer than the physical body. Currents and organs of wonderful variety and splendour are active in it. The etheric body contains the same organs as the physical body. It has a brain, heart, eyes etc. They represent the forces which formed the corresponding organs. It is as if one cooled water in a vessel until it becomes ice. In this way you should picture the arising of the physical organs through the densifying of the etheric organs. The etheric body extends only a little beyond the physical body.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 94 – THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN: Lecture I – Berlin. 19 February 1906


The dead do not really die, but merely move to another place

We gradually come to know that the dead do not really die, but merely move to another place. They still participate in what we do. This insight will be more than a vague feeling for us; we will gradually learn to point to the areas where they are active. We will learn to feel them with us when we need forces we cannot find on the physical plane, when we need support from higher regions. For the souls who have passed through death possess forces different from those on the physical plane, because they take the material for their development at that stage from another world. We can feel the true inner deepening we can gain by taking up spiritual science, not just in the form of abstract theories, but in lively understanding of concrete particulars.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 154 – UNDERSTANDING THE SPIRITUAL WORLD (PART TWO) – Berlin, May 12, 1914

Translated by Christian von Arnim and edited by Joachim Reuter

Transformation / Talents / Forces

An external consideration of similarities is generally deceptive in reference to the characteristics of successive incarnations; and just as we must reflect upon whatever did not please us and conceive of ourselves as having had an intense desire for it, so we must also reflect upon those things for which we have the least talent, and about which we are stupid. If we discover the dullest sides of our nature, they may very probably point to those fields in which we were most brilliant in our previous incarnation. Thus we see how easy it is in these matters to begin at the wrong end. A little reflection will show us that it is the soul-kernel of our being which works over from one incarnation to another; this can be illustrated by the fact that it is no easier for a man to learn a language even if in his preceding incarnation he lived in the country associated with this particular language; otherwise our school-boys would not find it so difficult to learn Greek and Latin, for many of them in former incarnations will have lived in the regions where these were the languages of ordinary intercourse.

You see, the outer capacities we acquire are so closely connected with earthly circumstances that we cannot speak of them reappearing in the same form in the next incarnation; they are transformed into forces and in that way pass over to a subsequent incarnation. For instance, people who have a special faculty for learning languages in one incarnation will not have this in the next; instead, they will have the faculty which enables them to form more unbiassed judgments than those who had less talent for languages; these latter will tend to form one-sided judgments.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 135 – Reincarnation and Karma – Berlin, 23rd January 1912

Translated by Dorothy S. Osmond & Charles Davy

Previously posted on June 28, 2016


Strong rises often follow deep “falls” of the human being

It may seem now, as if the passage through the life between death and new birth makes it necessary that the consecutive lives on earth would be more and more perfect. However, this is virtually not the case, because it is true what already a great spirit said out of his almost ill soul: “the world is deep and deeper than the day has thought” (Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883)). We can come only slowly and gradually to that what is put in us, and that our human forces are rather imperfect in relation to what they must become once, and what can stand as an ideal of true humanity before us.

Then it becomes apparent that we are not always able to survey after death which forces we have to appropriate in order to compensate the committed wrong. There many forces participate, so that it may be that we believe to compensate with an even bigger egoism or folly what we have committed from egoism or folly in the previous life. Thereby it can happen that the following incarnation is an even more imperfect one, an even harsher training than the previous one was. However, overall the course through the repeated lives is a rise. It is possible that the human being looking back at the past life can be in error concerning the way of compensating something and that thereby imaginary or real descents are caused. Overall, strong rises often follow deep “falls” of the human being, while after death the dreadful happens that we look back at a deep wrong we have committed, or what adhered to us as a big imperfection, and that we experience a big rise after a deep fall.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 63 – The Meaning of Immortality of the Human Soul – Berlin, 4 December 1913


Saving strength in one life to use it in another

Suppose a man dies before the age of thirty-five. On reincarnating, those forces develop in him which he did not use in the years which would have followed his thirty-fifth year. Such men, who before the thirty-fifth year go through death in this way in one incarnation, thereby economise for the next incarnation certain forces, which would have been exhausted if they had lived till fifty, sixty or seventy years of age. The forces which they thus saved are added to those with which they incarnate in the next life. Thereby such souls are born into bodies through which they are in a position, especially in their youth, to confront life with strong impressions. In other words: when such souls, who in their last incarnation died before the thirty-fifth year, reincarnate again, everything makes a strong impression on them. They are deeply stirred by things, they enjoy things deeply, they have living feelings and are easily urged to impulses of will. They are those who take a strong position in life, and who receive a mission. A man does not die without cause before his thirty-fifth year; he will thereby receive a quite definite mission in his next life. These things are complex, and death before the age of thirty-five may also bring about other things — it is not absolute law, for these are only examples. […]

Now, if an especially active man is summoned from life at an early age, it would then occur that in his next life his Karma would appoint him to a quite definite task in life, which he would certainly accomplish. He would be as if predestined. If, however, a man is especially active in one life and lives to a good old age, these forces are then intensified inwardly. He has then in his next life a more complicated task. Outer activity withdraws, and there appears in the soul the necessity to evolve inner activity.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 157a – The Forming of Destiny and Life after Death: LECTURE 2: ON THE FORMING OF DESTINY – Berlin, 18th November, 1915.