The images of feelings and passions

Feelings and passions are (in the astral world) expressed by plant and animal forms. When man begins to behold his passions in the astral world he sees them as animal forms. These forms proceed from himself, but he sees them as if they were assailing him. This is because his own being is objectivised — otherwise he could not behold himself. Thus it is only in the astral world that man learns true self knowledge in contemplating the images of his passions in the animal forms which hurl, themselves upon him. A feeling of hatred entertained against another being appears as an attacking demon.

This astral self-knowledge occurs in an abnormal way in those who are troubled with psychical illnesses which consist in constant visions of being pursued by animals and menacing entities. The sufferers are seeing the mirror images of their emotions and desires.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 94 –  An Esoteric Cosmology – Lecture IX: The Astral World – Paris, 2nd June 1906

Translated by Rene Querido

Previously posted on July 31, 2016


After death – 4 of 5

In short, man lives through his experiences once more, but in a spiritual way, going backwards from death to birth.

As I said yesterday, it is a part of this experience to feel that beings whom, for the present, we may call ‘superhuman’, are participating in it. Pressing onwards through these spiritual counterparts of our experiences, we feel as if these spiritual beings were showering down their sympathies and antipathies upon our deeds and thoughts, as we experience them backwards. Thereby we feel what each deed done by us on earth, each thought, feeling, or impulse of will, is worth for purely spiritual existence. In bitter pain we experience the harmfulness of some deed we have done. In burning thirst we experience the passions we have harboured in our soul; and this continues until we have sufficiently realised the worthlessness, for the spiritual world, of harbouring passions and have outgrown these states which depend on our physical, earthly personality.

At this point of our studies we can see where the boundary between the psychical and the physical really is. You see, we can easily regard things like thirst or hunger as physical. But I ask you to imagine that the same physical changes that are in your organism when you are thirsty were in a body not ensouled. The same changes could be there, but the soulless body would not suffer thirst. As a chemist you might investigate the changes in your body when you are thirsty. But if, by some means, you could produce these same changes, in the same substances and in the same complex of forces, in a body without a soul, it would not suffer thirst. Thirst is not something in the body; it lives in the soul — in the astral — through changes in the physical body. It is the same with hunger. And if someone, in his soul, takes great pleasure in something that can only be satisfied by physical measures in physical life, it is as if he were experiencing thirst in physical life; the psychical part of him feels thirst, burning thirst, for those things which he was accustomed to satisfy by physical means. For one cannot carry out physical functions when the physical body has been laid aside. Man must first accustom himself to live in his psycho-spiritual being without his physical body; and a great part of the backward journey I have described is concerned with this. At first he experiences continually burning thirst for what can only be gratified through a physical body. Just as the child must accustom himself to use his organs — must learn to speak, for example — so man between death and a new birth must accustom himself to do without his physical body as the foundation of his psychical experiences. He must grow into the spiritual world.

There are descriptions of this experience which, as I said yesterday, lasts one-third of the time of physical life, which depict it as a veritable hell. For example, if you read descriptions like those given in the literature of the Theosophical Society where, following oriental custom, this life is called Kamaloka, they will certainly make your flesh creep. Well, these experiences are not like that. They can appear so if you compare them directly with earthly life, for they are something to which we are so utterly unaccustomed. We must suddenly adapt ourselves to the spiritual counter-images and counter-values of our earthly experience. What we felt on earth as pleasure, is there privation, bitter privation, and, strictly speaking, only our unsatisfying, painful or sorrowful experiences on earth are satisfying there. In many respects that is somewhat horrible when compared with earthly life; but we simply cannot compare it with earthly life directly, for it is not experienced here but in the life after death where we do not judge with earthly conceptions.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 234 – Anthroposophy, An Introduction – Lecture IX – Dornach, 10th February 1924

Translated by Vera Compton-Burnett

Previously posted on August 4, 2015

Self-knowledge and self-control

Let’s take a closer look at esoteric life. We know that various changes take place in our soul life through the exercises we received. For instance, the passions that a man had before get stronger. Old inclinations, drives and passions one thought one had overcome and put aside reemerge from the dark shafts of soul life and assert themselves vehemently. Or an esoteric often thoughtlessly does something which he would have been ashamed of before the start of his esoteric training or wouldn’t have done at all. His antipathies and sympathies for people become stronger than before; his whole soul life becomes stirred up. In short, a man gets to know what he’s really like in his soul depths so that he has real self-knowledge. Therefore strict and strong self-control is indispensable for an esoteric pupil.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 266 – From the Contents of Esoteric Classes – Esoteric Lessons Part II – Basel, 20th September 1912

Previously posted on April 13, 2014

Man’s body is the most perfect form that the Gods developed

A man’s body is the most perfect thing that the Godhead created for him. Man’s body is the most perfect form that the Gods developed. It’s an instrument through which man’s soul looks out into the world. The human body is equipped in a wonderful way. Man’s body is supposed to be a sacred temple for his soul. But the soul is not yet perfected. It’s just beginning to develop. Man’s body makes no mistakes; it’s the imperfect soul that’s constantly making them. Passions, desires, and drives live in it, and it uses the body to satisfy these desires.
But just as there are senses in man’s body through which the soul looks out into the world, so organs will also gradually develop in the soul that will make it ever more perfect. Such organs are already developing in the soul.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 266 – From the Contents of Esoteric Classes – Berlin, 18th April 1906


Consider one of the most savage men, who eats up his fellow-men, and compare him with an average European, and the latter again with a highly developed individual — Goethe, for example, or Schiller, or Francis of Assisi. The savage blindly follows the instincts and passions contained in his astral body. He has an Ego, but this Ego still lives completely under the sway of the astral body. An average man of the present time is already able to distinguish good and evil, and this is due to the fact that he has worked upon his astral body. He has worked upon it and even transformed certain instincts into so-called ideals.

Man reaches an ever higher stage of development the more he transforms his astral body through his Ego. The modern average European has transformed a good part of this astral body. An individuality such as Schiller or Goethe has already transformed the greater part of the astral body. But a human being who has subjugated all his passions through his will, as for instance, Francis of Assisi, has an astral body which is entirely transformed by his Ego, there is nothing left in this astral body which is not completely under the sway of the Ego.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 100 – Theosophy and Rosicrucianism: Lecture III. MAN’S SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS, HIS WORK UPON THE LOWER MEMBERS OF HIS BEING AND HIS DESTINY AFTER DEATH – Kassel, 18th June 1907