Theosophy, by Rudolf Steiner, , at sacred-texts.com
When the human spirit on its way between two incarnations has passed through this "world of souls" (Kamaloca), it enters the "Land of Spirits" to remain there until it is ripe for a new bodily existence. (The theosophical name for this region is "Devachan.") One can only understand the significance of this sojourn in "Spirit-land" when able to interpret in the right way the aim and end of the pilgrimage of man during his incarnations. While man is incarnated in the physical body he works and creates in the physical world. And he works and creates in it as a spiritual being. He imprints on the physical forms, on corporeal materials and forces, that which his spirit thinks out and develops. He has therefore, as a messenger of the spiritual world, to incorporate the spirit in the corporal world. Only by being embodied can a man work in the world of bodies. He must wrap physical matter around his spirit
so that, through the body, he can act on the other bodies around, and so that they can act on him. But what acts through this physical corporality of man is the spirit. From it flow the purposes, the direction its work is to take in the physical world. Now, as long as the spirit works in the physical body, it cannot as a spirit live in its true form. It can, as it were, only shine through the veil of the physical existence. For, as a matter of fact, the thought life of man really belongs to the spiritual world; and, as it appears in the physical existence, its true form is veiled. One can also say that the thought life of the physical man is a shadow, a reflection of the true, spiritual being to whom it belongs. Thus, during physical life, the spirit, through the physical body as an instrument, interacts with the earthly corporal world.
Now, although it is exactly in action on the physical corporal world that one of the tasks of the spirit of man lies as long as he is proceeding from incarnation to incarnation, it could not by any means carry out this task as it ought if it led an embodied existence only. For the purposes and goals of the earthly task are
just as little developed and gained within the earthly incarnation as the plan of a house comes into existence on the site on which the laborers work. Just as this plan is worked out in the offices of the architect, so are the aims and purposes of the earthly creative activities worked out and developed in the "Land of Spirits." The spirit of man has always to live again in this land between two incarnations in order to be able to equip himself with what he takes with him on leaving it and, armed with that, to approach the work in the physical life. As the architect without working with brick and mortar designs the plan of the house in his workroom in accordance with architectural and other rules, so has the architect of human creations, the spirit or Higher Self, to develop in the "Spirit-land" capacities and aims in accordance with the laws of this land, in order to bring them over into the physical world. Only if the human spirit sojourns over and over again in its own region will it be also able to bring the spirit, by means of the physical corporal instruments, into the earthly world.
On the physical scene of action man learns
to know the qualities and forces of the physical world. He gathers there during his creative activity experiences regarding the demands made by the physical world on any one wishing to work in it. He learns there to know, as it were, the qualities of the matter in which he wishes to embody his thoughts and ideas. The thoughts and ideas themselves he cannot extract from the matter, so that the physical world is both the scene of his creating and of his learning. What has been learned is then transmuted in the "Spirit-land" into living faculties of the spirit.
One can carry the above comparison further, in order to make the matter clearer. The architect designs the plan of the house. It is carried out. While this goes on he gains a number of the most varied experiences. All of these experiences enhance his capacities. When he designs his next plan all these experiences have an influence on it. And this plan, when compared to the first, is seen to be enriched with all that was learned through the first. It is the same with the successive human lives. In the interval between the incarnations the spirit lives in its own sphere. It
can give itself up entirely to the requirements of the spirit life; freed from the physical corporality, it develops in every direction. And it calls to its aid in this development the fruits of its experiences in former earthly careers. In this way its attention is always directed to the scene of its earthly tasks. And in this way it works continually at making the earth, its present field of action, more and more perfect. It works upon itself, so as to be able in each incarnation to carry out its service during its earthly pilgrimage more and more perfectly.
This is of course only a general outline of the successive human lives. The reality will never be quite the same, but will only more or less correspond with it. Circumstances may bring it about that a subsequent life of a man is much less perfect than a previous one. But taken as a whole such irregularities equalize themselves in a natural manner during the course of the succession of lives.
The development of the spirit in "Spirit-land" takes place through the man's throwing himself completely into the life of the
different regions of this land. His own life, as it were, dissolves into each region successively; he takes on, for the time being, their characteristics. Through this they penetrate his being with theirs, in order that his may be able to work, strengthened by theirs, in his earthly life.
In the first region of the "Spirit-land" man is surrounded with the spiritual Archetypes of the earthly things. During life on earth he learns to know only the shadows of these Archetypes which he grasps in his thoughts. What is merely thought on earth is in this region experienced, lived. Man moves among thoughts; but these thoughts are real beings. What he has perceived with his senses during life on earth acts on him now in its thought form. But the thought does not appear as the shadow which hides itself behind the things; it is on the contrary the life-filled reality producing the things. Man is, as it were, in the thought workshop in which the earthly things are formed and constructed. For in the "Land of Spirits" all is vital activity and mobility. Here, the thought world is at work as a world of living beings, creative and constructive.
One sees how that which one has experienced during the earthly existence is constructed. Just as in the physical body one experiences the things of the senses as reality, so now as spirit one experiences the spiritual constructive forces as real. Among the thought-beings to be found there is also the thought of one's own physical corporality. One feels separated from this. One feels only the spiritual being as belonging to oneself. And when we no longer regard the body as physical but as thought-being, there already enters into our view of it its relation to the external world. We learn to look at it as something belonging to the external world, a member of this external world. We consequently no longer separate our own corporality from the rest of the external world as something more nearly related to ourselves. We feel the unity in the whole external world including our own bodily incarnations. Our own embodiments dissolve here into a unity with the rest of the world. Thus we here look upon the Archetypes of the physical corporal reality as a unity, to which we ourselves belong. We learn therefore gradually to
know our relationship, our unity with the surrounding world by observation. We learn to say to it, "That which is here spread out around thee, thou art that thyself." And that is one of the fundamental thoughts in the ancient Indian Vedanta Wisdom. The "sage" accustoms himself to do, even during his earth life, what others experience after death; namely, to grasp the thought that he himself is related to all things, the thought "Thou art that." During the physical life this is an ideal to which the thought life can be devoted; in the "Land of Spirits" it is a plain fact, one which grows ever clearer to us through spiritual experience. And the man himself comes to know ever more and more clearly in this land that he in his own inner being belongs to the spirit world. He perceives himself to be a spirit among spirits, a member of the Primordial Spirit, and he will feel concerning himself, "I am the Primal Spirit." (The Wisdom of the Vedanta says "I am Brahman," i.e., I belong as a member to the Primordial Being, in Whom all beings have their origin.) One sees that what is grasped during earthly life as a shadowy
thought and toward which all wisdom strives, is in the "Spirit-land" an immediate experience. Indeed, it is only thought during the earth life because it is a fact in the spiritual existence.
Thus man during his spiritual existence sees the relationships and facts in the midst of which he stands during his earthly career from a high watch tower, as if from outside. And during his life in the lowest regions of "Spirit-land" he has this attitude toward the earthly relationships immediately connected with the physical corporal reality. On earth man is born into a family, a race; he lives in a certain country. His earthly existence is determined by all these relationships. He finds this or that friend because relationships in the physical world bring it about. He carries on this or that business. All this decides the conditions of his earthly life. All this presents itself to him during his life in the first region of "Spirit-land" as living thought being. He lives it all through again in a certain way. But he lives it through from the active spiritual side. The family love he has extended, the friendship he has offered, are
made living from within, made to spring from inner sources, and his capacities in this direction are enhanced. The force in the spirit of man which acts as the power of love of family and friend is strengthened. He enters his earthly existence later a more perfect man in these respects. It is to a certain extent the everyday relationships of the earth life which ripen as the fruitage of this lowest region of the "Spirit-land." And those persons whose interests are wholly absorbed by these everyday relationships will feel themselves in affinity with this region for the greater part of their spiritual life between two incarnations.
The next region is that in which the common life of the earth world flows as Thought-being, as the fluid element, so to speak, of the "Spirit-land." So long as we observe the world during physical embodiment life appears to us to be confined within separate living beings. In "Spirit-land" it is loosed from them and, like life blood, flows as it were through the whole land. It is there the living Unity which is present in everything. Of this also only a reflection appears to us during the earthly life. And this reflection expresses
itself in every form of reverence we pay to the Whole, to the Unity and Harmony of the universe. The religious life of man is derived from this reflection. Man becomes sensible of the fact that the significance of existence does not lie in what is transitory and separate. He regards the transitory as a "similitude," a likeness of an Eternal, of a harmonious Unity. He looks up to this Unity in reverence and worship. He offers up before it religious rites and ceremonies. In "Spirit-land" appears, not the reflection, but the real form, as living Thought-being. Here man can really unite himself with the Unity that he has reverenced on earth. The fruitage of the religious life and all connected with it appears in this region. Man now learns through spiritual experience to recognize that his individual fate is not to be separated from the community to which he belongs. The capacity to know oneself as a member of a whole develops itself here. Religious natures, and such as have already during life striven after a pure and noble morality, will draw strength out of this region during a great part of their spiritual life between incarnations.
And they will reincarnate with heightened capacities in this direction.
The third region of "Spirit-land" contains the Archetypes of the soul world. All that lives in this world is present as living thought-being. One finds in it the Archetypes of desires, wishes, feelings, etc. But here, in the spirit world, nothing of self-seeking attaches itself to the soul. Like all life in the second region, in this third region all longings, wishes, all likes and dislikes, form a unity. The desires and wishes of others are not separable from my desires and wishes. The sensations and feelings of all beings are a common world enclosing and surrounding everything else, just as our physical atmosphere surrounds the earth. This region is, as it were, the atmosphere or air of the "Spirit-land." All that a person has carried out in his life on earth in the service of the community, in selfless devotion to his fellowmen, will bear fruit here. For through this service, through this self-giving, he has lived in a reflection of the third region of the "Spirit-land." The great benefactors of the human race, the philanthropists who render great services to communities,
have gained their ability to render them in this region, after having made themselves worthy of a special relationship with it during their previous earthly careers.
It is evident that the three regions of "Spirit-land" above described have a certain connection with those below them, the physical and the soul worlds. For they contain the Archetypes, the living Thought-beings that take up their corporal and soul existence in these worlds. Only the fourth region is the "pure Spirit-land." But even it is not that in the fullest sense of the word. It differs from the three lower regions owing to the fact that in them we meet with the Archetypes of those physical and soul relations which man finds existing in the physical and soul worlds before he himself begins to take any part in them. The circumstances of the ordinary everyday life link themselves with things and beings which man finds already present in the world: the transitory things of this world direct his gaze to their eternal primal foundation; nor do the fellow creatures of man to whom he selflessly devotes himself owe their existence to him. But it is through him that there are
in the world all the creations of the arts, sciences, engineering, states, governments, etc.; in short all that he has embodied in the world as original works of his spirit. Without his coöperation none of the physical reproductions of all these would be in the world. The Archetypes of these purely human creations are in the fourth region of the "Spirit-land." What man during the earthly life develops in the way of scientific discoveries, of artistic ideas and forms, of technical conceptions, bears fruit in this fourth region. It is out of this region, therefore, that artists, scientists, great inventors, draw nourishment during their stay in "Spirit-land" and increase their genius, in order, during another incarnation, to be able to assist with greater weight the further evolution of human progress. It has been said above that even this region cannot be called the "pure Spirit-land" in the full sense of the word. This is because the stage at which men have left civilization on earth continues to influence their spiritual existence. They can enjoy in "Spirit-land" only the fruits of that which it was possible for them to carry out in accordance with their gifts and the stage of
development of the race, state, etc., into which they were born.
In the still higher regions of the "Spirit-land" the human spirit is freed from every earthly fetter. It rises to the "pure Spirit-land" in which it experiences the intentions, the aims, which the spirit set itself to accomplish by means of the earthly life. All that has been realized in the world brings into earthly existence only a more or less weak copy of the highest intentions and aims. Each crystal, each tree, each animal, and all that is being realized in the domain of human creations, all this only gives of that which the spirit intends. And man, during his incarnations, can only set to work with these imperfect copies of the perfect intentions and aims. Thus during one of his incarnations he himself can only be a copy of that which, in the kingdom of the spirit, he is intended to be. What he as spirit in "Spirit-land" really is comes therefore into view only when he rises in the interval between two incarnations, to the fifth region of "Spirit-land." What he is here is really he himself, that which receives an external existence in the numerous
and varied incarnations. In this region the true Self of man can freely live its true life and expand in all directions. And this Self is that which appears ever anew in each incarnation as the one. This Self brings with it the faculties which have developed in the lower regions of the "Spirit-land." It carries, consequently, the fruits of former lives over into those following. It is the bearer of the results of former incarnations. Therefore one can call it the "Bearer of Causes." (In theosophical literature it is for this reason called the "Causal Body.")
When the Self lives in the fifth region of the "Spirit-land" it is accordingly in the kingdom of intentions and aims. As the architect learns from the imperfections which show themselves in his work, and as he only brings into his new plans what he was able to change from imperfections to perfections, so the Self, in the fifth region, shakes off the results of its experiences in former lives related to the imperfections of the lower worlds, and fructifies the purposes of the "Spirit-land"purposes with which it now liveswith the perfect results of its
former lives. It is clear that the force which can be drawn from this region will depend upon how much the Self, during its incarnation, has acquired in the form of results suited to being received into the world of Purposes. The self that has sought to realize the purposes of the spirit during the earthly life through an active thought life or through wise love expressed in deeds, will establish a strong claim to this region. The self that has expended itself entirely on the events of the everyday life, that has lived only in the transitory, has sown no seeds that can play a part in the purposes of the eternal World Order. Only that small portion of the activities of the self which had extended beyond the interests of everyday life can unfold as fruitage in this higher region of the "Spirit-land." In general it will hold good that a man's affinity with this region will be the greater the more developed he is. Since a man in this region lives in his own true Self, he is raised above everything that, as a part of the lower worlds, envelops him during his incarnations. He is what he ever was and ever will be during the course of his incarnations. He lives in the
governing power of the Purposes which prevail during these incarnations, and which he grafts into his own Self. He looks back on his own past, and feels that all that he has experienced in it will be brought into service in the purposes he has to bring to realization in the future. A kind of remembrance of his earlier lives and the prophetic vision of his future ones flash forth. We see, therefore, that what in this book (pp. 46 et seq.) is called "spirit self" lives in this region, as far as it is developed, in that measure of reality with which it is able to unite itself; it develops itself still further and prepares itself to make possible in a new incarnation the fulfillment of the spiritual purposes in the region of earthly reality.
If this "spirit self" has evolved so far during a succession of sojourns in "Spirit-land" that he can move about quite freely in this land, he will evermore seek his true home in it. Life in the spirit will be as familiar to him as life in the physical reality is to the earthly man. The viewpoints of the spirit world can from now on be the only ones which he makes his own during his succeeding earth lives. Such
a Self feels himself uninterruptedly to be a member of the divine World Order. The limitations and laws of the earthly life affect him in his innermost being no more. Power for all that he carries out comes to him from this spiritual world. But the spiritual world is a Unity. He who lives in it knows how the Eternal has produced the past, and he can, from out the Eternal, discern which direction the future is to take. The view over the past widens into a perfect one. A man who has reached this stage sets before himself the aims which he should carry out in the approaching incarnation. From out the "Spirit-land" he influences his future so that it runs its course in harmony with the true and the spiritual. Such a man during the stages between two incarnations is in the presence of all those exalted Beings before whose gaze the Divine Wisdom lies spread out unveiled. For he has climbed up to the stage at which he can understand them. And, should he return to the earth, he acts in harmony with them. His word is itself a reflection of divine revelation and his deed a link in the divine World Order.
Only he who during an earth life has freed
himself to a high degree from the transient trifles and the worthless turmoil of existence can hope that he shall rise in "Spirit-land" into the sixth region, through which he shall receive a "divine mission" for a coming earth life. Through this divine mission he becomes "a stranger on this earth" only in so far as he himself in his innermost being is not moved by inclinations and disinclinations springing from the transitory nature of things, but allows himself to be guided by what the spirit recognizes as necessary. Because he does this, he will accomplish through all his actions that which is most in conformity with the True Being of the Universe. For he has reached the point of seeking not that which will be of use to him but only and entirely that which ought to take place; that which is in accordance with the true progress of the World Order. His interest in the world, his devotion to it, are the greater the less he himself is attached through his sympathies and antipathies to transient matters. His understanding of all that goes on around him will be great because his soul observes all without desires and in quiet composedness.
The seventh region of the "Spirit-land" brings one to the confines of the "three worlds." The man who can feel himself attracted to it stands here in the presence of the "Life kernels" which are transplanted from the higher worlds into the three which have been described, in order that in them they may fulfill their missions. When a man therefore is on the confines of the three worlds he recognizes himself in his own Life kernel. This implies that for him the problems of these three worlds have been solved. He has a complete view of the entire life of these worlds. He has solved the great "Why" of existence. (The great guides of the human race who will be spoken of in the chapter on "The Path of Knowledge" are recognized by means of forces originating in this region of the "Spirit-land.")