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Theosophy, by Rudolf Steiner, [1910], at

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Our study of man has shown that he belongs to three worlds. From the world of physical corporality are taken the materials and forces building up his body. He has knowledge of this world through the perceptions of his external physical senses. Anyone trusting to these senses alone, and developing his perceptive abilities alone, can gain for himself no enlightenment concerning the two other worlds, the soul and the spiritual. A man's ability to convince himself of the reality of a thing or a being depends on whether he has an organ of perception, a sense for it. It may, of course, easily lead to misunderstandings if one call the higher organs of perception spiritual senses, as is done here, for in speaking of "senses" one involuntarily connects with

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them the thought "physical." The physical world is in fact designated the "sensible," in contradistinction to the "spiritual." In order to avoid this misunderstanding, one must take into account that "higher senses" are spoken of here only in a comparative or metaphorical sense. As the physical senses perceive the physical world, the soul and spiritual senses perceive the soul and spiritual worlds. The expression "sense" will be used as meaning simply "organ of perception." Man would have no knowledge of light and color had he not an eye able to sense light; he would know nothing of sound had he not an ear able to sense sound. In this connection the German philosopher Lotze rightly says, "Without a light-sensing eye, and a sound-sensing ear, the whole world would be dark and silent. There would be in it just as little light or sound as there could be toothache without the pain-feeling nerve of the tooth." In order to see what is said here in the right light, one need only think how entirely different the world must reveal itself to man on the one hand, and on the other to the lower forms of animal life that have only a kind of touch sense or sense of

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feeling spread over the whole surface of their bodies. Light, color, and sound certainly cannot exist for them in the same way as for beings gifted with ears and eyes. The vibrations which the firing of a gun causes may Wave an effect on them also if they reach them. But in order that these vibrations of the air should present themselves as a report an ear is necessary. And an eye is necessary in order that certain processes in the fine matter that one calls ether should reveal themselves as light and color. Man knows something about a being or thing only because through one of his organs he receives its effects.

This relationship of man with the world of realities is excellently brought out by Goethe when he says: "It is really in vain that we try to express the nature of a thing. We become aware of effects, and a complete history of them would indeed embrace the nature of that thing. We endeavor in vain to describe the character of a man, but if instead we systematically correlate his actions and deeds, a picture of his character will present itself to us. Colors are the actions of light, actions and suffering … colors and light are indeed

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linked in closest relationship, but we must think of them both as belonging to the whole of nature; for through them the whole of nature is engaged in revealing herself to the sense of the eye especially. In like manner nature reveals herself to another sense … nature thus speaks downward to other senses, to known, misunderstood, unknown senses; she thus speaks with herself and to us through a thousand phenomena. To the attentive she is nowhere either dead or silent." It would not be correct were one to interpret this saying of Goethe's as though by it the possibility of knowing the essential nature of a thing were being denied. Goethe does not mean that one perceives only the effects of a thing, and that the being hides itself behind them. He means rather that one should not speak at all of a "hidden being." The being is not behind its revelation; it comes, on the contrary, into view through the revelation. But this being is in many respects so rich that it can reveal itself to other senses in yet other forms. That which reveals itself belongs to the being only—on account of the limitations of the senses—it is not the whole being. This

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point of view of Goethe's is entirely the theosophical one.

As in the body, eye and ear develop into organs of perception, into senses for corporal occurrences, so is man able to develop in himself soul and spiritual organs of perception, through which the soul and spiritual worlds will be opened to him. For those who have not such higher senses, these worlds are "dead and silent," just as for a being without eyes and ears the corporal world is "dark and silent." It is true that the relation of man to these higher senses is rather different from his relations to the corporal senses. It is good Mother Nature who sees to it as a rule that these latter are developed in him. They come into existence without his help. But on the development of his higher senses he must work himself. If he wishes to perceive the soul and spirit worlds, he must develop soul and spirit as nature has developed his body so that he might perceive the corporal world around him and guide himself in it. Such a development of the higher organs not yet developed for us by nature herself is not unnatural; for in the higher sense all that man accomplishes

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belongs also to nature. Only he who wishes to maintain that man should remain standing at the stage at which he left the hand of nature could call the development of the higher senses unnatural. By him the significance of these organs is misunderstood, as indicated in the quotation from Goethe. Such a one might just as well oppose all education of man, for it also develops further the work of nature. And he would have to oppose especially operations upon those born blind. For almost the same thing happens to him who awakens his higher senses in himself as to the person born blind and operated upon. The world appears to him with new qualities, events, and facts, of which the physical senses reveal nothing to him. It is clear to him that through these higher organs he adds nothing arbitrarily to the reality, but that without them the essential part of this reality would have remained hidden from him. The soul and spirit worlds are nothing alongside or outside the physical world; they are not separated in space from it. Just as for persons born blind and operated upon, the previously dark world rays out light and colors, so the things which

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previously were only corporal phenomena reveal their soul and spirit qualities to him who is, soul and spirit, awakened. In addition to this, however, this world then becomes filled with still other occurrences and beings that remain completely unknown to him whose soul and spirit senses are not awakened. The development of the soul and spirit senses will be spoken of in a more detailed way further on in this book. Here these higher worlds themselves will be described. Anyone who denies the existence of these worlds says nothing more than that he has not yet developed his higher organs. This is still the case with the greater part of mankind at the present stage of the world's evolution. But the evolution of man is not terminated at any one stage; it must always progress. What will be here called the soul world, is called in current theosophical literature the "astral," the spirit world is called in it the "mental" world.

One often involuntarily pictures the "higher organs" as too similar to the physical ones. One should understand quite clearly that in these organs one has to do with spiritual

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or soul formations. One ought not to expect, therefore, that what one perceives in the higher worlds is only a vaporous, rarefied matter. So long as one expects something of this kind, one can come to no clear idea as to what is exactly meant by "higher worlds." For many persons it would not be at all as difficult as it actually is to know something about these higher worlds, the elementary part, that is to say, if they did not form the idea that what they are to see is again merely physical matter rarefied. Because they presuppose something of this kind they, as a rule, do not at all wish to acknowledge the reality of that which is the essential part. They look upon it as unreal, refuse to acknowledge it as something that satisfies them, and so on. The higher stages of spiritual development are certainly not easily accessible; but the lower, and that is already a great deal, would not be at all so difficult to reach if people would from the first free themselves from the prejudice which consists in picturing to themselves the soul and spiritual merely as a finer physical.

Just as we do not wholly know a man when

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we have formed a picture of his physical exterior only, so also we do not know the world around us if we only know in it what the physical senses reveal to us. And just as a photograph becomes intelligible and living to us when we have become so intimately acquainted with the person photographed as to know his soul, so we can really understand the corporal world only if we learn to know its soul and spiritual basis. For this reason it is advisable to speak here, first about the higher, the soul and spirit worlds, and only then judge of the physical from the theosophical standpoint.

Certain difficulties are met with at this present stage of civilization by anyone speaking about the higher worlds. For this age is great above all things in the knowledge and conquest of the physical world. Our words have, in fact, received their stamp and significance through being applied to this physical world. Nevertheless we have to make use of these current words so as to form a link with something known. This opens the door to many misunderstandings on the part of those who wish to trust to their external senses

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only. Much also can be expressed and indicated only by means of similes and resemblances. This must be so, for such similes are a means by which a man is at first directed to these higher worlds, and through which his own ascent to them is furthered. (This will become evident in a later chapter, in which the development of the soul and spiritual organs of perception will be spoken of. To begin with, one must gain knowledge of the higher worlds by means of similes. Only then is man ready to acquire for himself the power to see into them.)

As the matter and forces which compose and govern our stomach, our heart, our brain, our lungs, etc., come from the physical world, so do our soul qualities, our impulses, desires, feelings, passions, wishes, sensations, etc., come from the soul world. The soul of the human being is a member of this world, just as his body is part of the physical world of bodies. Should one wish to begin by pointing out a difference between the corporal and soul worlds, one would say that the latter is in all its objects and entities much finer, more mobile, and plastic than the

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former. But it must be kept clearly in mind that on entering the soul world one enters a world entirely different from the physical. If, therefore, "coarser" and "finer" be spoken of in this respect, readers must be fully aware that one suggests by means of a comparison what is fundamentally different. It is the same with all that is said about the soul world in words borrowed from the world of physical corporality. Taking this into account, one can say that the formations and beings of the soul world consist in the same way of soul materials, and are directed in the same way by soul forces, as is the case in the physical world with physical materials and physical forces.

Just as spacial extension and spacial movement are peculiar to corporal formations, so are excitability and impelling desire peculiar to the things and beings of the soul world. For this reason one describes the soul world as the world of desires or wishes, or as the world of longing. These expressions are borrowed from the human soul world. One must therefore hold clearly in view that the things in those parts of the soul world which lie outside the human soul are just as different from

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the soul forces within it as the physical matter and forces of the external corporal world are different from the parts which compose the physical human body. (Impulse, wish, longing are names for the material of the soul world. To this matter theosophical literature gives the name of "astral." If one wishes to refer specifically to the forces of the soul world, one speaks in Theosophy of "kama." But it must not be forgotten that the distinction between "matter" and "force" cannot be as sharply drawn as in the physical world. An instinct, an impulse, can be called "force" just as well as "matter.")

On him who obtains a view of the soul world for the first time, the differences between it and the physical have a bewildering effect. But that is also the case when a previously inactive physical sense is being opened. The man born blind, when operated upon, has first to learn to guide himself through the world which he has previously known only by means of the sense of touch. Such a one, for example, sees the objects at first in his own eyes, then he sees them outside himself, but at first they appear to him as if painted on a flat

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surface. Only gradually does he grasp perspective and the spacial distance between things. In the soul world entirely different laws prevail from those in the physical. Now there are many soul formations bound to those of the other worlds. The soul of man, for instance, is bound to the human body and to the human spirit. The occurrences one can observe in it are therefore influenced at the same time by the bodily and the spiritual worlds. One has to take this into account in observing the soul world, and one must take care not to ascribe to a law of the soul world occurrences due to the influence of another world. When, for example, a man sends out a wish, it is produced by a thought, a conception of the spirit whose laws it accordingly follows. One can formulate the laws of the physical world while ignoring, for example, the influence of man on its occurrences, and the same thing is possible with regard to the soul world.

An important difference between soul and physical occurrences can be expressed by saying that the interaction in the former is much more inward than in the latter. In physical

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space there reigns, for example, the law of "impact." When an ivory ball strikes another which is at rest, the latter moves in a direction which can be calculated from the motion and elasticity of the first. In the soul space the interaction of two forms which meet depends on their inner qualities. If they are in affinity they mutually interpenetrate each other and, as it were, grow together. They repel each other if their beings conflict. In physical space there are, for example, definite laws of vision. One sees distant objects perspectively diminishing. When one looks down an avenue, the distant trees appear, according to the laws of perspective, to stand at shorter distances from each other than the near ones. In the soul space, on the contrary, all objects near and far appear to the clairvoyant at those distances from each other which are due to their inner nature. This is naturally a source of the most varied mistakes for those who enter the soul world, and wish to become at home there by the help of the rules which they bring with them from the physical world.

One of the first things that a man must do in order to make his way about the soul world

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is to realize that one distinguishes the various kinds of its forms in a similar manner to that in which one distinguishes solid, liquid, air, or gaseous bodies in the physical world. In order to be able to do that it is necessary to know the two basic forces which are the most important in it. They may be called sympathy and antipathy. The order to which a soul formation belongs is decided by the manner in which these basic forces work in it. The force with which one soul formation attracts others, seeks to fuse with them, to make its affinity with them effectual, must be designated as sympathy. Antipathy, on the other hand, is the force with which soul formations repel, exclude each other in the soul world, with which they assert their separate identity. The part played in the soul world by a soul formation depends upon the proportions in which these basic forces are present in it. One has to distinguish, in the first place, between three kinds of soul formations according to the manner in which sympathy and antipathy work in them. These kinds differ from each other in that sympathy and antipathy have in them definitely fixed mutual relationships.

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[paragraph continues] In all three both basic forces are present. Let us take, to begin with, a formation of the first kind. It attracts other formations in its neighborhood by means of the sympathy ruling in it; but, besides this sympathy, there is at the same time present in it antipathy, through which it repels certain things in its surroundings. From the outside such a formation appears to be endowed with the forces of antipathy only. This, however, is not the case. There is sympathy and antipathy in it, but the latter predominates. It has the upper hand over the former. Such formations play a self-seeking rôle in the soul space. They repel much that is around them, and lovingly attract but little to themselves. They therefore move through the soul space as unchangeable forms. The force of sympathy which is in them appears greedy. This greed appears at the same time insatiable, as if it could not be satisfied, because the predominating antipathy repels so much of what approaches that no satisfaction is possible. (Here we have to do with what is described in theosophical literature as the lowest part of the astral world.) Should one wish to

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compare this kind of soul formation with something in the physical world, one can say that it corresponds with the solid physical bodies. This region of soul matter may be called burning desire. The manner in which this Burning Desire is mingled in the souls of animals and men determines in them what one calls the lower sensual impulses, their dominating selfish instincts.

The second kind of soul formations is that in which the two basic forces preserve a balance, in which, accordingly, antipathy and sympathy act with equal strength. They approach other formations with a certain neutrality and act on them as if related, but without especially attracting or repelling. They, as it were, erect no solid barrier between themselves and their surroundings. They constantly allow other formations in their surroundings to act on them; one can therefore compare them with the liquids of the physical world. And there is nothing of greed in the way in which such formations attract others to themselves. The activity meant here is in process, for example, when the human soul receives the sensation of a certain color.

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[paragraph continues] If I have the sensation of a red color, I receive to begin with a neutral excitation from my surroundings. Only when there is added to this excitation pleasure in the red color does another soul activity come into play. That which effects the neutral excitation is the action of soul formations standing in such mutual relationship that sympathy and antipathy preserve an equal balance. One will have to describe the soul matter which comes under observation here as perfectly plastic and flowing. Not self-seeking like the first does it move about the soul space, but in such a way that its being receives impressions from all directions, and that it shows itself to have affinity with much that approaches it. An expression that may be used to designate it is flowing excitability.

The third stage of soul formations is that in which sympathy has the upper hand over antipathy. Antipathy produces the self-seeking self-assertion; this, however, retires in face of the liking for the things in the surroundings. Let us picture such a formation within the soul space. It appears as the center point of an attracting sphere which spreads

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over the objects in its surroundings. Such formations one must designate in a special sense as wish substance. This designation appears to be the right one, because the attraction so acts, even through the existing antipathy, as to bring the attracted objects within the soul formation's own sphere. The sympathy thus receives a tone of selfishness. This wish substance may be likened to the air or gaseous bodies of the physical world. As a gas strives to expand on all sides, so does the wish substance spread itself out in all directions.

Higher grades of soul substance render themselves distinguishable by the fact that in them one of the basic forces, namely antipathy, retires completely, and sympathy alone shows itself as the one really effective. Now this is able to make its power felt within the parts of soul formation itself. These parts mutually attract each other. The force of sympathy within a soul formation comes to expression in what one calls liking. And each lessening of this sympathy is disliking. Disliking is only a lessened liking, as cold is only a lessened warmth. Liking and disliking compose what lives in man as the world of emotions in

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the narrow sense of the word. Feeling is the life and activity of the soul within itself. What one calls the comfort of the soul depends on the way in which the feelings of liking and disliking—attraction and repulsion—interact within the soul.

A still higher grade is occupied by those soul formations whose sympathy does not remain enclosed within the region of their own life. They differ from the three lower grades, as does in fact the fourth also, in that in them the force of sympathy has no antipathy opposing it to overcome. It is only through these higher orders of soul substance that the manifold variety of soul formations can unite and form a common soul world. In cases where antipathy comes into play, the soul formation strives toward another thing for sake of its own life, and in order to strengthen and enrich itself by means of the other. Where antipathy is silent the other thing is received as revelation, as information. This higher form of soul substance plays in the soul space a similar rôle to that played by light in physical space. It causes a soul formation to suck in, as it were, the being or essence of others for

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their sakes; one could also say to let itself be rayed upon by them. Only by drawing upon these higher regions are the soul beings awakened to the true soul life. Their dull life in the darkness opens outward, and begins itself to shine and ray out into the soul space; the sluggish, dull movement of the inner life which wishes to shut itself off through antipathy when the substances of the lower regions only are present, becomes force and mobility which arises from within, and, streaming, pours itself outward. The Flowing Excitability of the second region is only effective when formations meet each other. Then, indeed, the one streams over into the other. But contact is here necessary. In the higher regions there prevails a free out-raying and out-pouring. (Rightly does one describe the essential nature of this region as an "out-raying," for the sympathy which is developed acts in such a way that one can use as symbol for it the expression taken from the action of light.) The soul pines from lack of the soul substances of the higher regions which give it life, as a plant degenerates in a dark cellar.

Soul Light, Active Soul Force and the

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true Soul Life in the narrower sense belong to these regions, and thence pour themselves out to the soul beings.

One has therefore to distinguish between three lower and three higher regions of the soul world. These are linked by a fourth, so that there results the following division of the soul world:

1. Region of Burning Desire.

2.      "    "  Flowing Excitability.

3.      "    "  Wishes.

4.      "    "  Attraction and Repulsion.

5.      "    "  Soul Light.

6.      "    "  Active Soul Force.

7.      "    "  Soul Life.

Through the first three regions the soul formations receive their qualities according to the proportion of sympathy and antipathy in them; through the fourth region sympathy is prevailingly active within the soul formations themselves; through the three highest, the power of sympathy becomes ever more and more free; illumining and quickening, the soul substances of this region waft through the soul space, awakening that which, if left to itself, would lose itself in its own separate existence.

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For the sake of clearness it is here emphasized, though it should be superfluous, that these seven divisions of the soul world do not represent regions separated from one another. Just as in the physical regions solid, liquid, and air or gaseous substances interpenetrate, so do Burning Desire, Flowing Excitability, and the forces of the World of Wishes in the soul world. And as in the physical world, warmth penetrates bodies and light illumines them, so is it the case in the soul world with desire and aversion, and with the Soul Light. Something similar takes place with regard to the Active Soul Force and the true Soul Life.

Next: 2. The Soul in the Soul World after Death