Theosophy, by Rudolf Steiner, , at sacred-texts.com
The soul is the connecting link between the spirit of man and his body. Its forces of sympathy and antipathy which, owing to their mutual relationship, bring about soul manifestations, such as desire, excitability, wish, liking, and aversion, etc., are not only active between soul formations and soul formations, but they manifest themselves also in relation to the beings of the other worlds, the physical
and the spiritual. While the soul lives in the body it participates to a certain extent in all that takes place in it. When the physical functions of the body proceed with regularity, there arise in the soul desire and comfort. If these functions are disturbed aversion and pain arise. And the soul has its share in the activities of the spirit also; one thought fills it with joy, another with repulsion; a correct judgment has the approval of the soul, a false one its disapproval. The stage of evolution of a man depends, in fact, on whether the inclinations of his soul move more in one direction or in another. A man is the more perfect the more his soul sympathizes with the manifestations of the spirit; he is the more imperfect the more the inclinations of his soul are satisfied by the functions of the body.
The spirit is the central point of man, the body the instrument by which the spirit observes and learns to understand the physical world and through it acts in it. But the soul is the intermediary between the two. Out of the physical impression which the vibrations of air make on the ear, it awakens the sensing of the sound; it produces the pleasure in this
tone. All this it communicates to the spirit, which thus attains to the understanding of the physical world. A thought which arises in the spirit is changed by the soul into the wish to realize it, and only through this can it become deed, with the help of the body as instrument. Now man can fulfill his destiny only by allowing his spirit to direct the course of all his activity. The soul can (of itself) direct its inclinations just as well to the physical as to the spiritual. It sends, as it were, its feelers down into the physical as well as up into the spiritual. By sinking them into the physical world its own being becomes penetrated and colored by the nature of the physical. But the spirit, because able to act in the physical world only through it as intermediary, receives also in this way the direction toward the physical. Its formations are drawn to the physical by the forces of the soul. Observe, for example, the undeveloped man. The inclinations of his soul cling to the functions of his body. He feels pleasure only in the impressions made by the physical world on his senses. His intellectual life also is thereby completely drawn down into this region. His
thoughts serve only to satisfy his demands on the physical life. The spiritual Self by living from incarnation to incarnation is intended to receive its direction ever increasingly out of the spiritual; its knowledge to be determined by the spirit of eternal Truth, its action by the eternal Goodness.
Death, when regarded as a fact in the physical world, signifies a change in the functions of the body. It ceases to be through its organization the instrument of the soul and the spirit. It shows itself henceforth to be entirely subject, as regards its functions, to the physical world and its laws. And it passes over into it in order to dissolve in it. Only these physical processes in the body can be observed after death by the physical senses. What happens then to soul and spirit escapes them. For even during life soul and spirit can be observed by the senses only in so far as they have external expressions in physical processes. After death this kind of expression is no longer possible. For this reason observation by means of the physical senses and science based on it, do not come under consideration in reference to the fate of the soul and spirit after death. Here
a higher knowledge steps in, based on observation of the events in the soul and spirit worlds.
After the spirit has released itself from the body it continues to be united with the soul. And as, during physical life, the body chains it to the physical world, the soul now chains it to the soul world. But it is not in this soul world that the spirit's true primordial being is to be found. The soul world is intended to serve merely as its connecting link with the scene of its actions, the physical world. In order to appear in a new incarnation with a more perfect form it must draw force and strength from the spiritual world. But through the soul it has become entangled in the physical world. It is bound to a soul being which is penetrated and colored by the nature of the physical, and through this it has itself acquired a tendency in this direction. After death the soul is no longer bound to the body, but only to the spirit. It lives now within soul surroundings. Only the forces of this soul world can therefore have an effect on it. And at first the spirit also is bound to this life of the soul in the soul world. It is bound to it in the
same way as it is bound to the body during physical incarnation. The time when the body is to die is determined by the laws of the body. Speaking generally, in fact, it must be said it is not that the soul and spirit forsake the body, but that the body is set free by them when its forces are no longer able to act after the manner of the human organization. The same relationship exists between soul and spirit. The soul sets the spirit free to pass into the higher, the spiritual world, when its forces are no longer able to function as after the manner of the human soul-organism. The spirit is set free the moment the soul has handed over to dissolution what it can only experience in the body, and retains only that which remains over, which can live on with the spirit. This retained extract, which, although experienced in the body, can, nevertheless as fruit, be stamped on the spirit, connects the soul with the spirit in the pure, spiritual world.
In order to learn the fate of the soul after death, therefore, one has to observe its process of dissolution. It had the task of giving the spirit its direction toward the
physical. The moment it has fulfilled this task the soul takes the direction to the spiritual. In fact, the nature of its task would cause it to be henceforth only spiritually active when the body falls away from it, that is, when it can no longer be a connecting link. And so it would be, had it not, owing to its life in the body, been influenced by it and in its inclinations attracted to it. Were it not for this coloring received through the body it would at once, on being disembodied, follow the laws of the spiritual soul world only, and manifest no further inclination to the sensible world. This is what would happen if a man on dying lost completely all interest in the earthly world, if all desires, wishes, etc., attaching to the existence he has left had been completely satisfied. To the extent to which this is not the case, the unsatisfied part of the soul persists in its longings for the physical.
To avoid confusion we must here carefully distinguish between what chains man to the world in such a way that it can be made good in any following incarnation, and that which chains him to one particular incarnation, that is, to the immediately preceding one. The
first is made good by means of the law of destiny or Karma; but the other can only be got rid of by the soul after death.
After death there follows, for the human spirit, a time during which the soul is shaking off its inclinations toward the physical existence, in order once more to follow the laws of the spiritual soul world only and set the spirit free. It is natural that this time will last the longer the more the soul was bound to the physical. It will be short in the case of a man who has clung little to the physical life, long, on the other hand, for one who has so completely bound up his interests with it that at death many desires, wishes, etc., still live in the soul.
The easiest way to gain an idea of the condition in which the soul lives during the time immediately after death is afforded by the following consideration. Let us take the somewhat crass example, the enjoyment of the bon vivant. His pleasure consists in the tickling of the palate by food. The pleasure is naturally not bodily, but belongs to the soul. The pleasure lives in the soul, as also does the desire for the pleasure. But for the
satisfaction of the desire the corresponding bodily organs, the palate, etc., are necessary. After death the soul has not immediately lost such a desire, but it no longer possesses the bodily organ which provides the means for satisfying the desire. For another reason, but one which acts in the same way only far more strongly, the man is now as if he were suffering burning thirst in a region in the length and breadth of which there is no water. The soul thus suffers burning pain from the deprivation of the pleasure because it has laid aside the bodily organ by which it can experience it. It is the same with all that the soul yearns for and that can only be satisfied through the bodily organs. This condition (of burning privation) lasts until the soul has learned not to long any more for that which can only be satisfied through the body. The time passed in this condition is usually called in Theosophy "Kamaloca" (region of desires, although it has of course nothing to do with a locality).
When the soul enters the soul world after death it becomes subject to the laws of that world. The laws act on it, and on their action
depends the manner in which its inclinations toward the physical are destroyed. The ways in which they act on it must differ according to the kinds of soul substances and soul forces in whose domain it is placed at the time. Each of these kinds will make its purifying, cleansing influence felt. The process which takes place here consists in the gradual conquering of all antipathy in the soul by the forces of sympathy, and in bringing this sympathy itself to its highest pitch. For through this highest degree of sympathy with the whole of the rest of the soul world, the soul will, as it were, merge into it, become one with it; then is it utterly emptied of its self-seeking; it ceases to exist as a being inclined to the physically sensible existence; the spirit is set free through it. The soul therefore purifies itself through all the regions of the soul world described above until, in the region of perfect sympathy, it becomes one with the whole soul world. That the spirit itself is in bondage until the last moment of the liberation of its soul is due to the fact that, through its life with it, it has developed a complete affinity. This relationship is much greater
than the one with the body. For the spirit is bound directly to the soul, but only indirectly through the soul to the body. The soul is, in fact, the spirit's own life. For this reason the spirit is not bound to the decaying body, though it is bound to the soul gradually freeing itself. On account of the immediate bond between the spirit and the soul, the spirit can feel free with the soul only when the latter has itself become one with the whole soul world.
In so far as the soul world is the abode of man immediately after death it is called "Kamaloca," the "Region of Desires." The different religious systems which have embodied in their doctrines a knowledge of these conditions know this "Region of Desires" by the name of "purgatory," "cleansing fire," and so on.
The lowest region of the soul world is that of Burning Desire. By it everything in the soul that has to do with the coarsest, lowest, selfish desires of the physical life is rooted out of the soul after death. For through such desires it is exposed to the effects of the forces of this soul region. The unsatisfied
desires which have remained from physical life furnish the points of attack. The sympathy of such souls extends only to what can nourish their selfish natures; it is greatly exceeded by the antipathy which floods everything else. Now the desires aim at physical enjoyments which cannot be satisfied in the soul world. The craving is intensified to its highest degree by this impossibility of satisfaction. But at the same time owing to this impossibility it is forced to die out gradually. The burning lusts gradually exhaust themselves, and the soul has learned by experience that the only means of preventing the suffering that must come from such longings lies in killing them out. During the physical life satisfaction is constantly being repeated. By this means the pain of the burning lusts is covered over by a kind of illusion. After death, in the "fire cleansing," the pain comes into evidence quite unveiled. The most fearful sufferings are laid bare. A dark, gloomy state is it in which the soul thus finds itself. Of course only those persons whose desires are directed during physical life to the coarsest things can fall into this condition. Natures
with few lusts go through it without noticing it, for they have no affinity with it. It must be stated that, in general, souls are the longer influenced by the Burning Desire the more closely they have become bound up with that fire during life, and the more they require on that account to be purified in it.
A second class of things in the soul world is of such a nature that sympathy and antipathy preserve an equal balance in them. In so far as a human soul is in a similar condition after death it will be influenced by these things for a time. The giving of oneself up entirely to the external glitter of life and to joy in the swiftly-succeeding impressions of the senses, brings about this condition. Many people live in it. They allow themselves to be influenced by each worthless trifle of everyday life; but, as their sympathy is attached to no one thing in particular, the influences quickly pass. Everything that does not belong to this region of empty nothings is repellent to such persons. If the soul experiences this condition after death without the presence of the physical objects which are necessary for its satisfaction, the condition
must needs die out ultimately. Naturally the privation which precedes its complete extinction in the soul is full of suffering. This state of suffering is the school for the destruction of the illusion in which such persons are completely wrapped up during physical life.
Thirdly there come under consideration in the soul world the things with predominating sympathy, those in whose natures wish predominates. The effects of their activity are experienced by souls that retain an atmosphere of wishes after death. These wishes also gradually die out on account of the impossibility of their being satisfied.
The region of Attraction and Repulsion which has been described above as the fourth, exposes the soul to special trials. As long as the soul dwells in the body it shares all that concerns it. The inner surge life of attraction and repulsion is bound up with the body. It causes the soul's feeling of well-being and comfort, dislike and discomfort. Man feels during his physical life that his body is himself, what one calls the feeling of self springs from this. And the more sensually inclined people are, the more does their
feeling of self take on this characteristic. After death the body, the object of this feeling of self, is lacking. On this account the soul, with which the feeling has remained, feels as if emptied out. A feeling as if it had lost itself befalls it. This continues until the soul has recognized that the true man does not lie in the physical. The operations of this fourth region on the soul accordingly destroy the illusion of the bodily self. The soul, at length, learns to stop feeling that this corporality is an essential reality. It is cured and purified of its attachment to embodiment. In this way it has conquered that which chains it strongly to the physical world, and can unfold fully the forces of sympathy which flow outward. It has, so to say, broken free from itself, and is ready to pour itself with full sympathy into the common soul world.
It should not pass unnoted that the torments of this region are suffered to an especial degree by suicides. They leave their physical body in an artificial way, while all the feelings connected with it remain unchanged. In the case of a natural death the decay of the body is accompanied by a
partial dying out of the feelings of attachment to it. In the case of suicides there are, in addition to the torment caused by the feeling of having been suddenly emptied out, the unsatisfied desires and wishes on account of which they have deprived themselves of their bodies.
The fifth stage of the soul world is that of Soul Light. In it sympathy with others has already reached a high degree of power. Souls are connected with it in so far as they have not during their physical lives entirely devoted themselves to satisfying lower necessities, but have had joy and pleasure in their surroundings. Enthusiasm for nature, for example, in so far as it has borne something of a sensuous character undergoes cleansing here. It is necessary, however, to distinguish clearly this kind of love of nature from that higher living in nature which is of the spiritual kind, and which seeks for the spirit that reveals itself in the things and events of nature. This kind of feeling for nature is one of the things that develop the spirit itself and establish something permanent in the spirit. But one must distinguish between this feeling
for nature and such pleasure in nature as is based on the senses. In regard to this the soul requires purification just as well as in regard to other inclinations based on the mere physical existence. Many people hold, as a kind of ideal, arrangements which minister to sensuous welfare, and a system of education which results above all in the production of sensuous comfort. One cannot say of them that they further only their selfish impulses, but their souls are, nevertheless, directed to the physical world, and must be cured of this by the prevailing force of sympathy in the fifth region of the soul world in which these external means of satisfaction are lacking. The soul here recognizes gradually that this sympathy must take other directions, and these are found in the outpouring of the soul into the soul region, which is brought about by sympathy with the soul surroundings. Those souls also that demand from their religious observances mainly an enhancement of their sensuous welfare, whether it be that their longing goes out to an earthly or a heavenly paradise, are purified here. They find this paradise in the "Soul-land," but only
for the purpose of seeing through its worthlessness. These are, of course, merely a few detached examples of purifications which take place in this fifth region. They could be multiplied indefinitely.
By means of the sixth region, that of Active Soul Force, the purification of souls thirsting for action takes place, souls whose activity does not bear an egotistical character, but springs, nevertheless, from the sensuous satisfaction it affords them. Such natures, viewed superficially, quite convey the impression of being idealists; they show themselves to be persons capable of self-sacrifice. In a deeper sense, however, the chief thing with them is the enhancement of a sensuous feeling of pleasure. Many artistic natures and such as give themselves up to scientific activity because it pleases them, belong to this class. What binds these people to the physical world is the belief that art and science exist for the sake of such pleasure. They have not yet learned to place these at the service of the world's evolution, and thereby to place themselves at its service.
The seventh region, that of the real Soul Life,
frees man of his last inclination to the sensibly physical world. Each preceding region divests the soul of whatever has affinity with it. What now still envelops the spirit is the belief that its activity should be entirely devoted to the physical world. There are individuals who, though highly gifted, do not think about much over and above the occurrences of the physical world. This belief can be called materialistic. It must be destroyed, and this is done in the seventh region. There these souls see that they have no objects for their materialistic thinking. Like ice in the sun this belief of the soul melts away. The soul being is now absorbed into its own world. The spirit, free from all fetters, rises to the regions where it lives in its own surroundings only. The soul has completed its previous earthly task, and after death any traces of this task that remained fettering the spirit have dissolved. By overcoming the last trace of the earth, the soul is itself given back to its elements.
One sees by this description that the experiences in the soul world, and also the conditions of the soul life after death, gain an ever
friendlier appearance the more a man has shaken off the low elements that adhere to him from his earthly union with the physical corporality. The soul will belong for a longer or shorter time to one or another region according to its physical life. 'Where the soul feels itself to be in affinity, there it remains until the affinity is extinguished. Where no relationship exists, it goes on its way untouched.
It was intended that only the fundamental characteristics of the soul world, and the outstanding features of the life of the soul in this world, should be described here. This applies also to the following descriptions of the spirit land. I would exceed the prescribed limits of this book were further characteristics of these higher worlds to be gone into. For the special relationships and the lapse of time, which are quite different there from those in the physical world, can only be spoken about intelligibly when one is prepared to deal with them in full detail. References of importance in this connection will be found in my "Outline of Occult Science" ("Geheimwissenschaft im Umriss," Altmann's Verlag, Leipsig).