From AnthroWiki
The Ages and Death (Hans Baldung Grien, between 1541 and 1544)


The Flight to Heaven (Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1490 to 1516)

Death (Greekθάνατος thánatos; Latinmors; medical: exitus, proper: "exit") struck humanity as a consequence of the Fall, which was triggered by Luciferian temptation. Man ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, to stay with the imagery of Genesis, and became more deeply entangled in the sensual world than was originally intended. This happened in the Lemurian period. Man now entered the solidifying Earth for the first time as a physical being, so that it is only since this time that one can speak of earthly embodiments of man. But this was also the first time that man received his individual I, before that he lived entirely in the bosom of the general group-I. Now there was also a separation of the sexes, and with it illness and death entered humanity. With the breathing of air that now began, the consciousness of death and birth also began. Little by little, the solid skeleton was embedded in the human being, which on the one hand is rightly regarded as a symbol of death, but on the other hand enables the human being to take the upright posture through which he can stride across the Earth as a free being and thus develop his I-consciousness.

I-Consciousness as the Actual Cause of Death

I-consciousness is the actual cause of death in human beings. The I continually bumps into the physical body and thereby becomes aware of itself, but at the same time destroys the physicality. Conversely, death is the necessary prerequisite for man to develop I-consciousness at all.

The immediate, physically ascertainable cause of death can, if necessary, be clarified by a post-mortem examination, whereby for forensic purposes a basic distinction is made between three possible types of death: natural, non-natural or unexplained.

The life panorama

Main article: Life panorama

At the moment of death, a person's entire past life on Earth appears simultaneously before the mind's eye in an immense life panorama. This life panorama initially conceals the actual experience of death from the consciousness. A few days after death, the life panorama dissolves and becomes transparent for the astral world weaving behind it, into which the dead person then enters and purifies himself in the Kamaloka of the drives and desires that still bind him to the discarded earthly existence.

„At the moment when man enters the gate of death, he is still united with his etheric body. We have often described what happens to this body. This union with the etheric body gives the human being the possibility to live in all the ideas which the last life has kindled in him, to become completely absorbed, as in a mighty tableau, in all that the last life has given him. But this is a contemplation which lasts a relatively short time, and which fades away with the detachment of the etheric body from the I and the astral body. Yes, one can say that immediately after the moment of death a fading away begins, a weakening of the impressions which still originate from the possession of the etheric body, and then that which is decisive after physical death asserts itself. What is decisive there is only imagined correctly to a lesser degree by people who want to form ideas about life after death. It is even difficult to coin words for those conditions which are quite different from those which are experienced in the physical body. It is easy to believe that when a human being has passed through the gate of death, he must first acquire consciousness again. This is not really the case. What man goes through when he passes through the gate of death is not a lack of consciousness. With death there is not a lack of consciousness, the opposite occurs. There is an excess, a superabundance of consciousness, when death has occurred. One lives and weaves entirely in consciousness, and just as strong sunlight numbs the eyes, so one is at first numbed by consciousness, one has too much consciousness. This consciousness must first be dulled so that one can orient oneself in the life into which one has entered after death. This takes a long time, it happens gradually in such a way that after death more and more moments occur in which consciousness makes such an orientation possible; that the soul comes to itself for a more or less short time and then again enters into a kind of sleep-like state, as one might call it. Then, little by little, such moments become longer and longer, the soul comes more and more into such conditions, until a complete orientation in the spiritual world is there.“ (Lit.:GA 159, p. 34f)

The experience of the life panorama is also connected with a strong feeling of happiness.

„One can therefore say that in this life tableau there is something like an experience in the immediate present, in which not one thing is placed after another, as in memory, but one next to the other in two-dimensional space. One can very well distinguish this tableau of life from the mere tableau of memory. Now what one achieves is that one has increased the inner activity, the active experience of one's own personality. That is the essential thing. One lives more intensively, one develops more intensively the forces which radiate from one's own personality. Once you have experienced this, you have to take a further step. Nobody really likes to do that. And to this further step belongs what one can actually call the strongest conceivable inner overcoming. For that which one has in the experience of this tableau, which one has in these pictures in which the experience presents itself to the soul, is a subjective feeling of happiness even for those things which were painful when they were really experienced in the past. That which is connected with this imaginative realisation is a tremendously strong subjective feeling of happiness.

From this subjective feeling of happiness have come all those religious ideals and descriptions which, like the descriptions of Mohammedanism, for example, imagine life beyond earthly life in auspicious images. This has arisen from the experience of this feeling of happiness in the imagination.“ (Lit.:GA 227, p. 46ff)

The importance of the experience of death

From a spiritual point of view, death is the most beautiful and wonderful experience that man can have. A bright light of consciousness radiates from here, which the dead person can always look back on later and which also guarantees him or her I-consciousness in the life between death and new birth. In dying, with a bright illumination in the heart, the connection between the physical body and the higher members of the being, which rise above the head, dissolves.

„Death is terrible, or at least can be terrible for a human being as long as he remains in the body. But when man has passed through the gate of death and looks back on death, death is the most beautiful experience possible in the human cosmos. For this looking back on this entering into the spiritual world through death is, between death and a new birth, the most wonderful, the most beautiful, the most magnificent, the most glorious event that the dead can ever look back on. As little as of our birth ever really stands in our physical experience - after all, no man with the ordinary, untrained faculties remembers his physical birth - surely death always stands there for the soul that has passed through the gate of death, from the emergence of consciousness. It is always there, but it stands there as the most beautiful thing, as the resurrector into the spiritual world. And he is a teacher of the most wonderful kind, a teacher who can really prove to the receptive soul that there is a spiritual world, because he destroys the physical through his own being and from this destruction only that which is spiritual can emerge. And this resurrection of the spiritual, with the complete stripping away of the physical, is an event that always stands between death and new birth. It is a sustaining, a wonderfully great event, and into its understanding the soul grows little by little ...“ (Lit.:GA 157, p. 188)

The awakening of consciousness after death

The experience of death, as it occurs immediately at the moment of death, does not immediately become conscious to the human being. At first, as discussed above, it is covered by the life panorama. But even after that, it does not immediately enter consciousness. As a rule, the three-day experience of the life panorama is followed by a phase of lowered consciousness. This is because the spiritual light, the radiant wisdom that now surrounds the human being, floods his consciousness and thus blinds it. Only when we succeed in dimming this wisdom light that floods around us do we become aware of the actual experience of death.

„The moment of death is quite unlike the moment of birth, in that in the spiritual world one can always look at the moment of death, whereas one cannot look at the moment of birth with the ordinary faculties in the physical body. In the spiritual world one can always look at the moment of death in the time between death and a new birth, from the moment when one has first become conscious of it. There it stands, though not as we see it with its horrors from this side of life, but there it stands as a wonderfully glorious event of life, as a coming forth of the spiritual-soul being of man from the physical-sensual envelopment, it stands as the liberation of the impulses of will and feeling from the flooding, from the objectively flooding thought-being.

That man is not able to see this moment of death immediately after death is connected with the fact that we do not have too little consciousness when death occurs, but on the contrary, that we have too much consciousness. Just remember what is written in the Vienna lectures: that we do not live into too little wisdom, but into too much wisdom, into a wisdom that floods us as if it were infinite, that approaches us from everywhere. It is impossible for us to be unwise after death. This wisdom comes upon us like a light flooding us on all sides, and we must, on the contrary, first arrive at limiting ourselves, at orienting ourselves in that in which we are not initially oriented. So it is through this down-tuning of the quite highly tuned consciousness to the degree of consciousness which we can bear after our earthly preparation until death, through this down-tuning that we come to what we can call the awakening after death.

We awaken too strongly after death, immediately after death, and we must first diminish this too strong awakening, damp it down to the degree that corresponds to the abilities that we have prepared for ourselves through the experiences that we have gone through in the various earthly incarnations. Thus it is a struggle to assert ourselves in the consciousness that bursts upon us from all sides.“ (Lit.:GA 161, p. 128f)

Death and initiation

In initiation the experience of death is already anticipated.

„Only then will man get a concept of what initiation is, when he ceases to construct a worldview out of external sensual concepts. He must become entirely feeling, entirely soul mood, such a soul mood that corresponds to what Goethe characterises as the highest achievement of man in his "Westöstlicher Divan":

And as long as you don't have this,
This: Die and become!
You are but a dull guest
On the dark Earth.

Und so lang du das nicht hast,
Dieses: Stirb und Werde!
Bist du nur ein trüber Gast
Auf der dunklen Erde.

Die and become! Get to know what life can offer, go through it, but overcome, go beyond yourself. Let it become a bridge for you, and you will live up in a higher life, be one with the essence of things, when you no longer live in the delusion that you, separated from the higher I, can exhaust the essence of things. Goethe likes to recall, where he speaks of the sacrifice of the concept and of the material of the soul in order to live in higher spheres, where he speaks of the deepest innermost love, the words of the mystic Jakob Böhme, who knows this experience of the sacrifice of the serpent in himself. Jakob Böhme perhaps pointed this out to him and made it so clear to him that man can already live in the physical body into a world which he otherwise only enters after death: into the world of the eternal, the spiritual. Jakob Böhme also knew that it depends on man whether he can glide over into the spiritual world in a higher sense. He shows this in the saying: He who does not die before he dies, corrupts when he dies. - A significant word! The human being who does not die before he dies, that is, who does not develop the eternal, the inner core of being in himself, will also not be able to find the spiritual core of being in himself again when he dies. The eternal is within us. We must develop it in the body so that we can find it outside the body. "He who does not die before he dies, corrupts when he dies." So it is with the other sentence: "And so death is the root of all life.“ (Lit.:GA 57, p. 78ff)

See also


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References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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