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How the dead continue to live in the spiritual world after death and how they finally descend to a new earthly incarnation after a longer or shorter time, was described in detail by Rudolf Steiner in many writings and lectures.

„How many there are today who still say: Well, what comes after death, that we shall see, we shall still become aware of it at the right time; here we want to refrain from it, want to serve life. When we enter that world on the other side, it will show us what it is like. - Yes, if one thing is right, that one is over there what one has imagined oneself to be here, something else is also right. Take the thought, which is not uncommon today. Someone dies and leaves behind relatives. If they are not thoughtless and yet are materialistically minded, they must have the thought: This relative who has died is decomposing in the grave, or what is left of him is what has been kept in the urn, and the like. - Only as long as people are thoughtless can they be materialists and not have this belief. If materialism were to triumph, people would have more and more faith: Everything that is left of the dead is decaying in the urn or in the grave. - But this thought is a real force. It is an untruth. If the one who remains here thinks: The dead is no longer alive, the dead is no longer there - it is a false thought, but this false thought is nevertheless real in the souls who think it, is nevertheless real. The dead person perceives this real thought; he perceives it as very significant for him. And it is not indifferent, but on the contrary of fundamental importance, whether the one who remains here cultivates the thought of the living dead, of the dead who is in the spiritual world, in a living inner soul life, or whether he more or less gives himself over to the thought of lamentation: The dead is dead, decayed. - Not only is this not indifferent, but it is a quite essential difference.“ (Lit.:GA 178, p. 111f)

Work on the kingdoms of nature

„Now when man has died, his I is on the astral plan together with the I's - this unusual plural cannot be avoided - of the animals, and he can do a work there like the I's of the animals. This work consists in his gradually changing the animal world. In the lower devachan he finds the I's of the plants as his comrades; there he can change the plant world. In this way he himself participates in the transformation of the earth.

Thus it is man himself who brings about the great changes in the earth; he himself works on the face of the earth. It is man himself who has brought about the completely changed scene of his new incarnation. But he does this work under the direction and guidance of higher beings. It is therefore quite true when we say with regard to the animal and plant world, which is continually changing, that this is the work of the departed. The dead work on the transformation of fauna and flora, even on the transformation of the physical forms of the solid earth. Earthwork is the work of the dead. In the forces of nature, too, we see the actions of disembodied human beings. And how powerfully these natural forces transform the earth!

All activity, all work, had its beginning once before. There were no pyramids then, there were no tools then either. Everything was there as the gods, or as the materialists say, the forces of nature had given it, and man was placed in it. Now, all around us, the earth has been reshaped by external human work; and what cannot be achieved here, what man cannot do here, he does in the time between death and the new birth. Thus our own evolution is connected with the change of the whole earth. The construction and evolution of the earth is the work of man on the higher planes, and the higher man himself develops, the more rapidly and perfectly the transformation of the physical earth and the fauna and flora progresses. The more highly developed he is, the longer he has to work in the higher parts of the Devachan.“ (Lit.:GA 95, p. 49f)

Earth-bound dead

Main article: Earth-bound dead

Earth-bound dead are people who remain bound to the earth sphere, namely to the mineral and plant kingdoms, for much longer than usual after death. These realms, however, are no longer appropriate to their being. Often these experiences, which are difficult for the dead to bear, are caused by the fact that the human being has neglected during earthly life to form concepts and ideas that reach beyond earthly existence. But it can also be worries for friends, relatives and children left behind, or unfulfilled tasks and duties, which still tie the dead person to earthly existence for a long time. One can then help the dead by taking over their tasks and duties. For the earth itself and the people left behind here, the earth-bound dead pose a great problem, for "much of the destructive forces at work within the earth sphere come from such dead people banished to this earth sphere." (Lit.:GA 182, p. 20)

See also


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.