It must be a fact for everyone who thinks about it that they will die some day. Most people do not think about it except when friends or relatives die, and it is at closer quarters than they are accustomed to, and then the thought strikes them with terror. Death is a riddle for most people. “No one has come back and told us how it is on the other side, and maybe there is not even any ‘other side’ “, people usually say. It is therefore natural that in my lectures I also deal with the mystery of death, which will gradually cease being a mystery and will also cease being something that people feel anxious or terrified about.
What then is death? First and foremost it is an experience that comes to absolutely all physical beings in this world. None of you believes that you will never have this experience, it being far too apparent in everything around us. Furthermore, death is not merely a process that will come some day; it is already present within you. You already began to die when you were born. Where is the tiny baby’s body in which you came to this world? Where is the little child’s face with which in excited expectation you looked forward to Christmas Eve, the little face that shone when as a child you encountered the wonderful story of Christmas, and when you experienced all the other happy hours of childhood?
This face no longer exists on the physical plane. You have another face now. And if you are an old person today you may ask where is the young and agile body now that in youth you embraced the one you loved with. And where is the mature body with which you crowned your life’s work and experienced the peak of your physical appearance in this life? These bodies, if you are an old man or woman today, are long since dead. An old person has actually experienced reincarnation or rebirth a good many times before he or she dies.
It cannot be denied that these physical bodies no longer exist. Here you may argue that an older person’s present body is the same as the body he or she had as a child and as a youth, only now it is worn out. But such a view is based on an illusion. An organism is a “living thing”, an organisation of living micro-individuals that we call organs, cells, molecules and atoms. With the exception of the organs, the cycles of these micro-individuals have such a rapid pace that their physical existence is of far shorter duration than that of the macrobeing. These beings are therefore continuously replaced in the organism of the macrobeing. Every minute there are cells and atoms that are born and die in our organism, so our organism actually undergoes a continuous process of transformation, and in the course of only a few months is almost totally renewed. So it is not an insignificant number of bodies an older person has already left behind. Every renewal must be perceived as a new body. But you do not notice these reincarnations or rebirths very much since, behind these transformations, you carry on a continuous, uninterrupted experience of life. The replacement takes place gradually and in such a gentle and harmonious way that it does not normally disturb or interrupt the experience of life. But if one imagines that the replacement of all these microbeings were to occur at the same time, the organism would have to die and an entirely new organism would have to replace it. A kind of death process would then have to take place between these replacements. The body we have as a child would then be unchangeable until that moment when we were mature enough to take possession of the body we have in youth, and the concept of “growing”, in the sense in which we now know it, would be unknown to us. The replacement that could not take place gradually must then take place suddenly. We would have to fall into a kind of sleep or dormant state, and during this sleep the new body, which should bear our youth-consciousness, must grow quickly and the child-body must just as quickly shrivel up and be discarded in favour of the new. We would then wake up in a new body and use it for a period until a new replacement could occur.
There are in fact beings in this physical world who experience their renewal of life according to this principle, namely various insects who go through the caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly stages. These beings must experience a kind of death process between each of the stages within each separate terrestrial life. Imagine if we had to go through the same! One fine day we would be overwhelmed by an intense desire to sleep deeply, and the body by which our relatives and friends were used to identifying us would shrivel up and wither, and a new body would grow in its place. Day-consciousness would therefore be able to manifest itself again, and we would wake up in a new, beautiful body that no one would recognise as “us”. Indeed, we could even participate in the burial of our recently discarded body. For some people all this will sound comical, for others perhaps alarming, but there are, however, beings in the universe, and even on this planet, that experience the physical renewal of life according to such a principle.
I have touched on all of this only because in reality it lifts a first little corner of the veil covering the process that people call “death”, a process that very often terrifies them. But the human being has no reasons to be afraid of death other than those created by itself. And through spiritual science the modern seeker has the possibility of becoming familiar with what happens during the process of death, so that anxiety and uncertainty can be overcome and replaced by confidence and peace of mind. It is quite true that after the process of death with which people are familiar only the discarded physical body or corpse remains. One is not able to see the being appear in a new form. But is this an irrefutable proof that the consciousness is wiped out when the organism decomposes? No – we can physically experience another person’s consciousness only when this other person has a physical body through which to manifest himself, just as we can experience radio waves only when there is a radio through which they are transformed into sound waves.
Yet we are in no doubt that radio waves exist, even though we cannot hear them. The consciousness or mentality of the living being is also a reality that exists in the form of rays or waves. These energies cause the complete renewal of life and the transformation of the organism, both where it occurs in various stages as is the case with the insects mentioned above, and where a gradual, almost imperceptible transformation takes place as in the case of the terrestrial human being. And if one compares the replacement of the organism of the insects mentioned above and the replacement of the organism in that species of beings to which terrestrial human beings belong, does one not have a proof that this ability to replace the organism is, like all other abilities, subject to evolution? The ability of the terrestrial human being to replace its organism is in reality far more developed than that of the insects.
To be able to replace one’s organism quite imperceptibly as the terrestrial human being does in one physical incarnation, through the stages of childhood, youth, maturity and old age, without having to interrupt the functioning of its day-consciousness, and to be able to have the feeling that it is still the same organism without this really being the case, is something of an ideal in relation to the stage of evolution where the beings have to go through a kind of death process several times in one incarnation.
The terrestrial human being has reached a step in evolution where it is free from that kind of unpleasant interruption in the transformation of the organism until its earthly life, through ill-health, accident or the natural wear and tear of old age, is interrupted and its consciousness is carried by spiritual or ray-formed bodies, those that carry the consciousness during sleep. But when a way of replacing organisms more primitive than that of human beings exists, is it not just as natural for there also to exist a way that makes the human beings way seem primitive, but which they can gradually learn to avail themselves of? This means a replacement of the organism where the process we call “death” can also be changed into a gradual process of transformation instead of an abrupt transition from one state to another. And therefore the “horror of death” will be overcome, and there will be no more shock associated with this process of transformation, which can be the case for people now who, with their physical eyes, see the physical bodies of other people become corpses without being able, with the same eyes, to see the same people in the bodies formed of rays that now carry their consciousness.
When the transformation of the organism, the principle of rebirth or reincarnation, is thus subject to evolution, there must be a goal for this evolution, and this is to make the replacement more and more imperceptible. Terrestrial human beings and the categories of beings related to them have thus reached this goal to perfection within the individual terrestrial life. Indeed, they have reached such a degree of perfection that the human being does not notice the replacement of his organism at all and denies reincarnation. Only the process of replacement that is still imperfect and called “death” is noticed at the moment. A partial replacement of the organism has not yet been able to be created here, and human beings are subject to the total replacement of the organism, believing because they are used only to a “partial death”, that the total replacement of the organism is tantamount to “total death”. But it is only for a short time that people will have such a belief based on lack of knowledge of the eternal laws of life. Many seekers have already begun to succeed in finding a solution to the riddle of death.
But it is not the purpose of life that people should concern themselves with “death” and “the spiritual world” on a mystical plane; it has to become crystal-clear science, and the human being with his knowledge and creative ability will in time be able to overcome death.
It is the will of Providence or the Godhead that, after a long period in the spiral of evolution, the living being will reach a stage where it is able to experience its eternal existence without the interruptions in the organism that must occur in the plant kingdom and the animal kingdom of a spiral of evolution. This means that such an imperceptible replacement of the organism as that which the terrestrial human being has come to master within a single terrestrial life will one day in the future also be mastered by the same being when he slips from the physical state to the ray-formed state.
The term “resurrection” will actually in time be a reality for the terrestrial human being who, when he has reached a step in evolution where he is able to control matter with his will, can no longer be described as a “terrestrial human being” but as a “real human being”, a “human being in God’s image”.
In my cosmic analyses and symbols I show where in the spiral of evolution this goal will become a reality. In the last part of the third kingdom of the spiral, the real human kingdom, such a perfect existence will begin to become a fact. Then the being’s transition from the physical to the spiritual experience of life will no longer be hindered by any “death process”. The transition will be just as perfect as the transition from childhood to youth, from youth to maturity and from maturity to old age is today for the terrestrial human being.
Until this epoch of evolution has been reached, however, the terrestrial human being must still experience its existence as being demarcated into separate physical and spiritual lives, where the transitions can occur only as total replacements of the organisms, which in turn usually cause the being to be conscious in only one of the two spheres in which it finds itself at the moment. Often during its stay in the physical world, at any rate, it is apt to deny the existence of the other sphere. In principle it is in a way the same as if a caterpillar were to deny the existence of a butterfly. Through modern spiritual science, however, the seeking “human caterpillars” of our time have the possibility to become familiar with something other than their own little local “caterpillar world”. They can acquire an overview of the evolution of life, of the process of creation in the midst of which they are situated, and they can acquire knowledge about what promotes the development of that state in which pain, suffering and death are totally overcome.
This imperceptible replacement of the organism that the terrestrial human being now experiences in a physical incarnation has taken it a very long time to attain, and it is just as much a matter of course that it must take some time before the transition to the spiritual world can take place in the same way. But even now the individual terrestrial human being has the possibility to turn death into something beautiful instead of something horrifying. It can learn to die by learning how to live, that is, by becoming familiar with the laws of life and trying to live in accordance with them. The more the human being, with its thoughts, feelings and actions, lives on the same wavelength as the keynote of the universe or universal morality – which is to be a joy and a blessing for all living beings – the easier death will be when it one day comes. It will be felt like a renewal of life, a lovely rest from what is, at times, a rather difficult life in physical matter. But it will not be the kind of rest one can get in an armchair or on a sofa. No – it will be as if one experiences the most wonderful holiday one can imagine. With one’s thoughts as the means of transport one can visit zones and spheres at will, this too being based on universal laws. Then the organism is again replaced. The being must return to that world where resistance exists – a resistance that develops the being, to that world in which it hurts to think wrongly. But now it gets a new, healthy organism, which is built up in its mother’s womb, and new possibilities in a future physical life to learn to think and live so as to gradually overcome death.