The great philosopher Immanuel Kant said, “Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heaven above me and the moral law within me.” The spiritual scientist Rudolf Steiner combined these two “wonderful/awesome” ideas of Kant to explain what happens to the unconscious human soul between death and a new birth. Steiner gave many lectures on life between death and rebirth in which he speaks of the human soul traversing through the planetary spheres with each sphere playing a significant role in taking stock of our previous incarnation and preparing us for our next one. Our moral and spiritual victories and shortcomings are accounted for while the angelic hierarchies begin preparing us for the new tasks we must undertake in our upcoming earthly sojourn.
From a lecture given on May 13, 1913 Steiner explains that what was outer space to us while incarnated becomes inner space to us after death, and vice versa:
Here on the earth we are situated at a point on the earth’s surface. Our organs are within us, whereas the starry heavens are outside. The opposite is the case after death. Then man grows to a cosmic dimension. When he has expanded up to the Moon sphere, the spiritual that belongs to the Moon becomes an organ within him. It becomes after death what the brain is for us on earth as physical human beings. Each planetary body becomes an organ for us after death inasmuch as we have expanded to its orbit. The Sun becomes a heart for us. As here we bear the physical heart within our body, so there we carry the spiritual part of the Sun within us. There is only one difference. We are perfect physical human beings when, after the embryonic evolution, all the organs have formed; They are simultaneously present. After death we acquire these organs little by little, one after another…. After death we grow into that of which the physical part has been discarded, and the spiritual part of the cosmic organ is now inside us. What is then our external world? What at present is our inner world, what we have experienced by means of our organs that make us into physical, earthly beings, and what we have done by means of these organs.
As far as the angelic hierarchies are concerned, Steiner adhered to the traditional Christian teaching expounded by Dionysius the Areopagite when proclaiming his spiritual research. Here is one way in which Steiner explains the role the hierarchies play in human development after death:
It is with the Hierarchy of Angels, Archangles and Archai that a man is essentially concerned during his Moon existence after death, while the higher Hierarchies are still beyond his knowledge. The judgements of the Angels are especially important for the deeds of individual men, and it is from the Angels that a man learns the value his own deeds have in the cosmos as a whole. From the Archangels he learns more about the value of what he has done in connection to the language he speaks, with the people to whom he belongs, and from this source also come impulses which work into his further destiny. From the Archai he learns what value his actions during a given period on Earth will have for the time when he has to descend once more into earthly existence…. In the Moon sphere he comes to know what he is destined to be in his next earthly existence, though the actual preparations cannot be made for it at that stage. For this he has to rise to the sphere of the Sun…
On coming into the vast sphere of the Sun, where our interests are substantially widened, we are able to work with the Exusiai, Dynamis and Kyriotetes on preparing the spirit-germ of a physical body which can then be born for us from suitable parents… Our essential work there…is to concern ourselves together with beings of a higher degree, with all that takes place among these beings as spiritual events, just as here there are natural events; with all that takes place in them as art of the spirit, just as here we have the art of nature. All this enables us to bring together what has thus been worked at into a great, spiritual, archetypal picture which is the spirit-germ, the foreshadowing, of what will later be born on Earth as our physical body.
Although Steiner explains these excarnate experiences as though we were conscious of them, of course we are not! We lead ourselves into all sorts of errors if we imagine we are.
We’ll return to TSS in our next installment. Until then, peace.