This is one of a series of posts discussing Rudolf Steiner’s Founding a Science of the Spirit: Fourteen Lectures Given in Stuttgart Between 22 August and 4 September 1906. Visit the tag Science of Spirit for all posts on this topic.
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I had to brush a thick layer of dust off Founding a Science of the Spirit before starting this post, and skim my previous posts so I’d have some clue what I was getting back into. It has been a little while since I’ve delved into the esoteric world of Steiner and you really have to be in the right headspace to manage it. I’m trying, I’m not sure I’m there yet.
Good news/bad news: these lectures appear to be building on what we’ve read/talked about before. So far, they seem to give a very quick refresher of the previous lecture’s highlights before jumping into the topic at hand. In Lecture 3: Life of the Soul in Kamaloka, Steiner delves into the states of death and sleep and the various states of the seven members of the what comprises a man club.
Steiner first turns, briefly, to sleep (the younger brother of death), and the states of the astral and ego bodies, which “raise themselves out of the physical body” — apparently this is why we loose consciousness during sleep. Steiner then poses the question: “what does the loosened astral body do at night?” At night, the astral body “renovates the physical body” and renews the forces that have been used during the day.
The remaining portion of the lecture (and indeed, the bulk of it) is devoted to death, and what Steiner believes happens when a person dies. The etheric body leaves, followed closely by the astral body and ego. The person remembers all that has happened — apparently this can also happen if death seems imminent. Steiner refers to this as the “loosening of the etheric body” and considers it to be quite dangerous, this loosening can also happen via hypnotism, or if a person is in enormous danger. Try to avoid it.
Apparently when a person dies the etheric body eventually dissolves into the ether, and the physical body has deteriorated (I assume?), so what remains are the astral body and the ego. At this point Steiner lumps the astral body and ego together and simply calls them “the soul” — and the soul, now separated from body, is working out it’s desires for sensation/sensory input in a state called Kamaloka… I googled this term, apparently it is Steiner’s equivalent of purgatory.
As Steiner puts it (or as the people taking notes on his lecture put it):
The soul is not tortured from the outside, but has to suffer the torment of the desires it still has but cannot satisfy.
The soul lives its life backwards, day by day seeing where it can learn from the past experiences. Reliving earthly joy, but offering no satisfaction from it. The soul also experiences the suffering it causes to others. Apparently we must wean ourselves gradually from the physical wishes and desires so the soul can be free of the earth and ascend to Devachan (googled again, the heavenly world).
It seems the less materialistic and more enlightened the soul is, the less it suffers in Kamaloka. Apparently people stay in Kamaloka for 1/3 their previous life, and then their astral bodies dissolves. Once it is fully dissolved, a person can be reincarnated. Steiner is quick to point out there are exceptions to all this, of course, and everyone’s experience varies. No kidding.
The death/purgatory theme is not unique to Steiner, nor is death/purgatory/higher world, but he does put his own embellishments on it. The style of the note takers/translators made me loop back a few times to try and catch the details (I probably failed at that). Over all I was left with an unworldly sci-fi feeling with the various bodies departing in their own ways. I’m not sure I’m going to sleep too well tonight, I don’t know how I feel about my astral and ego bodies running loose.
- Life of the Soul in Kamaloka @ RS Archive (full text of lecture)