Death as a Metamorphosis of Life: Including “What Does the Angel Do in our Astral Body?” & “How Do I Find Christ?”
7 Lectures, various cities, Nov. 29, 1917–Oct. 16, 1918 (CW 182)
“In our reflections on spiritual science, we come across much that we apparently cannot apply directly in our daily life, much that seems far removed from our everyday life. In reality, however, what we learn about the mysteries of the spiritual world is always, in every hour and every moment, deeply significant for our soul. What seems to us far removed from our personal concerns is at times very close to what our soul in its innermost core needs. As far as the physical-sensory world in concerned, it is important that we become familiar with it and know what it contains. Where the spiritual world is concerned, what matters primarily is to think through carefully for ourselves all the thoughts and imaginations that world offers us. When we do this, these thoughts work in our soul, often without our being conscious of this. What our soul is working on in this process may seem irrelevant for us, but in reality, it can be very important and exactly what is needed for the higher spheres of our soul.” –Rudolf Steiner
The lectures in Death as Metamorphosis of Life address us in our soul life and speak to our hearts. They make clear the bond that must unite our inner, spiritual work and the outer work of manifesting spirit in life. For, if spiritual wisdom does not live and grow as a reality in the souls of those who practice it, then the practical wisdom of service called for by the spirit of the times will come to nothing.
The particular realities that Rudolf Steiner focuses on are twofold: working with the dead (and the spiritual hierarchies) and coming to know the Christ. What these two have in common is that they are both Earth-centered. They teach us the fundamental importance of everyday human destiny and earthly life—not just for humanity, but also for divinity and the cosmos. We learn not only what the dead can teach us about the spiritual world and the working of the hierarchies, but also what it means to be human in a spiritual sense. We learn of the importance of working with the dead and the angelic worlds, both for our own and for their development, as well as for the future evolution of the Earth.
The Mystery of Golgotha is equally important; we must understand it spiritually. As Steiner says, “It is the will of the gods that the most important event on Earth must compel us to spirituality.” The Christ must be experienced inwardly, not historically. At the same time, he must be found on Earth—for instance, in human destiny. The more we become aware of what is secretly, invisibly, and unconsciously working in our lives, the closer we will come to working with the dead and to the kingdom of Christ.
How can we find the Christ? Steiner quotes the seventeenth-century mystic, Angelus Silesius: “The Cross on Golgotha cannot save you from evil if it is not also raised within you.”
- “The Three Realms of the Dead: Life between Death and Rebirth”
Bern, November 29, 1917
The Mystery of Golgotha. The Significance of the natural sciences in our time. Theology as a hindrance in the understanding of Christ. The influence of the dead and of Christ on human destiny. The reappearance of Christ in the etheric.
- “Death as Metamorphosis”
Nuremberg, February 10, 1918
The relationships with the dead. The influence of the dead on the blood and nerve system. The principle of reversal in communicating with the dead. Falling asleep and waking up. Connecting the life of feeling with mental images. The relationship of the living with those who died young and those who were older. Compassionate and egotistical sorrow. Memorial services for the young and for the old. The dependence of the historical, social, and ethical life on the communication between the living and the dead.
- “Humanity and the World”
Heidenheim, April 29, 1918
The influence of spiritual science on conception, feeling, and willing. The destructive effect of natural scientific concepts on social life. The human being as microcosm and macrocosm. The laboratory should become an altar. The negation of destiny resulting from one-sidedness. Intellect destroys instinctive capacity. Instinct must be spiritualized. Perception of the spirit by “bringing about another tempo.” A school should give impulses for the whole of life. “the world’s schoolmaster” Woodrow Wilson.
- “Signs of the Times: East, West, and Central Europe”
Ulm, April 30, 1918
Origin of the word “God.” Earth body, earth soul, physical culture, spiritual culture. The churches. What is it that is commonly venerated as “God”? The East and the new Spirituality. Leninism as the bitterest irony. Tagore, the task of Central Europe between the Orient and Anglo-Americanism.
- “Rebellion Against the Spirit”
Hamburg, June 30, 1918
Relationships between the living and the dead. Falling asleep and waking up. The dead as counselors of the living. Lloyd George, Matthias Erzberger, Goethe’s development. Faust and Wagner. Mephisto, Lucifer, and Ahriman. Psychoanalysis. Otto Weininger. Max Dessoir. Oscar Hertwig. Gibbon. Treitschke. The trials of gifted people.
- “What Does the Angel Do in Our Astral Body?”
Zurich, October 9, 1918
The working of the hierarchies in the human being. The aims of humanity in the future: fellowship, freedom of religion, insight into the spiritual nature of the world. The counter actions of Lucifer and Ahriman: sexual instincts, egotistic motives influencing health and illness. Misuse of technology.
- “How Can I Find Christ?”
Zurich, October 16, 1918
The disease of atheism, denial of Christ’s misery, denial of spiritual idiocy. The Mystery of Golgotha and science. Harnack. The situation of humanity at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. The year 333. The origin of the gospels through atavistic clairvoyance. Tertullian. The year 666. Justinian. The academy of Gondishapur. Mohammed. The Council of Constantinople of 869. Angelus Silesius. Johannes Mueller. Speech as gesture. Woodrow Wilson and Herman Grimm.
Death as Metamorphosis of Life is translated for the first time in its entirety from the German of Der Tod als Lebenswandlung (GA 182). Individual lectures have appeared in Angels: Selected Lectures; Evil: Selected Lectures; and Staying Connected.
About the Author
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up (see right). As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.
Christopher Bamford is Editor in Chief for SteinerBooks and its imprints. A Fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, he has lectured, taught, and written widely on Western spiritual and esoteric traditions. He is the author of The Voice of the Eagle: The Heart of Celtic Christianity (1990) and An Endless Trace: The Passionate Pursuit of Wisdom in the West (2003). He has also translated and edited numerous books, including Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness (1982); Homage to Pythagoras: Rediscovering Sacred Science; and The Noble Traveller: The Life and Writings of O. V. de L. Milosz (all published by Lindisfarne Books). HarperSanFrancisco included an essay by Mr. Bamford in its anthology Best Spiritual Writing 2000.
Sabine H. Seiler, PhD, is owner of Columbia Translators & Editors, Albany, New York. She has translated and edited numerous texts, many of which are focused on Anthroposophy. She earned a PhD at SUNY Albany, an M.A. at Florida State University, a B.A. at Philipps Universität, Marburg, Germany.