“Crossing the Threshold: The Experience after death” – report on the talk of Rev. Michaël Merle on 8th November 2020
report by John-Peter Gernaat
This talk was, correctly speaking, about the full cycle of life, from birth on earth to a next birth. Half the talk was dedicated to life in a physical body in the 21st century. A reference for the talk, among many, is a lecture cycle of Rudolf Steiner given in April 1914 called “The Inner Nature of Man: And Our Life Between Death and Rebirth”.
The content of the talk is presented in the following diagram that represents the cycle of life. What appears below the diagram is the content of the talk in paragraph form. However, to fully grasp the presentation it is necessary to refer to the diagram. On the diagram the Midnight Hour of life between death and rebirth is marked at where 12 would appear on a clockface, North on a compass. The Journey of descent through the heavenly spheres to birth goes clockwise from this point, with birth at the point of East on the compass (dawn) and the cycle of life on earth spanning the bottom half of the circle to the point of West (9 on a clockface) where death on earth (and birth into the world of Spirit) is marked.
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The full cycle of life (on earth and in the Spirit) is experienced in the mirror of the life on earth (the bottom half of the sphere above) and the life in the spiritual world (the top half of the sphere above). The sphere presented above is divided by the line of birth and death. The amount of time on earth in the physical body and that in the spiritual world out of the physical body are not equal, yet the diagrammatic representation is of value.
The sphere is divided between ‘Matter’ and ‘Spirit’. This is a merism: an ancient Jewish figure of speech that when two opposite parts are conjoined with an ‘and’ they represent the whole. “Matter and Spirit” represent all of existence for our incarnations in this great Earth Cycle of time.
Matter is linked with ‘Space’ and Spirit is linked with ‘Time’. This may seem odd when there is not the same experience of time in the spiritual world. The experience of Matter is the experience of outer space and inner space – the world out there and the world inside of me. The experience of Spirit is the experience of before incarnating and after incarnating. This experience of before and after holds time as a significant experience in the world of Spirit. Space and Time is also a merism.
Perception is to interiorise the outer world.
Thinking is our ability to grasp the outer world.
Perception and thinking will not help us prepare for the experience of our life after death.
To experience the soul as independent of the body we do so through feeling and willing.
Feeling is the source of our inner richness. In our feeling we are alone, but we can harmonise our feelings with others.
Willing can occupy common worlds, but we can only do it alone. We can cooperate with others in a task but cannot do the task together.
That is why we can experience the soul as independent of the body through feeling and willing.
We connect with others through thinking.
Rudolf Steiner described the pathways of willing and feeling in his foundation course for Waldorf education.
A Waldorf Education is the experience that can facilitate the building of memory. When we bring together two memories we work on the refined feeling in the in-between. Memory helps us to work at remembering life before birth and connecting to our spiritual origins. Will activities allow us to plant seeds for the future. It is what we do through will that we are able to take with us across the threshold.
Birth on earth can correctly be characterised as ‘Ex Deo Nascimur’ – We are born out of God. The period between birth and the age of 21 is a recapitulation of the opening of the old chakra system. Our new path is a descending path. After the age of 21 it is about drawing the Holy Spirit into our being.
The characteristics of the remainder of our lives are:
After the age of 21 there are four directions we can follow. The first two are mandatory and the other two are a choice (and we can choose one or both or neither).
The drawing down of the Spirit and lifting ourselves to the Spirit can be pictured through the systems that operate in a plant: In the plant there are two types of transport tissue in the vascular system: xylem and phloem. The xylem transports water and minerals from the roots to the stems and leaves. The phloem transports the soluble organic compounds made in the leaves during photosynthesis throughout the plant to the roots (moving sunlight as sugar throughout the plant). Xylem allows an upward flow while phloem allows a downward flow. For the plant to be whole, both these independent systems must function.
The aim of life is to ‘die in Christ’. There is real value in achieving this. It is achieved through a path of human development that is Christian, i.e. that develops benevolence, wisdom and consciousness, whether there is a conscious relationship with the Christ or not.
There is a medieval theology that states, “without the church there is no salvation”. The correct statement is, ‘with salvation there is the church’; where “the church” means belonging to a community that is conscious.
After the age of 21 we experience freedom; because without freedom we cannot develop the qualities of benevolence, wisdom and consciousness.
To ‘die in Christ’ consciously helps after death.
Dante in his Divine Comedy relates how he is lost in a forest where his companion Virgil takes him through Hell and Purgatory. He then leaves Virgil and, accompanied by Beatrix, goes through the seven spheres of the heavens.
After death we ascend through the seven spheres.
The Moon sphere is the sphere of reflection. Here it seems to us that the world and the firmament become concentrated into a single star and from this star radiates a full memory tableau of our earthly life. Within it is contained the fruits of our life. We reflect on the will activities of our conscious thinking. We are confronted by the truth that we may have actively avoided or distorted in our lifetime, and this confrontation feels like torture. We may not work through everything of our past life in the Moon sphere and will most likely leave behind things that we must pick up to work on in a next life. These things that we leave behind call to us when we reach the Midnight Hour. We feel that there is something that is not finished and draws us back towards a new incarnation. This is also a call from the Christ to shoulder our burden.
In the Moon sphere our will, feeling and thinking separate from us and become separate beings. Our task in ascending through the spheres is to hold together the separated beings as one with our being. Through the feeling and the will, we have a connection to our past life. Through our thinking we are able to enter into the thought being of those still on earth.
When we reach the Saturn sphere we gain the full context of the experience of the Moon sphere.
In the Midnight Hour we are ‘revived by the Holy Spirit’.
When we harken to the call from the Moon sphere and begin our descent into life we develop our senses in the Saturn sphere – we develop a new way of seeing.
In the Jupiter sphere we develop our nervous system – a way of connecting.
In the Mars sphere we develop our larynx (and learn what it will mean to speak in our future life). Speech is the new sword (sword of war: Mars the god of war).
The Saturn, Jupiter and Mars spheres are about turning the outside in. In these spheres we rely on Luciferic beings to show us our future morality.
In the Sun sphere we develop our heart and circulation.
In the Mercury sphere we choose the folk into which we will be born.
In the Venus sphere we choose our parents and our family. Our internal organs are formed based on the choice of family.
The, Mercury, Venus and Moon spheres are about turning the inside out and developing relationships. In these spheres we rely on Ahrimanic beings to teach us intelligence.
In the Moon sphere we choose our gender.
If we become enchanted by the Luciferic beings we live our next life in fantasy and illusion. If we become enchanted by the Ahrimanic beings we live our next life in gratification of the material existence. Redeeming the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings is about learning the lessons that we require going into the experience of birth and not following their negative influence in the earthly life. We teach them in turn, by not following them in life. This brings about their redemption.
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