Death is one thing in which all men believe, without exception! Everyone is convinced that it will come. It is one of the few facts about which there is no dispute or ignorance. Although everybody from childhood onward reckons with the fact that they must die eventually, the majority always tries to ward off the thought. Many people indeed are even vehement if the subject is broached in their presence. Others again carefully avoid cemeteries and funerals, and if by chance they meet a funeral procession in the street, they seek to quickly obliterate any impression as soon as possible. At such moments they are always oppressed by a secret fear that death may one day suddenly surprise them. An indefinable fear prevents them from seriously grappling with this irrefutable fact.
There is hardly any other event which is so inevitable and yet so constantly pushed aside in their thoughts as is death. And with the exception of birth, there is hardly so important an event in this earthly life. It is a striking fact that man wishes to concern himself so little with the beginning and the end of his earthly existence, whereas he seeks to ascribe a deep significance to all other events, even to quite trivial matters. He examines and ponders all intermediate happenings much more than that which would enlighten him on everything: the beginning and the end of his life on earth. Death and birth are so closely linked because one is the result of the other.
Yet how little serious thought is already given to the act of procreation! Only in very rare cases is there anything to be found worthy of a human being. It is in this very matter that man prefers to place himself on a level with the animal, yet without being able to maintain its innocence. This results in his positioning himself below the animal, because the animal acts according to the level it occupies in Creation. Man, however, cannot or will not keep to the level that befits him. He descends to a lower one, and then wonders why in many respects all of humanity gradually goes downhill. To begin with, wedding customs are so designed as to view marriage merely as an earthly affair. In many cases it even goes so far that more serious-minded people would like to turn away in disgust from the unequivocal details hinting at nothing more than earthly intercourse. Wedding festivities in lower as well as in higher circles have in many cases degenerated into regular match-making feasts, which parents conscious of their great responsibility, should strictly forbid their children to attend. However, young men and women who do not feel disgust arise within them at the customs and insinuations during such a festivity, and who still do not stay away out of a sense of responsibility for their own actions, are already to be counted as belonging to the same base level and need not be considered. It is as though here too, in toxic delusion, people try to deceive themselves about things they do not wish to think about.
If, then, life on earth is built upon such frivolous foundations, as has already become habit and practice, one can understand that man also tries to deceive himself about death by striving desperately not to think of it. This pushing aside of all serious thoughts is closely connected with his own low attitude toward procreation. The vague fear which accompanies man like a shadow during his whole life on earth largely originates in the fact that he is fully aware of all that is wrong in his frivolous and degrading actions. And if man cannot find peace in any other way, then, as a last resort, he frantically and artificially clings to the delusion that death is either the end of all things, thereby consciously fully acknowledging his inferiority and cowardice at possibly being called to account, or to the hope that after all he is not much worse than others.
But all the illusions do not alter the fact in the slightest degree that earthly death is approaching them, coming nearer day by day, hour by hour! It often appears pathetic when the majority of those who so rigidly tried to deny any responsibility in connection with a life after death, begin in their last hours, to fearfully ask the great questions, thus proving they have suddenly begun to doubt their own convictions. But their questioning is of little use then; for again, it is only cowardice which, shortly before the great step out of this earth-life, suddenly lets them see the possibility of a continuation of life and of being called to account therein. But fear, dread and cowardice no more allow for a lessening or redemption of the unconditional reciprocal action arising from every deed than does stubbornness. Real recognition, i.e., a true understanding, cannot be attained in this way. During their final hours, and prompted by fear, dying people are often cruelly tricked by their intellectual shrewdness, so often tried and proven during their life on earth; now, as a customary precaution, it would prompt the person to become intellectually pious as soon as the detachment of the ethereal body, which lives on, from the gross material body has advanced to such a degree that the intuitive life in this state of detachment equals the strength of the intellect to which it had heretofore been forcibly subordinated.
They gain nothing from this! They will reap what they sowed through their thoughts and deeds during their life on earth. Nothing has been improved or changed in the slightest degree! They will be irresistibly drawn into the gears of the strictly operating Laws of Reciprocal Action, so as to experience in the Ethereal World all the errors they perpetrated in thought and deed as a result of wrong convictions. Such people have every reason to dread the hour when they must leave their physical bodies, which for a time offered protection against many ethereal processes. This protection was given to them as a shield and a cover for a while so that behind it, undisturbed, they could have changed for the better or even completely redeemed many things which would otherwise have affected them severely.
It is doubly, even ten times as sad, for those who spend this time of grace of an earth-life in frivolous self-deception, as if intoxicated. Thus for many there is every reason for alarm and apprehension.
The case is quite different for those who have not wasted their existence on earth but who, although at a late hour yet still in time and not prompted by fear and anxiety, have set out on the road to spiritual ascent. They will take their serious seeking over with them in the Ethereal World as a staff and support. Without fear and anxiety they can venture from the Gross Material World into the Ethereal World which is inevitable for everyone, because all that is transient, such as the physical body, must sooner or later perish. They can welcome the hour of this release, for it means definite progress for them, no matter what they have to experience in the ethereal life. What is good will then bring them happiness and the difficulties will be made surprisingly easy for them, for their good volition will help them in this far more powerfully than they could ever have imagined.
The process of dying is in itself nothing but birth into the Ethereal World, similar to the process of birth into the Gross Material World. After the separation the ethereal body remains attached to the physical body for a time as if with an umbilical cord. This attachment is less firm the higher the one thus born into the Ethereal World has already developed his soul towards the Ethereal World as transition into the Kingdom of his God during his life on earth. The more a man’s volition has chained him to this earth, i.e., to gross matter, thus refusing any knowledge of a continuation of life in the Ethereal World, the more solid will be the structure of this cord which binds him to his physical body and thus also to his ethereal body, which he needs as a garment for his spirit in the Ethereal World. However, the denser his ethereal body is the heavier it is according to the prevailing laws, and the darker it must appear. Such great resemblance and close relation to matter makes it very hard for the ethereal body to detach itself from the physical body, so that it happens that he must still undergo and feel the last physical pains as well as the whole process of decay. Neither does he remain insensitive to cremation. After the final severance of this connecting cord, he sinks to that level in the Ethereal World where its surroundings are of corresponding density and weight. There, in this environment of equal weight, he will find only those of similar tendencies. It is understandable that conditions there are worse than when on earth in the physical body, because in the Ethereal World all intuitive feelings are experienced and realized fully and without restraint.
It is different with those people who during their life on earth have already begun to strive for all that is noble. Because they bear within themselves a living conviction about the step into the Ethereal World, the severance is much easier. The ethereal body as well as its connecting cord are not dense, and this difference in their mutual otherness from the gross-material body permits a very quick separation, such that the ethereal body, already for some time, stands next to the gross material body throughout the entire so-called death-struggle or the last muscle twitches of the gross-material body, if one can even call the normal dying process of such a person a ‘death struggle.’ The loose and less dense condition of the connecting cord prevents the ethereal being standing beside the body from feeling any pain because this loose cord in its less dense condition cannot transmit pain from the physical body to the ethereal body. Owing to its finer nature such a cord severs the connection more quickly, setting the ethereal body completely free in a much shorter space of time to soar to the region consisting of this finer and lighter substance. There it too can only find kindred souls and gain peace and happiness through the higher quality of the intuitive life. Such a lighter and less dense ethereal body naturally appears brighter and more luminous, until finally it becomes so rarefied that the inner Pure-spiritual core begins to break through radiantly before it enters the sphere of Pure-Spiritual-Substantiality, completely luminous and radiant.
Those, however, who are present at a deathbed, should take warning not to break out into loud lamentations. When the grief at parting is too strongly expressed, the person in the process of detaching himself, or who is perhaps already standing beside his body in ethereal form, may be touched, i.e. hear or feel it. If pity then awakens in him, together with the wish to say a few words of consolation, this desire binds him more strongly to his physical body again through the need to make himself understood by the grief-stricken mourners. He can only make himself understood to those on earth by the use of his brain. This effort, however, makes for a closer connection with the physical body, necessitates it, as a result of which not only does an ethereal body still in the process of detaching itself re-unite itself more closely to the physical body again but, if it is already standing detached beside the physical body, it will even be drawn back into the gross-material body once more. The final result is that he will once again feel all the pains from which he had already been delivered. The process of renewed detachment is much more difficult, and may even last for some days. This brings about the so-called prolonged death struggle, which becomes really painful and difficult for the one wanting to depart. The blame lies with those who, through their selfish grief, have called him back from his natural course of development. Through this interruption of the normal course, be it only in the weak attempt at concentrating on making itself understood, a new and forcible connection has taken place. To dissolve this unnatural connection again is not so easy for one who is completely inexperienced in this matter. He cannot receive help in this matter, because he desired the reconnection himself. Such a connection can easily be effected as long as the physical body is not yet completely cold and the connecting cord exists, which often breaks only after many weeks. It is unnecessary suffering for the dying man; it is rudeness and inconsiderateness on the part of the bystanders. Therefore, absolute quiet should reign in the room of the dying person, a dignity and seriousness appropriate to the importance of the hour! People who cannot control themselves should be forcibly removed, even if they be the nearest relatives.