When one looks at pictures supposed to represent life in so-called hell, one shrugs it off with a half-ironical, half-pitying smile, thinking that only morbid imagination or fanatical blind faith can conjure up such scenes. Very rarely will anyone seek for even the slightest grain of truth in these pictures. And yet the most gruesome imagination can hardly contrive a picture that comes anywhere near to depicting the torments of life in the dark regions. Poor deluded fools who imagine they can carelessly dismiss it with a mocking shrug of the shoulders! In the moment when the appalling truth dawns upon them such carelessness will revenge itself bitterly. It will be of no avail to struggle or turn aside, they will be drawn into the whirlpool awaiting them, unless they can rid themselves in time of the deep-seated ignorance which always characterizes the hollowness and narrow-mindedness of such people.
The ethereal body will hardly have detached itself from the physical body *(Lecture No. 40: Death) before these souls receive their first great surprise by experiencing that conscious existence and life have not therewith come to an end. The first result will be confusion followed by unimaginable anxiety, which often gives way to a state of gloomy resignation or most dreadful despair! All resistance is then in vain. In vain are their lamentations and so is their pleading; for they must reap what they have sown during their life on earth.
If they ridiculed the Word brought to them from God, which points towards life after physical death and the consequent responsibility for every concentrated thought and action, the least that is awaiting them will be what they themselves willed: utter darkness! Their ethereal eyes, ears and mouths are closed through their own volition. They are blind, deaf and dumb in their new surroundings. That is the most favorable thing that can happen to them. A guide and helper from the beyond cannot make himself understood because they keep themselves closed to such a possibility; a sad condition indeed, which can only be changed gradually by the slow inner maturing of such a soul. This in turn can only come about through increasing desperation. Thus with this ever-increasing longing for light, rising upwards like a perpetual cry for help from such an oppressed and tormented soul, lighter conditions will ultimately prevail around it, until it learns to discern others in the same need of help. If this soul then feels a desire to help those souls still languishing in greater darkness towards lighter conditions, the exertion required by the effort to help will bring it increased strength, so that others still further advanced may in turn approach and help this soul onwards to more luminous regions.
Thus these souls squat about gloomily because their ethereal bodies have become too enfeebled to walk owing to their unwillingness. And if there is any movement at all, it is but a cumbersome and uncertain crawling along the ground. Others again, although they grope about in this darkness, stumble and fall, quickly get up again, only to bump into one thing or another, inevitably suffering painful injuries. Depending entirely on the nature of its own darkness, and on its consequent density and weight, a human soul sinks into that region which exactly accords with its own ethereal gravity and which is thus of the same ethereal species. Its new environment will therefore be just as tangible, perceptible and impenetrable as is the gross material environment for a physical body. Every knock, every fall, or every injury will be just as painfully felt there as its physical body experienced it during its life on the gross material earth.
Such is the case in every region regardless of its depth or height. Everything of like substance has the same tangibility and the same mutual impenetrability. But every higher region or, every different species of substance can penetrate the lower, denser species of substance unhindered, as can all ethereal substance penetrate the different gross material substance.
The case is different with those souls who, in addition, have to atone for some kind of wrong doing. This fact is a matter all by itself and can be redeemed the moment the perpetrator obtains full and genuine forgiveness from the person he has harmed. But what binds a human soul more gravely is the urge or the proclivity which is the mainspring to one or more deeds. This proclivity lives on in a human soul, even when the latter has passed into the beyond after severance from its physical body. In fact it will become even more pronounced in the ethereal body as soon as the limitations of gross matter fall away, because then the effects of the intuitive perceptions are much livelier and less restrained. It is such a proclivity in turn, which will define the density and thus the weight of the ethereal body. The result is that, after its detachment from the physical body, the ethereal body will immediately sink to that region which corresponds exactly to its weight and density. And there it will also find all those which indulge the same proclivity. Through their radiations its own proclivity will be further nourished and intensified, and its indulgence will lead the soul to literally rage. Of course, all others dwelling there with him, will naturally do likewise. It is not difficult to understand how painful such unrestrained fury must be for the environment. However, since in those regions this happens only and always on a reciprocal basis, every individual will have to suffer bitterly from others everything that he himself continually tries to do unto them. Thus life there becomes hell, until such a human soul gradually becomes weary and feels repulsed by it. Then, after a long while, the desire will gradually awaken to get away from such an environment. This desire and disgust are the beginning of improvement. They will grow into a cry for help and finally into a prayer. Only then can a hand be stretched forth to help it to ascend, but decades, centuries or sometimes even longer may sometimes pass before this happens. It is thus the proclivity of a human soul which weighs upon and encumbers it the most.
Hence it follows that an unpremeditated deed can much more easily and quickly be atoned for than a proclivity clinging to a human being, no matter whether it has been expressed in a deed or not!
A person with an unclean proclivity, though he has never expressed it in a deed because his earthly circumstances are favorable, will therefore have to do much more to atone than a person who has thoughtlessly erred through one or more deeds without evil intent. The thoughtless deed can be immediately forgiven without developing evil karma, but a proclivity can only be forgiven when it has been completely eradicated from a human being. And there are many kinds of proclivities. Be it greed and its cousin avarice, be it sordid sensuality, the urge to steal or murder, to commit arson, or merely to take improper advantage or to be careless and negligent, no matter, such a proclivity will make the soul concerned sink or be dragged to the region where it will be among its own kind. To present life images of these conditions serves no purpose. Often they are so terrible that a human spirit on earth can hardly believe in their reality without seeing them. Even then he would think they could be but the figments of a feverish imagination. He should therefore be content to intuitively feel a moral reserve toward all such things. This will liberate him from the bonds of all that is base so that there will no longer be any obstacle barring his ascent towards the Light.
Thus the dark regions are the results of the principle Lucifer seeks to introduce. The eternal cycle of Creation rolls on its course and reaches the point where disintegration begins and all matter loses its form and reverts to primordial seed which, rolling on, brings new mixtures, new forms, with fresh energy and virgin soil. Whatever could not detach itself from gross and ethereal matter before then, in order to cross over the highest, finest and lightest boundary to enter the Sphere of Spiritual Substantiality, thereby leaving all matter behind, will inevitably be drawn into disintegration, whereby its form and its individuality will be annihilated. And that alone is eternal damnation, the extinction of all conscious individuality!