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The Presence of the Dead on the Spiritual Path

Presence of the Dead: Lecture Five: The Blessing of the Dead

LECTURE FIVE

THE BLESSING OF THE DEAD
Paris, May 26, 1914

We have now reached a stage in human development where the study of spiritual matters must be based on the same foundations as the study of nature was three or four centuries ago. Note 1 ] Spiritual science intends to achieve similar things for knowledge of the spirit as Copernicus, Galileo, and Giordano Bruno did for the understanding of physical nature in their own time. Note 2 ] Of course, the systematic exploration of the spirit in our age encounters the same kind of resistance and hostility as the study and the concepts of the natural sciences did then. Spiritual science will be assimilated into our culture as slowly and with just as much difficulty as the natural sciences were.

We will investigate the spirit with processes of the human mind that are still unknown today, or at least unpopular with most people. Clairvoyant research, as we can call these processes, provides the foundation for spiritual science, and I am speaking to you today on that basis.

Clairvoyant research is discredited by the countless prejudices people have against it, and also by the widespread misuse of the term “clairvoyant investigation.” That is why I want to say right now that I am not speaking from the standpoint of the occult knowledge so often promoted by charlatans these days, but based on the kind of clairvoyant, esoteric knowledge that can be supported even by people firmly grounded in serious research in the natural sciences who base their knowledge on genuine scientific facts. In terms of its inner logic, its mode of thinking, spiritual science belongs to the stream of modern thinking that includes the natural sciences. The two differ only in the areas they research. The natural sciences examine the world of nature, the physical phenomena around us, while spiritual science studies an area that must necessarily remain hidden to the natural sciences, namely, spiritual experience, and spiritual beings. It is impossible to investigate spiritual facts and spiritual beings with the same abilities and methods that have allowed the natural sciences to celebrate ever greater triumphs in the course of the last few centuries. To investigate nature, we use only those mental powers and abilities we have because of the way we are put into this world, and because other people have taught them to us.

This combination of innate and acquired abilities is totally sufficient for the natural sciences, but it cannot provide knowledge of the spiritual world. For that we must use faculties that slumber, that are latent, to use a scientific term, in the depths of our soul during our everyday life.

We do not immediately apply the methods and procedures used to explore the outer world in our investigations as spiritual researchers. Rather, we work with them on the abilities and forces in the depths of our soul to make them effective in the spiritual world. These capabilities help us to understand the higher worlds only when they have been drawn out by ordinary human efforts.

For example, in everyday life and in conventional science, we learn about the external world through ideas we develop in our soul, but as researchers of the spirit, we first have to work with our thinking deep within us to develop abilities that are quite different from those we normally have. Spiritual science is basically in accord with the natural sciences, as we can see in its attempt to enter the spiritual world through spiritual chemistry. We cannot tell from the looks of it that water can be split into hydrogen and oxygen. Though water is liquid and does not burn, hydrogen is a combustible gas — clearly something quite different from water. We can use this as a metaphor for the spiritual process I am about to explain.

People are a combination of soul-spiritual and material-physical elements, just as water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. In “spiritual chemistry,” we must separate the soul-spiritual from the material-physical elements just as water can be separated into hydrogen and oxygen. Clearly, just looking at people will tell us little about the nature of the soul-spiritual element.

The methods we use to separate the soul-spiritual from the material-physical in us — and this experiment of spiritual chemistry can be carried out only within us — are concentration and meditation. Meditation and concentration are not some kind of miraculous mental performance, but the highest level of mental processes whose lower, elementary levels we find also in our everyday life. Meditation is a devotion of the soul, raised to limitlessness, as we may experience in the most joyful religious feelings. Concentration is attentiveness, raised to limitlessness; we use it at a more basic level in ordinary life. By attentiveness in everyday life we mean not allowing our ideas and feelings to range freely over anything that catches our attention, but pulling ourselves together so that our soul focuses our interest on something specific, isolating it in our field of perception. There are no limits to how far this attentiveness can be increased, particularly by voluntarily focusing our soul on certain thoughts supplied by spiritual science. Ignoring everything else, all worries and upsets, sense impressions, will impulses, feeling, and thinking, we can center our inner forces completely on these thoughts for a certain amount of time. The content of what we are concentrating on is not as important as the inner activity and exercise of developing our attentiveness, our powers of concentration.

Focusing, concentrating the forces of the soul in this way is crucial. And regular training, often involving months, years, or even decades, depending on individual predisposition, is necessary for the soul to become strong enough to develop inner forces. Qualities otherwise merely slumbering in the soul are now called up by this boundless enhancement of attentiveness, by concentration. In the process we must develop the capacity in our soul to feel that through this inner activity the soul is increasingly able to tear itself away from the physical body. Indeed, this tearing away, this separation of the soul and spirit from the physical-material element, will happen more and more often as we continue the activities I have described. In the limited scope of a lecture, I can only briefly outline this principle of concentration, but you will find detailed descriptions of the individual exercises in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, translated into French as L'Initiation.. Note 3 ]

Through practicing these methods we will learn to understand the meaning of the sentences, I experience myself as a soul-spiritual being. I am active in myself without using my senses or my limbs. I have experiences independent of my body. We have made progress when we can perceive our own body with all its physical attributes as separate and independent of our soul and spirit, just as we see a table or a chair in physical life. This is how we can begin to separate the soul's ability to think and form ideas from its physical tools, namely, the nervous system and the brain. Thus, we learn to live in thinking and the forming of ideas, fully aware that we are outside the nervous system and the brain, the physical instruments we normally use for these processes.

To put it more concretely, let me add that our first experience in this self-development is the realization that in thinking we live as though outside our head. We live in our weaving thoughts just as we do when we use our brain, but we know for sure that these thoughts are outside our head. The experience of immersing ourselves again in the brain and the nervous system after having been outside the head for some time remains indelibly with us. We feel the resistance of the substance of brain and nervous system such that the soul-spiritual that emerged from those physical organs needs to use force to reenter them. This is an unforgettable moment.

The method I have described also allows us to release the feeling and will activities of the soul, which is necessary for true spiritual research. To achieve this, we must raise devotion to the infinite. This enhanced devotion, which is also called meditation, is similar to what happens when we sleep. The sense organs are laid aside in sleep; there is no activity of the senses, and the limbs are at rest. While we sleep, we are given over to the general course of the world without contributing anything through our I, thinking, feeling, and willing to the course of events. We are unconscious in sleep; our consciousness dissolves into general darkness and obscurity. In meditation, we must voluntarily create the state sleep causes as natural necessity. The only difference is that sleep leads to a loss of consciousness, but intensified devotion leads to an enhanced awareness. As spiritual researchers, we must be able to silence our senses at will. We must divert them from all impressions of the external world and suppress the activity of our organs and limbs as we do in sleep. In terms of our body, we have to behave just as in sleep. However, in sleep we sink into unconsciousness, but in enhanced devotion controlled by our will we awaken into the divine-spiritual stream of cosmic forces. To this level of consciousness we then reach, our everyday consciousness is what sleep is to our ordinary state of consciousness.

If we persevere and patiently train our soul, we will be able to separate out, through a kind of spiritual chemistry, another soul capacity, namely, our thinking, so that it continues only in the soul-spiritual sphere. Similarly, through devotion we can gradually separate out that power of the soul we use in language, in speaking. As I am speaking to you now, I am using a soul-spiritual force that flows into my nerves and speech organs and uses them. Through the exercises described above, we can unfold this same power when the entire speech and nervous system are completely inactive. In this way, we discover in the depths of our soul a faculty we know nothing of in our everyday life, because it is employed in speech and the use of our speech organs. When we are not using this faculty, it lies dormant deep within our soul, but in spiritual research, it is drawn up and separated by spiritual chemistry, so to speak, from our physical speaking. If we learn to live in this weaving, hidden activity of language creation, we can recognize what we may call, perhaps inaccurately, the perception of the inner word, the spiritual word. As soon as we can control this hidden power, we can also detach our thinking and feeling from our personality, leave ourselves behind, and enter the spiritual world. Then we can perceive feeling and willing outside ourselves just as we did within us. We begin to know beings of will and feeling in the spiritual world, and we can perceive our own willing and feeling only when they are immersed in these beings.

Clairvoyant perception begins with the emancipation of the power of our thoughts from the physical body and continues with the freeing of our thinking and feeling. Clearly, then, we can know and truly experience encounters with other spiritual beings only by leaving our body and by immersing our own feeling and willing soul in the spiritual world. In view of the widespread opposition to spiritual science in our time, it is risky to give concrete examples; yet it is a risk I am willing to take. I am sure you will not mind that it is an example from my personal experience. After all, our own experiences are the examples we know best since they are the only ones where we are actually present for every detail.

Some time ago I had to solve a problem in my work. Note 4 ] I knew very well that the capacities I can develop in accordance with my constitution in this life would not suffice to perform the task, which was to understand the mentality of a certain historical period. I knew exactly what questions I had to answer, but I also realized that no matter how much I exerted my thinking, my thoughts were not strong enough to gain insight into this problem. It was like wanting to lift a weight but lacking the strength to do so. I tried to define the issue as clearly as possible and to develop the active will to find a solution one way or another. As far as I could, I tried to feel vividly the particular qualities of that period. I tried to get a vivid sense of its greatness, its color, and to project myself completely into that period. After I had repeated this inner soul activity often enough, I could feel a foreign willing and feeling enter my own. I was as sure of its presence as I am that the external object I see is not created by my looking at it, but exists independent of me and makes an impression on me.

From a materialistic point of view, people can easily object that this was nothing but an illusion, a deception, and that I did not know I was drawing out of my own soul what I thought were external influences. To avoid falling prey to illusion, hallucination, and fantasies in this field, we need true self-knowledge. Then we will begin to know what we can and cannot do. Self-knowledge, particularly for the researcher of the spirit, means knowing the limits of our abilities. We can train ourselves in self-knowledge in the way described in my above-mentioned book, and then we will be able to distinguish between our own feeling and will and the external feeling and will entering them from the spiritual world. We will reach the stage where not being able to tell the difference between our own feeling and willing and that from outside will seem as absurd as not being able to distinguish between hunger and bread. Everyone knows where hunger stops and bread begins; just as everyone knows that hunger itself does not make bread appear — desirable as this would be from a social standpoint. True self-knowledge enables us to differentiate between the hunger of our own feeling and willing and what comes to meet them from the spiritual world (as hunger is met with bread). Once the outside feeling and will have penetrated our own, the two will continue to exist in us side by side.

In my case, the close relationship between my feeling and willing and what I recognized as external feeling and willing fertilized my thinking. As a result, thoughts appeared in my mind as gifts of the external feeling and willing and solved the original problem of investigating a certain historical epoch.

What happens there in our spiritual experience runs counter to a similar process in the physical world. When we meet people in the physical world and get together with them, we first see them, then speak to them, and exchange ideas. The opposite happens in the spiritual experience I have described; there we observe thoughts in ourselves and have the feeling that a foreign feeling and will are present. Then we perceive a separate spiritual individuality as a real, separate being, but one that lives only in the spiritual world. Then, we gradually get to know this individuality in a reverse process to meeting someone in physical life. In the spiritual sphere, we approach the individual through the foreign feeling and willing we find within us, and get closer to the personality by being together with it.

I found out that in my case the foreign feeling and willing that fertilized my own thinking came from an individual I had known well and who had been torn from our circle of friends by her death a little more than a year ago. Note 5 ] She had died at a relatively early age, in her best mid-life years, and had taken unused life energy into the spiritual worlds. The feeling and willing that entered my own originated in the intensity of this unused life energy. Generally, people live to a ripe old age and use up their vitality during their lifetime. However, if they die relatively young, this strength remains as unused potential and is available to them in the spiritual world. These life forces that were not used in our friend's short life enabled me, because of our friendship, to solve a problem which required her strength.

What I earlier called “the capacity of the inner word” leads to such revelations of the spiritual world as this one of a dead person. At the same time, this capacity allows us to look beyond our life enclosed between birth and death, or between conception and death, and gain insight into human life extending into infinite periods of time through repeated earth lives. Then we can understand the life of those we were very close to, as I was to our dead friend.

As we get to know ourselves or another person through the soul faculties I have described, we discover not only the physical life between birth and death, but the spiritual human being who structures his own body, lives in repeated incarnations on earth, and between each death and new birth in the spiritual world. Now you will easily understand that I could gain deeper insight into the soul-spiritual being of our dead friend because she stood before my soul as a spiritual being.

The process of getting to know another being in the spiritual world is the reverse of that in the physical realm. At first, we learn how to be together spiritually with the other being, and then we come to know the being itself as a spiritual being. And then entering the spiritual world becomes a reality.

To return to our example, it became clear that during an earlier incarnation in the first Christian centuries, the friend whom we knew in her short life here had taken in much of that Christian culture. However, she had not been able to digest it all because of the restrictions of the time, and entered this life with the undigested material. It burst the confines of this incarnation, but remained present as life energy. And now through my connection with her, I was blessed with insight into the period my work was concerned with, the age in which our friend had lived in a past incarnation.

It doesn't matter that many people in our age make fun of what I have just described and belittle an attitude that guides us thus into the spiritual world. If you have developed yourself along these paths, you know that when you accomplished something you could not possibly have done by yourself, it was because specific spiritual beings helped you. In addition, your view of the world will expand because you will know that you cannot expect hunger to produce bread, and because you know that the power of spiritual beings has entered into your own abilities. As our view into the sphere of the dead widens, our insight into the spiritual world also deepens through the methods I have described and finally encompasses concrete events and beings that are just as real as the physical world around us.

People do not mind our talking about the spiritual world in general terms; they admit there is a spiritual realm behind the sensory one. But they are less tolerant if we talk about concrete beings in the spiritual world whom we perceive just as we do beings of the mineral, plant, animal, and human kingdoms. However, if we do not shy away from developing our slumbering soul forces, we find that it is just as wrong to talk about the spirit in general terms, or in vague pantheistic terms, as to speak about nature in general terms. For example, if walking across a meadow and looking at flowers, perhaps some day lilies here, violets there, and so on, we would point to them and not say their names but instead just “this is nature, that is nature, and there is nature; everything is nature and more nature” — that is no different from talking about spirit, spirit, and more spirit in a vaguely pantheistic way. We can understand the spiritual world only if we really know the individual beings living there and what happens between them.

In objection to the possibility of knowing the spiritual world people often claim that harboring such fantasies about the realm of the spirit simply runs counter to intelligent behavior in the physical world. Although this conclusion seems justified on the basis of the capacities of human intelligence, it can be sustained only as long as one is ignorant of the extensive power of the intellect, that is, the power of human thinking, as we can know it through spiritual research.

To return to our example, imagine someone has the task to develop certain ideas here on earth. He learns how to encounter a spiritual being, in this case, a dead person who adds his or her thinking — now modified by the spiritual world almost into willing that thinks and thinking that feels — to the human individual's thinking and feeling. The intelligent ideas the dead individual wants to produce emerge in the human being on earth. The deceased possesses feeling and willing, just as on earth, as well as other soul capacities not developed on earth. Therefore, the dead have the desire to connect their thinking and feeling with human thoughts. That is why they unite with the person on earth. As the thinking, feeling, and willing of the dead penetrate the living person, ideas are stimulated. Thus, the dead can experience these ideas, something they could not do on their own. That is why they communicate with human beings on earth. However, this communication and stimulation of ideas is possible only if our thinking has been freed from the nervous system and the brain, that is, if we have developed thinking independent of the brain.

As we liberate our thinking from the body, we feel as though our thinking were snatched away from us, as though it expanded and spread out in space and time. Thinking, which we normally say takes place inside us, unites with the surrounding spiritual world, streams into it, and achieves a certain autonomy from us similar to the relative independence of the eyes, which are set in their sockets rather like autonomous organs. Thus, although our liberated thinking is connected with our higher self, it is so independent as to act as our spiritual organ of perception for the thoughts and feelings of other spiritual beings. Its function is thus similar to that of our eyes. Gradually, the thinking processes, normally limited by our intelligence, become independent from our being as spiritual organs of perception.

To put it differently, what we experience subjectively, what is comprised by our intelligence, namely, our outer thinking, is nothing but shadowy entities, thought entities, mere ideas reflecting external things. When thinking becomes clairvoyant and separates from brain and nervous system, it begins to develop inner activity, a life of its own, and to stream out, as our own experience, into the spiritual world. In a sense, we send the tendrils of our clairvoyant thinking out into the spiritual realm and, as they become immersed in this world, they perceive the will that feels and feeling that wills of the other beings in that realm.

After what we have said about self-knowledge as a necessity on the path of spiritual development — and from this it follows that modesty is a must — allow me to comment on clairvoyant thinking, and please do not think me presumptuous for saying this. When we enliven our thinking through clairvoyant development, it becomes independent and also a very precise and useful tool. True clairvoyance increases the precision, accuracy, and logical power of our thinking. As a result, we can use it with more exactness and close adaptation to its subject; our intelligence becomes more practical and more thoroughly structured. Therefore, the clairvoyant can easily understand the scope of ordinary scientific research, whereas conventional science requires bringing out ... [text missing] of the mind. It is easy to see why modern natural science cannot comprehend the findings of clairvoyant research, but those who have developed true clairvoyance can comprehend the full significance of the achievements of the natural sciences. There can be no question, therefore, of spiritual science opposing conventional science; the other way around is more likely. Only clairvoyant development can organize the power of the mind, making it inwardly independent, alive, and comprehensible. That is why the materialistic way of thinking cannot penetrate to the logic that gives us the certainty that clairvoyant knowledge really does lead to perception of the spiritual world.

The example of my clairvoyant experiences with a dead person shows that intelligence and thinking are specific qualities of souls living in a physical body, of human beings on earth. The deceased wanted to connect herself with a human being so that what lived in her in a completely different, super-sensible way could take the form of intelligent thoughts. The dead individual and the living person were thinking their thoughts together in the head of the latter, as it were.

As specifically human qualities, intellect and thinking can be developed only in human beings on earth, and they allow even people who are not clairvoyant to understand the results of clairvoyant research. You see, our independent thinking becomes the spiritual eye, as it were, for the perception of the spiritual world. Supersensible research, which uses this spiritual eye for clairvoyant thinking, has found that this eye is active, that the spiritual feelers are put out in all directions, but our physical eyes only passively allow impressions to come to them. When we as spiritual researchers have taken the revelations of the super-sensible world into our thinking, they continue to live in our thoughts. We can then tell other people about what we have taken pains to bring into our living thought processes, and they can understand us if they do not allow materialistic prejudices to get in the way.

There is a sort of inner language in the human soul that normally remains silent. But when concepts enter the soul, which the spiritual researcher acquires by allowing his or her will and feeling to be stimulated by the spiritual world and its beings, this language responds immediately with an echoing sound. Careful and thorough study of spiritual science will gradually silence the objection that the spiritual researcher's reports of the realm of the spirit can only be believed because they cannot really be understood. People will see that human intelligence is indeed able to understand information from the spiritual world, but only if it is the result of true spiritual experiences and true spiritual research. They will realize that it is wrong to say human intelligence does not suffice to comprehend revelations from the spiritual world and that therefore they have to be accepted on authority. They will come to know that the only obstacle to such understanding is to have preconceived notions and prejudices.

Eventually, people will treat information from the spiritual world as they treat the insights of, say, astronomy, biology, physics, and chemistry. That is, even if they are not astronomers, biologists, physicists, or chemists, they accept the scientists' findings about the physical world on the basis of a natural feeling for truth, which we may call a silent language of the soul.

The harmony between intelligence and clairvoyance will become much more obvious, and then people will admit that clairvoyant research approaches the world of spiritual beings and processes with the same attitude that also motivates the natural sciences. In view of the considerable opposition to spiritual science, it will comfort us to know that our modern culture will eventually come to the point Giordano Bruno did. Looking up to the blue vault of the sky, which people then considered to exist exactly as they perceived it, Bruno declared that they saw the blue dome of the sky only because that was as far as their vision reached. They themselves in a way imposed that limit; in reality space extends into infinity. The limits people saw so clearly, based on the illusion of their senses, were created by the limitation of their vision.

You see, now and in the future, the spiritual researcher will have to stand up before the world and say that there is also a firmament with regard to time, the time between birth and death. We perceive this firmament of time through the illusion of the senses. In fact, we create it ourselves because our spiritual vision is limited, just as in earlier times people “created” the blue firmament of space. Space extends endlessly beyond the blue dome of the sky, and time also continues infinitely beyond the boundaries of birth and death. Our own infinite spiritual life is embedded in this infinite time together with the rest of spiritual life in the world.

The time will come when people will realize that clairvoyant research strengthens and deepens our intelligence, producing a more subtle and refined logic. Such improved understanding will silence many, seemingly justified, current opinions on spiritual science claiming that the philosophical writings of several authors prove that our cognitive and intellectual capacities are limited. After all, aren't the reasons these philosophers present to prove the limits of human cognition convincing? Are they not logical? How can researchers of spiritual science hope to refute these convincing, logical arguments for the limits of our capacity to know?

The time will come when people will see the lack of substance and precision in such logic, when they will understand that something can be irrefutably correct as philosophical argument, and yet be completely refuted by life. After all, before the discovery of the microscope or the telescope people might very well have “irrefutably” proven that human eyes can never see a cell. Still, human ingenuity invented the microscope and the telescope, which increased the power of our eyes. Similarly, life has outdistanced the irrefutable proof of the philosophers. Life does not need to refute the arguments of this or that philosopher. Their proofs may be indisputable, but the reality of life must progress beyond them by strengthening our cognitive capacity and spiritual understanding through spiritual instruments.

In the present state of our culture with its prevailing belief in the incontrovertibility of the philosophers' proofs, these things are not generally or readily accepted. However, as our culture continues to develop, it will reach a higher logic than the one supporting these proofs of purely external philosophy. This higher logic will be one of life, of life of the spirit, of insights based on spiritual science. A time will come when people, while still respecting the accomplishments and discoveries of the natural sciences as much as we do now, will nevertheless realize that for our inner life these marvelous achievements have brought more questions than answers. If you study biology, astronomy, and so on, you will see that they have reached their limits. Do these sciences provide answers? No, they are really only raising questions. The answers will come from what stands behind the subject matter of the natural sciences. The answers will come from the sources of clairvoyant research.

To summarize, let me repeat that the world extends beyond the realm of the senses, and behind the sensory world we find spirit. In spiritual science, the spirit reveals itself to clairvoyant perception, and it is only then that we can see the divine nature of the magnificent sensory world around us. The world is vast, and the spirit is the necessary counterbalance to the physical world. A proper perspective on our future cultural development reveals that in trying to understand the world in its entirety, people will strive not for a one-sided exploration of the natural world, as many now assume. Instead, people will seek to unite science, intellect, and clairvoyant research. Only in this union will people truly come to understand themselves and their own spirit. Only then will they realize solutions to the world's future riddles, never to be solved completely, and feel satisfaction in that knowledge.

Those who have taken the true impulse of spiritual science to heart can sense even now in our culture the yearning and the latent urge in many souls to go beyond the immediate and sensory in science. Through use and inner assimilation of the capacities the sciences have created in recent centuries, these souls long to be strengthened so that they can live in the spiritual worlds from where alone can come true satisfaction for the human soul.




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