Intercourse With the Dead
Düsseldorf, April 27, 1913
connection between life and death is mostly misunderstood. In
theosophical writings one often finds the remark that man's
soul and spirit-being could completely disappear. It is stated, for
example, that through a certain amount of evil with which the soul
burdens itself the human soul could disappear in the course of
evolution. It is further emphasized that black magicians who have
wrought much evil will encounter this fate.
Those who have already shared in our aims for a longer period will
know that I have always opposed such statements. Above all, we must
hold fast to the fact that what we term death on the physical plane
has no meaning in the super-sensible world. This is even the case for
the region of the super-sensible that immediately borders upon our
world. I will deal with this matter from a certain aspect.
The science that deals with the physical world has arrived at a
number of laws and connections within the physical realm. These laws
when applied to the outer phenomena of nature can only tell us
something about the structure of external sense perceptible reality.
A flower, for example, investigated by means of natural science, will
tell us certain facts about the physical and chemical laws operating
within the plant, but life itself always eludes such scientific
observation. It is, of course, true that in recent times a few
specially imaginative scientists have constructed a body of
hypotheses to explain how plant life arises from mere dead
substances. Such attempts are rapidly recognized as erroneous because
in science it remains merely an ideal to grasp the reality of life.
Ever more knowledge is accumulated about chemical laws and so forth,
but nothing about life itself. The investigation of life is for the
natural scientific method a mere ideal because it is something that
streams out of the super-sensible realm into the physical world and
within this world its laws cannot be fathomed.
Now, similarly, what is true for life in the physical world obtains
for death in the super-sensible world, except that there it is a
question of the will. In the super-sensible world an act of will, a
will impulse, can never lead to what we know on earth as death. At
most, a longing for death may arise in the super-sensible world but
never death itself. Death does not exist in the realms beyond the
physical. This fact is particularly moving for the human soul when it
realizes that all the beings of the hierarchies can never know death.
It can only be experienced on earth.
Just as the biblical saying is justified that tells that the angels
conceal their countenances from beholding the mysteries of physical
birth, so it is also correct to say that they hide their faces from
beholding the mysteries of death. That being whom we know as the One
Who has given the mightiest impulse to earth evolution, the Christ
Being, is the only being in divine realms Who learned to know death.
All other divine-spiritual beings do not know death. They only know
it as a transformation from one form into another.
The Christ had to descend to the earth in order to experience death.
Christ is the only being among all the super-sensible beings above man
who has become acquainted with death through his own experiences. As
I indicated, if one views the problem relating to the death
experience in connection with the Christ, it is found to be deeply
Now it is literally true that man, when he has crossed the portal of
death, lives in that super-sensible world in which there is no death.
He can enter these realms but he cannot annihilate himself because he
is received into worlds where there can be no destruction.
There is something of a similar nature to death in the super-sensible
world, yet it is quite different from death as we know it. One would
have to call it in human language, loneliness. Death can never mean
the annihilation of something that takes place in the super-sensible
worlds, but loneliness does arise. Loneliness in the super-sensible
world is comparable to death here. It is not destruction but it is
far more intense than loneliness as we know it on earth. It takes the
form of looking back upon one's own being. One only knows what
this fully means when it happens, that is, to know nothing except to
know about oneself.
Let us take as an example a person who developed on earth what one
may call little sympathy for his fellow men, a person who has lived
essentially for himself. Such a being encounters difficulties after
death, especially in getting to know other human souls. Such a person
can live together with others in the super-sensible world without
being in the least aware of their existence. He is filled only with
his own soul content. He is aware only of what lives within himself.
It may happen that a person who has avoided any form of human love on
earth because of an exaggerated sense of egoism is only able to live
in the memory of his last earthly existence when he has gone through
the gate of death. He is unable to gain any new experiences because
he neither knows nor can enter into contact with any being. He is
completely dependent on himself because as human beings on earth we
do indeed prepare a particular world for ourselves after death.
Here on earth man does not truly know himself. Science teaches us
only what we are when we are no longer because it only knows the
corpse. The brain thinks but it cannot think itself. We see a portion
of ourselves, a larger portion when we look in the mirror, but that
is only the outer aspect. On earth man does not live in himself. He
lives together with the surrounding world that impinges upon his
senses. Through ourselves, through all that we experience here, we
prepare to expand into the macrocosmos, to become a macrocosmos, to
become all we see around us on earth.
Here we see the moon. After death we expand in such a way that we
become the moon, just as on earth we are our brain. We expand into
Saturn so that we become Saturn, just as we are now our spleen. Man
becomes a macrocosmic being. When the soul has departed from the body
it expands into the entirety of the planetary system so that all
souls simultaneously dwell within the same spatial area. They
interpenetrate one another but without being aware of it. Spiritual
connections only determine whether we know about one another or not.
A preparation is made during our life on earth to expand into the
whole of the universe that we behold here in its physical reflection.
But what in fact is our world?
Just as now we are surrounded by mountains, rivers, trees, animals
and minerals, so then we live in the universe. The universe becomes
our organism. These are our organs and that world is we, ourselves.
We behold ourselves from the surroundings. This process begins in the
ether body immediately after death. We then behold the tableau of our
If it were not for the fact that a man makes connections with other
human beings and, as will happen more and more frequently through
spiritual science, with beings of the higher hierarchies, he would
have no occupation after death apart from continuously beholding
himself. This is not meant trivially because it is truly a shattering
fact that to behold only oneself through a number of centuries is not
a particularly enviable prospect. We have then become a world for
ourselves, but it is the connections that we have made on earth that
open wider vistas for the self after death. Earthly life is there so
that we develop connections and relationships that can be continued
after death. Everything that makes us into sociable beings after
death must be prepared on earth. Fear of loneliness is the torment
that man experiences in the spiritual world. This fear befalls us
again and again because we traverse a number of stages between death
and rebirth. Even if we experience a measure of sociability at one
stage, we may fall into loneliness during the next.
The first period after death is such that we can only establish a
good connection with souls who have remained on the earth or with
those who have died about the same time as ourselves. Here the
closest connections continue to be effective beyond death. Much can
be done by the so-called living who have remained on the earth.
Because one has a connection with the departed soul he can inform him
of his own knowledge of the spiritual world acquired on the earth.
This is possible above all by reading to the dead.
We can perform the greatest service to a dead person by forming a
picture of him in our soul and softly reading a work of spiritual
science to him, instructing him as it were. We can also convey to the
departed thoughts we have made our own, always vividly picturing the
one who has passed on as we do so. We should not be miserly in this
respect. This enables us to bridge the abyss that separates us from
the dead. It is not only in extreme cases that we can help the dead
in this way. No, it is true in every case. It provides a comforting
feeling that can alleviate the sorrow that is experienced when a
person whom one has loved passes on.
The deeper we enter into the super-sensible world, the less do
particular relationships obtain. We still find individual
relationships in the astral world but the higher we ascend, the more
we find that what weaves between separate beings no longer continues.
Now there are beings everywhere. The relationships among them are of
a soul nature. We need these also in order not to be lonely. It is,
however, the mission of the earth that we make contacts from man to
man because otherwise we remain solitary in the spiritual world.
For the first phases after death our world consists of the
relationships; the friendships that we formed with fellow human
beings on earth and that now continue. For instance, if the matter is
investigated with super-sensible perception, one finds the departed
souls in the vicinity of a person whom it can follow on earth. Many
people in our time live with those who have died recently or at some
earlier period. One also sees how many come together with a number of
their ancestors to whom they were related by blood. The seer often
comes upon the fact that the departed soul links itself to ancestors
that have died centuries ago but this only lasts for a certain period
of time. The person would again feel exceedingly lonely if other
connections did not exist which, though far off, yet prepare the
person to be sociable in the spiritual world. Within our movement we
have found a fundamental principle that stems from a cosmic task that
has been entrusted to us. It is to form relationships among human
beings in the most varied ways. Anthroposophy is therefore not only
cultivated by giving lectures. Within the Anthroposophical Society we
seek to bring people together so that personal relationships may also
form themselves. These connections have their validity also for the
super-sensible world inasmuch as a person who belongs to a particular
stream in the Society creates connections for the realm beyond the
The time comes, however, when more general connections are necessary.
A phase approaches when souls who have gone through the gate of death
without any moral soul disposition, without moral concepts, that is,
souls who have rejected a moral disposition of soul during their
earthly life, feel lonely. People who are endowed with a moral soul
disposition are simply of greater value here on earth than people
lacking in morality. A moral human being is of greater worth for the
whole of humanity in the same way that a sound healthy stomach is
more valuable to the whole man than a sick one.
It is not easy to put one's finger on where the value of the
moral human being lies for the whole of humanity, and on the harm
created by an immoral person, but you will understand what I mean
when I put it as follows. A person devoid of a moral soul disposition
is a sick member of humanity. This means that through this immoral
soul disposition he alienates himself increasingly from other people.
To be moral also means to acknowledge that one has a relationship to
all men. That is why love of all humanity is self-evident to all men.
That is why love of all humanity is self-evident to all moral people.
Immoral people feel lonely at a certain phase after death owing to
their lack of morality. The torments of loneliness at this stage can
only be dispelled by the moral disposition of our soul.
So if we investigate the lives of human beings spread out in the
macrocosmos after death, we see that the immoral individuals are in
fact lonely while the moral individuals find a rapport with other of
like moral ideas. Here on earth men are grouped in accordance with
nationality or in some other way. Between death and rebirth people
also group themselves, but according to the moral concepts and soul
dispositions they have in common.
This is followed by a phase of development such that even those who
are endowed with a moral disposition of soul feel lonely if they lack
religious concepts. A religious turn of mind is the preparation for
sociability at a particular stage of life between death and rebirth.
Here we also discover that those people who are unable to enter into
religious feelings and connections are condemned to loneliness. We
find people of like religious confessions grouped together.
This is followed by a period when it is no longer sufficient to have
lived within a religious community. A phase draws near when one can
again feel loneliness. This period is a particularly important one
between death and rebirth. Either we feel alone even though we
experienced togetherness with those of like religious confession, or
we are able to bring understanding to every human soul in its
essential character. For this communion we can only prepare by
gaining an understanding of all religious confessions.
Prior to the Mystery of Golgotha this was not necessary because the
experiences in the spiritual world were different then. Now it has
become essential, and the correct understanding of Christianity is a
preparatory step toward it. We cannot encounter what constitutes the
essential being of Christianity in other religious creeds. It is not
correct to place Christianity next to other religious creeds. Indeed,
perhaps certain Christian confessions are narrow-minded.
Nevertheless, Christianity rightly understood bears within it the
impulse to grasp all religious creeds and tendencies.
How has the Westerner grasped Christianity? Consider Hinduism. Only
those belonging to the Hindu race can be adherents of it. If a racial
religion were prevalent in Europe, for instance, we would still have
a Wotan cult today that would be the equivalent of an occidental
racial religion. But the West has accepted a confession that did not
arise out of its own folk-substance. It came from the East. Something
was accepted that could only work through its spiritual content. The
Christ impulse cannot be sucked up into a racial or folk religion.
Actually, the folk among whom the Christ appeared did not acknowledge
Him. That is the remarkable fact about Christianity. It contains the
seed enabling it to become the universal religion.
One need not take an intolerant attitude toward other religions. The
mission of Christianity does not consist in bringing dogma to people.
Naturally the Buddhist smiles at a confession that does not even
contain the idea of reincarnation. Such a confession must appear to
him as erroneous. Christianity rightly understood, however,
presupposes that every man is a Christian in his inner being. If you
go to a Hindu and say to him, “You are a Hindu and I am a
Christian,” it will be seen that you have not understood
Christianity. Christianity has been truly understood only if you say
of the Hindu, “Inwardly this Hindu is as good a Christian as I
am. He has as yet only had the opportunity to become acquainted with
a preparatory confession. I must endeavor to show him where his
religion and mine correspond.” The best thing would be for
Christians to teach Hinduism to the Hindus and then attempt to take
Hinduism a stage further so that the Hindu could gain a point of
contact with the general stream of evolution. We understand
Christianity only if we look upon each individual as a Christian in
the depth of his heart. Only then is Christianity the religion that
transcends race, color and social position. That is Christianity.
We enter a new age. Christianity can no longer work in the way it did
over the last centuries. It is the task of anthroposophy to bring
about the new understanding of Christianity that is needed. In this
connection the anthroposophical view of the world is an instrument of
Christianity. Among the religions of the earth, Christianity has
appeared last. New religions cannot be founded anymore. Such
foundations belong to the past. They followed one another and brought
forth Christianity as the last flower. Today the task is to form and
apply the impulse of Christianity. That is why in our spiritual
scientific movement we endeavor to consider all the religions of the
world more consciously than heretofore, and in loving participation.
In this way we also prepare ourselves for the period between death
and rebirth when we experience loneliness if we cannot perceive and
have no access to other souls within this realm.
If on earth we misunderstood Hinduism, we might only sense the
presence of a Hindu in the world beyond but remain unable to gain any
contact with him.
You see, this is the phase during life between death and rebirth when
we have also expanded our astral body so far as to become Sun
inhabitants. We enter into the Sun realm. We do in fact expand into
the entire macrocosmos, and reach the Sun Being when we need the
capacity for brotherly love. The encounter with the Sun is shown by
the following. Firstly, we lost the possibility of having
understanding for all human beings unless we have gained a connection
to the words, “Wherever two are gathered in My Name, there I am
in the midst of them.” Christ did not mean wherever two Hindus
or one Hindu and one Christian are gathered together, there He is in
the midst of them, but wherever two are gathered who have a genuine
understanding for His impulse, there He is in the midst of them.
This Being was within the Sun sphere until a particular period. His
throne was also there. Then He united Himself with the earth.
Therefore we must experience the Christ impulse here on earth and
thus also carry it upwards into the spiritual world. For if we arrive
in the Sun sphere without the Christ impulse we are faced with an
unintelligible entry in the Akasha Chronicle. Since the Christ has
united Himself with the earth, we have to gain an understanding on
earth for the Christ. We have to bring a Christ understanding with us
because otherwise the Christ cannot be found after death. As we
approach the Sun sphere we understand the entry in the Akasha
Chronicle if we have gained an understanding for the Christ on earth.
For He left this behind in the Sun sphere. That is the important
factor — that the understanding of the Christ must be
stimulated on the earth. Then it also can be preserved in higher
worlds. Things only become clear if they can be viewed in a certain
Some theosophical circles are unable to realize that the Christ
impulse stands as a fulcrum at the center of earth evolution, the
point from which the ascending curve begins. To maintain that Christ
can appear repeatedly on earth is like saying that the beam of a
balance must be supported at two points. But with such scales one
cannot weigh. A conviction of this sort is as senseless in relation
to the physical world as the statement made by certain occultists
that Christ goes through repeated earth lives. One has gained an
understanding of the Christ impulse only if one is able to grasp that
the Christ is the only god who has gone through death and hence first
had to descend to the earth.
For one who has gained an understanding of the Christ down here, the
throne in the Sun will not be empty. This also enables him to
recognize the nature of a particular encounter that occurs at this
stage. The human being meets Lucifer, not as the tempter but as a
legitimate power who has to travel by his side if he is to progress
in his journey. Qualities of the same nature in the wrong sphere have
a destructive effect. The workings of Lucifer in the physical world
are evil, but after death, from the Sun sphere onwards, man needs
Lucifer as a companion. He must meet Lucifer and Christ. Christ
preserves his soul nature with the total assets that his soul has
accumulated in previous incarnations. It is the task of the luciferic
power to assist man so that he may also learn to apply the forces of
the other hierarchical beings in the right manner for his next
Irrespective of when the stage that has just been described occurs,
man is faced with the necessity of determining what part of the globe
and in which country he is to reincarnate. This has to be determined
at the mid-point between death and rebirth. In fact, the first thing
that must be determined is the location and the country where the
soul is to reincarnate.
On earth man prepares for this stage inasmuch as he acquires a
connection with the super-sensible world, but he needs Lucifer's
support. He now receives from beings of the higher hierarchies forces
that guide him to a certain place at a certain time.
Let us consider an outstanding example. Luther's appearance at
a specific moment had to be prepared from the ninth century onward.
Already at that time forces had to be directed in the appropriate
people. Lucifer has to cooperate to this end so that the time and
place of our reembodiment may be determined. Through the fact that an
individual harbors Christ in his soul, what he has gained by dint of
effort is preserved. But man is not yet sufficiently mature to know
where his karma can best be worked out and for this, Lucifer's
assistance is needed.
A further period of time elapses and then a major matter has to be
decided that involves a deeply stirring activity. By means of our
everyday language it can only be described as follows. The question
now has to be resolved as to how the parents of the soul that is to
incarnate at a certain time and place are to be endowed with their
own characteristics so as to give birth to that particular
being. All this has to be determined long in advance. But this means
that the higher hierarchies, supported again by Lucifer, must work in
a preparatory way through the whole genealogical stream long before
the incarnation of the particular individual. In Luther's case
his ancestors had to be determined as early as the tenth and eleventh
centuries so that he might have the right parents.
Science believes that a person takes on the characteristics of his
ancestors. Actually he influences the characteristics of his
ancestors from the super-sensible world. In a certain sense we
ourselves are responsible for the way our
great-great-great-grandparents were. Obviously, we cannot influence
all their characteristics and yet, among others, those must be
present that we ourselves later require. What one inherits from one's
ancestors one first has oneself instilled into them.
First the time and place of birth are determined; then the ancestry
is chosen. Fundamentally, what is called a child's love for his
parents is the emergence of a union with a stream in which he has
worked for centuries from the super-sensible world. At the moment of
conception the individual receives the forces that cooperate in the
formation of his own body, namely, of the head and the general bodily
form. We must so picture these forces that from then onwards they are
mainly active in the deeper structure of the head, less in the hands
and feet, less also in the trunk, but going from the head towards the
trunk. We lay the foundation for this, and after birth we continue to
shape it. First everything is woven into the astral body. The shape
of the head is prefigured astrally. This goes so far that actually
only at the final stage is the shape of the cranium incorporated into
the astral prototype that then unites with the bodily formation. The
shape of the head is individual, and the shape of the brain is
chiseled out at the last stage. Then what we receive through the
hereditary stream is able to unite with what we bring with us out of
the super-sensible world. Picture what comes from the super-sensible
world as the chalice. The water that fills it is provided by the
hereditary substance. The pure stream of heredity provides only the
characteristics of the part of our bodily constitution that is more
independent from the system of blood and nerves. Whether we have big
and strong or weak and fine bones depends more on heredity than on
the forces we receive from the preparatory spiritual powers.
The individuality that is to be born at a particular time and place
in order to work out his karma may be the child of parents with
strong bones or blond hair, and so forth. This is made possible by
the hereditary stream. If the theories of physical heredity were
correct, men would appear with deformed nervous systems and a mere
indication of hands and feet.
Only super-sensible insight is able to lead to matters that are truly
meaningful. Let me relate an actual instance. I met a hydrocephalic
child who was different in many respects from the rest of his family.
Why was he a hydrocephalic? Because the council of higher powers
together with Lucifer had decreed that that particular individuality
should be born in a particular place and his parents were the best
available for him. But he was unable to work rightly into the
ancestral line so he could create what would result in the
appropriate substance in order that his head might harden in the
right way. Only during his lifetime would he be able to adapt his
brain to its general structure. Such an individuality did not find
the right conditions enabling him to influence his ancestry so that
his head could harden in the appropriate way.
These matters are of considerable importance and also show the
technique that has to be adopted in order to go out into the world at
large. When the time comes in which such questions will be rightly
understood by science, the workings of the higher worlds, also, will
If we continue our journey with Lucifer and Christ we acquire
the right relationship to the progressive stream in evolution.
In conclusion, during life after death one first has to overcome the
dangers of loneliness by means of one's relationships to other
human beings, by means of moral and religious connections. Then one
fashions the new man that is to incarnate in the future. One now has
a task that involves facing oneself instead of facing the world.
If a human being goes through the stages during which he could have
been sociable but was condemned to loneliness, a longing arises in
him after death. He longs for a condition of unconsciousness. But
consciousness is not lost; one merely becomes lonely. In the higher
worlds matter no longer exists. Everything there is a question of
consciousness. This is true of souls who lack a connection to other
souls. Death does not exist in the world beyond.
As here we live rhythmically between waking and sleeping, so in the
other world life alternates between withdrawal into ourselves and
sociable intercourse with other souls. As I have described above, our
life in the higher worlds depends on how we have prepared ourselves
here on earth.
* * * * * * *
Dr. Steiner gave the following answer to the question of whether one
also could read to children who have died at birth or in early
One is a child only here on earth. Supersensible vision frequently
reveals that a person who dies at an early age is less childlike in
the spiritual world than many who cross the portal of death at
eighty. The same criterion therefore cannot be applied.
On a previous occasion I have spoken of how we are to understand
occultly the painting known as “The School of Athens.”
Recently I came to know an individuality who died an early death. My
connection with him enabled me to become aware of Raphael's
original intention in relation to this painting. This being explained
that on the left near the group in the foreground a part had been
painted over. It is the spot where something is being written down.
Today we find there a mathematical formula. Originally there was a
gospel passage. So you see that a “child” can be a highly
evolved individuality able to guide one to things that can be
discovered only with great difficulty.
I would say therefore that one also can practice reading to children
who have died young.