45th Volume; No. 5/6; May/June 1977
[On the Relationship with the Dead]
From a Branch Lecture in Essen
on 23 April 1913
Many souls are sleeping
their lives away without a glance toward the spiritual world, without any
connection, through prayer or otherwise, with the spiritual world. Think of
a sleeping city where the souls have all gone out of their bodies. Whatever
these souls took in of a spiritual nature during the day now lives on in
them. If they took in nothing, nothing can live on in them during the time
between falling asleep and waking up. But if something spiritual is
experienced while awake, or if something is raised to the spiritual through
prayer or meditation, then this will be for the dead, when it has been
carried over into sleep, just what the cornfields are for living persons.
If nothing thrives in the cornfields, people starve. What people take with
them into sleep is like seeds for the fields where the dead sojourn. What
we bring with us in the way of spiritual thoughts, of devotion to the world
of soul and spirit, is what the dead live on, nourish themselves with,
consume. And as famine ensues here on earth if the fruits do not thrive, so
a sort of famine ensues when souls live materialistically and carry nothing
with them into sleep. This is the connection between life in the spiritual
world and life on earth.
Now someone might say: Maybe
there will be a great number of deaths over there. That cannot happen. The
dead souls can experience hunger and the pangs of hunger, but the dead
cannot die. This brings us to an important question.
You see, death is something
known only in the physical world. It is present only in the physical world,
and not at all in the supersensible world.
Let me point out something
to you. If you go through all the sciences here, you will find that they
have worked out all sorts of laws. But science has one ideal, an ideal that
one would have to say was fantastic, even if it could be attained; and
that is to know life directly. Chemical and physical laws can be
investigated any time, but to investigate life is an ideal. Life can never
be understood by means of physical laws, because it flows into the physical
world from the higher worlds.
Thus, life is something that
is not known here, while death is something that is not known in the higher
worlds. It is senseless to think that death could occur in the higher
world. Pain and suffering have a meaning in the supersensible world, but
not death. The beings of the higher hierarchies know nothing about
The angels veil their faces
before the mystery of man's creation, they know nothing of it ... They can
learn about it only through what they are told by beings who enter the
physical plane; they cannot know it directly. This is true of all the
beings of the higher hierarchies. Only one of them learned to know death,
the Christ. This is the profound significance of the Mystery of Golgotha,
that a being became acquainted with death through terrible suffering.
If one thinks this over,
meditates on it, one may come to understand the Mystery of Golgotha and to
see Christ as the only being that learned to know death.
So, what happens to the
souls who are starving over there for the reasons we have described? They
feel their connection with the earth fading away. They are living in a
world where they must say to themselves: The earth is being withdrawn from
us, it no longer enters into our existence. And for the disembodied persons
this means great pain, terrible suffering. It means that these souls begin
to long for death. But since there is no death there, their hunger causes
endless pain as they long for death.
Thus, we see how spiritual
science works as seed for the dead, filling them with the proper
nourishment. Only if we know things like this can we form a right opinion
of spiritual science and see that it is not a theory but an elixir of life,
and that it bridges the gulf between the living and the dead. We must see
that: through it our souls can build a living bridge to the dead. And
because this is so, we must shape the anthroposophical work in the branches
in such a way that we learn what a living person can do for one who has
died before him. The simplest thing he can do for him is to read to him,
read ideas, concepts, notions that are related to the supersensible world.
Spiritual science is a language that can be understood by the dead as well
as the living. And it can be of service not only to those who occupied
themselves with anthroposophy while they were alive, but also to those who
would have nothing to do with it. Those who were already anthroposophists
here will feel it as an especially good deed if we read to them.
It is often objected that
the dead, being already in the supersensible world, must know all about it
and thus have no need of what we read to them on the subject.
My dear friends, the earth
is not only a vale of tears, it is something that has a real efficacy. The
dead can look at the supersensible world, but they cannot form ideas and
concepts from merely looking. After all, there are animals on earth. They
can look at things, but they cannot form concepts as men do. If the earth
had never come to be, the human soul would live in higher worlds but it
would never attain concepts about the higher worlds. Men have to go through
life on earth if they are to form concepts and ideas. So, a soul that goes
through death without an inkling of the spiritual world will live there
without experiencing any of the concepts and ideas that we are able to
study here through spiritual science. It would have to return to earth to
Thus, a soul can be helpful
on earth by reading to the dead, because it can be understood by the dead.
And even if the dead persons took in nothing of spiritual science while on
earth, we need not assume that they will reject it after death. On the
contrary, many who raged against anthroposophy and wanted to know nothing
of it are now yearning to hear about it. Not only the things around us are
entangled in Maya. There can be a Maya that overcomes a person who rages
against spiritual science. What happens in the depths of the soul is often
very different from what is on the surface. A person may work up a rage in
his daily consciousness, yet have a great longing in him. It is quite
hopeless to try to bring such a person to anthroposophy, but in his soul,
he may be a better anthroposophist than others. After he dies, however, the
Maya is lifted. Then we see what was in the depths of the soul. Here the
soul raged, but now the longing comes to the fore. It may be that our
reading is in vain, but this we must risk ...
We come into closer
connection with the dead if we devote ourselves to anthroposophy in the
right way. We must fill ourselves with understanding for the necessity that
spiritual science should make an impression at the present time.
The more we work with
spiritual science, the more we notice that the dead also work back upon the
living. For example, in educating children who have lost their fathers at
a very early age, we must take this into account. Often one can feel the
father sending an influence from the spiritual world. I once had to tutor
children whose father had died early. I tried to train them in my own way,
but it would not work, simply would not work. But when it occurred to me to
allow for the influence of the father from the spiritual world, then it
went very well ...
If you work out something
about incarnations in a clever theoretical way, it will usually be wrong.
It must seem strange that
was the same person as a thorny character like John the Baptist.
How could it happen that
this thorny man, who had to pave the way for the Mystery of Golgotha in
such a violent way, reappeared as the gentle, pliable, charming Raphael?
But look at this. Raphael's father, Giovanni Santi, died when Raphael was
eleven. He was a painter. He was not a great painter so far as external
achievements go, but he had great ideas in his head, although he could not
put them on camas because he had no technical skill. He was also a poet.
There was a great deal of fantasy in him, but the physical capacities
simply were not there. He went early through the portal of death, and then
his forces worked into his son. In Raphael's hands and imagination worked
all that his father could send into the physical world. One can say that
the old Giovanni Santi was a painter without hands in the supersensible
world, for in a wonderful karmic relationship he supplied, in combination
with the Christ-filled individuality of the Baptist, what came to
expression in Raphael. The supersensible world had to work with the
physical world to achieve this result. It shows how the so-called dead are
able to influence those who have been left behind ...
Life on earth has another
important mission. When we have gone through the portal of death, if we are
not to be lonely, if we are to know something of other souls, we must meet
these other souls. We could be together with them there, yet know nothing
about them. We must make some connection with the souls here in order to be
acquainted with them over there. In the spiritual world souls can walk
through each other and know nothing about each other. It is important for
those over there that they be read to by persons whom they have known here.
The connections we make here are also connections over there. We found
societies and build up friendships on a spiritual basis in order to
establish connections that will endure beyond death. Not as a mere whim,
but as a need that extends beyond death, we are trying to bring our
spiritual life into a sort of societal form. Thus we see that, by building
up connections with other souls here on earth, we make sure that we will
not be hermits in the world between death and a new birth, that we will
have a sociable life there as well as here. We will have understanding for
the other souls after death only if we try to see into them now.
Therefore, in order not to
be shut off from more remote souls, we interest ourselves in their life.
For instance, we study religions because we cannot know much about other
souls if we are not familiar with their beliefs. We build a close tie with
the souls that are near to us. But we can also have some connection with
the people whose religious beliefs we study. We must learn to understand
seers and to perceive that they cannot do otherwise than bring to other men
what they themselves see, in order that what is needed may come to pass in
the world and the mission of the earth may be fulfilled.
It must be conceded that
over there only those souls who have taken in something spiritual here can
have a full consciousness of their influence on the physical world. And
since we should learn more and more about these matters, I will mention a
fact that is important even if it is not easy to understand. Let us take a
soul that never bothered about the supersensible world while it was here.
This soul can work on the physical world with its intentions. But although
this soul can see the souls that have remained behind — at least, if
they know something about the spirit — it is not aware that its
intentions are working on the physical world. This knowledge is lacking.
There is after all a certain difference between living in immediate
communion with your fellow men and being hindered from having such
communion so that your intentions reach them only invisibly. You would see
everything as in a mirror. The dead person who entered the spiritual world
without spiritual knowledge sends down his intentions, but he is not
conscious of doing so. This is far less satisfying for him than if he knew:
Now you have this intention and you are sending it down.
This direct knowledge of the
connection with the living is available only to those who had some kind of
spiritual life here or to those who are instructed by the reading of
spiritual ideas after death. The reading can replace the knowledge. And it
will more and more be the case that men here on earth will achieve
consciousness of the influences of the dead, so that there will not be a
one-way influence by persons here working on the spiritual world, but
persons here, as they learn more about the supersensible world, will be
aware of what is coming from over yonder.
We are only at the beginning
of anthroposophical development. Therefore, what is being said now will be
little heeded. But it will be heeded more in the future. One will have
moments when one sees quite clearly how the dead are working. Not every
moment of our lives is favorable, but people who fill themselves with
spiritual science will base such moments. We really experience very little
of what is going on around us. We experience only what happens near us from
hour to hour. But that is the least of what is really there, or could be
there. Take the following example. Someone goes to work at eight o'clock
every morning. His way leads through an old garage. One day he is delayed
in starting, and when he comes to the garage he sees that it has collapsed.
This happened just at the moment when he would normally be passing
Such a case shows how much
does not happen that really could happen in our lives. How do you know what
would have happened to you if you had crossed the street three minutes
earlier than you did? Admittedly there are karmic necessities here, but
there are also thousands of possibilities that do not become facts. What
actually occurs is one of innumerable possibilities. Just these moments
when something could have happened but did not do so because we, so to
speak, missed the opportunity. Just these are the right moments for
glimpsing the spiritual world. Take another example: You miss a train
through being delayed. You should accept this calmly because there may be
karma behind it. You should cultivate calmness, and if you do, you will
notice a shadowy thought arising in such moments when some accident could
have occurred but did not. This thought will be something that a dead
person is saying to you, something that may be an important communication
from over yonder.
In order to receive a direct
communication from the spiritual world, we need a certain soul-training.
Spiritual science can furnish such a training. This can go so far that
through someone who has died before us we experience, for example, that he
is continually concerned about us. If he died very young, he has conserved
certain forces that he had in his life. These forces are still available to
him and, if the conditions are favorable, he can project them into
earth-life. Perhaps the dead person loved us and wants to send us his
forces. And we use these forces, although we are not conscious of this.
Then it happens that we avoid an accident, by missing a train or something
of the sort. Then we see, like a living dream-picture, the imagination of
the person who loved us and is sending us his forces. We have an inkling of
him, and he shows us that he is concerned about us. We will know how to
Think how the love that
souls have for one another can be increased if one knows that one is not
torn away from those whom one leaves here, but can still work for them. And
this working will gradually reach the point where a bridge can be built to
the souls. If one thinks in this way of the souls that feel themselves
close to the dead and strengthen their love through the possibility of
further active loving, then the love between soul and soul will be kindled
through what spiritual science can give, and this can really be something
very substantial when compared with what usually exists as love today.
Souls will be brought together in the right way for the first time when
people realize that the dead and the living belong to one world.
To bring people to
understand that life here and life yonder are only changes of form, this is
part of the mission of anthroposophy in our time. And we understand this
mission only if we see that through spiritual science we tear away the wall
that now seems so threatening because materialistic attitudes are spreading
so widely over the earth ...
In the life between death
and a new birth the soul is no less occupied than here. The circumstances
over yonder are not the same as here, but they are prepared here in
earth-life ... Continually flowing into the physical causes are forces that
come from the powers of the higher worlds. If one has had no conscience
here, he will have to go through something terrible. He will become the
slave, the servant, of the beings who have to bring illness and early death
into the world.
There are persons who
generate enthusiasm and love, zeal for their work; who do gladly what they
must do in accordance with their capacities and their karma. There are also
many vocations in which people really cannot work with any enthusiasm, and
this will be the case more and more. Therefore, it is necessary that souls
who, in spite of it all, punctually discharge their duties, should have
something else to which they can turn with enthusiasm. Through spiritual
science one can have something that he can do with love and enthusiasm, and
through which forces will develop in one's soul. Thus, we can become the
servants over yonder of those beings of the higher hierarchies who pour
freshness, growth, and health into earth-life.
All these connections enable
us to look beyond death and know that we belong to the macrocosm, that we
are not living for physical existence alone while on earth but are
developing important forces that will come into their own between death and
a new birth. We become able to live in such a way that we do not hinder the
fruitful development of mankind, but rather generate forces that can
further it. We can regard this as the mission of anthroposophy.
It should be a selfless
service that one does with the reading. The dead understand our speech for
4 or 5 years after dying. Our thoughts for a longer time.
Photographs are of no use in
finding the dead. Handwriting is better. You will not succeed in finding
them with photographs. The connection is achieved much better by quietly
concentrating on their handwriting.
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