Earthly Death and Cosmic Life. Lecture 6
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, March 19, 1918:
Thus if we have not this feeling of gratitude with regard to the beings whom we wish to approach, they do not find us; or, at any rate, they cannot speak to us. The very feelings we so frequently have towards our nearest dead are a hindrance to their speaking to us. Other dead, who are not karmically united to us, usually have more difficulty in speaking to us; but with those nearest to us, we have too little of the feeling of thankfulness that they have been something to us in life. We should not hold fast to the idea that we have them no more, for that is an ungrateful feeling, considered in the wider sense of life. If we clearly understand that the feeling of having lost them weighs them down, we shall keep in mind the whole bearing of this. If we have lost someone we love, we must be able to raise ourselves to a feeling of thankfulness that we have had him; we must be able to think selflessly of what he was to us until his death, and not upon what we feel now we have him no more. The better we can feel what he was to us during his life, the sooner will it be possible for him to speak to us, to speak to us by means of the common air of gratitude.
Then other things approach — for example, spiritual science. Spiritual science is not avoided by so many because it is difficult to understand, but because a certain effort is needed to accept its ideas. People avoid effort. Anyone who progresses in spiritual science gradually observes that it necessitates an application of will to comprehend the thoughts; that there is an expenditure of will in grasping thoughts as well as in lifting a hundredweight, but people do not want to do this; they think ‘easily.’ Anyone who makes a greater effort with his thinking by thinking harder and harder, thinks with more difficulty as it were, because he realizes more and more that for a thought to anchor itself within him, he must make efforts. There is nothing more favorable for penetration to the spiritual world than the fact that it becomes ever more difficult to grasp thoughts — and he is the most fortunate in his progress in spiritual science who can no longer apply the standard of easy thinking used in ordinary life, but will say to himself: This thinking is really a harrying undertaking! One must exert one's strength as though thrashing with a flail. Such feelings can only be indicated, but they can develop; it is favorable when they do.
Much else is connected with this — for instance, the fact that what many possess gradually withdraws. Many are so quick with their thinking that it is only necessary to mention one thought-complex and they grasp the connection of the whole; they always have an answer ready. What would conversations in drawing-rooms betoken, if thinking were difficult! We can, however, observe that as we gradually become acquainted with the inner relation of things, it becomes more difficult to chatter and be ready with an answer; for that comes from easy thinking. With advance in knowledge man becomes more Socratic, so that he must strain every nerve to attain the right to express an opinion.
Just let us realize what goes on in our souls in order to accomplish our purpose when we intend to go anywhere. As a rule a man does not usually think about this, but he should reflect on what has taken place in the world as a consequence of his having accomplished his purpose and attained what he had in view. He should reflect upon what has taken place in his soul. In reality a reaction has taken place there. Often this may be even strikingly expressed; when a mountain-climber has to exert himself strenuously to reach the summit of a mountain, and arriving at the top, breathing laboriously, exclaims: ‘Thank God I am here!’ one feels that a certain reaction has taken place in his feelings.
In this direction one can acquire an even finer perception, which continues in the intimate life of the soul. This resembles the following feeling. One who begins to call to mind a situation shared with a dead friend, and who begins to essay a common interest with the dead, uniting himself with the thoughts and feelings of the dead, will feel himself as being on a journey; and then comes a moment when he feels as though coming to rest in his thought. He can first be active in thought — then reaches a state of equipoise; he feels as though he had stopped for a rest after having walked for a long time. This is a great help towards the inspiration which such a thought can give.
He can also provide for inspiration through thought by making use of the whole man instead of the higher consciousness only. This of course leads to closer intimacies as regards this experience.
A man need not, of course, outwardly express all this, but he can have the conviction that certain experiences of life such as wonder and awe can only be expressed through the arms and hands. Fragmentary expressions of this experience — e.g., that the unconscious impulse to take part in these expressions quivers in the hands and arms — are revealed when a man clasps his hands over the beauty of nature or many other things that enter into his consciousness. Everything that subconsciously happens to us comes partially to expression in life. As regards what may be called ‘the desire of the hands and arms to take their part in external expression,’ a man can keep still; it is only necessary to move his etheric hands and arms.
The more we are conscious of this, the more we are able to feel outer impressions sympathetically with our arm-organism, the more we develop a feeling which can be expressed in this way: ‘When I see the color red I am inclined to make certain movements of the hands, for they are appropriate; when I see blue I incline to other movements.’
The more a man is conscious of this, the more he develops the feeling for inspiration for what should develop in the soul, for what he should retain as impressions. When we give ourselves up to playing with children, we lose ourselves in the impression, but we find ourselves. Then comes inspiration, if we have qualified ourselves and prepared the whole man to receive the impression — when even in the case of plunging into our own thoughts, the very fact of this submersion unites us in the feeling-in-common with the dead, so that when we awake we can remain united with the reality of the experience with the whole man, as just described, and this unity is experienced in the feeling of gratitude quivering into the hands and arms.
Then the real spiritual existence in which the dead live between death and rebirth holds intercourse with the living in such a way that we may say: We find our dead when we can meet in a common spiritual place with a common thought which he also perceives, when we can meet in this ‘thought-in-common,’ in a feeling of full companionship. We have the material for this through the medium of the feeling of gratitude; for the dead speak to the living out of the space woven by the ‘feeling-in-common,’ through the air which is created from the feeling of general gratitude common to the world.