|"There is nothing more important for life, even for material life, than the strong and sure realization of communion with the spiritual world."|
Think of your own biography. You consider the course of your life always with interruptions; you describe only what has happened in your waking life. Life is thus broken: waking-sleeping; waking-sleeping. But you are also there while you sleep; and in studying the whole human being, waking life and sleeping life must be taken into consideration.
A third thing must also be considered in connection with man's intercourse with the spiritual world. For besides waking life and sleeping life there is a third state, even more important for intercourse with the spiritual world than waking and sleeping life as such. I mean the actual act of waking and the actual act of going to sleep, which last only a moment, for we immediately pass on into other conditions. If we develop delicate, sensitive feelings for these moments of waking and going to sleep, we shall find they shed great light on the spiritual world. In remote country places — such customs are gradually disappearing, but in the time when we who are older were still young — people were wont to say: When you wake up it is not good immediately to go to the window through which light is pouring; you should remain a little while in the dark. Country folk used to have some knowledge about intercourse with the spiritual world, and they preferred in this moment of waking not immediately to come into the bright daylight but to remain inwardly collected in order to preserve something of what sweeps with such power though the human soul at the moment of waking. The sudden brightness of daylight is disturbing. In the cities, of course, this is hardly to be avoided; there we are disturbed not only by the daylight but also even before waking by the noise of the streets, the clanging of tramcar bells, and so forth. The whole of civilized life seems to conspire to hinder man's intercourse with the spiritual world. This is not said in order to decry material civilization, but the fact must be borne in mind. Again at the moment of falling asleep the spiritual world approaches us with power; but we immediately fall asleep, losing consciousness of what has passed through the soul. Exceptions can, however, occur.
It is an occult fact that in the spiritual world there are distances which do not come to expression on the physical plane. That an event is past means simply that it is farther away from us. I want you to bear this in mind. For man on Earth in the physical body, the moment of falling asleep is ‘past’ when the moment of waking arrives. In the spiritual world, however, the moment of falling asleep has not gone; we are only, at the moment of waking, a little farther distant from it.
We confront our dead at the moment of falling asleep, and again at the moment of waking. (As I have said, this happens continually, only it usually remains in the subconsciousness.) So far as physical consciousness is concerned, these are two quite different moments; for spiritual consciousness the one is only a little farther distant than the other. I want you to remember this in connection with what I am now going to say; otherwise you may find it difficult to understand.
Suppose a man has passed through the Gate of Death and you want your subconsciousness to communicate something to him in the evening. For it need not be communicated consciously. You can prepare it at some time during the day; then if you go to bed at ten o'clock at night having prepared it, say, at noon, it passes over to the dead when you fall asleep. The question must, however, be put in a particular way; it must not merely be a thought or an idea, it must be imbued with feeling and with will. Your relationship with the dead must be one of the heart, of inner interest. You must remind yourself of your love for the dead when he was alive, and address yourself to him not abstractly, but with real warmth of heart. This can so take root in the soul that in the evening at the moment of going to sleep, without your knowing it, it becomes a question to the dead.
Or you may try to realize vividly what was the nature of your particular interest in the dead. It is very good to do the following. Think about your life with the one who is now dead; visualize actual moments when you were together with him, and then ask yourself: What was it that particularly interested me about him, that attracted me? When was it that I was so deeply impressed — liked what he said, and found it helpful and valuable? If you remind yourself of moments when you were strongly connected with the dead and were deeply interested in him, and then turn this into a desire to speak to him, to say something to him — if you develop the feeling in purity and let the question arise out of the interest you took in the dead, then the question or the communication remains in your soul, and when you go to sleep it passes over to him.
Ordinary consciousness as a rule will know little of the happening, because sleep ensues immediately; but what has thus passed over often remains present in dreams. In the case of most dreams — although from the point of view of actual content they are misleading — in the case of most dreams we have of the dead, all that happens is that we interpret them incorrectly. We interpret them as messages from the dead, whereas they are nothing but the echoing of the questions or communications we have ourselves directed to the dead. We should not think that the dead is saying something to us in our dream, but we should see in the dream something that goes out from our own soul to the dead. The dream is the echo of this. If we were sufficiently developed to be conscious of our question or communication to the dead at the moment of going to sleep, it would seem to us as though the dead himself were speaking — hence the echo in the dream seems as if it were a message from him. In reality it comes from us. This becomes intelligible only when we understand the nature of clairvoyant connection with the dead. What the dead seems to say to us is really what we are saying to him.
We should realize that in much of what we do, it is the dead who are working. The knowledge that 'round about us, like the air we breathe, there is a spiritual world, the knowledge that the dead are 'round about us and that it is only we who are not able to perceive them — this knowledge must unfold in Spiritual Science, not as external theory but permeating the soul as veritable inner life. The dead speak to us in our inner being, but we interpret our own inner being incorrectly.
Of older people who die, the reverse may be said. Those who are older do not lose us. We do not lose little children; older people do not lose us. Older people when they die are strongly drawn to the spiritual world, but this also gives them the power so to work into the physical world that it is easier for them to approach us. True, they withdraw from the physical world much farther than do children who remain with us, but older people are endowed with higher faculties of perception than are children who die young.
Those who are older retain us. Knowledge of different souls in the spiritual world reveals that those who died in old age live, through being able to enter more easily into souls on Earth; they do not lose the souls on Earth. And we do not lose the children, for the children remain more or less within the sphere of earthly man. The meaning of this difference can also be considered in another connection.
We have not always sufficiently deep or delicate perceptions in regard to the experiences of the soul on the physical plane. When friends die, we mourn and feel pain. When good friends in the Society have passed away, I have often said that it is not the task of Anthroposophy to offer people shallow consolation for their pain or try to talk them out of their sorrow. Sorrow is justified; one should grow strong to bear it, not let oneself be talked out of it.
In regard to the pain and the sorrow, people make no distinction as to whether it is caused by the death of a child or of an older person. Spiritually perceived, there is a great, great difference. When little children have died the pain of those who have remained behind is really a kind of compassion — no matter whether such children were their own, or other children whom they loved. Children remain together with us and because we have been united with them: they convey their pain to our souls; we feel their pain — that they would fain still be here! Their pain is eased when we bear it with them. The child feels in us. It is good when a child can share his feeling with us; his pain is thereby relieved.
In the case of one who has died in later years, the individual aspect is more important. The best funeral service here will be one in which the life of the individual is remembered. The Protestant service, with the oration referring to the life of the one who has died, will have great significance for the soul; the Catholic ritual will mean less in such a case.
The same distinction holds good for all our thought about the dead. For the child it is best when we enter into a mood where we feel bound up with him; we try to turn our thoughts to him, and these thoughts will then draw near to him when we go to sleep. Such thoughts may be of a more general kind — such for example as may be directed to all those who have passed through the Gate of Death.
In the case of an older person, we must direct our thoughts of remembrance to him as an individual, thinking about his life on Earth and what we experienced together with him. In order to enter into the right intercourse with an older person it is very important to visualize his being, to make his being come to life in ourselves — not only by remembering things he said which meant a great deal to us but by thinking of what he was as an individual and what his value was for the world. If we make these things inwardly living, they will enable us to come into connection with an older person who has died and to have the right thoughts of remembrance for him.
So you see, for the unfolding of true piety it is important to know what attitude should be taken to those who have died early and to those who have died in the later years of life.
What brings us into the spiritual world is not what is seemingly near at hand, but first and foremost, what comes from the spiritual world itself. Do not, therefore, be afraid of thinking these thoughts through again and again, continually bringing them to life anew within the soul. There is nothing more important for life, even for material life, than the strong and sure realization of communion with the spiritual world. If modern men had not so entirely lost their connection with the spiritual, these grave times would not have come upon us.
Only a very few men today have insight into this connection; but insight will most surely come in the future. Today men think: When a human being has passed through the Gate of Death, his activity ceases so far as the physical world is concerned. But it is not so, in reality. There is a living and perpetual intercourse between the so-called dead and the so-called living. Those who have passed through the Gate of Death have not ceased to be present, it is just that our eyes have ceased to see them. They are there, nevertheless. Our thoughts, our feelings, our impulses of will are connected with the dead. The Gospel words hold good for the dead as well: “The Kingdom of the Spirit cometh not with observation (that is to say, external observation); neither shall they say, Lo here, lo there, for behold, the Kingdom of the Spirit is within you.”
For we should not seek for the dead through externalities but should become conscious that they are always present. All historical life, all social life, all ethical life, proceed by virtue of cooperation of the so-called living with the so-called dead. The whole being of man can be infinitely strengthened when his consciousness is filled not only with the realization of his firm stand here in the physical world but with the inner realization that comes to him when he can say of the dead whom he has loved: The dead are with us, they are in our midst. This too is part of a true knowledge and understanding of the spiritual world, which has, as it were, to be pieced together from many different fragments.
We can only say that we know the spiritual world when the way in which we think and speak about it comes from the spiritual world itself.
The dead are in our midst — this sentence is in itself an affirmation of the spiritual world; and only the spiritual world can awaken within us the consciousness that the dead are, in very truth, with us.