Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, February 5, 1918:
I have often described the reason. The higher faculties of the supersensible beings are connected with the lower human impulses (not with the higher impulses of incarnate beings) as the lower impulses of supersensible beings are related to the higher spiritual qualities of man. I described this as a significant mystery in the intercourse with the spiritual world, a mystery by contact with which a man may easily be shipwrecked; but if he can steer safely past this rock, if he is able to have intercourse with the supersensible without being diverted from the world of spiritual experiences, such intercourse is quite possible.
It proves, however, to be very, very different from what is usually regarded as ‘intercourse’ here in the world of sense. Speaking quite in the concrete: if we talk to one another here in the world of sense, we speak and the other answers. We know that we produce our words through the vocal organs; the words come from our thoughts. We feel that we are the creator of our words; we know that we hear ourselves speaking, and when someone answers we hear him; we listen and we hear him.
We are profoundly accustomed to such a connection because we are only conscious of having intercourse in the physical world with other human beings. Intercourse with discarnate souls is not like this. Strange as it may sound, intercourse with discarnate souls is exactly reversed. If we impart our own thoughts to the discarnate, we do not speak, but he speaks. It is exactly as though when talking with someone he were to say what we were about to communicate; we do not say it, but he does. The reply of the so-called dead does not come to us from outside but arises from our inner being; we experience it as inner life. Clairvoyant consciousness has to get accustomed to this. We have to get accustomed to the idea that we ourselves are in the other as the questioner, and the one who replies is in us. This complete reversal of the entities is necessary.
So, too, the moment of waking especially disposes us to receive the answers of the dead. If we did not immediately pass over into sense-perception, but were able to linger through the moment of waking, we should be specially adapted to receive their messages. These messages would appear as though arising from our own inner being.
A man may, however, easily misconstrue this; he does not take the dreams — if later he recollects them as dreams — for what they really are. Dreams are really always a previous companionship with the dead springing from our life of feeling. We have moved towards them, and the dream often gives us the questions we have put to them. True, it gives us our subjective experience, but as though coming from outside. The dead speak to us, but we really utter what they say ourselves. It only appears as though they spoke. As a rule, it is not messages from the dead that come to us in our dreams, but the expression of our need of being with them, of our need of coming to them at the moment of falling asleep.
We mourn for children in a different way than we do for older people. Our grief for a child I should prefer to call a sympathetic sorrow, for the sorrow that we feel for a child that has passed from us by death is really in many respects the reflection of the attitude of our own soul towards the being of the child, which remains near us. We share in the life of the child; the child itself takes part with his entity in our sorrow; it feels a sympathetic sorrow.
Our grief for an older person is different; it cannot be called a sympathetic grief, it is ‘egoistic;’ it is best borne by the reflection that an older dead person really ‘takes us with him;’ he does not lose us if we try to prepare ourselves to join him. Hence we form more ‘individualixed’ memories of our older dead, we bear them rather in thought, we can remain united with them in thought, in the thoughts we shared with them if we try not to behave as an uncomfortable companion. When we have thoughts which he cannot accept, our dead friend retains us, but in a peculiar way. We remain with him, but we can be a burden to him if he has to drag us along without our entertaining any thoughts in which he can unite with us, which he can perceive spiritually.
In time to come there will be a real perception that when an older person dies we must not become an incubus to him, as we shall be if we have thoughts which he cannot entertain. Just think how rich our times may become if we accept this life with the dead as real. I have often said that Spiritual Science does not wish to found a new religion, or to introduce anything sectarian into the world; to think otherwise is entirely to misconstrue it. On the other hand, I have often emphasized that the religious life can be deepened by it, because it provides real foundations. Certainly, remembrance of the dead, the service for the dead, has a religious side. On this side a foundation for the religious life will be created, if that life is illuminated by Spiritual Science.
When seen in the right light, these things will be lifted out of the abstract. For instance, it is not a matter of indifference to life whether a funeral service held is the right one for a young person, or whether it is more suited for an old one. It is of far greater importance for the general life of man whether right or wrong funeral services are held than all the regulations of town councils or parliament — strange as that may sound — for the impulses working in life come from the human individuals themselves when they are in right relation to the dead. Today people wish to regulate everything by an abstract structure of the social order. They are pleased when they do not need to think much over what they are to do. Many, even, are glad if they are not obliged to reflect upon what they ought to think. It is quite different when one has a living consciousness, not merely of a vaguely pantheistic connection, but of a concrete one with the spiritual world.
One can foresee a permeation of the religious life with concrete ideas when it is deepened by Spiritual Science. ‘Spirit’ was eliminated (as I have often related) from Western humanity in the year 869 at the Eighth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople. The dogma was then drawn up that Christians must not regard man as consisting of body, soul, and spirit, but of body and soul only, though certain spiritual qualities were to be ascribed to the soul. This abolition of the spirit is of tremendous significance. It was dogma — that in the year 869 in Constantinople it was decided that man must not be regarded as endowed with ‘anima’ and ‘spiritus,’ but only ‘unam animam rationalem et intellectualem.’ The dogma that ‘The soul has spiritual qualities’ was spread over the spiritual life of the West in the twilight of the ninth century.
This must be overcome. Spirit must again be recognized. Trichotomy — body, soul, and spirit — regarded as heresy in the Middle Ages, must again be recognized as the true and exact view of man's nature. Several things will be necessary to this end for those who today naturally challenge all ‘authority,’ yet swear that man consists of body and soul alone. Such are not only to be found in particular religious persuasions, but also among the ranks of those who listen to professors, philosophers, and others. Philosophers, as can everywhere be read, distinguish only body and soul, omitting the spirit. This is their ‘unprejudiced’ philosophy of life; but it rests upon the decision of the Church Council in the year 869 not to recognize spirit — that, however, they do not realize. A well-known philosopher, Wilhelm Wundt — a great philosopher by favor of his publisher, but at the same time renowned — of course divides man into body and soul, because he regards it as ‘unprejudiced’ science to do so — and does not know that he is simply following the decision of the Council of 869. We must look into the actual facts if we wish to see what takes place in the world of reality. If a man looks at the actual facts in the domain especially mentioned today, his consciousness will be opened concerning a connection with that world only dreamed of and slept away in history. History, historical life, will only be seen in the right light when a true consciousness of the connection of the so-called living with the so-called dead can be developed.