The Dead Are With Us
February 10 1918, Nüremberg
Translated by D. S. Osmond
Our studies in Spiritual Science contain much that we cannot, perhaps, put to direct application in everyday life, and we may sometimes be inclined to feel it all rather remote from everyday life. But this is only seemingly the case. What we receive into the sphere of our knowledge concerning the secrets of the spiritual world is at every hour, at every moment, of vital and profound significance for our souls; what seems to be remote from us personally is often what the soul inwardly needs, In order to know the physical world we must make ourselves acquainted with it. But to know the spiritual world it is essential that we ourselves think through and make mental pictures of the thoughts and conceptions imparted to us by that world. These thoughts then often work quite unconsciously within the soul. That upon which the soul is working may seem to be quite remote, while in reality it is very near indeed to the higher domains of the life of soul.
And so we will study again to-day the life that takes its course between death and a new birth — that life that seems so far removed from the human being in the physical world. I will begin with a simple narration of what is found by spiritual investigation. These things can be understood if they are thought over and pondered time and again; through their own power they make themselves comprehensible to the soul. Anyone who does not understand them should realise that he has not thought them through often enough. Such matters must be investigated by means of Spiritual Science, but they can be understood if the soul will ponder them time and again. They will then be confirmed by the facts which meet us in life; if only life is properly studied, they will be substantiated by the facts of life.
You will realise from many of the Lecture Courses that have been given that consideration of the life between death and a new birth is fraught with difficulty, because its conditions are so entirely different from those of the life that can be pictured with the help of the organs of the physical body here within the physical world. We have to become acquainted with completely different conceptions.
When we enter into relationship with the things in our physical environment we know that only a small proportion of the beings around us in the physical world react to our actions, our manifestations of will, in such a way that pleasure or pain is caused by these actions of ours to beings in our environment. Reaction of-this kind takes place in the case of the animal kingdom and the human kingdom; but we are justified in our conviction that the mineral world (including what is in air and water) and also, in essentials, the world of plants are insensitive to what we call pleasure or pain when actions are performed by us. (Spiritually considered, of course, the matter is a little different, but that need not concern us at this point.) In the environment of the dead all this is changed. In the environment of the so-called dead conditions are such that everything — including what is done by the dead themselves — arouses either pleasure or pain in the whole environment. — The dead can do no single thing, he cannot, if I may speak pictorially, move a single one of his limbs without pleasure or pain being caused by what he does. We must try to think our way into these conditions of existence. — We must assimilate the thought that life between death and a new birth is so constituted that everything we do awakens an echo in the environment. During the whole period between death and a new birth we can do nothing, we cannot even move, pictorially speaking, without awakening pleasure or pain in our environment. The mineral kingdom as we have it around us on the physical plane does not exist for the dead, neither does our plant world. As you can gather from the book Theosophy these kingdoms are present in quite a different form. They are not present in the spiritual world in the form in which we know them here, namely, as realms devoid of feeling. The first kingdom of those we know on the physical plane, which has significance for the dead because it can be compared with what the dead has in his environment, is the animal kingdom. I do not of course mean the individual animals that are here on the physical plane, but the whole environment is such that its effect and influence are as if animals were there. The reaction of the environment is such that pleasure or pain proceeds from what is done. On the physical plane we stand upon mineral soil; the dead stands upon a ‘soil’, lives in an environment which may be compared with the animal nature in this sense. The dead, therefore, starts his life two kingdoms higher. On the Earth we get to know the animal kingdom only from the outside. The most external activity of the life between death and a new birth consists in acquiring a more and more intimate and exact knowledge of the animal world. For in this life between death and a new birth we must prepare all those forces which, working in from the Cosmos, organise our own body. In the physical world we know nothing of these forces. Between death and a new birth we know that our body, down to its smallest particles, is formed out of the Cosmos. For we ourselves prepare this physical body, bringing together in it the whole scope of animal nature; we ourselves build it up.
In order to make the picture more exact, we must acquaint ourselves with a concept, an idea, that is rather remote from present-day mentality. Modern man knows quite well that when a magnetic needle lies with one end pointing towards the North and the other towards the South, this is not caused by the needle itself, but that the Earth as a whole is a cosmic magnet of which one end points towards the North and the other towards the South. It would be considered pure nonsense to assert that the direction is brought about merely by forces contained in the magnetic needle. In the case of a seed or germ which develops in an animal or in a human being, all science and all schools of thought deny the factor of cosmic influence. What would be described as nonsense in the case of the magnetic needle is accepted without further thought in the case of an egg forming within the hen. But when the egg is forming within the hen the whole Cosmos is, in fact, participating; what happens on Earth is merely the stimulus to the play of cosmic forces. Everything that takes shape in the egg is an imprint of cosmic forces and the hen herself is only a place, an abode, in which the Cosmos, the whole World-System, is developing this work. And it is the same in the case of the human being. This is a thought with which we must become familiar.
Between death and a new birth, in company with Beings of the higher Hierarchies, the human being is working at this whole system of forces which permeates the Cosmos. For between death and a new birth he is not without employment; he works perpetually. He works in the Spiritual. The animal kingdom is the first realm with which he makes acquaintance — and in the following way. If he makes some mistake, he immediately becomes aware of pain, of suffering, in the environment; if he does something right, he becomes aware of pleasure, of joy, in the environment. He works on and on, calling forth pleasure or pain, until, finally, the soul-nature is such that it can descend and come together with what will live on Earth as a physical body, The being of soul could never descend if it had not itself worked at the physical form.
It is the animal kingdom, then, with which acquaintance is first made. The next is the human kingdom. Mineral Nature and the plant kingdom are absent. The dead's acquaintance with the human kingdom is limited — if we may use a familiar phrase. Between death and a new birth — and this begins immediately or soon after death — the dead has contact and can make links only with those human souls, whether still-living on Earth or in yonder world, with whom he has already had karmic connection on Earth, in the last or in an earlier incarnation. Other souls pass him by; they do not come within his ken. He becomes aware of the animal realm as a totality; only those human souls come within his ken with whom he has had karmic connection here on Earth; with these he grows more and more closely acquainted. You must not imagine that their number is small, for individual human beings have already passed through many Earth lives. In every Earth life a whole host of karmic connections has been made and of these is spun the web which then, in the spiritual world, extends over all the souls whom the dead has known in life; only those with whom acquaintance has never been made remain outside the circle.
This indicates a truth which should be emphasised, namely, the supreme importance of the Earth life for the individual human being. If there had been no Earth life we should be unable to form links with human souls in the spiritual world. The links are made karmically on Earth and then continue between death and a new birth. Those who are able to see into that world perceive how the dead gradually makes more and more links — all of which are the outcome of karmic connections formed on Earth,
Just as concerning the first kingdom with which the dead comes into contact — the animal kingdom — we can say that everything the dead does, even when he simply moves, causes either pleasure or pain in his environment, so we can say concerning everything experienced in the human realm in yonder world that the dead is in much more intimate connection with human beings in the domain of soul-life. When the dead becomes acquainted with a soul, he gets to know this soul as if he himself were within it, After death knowledge of another soul is as intimate as knowledge here on Earth of our own finger, head or ear — we feel ourselves within the other soul. The connection is much more intimate than it can ever be on Earth. There are two basic experiences in the community among human souls between death and a new birth: we are either within the other souls, or outside them. Even in the case of souls with whom we are already acquainted, we are now within, and then again outside them. Meeting with them consists in feeling at one with them, being within them. To be outside them means that we do not notice them. If we look at some object here on Earth, we perceive it; if we look away from it, we no longer perceive it. In yonder world we are actually within human souls when we are able to turn our attention to them; and we are outside them when we are not in a position to do so.
In what I have now told you, you have as it were the fundamental form of the soul's communion with other souls during the period between death and a new birth. Similarly, the human being is also within or outside the Beings of the other Hierarchies, the Angels, Archangels and so on. The higher the kingdom, the more intensely does a man feel bound to them after death; he feels as though they were bearing him, sustaining him with great power. The Archangels bear him more mightily than the Angels, the Archai again more mightily than the Archangels, and so on.
People to-day still find difficulty in acquiring knowledge of the spiritual world. The difficulties would more or less solve themselves if men would take a little more trouble to grow acquainted with the secrets of the spiritual world. There are here two methods of approach. One way of becoming acquainted with the spiritual world leads to complete certainty of the Eternal in one's own being. This knowledge, that in human nature there is an eternal core of being which passes through births and deaths — this knowledge, remote as it is to modern humanity, is relatively easy to attain; and it will be attained by those who have enough perseverance, along the path described in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and in other writings. It is attained by treading the path there described. That is one form of knowledge of the spiritual world. The other is what may be called concrete, direct intercourse with beings of the spiritual world, and we will now speak of the intercourse that is possible between those who are still on Earth and the so-called dead.
Such intercourse is most certainly possible but it presents greater difficulties than the first form of knowledge, which is easy to attain. Actual intercourse with an individual who has died is possible but difficult, because it demands scrupulous care on the part of the one who seeks it. Control and discipline are necessary for this kind of intercourse with the spiritual world, for it is connected with a very significant law. The very same thing that we recognise in men on Earth as lower impulses is, from the other, the spiritual side, higher life; and it may therefore easily happen when the human being has not attained true control of himself, that he experiences the rising of lower impulses through direct intercourse with the dead. When we make contact with the spiritual world in the general sense, when we acquire knowledge about our own immortality as beings of soul and spirit, there can be no question of the ingress of anything impure. But when it is a matter of contact with individuals who have died, the relation of the individual dead — strange as it seems — is always a relation with the blood and nervous system. The dead enters into those impulses which live themselves out in the system of blood and nerves, and in this way lower impulses may be aroused. Naturally, there can only be danger for those who have not purified their natures through discipline and control. This must be said, for it is the reason why it is forbidden in the Old Testament to have intercourse with the dead. Such intercourse is not sinful when it happens in the right way. The methods of modern spiritualism must, of course, be avoided. When the intercourse is of a spiritual nature it is not sinful, but when it is not accompanied by pure thoughts it can easily lead to the stimulation of lower passions. It is not the dead who arouse these passions but the element in which the dead live. For consider: what we here feel as ‘animal’ in quality and nature is the basic element in which the dead live. The kingdom in which the dead live can easily be changed when it enters into us; what is higher life in yonder world can become lower when it is within us on Earth. It is very important to remember this, and it must be emphasised when we are speaking of intercourse between the living and the so-called dead, for it is an occult fact. We shall find that precisely when we are speaking about this intercourse the spiritual world can be described as it really is; for such experiences reveal the complete difference of the spiritual world from the physical world.
First of all, I will tell you something that may seem to have no meaning for man so long as he has not developed his clairvoyant faculties; but when we think it over, we shall realise that it concerns us closely, leading on as it does to matters in actual life. Those who are able to have intercourse with the dead as the result of developed clairvoyance, realise why it is so difficult for human beings to know anything about the dead through direct perception. Strange and grotesque as it may seem, the whole form of intercourse to which we are accustomed in the physical world has to be reversed when intercourse is set up between the Earth and the dead. In the physical world, when we speak with a human being from physical body to physical body, we ourselves are speaking, When we speak, we know that the words come from us; when the other man speaks to us, we know that the words come from him. The whole relationship is reversed when we are speaking with a dead man. The expression ‘when we are speaking’ can truthfully be used, but the relationship is reversed. When we put a question to the dead, or say something to him, what we say comes from him, comes to us from him. He inspires into our soul what we ask him, what we say to him. And when he answers us or says something to us, this comes out of our own soul. It is a process with which a human being in the physical world is quite unfamiliar. He feels that what he says comes out of his own being. In order to establish intercourse with the dead, we must adapt ourselves to hear from them what we ourselves say, and to receive from our own soul what they answer.
Thus abstractly described, the nature of the process is easy to grasp; but really to become accustomed to the total reversal of the familiar form of intercourse is exceedingly difficult. The dead are always there, always among us and around us, and the fact that they are not perceived is largely due to lack of understanding of this reversed form of intercourse. On the physical plane we think that when anything comes out of our own soul, it comes from us. And we are far from being able to pay intimate enough attention to whether it is not, after all, being inspired into us from the spiritual environment. We prefer to connect it with experiences familiar on the physical plane, where, if something comes to us from the environment, we ascribe it at once to the other person. This is the greatest error when it is a matter of intercourse with the dead.
I have here been telling you of one of the fundamental characteristics of intercourse between the so-called living and the so-called dead. If this example helps you to realise one thing only, namely, that conditions are completely reversed in the spiritual world, that there one has as it were to turn right round, then you will have taken hold of a significant concept that is constantly needed by those who wish to enter the spiritual world. The concept is extremely difficult to apply in the actual, individual case. For instance, in order to understand even the physical world, which is permeated through and through with the spiritual, it is essential to grasp this idea of complete reversal. And because modern science fails to grasp it and it is altogether unknown to popular consciousness, therefore there is today no spiritual understanding of the physical world. One experiences this even with people who try very hard indeed to comprehend the world, and one is often obliged simply to accept the situation and leave it so. Some years ago I spoke to a large number of our friends at a General Meeting in Berlin about the physical organism of man, with special reference to certain of Goethe's ideas. I tried to explain how the head, in its physical form, can only be understood aright when it is conceived as a complete transformation of the other part of the organism. No one was able to understand at all that a bone in the arm would have to be turned inside out like a glove, in order that a head-bone might be produced from it. It is a difficult concept but one cannot really understand anatomy without such pictures. I mention this in parenthesis only. What I have said to-day about intercourse with the dead is easier to understand. The happenings I have described to you are going on all the time. All of you sitting here now are in constant intercourse with the dead, only ordinary consciousness knows nothing of it because it proceeds in the sub-consciousness. Clairvoyant consciousness does not charm anything new into being; it merely brings up into consciousness what is present all the time in the spiritual world. All of you are in constant intercourse with the dead.
And now we will consider how intercourse with the dead takes place in individual cases. When someone has died and we are left behind, we may ask: How do I approach the dead so that he experiences me in himself? How does the dead come near me again so that I can live in him? These questions may well be asked but they cannot be answered if we have recourse to concepts familiar to us on the physical plane. On the physical plane ordinary consciousness functions only from the time of waking until the time of falling asleep; but the other part of consciousness which remains dim in ordinary life between falling asleep and awaking is just as important. In the real sense, the human being is not unconscious when he is asleep; his consciousness is merely so dim that he experiences nothing of it. It is a dim consciousness. But the whole man — in waking and sleeping life — must be held in mind when we are studying the connections of the human being 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 through 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 civilised life seems to conspire to hinder man's intercourse with the spiritual world. This is not said in order to decry material civilisation, 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.
These moments of waking and of falling asleep are of the utmost significance for intercourse, for example, with the so-called dead — and with other spiritual Beings of the higher world. In order however to understand what I have to say on this matter you must familiarise yourselves with an idea which it is not easy to apply on the physical plane and which is therefore practically unknown. The idea is this. In the spiritual sense, what is ‘past’ has not really passed away but is still there. In physical life men have this conception in regard to Space only. If you stand in front of a tree, then go away and look back at it later on, the tree has not disappeared; it is still there. In the spiritual world it is so in regard to Time. If you experience something at one moment, it has passed away the next so far as physical consciousness is concerned; spiritually conceived, it has not passed away. You can look back at it just as you looked back at the tree. Richard Wagner showed that he had knowledge of this, in the remarkable words: “ Time here becomes Space ”. 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 sub-consciousness.) 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.
As I told you, the moments of waking and falling asleep are of particular importance for intercourse with the dead. In our whole life there are no single moments of falling asleep or of waking when we do not come into relation with the dead.
The moment of falling asleep is especially favourable for us to turn to the dead. Suppose we want to ask the dead something. We can carry it in our soul, holding it until the moment of falling asleep; for that is the time to bring our questions to the dead, Other opportunities exist, but this moment is the most favourable. When, for instance, we read to the dead we certainly draw near to them. But for direct intercourse it is best of all if we address our questions to the dead at the moment of falling asleep.
On the other hand, the moment of waking is the most favourable for what the dead have to communicate to us. And again there is no one — did people but know it — who does not bring with him at the moment of waking countless tidings from the dead. In the unconscious region of the soul we are speaking continually with the dead. At the moment of falling asleep we put our questions to them, we say to them what, in the depths of the soul, we have to say. At the moment of waking the dead speak with us, give us the answers. But we must grasp the connection that these are only two different points and that, in the higher sense, these things that happen after each other are really simultaneous, just as on the physical plane two places are simultaneous.
Now, for intercourse with the dead, some things in life are more favourable, others less so. And we may ask: What can really help our intercourse with the dead? The manner of our intercourse with the dead cannot be the same as the manner of our speech with the living; the dead neither hear nor take in this kind of speech. There is no question of being able to chatter with the dead as we chatter with one another at five o'clock teas and in cafes. What makes it possible to put questions to the dead or to communicate something to the dead, is that we unite the life of feeling with our thoughts and ideas. 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 realise 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; visualise 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.
The moment of waking is especially favourable for the dead to approach us. At the moment of waking, very much comes from the dead to every human being. A great deal of what we undertake in life is really inspired into us by the dead or by Beings of the higher Hierarchies, although we attribute it to ourselves, as coming from our own soul.
What the dead say comes out of our own soul. The life of day draws near, the moment of waking passes quickly by, and we are seldom disposed to observe the intimate indications that arise out of our soul. And when we do observe them we are vain enough to attribute them to ourselves; Yet in all this — and in much else that comes out of our own soul — there lives what our dead have to say to us. What the dead say to us seems to arise out of our own soul. If men knew what life actually is, this knowledge would give rise to a feeling of reverence and piety towards the spiritual world in which we and our dead continually live. We should realise 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.
If we were to understand it aright, we should know ourselves to be united in our inmost being with the souls who are the so-called dead.
Now there is a great difference according to whether a soul passes through the Gate of Death in relatively early years or later in life. When young children who have loved us die, it is a very different thing from the death of people older than ourselves. Experience of the spiritual world describes this difference in the following way. The secret of communion with children who have died can be expressed by saying that in the spiritual sense we do not lose them, they remain with us. When children die in early life they continue ever present with us — spiritually — to a very marked degree. I should like to give it to you as a theme for meditation to be thought through and developed, that when children die they are not lost to us; we do not lose them, they stay with us spiritually. 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.
On the other hand, the pain we feel at the death of older people — whether it be our own parents or our friends — this can be called egotistical pain. An older person who has died does not lose us and the feeling he has is therefore different from the feeling present in a child. One who died in later life retains us, does not lose us. We here in life feel that we have lost him — the pain is therefore only our concern. It is egotistical pain. We do not share his feeling as we do in the case of children, we feel the pain for ourselves.
It is really so that a clear distinction can be drawn between these two forms of pain: egotistical pain in regard to the old, a pain fraught with compassion in regard to little children. The child lives on in us and we actually feel what) the child feels. In reality, our own soul mourns only for those who died in the later years of their life.
Just such a matter as this can show us the great significance of knowledge of the spiritual world. For you see, Divine Service for the Dead can be adjusted in accordance with these truths. In the case of a child who has died, it will not be altogether appropriate to emphasise the specifically individual aspect. Because the child, as we saw, lives on in us and remains with us, it is good that the service of remembrance should take a more universal form, giving the child, who is still living with us, something that is wide and universal. Therefore, in the case of a child, ceremonial in the service for the Dead is preferable to a specific funeral oration. The Catholic ritual is better here in one respect, the Protestant in the other. The Catholic service includes no funeral oration but consists in ceremony, in rite. It is general, universal; and it is alike for all. And what can be alike for all is especially good for children. 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 visualise 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.
Just think what it means at the present time when so many human beings are dying in their youth, to be able to say to oneself: They are really always present, they are not lost to the world. I have spoken of this from other points of view, for such matters must always be considered from different angles. If we succeed in becoming conscious of the spiritual world, one realisation at least will light up for us out of the infinite sorrow with which the present days are fraught — that because those who die young remain present with us, a living spiritual life can arise through community with the dead. A living spiritual life can and will arise, if only materialism does not unfold its strength to such a degree that Ahriman is able to stretch out his claws and gain the victory over all human powers.
Many a man may say, speaking purely on the physical plane, that indications such as I have been giving seem to him quite remote, he would prefer to be told something definite he can do morning and evening to bring him into a right relation with the spiritual world. But this is not quite correct thinking. Where the spiritual world is concerned the first essential is that we should develop thoughts about it. And even if it seems as though the dead were remote, while present life is near and close at hand, the very fact that we have such thoughts as have been described to-day, that we let our mind dwell on things seemingly remote from external life — this very fact uplifts and develops the soul, imparts to it spiritual force and spiritual nourishment. 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 realisation 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 to-day have insight into this connection; but insight will most surely come in the future. To-day 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 co-operation 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 realisation of his firm stand here in the physical world but with the inner realisation 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.