relationship with the dead
In 1914 Rudolf Steiner gave a few lectures concerning our relationship to those who have died.
May 12, Berlin-
>> after death the soul gradually changes into a being involved and active here on the physical plane. Once we are conscious of this, we feel the presence of such beings as guardian spirits supporting us in the tasks we have to do here in connection with the spiritual world. Then we can set about our tasks knowing that there is a being in the spiritual world who protects our work.
Now you can see the concrete insight that should permeate our life in regard to the spiritual world. We gradually come to know that the dead do not really die, but merely move to another place. They still participate in what we do. This insight will be more than a vague feeling for us; we will gradually point to the areas where they are active. We will learn to feel them with us when we need forces we cannot find on the physical plane, when we need support from higher regions. For the souls who have passed through death possess forces different from those on the physical plane, because they take the material for their development at that stage from another world. <<
>>We need to understand that all so-called perception of the spiritual world is quite different from that on the physical plane. As we grow into the realm of the spirit and approach it, we have the impression that we are perceived. Here on earth we are, in a certain sense, the highest physical beings. A stone, a plant, or an animal might say they are perceived by human beings. And in terms of our physical body, we can say we are perceived by beings of our own kind. We are also perceived from the moment we grow into the spiritual world. The spiritual beings look down at us, and in a certain sense we become objects to them it is indeed the first sign of having entered the spiritual world when we are perceived.<<
May 5, Basel
>>For some time after death, the dead derive their nourishment from the ideas and the unconscious emotions that we here on earth take into sleep with us. Those who have died perceive a tremendous difference between people who in their waking life are filled only with materialistic feelings and ideas and also take them into sleep, and others who are wholly filled with spiritual ideas while awake and who continue to be filled with them in sleep. The two types of people are as different in their effect on the dead as a barren region where no food can grow, where people would starve, and a fruitful area that offers nourishment in abundance. For many years after death, the dead draw vitality from the souls sleeping here on earth filled with spiritual content, a vitality that is similar, only transposed into the spiritual realm, to what we draw in our physical life from the beings of the kingdoms of nature below us. We literally turn ourselves into fruitful pastures for the dead when we fill ourselves with the ideas of spiritual science. And we turn ourselves into barren grounds and starve the dead if we take only materialistic ideas and attitudes into sleep.<<
>>Let us think about the nature of our relationship to the dead we were connected with in life, whom we can clearly visualize, and of whom we often think. What is our relationship to those who have died, apart from offering the spiritual nourishment by taking spiritual thoughts into sleep? What is our relationship with the dead in waking life?
If the dead draw nourishment from the content of our souls in sleep, then every thought that enters the spiritual world and is concerned with it and its beings can be perceived by the dead. On the other hand, if we do not cultivate such thoughts, the dead are deprived of them. Ideas related only to the material world, to things in nature, live in our souls in such a way that the dead cannot perceive them. These ideas, however scholarly or wise, are meaningless for the dead. As soon as we have thoughts about the spiritual world, not only the living but also the dead have immediate access to them. That is why we have often recommended that our friends read silently to an individual with whom they were closely connected and who has passed on into the spiritual world. One forms an image of the person and then, while thinking about him or her, one reads on a subject related to the spiritual world. The dead can then participate in the process, which is important. Although the dead are in the world we know through spiritual science, thoughts about the spiritual world must be produced on earth. The dead must perceive more than the spiritual world around them; they need the thoughts of those who live on earth, thoughts that for them are like perceptions.
The most important and the most beautiful thing we can give the dead is to read to them in the way I have just described. We can give something to the dead by reading on a spiritual subject. And if you doubt that this is useful, since the deceased is in the spiritual world anyway, just think that we can be surrounded by things and beings in the physical world, yet may not understand them. The understanding has to be acquired. Thus, although the deceased is in the spiritual world, thoughts from the earth have to flow to him. Illuminating thoughts must flow up to those regions where the dead dwell, just as rain streams down from the clouds as a blessing to the physical world.
All these examples show that it is infinitely important even for the physical world to experience the spiritual world in thought. Obviously, we cannot wait until after death for knowledge about the spiritual world. In truth, a thorough study of the spiritual world shows us that we are not on the earth for nothing; we are here to learn something that can only be learned on earth --- a possession of such value that the living can give it even to the dead.<<
May 25, Paris
>>We develop the right feelings toward the dead if we become aware that their spiritual gaze --- if I may use that expression --- and their powers focus on us; they look at us, act in us, and add to our strength.
To experience such a spiritual fact in the right way, we need to develop a very specific type of selflessness and a capacity for love. That is why I stressed that one could love that person objectively, as it were, because of her qualities; one had to love her because she was as she was. A subjective love, a love arising out of personal needs, can easily be egotistical and can potentially keep us from finding the right relationship to such a dead individual.<<
May 26, Paris
>>The intelligent ideas the dead individual wants to produce emerge in the human being on earth. The deceased possess feeling and willing, just as on earth, as well as other soul capacities not developed on earth. Therefore, the dead have the desire to connect their thinking and feeling to human thoughts. That is why they unite with the person on earth. As the thinking, feeling, and willing of the dead penetrate the living person, ideas are stimulated. Thus, the dead can experience these ideas, something they could not do on their own. That is why they communicate with human beings on earth.<<
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- In a lecture on December 19, 1912:
>>An individual among the dead cannot, in spiritual existence, work upon the other dead in such a way as to change their life. But it is possible for a man still living on the Earth to have an effect upon one who has passed through death.
How can we be of help to one of the dead? We must be united with him by a spiritual bond. We can help, for example, by quietly reading to him; uniting ourselves with him inwardly and lovingly, we can take him with us through a sequence of thoughts, we can send ideas and imaginations up to him in the higher worlds. Such services of friendship are always helpful. Reading in this way is of benefit, although in earthly life the man may have been too indifferent, too easy-going; we can lighten his sufferings even when there was no evidence in his life that he longed for these things. Much blessing is often sent from the physical plane into the spiritual worlds, in spite of the great gulf which separates the life between birth and death from the life between death and a new birth. Many living people will feel that they are intimately connected with the dead; they will also be conscious that they help the dead. The first souls with whom we come into contact after death are those with whom we had already formed close ties on the Earth, not those who were unknown to us on Earth. A direct continuation of the earthly life takes place after death. The soul is inside whatever it perceives, fills it through and through.<<
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