On the Connection of the Living and the Dead
9 November 1916, Berne
It is one of the aims of our spiritual-scientific endeavour to form concrete ideas of how we, as human beings upon earth, live with the spiritual worlds, even as we are connected through the physical body — its experiences and perceptions — with the physical world.
At the present stage of our studies we may well take our start from what is already known to us — what has already come before our souls during these years. Here, for instance, is the world of our sense-perceptions, the world to which we direct our will-impulses for which the physical body mediates — that is to say, our actions. Immediately behind it, as you know, there is the elemental world. That is the next world behind this one. It is not a question of the name; we might have named it differently. To gain clear and living ideas of these super-sensible worlds we must at least enter into some of their peculiarities. We must try to recognize what they are for us as human beings. For in truth our whole life between birth and death — and also our subsequent life which takes its course between death and a new birth — depends on our co-existence with the various worlds that are spread out around us. We call the ‘elemental world’ that world which can only be perceived by what we know as ‘imaginations.’ Hence we may also call it the ‘imaginative world.’ In ordinary human life, under ordinary conditions, man cannot lift into consciousness his imaginative perceptions — his perceptions of the elemental world. Not that the imaginations are not there, or that in any given moment of our sleeping or waking life we are not in relation to the elemental world, receiving imaginations from it. On the contrary, imaginations are perpetually ebbing and flowing in us. Though we are unaware of it, we constantly receive impressions from the elemental world. Just as when we open our eyes or lend our ears to the outer world we have sensations of colour and light, perceptions of sound, so do we receive continual impressions from the elemental world, giving rise to imaginations — in this case, in our etheric body. Imaginations differ from ordinary thought in this respect. In ordinary, every-day human thoughts, only the head is concerned as an instrument of conscious assimilation and experience. In our imaginations, on the other hand, we partake with almost the whole of our organism — albeit, it is our etheric organism. In our etheric organism they are constantly taking place — we may refer to them as unconscious imaginations, since it is only for an occultly trained cognition that they rise into consciousness. Moreover, though they do not enter our consciousness directly in every-day life, they are by no means without significance for us. No, for our life as a whole they are far more important than our sense-perceptions, for we are united far more intensely and intimately with our imaginations than with our sense-perceptions.
From the mineral kingdom, as physical human beings, we receive few imaginations. We receive more through all that we develop by living with the plant-world and with the animal. But the greater part, by far, of what lives as imaginations in our etheric body is due to our relations to our fellow human beings, and all that these relations entail for our life as a whole. In fact, our whole relation to our fellow human beings — our whole attitude towards them — is fundamentally based on imaginations. Imaginations always result from the way we meet another human being, and though, as I said, to ordinary consciousness they do not appear as imaginations, nevertheless they make themselves felt in the sympathies and antipathies which play such an overwhelming part in our life. To a greater or lesser degree, we develop sympathies and antipathies with all that approaches us as human beings in this world. We have our vague undefined feelings, slight inclinations or disinclinations. Sometimes our sympathies grow into friendship and love — love which can be so enhanced that we think we can no longer live without this or that human being. All this is due to the imaginations which are perpetually called forth, in our etheric body, by our life with our fellow human beings. In fact we always carry with us in life something that cannot quite be called memory — for it is far more real than memory. We bear within us — shall we say — these enhanced memories or imaginations which we have received from all the impressions of the human beings with who we have ever been, and which we go on receiving all the time. We bear them within us, and they constitute a goodly portion of what we call our inner life. I mean not the inner life that lives in clear, well-defined memories, but that inner life which makes itself felt in our prevailing mood and feeling and outlook — our outlook on the world itself, or on our own life in the world. We would go past the world around us coldly and we would live with our contemporary world indifferently if we did not unfold this imaginative life by living together with other beings — and notably with other human beings.
It is, as we might say, our soul's interest in the surrounding world which makes itself felt in this way. It belongs especially to the elemental world, and notably to our own etheric body. It is, above all, inherent in the forces of our etheric body, and it makes itself felt in this way. Sometimes we feel ourselves immediately ‘caught’ and interested. Such interest as is often woven from the very first moment between one human being and another is due to definite relationships which arise between the one — the one etheric human being — and the other, bringing about the play of imaginations hither and thither. We live with these imaginations and with our resulting sympathies, of whose effect and intensity we are often largely unaware, or aware only in the vaguest way. Indeed, when our everyday life is not wide-awake but runs along more or less obtusely, we often fail to observe them at all.
We belong with all this to the elemental world, for it is out of the elemental world that we have our own etheric body. Our etheric body is our instrument of communication with the elemental world. With it, however, we do not only spin out relationships to those other etheric bodies which belong to physical beings. We are also related with our etheric body to spiritual beings of an elemental character. The ‘beings of an elemental character’ are precisely those who are able to call forth in us imaginations — conscious or unconscious. We are perpetually related to a multitude of elemental beings. It is in this that one human being differs from another. They have their several relationships — one person to a given set of elemental beings, another to another set of elemental beings. Moreover, the relations of the one human being to certain elemental beings may sometimes coincide with the relations of the other to the same beings. One thing, however, must be observed in this connection. While we are always, in a manner of speaking, akin to a large number of elemental beings, we have relations of special intensity to one elemental being, who is in essence the counterpart of our own etheric body. Our own etheric body is intimately related to one particular etheric being. Just as our etheric body — what we call our etheric body from birth until death — develops its own relations to the physical world inasmuch as it is inserted in a physical body, so does this etheric entity, which is as it were the counterpart or counter-pole of our own etheric body, enable us to have relations to the whole of the elemental world — the whole of the surrounding, cosmic-elemental world.
We gaze upon an elemental world to which we ourselves belong by virtue of our etheric body, and with which we stand in manifold relations — specific relationships to such and such elemental beings. In the elemental world we make acquaintance with beings who are truly no less real than human beings or animals in the physical — beings, however, who never come to incarnation, but only to ‘etherization,’ so to speak, for their densest corporeality is ethereal. Just as we go about among physical people in this world, so do we constantly go about among such elemental beings, while other elemental beings — more remote from ourselves — are related in their turn to other people. A certain number, however, are more nearly related to ourselves, and one among them — related to us most nearly of all — acts as our organ of communication with the entire cosmic-elemental world. Now in the time immediately following our passage through the Gate of Death, when for a few days we still bear our etheric body with us, we ourselves become precisely such a being as these elemental beings are. In a manner of speaking, we ourselves become an elemental being. We have often described this process of the passage through the Gate of Death, but the more exactly we study it, the clearer the imaginations it provides. For the impressions we receive immediately after the passage of a human being through the Gate of Death always consist in imaginations — make themselves felt as imaginations.
Observing the process more exactly, we find that there is a certain mutual interplay, immediately after death, between our own etheric body and its etheric counterpart. The fact that our etheric body is taken from us a few days after death is mainly due to its being attracted — drawn in, as it were — by this etheric counterpart. Henceforth it becomes one with the etheric counterpart. A few days after death we do in fact lay aside our etheric body, we hand it over, so to speak; but it is to our own etheric counterpart that we hand it over. Our etheric body is taken from us by our own cosmic prototype or image and, as a result, special relations now emerge between what is thus taken from us and the other elemental beings with whom we have been related in any way during our life. We might describe it thus: a kind of mutual relation now arises between what our own etheric body has become — united as it now is with its counterpart or counter-image — and the other elemental beings who accompanied us from birth till death. It might be compared to the relation of a sun to its associated planetary system. Our etheric body with its cosmic counterpart is like a kind of sun, surrounded — as a kind of planetary system — by the other elemental beings. This mutual interplay gives rise to the forces which instill into the elemental world — in the right manner and in slow evolution — what our etheric body is able to take into that world. That which we commonly refer to in abstract terms — ‘the dissolution of the etheric body’ — is essentially a play of forces, engendered by this sun-planetary system which we have left behind. Gradually, what we acquired and assimilated to our etheric body in the course of life becomes a part of the spiritual world. It weaves itself into the forces of the spiritual world. We must be very clear on this. Every thought, every idea, every feeling we develop — however hidden it remains — is of significance for the spiritual world. For when the coherence is broken by our passage through the Gate of Death, all our thoughts and feelings pass with our etheric body into the spiritual world and become part and parcel of it. We do not live for nothing. Even as we receive them into the thoughts we make our own, into the feelings we experience, so are the fruits of our life embodied in the cosmos. This is a truth we must receive into our whole mood and outlook; otherwise we do not rightly conduct ourselves in the spiritual-scientific movement. You are not a spiritual scientist merely by knowing about certain things. You are so only if you feel yourself, by virtue of this knowledge, within the spiritual world; if you know yourself quite definitely as a member in the spiritual world. Then you will say to yourself: the thought you are now harbouring is of significance for the entire universe, for at your death it will be handed over to the universe in such or such a form.
Now after a human being's death we may have to do, in one form or another, with what is thus handed over to the universe. Many of the ways in which the dead are present to those whom they have left behind are due to the fact that the etheric human being — which has, of course, been laid aside by the real individuality — sends back his imaginations to the living. And if the living person is sensitive enough, or if he is in some abnormal state or has normally prepared himself by proper spiritual training, the influences of what is thus given over to the spiritual world by the dead — the influences, that is to say, of imaginative natures — can emerge in him in a conscious form.
But there still remains a connection after death between the true human individuality and this etheric entity which has separated from him. There is a mutual interplay between them. We can observe it most clearly when by spiritual training we come into actual intercourse with this or that dead individual. A certain kind of intercourse can then take place, as follows: to begin with, the dead human being conveys to his etheric body what he himself wishes to transmit to us who are still in the physical world. For only by his transmitting it to his etheric body — as it were, making inscriptions in his etheric body — only by this means can we, who are here in the physical, have perceptions of the dead in terms of what we call ‘imaginations.’ The moment we have imaginations of him, the etheric body of the dead — if you will pardon my use of the trivial and all too realistic term — is acting as a ‘switch’ or ‘commutator.’ Do not imagine that our relations to the dead need be any the less deeply felt because such an instrument is needed. A person who meets us in the outer world also conveys his form to us by the picture which he calls forth in us through our own eyes. So it is with this transmission through the etheric body. We perceive what the dead wishes to convey to us by ‘getting’ it, so to speak, via his etheric body. This body is outside him, but he is so intimately related to it that he can inscribe in it what lives within himself, and thus enable us to read it in imaginations. There is, however, this condition. If a person who is spiritually trained wishes to come into connection with a dead human being through the etheric body in this way, he must have entered into some relation to the dead — either in his last life between birth and death, or out of former incarnations. Moreover, these relationships must have affected his soul — the soul of the one who is still living here — deeply enough for the imaginations to make an impression on him. For this can only be if in his heart and mind he had a definite and living interest in the dead person. Interests of heart and feeling must always be the mediator between the living and the dead, if any intercourse at all is to take place — conscious or unconscious. (Of the latter we shall speak presently.) Some interest of heart and feeling must be there, so that we really carry something of the dead within us. In a certain respect at any rate the dead person must have constituted a portion of our own soul's experience. Only one who is spiritually trained can make himself a certain substitute. For instance — (it may seem external at first sight, but spiritual training turns it into something far more inward) — one can give oneself up to the impression of the handwriting, or of something else in which the individuality of the dead is living. However, one can only do so if one has acquired a certain practice in making contact with an individuality through the fact that he lives in the writing. Or again, one may establish this possibility by entering with sympathy into the feelings of the physical survivors, partaking in their grief and in all the emotional interest they have in the dead person. By entering with sympathy into these real and living feelings, which flow from the dead into the dear ones whom he has left on Earth — or which remain in their inner life — a person of spiritual training can prepare his soul to read in the aforesaid imaginations.
But we must also realize the following. Though to perceive the imaginations which play over from the etheric body depends on spiritual training or other special conditions, yet at the same time what passes unperceived by people is there none the less. And we may truly say, those who are living in the physical world are not only woven around by the elemental forces, as imaginations, which proceed from other human beings living with them in the physical body. Whether we know it or not, our etheric body is constantly played-through by all the imaginations which we absorb from those who stood in any kind of relation to us and who passed before us through the Gate of Death. As in our physical life, in the physical body, we are related to the air around us, so are we related to the whole of the elemental world — including all that is there of the dead.
We shall never learn to know our human life unless we gain knowledge of these relationships, albeit they are so intimate and fine that they remain unnoticed by most people. After all, who can deny that we do not always remain the same between birth and death. Let us look back upon our lives. However consistent we may think the course of life has been, we will soon notice that we have often gone hither and thither in life, or that this or that has occurred. Even if this does not immediately change the direction of our lives, which it can of course do, it nonetheless has the effect of enriching our lives in one way or another — in a happy direction or in a painful one. It brings us into different conditions — just as when you go into another district your general feeling of health may be changed by the different composition of the air.
These moods of soul, into which we enter in our life's course, are due to the influences of the elemental world, and in no small measure to the influences that come from the dead who were formerly related to us. Many a human being in earthly life meets with a friend or with some person with whom he becomes connected in one way or another — to whom, perhaps, he finds himself obliged to do this or that by way of kindness or of criticism or rebuke. The fact that they were brought together required the influence of certain forces. He who recognizes the occult connections in the world knows that when two human beings are brought together to this end or that, sometimes one and sometimes several of those who have gone before them through the Gate of Death are instrumental. Our life does not become any the less free thereby. We do not lose our freedom because we starve if we do not eat. No one who is not deliberately foolish will say: how can a person be free, seeing that he is obliged to eat? It would be just as invalid to say that we become unfree because our soul constantly receives influences from the elemental world as here described. Indeed, just as we are connected with warmth and cold, with all the things that become our food and with the air around us, so are we connected with that which comes to us from those who have died before us. We are equally connected with the rest of the elemental world, but above all with that which comes to us from them, and we can truly say: man's working for his fellow human beings does not cease with his passage through the Gate of Death. Through his etheric body, with which he himself remains connected, he sends his imaginations into those with whom he was connected in his life. Indeed, the world to which we are here referring is far more real than that we commonly call real — even if, in our every-day life, for very good reasons, it remains unperceived. So much, for today, about the elemental world.
A further realm which is ever present in our environment, and to which we ourselves belong no less than to the elemental world, is the soul world — for so we may call it. (It is not the name that matters.) With the elemental world we are always connected in our waking life, and in sleep, too, indirectly, when with our ego and astral body we are outside the physical and the etheric; when our body that lies there in the bed, and our etheric body, are still connected with the elemental world. But with the higher world to which I now refer, we are connected most directly — only that this too cannot rise into our consciousness in ordinary life. We are connected with it in sleep when we have our astral body freely around us, and also in waking life — albeit then the connection, mediated as it is by forces which the physical body has drawn into itself, is no longer so direct.
Now in this world-of-soul (let us call it the soul world for the present; medieval philosophers referred to it as the heavenly world or the celestial) in this world, once more, we find beings who are just as real as we are during our life between birth and death, nay, more so. They are, however, beings who do not need to come to embodiment in a physical, or even in an etheric, body. They live — as in their lowest corporeality — in that which we are wont to call the astral body. Constantly, during our life and after our death, we are connected intimately with a large number of these purely astral beings. Here, too, human beings differ from one another inasmuch as they are related to different astral beings — albeit, here again, two people may have their relationships to one or more astral beings in common, while at the same time each of them has his several relations to other astral beings.
It is to this world, in which these astral beings are, that we ourselves belong from the time when, after passing through the Gate of Death, we have laid aside our etheric body. We with our own individuality are then among the beings of the soul world. We are such beings at that time, and beings of the soul world are our immediate environment. True, we are also related to the content of the elemental world, inasmuch as we can kindle in it that which calls forth imaginations as aforesaid. We have, however, the elemental world in a certain sense outside us — or, as one might also say, beneath us. It is a portion of which we rather make use for purposes of communication with the remainder of the world, while we ourselves belong directly to what I have now called the world-of-soul. It is with the beings of the soul world that we have our intercourse, including other human beings who have also passed through the Gate of Death and, after a few days, laid aside their etheric bodies.
Now just as we constantly get influences from the elemental world, although we do not notice it, so too we constantly receive influences — straight into our astral body — out of this world-of-soul which I am now describing. It is only the immediate, straightforward influences which we thus receive that can appear as inspirations. (Of the indirect influences via the etheric body we have already spoken.) You will understand the character of such an influence from the soul world if I describe once more in a few words how it appears to one who is spiritually trained — one who is able to receive conscious inspirations out of the spiritual world. It appears to him as follows. He can only bring these inspirations to his consciousness if he is able, so to speak, to take into himself some portion of the being who wants to inspire him — some portion of the qualities, of the inherent tendency in life, of such a being.
One who is spiritually trained to develop conscious relations with a dead person, not only via the etheric body but in this direct way through inspiration, must bear in his soul even more than mere interest or sympathy is able to call forth. For a short while, at least, he must be so able to transform himself as to receive into his own being something of the habits, the character, the very human nature of the one with whom he wishes to communicate. He must be able to enter into him till he can truly say to himself, ‘I am taking on his habits to such an extent that I could do what he could, and in his way; that I could feel as he could, and will as he could, also.’ It is the ‘could’ that matters — the possibility. We must, therefore, be able to live together with the dead even more intimately. For a person of spiritual training there are many ways of coming thus near to the dead, provided the dead person himself allows it. We should, however, realize that the beings who belong to what we are now calling the world-of-soul are quite differently related to the world than we are in our physical body. Hence there are certain conditions, quite definite conditions, of intercourse with such beings — and, among others, with the dead, so long as they are living still as astral beings in their astral bodies. We may draw attention especially to certain points.
You see, all that we develop for our life in the physical body — our many and varied relationships to other people (I mean precisely those relationships which arise through earthly life) — all this acquires quite another kind of interest for the dead. Here on the earth we develop sympathies and antipathies. Let us be fully clear on this. Such sympathies and antipathies as we develop while we are living in the physical body are subject to the influences of this our present form of life, which we owe to the physical body and to its conditions. They are subject to the influences of our own vanity and of our egoism. Let us not fail to realize how many relationships we develop to this or that human being as a result of vanity or egoism — or other things that depend on our physical and earthly life in this world. We love other people or we hate them. Verily, as a rule, we take little notice of the true grounds of our loving and our hating — our sympathies and antipathies. Nay, often enough we flee from taking conscious notice of our sympathies and antipathies, for the simple reason that, if we did so, highly unpleasant truths would as a rule emerge. If, for instance, we followed up the real facts which find expression in our not loving this or that human being, we should often have to ascribe to ourselves so much of prejudice or vanity or other qualities that we are afraid to do so. Therefore we do not bring to full clarity in consciousness why it is that we hate this person or that. And with love, too, the case is often similar. Interests, sympathies and antipathies evolve in this way, which only have significance for our everyday life. Yet it is out of all this that we act. We arrange our life according to these interests and sympathies and antipathies.
Now it would be quite wrong to imagine that the dead can possibly have the same interest as we earthly people have in all the ephemeral sympathies and antipathies which thus arise under the influence of our physical and earthly life. That would be utterly wrong. Truly, the dead are obliged to look at these things from quite another point of view. Moreover, we may ask ourselves, are we not largely influenced in our estimate of our fellow human beings by these subjective feelings — by all that lies inherent in our subjective interest, our vanity and egoism and the like? Let us not think for a moment that a dead person can have any interest in such relationships between ourselves and other human beings, or in our actions which proceed out of such interests. But we must also not imagine that the dead person does not see what is living in our souls. For it is really living there, and the dead one sees it well enough. He shares in it, too, but he sees something else as well. One who is dead has quite another way of judging people. He sees them quite differently. As to the way in which the dead person sees the human beings who are here on earth, there is one thing of outstanding importance. Let us not imagine that the dead has not a keen and living interest in the world of human beings. He has, indeed, for the world of human beings belongs to the whole cosmos. Our own life belongs to the cosmos. And just as we, even in the physical world, interest ourselves in the subordinate kingdoms, so do the dead interest themselves intensely in the human world, and send their active impulses into the human world. For the dead work through the living into this world. We have only just given an example of the way in which they go on working soon after their passage through the Gate of Death.
But the dead sees one thing above all, and that most clearly. Suppose, for example, that he sees a human being here following impulses of hatred — hating this person or that, and with a merely personal intensity or purpose. This the dead sees. At the same time, however, according to the whole manner of his vision and all that he is then able to know, he will observe quite clearly, in such a case, the part which Ahriman is playing. He sees how Ahriman impels the person to hatred. The dead actually sees Ahriman working upon the human being. On the other hand, if a person on earth is vain, he sees Lucifer working at him. That is the essential point. It is in connection with the world of Ahriman and Lucifer that the dead human being sees the human beings who are here on earth. Consequently, what generally colours our judgement of people is quite eliminated for the dead. We see this or that human being, whom in one sense or another we must condemn. Whatever we find blameworthy in him, we put it down to him. The dead does not put it down directly to the human being. He sees how the person is misled by Lucifer or Ahriman. This brings about a toning-down, so to speak, of the sharply differentiated feelings which in our physical and earthly life we generally have towards this or that human being. To a far greater extent, a kind of universal human love arises in the dead. This does not mean that he cannot criticize — that is to say, cannot rightly see what is evil in evil. He sees it well enough, but he is able to refer it to its origin — to its real inner connections.
What I have here described is not without its results, for it means that an occultly-trained person cannot consciously come near to one who is dead unless he truly frees himself from feelings of personal sympathy or antipathy to individuals. He must not allow himself to be dependent, in his soul, on personal feelings of sympathy or antipathy. You need only imagine it for a moment. Suppose that an occultly-trained, clairvoyant person were about to approach a dead human being — whoever he might be — so that the inspirations which the dead was sending in towards him might find their way into his consciousness. Suppose, moreover, that the one here living were pursuing another human being with a quite special hatred — hatred having its origin only in personal relationships. Then, of a truth, as fire is avoided by our hand, so would the dead avoid such a person who was capable of hatred for personal reasons. He cannot approach him, for hatred works on the dead like fire. To come into conscious relation with the dead we must be able to make ourselves like them — independent, in a sense, of personal sympathies and antipathies.
Hence you will understand what I now have to say. Bear in mind this whole relation of the dead to the living, in so far as it rests on Inspirations. Remember that the inspirations are always there, even if they pass unnoticed. They are perpetually living in the human astral body, so that the human being upon earth has his relations to the dead in this direct way, too. Now, after all that we have said, you will well understand that these relationships depend on our whole mood and spirit here in our life on earth. If our attitude to other people is hostile, if we are without interest or sympathy for our contemporaries above all, if we have not an unprejudiced interest in our fellow human beings — then are the dead unable to approach us in the way they long to do. They cannot properly transplant themselves into our souls, or, if they must do so, in one way or another it is made difficult for them and they can only do it with great suffering and pain. All in all, the living-together of the dead with the living is complicated.
Thus man goes on working beyond the time when he passes through the Gate of Death, even directly, inasmuch as after death he inspires those who are living on the physical plane. And this is absolutely true. Notably as to their inner habits and qualities — the way they think and feel and develop inclinations — those who are living at any given time on earth are largely dependent on those who died and passed from the earth before them, who were related to them during their life, or to whom they themselves established a relation even after death — which may sometimes happen, though it is not so easy.
A certain portion of the world-ordering and of the whole progress of mankind is altogether dependent on this working of the dead into the life of earthly human beings, inspiring them. Nay, more, in their instinctive life people are not without an inkling that it is so and that it must be so. We can observe it if we consider ways of life, formerly very wide-spread, which are now dying out because humanity in the course of evolution goes ever onward to new forms of life. In bygone times when, generally speaking, they divined far more of the reality of spiritual worlds, people were more deeply aware of what is necessary for life as a whole. They knew that the living need the dead — need to receive into their habits and customs the impulses from the dead. What, then, did they do? You need only think of former times, when in wide circles it was customary for a father to take care that his son should inherit and carry on his business, so that the son went on working on the same lines. Then when the father was long dead, inasmuch as the son remained in the same channels of life, a bond of communication was created through the physical world itself. The son's activity and life-work being akin to his father's, the father was able to work on in him. Many things in life were based on this principle. And if whole classes of society attached great value to the inheritance of this or that property within the class or within its several families, it was due to their divining this necessity. Into the life-habits of those who live later, the life-habits of those who lived earlier must enter, but only when these life-habits are so far ripened that they come from them after they have passed through the Gate of Death — for it is only then that they become mature.
These things are ceasing, as you know — for such is the progress of the human race. We can already see a time approaching when these inheritances, these conservative conditions, will no longer play a part. The physical bonds will no longer be there in the same way. But all the more, to compensate for this, people must receive such detailed spiritual-scientific knowledge as will lift the whole matter into their consciousness. For then they will be able consciously to connect their life with the life-habits of former times — with which we have to reckon in order that life may go forward with continuity. Since the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean period we are living in a transition time. During this time a more or less chaotic state has intervened. But the conditions will arise again when in a far more conscious way — by recognition of the spiritual-scientific truths — people will connect their life and work with that which has gone before them. Unconsciously, merely instinctively, they used to do so — of that there can be no doubt. But even that which is still instinctive to this day must be transmuted into consciousness. Instinctively, for instance, people still teach in this way — only we do not observe it. One who studies history on spiritual lines will soon observe it, if only he pays attention to the facts and not to the dreadful abstractions which prevail nowadays in the so-called humanistic branches of scholarship. If we look at the facts we can well observe it: what is taught in a given epoch bears a certain character only because people attach themselves unconsciously, instinctively, to what the dead are pouring down into the present. If once you learn to study in a real way the educational ideas which are propounded in any given age by the leading spirits in education — I mean not the charlatans but the true educationists — you will soon see how these ideas have their origins in the habitual natures of those who have recently died.
This is a far more intimate living-together; for that which plays into the human being's astral body enters far more into his inner life than that which plays into his etheric body. The communion which the dead themselves, as individualities, can have with people on earth, is far more intimate than that which the etheric bodies have — or, for that matter, any other elemental beings. Hence you will see how the succeeding epoch in the life of humanity is always conditioned by the preceding one. The preceding time always goes on living in the time that follows. For in reality, strange though it may sound, it is only after our death that we become truly ripe to influence other people — I mean to influence them directly, working right into their inner being. To impress our own habits on any man who is ‘of age’ (I mean now, spiritually speaking, not in the legal sense) is the very thing we should not do. Yet it is right and according to the conditions of the progressive evolution of mankind for us to do so after we ourselves have passed through the Gate of Death. Beside all the things that are contained in the progress of karma and in the general laws of incarnation, these things take place. If you ask for the occult reasons why, let us say, the people of this year are doing this or that, then — not for all things but certainly for many — you will find that they are doing it because certain impulses are flowing down to them from those who died twenty or thirty years ago, or even longer. These are the hidden connections — the real concrete connections — between the physical and the spiritual world. It is not only for ourselves that something ripens and matures in what we carry with us through the Gate of Death. It is not only for ourselves, but for the world at large. And it is only from a given moment that it becomes truly ripe to work upon others. Then, however, it does become ever riper and riper.
I beg you here to observe that I am not speaking of externals, but of inner, spiritual workings. A person may remember the habits of his dead father or grandfather and repeat them out of memory on the physical plane. That is not what I mean; that is a different matter. I really mean the inspired influences — imperceptible, therefore, to ordinary consciousness — the influences which make themselves felt in our habits in our most intimate character. Much in our life depends on our finding ourselves obliged, here or there, to free ourselves from the influences — even the well-meant influences — coming to us from the dead. Indeed, we gain much of our inner freedom by having to free ourselves in this way, in one direction or another. Inner conflicts of soul, which a person often does not know, will grow intelligible to him when he views them in this light or that, taking his light from spiritual knowledge of this kind. To use a trite expression, we may say: the past is rumbling on — the souls of the past go rumbling on — in our own inner life.
These things are facts — truths into which we look by spiritual vision. But alas, especially in the life of today, men have a peculiar relation to these truths. It was not always so. Anyone who can study history in a spiritual way will know this. Today people are afraid of these truths — they are afraid of facing them. They have a nameless fear — not indeed conscious, but unconscious. Unconsciously they are afraid of recognizing the mysterious connections between soul and soul, not only in this world, but between here and the other world. It is this unconscious fear which holds back the people in the outer world. This is a part of that which holds them back, instinctively, from spiritual science. They are afraid of knowing the reality. They are all unaware of how they are disturbing — by their unwillingness to know reality — disturbing and confusing the whole course of world-evolution, and with it, needless to say, the life that will have to be lived through between death and a new birth, when these conditions must be seen.
Still more mature — for everything that evolves, becomes ever riper and more mature — still more mature becomes that which lives in us when it no longer has to stop short at Inspiration but can become Intuition (in the true sense in which I used the word in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment. Now Intuition can only be a being that has none other than a Spirit-body (to use this paradoxical expression). To work intuitively upon other beings — and, among others, upon those who are still incarnated here in the physical life — a human being must first have laid aside his astral body; that is to say, he must first belong entirely to the spiritual world. That will be decades after his death, as we know. Then he can also work down on other people through intuition — no longer merely through Inspiration as I described it just now. Not until then does he as ego — now in the spiritual world — work in a purely spiritual way into other egos. Formerly he worked by Inspiration into the astral body — or, via his etheric body, into the etheric body of man. But one who has been dead for decades past can also work directly as an ego — albeit at the same time he can still work through the other vehicles, as described above. It is at this stage that the human individuality grows ripe to enter no longer merely into the habits of people but even into their views and ideas of life. To modern feeling, full of prejudice as it is, this may be an unpleasant truth — very unpleasant, I doubt not. None the less it is true. Our views and ideas, originating as they do in our ego, are under constant influences from those long dead. In our views and conceptions of life, those who are long dead are living. By this very means, the continuity of evolution is preserved — out of the spiritual world. It is a necessity, for otherwise the thread of people's ideas would constantly be broken.
Forgive me if I insert a personal matter at this point. I do so, if I may say so, for thoroughly objective reasons. For such a truth as this can only be made intelligible by concrete examples.
No one ought really to bring forward, as views or ideas, his own personal opinions — however sincerely gained. Therefore, no one who stands with full sincerity on the true ground of occultism — no one who is experienced in the conditions of spiritual science — will impose his own opinions on the world. On the contrary, he will do all he can to avoid imposing his own opinions directly. For the opinions, the outlook he acquires under the influence of his own personal tendency of feeling, should not begin to work until thirty or forty years after his death. Then it will work in this way: it will come into the souls of people along the same paths as the impulses of the Time-Spirits or Archai. Only then has it become so mature that its working is in harmony with the objective course of things. Hence it is necessary for everyone who stands on the true ground of occultism to avoid making personal proselytes — setting out to gain followers for his own personal views. That is the general custom nowadays. No sooner has anyone got an opinion of his own, he cannot hasten enough to make propaganda for it. That is what a real and practising spiritual scientist cannot possibly desire to do. Now I may bring in the personal matter to which I referred just now. It is no chance, but something essential to my life, that I began by writing — communicating to the world — not my own views, but Goethe's world-conception. That was the first thing I wrote. I wrote entirely in the spirit and in the sense of Goethe's world-conception, thus taking my start not from any living person. For even if that living person were oneself, it could not possibly justify one in teaching spiritual science in the comprehensive way I try to do. It was a necessary link in the chain, when I thus placed my work into the objective course of world-evolution. Therefore I did not write my theory of knowledge, but Goethe's — A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception — and in this way I continued.
Thus you will see how the development of man goes on. What he attained on earth ripens not only for the sake of his own life as he advances on the paths of karma. It ripens also for the world. So we continue to work for the world. After a certain time we become ripe to send imaginations; then — after a further time — inspirations into the habits of human beings. And only after a longer time has elapsed do we grow ready and mature enough to send intuitions into the most intimate part of man's life — into the views and conceptions of people.
Let us not imagine that our views and conceptions of life grow out of nothing — or that they arise anew in every age. They grow from the soil in which our own soul is rooted, which soil is in truth identical with the sphere of activity of human beings who died long ago.
By knowledge of such facts, I do believe human life must receive that enrichment which it needs, according to the character and sense of our age and of the immediate future. Many an old custom has grown rotten to the core. The new must be developed, as I have often said; but man cannot enter the new life without those impulses which grow in him through spiritual science. It is the feelings that matter — the feelings towards the world in its entirety, and all the other beings of the world, which we acquire through spiritual science. Our mood of life grows different through spiritual science. The super-sensible, in which we always are, becomes alive for us through spiritual science. We are and always have been living in it; but human beings will be called to know it, more and more consciously, the farther they evolve through the fifth, sixth and seventh post-Atlantean epochs and for the rest of earthly time.
These things I wanted to communicate to you today. They are indeed essential to the enrichment, the quickening of man's whole feeling for the world, and to the deepening of all his life. These things I wanted to kindle in your hearts, now that we have been able to be together once more after a lapse of time. May we be able to be together often again to speak of similar matters, so that our souls may partake in achieving that evolution of mankind which is the aim and endeavour of spiritual science.