Living with the So-Called Dead:
As the days grow short and the nights grow long, I feel drawn to write about the mysteries of death and dying. Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are three autumnal festivals marking the time when the veils between the living and the “so-called dead” grow thin. In these days, we can draw nearer to those who live in other dimensions.
We can offer them our thoughts and our prayers. We can also, most significantly, offer them our eurythmy, for eurythmy is more than a physical practice. Eurythmy is a practice that lives in the light-filled etheric realms. Those who live in these body-free states can perceive the meaning-filled movements of eurythmy, and receive them as nourishment and love.
Rudolf Steiner, through his profound insights into the reality of the spiritual world, has given detailed descriptions of how the earth was not always as dense at is now. In a far distant earth age, when the world was still young, matter was not as hard as it is now. Human beings could clothe themselves in the ethereal “substance” of the air at will, entering in body forms as light as flower petals, and slipping out of them again into pure spirit realms. This ether substance responded to our innocent will and allowed us a dream-like experience of existence on an as-yet unformed earth.
Gradually, and in exact symmetry with our desire to experience the world we lived in with awakened senses, the earth began to harden. This hardened matter was no longer malleable and responsive to spirit-will, and the process of incarnation was no longer so easy. Human beings needed more strength and focus to be able to clothe themselves in bodies of flesh and bones instead of flower forms.
In those distant ages, the condition of being in a body was more akin to “death” than the “living” state of being in a body-free state.
Yet as time progressed, our experiences in the world of the senses, the hardened, tangible world, became so powerful that memories of our divine home faded. Now when we are embodied, we all too easily turn our backs on the spirit world.
What then happens when we step out of our bodies, to sleep at night, or to die at the end of our decades? Are our minds too intoxicated with sense impressions for us to be able to find our bearings? At the time of death will we be so lost in a realm of seeming darkness that we are unable to perceive the subtle realms in which we live?
It is a powerful experience for both the living and the so-called dead to realize that we are all part of one great family of humanity. Those who pass on into the spiritual world have not ceased to exist: they merely live in another state of mind.
If they have not cultivated spiritual questions on earth, the so-called dead may feel an unspeakable pain of emptiness, darkness and loneliness, for they may not be able to perceive the world they live in. And here Rudolf Steiner has given a great gift of hope to humanity. He described how we who still live on the earth can do a great service to friends, family and even unknown persons who have passed by not forgetting them. We can send prayers and memories to them, reminding them that they still are held in our hearts. We can read sacred texts to them, every day or once a week, lighting a candle and sitting with them in our hearts for an hour, inviting them to be with us in spiritual contemplation. We may do eurythmy for them, or make music for them. They may not be able to perceive angels around them, but they can find their way to friends who have understood them as they walked on earth.
Whatever dimension we live in, the lives of those who live on earth and those who have died continue to be entwined. As those who have died continue their journey through the planetary spheres and constellations, all the way to the midnight hour and back again to a next embodiment on earth, we remain one family of humanity.
Create an All Souls’ Festivals in your community
In our present time, we can celebrate a three-day festival known as All-Hallow’s Tide from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2. These three days are a time set aside to remember the friends, family, martyrs and saints who have died and live in another consciousness. Each year, many communities connected with Anthroposophical studies host a very special evening on All Souls’ Day to commemorate this festival. In our community, people come together between 7:00 and 7:30 pm, enter in silence, light a candle in memory of one or more friends, and place it at the front of the room, and take a seat. At 7:30 the doors are locked, to preserve the silence in the room. In the next hour, artists will play or sing music, recite poems or do eurythmy. This art and these thoughts are intended to be given as spiritual food to those who have died. This intensely beautiful and peaceful experience brings nourishment to whole communities.