The world of the deceased

From Anthroposophy

After a human being dies and throws off the physical and etheric bodies, the soul of the deceased person goes through an experience of first ascending in the astral world and the spiritual world, followed by a descent again from the spiritual to the astral world and into incarnation in the physical world. This is a very individual pathway.

However incarnate living human beings on Earth are also constituted (see Man's bodily principles) with not just physical and etheric bodies but also an astral body and human 'I', and thus also reach into and live in the astral world and spirit world.

Hence souls on Earth, and deceased souls, are linked and intertwined, in a continuous exchange and influencing eachother. Today our waking consciousness is not able to be aware of this, and it appears as two separated worlds, which they are really not.


  • the dead come to the souls they know (and were connected with during incarnate life) during their sleep for nourishment, in the form of spiritual (and non-mundane materialistic) thoughts (1913-10-10-GA140)
  • the dead live in (1917-11-29-GA182)
    • feeling and willing, and through this impact of social history
    • in the group souls of the animal kingdom
  • between death & rebirth souls are bouncing against a ceiling of plant & animal kingdoms if no spiritual concepts/thoughts in life on Earth


Lecture coverage and references


quote A

Another thing which will appeal even more strongly with respect to the intercourse between the living and the dead is that the dead in a sense also require nourishment, though, of course, not the same nourishment as do human beings on the earth, but spiritual psychic nourishment.

Just as we on earth must have our harvest-fields in which the fruits ripen upon which we support our physical life (I may use the comparison, for it corresponds to the facts), so too must the dead have their harvest-fields, from which they can reap the fruits they need in the time between death and a new birth. When clairvoyant vision follows the dead, it can see that the sleeping human souls are the harvest-fields of the dead. It is, indeed, not only surprising, but really extremely upsetting to a man who for the first time is able to see into the spiritual world, to perceive how the human souls living in the intervening period between death and a new birth hurry to the sleeping souls, seeking for the thoughts and ideas to be found in them. From these they obtain the food supply which they require.

When we go to sleep at night the thoughts and ideas which have passed through our minds in our waking hours come to life — they become living beings, so to speak. Then the souls of the dead draw near and take part in these ideas, and in so doing they feel themselves nourished. Oh! it is an extremely affecting experience when we turn our clairvoyant vision to the dead who nightly visit their sleeping friends. (This applies particularly to blood-relations.) They wish to bathe in and, as it were, nourish themselves on the thoughts and ideas that the living took with them into their sleep, but fail to find anything nourishing. For there is a very great difference between one idea and another as regards our sleeping state.

If we are busy all day long with the materialistic ideas of life, giving our minds only to what goes on in the physical world and to what can be done there, and do not give a single thought to the spiritual worlds before going to sleep — indeed, in some respects just the opposite — we can offer no nourishment for the dead.

I know some parts of Europe where the young people are so educated that they go to sleep after having tried to drink as much beer as they can hold! That means that the thoughts and ideas which they carry over cannot live in the spiritual world, and when the dead approach them they find a barren field; this is just as hard for them as when our own crops fail and famine ensues. Particularly in our present time great famines can be observed in the spiritual worlds, for materialistic feelings are very prevalent now, and there are a great number of persons who consider it childish to think about the spiritual world. They thus withhold from those souls who ought to obtain nourishment from them after death their necessary soul-food.

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In order that this fact may be rightly understood it is necessary to mention that after our death we can feed on the thoughts and ideas of those souls with whom we were in some way connected in our lifetime. We cannot draw nourishment from those with whom we had no connection.

If we propagate spiritual science today, so that we may once again have living spiritual content in our souls, then, my dear friends, we are not only working for the living that they may have satisfaction, but we try to fill our hearts and souls with thoughts about the spiritual world, knowing that the dead who were related to us on earth must be nourished by them. We feel today that we are not only working for the so-called living, but that by spreading spiritual science we are also serving the spiritual world.

When we are addressing the living, talking to them about what this daily life should be, then, by reason of the satisfaction which these souls experience, we are creating ideas for their night-life which can be fruitful nourishment for those whose karma has led them to die before ourselves.

That is why the need is felt, not only of making anthroposophy known by the ordinary outer methods, but there is also an inner longing to cultivate it in groups, for it is of great importance that persons who study anthroposophy should associate together.

As I have already said, the dead can only draw nourishment from those with whom they were connected in life, and they try to bring souls together so as to make the harvest-fields for the dead ever more extensive. Many a man who can find no harvest-fields after death because his whole family are materialists, can find some in the souls of the anthroposophists with whom he has associated. That is a deeper reason why we should work together and are anxious that any member who dies should, before his death, become acquainted with persons, anthroposophists, who while still on earth occupy themselves with spiritual things, for he can afterwards draw nourishment from them when they are asleep.



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