Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, October 31 – November 2, are Holy Days devoted to the dead. This time of the Inner Year we seek to understand and evolve our relationship with the dead. How do we show devotion to those who have crossed the threshold of death?
My cousin died of leukemia when I was five. I only heard about his death. I did not go to his funeral. Not even his sister was allowed to go to his funeral. We were “protected” from the death process by our parents. Death and grief were not appropriate or not seen as significant for young children.
Someone I knew shared a bedroom with her beloved grandmother and found her dead one night. She, too, was not allowed to attend the funeral. She never felt like she had said goodbye to her beloved granny.
Why did our parents want to keep us from death? Children, who are filled with life and love, have such a natural, fearless connection with the dead. Often children tenderly remain in active contact with the soul of the dead. Do you have a childhood experience with a dead soul?
Around 9, I learned about the festivals of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. At the same time, I first saw a dead body in an open casket.
I found these feast days, and the dead body, fascinating but not meaningful. I didn’t know how to make meaning of death and no one in my life seemed to have any ideas that spoke to my young heart. Was death an end or a beginning? Was death really a time when we faced judgment? I rarely thought about dead souls. Heaven was filled with angels, not the souls of the dead.
Fast forward fifty years. Every, well almost every, night before falling asleep, I engage with the dead. I relate to them with a reverent and open heart. I call out their names to let them know I remain connected to their being.
I don’t mean I remain connected to the memory of their earthly existence. Even though they have physically disappeared, I still sense the ongoing reality of their spirit. I am aware that they live on beyond the threshold of death and that I need only reach out with the force of my unselfish heart to touch them.
With the festivals celebrating the dead falling almost six weeks after the Fall Equinox, does the growing darkness in our earthly world give us a clearer vision of the other world and all its inhabitants?
If we did not have electricity, we would be dependent on the soft glow of candlelight after nightfall. The flickering shadows at the edge of the light might give us a sense that the dead were living nearby. But the harshness of mechanical light does not create the mood of the threshold and leads us to feel only the physical is real.
During these festival days of the dead, do your best to resist the soul-killing energy of the mechanical and technical world. Find your way to the life of spiritual perception and sensitivity. Most of all keep your thoughts pulsing with newness. Spiritual beings, including “dead” souls, connect to living thoughts. They cannot experience mechanistic thoughts, thoughts that lack our own spiritual creativity.
If you have wondered how to stay connected to your loved ones after death (beyond dwelling on your memories) reach out in three simple ways.
- Call out their names.
- Read aloud a passage from a sacred text. Read with your heart, not just your head.
- Speak a prayer or a verse aloud. Speak with your heart in your voice.
As you call out their names, feel their presence. This feeling of presence is the bridge of connection between the earthly here and and the heavenly there.
As you read aloud from a sacred text, feel the spiritual nourishment. Sacred texts feed both the living and the dead. You share a meaningful spiritual meal with your loved ones.
As you pray, feel the music of the heavens living in your heart. The resonating tones and meanings of love, harmonize the relationship between you and all the dead.
You can make this a daily, weekly or monthly practice. You can even invite your friends and family to join you in a monthly gathering of the living and the dead.
As I wrote earlier, I call out the names of the dead nightly. I know in my sleep, my soul and spirit are freed from the limitations of space and time. Calling out the names of the dead before I fall asleep, is a way of saying “Here I come for my nightly visit.”
These nightly visits bring many blessings. I wake up with clearer thoughts, designs for deeds of goodness, and a sense of emotional balance.
The more we connect with the dead in their continuing life in the spiritual world, the more alive our earthly lives become.
If you want to read more about our work with the dead, I strongly urge you to get a copy of Staying Connected, a wonderful book of Rudolf Steiner’s insights about death, dying and the dead. Christopher Bamford introduces Steiner’s work with warmth and intelligence. Here is a link to purchasing the book through Amazon.