Death and dying are a part of the domain of experience of the earthly human being. Our experience of bodily decay, our passing away, and emergent rebirth in another dimension beyond a spiritual threshold, is a uniquely human experience. On the one side of this divide is the material domain of carbon, silica and the metals upon which our own bodies, but also our devices are conceived and constructed, while on the other side of this divide is a purely spiritual existence. Yet there is a continuum in spirit that exists between these two domains, a relationship that continues without interruption, and thus a communion. We may say then that there are three states of being: spirit in matter, spirit at the threshold, spirit outside matter.
When we live on the earth we live as spirits in matter in our waking life. We feel that the material world is around us as a sort of sheath of existence. Without our effort while incarnated, it is hard for us to become conscious of all the spiritual beings that permeate the same physical space as we do, or of the spiritual forces that move between one human being and another, across space and time. We live within, and in communion with, the spiritual bodies of our friends and acquaintances every day of our existence, yet with this outer experience of physical material separation between us. Rarely do we directly glimpse the forces of love that exist as powerful deeds between us, or the sharing of our etheric forces when we are present in the same room as our friends.
What then transpires when our physical bodies are gone and buried, and we then exist on the other side of the threshold? The thoughts that we carried while on the earth still need spiritual nourishment, not only from the light of the new spiritual dimension in which we now exist, but also from those with whom we carried on relationships while on the earth. The spiritual deeds, the sharing of thoughts, the streams of etheric forces and love from those left behind become a thirst for those who are now separated. The spiritual thoughts of those we knew in the earthly context become windows of light between these worlds.
The purely material aspects of our existence on the earth as ‘spirit in matter’ no longer is a shared experience. Our connection is not through material devices, through a zoom session on our laptop, but through our only means of connection once we are ‘spirit outside matter,’ that being spiritual forces as manifest in thinking. It is our thinking during sleep that is the normal point of communion between the living and the dead, as our thoughts become living beings during sleep. Also, when we develop spiritual capacities, it is possible that this connection is made conscious during our awake hours. Or even while reading to the dead, meditating upon their life while on earth, or recalling the last moment when they shared a smile, or from that final soul-filled glimpse before they closed their eyes for the last time. These moments are all the portals of communion between the living and the dead.
When we sleep at night, our thoughts and ideas become beings, living beings that satisfy the longing from those who have died to have communion with us. Steiner describes this process eloquently: “Nourishment after death can be drawn only from the ideas and thoughts of those with whom there was some connection during life; nourishment cannot be drawn from those with whom there was no connection at all… the dead can draw nourishment only from souls with whom they were associated in life. We therefore try to bring souls together in order that the harvest-fields for the dead may become more and more extensive. Many a human being who after death finds no harvest-field because all his family are materialists, finds it among the souls of anthroposophists with whom he had had some connection. That is the deeper reason for working together in community, and why we are anxious that the dead should have been able before death to know anthroposophists who are still occupied on the earth with spiritual things; for when these people are asleep the dead can draw nourishment from them.” (Steiner, GA140 – Links Between the Living and the Dead). When we have our zoom conferences, when we reach out and make ourselves available in our work lives through our technological devices, or over our phones, we are still forming bridges and spiritual relationships that may continue after death and nourish those who have died. But that is only true when we understand that the material devices are an outer aspect of existence while we are, ‘spirits in matter.’
Imagine now what takes place when Elon Musk sleeps at night? During the day he is intent on working on technological achievements, massive, amazing feats of engineering. His dreams extend as far as a longing for physical travel to Mars. All his wealth accumulation is focused on this goal of getting his physical body to Mars, perhaps back to Mars? He feels he is the savior of a future humanity, preserving their physical bodies, once this Earth planet is dead and burned out, or ossified. When he sleeps at night then, his thoughts about the material nature of the world are like darkness to the spiritual beings with whom he is connected. They know him as a spiritual being, but all his intellect is focused on a material world that no longer has meaning for them in this regard. If we turn to the poetry of Karl Marx, we find a powerful vehicle for conceptualizing what the thoughts of an inventor like Elon Musk must mean for the dead:
Then I will be able to walk triumphantly,
Like a god, through the ruins of their kingdom.
Every word of mine is fire and action.
My breast is equal to that of the Creator.
I shall build my throne high overhead
Cold, tremendous shall its summit be.
For its bulwark — superstitious dread
For its marshal — blackest agony…
Ha! Eternity! She is an eternal grief …
Ourselves being clockwork, blindly mechanical,
Made to be the foul-calendars of Time and Space,
Having no purpose save to happen, to be ruined,
So that there shall be something to ruin …
If there is a something which devours,
I’ll leap within it, though I bring the world to ruins-
The world which bulks between me and the Abyss
I will smash to pieces with my enduring curses.
I’ll throw my arms around its harsh reality:
Embracing me, the world will dumbly pass away,
And then sink down to utter nothingness
(Karl Marx, Oulanem, A Tragedy)
Daniel Perez has been a technologist since his teens, at the dawn of the age of the personal computer. He has been programming since he was a student at Green Meadow Waldorf School, and later educated as an Electrical Engineer at the University of Rochester. His adult career has placed him in several areas of technology development, from space-based laser systems to video compression used for teleconferencing, and he currently leads an engineering team in Cloud Computing development. He also is co-founder of Threefold Capital Corp, an investment company, and sits on several non-profit boards including the Center for Anthroposophy. He and his wife live in Peterborough NH and have two adult children living in San Francisco, one of whom is a Waldorf teacher.