When a person who has been hated or disliked dies

Let us take the case of a man who hated someone or perhaps was only conscious that he was antipathetic to him. Now when the person who has been hated or disliked dies, it is often the case that the man who hated him in life cannot continue to hate him to the same extent; he cannot keep up his dislike for him. If the hatred extends beyond the grave he feels a sort of shame that it should be so. This feeling, felt by many, can be traced clairvoyantly, and during this investigation one may ask oneself the following question: “Why feel shame for the hatred or dislike which was felt for the dead, considering no single soul knew of its having been harboured?”

When the clairvoyant investigator follows the departed through the gates of death into the spiritual worlds and then looks back at the man who stayed behind, he finds that, in general, the former has a very clear perception of the hatred in the living; in fact, if I may be allowed to use the expression, he sees the hatred as it were. The clairvoyant is able to state very definitely that the dead perceives the hatred, and we can also trace what such hatred means to the dead. It creates an obstacle to his good intentions in his spiritual environment, comparable to the obstacles we may encounter on earth which stand in the way of the attainment of our aims. It is a fact that in the spiritual world the dead encounter the hatred or dislike felt for them as an obstacle in the way of their carrying out their best intentions.

So we can understand why, in a soul who searches into himself a little, hatred, even if quite justifiable, will die out because of the shame it entails after the death of the hated one. If a man is not clairvoyant he certainly does not know the reason, but a natural feeling in his soul tells him that he is being observed. He feels: “The dead man perceives my hatred. This dislike of mine is an obstacle in the way of his good intentions.” Many deep feelings exist in the human soul which are made clear when we ascend to the spiritual worlds and face the spiritual facts which are the cause of these feelings.

Just as on earth we do not wish to be observed externally, physically, when doing certain things — and in fact refrain from doing them if we know ourselves to be observed — so we do not go on hating a man after his death if we feel ourselves observed by him. But the love, or even sympathy, which we feel for the dead man really makes his journey easier; it removes obstacles from his path. What I am now saying, namely, that hatred creates obstacles and love clears them away, does not imply any interference with Karma, any more than do many things that happen on earth which we must not consider as directly belonging to Karma. For instance, if we knock our foot against a stone we must not always put that down to Karma — at any rate, not to moral Karma. In the same way, it is not in contradiction to Karma that the dead feel relief because of the love that flows up from the earth, or that they encounter obstacles blocking the way of their good intentions.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 140 – Descriptive Sketches of the Spiritual World: Lecture 1 – Bergen, 10th October 1913

Translated by Harry Collison