In a certain sense the souls of the dead too need nourishment; not, of course, the kind of nourishment required by human beings on the earth, but of the nature of spirit-and-soul. By way of comparison, just as we on the earth must have cornfields where the grain for our physical sustenance ripens, so must the souls of the dead have cornfields from which they can gather certain sustenance which they need during the time between death and a new birth. As the eye of clairvoyance follows the souls of the dead, the souls of sleeping human beings are seen to be cornfields for the dead. For one who has this experience in the spiritual world for the first time, it is not only surprising but deeply shattering to see how the souls living between death and a new birth hasten as it were to the souls of sleeping human beings, seeking for the thoughts and ideas which are in those souls; for these thoughts are food for the souls of the dead and they need this nourishment.
When we go to sleep at night, the ideas and thoughts which have passed through our consciousness in our waking hours begin to live, to be living beings. Then the souls of the dead draw near and share in these ideas, feeling nourished as they perceive them. When clairvoyant vision is directed to the dead who night after night make their way to the sleeping human beings left behind on earth — especially blood-relations but friends as well — seeking refreshment and nourishment from the thoughts and ideas that have been carried into sleep, it is a shattering experience to see that they often find nothing. For as regards the state of sleep there is a great difference between one kind of thought and another.
If throughout the day we are engrossed in thoughts connected with material life, if our mind is directed only to what is going on in the physical world and can be achieved there, if we have given no single thought to the spiritual worlds before passing into sleep but often bring ourselves into those worlds by means quite different from thoughts, then we have no nourishment to offer to the dead. I know towns in Europe where students induce sleepiness by drinking a lot of beer! The result is that they carry over thoughts which cannot live in the spiritual world. And then when the souls of the dead approach, they find barren fields; they fare as our physical body fares when famine prevails because our fields yield no crops. Especially at the present time much famine among souls can be observed in the spiritual worlds, for materialism is already very widespread. Many people regard it as childish to occupy themselves with thoughts about the spiritual world but thereby they deprive souls after death of needed nourishment.
Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 140 – Links Between the Living and the Dead: I – Bergen, 10th October 1913
Translated by Dorothy S. Osmond & Charles Davy