Honoring the Ancestors: Part One

Honoring the Thinning Veil, Glastonbury, 2010

Each year the San Francisco Jung Institute celebrates Ancestors’ Day around the time of the Day of the Dead. Analysts, candidates, and interns gather and remember those in our Institute community who have passed the threshold into the Beyond.

This last Sunday we especially honored Donald Sandner, an analyst who passed suddenly on Easter Sunday 1997. In part two, to be posted later this week, I will talk more about Don.

We began the day by watching a video of Don, Joe Henderson, one of the founders of our Institute who lived to be 104, and Mary Jo Spencer, still with us at close to 100 years old. In this yet to be released film produced by Steven H. Wong, these three analysts discussed the ancestors and death.

To watch this film brought back a wash of memory for many of us. I had seen an early version of the film in 1999, but this time I was alert to how all three talked with certainty about the presence of the dead. Joe Henderson said that grief and sadness bring us close to the dead, although he added that he did not so much miss those he loved who had passed as he felt them in the present. Mary Jo talked about her ancestors visiting her in her living room, something I have heard her say more than once, and Don talked about the draw into death when loved ones die and about the recent loss of two very close friends and the impact of their deaths on him. He died within six months of the filming of this segment.

Although my own experience is that when I am aware of missing someone who has passed over, they are most near, I also realize that we westerners have few differentiated ways of acknowledging their presence besides grief. However, Rudolf Steiner stated that it is not grief but gratitude that opens us to communication with the dead. Gratitude for our relationship with them humbles us, allowing a waking dream state that accesses the whole. Then we can learn the telepathic language of Spirit, one which communicates not only with the dead, but with the not-human world as well.

What is your own experience in knowing your ancestors? Do you have an active relationship with them? Steiner felt this relationship to be an important one in our evolution, something I will explore in the coming weeks.