Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Anthroposophy: Self-education of the soul

Rudolf Steiner, April 3, 1912:  "We work together in our groups and gatherings; not only do we hear there certain truths which tell us that there are various worlds — that man consists of various principles or bodies, or whatever we like to call them; but by allowing all this to influence us, although we may not always notice it, our soul will gradually change to something different, even without our going through an esoteric development. What we learn through spiritual science makes our soul different from what it was before. Compare your feelings after you have taken part in the spiritual life of a working group for a few years, the way in which you feel and think, with the thoughts and feelings you had before, or with the way in which people think and feel who are not interested in spiritual science. Spiritual science does not merely signify the acquisition of knowledge; it signifies most pre-eminently an education, a self-education of our souls. We make ourselves different; we have other interests. When a man imbues himself with spiritual science, the habits of attention for this or for that subject which he developed during previous years, alter. What interested him before, interests him no longer; that which had no interest for him previously, now begins to interest him in the highest degree. One ought not simply to say that only a person who has gone through esoteric development can attain to a connection with the spiritual world; esotericism does not begin with occult development. The moment we make any link with spiritual science with our whole heart, esotericism has already begun; our souls begin at once to be transformed. There then begins in us something resembling what would arise, let us say, in a being who had previously only been able to see light and darkness, and who then through a special and different organization of the eyes, begins to see colors. The whole world would appear different to such a being. We need only observe it, we need only realize it, and we shall soon see that the whole world begins to have a different aspect when we have for a time gone through the self-education we can get in a spiritual science circle. This self-education to a quite definite feeling with regard to the spiritual world, this self-education to a perception of what lies behind the physical facts, is a fruit of the spiritual scientific movement in the world, and is the most important part of spiritual understanding. We should not believe that we can acquire a spiritual understanding by mere sentimentality, by simply repeating continually that we wish to permeate all our feelings with love. Other people, if they are good, wish to do that too; this would only be giving way to a sort of pride. Rather should we make it clear to ourselves how we can educate our feelings by letting the knowledge of the facts of a higher world influence us, and transforming our souls by means of this knowledge. This special manner of training the soul to a feeling for a higher world is what makes the spiritual scientist."

America: Be zealous, and repent

Frederick Douglass

"It is not light that is needed, but fire."  — Frederick Douglass

Revelation 3:14-22

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? — Mark 8:36

Regarding Transubstantiation

Rudolf Steiner:  "One must think of the ordering brought about by the Father and the ordering brought about by the Spirit; and between them stands the Son who in the world of human beings lifts up the realm of nature into the realm of the Spirit."

Do all the good you can

Do all the good you can.
By all the means you can.
In all the places you can.
At all the times you can.
To all the people you can.
As long as ever you can.

              — John Wesley

Chance, Providence, and Necessity

Chance, Providence, and Necessity. Lecture 8 of 8.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 6, 1915:

If you think over the change that had to be described in advancing from perception of the external, physical world to perceiving the elemental world next above it, you will see that the worlds from which our physical universe and everything in it issued differ greatly from this physical world. A person who adopted the materialistic point of view more for convenience than for the sake of his conviction might say, Well, why should I bother with all these worlds spiritual science speaks of? The world I'm living in now is enough to satisfy me. There may be other worlds, but I'm not going to bother my head about them.
Such a statement is as far from reality as it is possible to get, for it is impossible for anyone to disregard the worlds of the spirit. And it is just when someone says that they don't exist and that he won't trouble himself about them that he is very markedly under their influence. A statement of this sort is made only when the speaker has been led astray by ahrimanic forces.
Not if he had them by the neck, I vow,

Would e'er these people scent the devil.
This accurately states the fact of the matter, though he who stated it did so in a thoroughly ironic spirit.
Ignorance of the spiritual worlds will never enable a person to deal with them. For that, it is necessary to know them. But we must always remember how strongly the physical world colors not only our concepts and ideas, but the way we sense and feel as well. Even when we want to get to know the spiritual world, we have a need, even a longing, to find it resembling the physical world, a wish, at least, to find that we can characterize it adequately with the concepts we have grown used to in physical existence. But I have already called your attention to the fact that the conceptions we form based on the physical world do not suffice to characterize the spiritual world. If more of our members came to understand this, it would be possible to introduce more new ways of expressing things and this is indeed necessary. I made use of an isolated case yesterday in contrasting growing old with growing young. Similar terms could and should be found to express the totally different nature of the spiritual world.
Now I want to call your attention right away to something that demonstrates how vitally necessary it is to arrive at a new terminology if we are to grow into the spiritual world in the right way. Many aspirants would find themselves perceiving the spiritual world relatively sooner if they could free themselves from the habit of depending on words.
When we go through the portals of death, the first phenomenon, the first fact, to appear is the laying aside of the physical body. We know that this physical body then undergoes dissolution into the earth element, regardless of the form of disposal chosen.
So the physical body undergoes dissolution into earthly elements. We can refer to it simply as dissolution. The observable fact is that the physical body disintegrates into its smallest particles, which are then incorporated into earthly matter. That is the physical situation, and we can speak of dissolution of this body into earthly matter if we take into account everything we know about matter and substance. We know too that this dissolution process is a spiritual one as well, but we don't need to go into that any further at the present moment. What is important for us now is the situation as it appears to physical observation.
Now it is of the greatest importance to realize clearly that this dissolution of the physical body is by no means merely the process which our physical organs perceive; it has far greater significance. We must consider the following to form a concept of it.
Human beings spend all of their waking life between birth and death with their ego and astral body enclosed within the physical body. It has always been more or less the case that the ego and astral body inhabited the physical body when people were awake. I will draw the physical body as a vase containing them. There are other ways of drawing this too, but that isn't important.
Let's be quite exact in picturing our ego and astral body contained here in the physical body. They are enclosed in the etheric body too, but for now we will concern ourselves with the physical body only. When we go to sleep we are no longer thus enclosed, as I've often shown. But then we normally lose our ego-awareness, and even our awareness of the astral body; this awareness is restored only when we press ourselves back, so to speak, into the physical body. It is this pressing into the physical body between birth and death that gives our souls a sense of ego-hood, that allows us, as I might also express it, to feel our souls ego-permeated.
At death the physical body disintegrates into earthly matter. This is of significance. All the time we are asleep, a desire to return to the physical body lives in us, as I've often described. It dominates us from the moment of falling asleep to our awakening; we long to get back into it. When, at death, we have laid it aside, we can't go on longing to do this; we are unable to press ourselves back into it again. The result is that from now on we cannot develop the desire to return to the physical body, so the longing we have during sleep now falls away, and something else takes its place. Its place is taken by the thought of the physical body that now makes its appearance in the astral body and our ego. We contemplate our physical body. It lives in our consciousness and becomes part of its content. And the disintegration of our physical body into its elements results in our maintaining awareness of our physical body during the time between death and rebirth.
This remembering of our physical body is the means whereby we are enabled to know ourselves as egos during the entire time between death and rebirth. Instead of having a physical body, we have knowledge of it; a state of awareness replaces it. The sense of possessing a physical body that we have for the period from birth to death is replaced after death by an awareness of this body. And this awareness, which is a purely spiritual condition, gives us the necessary further connection with the life we lived on earth.
We know that the next outstanding event to take place after death is the laying aside of, the separation from, the etheric body. As I said yesterday, it is the etheric body that connects us with the surrounding cosmos, just as it is the physical body that connects us with the earth.
You can gather from various things I've said that the etheric body is absorbed into the etheric world when we lay it aside after death, just as the physical body is absorbed into the earth world.
But it would be a misconception to picture this absorption of the etheric body into the etheric world as exactly analogous to the disintegration of the physical body into physical matter, for the process is not one of dissolution; instead, what we have imprinted into the etheric body remains there. The etheric body expands. In certain special cases, however, when the etheric body is kept intact because of an early death, it can have a special task too, as I've been describing in the course of these lectures. Generally speaking, however, we can say that the etheric body is absorbed into the etheric world, but that it takes with it the fruits of the life between birth and death, thus enriching the etheric world. We enrich the etheric world at death with what we have given our etheric bodies. It is therefore incorrect to describe the etheric body as dissolving into the surrounding ether. Instead, we need to try to picture a process quite different from any that could take place in the physical realm. It is desirable to find a term for this that could not apply to any physical process, and I have thought much about this, and if I now wish to describe the way this etheric body is absorbed into the etheric world, I can best do so with the phrase “in-binding.” The physical body, then, is subject to dissolution, the etheric body to “in-binding.” This means that the content we have given it is bound up with, embedded in the whole etheric universe; “in-binding” is thus the polar opposite of dissolution. When we are trying to find the fitting term for something that does not exist in the physical, it is good to find an expression descriptive of the actual fact and inapplicable to the physical world.
“In-binding” is the term to use here because of what actually happens. Let us assume that someone has built this or that into his etheric body. The etheric body is connected with everything extraterrestrial, as I have said. Now insofar as a person has some experience of things beyond the merely earthly in his life here (and everybody has such experiences, even materialists, only they're not aware of it), that content lives in his etheric body. It is incorporated into the etheric world, embedded in it. And if we observe a person's abandoned etheric body with clairvoyant vision, we discover in it the answer to a certain question, namely, what were the heavens (taking the term “heavens” to include everything supra-earthly) able to derive for themselves from that person during his lifetime?
What they were able to take for themselves is totally different from what physical observation can see the earth deriving. If we consider somebody's earthly remains, they amount for physical eyes to nothing more than a little heap of earth like other earthly substances. And people assume, though not quite correctly, that the earth would remain just the same if this little heap of earth, the physical body, did not become part of it at the person's death. They assume that it is of little significance for the earth to receive back that part of itself that was a person's body during his lifetime.
But those who contemplate the developing postmortem relationship of the etheric body to what I have called the heavens come to a different view of the matter. They would have to say that the content a person has created for himself as the fruit of his thinking, feeling, and willing, of his work, of his whole existence, of everything that has happened to him and that has, during his life on earth, been incorporated into his etheric body is something for which the heavens are full of gratitude when they receive it. A cloud of gratitude sweeps over those who direct their clairvoyant gaze upon the abandoned etheric body of a deceased human being. The heavens' attitude is the exact opposite of that of the earth with its total lack of gratitude. When our gaze falls on the graves of human beings, not an earthly word of thanks is heard, acknowledging the return to the earth of the materials it provided for man's fashioning, whereas thanks resound from the heavens for everything with which the human being has endowed his etheric body during his lifetime. The heavens have bound man's etheric body into themselves. This too is part of what was brought up yesterday, when the statement was made that when we make a proper study of spiritual science, every concept we derive from it takes on an ethical aspect, brings about a moral deepening of our souls, while at the same time suffusing us with living warmth.
Now let us focus on what has been stated in these lectures: that a person who ascends into spiritual worlds (which he does also in his life after death) possesses a completely different kind of consciousness, a very different view of things. I have already suggested how inwardly mobile thinking then becomes. But this inner mobility is only the first stage of ascent into the spiritual world. On ascending further after death, upon laying aside our etheric bodies, our consciousness is of an entirely different sort than it is here in the physical world. Here, objects are outside us; we perceive them from outside. But when we have ascended as high into the spiritual world as I am now describing, we no longer confront such objects. What for us here in the physical world is the most impenetrable aspect of animals and human beings, their inner life of soul, is their most easily penetrable aspect for beings of the higher worlds. We participate in the soul life there. We have a world of beings rather than a world of objects surrounding us. That is the significant thing about it.
When we stand beside one another here on the physical plane, you stand there and I over here, both of us holding on to an object, say a table. And now we have to eliminate all objects from our consciousness, picturing ourselves in a world occupied by souls, in inner touch with them in the way we relate on the physical plane to our thoughts and feelings. We have to picture it this way. We don't establish contact with a being of the angelic hierarchy by taking its hand, but rather by living in its being as we live in our thoughts and feelings. I have often described the situation as an entering into our thoughts and feelings by these beings. We express this correctly when we say that these beings live in us.
You will find what I've just been saying in my book, An Outline of Occult Science [ Note 01 ] There is described in detail how we live in the life after death in a much more intimate relationship with the other beings there than can ever be the case with our fellow human beings on the earth, for we are inwardly as connected with them as we now are with our thoughts and feelings. And we can also approach the dead with our souls while we are here on earth if we work towards that by doing the suggested reading to them. We have to develop the capacity for it, but we will be aware of the dead really coming closer to us. It is a matter of making the effort to achieve an inward living together with them in the way we live in our thoughts and feelings.
Materialistically-minded spiritualists best demonstrate how little inclined people are to enter into these higher concepts of true inner reality. The term “materialistically-minded spiritualists” may sound odd, but it is a fact that large numbers of spiritualists are much more materialistically-minded than ordinary materialists. The latter say, “There's no such thing as spirit,” and they call matter “matter.” But a lot of spiritualists are intent upon perceiving spirits materially, either as apparitions of light, a material substance, or through the sense of touch. Such are the nuances in their encounters with spirits, a materializing of the entire spiritual world. We must acquire the ability to look for deeper reality than that transmitted by the senses. There is even something quite absurd in the materialistic spiritualist's seeking to see the dead with physical eyes when he can't expect to see them with physical eyes after his own death. To see a dead person, we have to try to see him as though we were ourselves dead, that is, of course, without physical eyes.
The fact that we must confront the spiritual world with a consciousness wholly different from the one that confronts the physical world is usually expressed as “we see the physical world objectively, the spiritual world subjectively” — meaning that we see the spirit when we extend our subjective experience to include the spiritual world. This is a much more intensive exercise of sight than physical seeing, but it remains subjective, in intimate connectedness with what is perceived. Very few people of recent times have had any inkling of the fact that this spiritual world must really be described in such a way. Those who have had a premonition of it have had to struggle with terminology. One of them, Berkeley, immediately went too far in his attempt to express how the spiritual world must be related to. It was clear to him that a person perceiving the so-called outer world of matter can certainly not say, “There is something behind what I am perceiving,” but only, “When I open my eyes, I see colors, etc.; when I use my ears to listen, I hear tones, and so on. But I cannot say whether anything material exists beyond and behind these perceptions.” It seemed utter nonsense to Berkeley to state anything beyond “There is no existence independent of perception.”
Berkeley was both right and wrong; right, insofar as it is a crude idea that prompts a person to assume that some form of matter accounts for what we perceive; what we perceive is the universe. Nothing exists beyond our perceptions; minds and their perceptions are all there is. Radically stated, the situation as Bishop Berkeley sees it is the following: Here we have so and so many individuals. Judged on the basis of ordinary life, we say that one, two, three, four or however many people are sitting here, with bodies, etc. But Berkeley would declare this to be untrue and say that only souls are present, their bodies being merely what these souls perceive. They are an illusion; only souls exist. Or, every soul here is harboring something like an external illusion of everyone else's body. But Miss M., for example, should not allow herself to believe that Mrs. K. is really sitting there bodily. Miss M. has a picture in her soul of Mrs. K., and Mrs. K. has one of Miss M. All else is illusion; only souls exist. “Nothing exists independent of perception.”
Bishop Berkeley was right only up to a certain point. He was not a spiritual scientist, and could therefore not be aware of something I can most easily express as follows: Let us suppose that Mrs. K. is not observing Miss M., but instead contemplating some event that took place five days ago and that has popped into her mind again just this moment. An event, such as the breaking of a vase five days ago, is not a spirit. Let us picture her reviewing the whole business, how she held the vase in her hands, how it toppled, how it was shattered into fragments. The whole picture rises up within her. We can certainly say that this picture is not another soul. Still, taking the entire soul as presently constituted, this process now rising up in it is something perceived as objectively as any other object existing outside it. In the one case, the object is beheld in confrontation, while in the other it is a past process rising up and becoming conscious. This latter, too, cannot be said to exist within the soul; it had first withdrawn from it. Otherwise we would have had to keep on picturing the breaking of the vase every minute of our waking life during the past five days. Let us take it as a blessing that the picture existed outside our souls and only now returns to consciousness. It existed outside the soul in just the same sense that everything else does. It existed originally inside it, but then withdrew. Here you have something that is not a spirit, for the breaking of the vase is neither of the spirit nor of the soul, but simply re-enters the soul as an objective element.
If you relate this to what I've been saying in these lectures, namely that what is out there in the universe is really of the past, something long forgotten, you will be able to picture what the external world is insofar as we perceive it as an external world rather than as another soul.
I'll make a schematic drawing. Let's picture a soul here, with various earlier events contained within it, such as that involving the broken vase. And it will contain other events as well, but I won't put them all in separately.
All immediate conscious experience is comprised within the circular area. The fact that the broken vase can be remembered is due to its having disappeared from conscious experience; it can return to consciousness only as a memory-image. The event has been thrust into the objective realm. Just think how great the longing of many people is to thrust into the objective realm such events as broken vases, to forget them if possible and not allow them to break through into consciousness! They can be submerged to ever greater depths of objectivity. And when they've reached the ultimate degree of submersion, they live outside us.
The things and processes in our environment are there only because they were thought and then pressed into objectivity by beings during the ancient sun and moon periods. Now they have objective existence. Everything we confront was once thought and felt and existed as conscious content, and was then thrust out of consciousness. We might say that the objective world is what gods and spirits once thought and forgot and thrust out of themselves.
Berkeley is therefore obviously incorrect in stating that there is no world outside us, only souls. For what is outside us is the product of forgetting. Of course, the bodies of the individual souls here have not been forgotten by each soul, for their first beginnings were created and thought by spirits on ancient Saturn, then objectified, and so on. We must be quite clear that consciousness preceded existence, that what exists externally had its origin in consciousness, just like what we have in our memories in the first stage of objectification. The objectification process in the case of the individual souls of today goes only as far as in the case of the broken vase. In the case of beings that developed through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon periods it is so far advanced that the thoughts they had have now achieved the solidity of our mountain ranges. Since we are connected with the whole spiritual world, we perceive what the gods thought so long ago.
It will become clear to you as you think this over how important it is that an objective world emerges from subjective realms. I've often stressed the fact that our memories have to remain intact if we are to maintain ego-consciousness, and the gods had to create a world out of themselves for the same reason. The gods thrust out the entire universe in order to preserve their consciousness, just as we carry memory-images for the period of time since we began remembering. And we human beings thrust out our physical bodies and ether bodies in order to attain a higher level of consciousness.
As I've emphasized from another standpoint, death is a terrible thing only from the perspective of the physical world. Looked at from the standpoint of the spiritual world, where we find ourselves from the moment we have died, death is the launching of our entire later consciousness. To look back to death illumines the consciousness we possess between death and rebirth. Though we cannot look back to our birth into the physical world, we can look back continuously to our death as to the most glorious moment of our past life. Looking back during the time after death, we encounter the moment of dying, and this encounter, visible to us in this time-perspective, provides us after death with a continuous ego-consciousness in the nature of a mirror- image, reflected from the fact of death (See drawing).
As we pass through death, then, we grow out of the way of seeing things that, in the physical world, forces us to look upon objects, and we grow into an outlook experienced as our being increasingly harbored by other spiritual beings, coming closer and closer to them. While we live in our physical bodies here, our thoughts, our feelings, our impulses of will are restricted to ourselves alone. But when we pass through death, these flow out into the world, into the other spiritual beings who then live in us. We reproduce ourselves; our consciousness expands. From a single unit we become a multiplicity, a oneness in the many, and the multiplicity reveals itself as it absorbs our oneness.
So our growing to participation in the world ordinarily referred to as the world of the hierarchies is the process that takes place as soon as we enter the spiritual world. Here on earth we speak of objects and of the experiences we have with them, whereas the dead speak exclusively of beings and of the communications made to them by beings about other beings, speak of a lesser or stronger connection with them, and the like.
Much effort is required to convey an even partially adequate conception of such matters as this growing into the spiritual world. Now that we have tried to form at least a slightly more exact idea of the manner of this growth, let us turn our attention to the facts we spoke about yesterday: those involving death in younger and in maturer years.
A person dying in his youth passes through the gate of death. His physical body disintegrates, his etheric body “in-binds” itself. When this happens to a boy or girl, to someone who is still a child, that individual is granted a particularly strong impression of the inner harmony of the marvelous structure that we feel our physical body to be. It is one of the most outstanding experiences of those who die young that they carry through the gates of death a marked inner conceptual awareness of the marvelous build of the human body. It would be impossible to imagine anything as magnificently built as this human physical body, this great work of art, this world-wonder. I have often spoken about this. But those who die young are filled to overflowing with it.
And this conception, this inner saturation with such an impression, first brings those who die young together with members of the hierarchy of the spirits of form so that their souls become intimately interwoven with those spirits. So we see these souls being received by the spirits of form with particular grace and favor. Furthermore, those souls grow inwardly together with the beings belonging to the hierarchy of the spirits of will. If I may put it thus, the relationship of these spirits of will and of form to the universe is such that they continuously convey to a person privy to their secrets that “those who have to abandon their earth-lives early belong to us, for what they bring us is an essential ingredient of our creative work on mankind's evolution.” Those who die in old age are less suffused with impressions of the marvelous build of the human body, but are the more permeated by a sense of the marvelous build of the entire universe, of the cosmos as a whole. The thinking and feeling content of those dying in maturity is directed more to the external, and they grow together particularly quickly and easily with those beings whom we call the spirits of wisdom, by whom they are received with grace and favor.
Anyone who investigates this in detail receives a strong impression of how human beings live with higher spiritual beings after death. To enter lovingly into what spiritual science can reveal is truly not to end up with empty abstractions, vague talk about the spirit, vague statements that human beings are received by the spiritual world. It is possible to point instead to the fact that one individual is received by the spirits of movement or by the spirits of wisdom, while someone else is received by the spirits of form and of will. And this means getting a conception of how, in inner reality as observed from a higher standpoint, everything that happens is actually good, and how what remains incomprehensible from the standpoint of the physical world becomes fully understandable when seen from a higher level. For the beings of the higher hierarchies know what can be accomplished, not only with those of maturer years, but above all with those who have died young. There is no one who has lived in vain! And the entire evolutionary process in which humanity is involved could not go on if everything were not to happen as it actually happens.
But a concept, a constantly extended concept of all these matters can be attained only by really entering into spiritual science, by really being able to grasp that it is only our epoch that is so God-forsaken, and that in our time only those individuals think truly materialistically who are either unable to think at all or else don't want to think.
I once told you of the case of a philosopher who really thought, and I quoted a remark of his to show you how far a truly thinking philosopher can go — one who doesn't know everything, but who mulls over how much a person can know as the result of his experience on the physical plane. It is legitimate to say that for the most part the stupider people are, the smarter they consider themselves to be. The smarter they are, the more they know how much it takes to discover life's meaning. That is why, a little while ago, I read you the statement of a person who had thought a lot and had said that “someone could claim that there are invisible specters in hens' eggs in addition to the whites and yolks.” This was a man who had really taken great pains over philosophizing and who really knows how little ordinary ideas contribute to insight. He therefore says that it is possible for someone to make the quoted assertion about eggs containing invisible specters along with whites and yolks, and to say, “‘These specters materialize and take on a body, and when the materialization process is completed, they break through the hard eggshell with their sharp beaks and run to the grains scattered for them and eat them.’ Nothing can actually be objected to such a bizarre assertion except that the preposition ‘in’ (‘in hen's eggs’) is used in an unusual way, not in a geometric but in a metaphysical sense. If taken in the latter sense, the assertion is correct.”
The same philosopher, Otto Liebmann, who was a thorough thinker but wanted to limit himself to an outlook on the physical plane alone, goes on to say in his book Thoughts and Facts (quoted here because it enables us to see how people who really think notice what can be perpetuated as a result of relying on thinking restricted to the external), [ Note 02 ]
It is not only children, but superstitious barbarians and fantastic poets, who since time immemorial have regarded the material world as ensouled throughout. Thales, who like other natural philosophers of ancient times, attributed a soul to magnets and amber because of their magnetism, is credited with the statement that the cosmos is ensouled, and that everything has gods in it. [ Note 03 ] Plato calls the stars “divine animals” and speaks in Timaeus of the world-soul. [ Note 04 ] Aristotle and the Peripatetics thought there were astral spirits, and the doctrine of the ensoulment of the heavenly bodies has been handed down in an essentially unbroken chain of tradition, right down to recent and indeed present times. Kepler talks of the “anima” (soul) of the planets, and in his Harmonices mundi he describes our earth as a gigantic animal whose “whale-like respiration, in alternating periods of sleep and waking dependent on the sun, brings about the tidal rise and fall of the ocean.” [ Note 05 ] Giordano Bruno enthusiastically depicted the details of this hylozoistic concept, and in his essay Della causa, principio ed uno, as well as elsewhere, expresses his firm conviction that everything in the universe is alive, holding that all corporeal motion in space is the visible expression of the collective life pulsing throughout the world. [ Note 06 ] The stars and their inhabitants were, in his view, ensouled beings, our earth one gigantic organism, springs and streams the arteries of its divine body. He held the rise and fall of the tides to be effects of the earth's breathing. Volcanic outbreaks and earthquakes are clearly analogous to certain processes in animal organisms, and Goethe bore witness to this when he said to Eckermann (April 1827): “I conceive of the earth with its vapor mantle as a huge animal eternally breathing in and out.” [ Note 07 ] Fechner's Zend-Avesta[ Note 08 ] an extremely strange book, also tends in this direction; like other works of his, it combines jesting with serious commentary, occasionally leading the reader to wonder just how he meant it to be taken. [ Note 09 ]
Gustav Theodor Fechner was really jesting in much he said; he had an inborn tendency to joking. You know, for I mentioned it on one occasion, that he wrote a book called Professor Schleiden and the Moon[ Note 10 ] Fechner undertook a study of the moon's effect on the weather, and he wrote a good deal about it. Schleiden, a botanist of materialistic persuasion, made fun of him. [ Note 11 ] But then Fechner took up the cudgels against Schleiden with his book, Professor Schleiden and the Moon. This was the same Fechner who, in his youth a long time before this, had lashed out in a beautiful little piece of writing against the scientific way of thinking. There is a short work by him in which he proceeds strictly scientifically to prove in all seriousness that the moon is made of iodine. [ Note 12 ] His intention was to demonstrate that it can be strictly scientifically proven that the moon consists of iodine. It is possible to prove this with the very same methodology used in scientific proof of other findings.
When the two men were totally unable to see eye-to-eye in the matter of Fechner's assertions on the subject of the moon's influence on weather, Fechner proposed letting their wives put these to the test. Household arrangements were simpler in those days: pails were set out in the rain to collect water for laundry purposes. Fechner said, “The good Professor Schleiden refuses to believe that it rains less in certain phases of the moon than it does in others. Perhaps we might make a detour via Frau Schleiden.” Since her spouse was unconcerned with differences in the weather at various moon-phases, she could put out her water-catching pails during those phases in which Fechner had reckoned that little rain would fall, whereas Frau Fechner would set hers out at times when Fechner had reckoned on more rain. I won't go on to report that the two wives found agreement no easier than did their husbands, for Frau Professor Schleiden was a bit envious of Frau Professor Fechner for always getting more rain water than she did.
The previous quote from Otto Liebmann continues,
But considering our total ignorance on the score of the sources of spiritual life, we might repeat the question posed by the serious-minded Lessing at the end of his Education of the Human Species regarding the ancient Egyptian, ancient Indian and Pythagorean doctrines of the transmigration of souls: “Is this hypothesis to be thought absurd because it is the most ancient view, because human reason immediately adopted it before schooling had sophisticated and weakened reason?” [ Note 13 ]
What more can we ask? Otto Liebmann comes out with the quite dry statement that no thinking is acute enough to protect us from the doctrine of the transmigration of souls! This shows us that those who have learned to think know how little the thinking restricted to the physical plane can enlighten us about the actual facts of life.
All these things obviously show those able to enter totally seriously into the inner impulses of our spiritual scientific movement how essential this movement is for the present epoch and the near future, and it is not superfluous to give thought again and again to the seriousness that must underlie our movement. This seriousness is what must actually hold us together. We must truly meditate on the subject over and over again to be able to acquire the right feeling for much that causes our movement problems of this or that nature.
And I want to leave nothing untried to make clear to you how vital it is for us to nurture this seriousness, and that we ought really to take the greatest pains to exemplify this seriousness of our movement before the outer world, and to maintain it.
It is fair to say that the breath of life of our movement is rendered difficult in several ways by the carelessness of some of our members, and it is not an easy matter to face the necessity of expressing intimate, significant and weighty truths of spiritual science in spite of such things. It can be noted time and again that some individuals take their connection with our movement much too lightly. I will not cite details today of how hard and sour some of our members make life by taking their membership in the Society with utmost unconcern. I am not talking of private affairs, but it is a fact that we are living today in abnormal times, and it should not happen that many members fail to realize how improper it is to write all sorts of things and send them across national borders; that is so unnecessary. I'm not talking now of private matters that are no concern of the Society. Nor is it, of course, a question of giving away anything in the wrong direction, for the Society does not include anything wrongful in its enterprises. But the way some things are handled by members causes difficulties.
It is essential for us to have some slight awareness of the uniqueness of our movement; we need to guard it as a holy undertaking. We cannot make any progress if we continue to look upon our movement in the way that is typical of the world around us. Though that may make it easy for us, it blocks progress. We need to keep in mind that for a great variety of reasons our movement is most unfavorably regarded by the surrounding world, and will be attacked by it wherever the possibility presents itself.
We need to look at this world around us against the background of the right feeling for our movement if we want to find our way properly, and we ought not to forgive ourselves if we fail to be keen and alert enough to do so. All kinds of things can render life endlessly miserable for us if we don't do the right thing. It could go so far in the way it has gone as to bring the movement to a halt. You see that we really cannot take these things lightly. We must not remain oblivious of the fact that our movement has some extremely odd enemies.
I have often emphasized how little pleasure it affords me to have members continually coming to report things and saying that someone or other has spoken from on high in a thoroughly theosophical manner, and shares our view of the world. What has been adjudged theosophical in these reports is, for the most part, rubbish. We should not take our movement as lightly as is often done. As you can see, the need for a movement that takes things seriously is demonstrated by many hundreds of observable facts. [ Note 14 ]

Monday, June 18, 2018



Washed in the Blood of the Lamb are We
Awash in a Sonburst Sea
You—Love—and I—Love—and Love Divine:
We are the Trinity

You—Love—and I—We are One-Two-Three
Twining Eternally
Two—Yes—and One—Yes—and also Three:
One Dual Trinity
Radiant Calvary
Ultimate Mystery

The School of Hard Knocks

"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."


If a man speaks and there's no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?

In my mind, I've already honked

Bumper sticker of the day:

Think about honking if you love conceptual art

Thank you, Abby Sain!

Do Not Disturb

Rudolf Steiner:  "You have scarcely any idea what a role comfort plays in the inner life of humankind."

Prudence Farrow, arriving at a yoga ashram in India for a three-month meditation retreat: "The wind gusted up wisps of wet river spray on our faces and in our hair from the sacred Ganges racing below us. The bridge was lined with what appeared in the dark to be large full sacks of potatoes or grains. Later when I crossed the bridge in daylight, I saw that those shadowy shapes were not bags of edibles but rather beggars hideously deformed by leprosy."

Related post: http://martyrion.blogspot.com/2018/06/dear-prudence.html

The Physical Body Binds Us to the Physical World, the Etheric Body to the Cosmos

Chance, Providence, and Necessity. Lecture 7 of 8.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 5, 1915:

I have often mentioned the fact that we can derive the right impulses from spiritual science only if we make the effort to progress ever further in a positive, concrete understanding of the spiritual beings about whom spiritual science wishes to instruct us. I have emphasized here before that we must of course realize first that human beings consist of a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body, and so on, and we need to know how these various members are related to one another. But if we are intent upon deriving the right impulses from spiritual science it is not enough to rest content with these abstractions. We need to become thoroughly familiarized with the interrelationships in the cosmos whereby these members of the human entelechy are incorporated into the entire cosmic process.
Our physical bodies incorporate us into the physical world and set us down on the physical plane. They make us resemble our parents and other forbears in the ongoing stream of heredity. They bring this about through the fact that they bear within themselves certain preconditions of similarity to our ancestors. And much else is also responsible for the incorporation of our physical bodies into the physical world. We concerned ourselves yesterday to some extent with an awareness of how human beings who gradually advance to what is known as clairvoyant perception free themselves from their dependence upon their physical bodies as tools for relating to the world.
The next step is then that the etheric rather than the physical body serves as the direct means of interrelationship with the world; imaginative perception takes the place of the mental images and other knowledge acquired with the use of our physical bodies, i.e., with the sense organs and the brain. I tried yesterday to describe in a more pictorial way how changed the soul feels when it progresses from using the physical body to making use of the etheric body.
It is true, of course, that we are always making use of our etheric bodies, except when we are sleeping, but we use them in the sense that they carry on their activity within our physical bodies, so that both the physical and etheric bodies are made use of during our life on the physical plane. But we come to know what the particular characteristics of the etheric body are when it is lifted out of its connection with the physical body and put to use as our sole perceptive instrument. We know that this condition comes about naturally immediately after death, when we have laid the physical body aside. Then, for a short time, we make use of the etheric body, until that too is laid aside.
We have therefore to distinguish the first condition after death, in which we dissolve our bond with the physical body, from the second condition that soon follows it, and brings about the dissolution of our bond with the etheric body.
I have been saying that the physical body binds us to everything that comes to us on the physical plane. What, then, does the etheric body bind us to? It binds us to everything that relates us to the cosmos, to the extraterrestrial, to everything that lives in us that cannot be ascribed directly to any connection with the physical realm. If, for example, a person is born with a physically defective ear, he won't be able to become a musician. But physical defects are due to physical heredity. This is a radical case that illustrates our dependence upon the ongoing heredity process. But we must turn our attention from the capacities to which our physical bodies predispose us to those occasioned by the etheric. These show up more distinctly in particular predispositions of the soul. Only a poor observer can miss the fact of the great differences of soul manifested by individuals. Dull-witted materialists are sometimes little interested in subtle differences of soul; they want to investigate the external form element alone. But alert observers of life are perfectly aware that nobody resembles any other person as far as his individuality is concerned.
People who have entertained theosophical concepts for awhile are satisfied to explain these individual differences by saying that everyone has lived through repeated earth lives and demonstrates in his individual characteristics what he has brought with him from the past. This is right, of course, but it does not suffice for true understanding. Just imagine, for example, a person being born with a sensitive musical ear, but with no opportunity to get a musical education. In such a case his musical ear would go undeveloped. One cannot, of course, be musically educated if one lacks a musical ear, but external opportunity, a person's milieu, must also permit it. There are people who are always satisfied to fall back on the same one-sided explanation of facts, saying that our higher ego, our higher self, takes care of everything. The higher self is actually the world! This may be true, but it is by no means enough to explain everything in the universe. It is true that karma is the cause of our individual predispositions, that our individual differences come from the way we develop in the course of our incarnations. But it is not enough to know that we pass through various earth lives and develop ourselves as individuals; we need to know what enables us to make actual use in life of the capacities developed by us as individuals.
Let us turn our attention to the life between death and a new birth. You are familiar with the content of the published lecture cycle entitled Life between Death and Rebirth, and can gather from it that the various factors preparing us for rebirth, for a new incarnation in a physical body, must be brought together during that life. But it has to be possible in the spiritual world for human beings to find there what they need in order to develop their individual capacities. We can conceive of having had an incarnation during which we laid the foundation for certain developments in the following earth life, but finding no possibility between death and rebirth of bringing to development the potentialities implanted in us for the following incarnation. A plant seed may be full of potential, but unless it is planted in favorable soil it is impossible for its potential to develop. Similarly, we may be ever so full of promise as individuals, but if we are unable to find in the spiritual world factors that nourish us as suitable soil does a plant seed, then the life-conditions needed for the unfolding of the capacities we have developed for a future incarnation cannot be provided.
This can make us aware that the world contains deep hidden secrets that can be discovered if we train the light of spiritual science on the actual facts. A few catchy theories or sayings, such as that we have various incarnations and so on, each as our individuality dictates, from one to the next, are not enough; they do not reach down to what we experience as the riddles of life. The need, as I have reiterated these last few days, is always to find the right perspective. We will encounter much in life that will strike us as profound riddles that need some degree of solution if we are not to feel ourselves helpless strugglers who, though we may see the riddles life presents, cannot cope with them.
There is a riddle I want to bring up here because it deals with the spiritual investigator's connection with the question of what conditions contribute to the development of individuality. I'll characterize it later on. I refer to the riddles we encounter in life with respect to the varying ages at which people die. Let's say one person lives to a green old age, while someone else dies very young. People die, of course, at all the various ages. We can state this thoughtlessly; there is particularly little inclination to be sensitive to a riddle so frequently encountered. But the fact is that the most commonplace matters pose the greatest riddles.
A contemplation of the relationship of the etheric body to the world as a whole brings us closer to this riddle. Everyone knows as a fact of experience that our physical bodies age; we grow older and older physically. And everyone understands what is involved in aging. But where our etheric bodies are concerned the opposite is true: we grow younger, ever younger. When we are very old, our physical bodies are old, but our etheric bodies have grown young. Some of you have already heard of this in my lectures, but I want to discuss it today in a different context. We have to develop our etheric bodies during an incarnation in such a way that when we have come to its close, our astral bodies will be so embedded in these etheric bodies that they feel themselves prepared for their appropriate entrance into the next life. It is really true that when an individual is old and gray and wrinkled, his etheric body burgeons with fresh life, for his astral body must accustom itself at this point to live in an etheric body already teeming with germinal potential. The way the astral body is to permeate and work in the physical body of a child in the following incarnation must already find some degree of expression in its connection with the etheric body grown young.
It is remarkable how the genius of language can reveal some secret or other. As I've mentioned on other occasions, you will find a beautiful passage in Goethe's Faust where the term “growing young” is used in place of “being born,” “growing young” rather than “growing old.” In other words, we start to grow young when we are born.
This is based, of course, on the conception of the soul pre-existing birth. But the forces it will need to enable it to work through the body into which the child is born must have been acquired while the etheric body is growing young in the aging physical body of the previous earth life.
Materialists find special corroboration of their materialistic theories in the fact that even geniuses — or at least those who are regarded as such — sometimes become senile in their old age, and Kant is cited as a particularly relished case. But people who subscribe to this way of thinking do not grasp the fact that the soul can manifest here on the physical plane only through the agency of the physical organs. Kant's brain became unable to serve as the tool of the soul forces he had evolved, and this is why he appeared feebleminded in old age, even though the soul that was preparing to organize the physical body of his next incarnation was actually already living in him. But in the previous earth life this soul was unable to make a suitable instrument of the physical body it inhabited.
If you apply what I have just been saying, you will see that it makes a tremendous, an enormous difference whether an individual dies in extreme old age or as a youngster, perhaps even in childhood. For the etheric body of someone who dies in youth has not yet grown young. If we are speaking of physical human beings we can say that they are growing old, but in speaking of the etheric body we would have to say that it “grows young.” That would be the proper expression for it. The etheric body grows young but it has not yet grown entirely young in those who die at an early age. I once tried to suggest this by saying that when a person dies in childhood or in youth his etheric body has not actually been used up. This etheric body would have lasted him a lifetime; he could have reached sixty years or more with it if he hadn't died young. But the force inherent in such an etheric body remains in existence, just as forces in the physical world do; they are not lost. However, we need to make a closer study of the special, unique attributes of this etheric body.
When a person can live to what is considered a normal old age — say seventy or eighty — his etheric body has grown very young. The whole fruit of his life experience lodges in this young etheric body, is imprinted on and expressed in it, and the astral body then takes possession of it. That happens in the following way. Let us picture the physical body abandoned by the etheric body. So long as the etheric body remains in the physical body, it cannot develop the forces it has acquired in life because it is imprisoned in the physical body. Picture how, in our previous earth life, we acquired this or that capacity. This is to say, we acquired it with the physical body of that incarnation. What we have added to it in the present incarnation has not yet had time to develop organs for its use; we must first create these in our current incarnation for the life to follow. But all this is lodged in the etheric body, which is more elastic, more fluid than the physical. No use can be made of it, however, as long as the etheric body remains bound to the physical body. But when the physical body has fallen away, the etheric body is freed. And now this etheric body brings forth all the fruits of the life we have lived through up to our death. That is also the reason why it presents the whole life-panorama that spreads out before us for a few days, the tableau of finished earth life, so that we may learn and acquire from this panorama everything that can be extracted from our past experiences. And that takes place during the few days during which we have the tableau before us.
Every morning, on awakening, when our astral body enters our physical and etheric bodies, it has to adapt itself to what has evolved out of the physical and etheric bodies of the past incarnation, and there it encounters what we have made of ourselves. The astral body never enters the etheric body in a way that allows it to make use of what the etheric body has developed in the present incarnation. But after death it does so. It is related to the etheric body in a way that lets it feel and perceive and sense the fruits gathered from the life just ended. And when, a few days later, the astral body separates from the etheric, the entire product of that life is contained in the astral body as the result of the astral body's having drawn it out of the etheric body during the days it has spent there. The astral body needs to spend only those few days in the liberated etheric body to live through everything that an incarnation has brought forth. But it takes a long time so to shape what it has thus experienced that a new earth life can be fashioned from it.
It requires a great deal, as you see, to fashion a new life. And if it were left to human wisdom to achieve this fashioning all by itself, the result would certainly be most inadequate. Try to picture yourselves having to shape your entire physical instrument with the content of your consciousness. You would first have to have a thorough understanding of it. But every glance into external science makes it clear how little insight into our physical make-up we possess. But between death and rebirth we possess it sufficiently to be able to fashion our physical body, right down into its most delicate details, in a way that qualifies it to make use of the capacities evolved in the previous incarnation.
If someone were to ask you how a convolution of the brain could be arranged to conform with the capacities acquired in the previous incarnation and you had to decide whether it should be turned or twisted thus or so, you wouldn't be able to say, if you were examined on the subject, that twisting in some particular direction would correspond to a person's having been an orator in his past incarnation, and that that particular twist would produce the right working out in this life of the acquired capacity. How could you conceivably answer out of the consciousness you possess on the physical plane? But we have to answer that question in the life between death and rebirth, for we must endow the new etheric body with the requisite capacity delicately to chisel out our organs. A single word suffices to describe what is needed, but I wanted to evoke a sense of what this word encompasses: wisdom is required, a wisdom human beings really need to have.
Even though Kant grew feebleminded in old age, his soul — which is to say, his astral body as it lived in his newly constituted etheric body — his soul was wise, for it was already in possession of wisdom. But his ego was unable to raise it to a conscious level with the brain. His soul contained the wisdom that was to emerge between death and rebirth and make its contribution to Kant's future incarnation. Kant lived into old age. The older a person grows, physically speaking, the more pronounced is this moment of wisdom.
But in the case of those who die young the situation is different, for the etheric body has not grown young, and there is consequently less earth-acquired wisdom stored up in it. It is earth-acquired wisdom that is involved here. Something else takes its place. Those who die early have old etheric bodies that have not had time to grow young, and these are all the more teeming with will. Direct will-force in all its immediacy, the love element, creative love-force, permeates them. That is the difference between the etheric bodies of the old and young. The former bear more the character of wisdom, the latter of will. The etheric body of a person who dies young streams out love, warm love, a warm etheric love-element, while that of an older person streams out an aura filled with light and wisdom.
We can answer the question that interests us here by asking spiritual science what would happen if, for some reason, everyone were to grow very old, living on to eighty or ninety, if not a single person died young. What would the result be?
In that case, all the etheric bodies deserted by their souls would be imbued with loving wisdom. People living on the earth in the continuity of history would find it possible to learn a great deal during their physical earth lives, for their physical bodies would be wisely fashioned. They would be born somewhat undifferentiated, each similar to all the rest, but they could learn a great deal on the physical plane. They would be delicately and wisely built, and could learn a great deal, since such learning would be connected with an extremely mobile constitution. Due to their extraordinarily sensitive, mechanistically-wisely constituted physical organisms, these people would be in a state of labile balance that could easily shift. A person would learn a great deal, but be terribly nervous, as the current “nervous” age would express it. It would be a humanity tending to fidget and to have a precarious balance, very gifted for learning on the physical plane, but nevertheless very restless and fidgety. We had better say fidgety rather than nervous; why not put it in a way that feels right? In earlier times, even a couple of centuries ago, throughout Europe a person who had strong nerves and could stand a lot was referred to as “nervy” or “nervous.” But nowadays the tone is not set by the same people, so the meaning of the word got turned into the exact opposite.
Now the soul-differentiations we bring with us into an incarnation from the spiritual world would not exist in human development if everybody grew old, if no one were to die young. There would be no talents, no being born with special gifts. People would come into the world more or less like each other, more or less undifferentiated. They would differ from one another and learn different things only as a result of experiencing different conditions on the physical plane, and would be rather similarly adaptable to whatever circumstances they encountered. Special individual needs would be taken care of by karma through the agency of heredity. Beyond this, what we know as predispositions to special soul-qualities would be lacking. People would simply not possess inner differences.
But everything in the world has to be founded on balance, as I've often said, and in these matters too there can be no one-sidedness. Human life must accordingly be built, on the one hand, on the possibility of pouring into the physical body what an individual has stored up as wisdom in the etheric body's growing younger for use in a future incarnation. On the other hand, the will impulses of those who die young are needed. I have shown at hand of many examples how children who die very young have not expended their etheric bodies. Right here at the Goetheanum we ourselves live in the aura of an etheric body out of which those forces that provide artistic stimulus are derived. I explained how a child belonging to the Goetheanum community left his etheric body at his death, and that this etheric body has created an aura that is incorporated into our building. Those able to perceive the nature of the impulses that come from this etheric body find support in them for the artistic impulses to be lived out here.
But this is in general the situation with the etheric bodies of those who die young. They go back; they haven't as yet grown so young as entirely to have worn down the will element; instead, will and creative love-forces accompany them into the spiritual world. And now a continuous interchange has to take place between those etheric bodies that have grown wholly young and those less young. Continuous mutual support is exchanged in the spiritual world between what ascends from the earth in the etheric bodies of the very aged and the etheric bodies of young people, or, indeed, of those in the in-between years. When very young children die, those referred to in Faust as “the midnight-born,” their etheric bodies are very old, quite hoary in fact, but they are endowed with strong will- forces. Etheric bodies of this kind are able to work powerfully on the long-lived etheric bodies of those who grow physically old.
Just think what a brilliant idea it was that made Goethe have the centenarian Faust go to heaven surrounded by the etheric bodies of very young boys, the “midnight-born,” hinting thereby that an exchange of the kind described has to take place!
This interchange is always going on. We can therefore say that there exist in the spiritual world the etheric bodies of human beings who have grown physically old, and various things are taking place in them (see drawing, mauve); then, in red, the etheric bodies of deceased young people, with various things taking place in them as well; and an interchange between them, a process of mutual exchange. And what we encounter in the life between death and rebirth is the result of the situations that develop in this exchange between the etheric bodies of those who died young and those who died old. This interchange is essential; without it, the evolution of humanity on earth could not proceed properly.
The beings who direct this interchange are to be found in the realm of the angel hierarchy, so that we really have to recognize such an interchange between the two kinds of etheric bodies in the spiritual world in which we are immersed. The two kinds of activity coalesce, like two merging rivers. But they are then given proper direction and regulation by angelic beings; that is one of the tasks with which angels are charged. When, therefore, persons are able to come into the world with special talents, this is due not only to the possibility that between death and rebirth wisdom of a materialistic nature that is a fruit of the earth has been imprinted into physical bodies, but that something not as yet fully developed on earth, the product of the etheric bodies of those who died young, has brought about effects present as forces that can be interwoven in the process of fashioning human talents.
You see how spiritual science can bring about a living feeling for things when we really immerse ourselves in its secrets. We learn from spiritual science to lift ourselves in spirit to a contemplation of the mystery of death in an older person. For then we tell ourselves that people grow old in order that human evolution may go forward in the right way for as long as physical bodies are needed as vehicles. We have a premonition, whenever an older person dies, of the fruits that human evolution on earth will bear as a result. And when we give ourselves up to a contemplation of what the future holds, we realize that there has to be a continuous development of talents in mankind's progressive evolution. This person must be gifted in this direction, another in that, with capabilities ranging all the way to the genius level. That could not be the case if nobody were fated to die young. And as we look up to people of special genius, we can attribute their gifts to the fact that some individuals have to die young. To contemplate the mystery of death in the case of young human beings is to realize that early death too is part of the wise design, for it gives rise to seed-forces of soul-endowment needed by the human race for its further progress.
If we can lift ourselves above a personal reaction to death to a contemplation of what is needed by mankind as a whole, we encounter the wisdom involved in the deaths of both young and old. It is important to realize that a truly genuine and earnest study of spiritual science does not remain mere theory, but that a proper grasp of theories leads to attitudes and feelings that enable us to achieve greater harmony in our lives than we could achieve if we didn't have it. We need spiritual science to develop the deeper insight that can lead to a perception of the consonance that lies behind life's otherwise unbearable dissonances.
We learn, too, to understand the sacrifices that we have to make in life and the things that pain us, if we know that the entire universe can be rightly maintained only by developments that cannot help but cause us sorrow. We simply have to make the effort to sense that the many hundreds of geniuses: Homer, Shakespeare, Goethe, Michelangelo, Raphael, and so on, are essential to mankind's progressive evolution, and would not have existed as such had the ground not been prepared by people dying young. This has nothing to do with the individual. Those who die young and thus sacrifice their etheric bodies in their youth provide the entire cosmos with a fruitful soil for the growth and maturing of human soul-capacities.
We become united with the universe when, instead of taking an abstract approach to spiritual science, it becomes for us a seeking out of impulses that flow into us as soul-warmth, reconciling us with the world, moving us to our depths as they show us that, though we human beings have to undergo painful experiences, we suffer them for the sake of harmony in the entire universe.
It is not always easy to withdraw our attention from individual life to focus on the life of the whole world. But the fact that achieving this goal is difficult is also the reason why it strengthens us. And as we develop a feeling for community from our suffering, that sense of the totality of the cosmic order becomes ever more intense and lays ever more profound hold on our innermost souls. And we prepare ourselves in doing this to become participants in the universal order of a kind the gods make use of.