Theosophy of the Rosicrucian [aka Rosicrucian Wisdom]. Lecture 7 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, May 31, 1907:
In order that you may better understand the law of karma as it works in human life, I shall speak of what happens immediately after the death of a human being. We heard of the memory-tableau which appears when he is freed from the physical body and is living for a short time in the etheric and astral bodies before passing through the Elemental World.
To help you to understand the inner working of karma, let me describe a strange feeling that arises during the experience of this great tableau. It is the feeling of expansion, growing out of oneself. This feeling becomes stronger and stronger as long as the human being is living in his etheric body. He has a strange experience in connection with this tableau. To begin with, he sees pictures of his past life as in a panorama. Then a moment comes, not very long after death and lasting for hours, even days, according to the nature of the individuality, where he feels: I am myself all these pictures. He feels his etheric body growing and expanding as if it embraced the whole sphere of the Earth, as far as the Sun.
Then, when the etheric body has been abandoned, another very remarkable feeling arises. It is really difficult to describe this feeling in words drawn from the physical world. It is a feeling of expansion into wide cosmic space but as though one were not actually within every place. The experience can only be approximately described. The individual feels as though with one part of his being he were in Munich, with another part of his being in Mainz, with a third in Basle, and with another far outside the Earth sphere, perhaps in the Moon. He feels as though he were dismembered, as though he were not connected with the spaces in between. That is the peculiar way of experiencing oneself as an astral being, spread out in space, transferred to different centers, but not filling the regions between them.
This experience lasts throughout Kamaloca, during which period man is living through his life backwards to his birth. He lives through all that belongs to his life and these experiences then become part of the rest of his life in Kamaloca. It is important to know this in order to picture how the law of karma works. The individual feels, at the beginning, as though he were within that human being with whom he was last connected and then, retrogressively, within all the persons and other beings with whom he was associated during his life.
Suppose, for example, you once thrashed a man in Mainz. After your death, when the time comes, you experience the thrashing you gave him, with its accompanying pain. If this man is still in Mainz, a part of your astral body after your death feels as if it were in Mainz, experiencing the event there. If the person you thrashed has died in the meantime, you feel yourself at the place in Kamaloca where he now is. You have, of course, been related not only with one but with many human beings who are scattered over the Earth in Kamaloca. You are everywhere and this gives rise to the feeling of dismemberment of the bodily nature in Kamaloca. It is thereby possible for you to experience, within all these others, the associations you had with them, and you thus form a lasting connection with everyone with whom you have come into contact. You have a tie with this man whom you thrashed because you have lived with him in Kamaloca. Later on you pass into Devachan and then, in turn, back through Kamaloca. Now, during the process of up-building, your astral body once again finds the ties which bind it to the man with whom you were united. And since there are many such connections, you see you are linked by a kind of bond with everything with which you were associated.
The event observed by occult sight of which I told you in the last lecture offers a clear explanation here. Five Vehmic judges in the Middle Ages condemned a man to death and executed the sentence themselves. In his previous life, this man had been a kind of chief and had ordered the death of the five. Then the chief died and passed into Kamaloca. During this period he was transported into the others at the place where they now were and he was himself obliged to experience what they had felt when they had been put to death. This is the starting-point of forces of attraction which bring human beings together when they return to the Earth, in order that the law of karma may be fulfilled.
Such is the technique of karma, the way in which karma works. You see from this that there are forms of existence, kindred ties, which begin already on the astral plane. On the physical plane there is continuity of substance; on the astral plane, however, related yet separated parts of the bodily nature may be experienced. It is as if you were to feel your head, then nothing at all between head and heart, then the heart, then the feet, with nothing between heart and feet. One part of you may be in America, quite separated from but yet belonging to your astral being; another part may be on the Moon, and a third on yet another planet; there need be no visible astral connection between these parts of your being.
This view of the law of karma makes it clear that what arises in one human life-cycle is the outcome of many causes which lie in past lives. How is the law of karma to be reconciled with heredity? It is said that there are many contradictions between heredity and this law.
People are apt to say of a gifted man that he must be the offspring of a gifted family, that he must have inherited his talents from his forefathers. When we observe the physical processes from the occult standpoint we know that it is not like this. We can, however, in a certain sense speak of processes of physical heredity, and we will take an example.
Within a period of 250 years, 29 musicians were born in the Bach family, among them the great Bach. A good musician needs not only the inner musical faculty but also a well-formed physical ear, a special form of ear. Laymen cannot perceive the differences here; it is necessary to look very deeply, with occult powers. Although the differences are very slight, a particular inner form of the organ of hearing is necessary if a man is to become a musician, and these forms are transmitted by heredity; they resemble those which have been present in the father, grandfather, and so on.
Suppose that on the astral plane there is an individual who acquired great musical faculties hundreds or thousands of years ago; he is ready for reincarnation and is seeking a physical body. If he cannot find a physical body possessing suitable ears, he cannot be a musician. He must look around for a family which will provide the musical ear; without it his musical talents could not manifest, for the greatest virtuoso can do nothing unless he has an instrument.
Mathematical talent also needs something quite specific. A particular construction of the brain is not, as many people think, necessary for mathematicians. Thinking, logic, is the same in the mathematician as in others. What is needed here is a special development of the three semi-circular canals in the ear which lie in the three directions of space. Special development of these canals determines mathematical talent — herein lies the gift for mathematics. This is a physical organ and its form must be transmitted by heredity. It will be remembered that 8 first-class mathematicians were born in the Bernoulli family.
A man of high moral principles also needs parents who transmit a physical body suitable for the functioning of his moral gifts. And he has these parents and no others because he is this particular kind of individuality.
The individuality himself seeks his parents, although under the guidance of higher beings. From the point of view of mother-love many people take exception to this fact. They are fearful that they might lose something if the child were not to inherit certain qualities from the mother. True knowledge, however, deepens mother-love, for it reveals that this love is present before birth, even before conception, as a force which guided the child to the mother. The child loves the mother even before birth, and mother-love is the reciprocal force. Spiritually regarded, therefore, mother-love extends to the time before birth; it is rooted in mutual feelings of love.
It is often imagined that the human being is subject to the irrevocable law of karma in which nothing can be changed. Let us take a simile from everyday life to explain the working of this law.
A merchant makes entries of debits and credits in his account books; taken together, these entries tell him the state of his business. The financial state of his business is subject to the inexorable law governing the calculation of debit and credit. If he carries through new transactions he can make additional entries, and he would be a fool if he were unwilling to embark on other business because a balance was once drawn up. In respect of karma, everything good, intelligent, and true that has been done by a man stands on the credit side; evil or foolish deeds stand on the debit side. At every moment he is free to make new entries in the karmic book of life. It must never be imagined that life is under the sway of an immutable law of destiny; freedom is not impaired by the law of karma. In studying the law of karma, therefore, the future must be borne in mind as strongly as the past. Bearing within us the effects of past deeds, we are the slaves of the past, but the masters of the future. If we are to have a favorable future, we must make as many good entries as possible in the book of life.
It is a great and potent thought to know that nothing we do is in vain, that everything has its effect in the future. The law of karma is the reverse of depressing; it fills us with splendid hope, and knowledge of it is the most precious gift of Spiritual Science. It brings happiness inasmuch as it opens out a vista into the future. It charges us to be active for its sake; there is nothing in it whatever to make us sad, nothing which could give the world a pessimistic coloring; it lends wings to our will to cooperate in the evolution of the Earth. Such are the feelings into which knowledge of the law of karma must be translated.
When a human being is suffering, people sometimes say: “He deserves his suffering and must bear his karma; if I help him, I am interfering with his karma.” This is nonsense! His poverty, his misery, is caused through his earlier life, but if I help him, new entries will be made in his book of life; my help brings him forward. It would be foolish to say to a merchant who could be saved from disaster by 1,000 or 10,000 Marks: “No, for that would alter your balance.” It is precisely this possibility of altering the balance that should induce us to help a man. I help him because I know that nothing is without its karmic effect. This knowledge should spur us on to purposeful action.
Many people dispute the law of karma from the standpoint of Christianity. Theologians maintain that Christianity cannot acknowledge this law because it is irreconcilable with the principle of the vicarious death. And there are even certain Theosophists who say that the law of karma contradicts the principle of the Redemption, that they cannot acknowledge the help given to the many by an individual. Both are wrong, for neither has understood the law of karma.
Suppose some human being is in distress. You yourself are in a more fortunate position and can help him. By your help you make a new entry in his book of life. A more influential person can help two, and affect the karma of both of them. A man who is still more powerful can help ten or a hundred people, and the most powerful can help unnumbered human beings.
This does not by any means run counter to the principle of karmic connections. Precisely because of the absolute reliability of the law of karma we know that this help does indeed influence the destiny of the human being.
Mankind was verily in need of help when the Christ was sent to this plane. The death on the Cross of the Redeemer, of the one central Being, was the help that intervened in the karma of untold numbers of men. There is no variance between Christian Esotericism and Spiritual Science when both are rightly understood. There is profound agreement between the laws of both and we are by no means obliged to abandon the principle of the Redemption.
We penetrate still more deeply into the law of karma when we study the evolution of humanity as well as the evolution of the Earth. We have considered certain facts which help us to understand this law of karma, and we shall understand it still better when we pass on to the evolution of humanity itself, not only during the Earth period but also during the other planetary incarnations of the Earth. We shall discover certain supplementary details of this law when we go back to ages in the remote past and receive indications, too, about the far future. By way of introduction we will consider a fact of great significance.
We have realized from what has been said that the external, physical body of man — the part of him that we see with physical eyes — is built up by the higher members of his being; ego, astral body, etheric body, and all the members up to Atman, the highest of them, work at the physical body. The various parts of the body, as they exist in the human being today, are not of equal but of different value in his nature. Even superficial thought will make us realize that the physical body is the most perfect part of our nature. Take, for example, a part of the thigh bone. This is not simply a compact, solid bone, but full of artistry, constructed as it were of intersecting beams. Anyone who studies this bone not only with the intellect but also with feeling will marvel at the wisdom which, in its creation, has used no more material than is essential to support the upper body with the smallest possible amount of power. No engineering art applied to the building of a bridge is equal to the wisdom that has brought such a bone into existence!
If we investigate the human heart, but not merely with the eye of the anatomist or physiologist, we shall find here an expression of sublime wisdom. Do not imagine that the astral body of man today is as far advanced in development as the physical heart. The heart has been built up with art and with wisdom; the astral body, with its desires, induces the human being to pour definite heart-poison into himself for many decades, but the heart withstands it for many decades. Only at a future stage of evolution will the astral body have reached the stage of development of the physical body today, and then it will be at a far, far higher level than the physical body. Today the physical body is the most perfect; the etheric body is less perfect, the astral body still less perfect, and the ego is the “baby” among the bodies.
The physical body as it is today is the oldest member of man's being; work has been performed on it for the longest period of time, and not until it had reached a certain stage in the course of evolution was it permeated by the etheric body. When these two bodies had worked together for a time, the astral body was added, and then, finally, the “I”, which in the future will attain undreamed-of heights of development. Just as the human being has repeated incarnations, so, too, the Earth, has passed through incarnations and will pass through still others in the future. Reincarnation is enacted throughout the Cosmos. Our Earth in its present form is the reincarnation of earlier planetary bodies, of which there have been three. Before our Earth became Earth, it was what is called by occultism — not by Astronomy — the Moon. The present Moon is as it were a body of dross which was discarded as useless.
If we could mingle Earth and Moon together, with all their substances and all their beings, we should have the “occult Moon” — the forerunner of the Earth; the Earth of today is the remnant of the Old Moon that remained after the dross had been thrown off. Just as the Moon of today is a discarded remnant of the Old Moon incarnation of the Earth, so is the Sun in the heavens a body that proceeded from a still earlier condition of the Earth. Before the Earth was Moon, it was, as we say in occultism, Sun, and this Sun was composed of all the substances and beings which today form Sun, Moon, and Earth. This Sun released itself from the substances and beings which form the Earth and the Moon of today, which it could not, as a higher celestial body, retain, and it thereby became a fixed star. Occultists know that a fixed star need not always have been a fixed star: the Sun only became a fixed star after having been a planet.
The Sun we see today was once united with the Earth and took with it many beings who were at a higher stage of development than the beings of the Earth; just as with the Moon that we see went the interior portions and the Moon is therefore a body of discarded dross. The Moon is a planet that has degenerated; the Sun is a body that has ascended.
The Sun existence was preceded by the Saturn existence. Thus there are our consecutive incarnations of the Earth: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth. When the forerunner of the human being was developing on Saturn, his only principle was that of the physical body; the etheric body was added on the Sun, the astral body on the Moon, and the “I” on the Earth.
The lecture entitled “Blood is a very special fluid” will have shown you how intimately the “I” is connected with the blood. This blood was not within the human body before the embodiment of an ego, so that this red human blood is connected with the evolution of the Earth as such. It could not have been formed at all if the Earth, in its evolutionary course, had not come together with another planet, namely, with Mars. Before this contact of the Earth with Mars, the Earth had no iron; there was no iron in the blood; the blood upon which the human being is dependent today did not exist. In the first half of Earth existence the influence of the planet Mars is the ruling factor, and the influence of the planet Mercury in the second half.
Mars has given iron to the Earth, and the Mercury influence manifests on the Earth in such a way that it makes the human soul more and more free, more and more independent. In occultism, therefore, we speak of the Mars half of Earth evolution and of the Mercury half. Whereas the other names describe a whole planet, Earth evolution is spoken of as “Mars-Mercury.” Used in this connection the names do not designate the planets we know today but the influences at work during the first and second halves of Earth evolution.
In the future the Earth will incarnate as a new planetary body, known as Jupiter. The human astral body then will have developed to a stage where it no longer confronts the physical body as an enemy, as is the case today, but it will still not have reached its highest stage. The etheric body on Jupiter will have reached the stage at which the physical body is now, for it will then have three planetary evolutions behind it, as the physical body has today.
On the planetary body following Jupiter, the astral body will have developed as far as the physical body of today; it will have behind it the Moon, Earth, and Jupiter evolutions and will have reached the Venus evolution. The final planetary incarnation will be that of Vulcan, when the “I”, the ego, will have attained the highest stage of its development. The future incarnations of the Earth will thus be: Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. These designations are also found in the names of the days of the week.
There was a time when the names of the things and facts around us in our lives were given by the initiates. Men have no inner feeling today of the way in which names really belong to things. The names given to the days of the week were meant to be reminders to human beings of their development through the evolutionary stages of the Earth.
Saturday (Sonnabend) is Saturn-day; Sunday (Sonntag) = Sun-day; Monday (Montag) = Moon-day. Then Mars and Mercury, the two conditions of our Earth. Mars-day (Dienstag) = Tuesday, in old German Ziu — Dienstag; in French, Mardi, in Italian Martedi. Wednesday (Mittwoch) is Mercury-day, in Italian Mercoledi, in French Mercredi; Mercury is the same as Wotan; Tacitus speaks of Wotan's day, in English Wednesday. Then comes the Jupiter day; Jupiter is the Germanic Donar, hence Donnerstag, in French Jeudi, in Italian Giovedi. Then Venus-day; Venus is the Germanic Freia; Freitag, in French Vendredi and in Italian Venerdi.
Thus in the names of the consecutive days of the week we have reminders of the development of the Earth through its different incarnations.
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