Thursday, September 21, 2023

Heaven goes by favor


“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”  ~Mark Twain

The day that a little dog in Mexico walked in the middle of a parade for the Pope thinking it was for him.

Human beings of the future will not be able to live without spiritual science


Rudolf Steiner:  "Spiritual science is not something which is there to satisfy mere curiosity. Not because we are simply more curious than others concerning the supersensible world are we gathered together here, but because we inwardly sense, to a greater or lesser degree, that the human beings of the future will not be able to live without spiritual science. All other endeavors which do not take this fact into account follow a course which leads to decadence. Yet things are so arranged that those who now refuse to accept spiritual science will nevertheless be given the opportunity of coming in contact with it in future incarnations. Forerunners are necessary, however. And those who, through their karma, already have a longing for spiritual science today have thereby the possibility of becoming such forerunners. This opportunity comes to them simply because forerunners must be there, and they must become such. The others who, because of their karma, do not now come to spiritual science, even though they would not reject it, will see the longing for spiritual science arise out of the universal karma of humanity later on."

Source: February 3, 1912

When man loses the heavens, he loses himself



Rudolf Steiner:  "When man loses the heavens, he loses himself."

Thank you [all the time], Margrit Wegat-Wedig!

Source: November 24, 1921

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Wonder and Conscience: pointers to past and future spiritual vision


Rudolf Steiner, February 3, 1912:

Since we can meet so seldom, it will perhaps be good to touch upon some things today which are less suited to the written word, and may therefore be communicated better by word of mouth. They deal with Anthroposophy in its direct contact with life. Anthroposophists will indeed often be confronted by the question — What is the position of Anthroposophy in regard to those who are not yet able to see in to the spiritual worlds through clairvoyant consciousness? For essentially the spiritual-scientific content of these communications has been received, taken in and imparted out of clairvoyant investigation.

It must be emphasised again and again however in regard to this point that everyone who hears of the facts and relationships which can be investigated and imparted out of clairvoyant knowledge will be able to comprehend them with his healthy human understanding. For when the facts which have been found by clairvoyant consciousness are once there, and can be put before us, they can be grasped and understood by the logic inherent in every ordinary human being, if only his judgement is sufficiently unprejudiced.

Yet we may ask — "Is there really nothing, are there not certain facts in normal human existence, certain experiences in our ordinary life, which in themselves point to the statements of spiritual investigation concerning a spiritual world which lies at the foundation of our physical one and all its phenomena?" Yes, there are many facts in ordinary life of which it may be said that man would never be able to grasp them, if he knew nothing of the existence of a spiritual world, although naturally he must at first accept them.

Today we shall begin by pointing out two experiences of human life, occurring in ordinary normal consciousness, which must simply remain inexplicable, if we do not acknowledge the existence of a spiritual world.

They are well known to us in daily life, but are as a rule not put in the right light; for were they rightly considered, there would be no necessity for a materialistic world-conception. Let us therefore place before our souls the first of these two facts, and let us do so in such a way that we start from the simplest occurrences in daily life.

If someone is confronted by a fact which he cannot explain with the concepts which he has hitherto acquired, he is thrown into a state of wonder. To give a quite concrete example of this — someone who sees an automobile or a train in motion for the first time in his life will quite certainly be greatly astonished, because within his soul the following thoughts will arise (although soon such things will no longer be anything unusual, even in the interior of Africa). — "Judging by all that I have experienced heretofore, it appears quite impossible that something can rush along through the air without anything in front of it by which it is drawn. Nevertheless I see that it rushes along without being drawn! This is truly amazing".

Thus all that man does not yet know calls forth wonder within him, whereas what he has already seen does so no longer. Only those things which he cannot connect with earlier experiences in life astonish him. Let us keep this truth of everyday life clearly before our minds and compare it with another fact which is also very remarkable. Man is indeed brought in contact with a great many things in daily life which he has never seen before, but which nevertheless he accepts without being amazed. There are innumerable events of this kind. And what sort of events are they?

Now it would indeed be very amazing if, under ordinary conditions, someone who had heretofore been sitting quietly in his chair were to feel himself suddenly beginning to fly up into the air through the chimney! This would certainly be very amazing, and yet if such a thing occurs in a dream, we take part in it without feeling any wonder at all. And we experience even more extraordinary things in dreams at which we are not at all astonished, although they cannot in any way be connected with the occurrences of daily life. In waking-life we are already astonished if someone is able to leap very high into the air, yet in dreams we fly and are not in the least surprised. Thus we are confronted by the fact that, while we are awake, we wonder at things which we have not experienced before, whereas in dreams we do not wonder at all.

The second fact to which we shall turn our attention, as an introduction to what is to follow, is the question of conscience. When man acts — and in the case of someone who has a finer feeling for things, even when he thinks, — something stirs within him which we call conscience. And this conscience is quite independent of what these events may mean in the outer world. We may have done something, for instance, which is very profitable for us, and nevertheless our conscience may condemn it. When conscience is aroused, everyone feels that something streams into the judgement of the deed which has nothing to do with its usefulness. It is like a voice which speaks within us — "You should really have done that" or "You ought not to have done it!" Here we stand before the reality of conscience, and we know how strong the warning power of conscience can be, and how it can pursue us throughout life; and we know furthermore that the existence of conscience cannot be denied.

Now let us turn again to the phenomena of dreams, and we shall see that we do the most extraordinary things, which, were we to do them in waking life, would cause us the most terrible stings of conscience. Everyone can confirm for himself out of his own experience that he does things in dreams without the least prick of conscience, which would unquestionably evoke its warning voice, were he to do them in waking-life.

These two realities — amazement, or wonder, and conscience — are strangely enough eliminated in dreams. Man is accustomed to let such things pass by unnoticed; nevertheless they throw light deep into the foundation of our existence.

In order to clarify these things a little more I should like to point out still another fact which is concerned less with conscience and more with wonder. In ancient Greece the saying arose that all philosophy springs from amazement, from wonder. The experience which lies concealed in this sentence — and it is the experience of the ancient Greeks which is meant — cannot be traced in the most ancient times of Greek development. It is to be found in the history of philosophy only from a certain point of time onward. The reason for this is that in more ancient times men did not yet feel in this way. But how does it happen that from a certain time onward, just in ancient Greece, men begin to realise that they are amazed? We have just seen that we are amazed at what does not fit into our life as we have known it hitherto; but if we have only this amazement, the amazement of ordinary life, there is nothing particular in it other than astonishment at the unusual. He who is astonished at the sight of an automobile or a train is not accustomed to see such things, and his astonishment is nothing more than the astonishment at the uncustomary. Far more worthy of wonder, however, than astonishment at motor-cars and railways, at all that is unusual, is the fact that man can also begin to wonder at the usual. Consider for instance how the sun rises every morning. Those who are accustomed to this in their ordinary consciousness are not amazed at it. But when amazement begins to arise over everyday things which we are quite used to see, philosophy and knowledge result. Those who are richest in knowledge are men who can feel wonder over things which the ordinary human being simply accepts, for only then do we become true seekers after knowledge; and it is out of this realisation that the ancient Greeks originated the saying — All philosophy springs from wonder.

But now, what of conscience? Here again it is interesting that the word “conscience” — in other words the concept, for quite clearly only when the mental image arises, does the word also appear — is likewise only to be found from a certain time onward in ancient Greece. In the more ancient Greek literature, around the time of Aeschylus, it is impossible to find any word which could be translated as “conscience.” Yet we find such a word used among the younger Greek authors, by Euripides for instance. Here we can see, as distinctly as if a finger pointed to it, that conscience — just as the amazement at what is customary — is something which was only known after a certain point of time in Greek history. What appeared after this point of time as the stirring of conscience, was something quite different among the more ancient Greeks. For in these earlier times man did not feel pangs of conscience when he had done wrong. He still had a primitive elementary clairvoyance; and were we to go back to a time only shortly before the beginning of the Christian era, we should find that everybody still possessed this primitive clairvoyance. If at that time someone had done wrong, he had no pangs of conscience, but a daemonic form appeared to his ancient clairvoyance and tormented him, and these beings were called Erinnys and Furies. Only when man had lost the capacity whereby he could see these daemonic forms, did he develop the power to feel conscience as an inner experience, when he had done wrong.

We must now ask ourselves what such facts can show us, and what actually happens in the ordinary feeling of amazement, as experienced, for instance, by a savage from the uncivilized regions of Africa, were he to be brought to Europe and to see trains and motor-cars being driven about. The appearance of his amazement presupposes that something now enters his life which was formerly not there, something which he has seen before in quite another form.

If now a more developed human being feels the need to explain certain things, to explain occurrences of everyday life, because he is able to wonder even at such simple events, this likewise presupposes that at some earlier time he has seen them quite differently. No one would ever have reached another explanation of the sunrise than that of mere appearances — that it is the sun which rises — if in his soul he did not feel that he had seen it differently in former times. But the sunrise, someone might well object, we have seen occurring in a similar way from our earliest youth; would it not seem to be downright foolishness to fall into amazement because of it? The only explanation for this is that, if we are nevertheless seized with amazement, we must have experienced it before under entirely other conditions, quite differently from to-day. For if Anthroposophy says that man existed in a different state between the time of his birth and a previous life, then his amazement at such an everyday occurrence as the accustomed sunrise is nothing other than an indication of this former condition, in which he also perceived the sunrise, but in a different way — without bodily organs. There he perceived it with spiritual eyes and with spiritual ears. And in the moment when, guided by a dim feeling, he says to himself — “You stand before the rising sun, before the foaming sea, before the sprouting plant, and you are filled with wonder!“ ... then in this amazement there lies the knowledge that he once perceived all this in another way than with his physical eyes. It was with his spiritual organs that he saw it before he entered the physical world. He feels dimly that everything appeared differently when he saw it before. And this was and can be due only to himself, to his own experience, before his birth.

Such facts force us to realize that knowledge would be altogether impossible if man did not enter this earthly life out of a previous super-sensible existence. Otherwise there would be no explanation of wonder and the knowledge resulting from it. Of course man does not remember in distinct mental images what he experienced differently before birth, but although it does not show itself clearly in thought it lives nevertheless in his feelings. Only through initiation can it be brought down as a clear memory.

But now let us investigate why we do not wonder in dreams. Here we must first answer the question — What then is dream in reality. — Dream is an ancient heritage from former incarnations. Within these earlier incarnations man passed through other states of consciousness of a clairvoyant nature. Later on, during the further course of evolution he lost the capacity to see clairvoyantly into the soul-spiritual world. He had first a shadowy kind of clairvoyance, and his development gradually took its course out of this former shadowy clairvoyance into the clear waking consciousness of our present day, which could evolve in the physical world in order, when fully developed, to ascend once more into the psychic spiritual world with the capacities thus won by his Ego in waking consciousness. But what did man win in olden days through ancient clairvoyance? Something is still left of it — namely, our dreams. But dreams differ from ancient clairvoyance inasmuch as they are an experience of the man of modern times; who has developed a consciousness which bears within it the impulse for knowledge. Dreams, as the remnant of a former state of consciousness, do not contain the desire for knowledge, and this is why man experiences the difference between waking consciousness and dream-consciousness.

Wonder, which was not to be found in the shadowy clairvoyance of ancient times, can also not enter the dream-consciousness of today. Amazement, wonder, cannot reach into our dreams, but we experience them in waking consciousness when we turn our attention towards the outer world. In his dreams man is not in this outer world, for they transport him into the spiritual realm, and there he no longer experiences the things of the physical plane. Yet it is just with regard to this physical world that he has learned to wonder. In dreams he accepts everything as he accepted it in ancient clairvoyance, when he could simply take things as they were, because spiritual forms came to him and showed him the good or evil which he had done. For this reason he did not then need wonder. Thus dreams show us through their own nature that they are a heritage from ancient times, when there was neither wonder at the things of everyday life, nor conscience.

Here we reach the point where we must ask — "If man was once already clairvoyant, why then could he not remain so? Why did he descend? Did the gods drive him out without reason?" Now it is a fact that man would never have attained what lies in wonder and in conscience, had he not descended. In order that he might win for himself knowledge and conscience man descended; for he can only win them if he is separated for a time from the spiritual world. And here below he has attained them, attained knowledge and conscience, in order that he may ascend with them once more.

Spiritual Science reveals to us that each time he passes through the life between death and a new birth man lives during a certain period in a purely spiritual world. First of all, after death, he experiences the period of Kamaloka, where he is only half within the spiritual world, as it were, because he still looks back upon his instincts and sympathies and thereby is still drawn towards all that unites him with the physical world. Only when this period of Kamaloka is extinguished, so to speak, does he experience in full a purely spiritual life — or Devachan.

When we enter this purely spiritual world, what do we experience within it? How does every human being experience himself here? Even a quite simple logical consideration can show us that our surroundings between death and a new birth must be entirely different from those during physical life. On earth we see colours because we have eyes; we hear sounds because we have ears. But after death, in spiritual existence, when we have neither eyes nor ears, we can no longer perceive these colours and these sounds. Indeed, even on earth, if our ears or eyes are not good, we consequently see or hear badly, or perhaps not at all. Anyone who ponders over this, even slightly, should find it self-understood. For it is quite clear that we must imagine the spiritual world as completely different from the world in which we live here between birth and death. With the help of the following comparison you may be able to form for yourselves a picture of the transformation which the world must undergo when we pass through the gates of death.

Let us imagine that someone sees a lamb and a wolf. As a human being he can perceive this lamb and this wolf with all the organs of perception which are at his disposal in physical life. He sees the lamb as a material lamb, the wolf as a material wolf. He also recognises other lambs and other wolves and calls them "lamb" and "wolf". He has then a picture-concept of both the one and the other. It might now be said, and it is indeed said — "The picture-concept of the animal is not visible, it lives within the animal; the real being of the lamb and the wolf cannot be seen materially. Thus we form mental images of the animal's being, but this being itself is invisible."

There are however theorists who hold the opinion that the concepts which we form of wolf and lamb live only within us and have nothing to do with the wolf and the lamb themselves. One who maintains this point of view should be induced to feed a wolf upon nothing but lambs until, according to scientific investigation, every particle of the wolf's bodily substance has been renewed; the wolf would then be formed entirely of lamb-substance. And he could then see for himself whether it had changed into a lamb! If however it should turn out that the wolf did not become a Lamb, this would prove that the object wolf is something quite different from the material wolf, that what is objective in the wolf is more than what is material.

This invisible being which we only grasp as a concept in ordinary life, this it is which we see after death. We do not see the white colour of the lamb or hear the sounds it makes, but we see that which works as an invisible power within the lamb, which is just as real, and actually exists for one who lives in the spiritual world. For on the same spot where a lamb stands, there stands also a real spiritual entity, and this we behold after death. And so it is with all the phenomena of our physical surroundings. There we see the sun differently, the moon differently — everything appears different; and we bring something of all this with us, when we enter a new existence through birth. When therefore we are seized with the feeling that we have seen all this before in a different way, then, with the amazement, with the wonder which we feel, knowledge descends to us.

It is quite different, however, when we observe the actions of a human being, for in this case we have to do with conscience. If we wish to know what conscience is; we must turn our attention to an occurrence in life which we can observe without clairvoyance. We must become aware of the moment of falling asleep. This we can learn to do without clairvoyance, and what may thus be experienced can be attained by everyone. When we are on the point of falling asleep, everything begins to lose its sharp outlines, colours grow pale, sounds not only become fainter, but even seem to recede, to be far away; they come to us as if from a great distance, and we can describe their increasing faintness as a "receding". This entire process — this "becoming less distinct" of the world of the senses — is like a transformation, as when mists are gathering. Our limbs also grow weaker. We feel in them something which we did not feel before in a waking condition; it is as if they were endowed with weight, with heaviness. During our waking life — were we aware of these things — we should in reality feel that our legs with which we walk, or our hands which we raise, have no weight whatever for us. Our hand lifts and carries a hundredweight ... why is this hundredweight heavy? Or our hand lifts and carries itself ... why do we feel no weight at all? My hand belongs to me; for this reason I do not feel its heaviness. The hundredweight, however, is outside of me and has weight because it is not a part of myself.

Let us imagine that a being from Mars were to descend to the earth without knowing anything about the conditions here, and that, the first thing which it beheld was a human being, carrying a weight in each hand. To begin with, the Mars-being would necessarily believe that these two weights belonged to the human being as a part of his hands, a part of his entire being. If however it were later forced to realise that the man feels a difference between the hundredweight and his hand, it would naturally be astonished. It is really true that we only feel what is outside of us as weight. Thus when man is about to fall asleep and begins to feel his limbs as something heavy, this is a sign that he is leaving his body, passing out of his physical body.

It is now a question of observing a subtile nuance which occurs in the moment when the limbs begin to grow heavy. A very strange feeling then arises. It manifests itself by saying to us, as it were — "You have done this!" or "You have failed to do that!" The deeds of the past day thus immerge like a living conscience. And if there is something among them which we cannot approve of, we toss about on our couch and cannot go to sleep. If however we are able to feel contented about our deeds, then a blissful moment comes over us as we fall asleep and we say to ourselves — "Ah, could it but always remain thus!" Then follows a sudden jerk; as it were. This is the moment when man passes out of his physical and etheric bodies, and he is then in the spiritual world.

Let us examine more exactly the moment in which this living conscience, as we may call it, arises within us. Without having the strength to really do anything sensible, we toss about on our couch. This is an unhealthy state and prevents us from falling asleep. It occurs when, on approaching sleep, we are about to leave the physical plane in order to ascend into another world, which however will not receive what we call "a bad conscience." We cannot fall asleep because we are thrown back again by the world which we must now enter. The saying that an action should be considered from the point of view of conscience means, therefore, nothing else than a foreboding of what we must be like in the future, as human beings, in order that we may enter the spiritual world.

Thus in amazement we find an expression of what we have seen at an earlier time, while conscience is the expression of a future perception of the spiritual world. Conscience forewarns us as to whether we shall shrink back, or find blessedness, when we are able to behold our actions in Devachan. It is thus a kind of prophetic presentiment of the way in which we shall experience our deeds after death.

Amazement and desire for knowledge on the one hand, and conscience on the other, are living witnesses of the spiritual world. They cannot be explained without taking the spiritual worlds into account. One who can experience awe at the phenomena of the world, who can feel reverence and wonder for these phenomena, will be more easily inclined to become an Anthroposophist than many others. It is the more developed souls who are able to wonder ever more and more. For the less wonder a soul is able to experience, the less developed it is.

Now it is true that man approaches all his daily experiences — the everyday occurrences of life — with much less wonder than he feels, for instance, when admiring the starry heavens in all their splendour. But the higher development of the soul, in the true sense, begins only when we can wonder at the smallest flower, the tiniest petal, the most insignificant beetle or worm, just as much as at the greatest events in the cosmos. If we go to the root of these things, they are indeed very strange. As a rule man is easily inclined to demand an explanation for things which effect him in a sensational way. Those who live in the vicinity of a volcano, for instance, will seek an explanation for the causes of volcanic eruptions, because they must pay particular heed to these things, and therefore devote more attention to them than to everyday proceedings. Indeed people who live far away from volcanoes also attempt to find an explanation concerning them, because they find such occurrences startling and sensational. But when a man enters life with a soul so constituted that he is amazed at all things, because he divines something spiritual in everything about him, he will then be no more amazed at a volcano than perhaps at the little bubbles and tiny craters which he observes in his cup of milk or coffee at the breakfast-table. He is just as much interested in small things as in the greatness of a volcanic eruption.

To be able to approach everything with wonder is a reminiscence of our perception before birth.

To be able to approach all our deeds with conscience means to have a living premonition that every deed which we enact will appear to us in the future in a different form.

Those who feel thus are more than others predestined to find their way to spiritual science.

We live to-day in a time when many things come to meet us in life which can be explained only through spiritual science. Certain things defy every other explanation. And human beings react in very different ways in regard to these. Without doubt we can observe the most varied characters in human beings to-day, and yet among these widely differing nuances of character we meet with two main types.

Those who belong to the first type may be described as thoughtful natures, as those inclining more to observation, who can constantly feel wonder and the stirring of conscience. Many a sorrow, many a dark melancholy mood may take possession of these souls as the result of an unsatisfied longing for explanation. A sensitive conscience can make life much more difficult.

But we find still another type of person in the present time. This type consists of those who do not wish to hear anything whatever about such explanations of the world. For them, all the facts brought forward by spiritual investigation are dreadfully tedious; they prefer to go ahead and lead a robust active life, without asking for explanations, and if you only start to mention them they begin to yawn. It is indeed true that in such natures conscience stirs less easily than in others.

But how is it that such polaric characters exist? Spiritual science is prepared to enter into this question and to show why the one type of character reveals, through its thoughtfulness, a thirst for knowledge, whereas the other is bent only upon enjoying life without asking for any explanation.

If we test the whole scope of the human soul, by means of spiritual investigation — and here only a few indications can be given, as it would require many hours to go into things more thoroughly — we find that many of those who have a more contemplative nature cannot live unless they are able to throw light upon the fact that in previous incarnations they actually knew in their souls something about the truth of reincarnation. There are still countless people upon the earth even to-day who know about reincarnation and for whom it is an absolute reality. We need only think of the Asiatics.

In other words, those who have to-day a thoughtful nature link their present life — even if indirectly — with another life in a previous embodiment when they still knew of reincarnation.

The other more robust natures, however, have come over from a former life in which they knew nothing of repeated lives on earth. They feel no impulse either to burden themselves very greatly with conscience concerning their deeds in life, or to trouble much about explanations. A great many people here in the West are so constituted, and it is even the characteristic of western culture that people have, so to speak, forgotten their previous lives on earth. Yes — they have forgotten them; but our whole culture stands to-day at a turning-point when the memory of past lives on earth will awaken again. Those who live at the present time go foreward therefore into a future which will be characterised by the re-establishment of a connection with the spiritual world.

This ability can be found in only a few people today, but in the course of the twentieth century it will quite definitely become a universal faculty of mankind. And it will be thus ... Let us imagine that someone has done this or that, and is afterwards tormented by his conscience. So it is to-day. In the future, however, when the spiritual connection has been re-established, he who has committed the one or the other deed will feel the desire to shrink back from it as if blindfold[ed]. And there will arise then before him as a picture — as a dream-picture, but a living dream-picture — something which will have to occur in the future because of this deed. And people will say to themselves when they experience such a picture — "Yes, it is I who am experiencing this, but I have not yet experienced what I see there."

For all those who have heard nothing of spiritual science, this will appear as something terrible. Those, however who have prepared themselves for these events, which will be experienced in time by all human beings, will say to themselves — "It is true, I have not experienced this yet, but I shall experience it in the future as the karmic compensation of the deed which I have just done."

We stand to-day as if in the anti-chamber of that time when the karmic compensation of deeds will appear to human beings in the form of prophetic dream-pictures. And now imagine this experience as becoming ever stronger and stronger in the course of time, and you will have before you the man of the future who will behold how his deeds are karmicly judged.

But how is it possible that human beings will be capable of perceiving this karmic compensation? This is connected with the fact that men of former times had no conscience, but were tormented by the Furies after committing an unworthy deed. So it was with ancient clairvoyance; but all this is past. Then came the time when men no longer saw the Furies, the time of transition, when all that the Furies had formerly performed appeared from within as conscience. And now we are gradually approaching a time when we shall be able to see once more — to see the karmic compensation of our deeds. The fact that man has once won for himself the power of conscience makes it possible for him to see consciously in the spiritual world henceforeward.

Just as certain people living at the present time have become thoughtful natures because they won certain powers in former incarnations which now reveal themselves as wonder, as a kind of memory of these earlier lives, just so they will take certain powers with them into their next incarnation if they now acquire a knowledge of the spiritual worlds. Those, however, who refuse to accept an explanation of the law of reincarnation at the present time, will fare very badly in the future world. For such souls these facts will be a terrible reality.

To-day we are living in a period of history when people can still cope with life, even if they have no explanation of it from the point of view of the super-sensible worlds. But this period which has once been permitted, so to speak, by the cosmic powers will draw to an end, and those who now have no connection with the spiritual world will, in their next life, awaken in such a way that the world into which they are reborn will be incomprehensible to them. And when, at death, they leave this uncomprehended physical existence once more, they will have no understanding for the spiritual world either, into which they grow after death. They will, of course, enter the spiritual world, but they will not be able to grasp it. They will find themselves then in surroundings which they cannot understand, which do not seem to belong to them, and torment them as only a bad conscience can torment.

And when again they descend into another incarnation, it will be equally as bad, for they will have all manner of instincts and passions, and as they can develop no feeling of wonder, they will live in the midst of these as in illusions and hallucinations. The materialists of to-day are approaching a future in which they will be tormented in a terrible way by illusions and hallucinations; for what they think in this Life, they will then experience in the form of illusions and hallucinations.

We may picture this to ourselves quite concretely. Let us imagine, for instance, that to-day two people walk along the street together. One is a materialist, the other a non-materialist. The latter mentions some facts about the spiritual world. The materialist however says, or thinks — "Oh, that is all nonsense! Such things are only illusions!" Indeed, for him they are illusions, but for the one who has just spoken of the spiritual world they are by no means illusions. After death however the materialist will experience the consequences, and with still greater force later during his next life on earth. Then he will feel the spiritual worlds as something which torments him, like a living reproach. During his life in Kama-Loka between death and a new birth he will, so to speak, feel no difference between Kama-Loka and Devachan. And when he is reborn and the spiritual world arises before him, as has been described, it will appear to him as something unreal, as an illusion, an hallucination.

Spiritual science is not something which is there to satisfy mere curiosity. Not because we are simply more curious than others concerning the supersensible world are we gathered together here, but because we inwardly sense, to a greater or lesser degree, that the human beings of the future will not be able to live without spiritual science. All other endeavors which do not take this fact into account follow a course which leads to decadence.

Yet things are so arranged that those who now refuse to accept spiritual science will nevertheless be given the opportunity of coming in contact with it in future incarnations. Forerunners are necessary, however. And those who, through their karma, already have a longing for spiritual science today have thereby the possibility of becoming such forerunners. This opportunity comes to them simply because forerunners must be there, and they must become such. The others who, because of their karma, do not now come to spiritual science, even though they would not reject it, will see the longing for spiritual science arise out of the universal karma of humanity later on.

Source: February 3, 1912

Never Doubt


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."  — Margaret Mead

Love Alone


Rudolf Steiner: "what a vitalizing effect love can have on our fellow beings — how one who is really able to pour forth love upon his fellow humans can quicken and comfort and elevate them through his love alone."

"Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves."  ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


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

Source: June 27, 1909

The right attitude about karma


Rudolf Steiner, Vienna, February 8, 1912:

I had good reason to emphasize at the end of each of the two public lectures ( 53 ) that Anthroposophy must not be regarded merely as a theory or a science, nor only as knowledge in the ordinary sense. It is rather something that can be transformed in the soul into actual life, into an elixir of life. What really matters is that we shall not only acquire knowledge through Anthroposophy, but that forces shall flow into us from Anthroposophy which help us not only in ordinary physical existence but through the whole compass of life, which includes physical existence and the discarnate condition between death and a new birth. The more we feel that Anthroposophy bestows upon us forces whereby life itself is strengthened and enriched, the more truly do we understand it. When such a statement is made, people may ask: If Anthroposophy is to be a power that strengthens and infuses vigour into life, why is it necessary to absorb all this apparently theoretical knowledge? Why do we have to bother in our group meetings with all sorts of details about the preceding planetary embodiments of the earth? Why is it necessary to learn about things that happened in the remote past? Why are we also expected to familiarise ourselves with the more intimate, intangible laws of reincarnation, karma and so forth? Many people might think that Anthroposophy is just another kind of science, on a par with the many sciences existing in outer, physical life.
Now with regard to this question, which has been mentioned here because it is very likely to be asked, all considerations of convenience in life must be put aside; there must be scrupulous self-examination to find whether or not such questions are tainted by that habitual slackness in life which we know only too well; that man is fundamentally unwilling to learn, unwilling to take hold of the spiritual because this is inconvenient for him. We must ask ourselves: Does not something of this fear of inconvenience and discomfort creep into such questions? Let us admit that we really do begin by thinking that there is an easier path to Anthroposophy than all that is presented, for example, in our literature. It is often said lightheartedly that, after all, a man need only know himself, need only try to be a good and righteous human being, and then he is a sufficiently good Anthroposophist. Yes, my dear friends, but precisely this gives us the deeper knowledge that there is nothing more difficult than to be a good man in the real sense and that nothing needs so much preparation as the attainment of this ideal.
As to the question concerning self-knowledge, that can certainly not be answered in a moment, as so many people would like to think. Today, therefore, we will consider certain questions which are often expressed in the way indicated above. We will think of how Anthroposophy comes to us, seemingly, as a body of teaching, a science, although in essence it brings self-knowledge and the aspiration to become good and righteous human beings. And to this end it is important to study from different points of view how Anthroposophy can flow into life.
Let us consider one of life's vital questions. I am not referring to anything in the domain of science but to a question arising in everyday existence, namely, that of consolation for suffering, for lack of satisfaction in life.
How, for example, can Anthroposophy bring consolation to people in distress when they need it? Every individual must of course apply what can be said about such matters to his own particular case. In addressing a number of people one can only speak in a general sense.
Why do we need consolation in life? Because something may distress us, because we have to suffer and undergo painful experiences. Now it is natural for a man to feel that something in him rebels against this suffering. And he asks: ‘Why have I to bear it, why has it fallen to my lot? Could not my life have been without pain, could it not have brought me contentment?’ A man who puts the question in this way can only find an answer when he understands the nature of human karma, of human destiny. Why do we suffer? And I am referring not only to outer suffering but also to inner suffering due to a sense of failure to do ourselves justice or, find our proper hearings in life. That is what I mean by inner suffering. Why does life bring so much that leaves us unsatisfied?
Study of the laws of karma will make it clear to us that something underlies our sufferings, something that can be elucidated by an example drawn from ordinary life between birth and death. I have given this example more than once. Suppose a young man has lived up to the age of eighteen or so entirely on his father; his life has been happy and carefree; he has had everything he wanted. Then the father loses his fortune, becomes bankrupt, and the youth is obliged to set about learning something, to exert himself. Life brings him many sufferings and deprivations. It is readily understandable that the sufferings are not at all to his liking. But now think of him at the age of fifty. Because circumstances obliged him to learn something in his youth he has turned into a decent, self-respecting human being. He has found his feet in life and can say to himself: ‘My attitude to the sufferings and deprivations was natural at the time; but now I think quite differently about them; I realise now that the sufferings would not have come to me if in those days I had possessed all the virtues — even the very limited virtues of a boy of eighteen. If no suffering had come my way I should have remained a good-for-nothing. It was the sufferings that changed the imperfections into something more perfect. It is due to the suffering that I am not the same human being I was forty years ago. What was it, then, that joined forces in me at that time? My own imperfections and my suffering joined forces. And my imperfections sought out the suffering so that they might be removed and transformed into perfections.’
This attitude can even arise from quite an ordinary view of life between birth and death. And if we think deeply about life as a whole, facing our karma in the way indicated in the lecture yesterday, we shall finally be convinced that the sufferings along our path are sought out by our imperfections. The vast majority of sufferings are, indeed, sought out by the imperfections we have brought with us from earlier incarnations. And because of these imperfections a wiser being within us seeks for the path leading to the sufferings. For it is a golden rule in life that as human beings we have perpetually within us a being who is much wiser, much cleverer than we ourselves. The ‘I’ of ordinary life has far less wisdom, and if faced with the alternative of seeking either pain or happiness would certainly choose the path to happiness. The wiser being operates in depths of the subconscious life to which ordinary consciousness does not extend. This wiser being diverts our gaze from the path to superficial happiness and kindles within us a magic power which, without our conscious knowledge, leads us towards the suffering. But what does this mean: without our conscious knowledge? It means that the wiser being is prevailing over the less wise one, and this wiser being invariably acts within us so that it guides our imperfections to our sufferings, allowing us to suffer because every outer and inner suffering removes some imperfection and leads to greater perfection.
We may be willing to accept such principles in theory, but that is not of much account. A great deal is achieved, however, if in certain solemn and dedicated moments of life we try strenuously to make such principles the very lifeblood of the soul. In the hurry and bustle, the work and the duties of ordinary life, this is not always possible; under these circumstances we cannot always oust the being of lesser wisdom — who is, after all, part of us. But in certain deliberately chosen moments, however short they may be, we shall be able to say to ourselves: I will turn away from the hubbub of outer life and view my sufferings in such a way that I realise how the wiser being within me has been drawn to them by a magic power, how I imposed upon myself certain pain without which I should not have overcome this or that imperfection. A feeling of the peace inherent in wisdom will then arise, bringing the realisation that even when the world seems full of suffering, there too it is full of wisdom! In this way, life is enriched through Anthroposophy. We may forget it again in the affairs of external life, but if we do not forget it altogether and repeat the exercise steadfastly, we shall find that a kind of seed has been laid in the soul and that many a feeling of sadness and depression changes into a more positive attitude, into strength and energy. And then out of such quiet moments in life we will acquire more harmonious souls and become stronger individuals.
Then we may pass on to something else ... but the Anthroposophist should make it a rule to devote himself to these other thoughts only when the attitude towards suffering has become alive within him. We may turn, then, to think about the happiness and joys of life. A man who adopts towards his destiny the attitude that he himself has willed his sufferings will have a strange experience when he comes to think about his joy and happiness. It is not as easy for him here as it is in the case of his sufferings. It is easy, after all, to find a consolation for suffering, and anyone who feels doubtful has only to persevere; but it will be difficult to find the right attitude to happiness and joy. However strongly a man may bring himself to feel that he has willed his suffering — when he applies this mood of soul to his happiness and joy he will not be able to avoid a sense of shame; he will feel thoroughly ashamed. And he can only rid himself of this feeling of shame by saying to himself: ‘No, I have certainly not earned my joy and happiness through my own karma!’ This alone will put matters right, for otherwise the shame may be so intense that it almost destroys him in his soul. The only salvation is not to attribute our joys to the wiser being within us. This thought will convince us that we are on the right road, because the feeling of shame passes away. It is really so: happiness and joy in life are bestowed by the wise guidance of worlds, without our assistance, as something we must receive as grace, always recognising that the purpose is to give us our place in the totality of existence. Joy and happiness should so work upon us in the secluded moments of life that we feel them as grace, grace bestowed by the supreme powers of the world who want to receive us into themselves.
While our pain and suffering bring us to ourselves, make us more fully ourselves, through joy and happiness — provided we consider them as grace — we develop the feeling of peaceful security in the arms of the divine powers of the world, and the only worthy attitude is one of thankfulness. Nobody who in quiet hours of self-contemplation ascribes happiness and joy to his own karma, will unfold the right attitude to such experiences. If he ascribes joy and happiness to his karma he is succumbing to a fallacy whereby the spiritual within him is weakened and paralysed; the slightest thought that happiness or delight have been deserved weakens and cripples us inwardly. These words may seem harsh, for many a man, when he attributes suffering to his own will and individuality, would like to be master of himself, too, in the experiences of happiness and joy. But even a cursory glance at life will indicate that by their very nature joy and happiness tend to obliterate something in us. This weakening effect of delights and joys in life is graphically described in Faust by the words: ‘And so from longing to delight I reel; and even in delight I pine for longing.’ ( 54 ) And anybody who gives any thought to the influence of joy, taken in the personal sense, will realise that there is something in joy that makes us stagger and blots out our true being.
This is not meant to be a sermon against joy or a suggestion that it would be good to torture ourselves with red-hot pincers or the like. Certainly not. To recognise something for what it really is does not mean that we must flee from it. It is not a question of running away from joy but of receiving it calmly whenever it comes to us; we must learn to feel it as grace, and the more we do so the better it will be, for we shall enter more deeply into the divine. These words are said, therefore, not in order to preach asceticism but to awaken the right mood towards happiness and joy.
If anyone were to say: joy and happiness have a weakening, deadening effect, therefore I will flee from them (which is the attitude of false asceticism and a form of self-torture) — such a man would be fleeing from the grace bestowed upon him by the gods. And in truth the self-torture practised by the ascetics, monks and nuns in olden days was a form of resistance against the gods. We must learn to regard suffering as something brought by our karma, and to feel happiness as grace that the divine can send down to us. Joy and happiness should be to us the sign of how closely the gods have drawn us to themselves; suffering and pain should be the sign of how remote we are from the goal before us as intelligent human beings. Such is the true attitude to karma, and without it we shall make no real progress in life. Whenever the world bestows upon us the good and the beautiful, we must feel that behind this world stand those powers of whom the Bible says: ‘And they looked at the world and they saw that it was good.’ But inasmuch as we experience pain and suffering, we must recognise what, in the course of incarnations, man has made of the world which in the beginning was good, and what he must contribute towards its betterment by educating himself to bear pain with purpose and energy.
What has been described are two ways of accepting our karma. In a certain respect our karma consists of suffering and joys; and we relate ourselves to our karma with the right attitude when we can consider it as something we really wanted, and when we can confront our sufferings and joys with the proper understanding. But a review of karma can be extended further, which we shall do today and tomorrow.
Karma does not reveal itself only in the form of experiences of suffering or joy. As our life runs its course we encounter in a way that can only be regarded as karmic — many human beings with whom, for example, we make a fleeting acquaintance, others who as relatives or close friends are connected with us for a considerable period of our life. We meet human beings who in our dealings with them bring sufferings and hindrances along our path; or again we meet others whom we can help and who can help us. The relationships are manifold. We must regard these circumstances too as having been brought about by the will of the wiser being within us — the will, for example, to meet a human being who seems to run across our path accidentally and with whom we have something to adjust or settle in life. What is it that makes the wiser being in us wish to meet this particular person? The only intelligent line of thought is that we want to come across him because we have done so before in an earlier life and our relationship had already begun then. Nor need the beginning have been in the immediately preceding life it may have been very much earlier. Because in a past life we have had dealings of some kind with this person, because we may have been in some way indebted to him, we are led to him again by the wiser being within us, as if by magic.
Here, of course, we enter a very diverse and extremely complicated domain, of which it is only possible to speak in general terms. But all the indications given here are the actual results of clairvoyant investigation. The indications will be useful to every individual because he will be able to particularise and apply what is said to his own life.
A remarkable fact comes to light. About the middle of life the ascending curve passes over into the descending curve. This is the time when the forces of youth are spent and we pass over a certain zenith to the descending curve. This point of time — which occurs in the thirties — cannot be laid down with absolute finality, but the principle holds good for everyone. It is the period of life when we live most intensely on the physical plane. In this connection we may easily be deluded. It will be clear that life before this point of time has been a process of bringing out what we have brought with us into the present incarnation. This process has been going on since childhood, although it is less marked as the years go by. We have chiseled out our life, have been nourished as it were by the forces brought from the spiritual world. These forces, however, are spent by the point of time indicated above. Observation of the descending line of life reveals that we now proceed to harvest and work over what has been learnt in the school of life, in order to carry it with us into the next incarnation. This is something we take into the spiritual world; in the earlier period we were taking something from the spiritual world. It is in the middle period that we are most deeply involved in the physical world, most engrossed in the affairs of outer life. We have passed through our apprenticeship as it were and are in direct contact with the world. We have our life in our own hands. At this period we are taken up with ourselves, concerned more closely than at any other time with our own external affairs and with our relation to the outer world. But this relation with the world is created by the intellect and the impulses of will which derive from the intellect — in other words, those elements of our being which are most alien to the spiritual worlds, to which the spiritual worlds remain closed. In the middle of life we are, as it were, farthest away from the spiritual.
A certain striking fact presents itself to occult research. Investigation of the kind of encounters and acquaintanceships with other human beings that arise in the middle of life shows, curiously, that these are the people that a man was together with at the beginning of his life, in his very earliest childhood in the previous incarnation or in a still earlier one. The fact has emerged that in the middle of life as a rule it is so, but not always — a man encounters, through circumstances of external karma, those people who in an earlier life were his parents; it is very rarely indeed that we are brought together in earliest childhood with those who were previously our parents; we meet them in the middle of life. This certainly seems strange, but it is the case, and a very great deal is gained for life if we will only try to put such a general rule to the test and adjust our thoughts accordingly. When a human being — let us say at about the age of thirty — enters into some relationship with another ... perhaps he falls in love, makes great friends, quarrels, or has some different kind of contact, a great deal will become comprehensible if, quite tentatively to begin with, he thinks about the possibility of the relationship to this person having once been that of child and parent. Conversely, this very remarkable fact comes to light. Those human beings with whom we were together in earliest childhood — parents, brothers and sisters, playmates or others around us during early childhood — they, as a rule, are people with whom we formed some kind of acquaintanceship when we were about thirty or so in a previous incarnation; in very many cases it is found that these people are our parents or brothers and sisters in the present incarnation. Curious as this may seem, just let us try to see how the principle squares with our own life, and we shall discover how much more understandable many things become. Even if the facts are otherwise, an experimental mistake will not amount to anything very serious. But if, in solitary hours, we look at life so that it is filled with meaning, we can gain a great deal. Obviously we must not try to arrange life to our liking; we must not choose the people we like and assume that they may have been our parents. Prejudices must not falsify the real facts. You will see the danger we are exposed to and the many misconceptions that may creep in. We ought to educate ourselves to remain open-minded and unbiased.
You may now ask what there is to be said about the descending curve of life. The striking fact has emerged that at the beginning of life we meet those human beings with whom we were connected in the middle period of life in a previous incarnation; further, that in the middle of the present life, we revive acquaintanceships which existed at the beginning of a preceding life. And now, what of the descending curve of life? During that period we are led to people who may also, possibly, have had something to do with us in an earlier incarnation. They may, in that earlier incarnation, have played a part in happenings of the kind that so frequently occur at a decisive point in life — let us say, trials and sufferings caused by bitter disillusionments. In the second half of life we may again be brought into contact with people who in some way or other were already connected with us; this meeting brings about a shifting of circumstances, and a lot that was set in motion in the earlier life is cleared up and settled.
These things are diverse and complex and indicate that we should not adhere rigidly to any hard and fast pattern. This much, however, may be said: the nature of the karma that has been woven with those who come across our path especially in the second half of life is such that it cannot be absolved in one life. Suppose, for example, we have caused suffering to a human being in one life; we could easily imagine that in a subsequent life we shall be led to this person by the wiser being within us, so that we may make amends for what we have done to him. The circumstances of life, however, may not enable compensation to be made for everything, but often only for a part of it. This necessitates the operation of complicated factors which enable such surviving remnants of karma to be adjusted and settled during the second half of life. This conception of karma can shed light upon our dealings and companionship with other human beings.
But there is still something else in the course of our karma to consider, something that in the two public lectures was referred to as the process of growing maturity, the acquisition of a real knowledge of life. (If the phrase does not promote arrogance it may be used.) Let us consider how we grow wiser. We can learn from our mistakes, and it is the best thing for us when this happens, because we do not often have the opportunity of applying the wisdom thus gained in one and the same life; therefore what we have learnt from the mistakes remains with us as strength for a later life. But the wisdom, the real knowledge of life that we can acquire, what is it really?
I said yesterday that we cannot carry our thoughts and ideas with us directly from one life to the other; I said that even Plato could not take his ideas straight with him into his next incarnation. What we carry over with us takes the form of will, of feeling, and in reality our thought and ideas, just like our mother tongue, comes as something new in each life. For most of the thoughts and ideas live in the mother tongue whence we acquire them. This life between birth and death supplies us with thoughts and ideas which always come from this particular earth existence. But if this is so, we shall have to say to ourselves that it depends upon our karma. However many incarnations we go through, the ideas that arise in us are always dependent upon one incarnation as distinct from the others. Whatever wisdom may be living in your thoughts and ideas have been absorbed from outside, it is dependent upon the way karma has placed you with regard to language, nationality and family. In the last resort all our thoughts and ideas about the world are dependent on our karma. Very much lies in these words, for they indicate that whatever we may know in life, whatever knowledge we may amass, is something entirely personal, and that we can never transcend the personal by means of what we acquire for ourselves in life. In ordinary life we never reach the level of the wiser being but always remain at that of the less wise. Anyone who flatters himself that he can learn more about his higher self from what he acquires in the world, is harbouring an illusion for the sake of convenience. This actually means that we can gain no knowledge of our higher self from what we acquire in life.
Very well, then, how are we to attain any knowledge of the higher self? We must ask ourselves quite frankly: What do we really know? First of all, we know what we have learnt from experience. This is all we know, and nothing else! A man who aspires to self-knowledge without realising that his soul is only a mirror in which the outer world is reflected, may persuade himself that by penetrating into his own being he can find the higher self; certainly he will find something, but it is only what has come into him from outside. Laziness of thinking has no place in this quest. We must ask ourselves what happens in those other worlds in which our higher self also lives, and this is none other than what we are told about the different incarnations of the earth, and everything else that Spiritual Science tells us. Just as we try to understand a child's soul by examining the child's surroundings, so must we ask what the environment of the higher self is. But Spiritual Science does tell us about these worlds where our higher self is, in its account of Saturn and its secrets, of the Moon and Earth evolution, of reincarnation and karma, of Devachan and Kamaloca and so on. This is the only way we can learn about our higher self, about the self which transcends the physical plane. And anyone who refuses to accept these secrets is merely pandering to his own ease. For it is a delusion to imagine you can discover the divine man in yourself. Only what is experienced in the outer world is stored inside, but the divine man in us can only be found when we search in our soul for the mirrored world beyond the physical. So that those things which can sometimes prove difficult and uncomfortable to learn are nothing else but self-knowledge. And true Anthroposophy is in reality true self-knowledge! From Spiritual Science we receive enlightenment about our own self. For where in reality is the self? Is the self within our skin? No, the self is outpoured over the world; everything that is and has been in the world is part and parcel of the self. We learn to know the self only when we learn to know the world.
These apparent theories are, in truth, the ways to self-knowledge. A man who thinks he can find the self by staring into his inner being, says to himself: You must be good, you must be unselfish! All well and good. But you will soon notice that he is getting more and more self-centred. On the other hand, struggling with the great secrets of existence, extricating oneself from the flattering self, accepting the reality of the higher worlds and the knowledge that can be obtained from them, all leads to true self-knowledge. When we think deeply about Saturn, Sun and Moon, we lose ourselves in cosmic thought. ‘In thy thinking cosmic thoughts are living,’ ( 55 ) says a soul who thinks Anthroposophical thoughts; he adds, however, ‘Lose thyself in cosmic thoughts!’ The soul creating out of Anthroposophy says: ‘In thy feeling cosmic powers are weaving,’ but he adds: ‘Experience thyself through cosmic powers!’ not through powers which flatter. This experience will not come to a man who closes his eyes, saying: ‘I want to be a good human being.’ It will only come to the man who opens his eyes and his spiritual eyes also, and sees the powers of yonder world mightily at work, realising that he is embedded in these cosmic powers. And the soul that draws strength from Anthroposophy says: ‘In thy willing cosmic beings are working,’ adding: ‘Create thyself anew from Beings of Will!’ And this will really happen if we grasp self-knowledge in this way. Then we shall really succeed in creating ourselves anew out of world being.
Dry and abstract as this may seem, in reality it is no mere theory but something that thrives and grows like a seed sown in the earth. Forces shoot out in every direction and become plant or tree. So it is indeed. The feelings that come to us through Spiritual Science give us the power to create ourselves anew. ‘Create thyself anew from Beings of Will!’ Thus does Anthroposophy become the elixir of life and our view of spirit worlds opens up. We shall draw strength from these worlds, and when we have drawn these forces into our being, then we shall know ourselves in all our depths. Only when we imbue ourselves with world knowledge can we take control of ourselves and advance step by step away from the less-wise being within us, who is cut off by the Guardian of the Threshold, to the wiser being, penetrating through all that is hidden from those who do not as yet have the will to be strong. For this is just what can be gained by means of Anthroposophy.