Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Law of Karma

Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. Lecture 7 of 14

Rudolf Steiner, June 22, 1907:

Today we must speak of what is designated as the law of karma, the law of cause and effect in the spiritual world. To begin with, the last lectures should be borne in mind, because they showed us how life as a whole takes its course through a series of incarnations. You have all been in the world many times and you will often return to it. We shall see later on that it is not right to think that our incarnations repeat themselves through all eternity either in the past or in the future. On the contrary, we shall see that they began at a certain point in time and that a time will come when they will cease; the human being will then continue his development in a different form.

Let us first consider that space of time in which reincarnations take place. In connection with this we should realize that everything which we call destiny, whether relating to character and inner qualities or to external events, is brought about by our preceding incarnations, and that everything which we do in this life has an effect upon our subsequent lives. The great law of cause and effect, the law of karma, thus runs through all our incarnations.

Let us now picture to ourselves how this law is active in the whole universe — not only in the spiritual but also in the physical world.

Take two imaginary jugs of water and then assume that you are heating an iron ball until it becomes red hot. You then drop it into the first jug, What will happen? The water will hiss and the ball will become cool. Then take the ball out of the first jug and drop it into the second one. In that case the water will hiss no longer and the ball will not become much cooler. We therefore find that the ball behaves differently in each case; in the second case it would not have behaved as it did had it not been dropped into the first jug. Consequently the way in which it behaved in the second case is the result of what happened to it in the first jug. Such a connection is called karma. The ball's karma brings about the fact that the water in the second jug does not hiss and that the ball itself does not become much cooler.

I will now give you an example from the animal kingdom showing that preceding life-conditions bring about subsequent ones. Take those animals which immigrated into the caves of Kentucky; their eyes gradually degenerated through the complete deprivation of sunlight. The substances which are generally used for the structure of the eyes go to other organs and as a result the eyes degenerate and the animals little by little become blind. It is then the destiny of all their descendants to be born blind. Had the parents not immigrated into the dark caves, the descendants would not have been fated to lose their eyesight. The condition of blindness is therefore the consequence of the immigration into the dark caves.

Spiritual science explains that everything which occurs in the world is dependent upon karma. Karma is the general law of the universe. Even the Bible speaks of this law at the very beginning. It says: “In the beginning God created the heaven and earth”. On reading this superficially, as is generally the case today, you do not notice that these words lie within the meaning of the law of karma, but you notice it without further ado if you consult the original text of this ancient document, or if you take one of the oldest Latin translations, for instance the Septuagint, which the Roman Catholic Church still considers as the authoritative translation of the Old Testament, and particularly of Genesis. Perhaps in an introductory course such as this one, which is to acquaint you step by step with the immense depths of the spiritual-scientific world-conception, it is not inappropriate to deviate a little from our main subject.

Modern man has really no connection with the “living word”. Speech has become, on the one hand, a conventional means of communication and, on the other, a“business language”. Things were quite different in ancient times, when words were being coined, for the human being still possessed a living connection with the word. Indeed, in the remotest times, even the single letter leading to the composition of a word had a deep significance. A modern man has not the faintest idea of that which passed through the soul of an ancient Hebrew sage when he uttered the word “bara”, contained in the first sentence of Genesis; and which posterity — that is to say, the Latin world — translated with “creare”, and which we translate with “created”. What is the deep meaning of the word “bara”? In the German language we still find the same root “bar” in the word “gebären”, to bear children.

The root “K-r” lies in the word karma. It is the same root which also lies in the word “creare”, so that when we say “creare” in Latin (to create), this simply means: something arises as the result of earlier influences; that is to say, something arises which is karmically determined by something which preceded it!

We can speak of karma in the way in which we interpret it today only since the influx of the Luciferic influence, that is to say, from that moment onwards in which man took upon himself guilt. Consequently something of the idea of guilt always adheres to everything connected with the word karma. “Creare” therefore means to produce something brought about karmically by earlier connections and conditions, whereas the root “bar” does not contain anything of this karmic relationship. How does this come about? Undoubtedly through the fact that the ancient Hebrew was still connected far more intimately with the spiritual world and still realized quite clearly that at a time when “the Elohim were meditating creatively” it was not yet possible to speak of karma in the meaning in which we generally speak of it. But in the Latin epoch of human evolution man was already completely severed from the spiritual world, as we shall see upon some other occasion, and therefore he could imagine even the Elohim's “creative meditation” only within a karmic connection.

But “bara” as well as “creare” do not mean that God created the world out of nothing; both words contain the meaning that God led over earlier conditions into new ones ... in the same way in which a mother does not bear her child out of nothing. To bear a child means that the child passes over from a former concealed condition within the mother's womb into a condition in which it becomes visible in the external world.

This shows you how the meaning of the Bible can be distorted. Theology was the first to decree that God made the world out of nothing (for theology no longer knew anything of the cosmic epochs of evolution which preceded earthly existence) and whole libraries have been written on this subject. Yet all these theologians fought against windmills, like Don Quixote. We should always know, however, against whom and against what we are fighting; that is to say, we should always reveal the original meaning of the ancient documents.

If we think of this law of karma in the right way, as the connection between cause and effect, applying it not only to physical life here on Earth between birth and death but also to the life in the spiritual world, we shall find that this very law of karma becomes a torch which illuminates our own life. Insight into the law of karma not only gives us a deep intellectual satisfaction, but it also profoundly satisfies our heart and soul and gives us the right understanding of our relationship to the world. More and more you will realize its deep significance and that only a true insight into this law of karma enables you to mold your life harmoniously in regard to your environment.

The law of karma does not throw light upon abstract riddles of the universe, but upon problems which we actually encounter in life at every step. Is it not a real life-riddle when we see that one human being is born in misery and poverty, apparently without any fault of his own, and that the finest gifts which lie concealed within him must atrophy owing to the social condition into which life has placed him? We must often ask ourselves in life: How can we explain the fact that an apparently innocent man is born in the midst of misery and pain, whereas another man is born without his merit in surfeit and wealth, surrounded at the cradle by those who tenderly love him? These are problems which modern superficiality alone can ignore.

The deeper we look into the law of karma the more we find that the hard injustice apparently presenting itself to a superficial observation of this law disappears. We then realize more and more why one man must live in one condition of life and another man in another. Injustice and hardness in one or other life-situation can only be seen if we limit ourselves to the observation of one life; but if we know that this one life is the absolute result of former deeds, the injustice completely vanishes, for we perceive that the human being prepares his own life.

Someone might now object: It is terrible to think that all the blows of destiny which a human being encounters in this life are brought about through his own fault! We must realize, however, that the law of karma is not something for sentimental people to brood over, but that it is an active law, rendering us strong and giving us courage and hope. For even though we ourselves have molded our present life with all its hardships, we know at the same time that karma is a law the chief significance of which must be looked for not in the past but in the future. No matter how deeply oppressed we may be in the present owing to the result of past deeds, our insight into the law of karma will bear fruit in our subsequent lives. Our attitude determines what fruit our deeds will bear, for no action is without consequence. It is far more theosophical to look upon karma as a law of action, as an active law! For no matter what we do, we cannot escape the consequences of our deeds. The more we suffer in this life and the better we bear our sufferings, the more shall we profit by this in future lives. Karma is a law which solves the riddles of life which we encounter at every step.

What is the connection between a preceding and a subsequent life? We should clearly bear in mind that everything which we experience as inner effects of external events — joy or pain over things which we encounter in life — that all this has an influence upon our future lives.

Now you know that everything living within us in the form of pleasure and pain, of joy and suffering, is borne by the astral body. Everything which the astral body experiences during this life, particularly if experiences repeat themselves again and again, appears in the next life as a quality of the etheric body. Some object in this life which gives us pleasure and which we call up in our soul again and again will produce in the next life a deep inclination and predilection for this particular object. But this inclination and predilection are character qualities, and their bearer is the etheric body. Consequently the effects produced by the astral body in a preceding life become qualities of the etheric body in the next life. What you repeatedly experienced during this life appears in your next life as fundamental character. A melancholic temperament is due to the fact that in a preceding life the human being in question had many sad impressions throwing him again and again into a sad mood; as a result, the etheric body will have the inclination to sadness in the next life. The opposite may be found in people who obtain something good from everything in life, thus producing in their astral body joy and happiness and an uplifted mood; this will become a lasting characteristic of the etheric body in the next life, producing a merry temperament. But if a human being courageously overcomes every sad experience in spite of the hard school in which life has placed him, his etheric body will be born in the next life with a choleric temperament. If we know all this, we can almost prepare our etheric body for our next life.

The qualities which the etheric body possesses during one life appear, in the next, in the physical body. Thus if a man has bad habits and bad characteristics and does nothing to get rid of them, this will appear in the next life in the physical body as a disposition, a predisposition to illness. Strange as this may sound the disposition towards certain illnesses, particularly infectious ones, depends on the bad habits of a preceding life. This insight therefore enables us to prepare health or illness for our next life. If we conquer a bad habit, we become healthy and immune against infections in our next life. Thus we can prepare health for our next life. By endeavoring to foster only noble qualities, we can prepare a healthy body for our next incarnation.

A third and most important thing should be borne in mind in order to understand the law of karma, to truly estimate our actions in this life. So far we have only spoken of what takes place within the human being; but what he does during this life, that is to say, his attitude towards his environment and his actions, produces a result which appears in the surrounding world during his next life.

A bad habit in itself does not mean that I have done something; but if this bad habit leads to an action, this action changes the external world. In fact, everything which thus exercises an influence upon the physical world returns to us during our next life as our external destiny in the physical world. Thus the deeds of our physical body during this life become our destiny in the next. We learn this through being placed in this or in that life-situation. Whether a person is happy or unhappy in one or other condition of life depends upon his actions during his preceding life. An appropriate and instructive example for this case is that of the judges' murder [see the previous day's lecture], which shows us how an external action during one life falls back upon men as their destiny during the next one.

This is a brief sketch of karmic relationships in regard to individual human beings . But we can speak of karma not only in the case of individual persons, for man should not consider himself as a single being. If the individual were to rise even a few miles above the Earth, the result would be the same as if the finger severed itself from the body.

If we penetrate into spiritual science we are literally forced to admit through this knowledge that we should not delude ourselves to the extent of insisting that we are single beings. This applies to the physical world and even more to the spiritual world. Man belongs to the whole world and his destiny is involved with that of the entire world. Karma touches not only the individual, but also the life of whole nations.

Let me give you an example: You all know that in the Middle Ages there were pestilences resembling leprosy. In Europe they completely disappeared only during the 16th century. Quite a definite cause, a spiritual cause, produced this form of pestilence in the Middle Ages. Materialists are of course inclined to trace such a contagious disease to bacilli, but not only the physical cause should be borne in mind in such illnesses. We can make exactly the same mistake if we try to find out, for example, why a man has been whipped, what is the cause of this whipping. A person of insight will immediately discover that certain brutal men in the village were the cause of the whipping. In this case it would be foolish to say that the blue wheals are due solely to the fact that the sticks came down so and so many times on the mans back. The purely materialistic cause of the blue marks is undoubtedly the fact that the sticks came down on the victim's back, but the deeper cause must be sought in the brutality of the men who whipped him. Similarly the pestilence of the Middle Ages has a spiritual cause in addition to the materialistic one of the bacilli.

We have an analogous example in weeping. Its spiritual cause is sadness, but its material one is the secretion of the lachrymatory glands. It hardly seems possible that a famous modern scientist should have come to the same foolish conclusion mentioned above, but he actually made the monstrous statement that the human being does not weep because he feels sad, but that he feels sad because he weeps!

But let us get back to the pestilence. If you wish to explain the deeper cause of this disease spiritually, you must look back upon a significant historical event: upon the great masses of peoples coming from the East, who overflowed Europe, bringing with them fear and terror. These Asiatic masses were people who had remained behind at the ancient Atlantean stage, and were consequently decadent races. They were races whose decadence had the character of putrefaction, which was particularly strong in their astral body. Had they invaded Europe without bringing so much terror and fear to the Europeans, nothing would have happened. But these hordes brought with them fear, terror, and and alarm; whole nations in Europe experienced this state of fear and terror. Now the putrid substance of the Huns' astral bodies mixed with the terror-stricken astral bodies of the peoples whom they had invaded. The degenerated astral bodies of these Asiatic hordes unloaded their bad substances on the terror-stricken astral bodies of the Europeans, and this putrid substance was the cause of the pestilence, the physical effects of which appeared later on.

This is in reality the deep. spiritual cause of pestilence in the Middle Ages. Consequently something which had a spiritual cause appeared later in the physical body.

Only those who know the law of karma and have insight into it are called upon to play an active part in the course of history.

Let me now tell you something which contributed to the founding of the spiritual-scientific world-conception: Karma influences not only individual men, but also nations, and even humanity as a whole. Those who pursue the course of history in the spiritual life of Europe know that materialism came to the fore during the last 400 years or so. The most innocent aspect of materialism is to be found in science, for there every mistake can always be perceived and corrected. The influence of materialism is far more harmful in practical life, where everything is viewed from the angle of material interests. But materialism would never have entered practical life had men not had a predilection for it. The influence of of materialism is most harmful of all in the sphere of religious life, that is to say, in the Church: The Church above all has been heading towards materialism for centuries. In which way? If you go back to the days of early Christianity, you would never have heard people say, for instance that the seven days' creation was actually accomplished in seven days, as we so often hear today, nor was the “seventh” day imagined in such a way that after a hard piece of work someone sits down and rests. The materialistic age has lost all knowledge of the reality underlying this work of seven days.

It is the task of spiritual science to give mankind an explanation concerning the true meaning of this ancient document, Genesis. [See Rudolf Steiner's “Secrets of the Bible Story of Creation”]

It is the materialistic conception in religion which corroded most deeply the life of nations. Materialism will hold sway more and more in the religions sphere, and. particularly in this direction people will less and less realize that the spirit, not physical material things, counts most of all. It will readily be admitted that the materialistic way of thinking, feeling, and willing has gradually penetrated into the whole life-conception of mankind, and finally this appears in the state of health of the succeeding generations.

In an epoch in which men have a sound conception of life, a strong central point is produced within them, enabling them to be self-contained personalities whose descendants become strong and healthy. But an epoch in which people believe only in matter will give rise to a generation of men who have a body where everything goes its own way, where nothing is directed towards a center, thus producing symptoms of neurosis, of nervous diseases. If materialism continues to be the ruling world conception in the future, these nervous health conditions will gradually increase.

The clairvoyant can tell you exactly that which must occur if materialism is not counter-balanced by a sound spiritual conception. Mental diseases would in that case become epidemic and even newly born children would suffer from symptoms of trembling and from other nervous disturbances, while the further result of the materialistic mentality would be a race without any power of concentration; in fact, we can see this already today. About three decades ago, this thought — how mankind would fare without spiritual remedy against the effects of materialism — led to the inauguration of the spiritual-scientific movement. Many discussions may arise regarding a remedy, yet no objections can be of much avail in the face of the chief argument: its efficacy. It is the same with the efficacy of spiritual science as a remedy, for it is a preventive against that which would inevitably occur if men continue along the path of materialism.

If we reflect more deeply over the law of karma, we cannot look upon men as single beings, but as forming part of a community subjected to the law of karma. The law of karma is not of much use to those who wish to believe in a blind fate. It would of course be quite wrong to attribute such a character to the law of karma. Yet we constantly come across people who fall into this error. One person says: “I know that it is not my fault that this or that thing happens to me; it is my karma and I must bear it!” Or another one says: “I see a person who is in misery; but I must not help him, for this misfortune is his own fault; it is his karma and he must bear it!” — Such arguments would be quite a senseless interpretation of the idea of karma!

In order to have a clearer conception of this great law, you may compare it with the commercial law of debit and credit. Even as the merchant is subjected to this law in all his actions, so life is subjected to karma. Your items in life are marked off on the debit or credit side, according to the good or bad actions which you have done during your past life. All your good qualities are booked on the credit side, and all your bad ones on the debit side of karma.

But we should not say: “I have no right to interfere!” This would be just as foolish as when a merchant balancing his accounts says: “I must not do any more business, for in that case I should alter my balance sheet.” Even as the merchant improves his balance sheet with good business, so I improve my karma with every good action. And even as the merchant is always at liberty to enter a debit or a credit item in his account, so the human being is always free to do likewise in his account book of life. Not in spite of the law of karma, but just because of it, man is free in regard to his actions. Just because he knows that everything he does — and he does this in full freedom — has an effect upon his account book of life, he cannot agree with those who do not help a man in need. It would be the same as if a merchant facing bankruptcy were to ask us for a loan of 5000 pounds. Would you not give him the money if you knew that he is a good businessman who would work his way up again? It is the same with man in need: You help him to better his karma so that his destiny takes a turn for the better, and at the same time you improve your own karma through this good action.

The law of karma consequently induces us to take an active part in daily life. A right understanding of the law of karma, particularly from this aspect, is of special importance if we consider it in relation to Christianity. In this connection there are serious misunderstandings, particularly on the part of theologians. Modern theologians say: We teach that sins were forgiven us through Christ's death upon the Cross, and you teach the law of karma, but this contradicts the former.

Yet the contradiction is only apparent, because the law of karma is simply misunderstood. On the other hand, there are theosophists who declare that they cannot accept Christ's death of atonement — but these theosophists misunderstand the law of karma just as much as the others.

Take the following case: You help a man, interfere in his destiny, and turn it to the good. If you could help two men, this would just as little contradict the law of karma. Assume that you are an individuality called upon to blot out evil in the world by a certain deed: would this contradict the law of karma? The Christ-Being has, in the largest measure, done something analogous to the above example, like a man who helped not only a hundred or a thousand other men through his own deed, but the whole of mankind. The death of redemption, Christ's death of atonement, therefore harmonizes completely with the law of karma — indeed, it can only be understood in the light of this law. A contradiction can only be seen by those who do not understand this law. Christ's death contradicts the law of karma just as little as when I help a man in his need.

When looking upon the law of karma you must think of the future, for with every one of our actions we enter into our account book an item which will bear fruit. Only as long as one is passing through the illnesses of childhood in theosophy can a contradiction be found between Christianity and the law of karma.

Many things become clear to us through an insight into this law. In the first place, we can accurately prove the connection between the individual bodily development and earlier lives. A life full of love prepares for the next life a course of development whereby the human being preserves his youth for a long time; a premature aging is on the other hand caused by much antipathy during the past life. In the second place: a particularly selfish sense of grasping and hoarding things produces in the next life a disposition to infectious diseases. In the third place, it is of special interest that pains, and particularly certain illnesses through which we pass, produce a beautiful body in our next life. This insight enables us to bear many an illness more easily.

An insight into such connections of destiny enabled one of the greatest Bible students of our time, Fabre d'Olivet, to use an image which clearly shows us how things are linked up in life. He says: Behold the pearl in the shell! The animal in it had to pass through an illness, and the beautiful pearl arises through this illness. Thus illness during this life is in fact often connected with things which render our next life more beautiful.

How these things may be further developed in various directions will be shown to-morrow.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Lord's Prayer and its connection with our descent into incarnation

Theosophy and Rosicrucianism, lecture 6 of 14

Rudolf Steiner, June 21, 1907, from the notes of a member of the audience:

When, as we saw yesterday, man has reached the stage in the spiritual world in which he has, so to speak, transformed everything which he possessed in the form of capacities and talents acquired during his earthly life, then the time has come for him to prepare for a new incarnation. But we must realize that two things should be dealt with in that which comes towards us from the human being. One thing is that which reproduces itself in the course of physical heredity, and the other is that which the human being brings along into the world from his earlier lives on Earth.

Today we shall have to describe man's descent into the world, but you need not object to the word “descent”, for it is not a spatial descent, but a gradual process of development whereby man comes out of the world which is 'round about us and enters into the physical world.

Yesterday we saw that the spiritual world should not be sought in a “Beyond”, but that it is also 'round about us; modern man, however, is not able to perceive this spiritual world.

Out of this spiritual world develops that which we designate as a new embodiment. We saw that from his former life man retains an essence of his etheric and of his astral body, a survey of his experiences, and that he also took with him into the spiritual world that part of his astral body which he had been able to transmute, casting off the unrefined part.

It will be easier to form an idea of reincarnation if we bear in mind a few other things concerning the life after death. We saw that immediately after his physical death man lives for about three and a half days within his etheric body and that his past life rises up before him in these three and a half days like a kind of picture. The etheric body dissolves and then comes the Kamaloka time; this is the time of purification, in which the astrality still requiring purification is cleaned and purged.

But now I must mention another experience. When this memory picture arises immediately after death, man has a significant experience. He has the experience as if he suddenly grew in size, quickly breaking through his own surface and growing out into space. This feeling does not vanish until he is born again. Man feels that he is as large as the whole world to which he belongs, as large as the whole space of the universe. This will enable you to realize that man can look upon his body and experience it as something which does not belong to him, for he sees his passions as if they were outside his body. He has the strange feeling of being spread out over the whole universe.

Then comes something which is more difficult to understand. During the whole time of Kamaloka man feels as if he were really split up into space. You may understand this better if you bear in mind the following: During the time of Kamaloka, when man lives through his life backwards as far as his childhood, in the manner described, he passes through all his experiences as if they were reflected in a mirror. If he once slapped someone's face it is he who now feels the slap, for he feels that he is a part of the world once occupied by the other person. For example, if you died here in Kassel and the other person whom you slapped lives in Paris, then you feel as if one part of your being were in Paris. Thus you feel as if you were split up over the whole world; parts of you live, so to speak, wherever you have to look for something. But you should. understand this in such a way that you cannot feel anything in the space between Kassel and Paris. If you thus bear in mind all the events of your life, you really feel split up into many many places during your passage through the period after death.

The following may serve you as a simile: A wasp consists of two parts, a front and a back part, with a very thin connection. Now imagine that the back part were completely severed, but that the wasp nevertheless drags it along with it. This is more or less the way in which you can picture to yourself what I have just described: You feel that you consist of single parts and that there is no connection between them. But when the human being enters Devachan, he once more feels as he did immediately after death, namely as if he filled up the whole space of the universe.

Now, when in Devachan man has transformed all his dispositions into talents and capacities, the Ego once more feels attracted towards the physical Earth and endeavors to descend to the Earth in a physical incarnation. First of all the Ego surrounds itself with an astral body. This process takes place through the fact that the Ego attracts everything astral; the astral substance comes shooting towards it, as it were. It is just as if you were holding a magnet in front of iron filings; even as these filings are attracted in definite forms, so the Ego attracts the astral substance. But while passing through the soul and spirit realms the Ego has gained impressions through its experiences and all these form the fundamental forces which help to build up the new astral body. The new astral body thus takes along with it everything that the human being has experienced during his former life and in Kamaloka. All the impressions which he has had there have a definite influence upon the way in which the new astral body enters into him.

The human being has now acquired an astral body; but he must also have the other members. The astral body has only been formed through its own forces of attraction. Before conception, man is enfolded only by this astral body. The seer therefore continually sees these astral germs of human beings waiting to be born — that is to say, waiting to be conceived. He sees them flying about with a tremendous speed; bell-like shapes move about through space with enormous speed; distances play no part whatever; they move so rapidly that distances play no part at all.

Now comes the enfolding with an etheric body; but that is a process in which the human being does not become enfolded with his own forces alone. His own forces, which lie in him, can no longer care for the etheric body; for that purpose, man needs the help of certain spiritual Beings who must cooperate in this.

You may have an idea of these Beings if you bear in mind that you sometimes use words which you do not generally connect with any definite thought; for instance, the word Folk-spirit, Folk-soul. Today we have no definite idea in connection with this word, but only something quite abstract. But the clairvoyant seer connects with it something quite different. There really are Beings of a higher nature, who exist even as we ourselves exist, but who never incarnate in the flesh, and these beings are the souls of tribes and races. We do not use a vague expression when speaking of the Folk-soul: The Folk-soul is a real being, except that it does not possess a physical body, for its lowest member is the etheric body. Then the Folk-soul has an astral body, the Ego, Manas, Budhi, Atman, and a still higher member which man does not attain and which Christian Esoterisism calls the Holy Spirit, and which Theosophy generally designates as the Logos.

The clairvoyant seer may therefore address the Folk-Soul even as he addresses other human beings. Today we have no real conception of such things and believe that this word designates characteristics of single nations. But this is not true — a reality is connected with it. The understanding for such things was necessarily lost through the materialistic conception, but it will be reached again. Today men are inclined to dissolve such things into empty concepts. This had to come. For this same reason a book had to be published in our modern epoch which constitutes, so to speak, the very opposite of a theosophical conception. This book had to appear and has been greatly admired. It is Fritz Mauthner's “Kritik der Sprache” (The Critique of Language). Mauthner is a thinker who dissolves everything which lies beyond sensory things. Only a radical thinker who had been abandoned by every good spirit could have the courage to write as Mauthner did, breaking with everything that is spiritual and real. In centuries to come, men will turn to this very book when they wish to know how people used to think at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Folk-Soul is a reality; it spreads out like a mass of fog, and in it are embedded all the etheric bodes of the individual human beings belonging to a definite nation, and its forces stream into the etheric bodies of individual men.

Now, there are spiritual beings having the rank of these Folk-souls, who cooperate in the building up of the etheric body of the new soul. These spiritual beings bring about the fact that the human being is led towards the nation which is most suited to him. The etheric body does not always fit quite perfectly; all the disharmonies which you often encounter in life often depend upon the fact that man is unable to build up his etheric body through his own forces. A complete harmony will only be reached upon a much later stage of development of the Earth.

The enfolding with the etheric body takes place with great rapidity — a speed which you cannot conceive of if you compare it with physical conditions. Still higher spiritual beings then lead man towards the parents who are able to supply him with the substance which he needs for his physical body.

The modern materialist who sees that the son resembles his parents will not be able to believe that something else is also connected with the body inherited from the parents. Of course, as regards our body we resemble our ancestors, but this does not contradict the facts explained above.

Let us observe a definite case — the family of Bach In the course of two hundred and fifty years, over 29 more or less significant musicians have come out of that family. Materialists will say: This clearly proves that there is such a thing as heredity! — In the same way the family Bernoulli produced eight mathematicians in a short time. How can we explain this? We can understand this best of all if we bear in mind hereditary conditions. As this is easier to grasp in the case of a musician, let us observe the family of Bach.

Let us suppose that a young Bach had lived in Rome during his former incarnation, that he had elaborated his dispositions and was ready to reincarnate. Supposing he had brought with him, as the result of his former incarnations, the greatest musical gifts; he could do nothing with these gifts if he were not able to find a well developed ear. Without such a well developed ear, he would be just as helpless as a great artist without an instrument. Necessarily such an individuality would have to incarnate in a body supplying a good organ for his dispositions. But the external form of the inner and outer organs is hereditary, and if this individuality wished to become a musician, a well developed ear would be essential! Where can he most easily acquire such an organ? In a family of musicians. So he is led towards a family where he can find the best organ for his further development and the unfolding of the talents reposing in him. At that time, the best which could be found in that direction were the parents of Johann Sebastian Bach.

And how do matters stand with the brothers Bernoulli? Mathematical thought does not depend upon the structure of the brain (for mathematical logic does not differ from any other), but the mathematical gift is based upon the specially exact development in the structure of the three semicircular canals. This is an organ not larger that a pea, embedded in the middle of the ear and consisting of three semicircular canals, exactly corresponding to the three-dimensional space. If one canal lies exactly horizontally, then the second one stretches from right to left, and the third one from the front to the back. They all face one another in an angle of 90 degrees The essential thing is therefore this exact position: The more exact the right angle is, the better does the organ function. If the organ is in any way injured, giddiness arises; you can no longer orientate yourself in space. The mathematical talent, that is to say, the possibility of using it, is based upon a specially fine elaboration if these canals. And this organ is inherited in the same way as the musical ear.

The brain forms thoughts concerning space in exactly the same way in which it forms thoughts on philosophy. But the fact of having an understanding for the forms in space depends upon these three semicircular canals. Thus an individuality with highly developed mathematical gifts will incarnate in a family in which this organ has reached the most perfect development, and this was the case in the family Bernoulli.

A suitable instrument is also needed in order to be morally efficient. An individuality with a high morality therefore seeks parents who promise to supply the best instrument for this purpose. The proverb which is often used so superficially and trivially: “one cannot be too careful in the choice of one's parents”, is true in the deepest and most earnest sense, for a child chooses its own parents, so to speak.

Many people might object to this and ask: How can we explain mother-love, if that is so? For mother-love depends on the fact that the mother knows that the child is part of her own self. But viewed in the right light, mother-love does not suffer in any way — on the contrary, we learn to know it better.

Why is a child born to a certain mother? Because its spiritual qualities lead it to a mother who is spiritually related to it, and the child loves its mother even before it is conceived; mother-love is, as it were, the counter-part of this primary love and attraction. Consequently this insight even deepens the idea of mother-love.

Now, the occasion for incarnate is essentially dependent on the qualities of father and mother; and there, father and mother work differently. When a human being descends to a new birth, the Ego, which possesses more volitional forces, feels more attracted by the father, and the more astral forces by the mother. The father has a greater influence upon the Ego, the will and character, and the mother has more influence upon the astral body — that is to say, more in the direction of thought. Of course, it is best of all if both parents are suited to the individuality seeking to incarnate.

When man descends, those forces are also active which were impressed upon him when he ascended to the spiritual worlds. All this develops forces of attraction, and he is drawn into the sphere which was related to him from the very beginning. He is consequently led towards those human beings with whom he was already connected before.

Let me give you an example based on real fact. It once happened that a man was sentenced to death by a panel of four or five judges and executed. The former life of these six men was investigated through spiritual science and it appeared that they had formerly all been together on Earth, but that the executed man had been their chieftain and that the others had been sentenced to death by him. The last execution was therefore a kind of atonement. This case in particular brings into clear evidence the law of Karma.

Thus the various forces which a man attracted during his former life exercise a determining influence when he is born again, both in regard to the structure of his body and the place of birth, and in regard to his later destiny. Disharmonies appear in the physical body even more strongly than in the etheric body.

All these things show how man becomes enfolded by the three bodies when he is born again. And in every incarnation one Ego works upon the astral body, the etheric body, and the physical body. Later on we shall see how man ascends to this high degree of perfection, for he transforms the astral body and the etheric body more and more. Out of the purified astral body develops Manas, out of the purified etheric body Budhi, and out of the purified physical body Atman. We are therefore able to imagine the ever growing perfection of man from incarnation to incarnation.

This appears most beautifully in the Lord's Prayer. But.we can only understand it in the right way if we grasp it in the truly Christian meaning, as it was grasped in the Occult School of St. Paul. In this School the Lord's Prayer was explained according to its true Christian meaning, and the pupils were told: Imagine the higher members of human nature, which develop through the fact that man more and more refines his three lower members. Early Christianity used to look upon these three higher members (Manas, Budhi, Atman) as man's higher nature. By developing the three higher members more and more, man gradually approaches the Godhead. From this standpoint, the esoteric Christians of the past used to call the three highest members the Divine Nature, and they called the highest Atman, i.e. the Father. This is the deepest divine essence in man: the Father in Heaven.

The Father is the essence towards which all men develop. He is the center of the world's creation. The creation, in the Christian meaning, can be best imagined if we bear in mind the sacrifice. Think of your mirrored image, and assume that you could be just as selfless as this mirrored image, to the point of being able to sacrifice your own life. This is how we must think of a selfless creative activity: We ourselves must become completely one with the created object.

Now imagine the Father as the center of a reflecting hollow sphere: The Father's image will in that case be reflected a thousand-fold. The esoteric Christian of olden times said to himself: Look at the world: All the Beings in it are, after all, the reflected images of God. And in their esoterisism they used to call this reflection of the Godhead's own image “the Kingdom”, that is to say: God, reflecting Himself everywhere.

“Continue now to develop your feelings,” was the instruction given to the pupil of esoteric Christianity in olden times, “continue to develop,your feelings, and if you can perceive God in everything, if you have dissolved the Godhead in an infinite number of single objects, and if you wish to distinguish these objects you must give each a name. This name must be sanctified, it must be hallowed, for every single creature is a mirrored image of' the Godhead.”

In the course of his development, aiming at the attainment of God, man enters into these three elements. But you must not think that man becomes God. Take a drop out of the ocean: In its essence it is akin to the ocean, but it is not the ocean. In the same way the drop of divine nature within us is akin to God, to be sure, but it is not “the Godhead.” By developing the three highest members more and more, man gradually becomes united with the Kingdom; for the spiritual world comes down to him.

Here you have the three first entreaties in the Lord's Prayer: in the first place, the appeal to the Father; in the second place, the entreaty that the Kingdom should come to us; in the third place, the Hallowing of the Name.

If we develop those three highest members within us, we shall always endeavor to avoid acting in a way which is not in harmony with the Spirit of the Father, from Whom we descend and to Whom we go in our development.

In contrast to the three higher members esoteric Christianity then considers the four lower members of man, which must also become more and more perfect.

The physical body consists of the same substances which are also to be found outside in Nature, and these substances continually go in and out of our physical body. Indeed, if the physical body is to remain healthy, they must continually go in and out.

The etheric body has forces which are interrelated with the whole Folk-soul, even as the physical body's forces are inter-related with the whole of Nature. If the physical body is to remain sound, physical substances must go in and out of it day by day. If the etheric body is to remain sound, it must not develop upon an individual basis, but enter into harmony with the whole Folk-soul and with all the higher Beings.

The word “trespasses” is connected with the word “debts.” Debts clearly show that you do not stand there isolated, but that you live within social connection with your fellow-men.

That which brings disorder into the astral body of man was considered in early Christian esotericism as something connected with man's inclinations, passions, impulses, and desires. Everything which can bring disorder into these is expressed by the word “temptation”. “Trespasses” are something which brings man into connection with the social community, whereas “temptation” is something into which every man may fall, in so far as he is an individual being.

If physical substances did not go in and out of our physical body, this body would come into disorder. Hence, we pray: Give us this day our daily bread.

If the etheric body did not enter into a harmonious relationship with the Folk-soul, that is to say, if it did not insert itself harmoniously into the whole social structure, this body too would come into disorder. Hence we pray: Forgive us our trespasses.

If man fell into the error of giving way to every temptation which approaches him, this would bring disorder into his astral body. Hence we pray: Lead us not into temptation.

The Ego can commit errors which we designate as “evil”. Everything which transforms a normal, sound self-consciousness into to evil, that is to say, into selfishness, belongs to these errors of the Ego (which is our own self). To these errors belong all the aberrations of selfishness and egoism. Hence we pray: Deliver us from evil.

The physical body can thus develop soundly if we nourish it in the right way with daily bread.

The etheric body can develop soundly if we bring it into a right harmony with the social structure in which we live.

The astral body can develop soundly, that is to say, it can be purged and purified, if we overcome all temptations.

The Ego can develop soundly if we endeavor to transform every form of egoism into altruism, every form of selfishness to selflessness. Thus we may see in the Lord's Prayer a prayer encompassing the whole development of man.

Someone might now object — and you will often come across this objection: The Lord' s Prayer is one that was given by Christ Jesus for every man. Of what use are explanations such as the above, since the majority of men know nothing about them?

The naive person need not know anything about them. Look at the rose. The greatest wisdom has built up the rose, and yet even the simplest man may rejoice in it! It is not necessary to know anything of the wisdom contained in the rose. It is the same with the Lord' s Prayer. A power goes out from it and influences the human soul, even if the soul in its simplicity does not know this . But the Lord's Prayer could never contain this force had it not been drawn out of the deepest wisdom. Every great prayer, such as this greatest of all prayers, has been drawn out of the deepest wisdom, and the power of such prayers is based upon this fact. If you think that this is simply a thought-out explanation, you will be wrong, for the Being Who gave us the Lord' s Prayer laid into it this deep power.

You may therefore see that only with the help of spiritual science can we understand that which we practice daily, the power of which has been experienced by mankind for nearly two thousand years.

Now we have reached a stage in the development of humanity where it is no longer possible to proceed without such a deepening of our understanding. Formerly, that is to say, up to that moment, humanity was able to feel the spiritual forces contained in this prayer without knowing its deeper meaning. But now humanity has progressed so far in its development that it must ask after this meaning, and an answer has to be given now.

The Christian religion will not lose any of its value thereby, but it will, on the contrary, manifest itself in its whole depth. Religious truths will be gained anew through the greatest wisdom. The esoteric explanation of the Lord's Prayer is an example of this. It shows us the path which man must tread through many incarnations. If he walks in the spirit of the four petitions referring to the four lower members, they will help him to fulfil the work leading to the development of his higher members, as expressed in the first three petitions of the Lord's Prayer.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Metamorphoses of Our Earthly Experiences in the Spiritual World into New Capacities for Our Next Life

Theosophy and Rosicrucianism, lecture 5 of 14

Rudolf Steiner, June 20, 1907, from the notes of a member of the audience:

It will be our task today to describe to a certain extent the human being during his sojourn in Devachan between death and new birth. In this connection we must first of all form an idea of that which man gains through the fact that during his passage through the spiritual world he is, to begin with, active for his own sake. We can picture this more easily if we bear in mind the relationship of two things: of that which we experience, and of that which our experience becomes during the time between birth and death.

Consider, for instance, everything which you experience when you learn to write. You would find it difficult to remember all the things which you had to take in at that time in order to learn the art of writing. Think of all the admonishments of your teacher. Perhaps even of his anger! All this passed through your soul, and what has remained? The capacity to write. Everything else has become blurred, and the art of writing has remained.

This is the course of things in life generally — not only during the life between birth and death, but in the whole life of the universe, both in the physical and in the supersensible world.

It is possible to form a conception of how the things explained above are active in the supersensible world. Let us, for example, take Mozart. When he was quite a young boy he heard a long piece of music at St. Peter's in Rome; according to an old tradition it was not allowed to write down this music, but Mozart wrote it down afterwards, from memory. What memories you must have had! And he could do this as a young boy! How do materialists explain this? They would protest energetically if they were asked to believe that an ox grows out of a piece of earth, that an animal such as the ox arises in a way which does not correspond to Nature. They say: Miracles do not exist ... and they are perfectly right in this. But in the face of spiritual things they become tremendously superstitious and believe in miracles: materialists simply accept facts such as the one just now described from Mozart's life, and without further ado they place it to the account of heredity. Yet in Mozart's case, an explanation not arising out of a spiritual science describes just as great a miracle as that of an ox growing out of a piece of earth. For it is possible for a human being gradually to acquire an excellent memory if he turns his spirit again and again towards the same object. Memory develops in exactly the same way in which something perfect develops out of something imperfect, and it would be a miracle if Mozart's memory had grown out of nothing!

The answer of spiritual science to such a problem is that even in such a case upgrade developed gradually and naturally. If a materialist seeks an explanation for it, he cannot extricate himself otherwise than by admitting that he must either believe in miracles or that capacities which manifest themselves prove that they already existed in a former life and that they followed an entirely natural course of development.

Reincarnation is consequently the logical deduction of such a train of thought. And those who explain, through a materialistic way of looking at things, that such a perfect memory as that of the young boy Mozart can arise out of nothing should follow their belief to a logical conclusion and admit, for instance, that frogs develop without further ado from mud — A fact which was accepted by natural scientists before the time of Francesco Redi. Consequently, those who wish to be logical in spiritual science state: Even as an oak tree grows out of the acorn and develops gradually, so our soul capacities develop little by little, and when a human being enters life with capacities so highly developed as those of Mozart, this undeniably proves that the human being gained these capacities during former lives on Earth. This gives us a clue to the comprehension of man's destiny in the spiritual world.

The essential point is therefore that the experiences of one life transform themselves into capacities for the succeeding life. All the dispositions of character which we bring with us in this life are the fruit of experiences gained during earlier lives on Earth. For this reason it is necessary to study man's passage through Devachan in order to understand fully how the experiences of one life become capacities in the next life.

When we pass through our life on Earth, we daily experience many things, and all these experiences appear in the panorama-picture already described to you which rises up before the soul's eye immediately after death. But the capacities which we have gained through all these experiences remain as an essence, and we take along with us into the spiritual world this essence,which endures for all times to come.

When the human being enters Devachan, he perceives the regions described to you yesterday; the continental region, consisting of the archetypes of all earthly forms; the oceanic region, consisting of everything which is life; the air-region, consisting of everything pertaining to the soul: pleasure and pain, joy and suffering, etc. In the continental region the human being first perceives the archetype of his own physical body, and in the air-region he of course perceives, to begin with, also that which took place within his own soul during his past life on Earth in the form of joy, suffering, pleasure, pain, and passions. In other words, he once more perceives all the experiences of his past life, but in an entirely different way than during his passage through the Kamaloka period, which I have already described to you. In Kamaloka he lived through them once more in order to lose the habit of being dependent on them. In the watery region of Devachan man experiences all the peculiarities of his bodily life, and in the air-region of the celestial world he passes through all his psychic experiences.

It is important and of great interest to realize that everything which we have experienced in the course of one life — our feelings concerning the world, pleasure, pain, etc. — that in the spiritual world all this surrounds us as an external world. We need not feel sad that there our sufferings lie spread out before us. This is not sad at all, for there all our sufferings exist in the same way in which storms exist in the physical world, and in the spiritual world all our joyful experiences appear to us like wonderful cloud phenomena. In Devachan our own inner experiences do not exist within us, as here on Earth, but they live in our environment in an external form, in the same way in which a picture of Nature lies spread out before us. Our inner experiences live 'round about us, as if they were images, sounds, or atmospheric phenomena; they have become objectified, as heavenly forms.

I have told you that it is not sad if our sufferings come raying towards us; just as little sad as lightning or thunder in physical life. Those who perceive these connections know what they owe to their sufferings in particular. Just those who have passed through pain and suffering will always say that they gratefully accept joy and pleasure, but that they would never wish to do without suffering and pain. We owe all our wisdom to our suffering and pain during past lives on Earth. A man whose physiognomy bears upon it the mark of wisdom in this life, owes this to the fact that in former lives he experienced the world's connections as suffering.

I have already explained to you that everything which we have experienced during our earthly life lies spread out before us in pictures, etc.,  when we enter Devachan. What does this signify? It will be easier to understand this if we realize what influence the environment exercises upon us. You all know Goethe's words: “The eye has been formed through the light and for the light.” What does this mean? The eye must exist in order to perceive the light. If we did not possess our eyesight the world would be dark and gloomy. But what is the origin of the human eye? It has been formed by the light itself, and similarly the eye would degenerate if there were no light. It has, for instance, been possible to observe this fact directly, in the case of animals who immigrated into the caves of Kentucky.

Light is the origin of the power of sight. Once upon a time man was not endowed with sight, because he still lived under quite different conditions; in earlier times of the Earth's development the Sun was not visible to an external sensory eye. Let us remember in this connection what the legends relate in regard to “Niflheim”.

The:more man lived exposed to the Sun, the further the eye developed by the light of the Sun. All the other sense organs developed in the same way: sound formed the ear, heat the sense of heat. We would have no sense of touch if there were no hard objects. The external world molds and forms our body.

This is most important in practical life; in fact, theosophy is always meant to be applied to practical life. It is also most important in education, for only an educator who can look deeply into man's nature can educate in the right way.

The physical body develops until the child changes its teeth, the etheric body develops up to the 14th/15th year, and the astral body up to the 21st year. We must know all this if education is to be approached practically and not fantastically. Since the disposition of the physical body is what we must bear in mind up to the seventh year, physical impressions — that is to say, everything which the child perceives through his sense organs — must be considered deeply and thoroughly. Sins of omission in education in connection with the form and disposition of the physical organs in the child's body are a loss for the whole of life.

An insight into this last sentence gives medicine in particular many guidelines for a right treatment of illnesses, among others, for instance, rickets, How is it that rickets arise just in this period of life? Just because the child is molding its body, and that is why these symptoms manifest themselves in the form (deformed bones, bad teeth, wrong form of the skull, etc.) But for this very reason the child is still able, until dentition, to correct the wrong forms and lead them back to a normal condition. We can see that even the most crooked legs grow straight again if the child receives the right treatment, and that perfectly sound second teeth can develop even if the milk-teeth were quite defective, whereas crooked legs which were not healed up to the seventh year remain crooked for the whole of life.

Up to the seventh year the brain is also engaged in the work of molding its plastic forms, and the fine developments and forms of the brain's shape which could not be molded up to that time are lost forever. Since the physical brain is the instrument through which the spirit manifests itself, it is of tremendous importance that this instrument should be molded as finely as possible, that is to say, that it should be prepared during the first seven years of life. For even the greatest individuality can do nothing with a defective brain, just as the greatest pianist cannot play well on a piano which is out of tune. Spiritual science can give most important guidance to pedagogy, as well as to medicine, particularly in regard to the development of the brain.

In modern medicine one comes across a complete misunderstanding of facts particularly in this field. Rickets manifest themselves in a deformation of the bones, but very frequently they also appear in the shape of a defective glandular system and diseased mucous membranes; that is to say, children affected with rickets frequently have symptoms of swollen glands, adenoid growths, etc. A third pathological symptom in such children is that at school they frequently remain behind spiritually and that they become apathetic, indeed even slightly idiotic. In reality this is based on the defective development of the physical brain, particularly of its so-called corticose substance, which must above all be developed in its finest structure during these years. And in the same way the other symptoms are based on defective development.

Through the modern natural-scientific training and attitude, modern medicine is in such cases more than inclined to follow the example of modern natural science, namely to look upon the external symptoms as cause and effect, linking them up together like pearls on a chain and completely ignoring the deeper spiritual causes. What is the result? The facts are: rickety bones, adenoid growths, diminished attention and comprehension on the child's part. The conclusion to which modern doctors arrive is: Children with adenoid growths become mentally defective owing to those growths; consequently it is necessary to remove them. The growths are consequently removed by operation. If this conclusion were right, every child who underwent such a treatment would respond to it by the disappearance of the impediments in the brain. But what is observed after such a treatment in the great majority of cases? The operation results in a sham success of brief duration, for the growths appear again after a very short time. But if the illness is to be attacked at its root — and this is quite possible, only now this would lead us too far away from our subject — the deformed bones, the swollen mucous membranes and glands disappear, as well as the impediments in the working of the brain.

After this digression, let us new return to our subject. The external world thus calls into being and molds the right physical forms. Up to the seventh year, the child is in reality nothing but sense organ. Everything which it takes in with its senses is elaborated; above all, what it sees and hears in its immediate environment. Until dentition, the child is therefore an imitative being, and this goes as far as its physical organization. This is quite natural. Through its sense organs, the child takes in its whole environment. And it is it is always practicing how to use it to limbs. It watches how its father or mother, etc. do this or that thing, and it simply imitates them. This goes as far as the movements of hands and legs. If the father or the mother are, for instance, fidgety people, then the child will also become fidgety in countless cases; if the mother is calm, then the child will of course also become calm. We must try to produce the right counter-condition by placing the child in a right environment.

It is absolutely necessary to stimulate the child's fantasy, besides giving it sensory impressions, if it is to receive the influences needed for the development of the physical brain. It is consequently necessary to give a small child toys which are as simple as possible. A natural child will again and again turn to the “old doll”, made of a rag, no matter how beautiful the “new doll” which it receives. Only the spoiled children of our age are brought up on “beautiful”dolls. What is the reason for this? The child must exert its fantasy in order to transform the rag-doll in its fancy into something resembling human shape, and this is a sound activity for the brain. Even as the arm grow stronger through gymnastic exercises, so the brain develops through this exercise.

Also the colors in the child's surroundings are important. They exercise quite a different influence upon a small child than upon an adult. Many people think that green has a calming effect upon children. But this is quite wrong. A fidgety child should be surrounded with red and a calm child with green or blue-green. The effect of red upon the child is as follows: If you look upon a bright red and then turn your gaze away quickly to a piece of white paper you will see its complementary color, which is green. ... By this I mean to illustrate the tendency which the eye has to produce the opposite color. The child also attempts to do this; inwardly he seeks to unfold the activity which calls forth the counter-color. This is an example showing how the environment can influence a child.

In a similar way the child is influenced by everything which surrounds it, in addition to many, many things which I shall explain later, in another connection. All this contributes to a very great extent to the development of the child's physical body, from its birth to dentition; to the development of the etheric body, from the seventh to the fourteenth year; or to the development of the astral body, from the fourteenth to the twenty-first year, etc. Indeed, during the whole life the surrounding world exercises its influence upon the human being. The proverb “Tell me with whom you go, and I will tell you who you are” is based on this insight, for “with whom you go” means “what takes place in your environment”. This environment therefore has a strong influence upon us. This applies particularly to the time when the astral body develops, from the fourteenth to the twenty-first year, and it is an almost daily experience that a young person can easily be astrally corrupted by his environment during these years.

It is exactly the same in Devachan as here in physical life. Even as here on Earth the human being is constantly exposed to the influences of the atmosphere, so he is also exposed to them in Devachan — and there the atmosphere consists of all psychic life, our own and that of our fellow men. All this soul life continually influences the human being, and gifts and talents develop through the fact that they attract the psychically kindred astral forces from the environment, allowing them to exercise their influence. Mozart was born with.such a great musical memory because in a former life he had gathered experiences having this goal in view, and then allowed these experiences to exercise their influence for a long time during his life in Devachan. Through our environment in Devachan we pass through an enhanced development of our innermost being — indirectly, through all our experiences during our preceding life on Earth.

All our capacities are therefore the fruit of former lives, and in Devachan they have been further developed. This is the bliss-giving feeling in Devachan. In Devachan we hatch out what we are able to do in our present life. And in accordance with this is the feeling which we have during the whole intermediary time of our Devachan existence: this feeling, connected with everything productive, is bliss.

Here on Earth we often feel pain, but in Devachan even pain is bliss, for there we realize that we acquire wisdom through pain. Even a materialistic scientist has discovered this fact: in his book “Mimic of Thought” he writes: “Every wise countenance reveals the expression of crystallized suffering.” From the pains of his preceding life the human being in fact produces through his experiences in Devachan talents and wisdom for his next life on Earth. And the feeling of producing this is one of untold bliss.

You may see a pale reflection of this here on Earth in a hatching hen. If you transfer this to the spiritual plane and enhance it immensely you obtain the feeling of incessant infinite bliss between the time of Kamaloka and a new birth — for then the human being works out all his dispositions and capacities for the next life. Everything there becomes a source of blissful life.

We have therefore seen that one source of bliss in Devachan is that all the ties formed here on Earth are formed once more in Devachan; indeed we experience the spiritual part of those relationships in an immensely enhanced form. The other source of bliss is the productive, creative activity for our next life, as described above.

If the spiritual investigator now turns his gaze upon this activity of man in Devachan he perceives that this productive work has a meaning not only for the individual human being and for his future organization, but that the human being must contribute and cooperate in a significant way in the progress of the whole evolution of the Earth. It is an error to think that in Devachan we are only concerned with our own affairs. How must we work, as blissful spirits in the realm of spirits?

The activity of the dead is a cooperation in the development of our Earth . . . We might easily ask: Why are we always born again, after having passed through the experiences of one earthly life? Is not reincarnation useless?

But this is not the case. It is never useless for a man to be born again. The single lives on Earth are so far apart that we always learn something new and pass through new experiences. Centuries elapse between two incarnations, and when we return, the Earth has completely changed. Let us suppose that we lived on Earth in the second century after Christ. What aspect did the Earth present at that time? Even the descriptions of this region, of the Elbe and the Weser etc. of a much later period would be quite different from present descriptions, for here, in Nassau-Hessen, there were still virgin forests.

When the human being is born again, he experiences something quite different from his former life. During our various lives on Earth we participate in the development of the Earth itself, through the very fact that we incarnate again and again. In addition there is the change brought about by every civilization. Think of what a Roman boy was able to do! Of the great difference in the education of a boy of the present time! As we have seen, all these experiences are immensely important. It therefore has a deep significance that the human being must always come back again.

Let us now ask: Who changes the face of the Earth? The dead themselves, who live in the spirit-realm, do this, through the power which they there acquire, enabling them to work upon this transformation of the Earth. Even as human beings are here active externally upon the Earth, so the dead are active upon the spiritual prototype of the physical Earth. It is they who send their forces into this physical Earth, cooperating in its transformation. Of course, there are leaders in this work and higher beings who take over the guidance. In this spiritual realm — which is in our very midst — the dead work upon the transformation of the countenance of the Earth.

Why am I in this very place today? Why have I been born here? Because I myself have, so to speak, prepared my bed in the very place where I was born. The forces which have a transforming influence both upon the oceans and upon the surface of the Earth are the forces of our dead. We know that the Atlantic Ocean of today was once upon a time a wide expanse of land; this transformation too has been brought about by our dead, and these forces are quite natural and in no way miraculous.

An insight into such things proves with absolute logic the importance and necessity of this work in the spirit realm. If we only know how to interpret the phenomena in the right way, we may even describe this work. Here on Earth we breathe the air; we could not live without air. It is similar with the dead, except that there the light plays the same part which the air plays here on Earth. The initiate perceives the dead in the midst of light, which is spread out everywhere. A clairvoyant seer, for instance, sees the plants surrounded by the spirits of the dead and these spirits of the dead make the plant grow through the light and change the plant. In the spiritual world we shall all soar above the Earth and work upon the plants.

If we thus contemplate the world in connection with the spiritual beings, it becomes larger and more significant to us.

In conclusion, let me mention a few things which can help us to understand certain fine details in our civilization.

At times, the seer finds that his own observations are confirmed by phenomena in the history of ancient peoples, which before were enigmas to him. It is, for instance, a well known fact that at first primitive nations possess a kind of clairvoyance enabling them to see things of which we have no idea. These primitive races often saw in the shadow, for example, something which is connected with the soul. 'The clairvoyant now returns to this through his own observations. For if you look in to the shadow which you yourself throw, you first learn to perceive your own spiritual emanations. If we retain the physical light, we perceive the spiritual in the shadow-space. This knowledge has been preserved in occult science, and many who had no inkling of this truth have used it, for example, Chamisso in his “Peter Schlemihl”. This is a man who lost his shadow and is very unhappy over this. But it is a spiritual fact that the soul is visible in the shadow, and the man without a shadow is therefore a man without a soul.

There are hundreds of examples of this kind. We really learn to know the world fully if we learn to know its spiritual foundations. Spiritual science therefore is not for brooding people, but for those who wish to be active in practical life. We do not wish to withdraw from the visible world, but rather to understand it better.

The higher facts are related to the visible world as magnetism is related to iron. We learn to know iron fully if we also learn to know magnetism. A few examples will show us that especially that which we learn to know in the spiritual world bears fruit in practical life.


Monday, March 28, 2011

The Astral World and the Kingdom of Heaven

Theosophy and Rosicrucianism, lecture 4 of 14

Rudolf Steiner, June 19, 1907, from the notes of a member of the audience:

Since it is our task today to continue following man's destinies in the spiritual world, it will be advisable if we first form some idea of what we designate as a world, in the spiritual-scientific meaning.

We are conscious of the world 'round about us, because we have certain capacities and organs which enable us to perceive it. If we had other organs, this world would present an entirely different aspect. For example, if a man had no eyes enabling him to see the light, but an organ enabling him instead to perceive electricity, then he would not see this room flooded with light, but he would perceive electricity in every wire, flashing, streaming through it. — The world 'round about us, what we call our world, is therefore dependent upon our sense-organs.

The astral world, too, is nothing but a sum of phenomena, which the human being experiences in his environment, when he has severed himself from his physical body and from his etheric body, so that he can use forces enabling him to see what he cannot otherwise see. This is the case,when he has discarded his physical body and his etheric body. The perceptive organs for the astral world are the organs of the astral body, analogous to the sense-organs of the physical body.

Let us now contemplate the astral world.

Through methods which will be discussed later, a man endowed with spiritual vision can perceive the astral world even here, in his physical body. The astral world differs greatly from our physical world. You may obtain some idea of what is 'round about you in the astral world, if you summon up before your soul the life of dreams, which is the last trace of that early clairvoyance which man once possessed in times gone by. You all know this life of dreams from your own experience, as a world of chaotic images. How does it come about that man dreams at all? We know that while we dream, the physical body and the etheric body lie on the bed, while the astral body soars above them. In a sound, dreamless sleep, the astral body is completely lifted out of the etheric body; but in a sleep filled with dreams, certain tentacles of the astral body still reach into the etheric body, and this enables man to perceive the more or less confused pictures of the astral world.

The astral world is as transparent as the dream-pictures; it is, as it were, woven out of dreams. But these dreams which constitute the astral world differ from ordinary dreams, for they are the images of a reality, just as “real” a reality as the physical world. We perceive this reality in the same way we perceive dreams, for the astral world, too, is perceived symbolically. You all know that the world of dreams is a symbolical world. Everything from the world outside which enters our sleep takes on a symbolical aspect in our dreams. I will give you a few typical examples of dreams, which will show you how a simple impression from outside constitutes the foundation of a dream's symbolical image.

For example, you may be dreaming that you have caught a frog. You feel its slippery body, and on waking up you find that you are holding the cold end of the sheet in your hand. Or you may dream that you are in a cellar, in a dark hole full of spiders' webs: You wake up ... with a headache. Or you may see snakes in your dream, and when you awake you will find that you have abdominal pains. Or another dream: An academician has a long dream of a duel, beginning with some insult and ending with the pistol-shot: He hears the shot, awakes, and discovers that a chair has fallen.

The whole course of this last dream can also show you that the conditions of time are quite different in dreams. Not only does time run backwards, so to speak, but the whole conception of time loses its meaning in a dream. During a dream, we may pass through a whole life in the fraction of a second, in the same way in which our whole life passes before our soul's eye during the moment of drowning, or crashing. The point to be borne in mind in all these dream-pictures is that the cause which gave rise to them appears in the form of IMAGES.

This is the case in the astral world. Its images can be interpreted. The same astral experience always appears in the form of the same image; there is always regularity and harmony in these pictures of the astral world, whereas our ordinary dreams are chaotic. In the end, we can find our way about in the astral world just as well as in the physical world.

The astral world is woven out of such pictures, but they are the expression of soul-beings. After death all human beings are enveloped in such pictures, which are in part very rich in color and form. Also when we are asleep the astral body can be seen in the midst of streaming, changing forms and colors. If we have the astral power of vision, we can perceive these astral beings in a surging sea of colors.

The astral world has, however, one peculiar quality, which appears strange to one who hears this for the first time. In the astral world everything exists, as it were, in the form of a picture reflected in a mirror, and a pupil of spiritual science must therefore get accustomed little by little to see things in the RIGHT way. For instance, you may see the number 365, but this really corresponds to 563. This applies to everything which we see in the astral world. There, everything that goes out of our own being appears as if it were coming towards us. It is most important to consider this fact.

When astral images arise, for instance, in pathological conditions, we must know how to deal with them. They often appear when people are delirious; a delirious person often sees all kinds of faces and forms rushing towards him, for the astral world becomes accessible to him in this pathological condition. Although these astral pictures seem to be rushing towards him, they are in reality streaming out of him. Progressive doctors should bear this in mind, for in future such symptoms will be more and more frequent, arising out of a concealed religious longing. The subject of a painting such as for instance, the well known “Temptation of Saint Anthony” is based on such astral experiences.

If you think these things through to the very end you will no longer find it strange that time too is reversed in the astral world. An echo of this may be found in dreams. In this connection you should remember the above-mentioned example of the duel in a dream. In the astral world everything is reversed; even time. When we observe the development of a tree astrally, we first perceive its fruit, then its blossoms, and so on backwards to the seed.

After death, during the time in which we must lose our earthly habits, our whole life in the astral world runs backwards. But this process of living through our whole life once more backwards, concluding with our first impressions of childhood, is faster than the one on the physical plane; it lasts about one third of the duration of our life on earth. Thus we live through our life again in a reversed order, but we experience many other things too.

Let us suppose that you were eighty years old when you died, and that now you live through your life backwards as far as your fortieth year. At that time you may, for instance, have boxed someone's ear, thus causing him pain. In the astral world this sensation of pain also appears as if in a mirror, i.e. YOU now experience the pain felt by the other person when you boxed his ear. But this also applies to every pleasant experience.

Only when the human being has thus passed through his whole life backwards is he ready to enter the heavenly world. Religious traditions should always be taken literally. If you bear in mind what I have just now explained to you, you will easily understand that the human being can only enter the spiritual world — and the spiritual world is the one which the Bible designates as “the Kingdom of Heaven” — when he has lived through his whole life backwards as far as infancy. This lies at the foundation of Christ's words: “Unless you become as little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven”.  For on reaching the stage of childhood in his reversed passage through life, the human being discards the astral body and enters the spiritual world.

Now I must give you a description of the spiritual world. The Kingdom of Heaven differs from the physical world even more than the astral world. But since it is only possible to describe the spiritual world with expressions taken from the physical world, it should be borne in mind even more than for descriptions of the astral world that everything I say about the spiritual world should only be taken comparatively.

In the Kingdom of Heaven we also find a triad, as here on Earth. Even as upon the Earth we find the three aggregate states of solid, liquid, and gaseous, and accordingly divide the Earth into continents, oceans, and atmosphere, so we may also distinguish three similar spheres — but, as stated, only as a comparison — in the spiritual realm. The continental sphere, however, consists of something which differs from our rocks and stones. What constitutes the firm ground of the spirit realm are the archetypal images of the physical world. For everything physical has its archetype, even man. The clairvoyant seer perceives these archetypal images as a kind of negative, that is to say, he sees space as a kind of shadow-form, and round about it radiant light. But corresponding, for instance, to the blood and nerves, these shadows are not uniform. But a stone or a mineral reveal in their archetypal images a uniformly empty space surround by raying light.

Even as you walk on firm ground here on Earth, so in the spiritual realm you walk on the archetypal images of physical things. This forms the continents of the spiritual world.

When the human being first sets foot on these continents, a definite aspect always presents itself to him: It is the moment when he first has a clear perception of his own body lying before him. For he himself is spirit. Normally this takes place about thirty years after death, and this is connected with the fundamental experience: “This is you.” The Vedanta philosophy based one of its fundamental teachings on this knowledge, the “Tat twam asi” — this is you. All such expressions are drawn out of a deep spiritual knowledge.

The second sphere of the spiritual realm is the oceanic sphere. Whatever is life here in the physical world, i.e. everything that possesses an etheric body, exists in the spiritual realm as if it were a liquid element. Streaming, surging life flows through the spirit-realm. It even collects like the waters of the ocean, in a kind of ocean-basin, or to be more precise, like the blood streaming through the veins and collecting in the heart.

And thirdly we have the atmosphere of the spirit realm, consisting of all the passions, instincts, feelings, etc. You have all these sensations up there as an external perception, resembling the atmospheric phenomena here on Earth. All this blows through the atmosphere of Devachan. As a clairvoyant, you can perceive in the spirit-realm all the sufferings and joys experienced on Earth. Every passion, every feeling of hatred and such like, appears in the spirit-realm as if it were a storm. A battle, for example, appears in such a form that in the Devachan world the seer experiences a tremendous storm. The whole spiritual world is thus permeated with wonderful joys which pass through it, but also with terrible passions.

In the same way it is possible to speak of spiritual ears. When you have advanced to the stage of having an insight into the Devachan world, you may both see and hear these floating phenomena, and what you thus hear is the HARMONY OF THE SPHERES.

We have thus characterized the spiritual region up to this stage. But there is a fourth region in Devachan. Up to now we have found in it:

1. The prototypes of all physical forms; as the continents
2. The prototypes of all life, as the oceans
3. The prototypes of all soul-life, feelings, etc., as the atmosphere

Now, there is something in human life which cannot have its origin in the external world, and its spiritual content constitutes the fourth sphere of Devachan. There we find every original idea, going as far as the creative productions of genius. All that is original — that is to say, all that man puts into the world, thus enriching the world — the prototypes of all these creations form the fourth sphere of Devachan. This concludes the description of the lower parts of Devachan.

Beyond this there are three higher spheres, but during his physical life man can only reach them through a higher initiation. They are only accessible to an initiate, and after death they can only be perceived by more highly developed individuals.

What does such an advanced initiate experience when he penetrates into the next higher sphere of Devachan? At first he experiences that which is designated in Occult Science as the Akasha Chronicle. Everything that occurs in the world and that has ever occurred in it in the past is preserved as an impression in a fine substantiality, which is imperishable.

Let me illustrate this through at example: Now I am speaking to you, but you would not hear me if my voice were not able to produce vibrations in the air. Thus every word which I utter exists in the air in the form of fine movements. These fine movements of course vanish, but everything which occurs here on Earth becomes impressed in that fine substantiality which we experience when reaching the spiritual world. This impression is everlasting. Every word, every thought, everything which has ever taken place in humanity can be read in the Akasha Chronicle. This entails either initiation, or that moment after death when the human being enters the higher devachanic sphere, that is to say, when he has developed so far as to perceive this high sphere of Devachan after death. In that case he is able to look into the past.

The Akasha Chronicle is a writing which preserves everything that has ever occurred. But it is not really a writing in the ordinary physical meaning, for it consists of images. You see, for example, Caesar in every situation of his life — you do not see what he has done, but the inner impulses which led him to his deeds. These Akasha pictures possess a high degree of life, and if we cannot interpret them in the right way they can give rise to great delusions. The source of many spiritistic aberrations is, for example, the appearance of an Akasha picture at one of these seances. If you summon Goethe, and the Akasha picture of November 25, 1797 appears before you, giving you information concerning some question, this picture will reply as Goethe would have replied had he been asked that question on November 25, 1797. Only those who really know the spiritual world can judge whether they are dealing with a reality or with a shadow. These descriptions can show you what aspect the higher spheres of the spiritual world present.

The first experience is therefore the perception of one's own body, and this experience is the starting point for all other experiences. The human being feels strongly that he has emancipated himself from his bodily involucres, for the most blissful of moment is the one in which he discards the last body, the astral corpse. Even as a plant wedged in the fissure of a rock would experience it as bliss to be freed, so this feeling of blissfulness becomes a fundamental sensation of the human being. It permeates him and transfigures the other feelings which were once experienced in an earthly manner, for instance, feelings of friendship, which may perhaps undergo certain transformations here on Earth, but which are deepened and purified in the spiritual realm.

Also a mother's love for her child undergoes such a purification, and vice versa. The originally animal feeling of belonging to one another, which even here upon the Earth took on a moral character, unfolds a still higher moral power in Devachan, Every tie on Earth becomes deepened in the spiritual realm, and all connections interpenetrate.

Through love man works his way up from the narrowness of egotism to the encompassing experience of cosmic life. There nothing is divided or severed; each one works for the others, for even in the spiritual world activity and work constitute the element which carries, furthers, and unites the souls. But love is the inexhaustible source of all life.


Sunday, March 27, 2011


"The Lord dwells in the hearts of all creatures
and whirls them round upon the wheel of maya.
Run to him for refuge with all your strength,
and peace profound will be yours through his grace."
                                   --Bhagavad Gita 18:61-62

"The significance of a philosophical poem such as the Bhagavad Gita, or similar works of world literature, can only be rightly valued by one to whom they are not just theory, but destiny."--Rudolf Steiner

Guru Gita 76

Dhyana mulam guror murtih

Puja mulam guroh padam

Mantra mulam guror vakyam

Moksha mulam guroh krpa

The root of meditation is the guru's form

The root of worship is the guru's feet

The root of mantra is the guru's word

The root of liberation is the guru's grace.

Matthew 11:28-30

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.