Pre-existence and afterlife in politics
- It's interesting to see how spiritual, religious, occult, philosophical, and spiritual-scientific concepts become totally corrupted and adulterated through the game of politics, particularly in the United States.
This came to mind when Joe Biden, very soon after having been chosen as Obama's vice presidential running mate, told the media that because he is a Catholic, he believes that life begins at conception. And the very first thing that struck me about Biden's statement, was that he needed to lean on the authority of the Catholic Church to have an opinion about the subject at all! The second thing I found remarkable, was the reason why he was asked such a question by the media in the first place. It all boils down to the politics of abortion, of course. Whether to criminalize it or to make it available to all women who desire it, for whatever reason, as family planning or reproductive healthcare or some other palatable description that does not imply killing unborn children. In the United States, this is a controversy with flaming hot passions on both sides, with the conservative right wingers calling for "pro-life," and with progressive or liberal left-wingers calling for "pro-choice."
There is a third party involved here, of course, namely the medical personnel supposed to obey orders, regardless of their personal conviction and conscience and their own interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath. It's not simply a woman's free choice alone; we're also talking about the free choice of surgeons and nurses. But let's leave that aside for now and move on.
We could make a total paradigm shift here, naturally, and confound and confuse this entire chapter in the political debate if we teamed up with all anthropophists, theosophists, Buddhists, Hindus, New Agers etc. all those who recognize reincarnation and proclaimed boldly that life begins not at birth, nor at conception, but prior to conception. The widespread notion that life begins with birth or conception is Aristotelian in origin; this idea excludes pre-existence and takes only the afterlife into account: Life after death. But this onesidedness is extremely egoistical; it rests upon fear of death, the desire not to be extinguished, and yet the fear still lingers that one may have to spend eternity in Hell instead of Heaven, which is yet another Aristotelian notion.
This is an extraordinarily selfish, unloving, and misanthropic religious belief. Check out these words of Christ:
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
( -- Matthew 16:25)
And John is even clearer:
He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
( -- John 12:25)
On other words, you must be willing to sacrifice your very existence and your very salvation for your fellow man in order to earn that salvation you covet so much.
Rudolf Steiner points out that the recognition of pre-existence is morally healthy, because while there is something terribly egoistical in believing in the afterlife, the coming into incarnation through conception and birth has a selfless element in it. We selflessly choose to go through the ordeal of physical existence in order to become something better, to do things for each other through the physical plane and so on.
So the introduction of pre-existence into the political debate in the US from the progressive-liberal side would be really something, methinks. Because as it stands, the choices have been made hopeless, as I've mentioned earlier:
One of the biggest headache-causing aspects of the pro-life/pro-choice
theater is that it's been turned into such a damnned political football,
with the pro-lifers on the right and the pro-choicers on the left. Both of
these movement carry lethal anti-life viruses, because there is no suc
thing as a pro-life political platform. None whatsoever. If you choose to
give a thumbs-up for the unborn life and translate your stand into a
political endorsement, you're forced to trade one kind of killing with
another. They'll let unborn children live if you agree to increase the
ratio of lethal injections, firing squads, gas chambers, random police
brutality as a deterrant against street crime, and multiplying foreign
invasions tenfold while banning media reports about casualties of war,
including unborn babies.
This hard choice between different varieties of lethal political action
seems to be driving some people close to the brink of utter confusion. Such
people seek a way out of their dilemma by declaring liberalism to be a
So what kind of killing do you prefer? If you like to see more unborn
children killed, vote left. If you prefer frying of convicts in front of
live audiences, foreign infants killed by stray bullets from invasion
foces, cops beating the crap out of street punks, and a growth in the meat
industry that entails more hunting and slaughter and teaching children to
tear the guts out of their four-legged playmates while they're still warm,
Finally, here are a few words by the Doctor regarding pre-existence or life before conception:
To begin with, there is what came about in western Christianity in the first Christian centuries through the fusing of the Gnosis with the monotheistic Gospel teaching, and then there is the fusing of Christianity with the Aristotelianism that arose in the time of the Schoolmen certainly in a highly intelligent way, but nevertheless merely as historical recollection. And this doctrine, the doctrine of the uniform origin of both body and soul through birth or conception, is a thoroughly Aristotelian doctrine. With the casting off of the old spirituality, with the emergence of pure intellectuality, Aristotle had already been divested of the notion of pre-existence, the notion of the life of the human soul before birth, before conception. This denial of the doctrine of pre-existence is not Christian; it is Aristotelian. It first became a dogmatic fetter through the introduction of Aristotelianism into Christian theology.
Out of man's experiences between birth and death there is no possibility of acquiring a scientific conception of life after death. There is nothing which offers a possible proof of immortality, if one looks merely at the life between birth and death.
But traditional Christianity does look only at this life between birth and death, for it regards the soul as well as the body as having been created at the time of birth or conception. This viewpoint makes it impossible to acquire knowledge about life after death. Unless one accepts the existence of life before birth, knowledge of which can, as you know, be acquired, one can never obtain knowledge of life after death. Hence the cleavage between knowledge and belief as regards the question of immortality arises from the dogma which denies the life before birth. It was because men wanted to drop the knowledge of pre-natal life that it became necessary to postulate a special certitude of faith. For if, whilst denying pre-natal life, one still wishes to speak of a life after death, then one cannot speak of it as scientific knowledge.
You see how systematically ordered the dogmatic structure is. Its purpose is to spread darkness among mankind about spiritual science. How can that be done? On the one hand by attacking the doctrine of life before birth ... then there can be no knowledge about life after death, then men have to believe it on the basis of dogma. The fight for belief in dogma is waged by fighting against knowledge of life before birth.
( -- Rudolf Steiner: Man as a Being of Sense and Perception, Lecture 2, 23rd July, 1921, GA 206)