Lecture #2 Pt. 1
The Christ Impulse and the Development of the Ego-Consciousness
Berlin, 22nd December, 1909.
THE LAW OF KARMA WITH RESPECT TO THE DETAILS OF LIFE
Our lecture to-day shall be devoted to subjects interesting to Anthroposophists in the widest sense, subjects intended to throw light on certain points which may have puzzled those who have attended our Group-Meetings for a considerable time. It is well, now and then, to recollect that the point of importance in Anthroposophy is not so much the learning of certain things as theory or doctrine, but that we should continually enter in greater detail into the questions and enigmas of life. — Some people may perhaps say: All that is necessary to know of Anthroposophy for use in life could be comfortably contained in a small pamphlet of sixty pages or so; everyone could possess a copy and would then be convinced as to the nature of man, reincarnation and karma, and the evolution of humanity on the earth, — and could go through life needing nothing further. A person who would like to have that carried out might perhaps suggest: ‘Why does not the Anthroposophical Movement distribute as many copies as possible of a booklet containing these principal points of view, so that everyone might acquire a copy and be able to convince himself? Why does the Anthroposophical Society adopt the curious method of holding meetings week after week, assembling all those interested or likely to become interested for the purpose of constantly recapitulating what might comfortably be reduced to a sixty-page pamphlet? What can these Anthroposophists possibly have to say to their followers, week after week?’
There may be certain orders of mind of our day who would like to have a small outline of Anthroposophy which they could keep in their waistcoat pockets, and thus study what it is most important to know. We must, however, over and over again, bring to mind the fact that nothing can be done in this way with Anthroposophy. There can be no ‘tabloid-knowledge!’ Although Anthroposophy does depend both on knowledge and perception, it does not consist of mere ‘phrases,’ but of very definite knowledge. But it is not enough merely to acquire this knowledge as a general conviction according to present-day methods, and then rest satisfied. For the point in question is not merely that one should acquire the conviction and know that man lives many lives and that there are causal conditions which pass over from one life into another, that there is such a thing as reincarnation, as karma. The beneficial effects of Anthroposophy do not lie in the spreading of this knowledge, but are felt in the constant and repeated study of all the details connected with it, and in allowing the teaching to work upon one's soul. It does one no good simply to believe that man lives more than once and that there is such a law as that of reincarnation, karma, and so on. The mere belief in this will not carry one far. As regards the real depths of life there is not much difference between the soul of a man who knows of reincarnation and karma and one who knows nothing of it. In an anthroposophical sense our soul is only changed if we constantly study, not only the generalities, but the deeper things that Spiritual Science can teach us. That is why it is a good thing that we should over and over again consider how the various details of life appear in the light of the Anthroposophical conception. It is by no means sufficient merely to know that there is a great law of destiny establishing a connection between the past deeds, feelings and thoughts of a man and his present and future experiences. Anthroposophy will only become a life-factor when we can apply this general doctrine to the different experiences of life, when we become able to put our whole soul into such a position, that we obtain an entirely new outlook on life. That is why we will to-day give a little time to studying the law of karma, the great law of destiny, with reference to the details of life. Things will be spoken of to-day which are familiar to all; but they will be considered from the standpoint of karma.
Karma says in a general sense that there is a connection in the spiritual world between what takes place to-day and what has taken place in the past. It is not really a good thing to call karma the law of causality, and then to compare it with the law of cause and effect in the external world. If we wish to find a comparison for this great law of destiny, we must take care that the comparison is valid, that it really does represent this law.
Let us take the following as an example. Suppose we have two vessels containing water — and two metal balls of the normal temperature of the living-room. We throw one ball into one of the vessels; and the water remains as it was. We now take the other ball and having heated it, we throw it into the other vessel. The water in that gets warm. — Why has the water in the second vessel grown warm and not in the first? Because the ball itself underwent a change before it was thrown into the vessel; and having itself been made hot it brings about the warming of the water. An event occurred which was the result of another event, the result of the ball having been heated. — The experiences and activities of a former time are connected with the experiences and phenomena of the present or future.
When we grasp the law of the spiritual connections between past, present and future in this way, we shall be able to find it confirmed in ordinary life, in the everyday life around us, — though we ourselves may be very far from having as yet developed any clairvoyant faculties. For we must always establish as a golden rule the fact that while a law of the spiritual world can only be proved by the spiritual investigator through clairvoyant observation, it can always be corroborated by the experiences of the external world. — People will, however, have to accustom themselves to observe external life a little more carefully than usual, if they wish to find confirmation of the law of karma. As a rule they do not see, figuratively speaking, beyond the end of their noses. What lies beyond that, they do not observe. Anyone who observes more profoundly will, however, find plenty of confirmation between birth and death of the existence of a law of karma. We will keep as far as possible to the concrete, and take the following example. A young lad, fifteen years of age, has been torn away by unforeseen circumstances from the life he had been accustomed to lead. Till then the position of his parents had permitted him to study; now at the age of fifteen, in consequence, perhaps, of his father having lost his fortune, he had to go into trade, and was thus pitchforked from one calling to another. Of course the point here is not that the one calling was in any way better than the other, but that his life was altered by the change. Now people who contemplate life in the ordinary materialistic sense would probably not expect anything worthy of note to be brought about by the influence of such an event in a man's life, and they would find nothing. But a closer observer would discover that a young man who goes into trade in that way, will at first feel pleasure in the change, will like his calling, — that his interest in it grows with his own growth, as one might say. After a while, however, something remarkable will become evident, The soul-experiences, the sympathies and antipathies he feels in his work, may, as he reaches the age of eighteen or nineteen, assume a different form. He may cease to take pleasure in it; his attitude towards trade may alter. Those who had never heard of Anthroposophy would feel at a loss to account for what takes place in the young man's soul.
What then has actually occurred? — When the young man was fifteen and was put into the new trade, he took a great interest in it. At first the interest he felt drove out the feelings and sentiments that had formed within him when he was following a different line of activity. Those feelings were pushed into the background. The time, however, comes when these break through again with all the more strength. It is just as though one compressed an elastic object; it can be compressed for a while but it springs back with all the more rapidity, and the result in the case of the lad may be that the interests which have been thrust aside for a time, now burst forth with greater zest. When he is eighteen or nineteen the feelings and sentiments that penetrated his soul, three years before the change of calling, now come forth anew, — that is, those he felt at eleven or twelve. — Life can only be explained in such a case by saying: When this lad was fifteen a turning-point occurred in his life. After that, things happened whose external effects are felt the same number of years after the turning-point as the cause of them originated before that time.
Just think how one would be able to help a person as regards his soul-moods and the difficulties of life, if we were able to ask ourselves: — When did such a turning-point occur? — It may have been connected with something quite private and intimate; but, if one can place it, we can then reckon back; and it will be found that the spiritual effects reveal themselves just as long after the turning-point, as the cause of them was before that time. This gives one an insight into karma. Such knowledge is a help in life, and we may say: — Causes and effects of this nature are connected with definite periods of time and they are determined by a definite period in life, so that if we count backwards and forwards from that point of time, we can find the connection between cause and effect.
Now this might, of course, be concealed by the intervention of other events. Someone might say: ‘The example you have just given us is no use; I have just met a young man to whom it does not apply:’ — Well, — I have known a case of two men having a game of billiards, when a passing waiter bumped into the one who was just about to play, thus driving his ball in quite a different direction from what was intended! The law of cause and effect was not at fault, but other circumstances intervened. We must reflect that we shall never learn to know that law if we do not make an exception of the things that upset it. After the age of fifteen other circumstances may arise which interfere with the law. We do not become acquainted with laws simply by observing life, but by acquiring the right method of summing up its phenomena. For in life things are being constantly disturbed and the laws cannot so easily be seen; we can only regulate our life by knowing how these laws are to be found. When we know the particulars, we can say in the case of the young man whose life has been so smashed up, that it is the task of those who have his education in hand to look out for the result. In this way karma becomes a law of life; and if we have knowledge of the law, we can make use of our knowledge when such a case occurs. If we find that we can no longer give the lad what he had before, we can at any rate become his adviser. But we can only give the right advice if we know of the existence of such connections as those I have spoken of, — if we know what is the matter with him and intervene with help just where and when his particular lack is making itself felt. If we are ignorant of this law we cannot help him with advice. — When we regard the law of karma as a law of life it may become an influence in life, we can learn to become counselors.
The above-mentioned case does not of course exhaust all the combinations that are possible; there is another way in which the law of karma is experienced between birth and death. There is a remarkable connection between the experiences a man has in the first half of his life and the second, — but this is not as a rule observed. One often makes acquaintance with a man in his youth and loses sight of him before he reaches maturity, or else one only meets a man when he is already old and one knows nothing of his youth; or even if one did know him in youth, one may have forgotten what has happened to him since. Were we to study and compare the beginning and end of people's lives when it is possible so to do, we should find the finest confirmation of the law of karma even in the life between birth and death.
Perhaps you may remember in this connection what I have said in public lectures about the ‘noble’ anger which appears in youth. I have explained that a young person is not able fully to judge of an injustice that may be going on in his vicinity; he is not yet mature enough. Yet the wise rulership of the world has so ordained things that our feelings will help us to judge truly before our reason is mature enough to do so. A noble nature will, even in childhood, be moved to a righteous anger by anything like injustice, although it may be only in his feeling that his soul can sense the injustice. He may perhaps not yet be ripe to judge of it through his intellect. When this noble sense of indignation is to be found in the character of a child we ought to take particular note of it, for the feeling aroused by the injustice remains in the soul. This noble anger in early youth permeates the soul and, as life goes on, it becomes transformed. In the second half of life it reappears in a different form; it appears as the quality of loving kindness and goodness. We shall not often find that loving, bounteous goodness in the latter part of a man's life — if other things are equal and nothing has occurred to distort the sequence — without finding that it was expressed in his early years by a noble anger aroused at the stupidity or the ugly things of life. In ordinary life we find a karmic connection which we may clothe in the form of a picture and say: The hand that never clenched its fist in noble anger in the first half of life, will not easily be stretched forth in blessing in the latter half. — Such things will of course only be observed by one who can see a little further than ‘the end of his nose,’ which is just what most people do not do. I might give a simple example to show how little people are inclined to notice such things in life.
I have often mentioned how helpful it is to one who wishes to become intimately acquainted with life in order to study more deeply the occult conditions of the soul, to have been a teacher at some time. One learns more of the soul in that way than can be learnt from the ordinary text-books on Psychology, which, as a rule, are quite valueless. A knowledge of the soul is acquired when we do not merely observe and study but have to take the responsibility of guiding and directing the life of others. One learns a closer observation. During the long years of my tutorship I not only observed the children of whom I had charge, but I had many opportunities when other families came to visit them, of studying other children of all ages, even from the time they came into the world.
That is now some twenty-five to thirty years ago. You may have noticed how every five years or thereabouts the doctors have a different opinion as to what is ‘good’ for people. Well, — at that time they were strongly of opinion that it was very strengthening for delicate children three, four or five years old, to drink a glass of red wine every day. — I knew certain children who had their glass of wine and others who did not, and was able to make my own observations. For of course at that time, the doctor's opinion was considered infallible. It would have been of no use to attempt to go against it. I was thus able to await results. The children who were then from two to five years old and who were given the glass of wine to strengthen them, are now young men and women of twenty-five to twenty-eight years of age. I particularly noticed that only then the results of this treatment show themselves. All the children who had the wine have become ‘Fidgety Phils’; their astral bodies are fidgety, they have not much control of them; they do not know how to control the involuntary movements of their soul-life. On the other hand, those children who, — unfortunately, as was then said, — could not have their glass of red wine, have now become stable natures, less ‘wobbly’ in their astral bodies, or, as materialists would say, in their nervous systems.
This is an example of the connections that exist in life. It is rather a trivial one and not particularly illustrative of karma; but it serves to show that we should not only look as far as the end of our noses but should survey longer periods of time, and that it is not sufficient merely to affirm that a remedy will have such and such an effect, for what is actually brought about can only be observed by the true observer many years after. Nothing but the great connections and all that leads us to find them can in reality give us the true explanations of the relation between cause and effect in the life of man. Thus we must try to connect the qualities of the soul with those phenomena of life which lie apparently very far apart; and we shall then be able to trace the law of karma even between birth and death, and shall frequently find that the events of later life are connected with the experiences of the earlier.
You may remember what I said of the mission of Devotion, of the importance of looking up in feeling to some being or some phenomenon which we do not yet understand, but which we revere for the very reason that we have not yet grown up to the level of being able to understand it. I always like to remind you of how fortunate it is when a man can say: ‘As a child I heard of a member of our family who was very greatly respected and honoured. I had not yet seen him but I had a profound reverence for him. Then one day the opportunity came, and I was taken to see him. A feeling of profound and holy awe came over me as I laid my hand on the handle of the door of the room where this wonderful person was to be seen.’
In later life a man will have good reason to be grateful for that feeling of reverent devotion; we owe much gratitude to anyone who aroused a feeling of reverence in us in our early life. That feeling is of great and special value in any life. I have known men who exclaim, when such a feeling of reverent devotion to the Spiritual and Divine is alluded to: ‘I am an Atheist! I cannot revere anything spiritual!’ — We can reply: ‘Look at the starry heavens! Could you create those? Look at that wisdom-filled structure and reflect: there it is surely possible to have a feeling of real, true reverence.’ There are many things in the world which our understanding has not yet grown up to, but to which we can look up in reverence. Especially is this the case in youth, when there is so much we can look up to and venerate, without being able to understand it.
A feeling of devotion in early youth is transformed into a very special quality in the second half of life. We have all heard of persons who just by being themselves, are, as it were, a blessing to those around them. There is no need for them to say anything particular, their presence is enough. It seems as though by the very nature of their being, something invisible flows forth from them to the souls around them. Through their very nature they radiate a healing and beneficent influence on their environment. To what do these people owe their power of blessing? They owe it to the circumstance that in their youth they lived a life in which reverence played a part. Reverence in the early part of their life was transformed in later years into a force which works invisibly, pouring forth blessing and help. Here again is a karmic connection which, if we look for it, is clearly and distinctly to be observed. It was really a true feeling for karma which led Goethe to choose as the motto for one of his works, these beautiful words: ‘What we desire in our youth is fulfilled in old age!’ If one only observes the connections to be found within short periods of time, it may certainly seem as though one could speak of unfulfilled wishes, — but taking longer spans of time, this cannot well be said. All these things can pass over into and become part of life's daily round; and as a matter of fact, only one who studies in this anthroposophical way is qualified to educate children, for he will be able to provide them in their early years with that which, as he knows, they will be able to use in the latter part of their life. The responsibility that a man assumes when he instills one thing or another into a child is not realised. to-day. It has become the custom to look down on these things to-day — to speak of them from the high horse of materialistic thinking. I should like to illustrate this by an experience we ourselves once had here in Berlin.
A theosophical visitor once came here, — one of those who think if at some time in their lives they have attended one or two meetings, they are well able to form an opinion on the whole subject. Such persons desire to learn about a spiritual Movement like Anthroposophy so as to be able to write objectively about it. Those who wish to provide the world with newspaper articles, believe that they can judge of a movement by going to one or two lectures! — This visitor also went away and wrote. It was curious to read later on in an American paper what was said. of one of our anthroposophical meetings. Of course the description given was remarkably correct! — As I have said, if anyone really wishes to grasp Anthroposophy it cannot be done in that way; it is only possible to penetrate into the life of Anthroposophy if one has the distinct will really to enter into it in detail and experience. I am only saying all this to characterise the opinion formed by this visitor, which he did not hide under a bushel! He said he did not like the way in which Anthroposophy splits up everything, — dividing the world into physical world, astral world, devachanic world, and so on. Why should everything be so split up? — This was after one or two visits. What a terrible effect it would have had on him if he had heard of the other divisions! He was of the opinion that it was unnecessary to consider things in this way, but that one should speak of the spiritual world in general terms. — Why should it be divided into classes?
That is the way people talk to-day about Education and all other departments of life; Science itself talks in the same way. The world talks from an arbitrary observation of life, not from an objective investigation of the separate phenomena. That is why the impressions which all such reforms and programmes must make on one who is able really to observe the world is so dreadful; they arouse a feeling that may be compared to physical pain. Take any ordinary book on Science to-day; no matter how conscientiously the conclusions are drawn, it is terrible to see how they are put forward, for there is no conception of the way the phenomena ought to be observed. In the same way many a man is admired to-day, who blazons forth his opinion, based simply on his own predilections or antipathies.
It is of immense importance that Anthroposophy should become aware of the fact that life must be observed, down to its very smallest details, according to the methods which the knowledge of karma and other laws put into our hands. That is why we can only hope for a blessing on the future evolution of humanity — even as regards the question of Education — if the anthroposophical views penetrate to the fundamental principles of Education. Karma provides a firm support for all questions connected with that.
For instance, it is extremely important that we should know the karmic connections of a certain phenomenon in Education expressed in the view: ‘If a child is properly brought up, he must be this or that — that is what I admire!’ It seems as though the child were supposed to be a sack, into which one can stuff whatever is thought to be right! People wish to stamp their own nature, with its personal sympathies or antipathies, upon the child. If they knew the karmic consequences of this, they would take a different view. They would see that what is stuffed in that way into a child, as into a sack, will work out karmically by making the grown man or woman a hard, dry nature, prematurely old, for the very core of their being is killed. If we wish to educate a child, and to imbue it with any particular quality, we must set to work in a roundabout way. We must not try to force it upon the child, rather ought we to arouse a longing for that particular quality, so that the child itself will desire to acquire it. We must even go a step further. If we know that a particular food is good for a child we must not force him to eat it, but should try so to cultivate his taste, that he will ask for it of his own accord. That is a very different method to that of forcing everything into him as into a sack, saying: — ‘in with you!’ — If we begin to regulate the child's requirements, we reach the very life-germ of his being and we shall see the effects of this working out karmically in the second half of his life, in his joy in life, in his life-force. In his later years, instead of being arid and dry, he will remain alive in the centre of his being.
If we consider the law of karma in this way we shall say: ‘It does not suffice merely to write a little book entitled ‘There is a law of karma, a connection between the earlier and the later,’ but we must study life itself in the light of that law.’ Anthroposophy is only present in its true form when we enter into all the details of life; but we must also determine to do this work without cessation. We must find time to study all the phenomena of life from the standpoint of Anthroposophy.
The above are a few of the things that indicate the connections to be found in life between birth and death. Now we can follow out the law of karma beyond this limit and connect one life with other lives or with one other. We must connect what we experience to-day, in the present life between birth and death, with things we experienced formerly, or that we shall experience later, in subsequent lives. I will to-day confine myself to throwing light on one important question, from the standpoint of karma in so far as it extends from one life into another. That is, the question of health and sickness, more especially the latter.
To Be Continued