Lecture 2 Pt. 2
- ..... 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.
Many people when they are stricken with some malady believe that according to karma they would be right in supposing they have brought it upon themselves, that it is their fate; but that alone does not always characterise karma aright. Where there is a malady we must first of all be quite clear as to the nature of the trouble in a spiritual sense. It will be well to begin with the nature of pain, and then pass on to the spiritual understanding of the nature of illness.
What is the nature of pain? We will now consider external pain, such, for instance, as we feel when we cut our finger. Why does that hurt? — We shall never be able to explain the nature of pain from the spiritual standpoint if we do not realise that the physical finger is permeated by an etheric and an astral finger. The outward appearance of the physical finger, its shape, the way in which the blood circulates in it and the position of the nerves within it, — all these things are determined by the etheric finger. It is the builder; and still takes care that the nerves are in their proper place and that the blood flows in the right way. The way in which the etheric body carries out these functions is regulated by the astral body, which permeates the whole. We will now explain by an external example why it hurts when we cut a finger.
Perhaps it may be a favourite occupation of yours to water the flowers in your garden once a day; that gives you a feeling of satisfaction. One morning, however, you find that your watering-pot is spoilt or perhaps stolen, and you are not able to water your garden. You are distressed; what you feel is not physical pain, yet the fact that you are prevented from carrying out your favourite occupation may somewhat resemble that; you cannot carry out an activity because you lack the necessary instrument. The external lack felt in this instance, which can only call forth a moral pain, may become a physical pain in the way that will now be described.
The etheric and astral bodies are organised for the purpose of maintaining the finger as it now is. I can never cut the etheric finger nor the astral finger. If I cut my finger in two, the etheric finger can no longer carry out its proper duty. It is accustomed to have the fingers in their right connection. Now this connection is interrupted: — just as your activity was interrupted, when you wanted to water your garden. Thus the astral and etheric bodies are not able to intervene, and the prevention from exercising the usual activity is felt in the astral body as pain. But the moment these bodies are interrupted, they make an extra effort, — just as you, wishing to water your garden, would make extra efforts to find the watering-pot or the like. In the same way our astral and etheric bodies must now call forth greater activity in order to repair the injury. It is the extra activity thus called forth which is the actual healing force. Whatever calls forth great activity in the spiritual bodies of man, produces healing. Now the cause of all illness is, that through some disorder in the physical or even in the etheric body of man, the spiritual principles are prevented from intervening in the proper way, they are hindered, as it were; and the healing consists in the calling forth of a stronger resistance to the disorder. — An illness may either be healed, or we may die of it. — Let us consider both these possibilities from the karmic standpoint.
If the illness takes such a course that we recover from it, it means that in those members that we have brought with us from former incarnation, we had stored up such strong life-force that it is able to intervene and heal us. When we look back at those incarnations we can say: — Not only were we able at the time to provide for what we normally have in life, but we brought with us a reserve fund, which we may call up from the spiritual members of our life.
Now, suppose we die. How does the case stand then? — We must then say: When the effort to heal was made, we called upon the strongest forces within us — but they did not suffice. Yet whenever we call up these forces, demanding extra strength from them, it is not without avail, for in so doing we have had to make stronger efforts. Although we may not be able in this life to restore order to any one part of our organism, yet it has, none the less, grown stronger. We desired to resist the malady, but our powers did not suffice. Yet although they did not succeed, the forces we called up in making the effort, are not lost. They pass over into the next incarnation and the injured organ will then be stronger than if we had not had the disturbance. We are then able to build up the particular organ that brought us a premature death and to impart to it special strength and regularity. This will be all the more successfully accomplished if we treat the illness in the right way and yet are not able to cure it. In such a case we must look upon the illness, karmically, as something which will in a future life prove to have been fortunate. We shall then have gained a special strength through having fought the malady though we were unable to cure it. — One ought not, however, on that account, to say: ‘Perhaps it might be as well to let an illness take its course, for then if we do not interfere and try to curb it, the forces within us will be stronger and our karma will have a better fulfilment.’ — That would be nonsense. The point is this: the healing must be carried out in such a way that the equalising forces are able to intervene in as favourable a manner as possible; in other words, we must do all in our power to bring about a cure, regardless of whether it be successful or not. Karma is always a friend, never an enemy to life!
By this example it is proved that the law of karma, which extends from one life to another, works for the strengthening of life. We can, therefore, say that if any one organ is particularly strong, this points to a preceding life in which that organ was once ailing and we were not able to heal it. The forces for so doing were called up and they have caused it to grow particularly strong now. Thus we see the events and facts stretching across from one life into another. If we become conscious in the right way of how it can be strengthened, our life-kernel will become stronger and stronger. In this way we can attain a more and more living comprehension of our spiritual life-kernel through the law of karma.
We now come to an answer to the question: ‘Why do we meet together so often?’ We do so, because not only do we enrich our knowledge when we take in anthroposophical teaching, but also because, if it be given in the right way, it is able to make our life-kernel more and more strong and forceful. We pour a spiritual life-sap into all we do, by meeting together and occupying ourselves with Anthroposophy. Thus Anthroposophy is not a theory, it is a life-giving draught, an elixir of life which ever anew pours itself into our souls and of which we know that it will make them grow stronger and stronger. When Anthroposophy emerges from the position which now, through lack of comprehension, it occupies in the outer world, when it really intervenes in our whole spiritual life, people will then see how the salvation, even of the physical life, of the purely external life, will depend on the strengthening which can be acquired through the study of Anthroposophy. The time will come when anthroposophical gatherings will be the most important sources of strength to man, from which they will go forth, saying: we are most grateful to these meetings, for we owe to them our health and strength and the fact that we are constantly able to strengthen anew our own life-kernel, the core of our being. People will only realise what the mission of Anthroposophy is, when they feel that it furnishes us with the means of working forcefully on the physical body and making it sound and healthy. Those who are occupying themselves with Anthroposophy to-day, should regard themselves as pioneers for Anthroposophy as a means of strengthening life. Then only will it become what it ought to be, the right point of attack against something which in many cases is weakening life to-day.
In conclusion I will draw your attention to one thing more. There is no phrase more frequently mentioned than ‘inherited tendency.’ No man is considered an educated man to-day who does not mention it at least two or three times a week! An educated man must at least make himself acquainted with what the learned. medical profession has ascertained as to ‘inherited tendencies.’ When a person does not know what to make of himself, most people say at once: ‘he is suffering from an inherited tendency.’ Anyone not saying that is regarded as badly educated, perhaps among other things an Anthroposophist! — Here Science begins not only to go astray in theory, but also to be injurious to life. This is the boundary where theory encroaches on morality — where it is immoral to hold a wrong theory. Here life's strength and security really depend on correct knowledge. What will a man be able to do who, through the right spiritual conception in his soul, strengthens, fortifies himself by taking in the elixir of life? No matter what he may have inherited, these inheritances are only in the physical body or at most in the etheric body. Through his right conception of the world he will be able to make his own vital centre stronger and stronger, and will be able to conquer his inherited tendencies; for the spiritual, if present in the right way, is able to equalise the body. If, however, a man does not strengthen the spiritual core of his being, merely asserting that the spiritual is the fruit of the physical, he will have a weak inner nature, he will be the victim of his inherited tendencies; they will work harmfully in him. No wonder then, that so-called inherited tendencies have such dreadful results; for people are first of all talked into belief of the powers of such tendencies and are deprived of what counteracts them. The belief in inherited tendencies is cultivated, and the spiritual conception of the world — the best weapon with which to fight them, — is taken away. First the power of the inherited tendencies is discovered, and by this means they become active. Not only is this a wrong insight, which arouses a life-destroying activity and takes the weapons of defence out of the hands of the sufferer, but it is the beginning of a theory based absolutely on a materialistic conception. Here a materialistic conception of the world begins to play a part which is in effect not only theoretically incorrect but immoral. — This cannot be got over, simply by saying that those who assert such things are mistaken. We need not be too severe in judging those who put forth these theories. We are not attacking individual scientists here; it is quite comprehensible that they are involved in a line of thought which must lead to such errors — we must admit this in all fairness. The one, perhaps, may not be able to free himself from scientific tradition; another perhaps considers it excusable, for, having a wife and children he would be in an awkward position if he were to break away from the ruling opinions. But the whole thing must he considered as a phenomenon of the times, for Science is beginning not only to spread abroad false theories, but to take away the life-promoting remedies, the spiritual conception of life, which is able to fortify and which is alone able to stand up against the physical, — the power which must otherwise overwhelm man. The physical can only possess overwhelming power as long as a man does not build up strength in his spiritual nature. If he does this, a warrior will grow up within him, a warrior who will defend him against the physical.
We cannot hope that this should come about from one day to the next. But those who have the right understanding of things will gradually learn the anthroposophical view of phenomena in face of which man at first seems powerless. What is not equalised in one life is made good in the long run. If we contemplate a single life, as well as life from incarnation to incarnation, we shall see that rightly understood, karma is a law that no longer depresses us, but rather one which brings us comfort and force whereby to make ourselves stronger. The law of karma is a law of life, and we must understand it as such. The point is, not that we should know a few single abstract thoughts, but that we should study the life-truths of Anthroposophy in the details of life, and never weary of anthroposophical work, while we permeate ourselves with its different truths.
If you hold this as an ideal before you, you will be living an anthroposophical life in the true sense of the words. You will then know why it is that we do not satisfy ourselves with merely reading one or two books, but regard Anthroposophy as something in which our heart is concerned and which never ceases to occupy us; something to which we gladly return again and again, and of which we know that the oftener we return the more it will enrich our lives.
*******The 3rd lecture may be found here: