5 November 1911, Leipzig
Since we spoke yesterday of the differentiation of the soul life of the human being into three parts — the realm of concepts, or of thought, the realm of emotions, and the realm of will impulses — it should be interesting to us now to raise the question: How can self-discipline, the nurture of the soul life, set to work in the appropriate way to develop and to cultivate these three parts of the soul life? Here we shall begin with our life of will, our will impulses, and shall ask ourselves: What characteristics must we specially cultivate if we wish to work in a beneficial way on our will life?
Most beneficial of all in our will nature is the influence of a life directed in its entire character towards a comprehension of karma. We might also say a soul life which strives to develop, as its primary characteristic, serenity and acceptance of our destiny. And what better way can one find of developing this acceptance, this calmness of soul in the presence of one's destiny, than by making karma an actual content in one's life?
What do we mean by this? It means that — not merely theoretically but in a living way — when our own sorrow or the sorrow of another comes upon us, when we experience joy or the heaviest blow of fate, we shall really be fully aware that, in a certain higher sense, we ourselves have given the occasion for this painful blow of fate: this means developing such a mood that we accept an experience of joy with gratitude, but are also clearly aware, especially in regard to joy, that we must not go to excess, since this is perilous. If we desire to progress in our development, we can conceive joy in the following way. For the most part, joy is something which points to a future destiny, not to one already past. In human life joy is usually something one has not deserved through previous actions. When we investigate karma by occult means, we always discover that in most cases joy has not been earned, and we should accept it gratefully as sent to us by the gods, as a gift of the gods, and to say to ourselves: The joy which comes to meet us today ought to kindle in us the will to work in such a way as to take into ourselves the forces streaming to us through this joy, and to apply these usefully. We must look upon joy as a sort of prepayment on account for the future.
In the case of pain, on the other hand, we have usually merited this, and we always find the cause in our present life or in earlier lives. And we must then realise with the utmost clarity that we have often failed to conduct ourselves in our external life in accordance with this karmic mood. We are not able to conduct ourselves always in external life in the presence of what causes us pain in such a way that our conduct shall seem to be an acceptance of our destiny. We do not generally have an insight into such a thing at once — into the law of destiny. But, even though we are not able to conduct ourselves outwardly in such a way, yet the principal thing is that we shall do this inwardly.
And even if we have conducted ourselves outwardly in accordance with this karmic mood, yet we should say to ourselves in the depths of our souls that we ourselves have been the cause of all such things. Suppose, for instance, that someone strikes us, that he beats us with a stick. In such a case it is generally characteristic for a person to ask: Who is it that strikes me? No one says in such a case: It is I that beat myself. Only in the rarest cases do people say that they punish themselves. And yet it is true that we ourselves lifted the stick against another person in days gone by. Yes, it is you yourself who then raised the stick. When we have to get rid of a hindrance, this is karma. It is karma when others hold something against us. It is we ourselves who cause something to happen to us as recompense for something we have done. And thus we come to a right attitude toward our life, to a broadening of our self, when we say: Everything that befalls us comes from ourselves. Our own action is fulfilled outwardly even when it seems as if someone else performed it.
If we develop such a way of viewing things, then our serenity, our acceptance of our karma in all occurrences, strengthens our will. We grow stronger in facing life with serenity, never weaker. Through anger and impatience we become weak. In the face of every occurrence we are strong when we are serene. On the contrary, we become continually weaker in will through moroseness and an unnatural rebellion against destiny.
Of course, we must view within a broad compass what we consider as destiny. We must conceive this destiny of ours in such a way that we say to ourselves, for instance, that the development of precisely one power or another at a certain period of one's life belongs also to a person's karma. And mistakes are often made just here in the education of children. Here karma comes into contact with the problem of education, for education is destiny, the karma of the human being in youth.
We weaken the will of someone when we expect him to learn something, to do something for which his capacities are not yet adequate. In educating one must come to see clearly in advance what is suitable for each stage of life in accordance with the universal karma of humanity, so that the right thing may be done. Doing the wrong thing is raising a rebellion against destiny, against its laws, and is associated with enormous weakening of the will. It is not possible to discuss here how a weakening of the will is associated with all premature awakening of the sensual appetites and passions. It is the prematurely awakened appetites, instincts and passions which are especially subject to this law. For making premature use of the bodily organs is contrary to destiny. All that is directly against the karma of humanity, all actions opposing the existing arrangements of nature, are associated with a weakening of the will.
Since people have been for a long time without any true fundamental principles of education, there are many persons in the world now who did not pass through their youth in the right way. If humanity does not determine to direct what is most important of all, the education of youth, according to Spiritual Science, a race will arise with ever weaker wills — and this not in a merely external sense. This takes a deep hold of the life of the human being. Ask a number of people how they came into their present occupations. You may be sure that most of them will answer: Well, we don't know; we have in some way been pushed into this situation. This feeling that one has been pushed into something, has been driven into it, this feeling of discontent, is also a sign of weakness of will.
Now, when this weakness of will is brought about in the manner described, still other results follow from this for the human soul, especially when the weakness of will is evoked in such a way that states of anxiety, of fear, of despair are produced at a youthful age. It will be increasingly necessary for human beings to have a fundamental understanding of the higher laws in order to overcome states of despair, for it is precisely despair which is to be expected when we do not proceed in accordance with knowledge of the spirit.
By means of a monistic and materialistic world view it is possible to maintain only two generations of persons with strong wills. Materialism can satisfy just two generations: the one that founded the conception and the pupils who have received it from the founders. This is the peculiarity of the monistic and materialistic world view: the one who works in the laboratory or the workshop and who founded the view, whose powers are fully occupied and activated by what he is building up in his mind, experiences an inner satisfaction. But one who merely associates himself with these theories, who takes over a materialism ready-made, will not be able to achieve this inner satisfaction; and then despair will work back upon the culture of the will, and evoke weakness of will. Weakening of the will, human beings lacking energy, will be the results of this world view.
The second of the three aspects of the super-sensible life we mentioned yesterday is that of the emotions. What affects the emotions favourably?
If we take the utmost pains to acquire an attentive attitude of mind, a marked attentiveness to the events in our surroundings — and do not imagine that this attentiveness is very generally and strongly developed by people — this can be of great value to us. I must repeatedly mention a single illustration. In a certain country the order of the examinations for teachers was once altered, and for this reason all the school teachers had to sit the examinations again. The examiner had to test both old and young teachers. The young ones could be tested on the basis of what they had learned in the teachers' colleges. But how should he test the old teachers? He decided to ask them about nothing except the subjects which they had themselves been teaching year after year in their own classes, and the result showed that very many of them had no notion of the very subjects they themselves had been teaching!
This attentiveness, this habit of following with vital interest the things that occur in one's environment, is most beneficial especially in the cultivation of the emotions.
Now, the emotions, like everything else in the soul, are connected in a certain way with the will; and, when we influence our emotional life unfavourably, we may thus indirectly influence our will impulses. We nurture our emotions favourably when we place ourselves under the law of karma in connection with our anger and our passions, when we hold fast to karma. And this we find in what occurs in our environment. We find it, for example, when anyone does the opposite of what we had expected. We may then say to ourselves: All right; that is simply what he is doing! But we may also become angry and violent, and this is a sign of weakness of will.
Outbursts of violent temper hinder the right development of the emotions and also the will, and also have a far more extensive influence, as we can see at once. Now, anger is something that a person does not by any means have under his control. Only gradually can he master the habit of becoming angry, and one must have patience with oneself. To anyone who believes he can achieve this with a turn of the hand I must repeat the story of a teacher who took very much to heart the task of ridding his pupils of anger. When he was faced by the fact, that after constant efforts, a boy still became angry, he himself became so angry that he threw the ink bottle at the child's head. A person who permits himself to do such a thing must think for many, many weeks about karma.
What this signifies will become clear to us if we take this occasion to look a little more deeply into the life of the human soul. There are two poles in the soul life, the life of will on the one hand and that of thoughts, of conceptions, on the other. The emotions, the feelings of the heart, are in the middle. Now, we know that the life of man alternates between sleeping and waking; and, while the human being is awake, his life of thoughts and conceptions is especially active. For the fact that the will is not very wide awake can become clear to anyone who observes closely, how a will impulse comes about. We must first have a thought, a concept; only then does the will thrust upward from the depths of the soul. The thought evokes the will impulse. When the human being is awake, he is awake in thought, not in will.
But occult science teaches us that when we sleep, everything is reversed. Then the will is awake and is very active, and thought is inactive. This cannot be known by the human being in a normal state of consciousness, for the simple reason that he knows things only by means of his thoughts and these are asleep. Thus he does not observe that his will is active. When he attains clairvoyance and arrives at the world of imaginative representations, he then observes that the will awakes the moment thinking falls asleep. And the will slips into the pictures he perceives and awakens these. The pictures are then woven out of will. Thus the thoughts are then asleep but the will is awake.
But this being awake in our will is connected with our total human nature in a manner entirely different from the way our thoughts are connected. Depending on whether the person works or does not work, is well or ill, is serene or hot-tempered, the will becomes healthy or unhealthy. And according as our will is healthy or unhealthy it works in the night on the condition of our life, even into the physical body. Very much depends upon whether one develops a mood of serenity during the day, acceptance of his destiny, and thus prepares his will so that this will may be said to develop a pleasant warmth, a feeling of well-being, or whether, on the other hand, he develops anger. This unhealthiness of the will streams into the body during the state of sleep at night and is the cause of numerous illnesses, whose causes are sought for but not found because the resulting physical illnesses appear only after the lapse of years or even decades. Only one who surveys great stretches of time can see in this way the connection between conditions of the soul and of the body. Even for the sake of bodily health, therefore, the will must be disciplined.
We can also influence our emotions through serenity and acceptance of our karma so that they work beneficially even upon our bodily Organisation. On the other hand, in no other way do we injure this Organisation more than through apathy, lack of interest in what is occurring around us. This apathy is spreading more and more; it is the reason why so few persons take an interest in — spiritual things. It may be supposed that objective reasons lead to the adoption of a materialistic view of life. There are really by no means such great objective reasons for a materialistic view of life. No, it is apathy; no one can be a materialist without being apathetic. It is a lack of attention to our surroundings. Anyone who observes his environment with alert interest is confronted on all sides with what can only be harmonised by spiritual knowledge. But apathy deadens the emotions and leads to weakness of will.
Furthermore, special significance attaches to the characteristic called obstinacy — the attitude of mind that insists inflexibly upon one thing or another. Unhealthy emotions can also bring about obstinacy. These things are often like the serpent that bites his own tail. All that we have mentioned may be caused by obstinacy. Even persons who go through life very inattentively may be very obstinate. Persons who are altogether weak-willed are often discovered to be obstinately persisting in something when we had not expected it, and the weakness of will becomes constantly more marked if we do not strive to overcome obstinacy. It is precisely in persons with weak wills that we find this quality of obstinacy. On the other hand, when we endeavour to avoid the development of obstinacy, we shall see that in every instance we have improved our emotions and strengthened our wills. Every time that we actually are goaded by an impulse to be obstinate but refuse to yield to it, we become stronger for the task of confronting life. We shall observe the fruits if we proceed systematically against this fault; through struggling to overcome obstinacy we attain to inner satisfaction. The nurturing of our emotions specially depends upon our struggling in every way to overcome obstinacy, apathy, lack of interest. In other words, interest and attentiveness in relation to the environment foster both the feelings and the will. Apathy and obstinacy have the opposite effect.
For a sound emotional life, we have the fine word ingenuity. * [Sinnigkeit, the gift or capacity of inventive or creative fantasy.] Being creatively fanciful means that something ingenious occurs to one. Children ought to play in such a way that the fantasy is stimulated, that the spontaneous activity of their souls is stimulated, so that they have to reflect about their play. They ought not to arrange building blocks according to patterns: this merely develops pedantry, not creative fantasy. We are developing creative fantasy when we let children do all sorts of things in sand, when we take them into the woods and let them form little baskets out of burs, and then stimulate them to make other things of burs stuck together. Things which cause a certain inventive talent to expand nourish creative fantasy. Strange as it may seem, such cultivation of creative fantasy brings serenity of soul, inner harmony, and contentment,
Moreover, when we go for a walk with a child, it is good to leave him free to do whatever he will, provided he does not behave too badly. And, when the child does anything, we should show our pleasure, our participation and interest; we should not be unresponsive or lacking in interest in what the child produces out of his own inner nature. Even when instructing a child, we should connect what we teach him with the forms and processes of nature. When children reach an older stage, we should not then occupy them with riddles or puzzles taken from newspapers; this leads only to pedantry. On the contrary, observation of nature offers us the opposite of what is afforded by the press for the cultivation of the emotional life. A serene heart, a harmonious life of feeling, determines not only mental health but also bodily health, even though long stretches of time may intervene between cause and effect.
We come now to the third aspect of the super-sensible life, to thinking. This, we nurture and sharpen, especially by the development of characteristics which seem to have nothing whatever to do with thinking, with concepts. The best method of developing good thinking is by complete absorption and insight, not so much through logical exercises but by observing one thing and another, using for this purpose processes in nature, in order to penetrate into hidden mysteries. Through absorption in problems of nature and of humanity, through the endeavour to understand complex personalities, through the intensifying of attentiveness, we grow wise. Absorption means striving to unravel something by thinking, by conceiving. In this connection, we shall be able to see that such mental absorption has a wonderfully good effect in later life.
The following example is taken from life. A little boy showed his mother remarkable aspects of his observation, which were associated with extraordinary absorption and capacity for insight. He said: You know, when I walk on, the streets and see persons and animals, it seems as if I had to enter into the persons and the animals. It happened that a poor woman met me, and I entered into her, and this was terribly painful to me, very distressing. (The child had not seen any sort of destitution at home, but lived in altogether good circumstances.) And then I entered into a horse and then into a pig. He described this in detail, and was stimulated to an extraordinary degree of compassion, to special deeds of pity, through feeling union with the life of others. Whence does this come, this expansion of one's understanding for other beings? If we think the matter over in this case, we are led back into the preceding incarnation, when the person in question had cultivated absorption in things, in the secrets of things, as we have described.
But we do not have to wait till the next incarnation for the results which follow the cultivation of absorption. These manifest themselves even in a single life. When we are induced in earliest youth to develop all of this, we shall develop in later life a clear, transparent thinking, whereas otherwise we develop a scrappy, illogical thinking. It is a fact that truly spiritual principles can advance us in our course of life.
During recent decades there have been few truly spiritual fundamental principles of education, almost none at all. And now we are experiencing the results. There is an extraordinary amount of wrong thinking in our day. One can suffer the pains of martyrdom from the terribly illogical life of the world. Anyone who has acquired a certain clairvoyance does not simply feel that one thing is correct and another incorrect, but he suffers actual pain when confronted by illogical thinking, and a sense of well-being in connection with clear, transparent thinking. This signifies that he has acquired a feeling for such things, and this enables him to make decisions. And this brings far truer differentiations when one has actually reached this stage. It gives a far truer discrimination between truth and untruth. This seems incredible, but it is true. When something erroneous is said in the presence of a clairvoyant person, the pain which rises in him shows him that this is illogical, erroneous. Illogical thinking is extraordinarily widespread; at no time has illogical thinking been so widespread as precisely in our time, in spite of the fact that people pride themselves so much on their logical thinking. Here is an example that may well seem somewhat crass, but it is typical of the habit of passing through experiences without interest or thought.
I was once traveling from Rostock to Berlin. Into my compartment entered two persons, a gentleman and a lady. I sat in one comer and wished only to observe. The gentleman was very soon behaving in a strange manner, though he was otherwise probably a well-educated person. He lay down, sprang up again in five minutes; then again he groaned pitiably. Since the lady thought he was ill, she was seized by pity, and very soon a conversation was in full course between them. She told him that she had clearly observed that he was ill, but she knew what it meant to be ill, for she was ill also. She said she had a basket with her in which she had everything that was curative for her. She said: I can cure anything, for I have the remedy for everything. And just think what a misfortune has befallen me! I have come from the far interior of Russia all the way here to the Baltic Sea, in order to recuperate and to do something for my ailment, and, just as I arrive, I find that I have left at home one of my important remedies. Now I must turn back at once, and this hope also has been in vain.
The gentleman then narrated his sufferings, and she gave him a remedy for each of his illnesses, and he promised to do everything, making notes about all. I think there were eleven different prescriptions. She then began to enumerate all of her illnesses one by one; and he began to show his knowledge of what would cure them: that for one ailment she could be helped in a certain sanatorium, and for another in another sanatorium. She, in turn, wrote down all the addresses and was only afraid that the pharmacies might be closed for Sunday when she arrived in Berlin. These two persons never for one moment noticed the strange contradiction that each knew only what might help the other one, but for himself and herself knew no means of help. This experience gave these two educated persons the possibility of bathing in a sea of nonsense that streamed forth from each of them.
Such things must be clearly seen when we demand that self-knowledge shall give insight. We must demand of self-knowledge that it shall develop coherence in thinking, but especially absorption in the matter in hand. All these things work together in the soul. Scrappy thinking has the inevitable result, even though only after a long time, of making the person morose, sullen, hypochondriacal about everything, and frequently we do not know where the causes of this are to be found. Insufficient cultivation of concentration and insight makes one sullen, morose, hypochondriacal. What is so absolutely essential to thinking seems to have nothing to do with it. All obstinacy, all self-seeking, have a destructive effect upon thinking. All characteristics connected with obstinacy and selfishness — such as ambition, vanity all these things that seem to tend in a very different direction make our thinking unsound, and act unfavourably upon our mood of soul. We must seek, therefore, to overcome obstinacy, self-seeking, egoism; and cultivate, on the contrary, a certain absorption in things and a certain self-sacrificing attitude toward other beings. Absorption, a self-sacrificing attitude, in regard to the most insignificant objects and occurrences have a favourable effect upon thinking and upon one's mood. In truth, self-seeking and egoism bring their own punishment because the self-seeking person becomes more and more discontented, complains more and more that he comes off badly. When anyone feels this way about himself, he ought to place himself under the law of karma and ask himself, when he is discontented: What self-seeking has brought this discontent upon me?
In just this way we can describe how we may develop and how injure the three parts of the soul life, and this is extraordinarily important. We see, therefore, that Spiritual Science lays deep hold upon our life, for true observation of spiritual principles may lead us to self-education, and this is of the most vital importance and will become of ever-increasing significance since the time in man's evolution has passed when human beings were led by the gods from above, from the higher worlds. In ever-increasing measure, men will have to do things for themselves, without being directed and led.
With regard to what the Masters have taught about our working our way upward to Christ, Who will appear even in this century on the astral plane, a greater understanding of this advance for humanity can be achieved only in this way: that the human being shall ever increasingly stimulate himself. Just as we explained to you yesterday that human beings gradually work their way upward to Christ, so must we gradually perfect in freedom our thinking, feeling, and will impulses. And this can be achieved only through self-mastery, self-observation. Just as in earlier times, in ancient clairvoyance, the impulses were given to men from above by the gods, so will man determine his own way in later times through the new clairvoyance. This is why Anthroposophy appears precisely in our time, so that mankind may learn to develop soul characteristics in the right way. In this way man learns to meet what the future will bring. Only in this way can we understand what must one day appear: that is, that those who are shrewd and immoral will be cast out and rendered harmless.
The characteristics mentioned are important for every human being. But they are of such a nature that they are especially important to those who are determined to strive to reach rapidly in rational ways those characteristics which are to become more and more necessary for humanity. For this reason it is the Leaders of human beings who strive to achieve this development in very special measure in themselves, because the highest attainments can be reached only by means of the highest attributes.
To the highest degree of all is this development carried through, for example, by that individuality who once ascended to the rank of a Bodhisattva, when the preceding Bodhisattva became a Buddha, and who has, since then, been incarnated once in nearly every century; who lived as Jeshu ben Pandira, herald of the Christ, a hundred years before Christ. Five thousand years are needed for his ascent to the rank of a Buddha, and this Buddha will then be the Maitreya Buddha. He will be a Bringer of the Good, because (as can be seen by those who are sufficiently clairvoyant) he succeeds, by most intense self-discipline, in developing to the utmost those powers which cause to emanate from him such magical moral forces as enable him to impart to souls through the word itself heart forces and moral impulses. We cannot as yet develop on the physical plane any words capable of doing this. Even the Maitreya Buddha could not do this at present — could not develop such magical words. Today only thoughts can be imparted by means of words.
How is he preparing himself? By developing to the highest possible degree those qualities which are called good. The Bodhisattva develops in the highest degree what we may describe as devotion, serenity in the presence of destiny, attentiveness to all occurrences in one's surroundings, devotion to all living beings, and insight. And, although many incarnations will be needed for the future Buddha, yet he devotes himself during his incarnations primarily to giving attention to what occurs even though what he now does is relatively little, since he is utterly devoted to the preparation for his future mission.
This will be achieved through the fact that a special law exists with regard to just this Bodhisattva. This law we shall understand if we take account of the possibility that a complete revolution in the soul's life may occur at a certain age.
The greatest of such transformations that ever occurred took place at the baptism by John. What occurred there was that the ego of Jesus, in the thirtieth year of His life, abandoned the flesh and another ego entered: the Ego of the Christ, the Leader of the Sun Beings.
A like transformation will be experienced by the future Maitreya Buddha. But he experiences such a revolution in his incarnations quite differently. The Bodhisattva patterns his life on that of Christ, and those who are initiated know that he manifests in every incarnation very special characteristics.
It will always be noted that, in the period between his thirtieth and thirty-third years, a mighty revolution occurs in his life. There will then be an interchange of souls, though not in so mighty a manner as in the case of Christ. The ego which has until then given life to the body passes out at that time, and the Bodhisattva becomes, in a fundamental sense, altogether a different person from what he has been hitherto, even though the ego does not cease and is not replaced by another, as was true of the Christ.
This is what all occultists call attention to: that he cannot be recognised before this time, before this transformation. Up to this time — although he will be absorbed intensely in all things — his mission will not be especially conspicuous; and even though the revolution is certain to occur, no one can ever say what will then happen to him. The earlier period of youth is always utterly unlike that into which he is transformed between his thirtieth and thirty-third years.
Thus does he prepare for a great event. This will be as follows: The old ego passes out and another ego then enters. And this may be such an individuality as Moses, Abraham, Elijah. This ego will then be active for a certain time in this body; thus can that take place which must take place in order to prepare the Maitreya Buddha. For the rest of his life he lives with this ego which enters at that moment.
What then occurs is like a complete interchange. Indeed, what is needed for the recognition of the Bodhisattva can occur. And it is then known that, when he appears after 3,000 years, and has been elevated to the rank of Maitreya Buddha, his ego will remain in him but will be permeated inwardly by still another individuality. And this will occur precisely in his thirty-third year, in the year in which, in the case of Christ, the Mystery of Golgotha occurred. And then will he come forth as the Teacher of the Good, as a great Teacher who will prepare the true teaching of Christ and the true wisdom of Christ in a manner entirely different from what is possible today.
Spiritual Science must prepare that which will one day take place upon our earth.
Now, it is possible for anyone in our time to cultivate those characteristics which are injurious to the emotional life, such as apathy, etc. But this results in a laxity in the emotions, a laxity in the inner soul life, and such a person will no longer be able to carry out his task in life, will no longer be able to fulfil it. For this reason everyone may consider it a special blessing if he can acquire for himself a knowledge of what is to occur in the future. Whoever has the opportunity today to devote himself to spirit knowledge, enjoys a gift of grace from karma.
For having a knowledge of these things gives a foundation for security, devotion, and peace in our souls, for serenity, confidence and hope in meeting what faces us in the coming millennia of the evolution of humanity. All who can know these things should consider this a special good fortune, something which evokes the highest powers of the human being, which can enkindle everything in his soul that seems at the point of being extinguished or is in a state of disharmony, or approaching destruction. Enthusiasm, fire, rapture become also health and happiness in outer life.
He who earnestly acquaints himself with these things, who can develop the necessary absorption in these things, will surely experience what they can bring to him in happiness and inner harmony. And, if anyone in our Society does not yet find this demonstrated in himself, he should for once accept such knowledge and say:
“If I have not yet felt this, the fault lies in me. It is my duty to steep myself in today's mysteries. It is my duty to feel that as a human being, I am one link in a chain which has to stretch from the beginning to the end of evolution, in which are linked together all human beings, individualities, Bodhisattvas, Buddhas, Christ. I must say to myself: To feel that I am a link in it is to be conscious of my true worth as a human being. This I must sense; this I must feel.”