Manifestations of Karma
5. Natural and Accidental Illness in Relationship to Karma
20 May 1910, Hamburg
The contents of the last lecture are most important for our next consideration as well as for a comprehension of karmic connection in general. For this reason, because of its extreme importance, allow me to recapitulate the chief points.
We began by saying that views concerning cures and medicines have in the course of a relatively short time, during the last century, undergone a radical change. We pointed to the fact that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that view was developed which was based entirely upon the theory that for every illness which was given a name, and which it was believed could be strictly defined, some remedy must exist upon earth. And it was firmly believed that by the use of the remedy in question the course of the illness must be influenced. We then pointed out that view prevailed more or less until the nineteenth century, and side by side with this we showed the complete reversal of this opinion which found expression chiefly in the nihilism of the Viennese school, founded by the famous medical man Dietel, and carried on by Skoda and his disciples. We characterised the nihilistic current of thought by saying that it not merely harboured doubts as to the existence of any absolute connection between one remedy or another, one manipulation or another in respect to the treatment of illness and the illness itself, but would no longer concern itself with any such connection. The idea of the so-called ‘self-healing’ penetrated the minds of the young doctors influenced by this school. Skoda himself made the following significant statement to this school: ‘We may be able to diagnose an illness, to explain, and perhaps also to describe it, but remedy for it we have none.’ This point of view originated from the proofs furnished by Dietel to the effect that, given the necessary conditions, an illness such as pneumonia will with temporising treatment take such course as to develop self-healing forces at the end of certain period. By means of statistics he was able to prove that a temporising treatment showed neither fewer cures nor more deaths than the remedies ordinarily in use. At that time the term ‘therapeutic nihilism’ was not without justification, for it is quite true that the doctors of this school were powerless against the patient's conviction that there simply must exist a remedy, a prescription. The patient would not yield, nor would his friends. A remedy had to be prescribed, and the disciples of this school got out of the difficulty by prescribing a thin solution of gum arabic, which according to their opinion would have the same effect as the remedies previously in use. From this we have learnt how the modern scientific world is moving in the direction of what we may call the karmic connections of life. For they had now to find an answer to the question: how is that which we may call ‘self-healing’ brought about? Or better, why does it take place? And why in some cases can there be no self-healing or cure of any kind?
If a whole school led by medical authorities resorts to the introduction of the idea of self-healing, we must arrive at the conclusion that something is invoked in the course of an illness which leads to the conquest of the illness. And this would have induced us to pursue the more secret reasons for the course of the illness. We have attempted to point out how such a karmic connection with the course of an illness may be sought for in the development of humanity. We showed that indeed what we accomplish in our ordinary lives in regard to good or evil deeds, or wise or foolish deeds, what we experience in regard to right or wrong emotions, that all this does not go deeply into the foundation of the human organism. And we have shown the reason why what is subject to the moral, intellectual, or emotional judgement in ordinary life remains at the surface, and is not subject to the law which we could trace in another instance — a law which influences the deeper lying forces of the human organism. We demonstrated that in this way there exists a sort of hindrance preventing immorality from entering into the deeper forces of our organism. And this barrier against the penetration by our acts and thoughts into the deeper forces of our organism, consists in the fact that our deeds and our emotions accomplished between birth and death are accompanied by our conscious concepts. In so far as we accompany an act or any other experience by a conscious concept, so far do we provide a defence against the result of our deeds sinking down into our organism.
We have also pointed out the significance of those experiences that have been irrevocably forgotten. It is no longer possible to bring them back to the life of our conscious perceptions, but those experiences, because the defence of the conception is lacking, penetrate in a definite way into our inner organism and there co-operate with the formative forces of our organism. And we are able to point to those forms of disease which lie nearer the surface, such as neurosis, neurasthenia, and so forth. A light is thrown even upon hysterical conditions. As we said, the cause of such conditions must be sought for in the concepts that have been forgotten, which have fallen out of the complex of consciousness and have sunk down into the inner soul-life where, as a sort of wedge, they assert themselves in the form of disease. We further pointed out the tremendous significance of the period which lies between birth and the time when we first begin to remember our experiences; and our attention was drawn to the fact that what at an earlier stage has been forgotten continues to be active within our living organism, forming, as it were, an alliance with the deeper forces of our organism, and thereby influencing our organism itself. As we see, a complex of conceptions, a number of experiences must sink down into the deeper foundations of our being before they can intervene in our organism. We then pointed out that this sinking down is most thorough when we have passed through the gate of death and are experiencing the further existence between death and re-birth. The quality of all experiences is then transformed into forces which now develop an organising activity, and the feelings which we have experienced during the period between death and re-birth will become part of the plastic forces, the formative forces that take part in the rebuilding of the body when we return into a new life. In these formative forces man now carries within him the result of what at an earlier stage he held within his soul-life, perhaps even in his conscious conceptions. And further we could point to the fact that man with his conscious conceptions permeated by the Ego oscillates between two influences present in the world — between the luciferic and the ahrimanic influences. When owing to the characteristics of our astral body we have done wrong through evil passions, temper, and so forth, we are driven thereto by luciferic forces. Such deeds then take the course we have described, if they are transformed into formative forces, they will be dwelling as causes of luciferic disease within the formative forces, and will lay the foundations of our new body. We have further seen that we are subject also to the ahrimanic forces which affect us more from outside. And again we had to admit, concerning the ahrimanic forces, that they are transformed into formative forces, into forces shaping the newly built organism when man enters existence through birth, and in so far as the ahrimanic influences mingle with the formative forces, so far we may speak of ahrimanic predisposition to disease. We then pointed out in detail how the forces act, that are thus developed. I quoted some radical examples of this activity, because in radical examples the picture is more distinct, more clearly defined. I gave the person who in his previous life had at all times acted in such a way as to produce a weak Ego-consciousness and weak self-reliance, and whose Ego attached little value to itself, becoming absorbed only in generalities and so forth. Such a person will after death develop the tendency to absorb forces that will render him capable of strengthening and perfecting his ego in his further incarnation. As a result of this he will seek conditions that will give him an opportunity of fighting against certain resistances, so that his weak Ego-consciousness may be strengthened through resistance. Such a tendency will lead him to seek an opportunity of contracting cholera, because in this he will face something that offers an opportunity of conquering those resistances, in the conquest of which he will be led in his next incarnation, or even should a cure be effected in this same incarnation, to a stronger Ego-consciousness or to forces which will by way of self-education lead him gradually to a stronger Ego-consciousness. We have further stated that an illness such as malaria affords an opportunity of compensating for the overbearing Ego-consciousness which has been engendered by the soul in an earlier life through its deeds and emotions.
Those of us who took part in our earlier anthroposophical studies will understand such a course. It has always been said that man's Ego finds its physical expression in its blood. Now both of these illnesses which have just been mentioned are connected with blood and the laws of blood. They are so connected that in the case of cholera there is a thickening of the blood which can be regarded as the ‘resistance’ which a weak self-reliance must experience, and by means of which it is trying to develop. We shall also be able to understand that in a case of malaria we are faced with an impoverishment of the blood, and that an over-developed Ego-consciousness needs the opportunity of being led to an impossible extreme. This impoverishment of the blood of an over-developed Ego will find all its efforts ending in annihilation. Naturally these things stand in an intimate relationship to our organism, but if we examine them, we shall find them comprehensible.
The result of all this is that when we are dealing with an organism formed by a soul that has brought with it the tendency to overcome some imperfection in one or another direction, man will tend to become impregnated with a predisposition to a certain illness, but, at the same time he will have the capacity for fighting this illness which is produced for no other reason than to provide the means of a cure. And a cure will be effected when the person, in accordance with his whole karma acquires through the conquest of the illness, such forces as will enable him through the rest of his life to make true progress by means of his work upon the physical plane. In other words, if the stimulating forces are so strong that man is able to acquire upon the physical plane itself those qualities, on account of which the illness broke out, then he will be able to work with that reinforced power which he lacked before, and which he gained from the healing process. But if it is in our karma that we have the desire to mould our organism so that through the conquest of the illness in question it should acquire forces which lead nearer to perfection, and yet because of the complexity of the causes we are forced to leave our organism weak in another direction, then it may be that although the forces we develop and make use of in the healing process strengthen us, they do not do so sufficiently to make us equal to our work upon the physical plane. Then because what we have already gained cannot be used upon the physical plane, it will be made use of when we pass through the gate of death, and we shall try to add to our forces what we could not achieve upon the physical plane. So these forces will mature in the formation of the next body when we return to earth in a new incarnation.
Bearing this in mind one more indication should be given which deals with those forms of illness leading neither to a real cure nor to death but to chronic conditions, to a kind of languishing state. Here we have something of which the knowledge is of the greatest importance for most people. When one has recovered from an illness, the effect sought for has been obtained and in a certain sense the illness has been conquered. But in another sense this may not be the fact. For instance, the trouble which was produced between the etheric body and the physical body has disappeared, but the disharmony between the etheric body and the astral body still exists, and we oscillate between attempts at cure and our inability to effect a cure. In such a case it is of special importance that we should make use of all that we have attained in the way of a real cure. And this is what is very rarely done for it is precisely in the case of those illnesses that become chronic that we find ourselves in a vicious circle. We should find a way out of the difficulty if in such a case we could isolate that part of our organism that has achieved a certain cure, if we could let it live by itself and withdraw from the healthy part the rest which is still in disturbance and disorder on account of what is in the soul. But many things oppose this, and chiefly the fact that when we have had an illness resulting in a chronic condition, we are living all the time under the influence of that condition, and, if I may thus crudely express myself, we can never really completely forget our condition, never really arrive at a withdrawing of that which is not yet healthy, so as to treat it by itself. On the contrary, through thinking continually about the sickly part of our organism, we bring as it were our healthy part into some kind of relationship with the sickness and thus irritate it anew. This is a special process, and in order to make it clearer I should like to explain one of the facts proved by Spiritual Science, that can be seen by clairvoyant consciousness when a person has gone through an illness, and has retained something which may be termed chronic. The same occurs also when there exists no apparent acute illness, but when a chronic disease is developed without any acute state having been specially noticed. In most of these cases it is possible to see that there is an unstable state of balance between the etheric and the physical body, an abnormal oscillation to and fro of the forces, but in spite of which the body still remains alive. This oscillation of forces which appertain to the etheric body and the physical body bring about in the person a continual state of irritation which leads to continuous excitability. Clairvoyant consciousness sees this agitation transmitted to the astral body, and these states of excitability continually force their way into that part of the organism which is partly ill and partly well, thereby creating not a stable but an unstable balance. Through this penetration by astral excitability, the health which would otherwise be much better is in fact greatly impaired. I must beg of you to remember that in this case the astral does not coincide with consciousness, but rather with an excitability of the inner soul, which the patient does not wish to admit even to himself. Because in such cases the barrier of consciousness is lacking, those conditions and passions, emotional crises, continual states of weariness of mind and inner discontent do not always act as do conscious forces, but rather like the organising forces. Seated within our deeper being they continually irritate that part which is half ill and half well. If the patient by means of a strong discipline of the soul could forget his condition for some time at least, he would gain such satisfaction from this, that even from this satisfaction itself he could derive the necessary force to carry on further. If he could forget his state completely and develop the strong will which will help him to say: ‘I will not bother with my condition,’ certain soul forces would thereby become liberated, and if he applied them to something spiritual that would elevate him and satisfy his inner soul, if he liberated the forces that are continuously occupied with the sensation of aches and pains, oppression and so on he would thereby gain great satisfaction. For if we do not live through these feelings, the forces are free and they are at our disposal. Naturally it will not be of much use merely to say we don't want to take notice of these aches and pains, for if we do not put these liberated forces to spiritual use, the former conditions will soon return. If, however, we employ these liberated forces for a spiritual purpose which will absorb the soul, we shall soon discover that we are attaining in a complicated way that which our organism would otherwise have attained without our assistance through the conquest of the illness. Naturally the person in question would have to be aware of filling his soul with something directly connected with his illness or with that which constitutes his illness. For instance, if someone suffering from a weakness of the eyes were to read a great deal so as to avoid thinking of this, he would naturally not arrive at his goal. But it is quite unnecessary to resort to further illustrations. We have all noticed how useful it is when we are slightly indisposed, to be able to forget that indisposition, especially if we gain this forgetfulness by occupying ourselves with something different. Such is a positive and wholesome forgetfulness. This already suggests to us that we are not entirely impotent in face of the karmic effects of those transgressions of our earlier lives which are expressed in the form of illness. We recognise that what is subject to moral, emotional and intellectual judgement during life between birth and death cannot penetrate so deeply during one single life as to become the cause of an organic disease, but that in the period between death and re-birth it may penetrate so deeply into the human essence as to cause disease; then there must also exist a possibility of re-transforming these processes into conscious processes.
The question might be put thus: If illnesses are the karmic results of spiritual or other events called forth or experienced by the soul, if they are the metamorphosis of such causes, might we not then also suppose that the result of the metamorphosis, namely, the illness, might be avoided — or do we learn nothing of this from spiritual facts? Might it not be avoided if we could replace, for the good of our education, the healing processes which are drawn from the organism to combat the disease. Could we not replace these by their spiritual counterpart, their spiritual equivalent? Should we not thus, if we were sufficiently wise, transform illness into a spiritual process and accomplish through our soul forces the self-education that would otherwise be accomplished through illness?
The feasibility of this may be demonstrated by an example. Here again we must insist that only those examples are given which have been investigated by Spiritual Science. They are not hypothetical assertions but actual ‘cases.’ A certain person contracts measles in later life, and we seek for the karmic connection in this case. We find that this case of measles appeared as the karmic effect of occurrences in a preceding life — occurrences that may be thus described: In a preceding life the individuality in question disliked concerning himself with the external world but occupied himself a great deal with himself, though not in the ordinary egotistical sense. He investigated much, meditated much, though not with regard to the facts of the external world, but confined himself to the inner soul life. We meet many people to-day who believe that through self-concentration and through brooding within themselves, they will arrive at the solution of world riddles. The person in question thought he could order his life through inner meditation how to act in one instance or another without accepting any teaching from others. The weakness of the soul resulting from this led to the formation of forces during existence between death and re-birth which exposed the organism comparatively late in life to an attack of measles.
We might now ask: if on the one hand we have the attack of measles which is the physical karmic effect of an earlier life, how is it then with the soul? For the earlier life will also result through karmic action in a certain condition of the soul.
This soul condition will prove itself to be such that the personality in question, during the life in which the attack of measles took place, was again and again subject to self-deception. Thus in the self-deception we must see the psychic karmic result of this earlier life, and in the attack of measles the physical karmic result.
Let us now assume that this personality before developing measles had succeeded in gaining such soul forces that he was no longer exposed to all kinds of self-deception, having completely corrected this failing. In this case the acquired soul force would render the attack of measles quite unnecessary, since the tendencies brought forth in this organism during its formation had been effaced through the stronger soul forces acquired by self-education. If we contemplate life as a whole and examine in detail our experiences, considering them always from this standpoint, we should invariably find that external knowledge will bear out in every detail what has here been stated. And what I have said about a case of measles can lead to an explanation why measles is one of the illnesses of child-hood. For the failings I have mentioned are present in a great many lives and especially in certain periods did they prevail in many lives. When such a personality enters existence he will be anxious to make the corresponding correction as soon as possible. In the period between birth and the general appearance of children's complaints which effect an organic self-education, there can as a rule be no question of any education of the soul.
From this we see that in a certain respect we can really speak of a disease being transformed back into a spiritual process. And it is most significant that when this process has entered the soul as a life principle, it will evoke a viewpoint that has a healing effect upon the soul. We need not be surprised that in our time we are able to influence the soul so little. Anyone regarding our present period from the standpoint of Spiritual Science will understand why so many medical men, so many doctors become materialists. For most people never occupy themselves with anything which has vital force. All the stuff produced today is devoid of vital force for the soul. That is why anyone wishing to work for Spiritual Science feels in this anthroposophical activity something extremely wholesome, for Spiritual Science can again bring to men something which enters the soul so that it is drawn away from what is acting in the physical organism. But we must not confuse what appears at the beginning of such a movement as Anthroposophy with what this movement can be in reality. Things may be brought into the Anthroposophical Movement which prevail in the physical world, for people on becoming Anthroposophists often bring to Anthroposophy exactly the same interests and also all the bad habits which they had outside. There is thus brought in much of the degeneracy of our age, and when some such degeneracy appears in the persons in question, the world says that this is the result of Anthroposophy. That is of course a cheap statement.
If we now see the karmic thread passing from one incarnation to another, we grasp only the one aspect of truth. For anyone beginning to understand this, many questions will arise which will be touched upon in the course of these lectures. First of all we must deal with the question: What difference is there between an illness due to external causes and an illness where the cause lies exclusively in the human organism itself. We are tempted to dispose of the latter illnesses by saying that they come of their own accord without any external provocation. But this is not so. In a certain sense we are justified in saying that illnesses come to us if we have a special disposition for the illness within us. A great many forms of illness, however, we shall be able to trace to external causes; not indeed everything that happens to us, but much that befalls us from outside. If we break a leg for instance, we are obliged to account for it by external causes. We must also include within external causes the effects of the weather, and numerous cases of disease which come to people living in slum dwellings. Here again we envisage a wide field. An experienced person looking on the world will find it easy to explain why the modern trend of the medical faculty is to seek the causes of illness in external influences, and especially in microbes. Of these a witty gentleman (Tröhls-Lund) said not without justice: ‘Today it is said that illnesses are provoked by microbes, just as it was formerly said that they came from God, the devil, and so forth.’ In the thirteenth century it was said that illnesses came from God; in the fifteenth it was said that they came from the devil; later it was said that illnesses came from the humours, today we say that illnesses come from microbes! Such are the views that in the course of time give place to one another.
Thus we speak of external causes of human illness and health. And the man of the present day may easily be tempted to use a word that is fundamentally adapted to bring disorder into the whole of our world-conception. If someone who was previously healthy comes into a district where there is an epidemic of influenza or diphtheria, and then falls ill, the man of today will be inclined to say that the person has become ill because he entered this particular district. It is thus easy to make use of the word ‘chance.’ Today people really speak of ‘chance.’ This word is really disastrous for any world-conception, and as long as we make no attempt to become clear about what is so readily termed ‘chance,’ we shall not be able to deal in any way satisfactorily with the initial stages of the subject: ‘Natural and accidental illnesses of man.’ For this it is essential that we should attempt by way of introduction to throw some light on the word ‘chance.’
Is not chance itself inclined to make us suspicious of the way it is frequently defined to-day? I have already on a previous occasion drawn your attention to the fact that a clever man in the eighteenth century was not entirely wrong when, concerning the reason for the erection of monuments, he made the following statement: ‘If we regard objectively the course of history, we should have to erect by far the greater number of monuments to Chance.’ And if we examine history, we shall make strange discoveries concerning what is concealed behind chance. As I have mentioned before, we owe the telescope to the fact that children once were playing with optical lenses in an optical laboratory. In their play they formed a combination by means of which someone then produced a telescope.
You might also recall the famous lamp in the cathedral of Pisa, which before the time of Galileo was seen by thousands and thousands, oscillating with the same regularity. But it remained for Galileo to find out by experiment how these oscillations coincided with the course of his blood circulation, whereby he discovered the famous laws of the pendulum. Had we not known these, the whole course of our physics, the whole of our culture would have developed on entirely different lines. Let us try to find a meaning in human evolution, and then see whether we should still wish to maintain that only chance was at work when Galileo made this important discovery. Let us consider yet another case.
We are aware what Luther's translation of the Bible means to the civilised countries of Europe. It profoundly influenced religious sentiment and thought and also the development of what we call the German literary language. I simply mention the fact without comment. I insist only on the profound influence which this translation exercised. We must endeavour to see the significance of that education which, during the course of several centuries, came to mankind as a result of Luther's translation of the Bible. Let us endeavour to perceive a meaning in this, and then let us consider the following fact.
Up to a certain period of his life Luther was deeply imbued with the feeling and desire so to order his life as to become a veritable ‘child of God.’ This desire had been brought about by a constant reading of the Bible. The custom prevailed amongst the Augustinian monks of reading preferably the works of the Fathers of the Church, but Luther passed to the spiritual enjoyment of the Bible itself. Thus he was led to this intense feeling of being a ‘child of God,’ and under this influence he fulfilled his duties as teacher of Theology in the first Wittenberg period. The fact that I should now like to emphasise is that Luther had a certain repugnance to acquiring the title of Doctor of Theology, but that, when sitting with an old friend of the Erfurt Augustinian monastery, he was persuaded in the course of a ‘chance’ conversation to try and gain the hat of a Doctor of Theology. For this purpose it was necessary once more to study the Bible. Thus it was the ‘chance’ conversation with his friend which led to a renewed study of the Bible, and to all that resulted from it.
Try to conceive from the point of view of the last centuries the significance of the ‘chance’ that Luther once conversed with that friend and was persuaded to try for the Doctorate of Theology. You will be obliged to see that it would be grotesque to connect this human evolution with a ‘chance’ event.
From what has been said we shall first of all conclude that perhaps after all there is something more in chance than is usually supposed. As a rule we believe chance to be something which cannot be satisfactorily explained either by the laws of nature, or by the laws of life, and that it constitutes a kind of surplus over and above what can be explained. Let us now add to this statement a fact which has helped us to understand so many aspects of life: Man, since he began his earth existence, has been subject to the two forces of the luciferic and ahrimanic principles. These forces and principles continually penetrate into man. While the luciferic forces act more within by influencing the astral body, the ahrimanic forces act rather through the external impressions which he receives. In what we receive from the external world there are contained the ahrimanic forces, and in what arises and acts within the soul in the shape of joy and dejection, desires, and so forth, there are contained the luciferic forces. The luciferic as well as the ahrimanic principles induce us to give way to error. The luciferic principle induces us to deceive ourselves as to our own inner life, to judge our inner life wrongly, to see Maya, illusion within ourselves. If we contemplate life rationally, we shall not find it difficult to discover Maya in our own soul life. Let us consider how very often we persuade ourselves that we have done one thing or another for this or that reason. Generally the reason is quite a different one, and far more profound. It may be found in temper, desire, or passion, but in our superficial consciousness we give quite a different explanation. Especially do we endeavour to deny the presence within our soul of that which the world does not greatly appreciate, and when we are driven to some act from purely egotistical motives, we frequently find ourselves clothing these crude egotistical impulses with a cloak of unselfishness, and explaining why it was necessary for us thus to act. As a rule we are not aware ourselves that we err. When we become aware of it, there generally begins an improvement accompanied by a certain feeling of shame. The worst of it is that for the most we are ignorant that we are driven to something from the depths of our soul, and then we invent a motive for the deed in question. This has also been discovered by modern psychologists. As there exists but little psychological culture today, however, these grotesque indications are brought forward, and interpretations are arrived at which are altogether peculiar. Any true investigator on observing such facts will naturally fathom their true significance and so realise that there are indeed two influences acting together, namely, our consciousness, and that which dwells in the deeper layers beneath the threshold of consciousness. But when the same facts are observed by a materialistic psychologist, he will set to work differently. He will immediately fabricate a theory about the difference between the pretext for our deeds and the real motive. If, for instance, a psychologist discusses the suicides of students which occur so frequently today, he will say that what is quoted as pretext is not the real motive; that the real motive lies far deeper, being found mostly in a misdirected sexual life, and that the real motive is so transformed that it deludes the consciousness for some reason or other.
Often this may be so, but anyone who has the least knowledge of truly profound psychological thought will never from this evolve a general theory. Such a theory could easily be refuted, for if the case really is such that pretext is nothing, and motive everything, this would also apply to the psychologist himself, and we should be forced to say that with him too, what he is telling us and developing as a theory is but a pretext. If we were to search for deeper reasons, perhaps the reasons alleged by him would be found to be of exactly the same nature. If this psychologist had, truly learnt why a reason is impossible that has been based upon the conclusion: ‘All Cretans are liars,’ and that such a judgement is biased if made by the Cretan himself, if he had learnt the reason why this is so, he would also have learnt what an extraordinarily vicious circle is created when in certain domains assertions can be driven back upon oneself. In almost the whole compass of our literature we find very little of truly deep culture. That is why as a rule people hardly notice what they themselves do, and for this reason it will be indispensable for Spiritual Science in every respect to avoid such confusions in logic. Modern philosophers when dealing with Spiritual Science come more than any others to such confusions in logic. Our example is typical of this. We here see the tricks played upon us by the luciferic influences transforming the soul-life into Maya, so that we can pretend to have quite different motives from those really dwelling within us.
We should try to acquire a stricter self-discipline in this respect. Today words are as a rule handled with great facility. A word, however, can lead to great error and confusion. The word has but to have a pleasing sound, and it creates the impression of a charitable deed. Even the pleasant sound of a sentence will betray us into believing that the motive in question is within our soul, while in truth the egotistical principle may be concealed behind it without our being aware of its presence, because we have not the will to arrive at true self-knowledge. Thus we see Lucifer active on the one side. How does Ahriman act on the other?
Ahriman is that principle which intermingles with our perceptions and enters us from outside. Ahriman's activity is strongest when we feel that in this case thought is not sufficient, and that we face a critical moment in our thought life. Thinking is trapped as in a thought maze. Then the ahrimanic principle seizes the occasion to penetrate us as through a rift in the external world. If we pursue the course of world events and the more obvious occurrences, if for instance, we pursue modern physics back to the moment when Galileo was sitting in front of the oscillating church lamp in the Cathedral of Pisa, we can spin a thought-net embracing all these events whereby the matter will be easily explained. Everything will be quite clear, but the moment we arrive at the oscillating church lamp, our thoughts become confused. Here is the window through which the ahrimanic forces penetrate us with the greatest strength, and here our thought refuses to understand the phenomena which might bring reason and understanding into the matter. Here also is what we call ‘chance.’ It is here where Ahriman becomes most dangerous to us. Those phenomena which we call ‘chance’ are the phenomena by which we are most easily deluded by Ahriman.
Thus we shall learn to understand that it is not the nature of facts themselves that induces us to speak of ‘chance,’ but that it depends on ourselves and our own development. Little by little we shall have to educate ourselves to penetrate Maya and illusion, that is to say, we must gain insight into matters where Ahriman's influence is at its strongest. So that just where we have to speak of important causes of illness, and of a light that is to be shed over the course of many an illness, we shall find it necessary to approach phenomena from the following aspect. First of all we shall have to try and understand how far it is by chance that someone should be travelling on the very train on which he may lose his life, or that someone at a definite period should be exposed to disease-germs affecting him from outside, or to some other cause of illness, and if we pursue matters with sharpened understanding, we shall be able to arrive at a truer cognition of the whole meaning for human life of illness and health.
Today we had to show in detail how Lucifer leads to illusions within man, and how Ahriman becomes intertwined with external perceptions and there leads to Maya; that it is a result of Lucifer if we delude ourselves with a false motive, and how the false supposition concerning the world of phenomena — the deception through Ahriman — leads to the belief in chance. These foundations had to be laid to show that karmic events, the results of earlier lives, are active also in those cases where external causes, which seem to be chance, give rise to illnesses.