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Manifestations of Karma
GA 120

7. Forces of Nature, Volcanic Eruptions, Earthquakes and Epidemics in Relation to Karma

22 May 1910, Hamburg

You will have noticed in these lectures that we are approaching our goal step by step, but that with each step we are trying to penetrate more deeply into our subject. In the last lecture we spoke of the nature of pain, which may be connected with an illness; we also pointed out how in other cases an illness may run its course — at least in a certain sense — without being accompanied by pain.

We must now consider the nature of pain in somewhat more detail. We must keep before us the fact that pain may become apparent side by side with illness. At our last discussion we already concluded that we may not look upon disease and pain as inseparable. We must be aware that if pain is connected with an illness, there must be something more at stake than mere illness. We have pointed out that the process taking place during the transition from one incarnation to another, whereby events of earlier incarnations are transformed into causes of illness, is influenced on the one side by the luciferic principle, and on the other by the ahrimanic principle.

How do we lay the foundation of illnesses? Why do we acquire a predisposition for illness? What induces us between death and rebirth to prepare forces which will manifest as illness in our next life? We are impelled to this when we see our own weakness in the face of the temptations of Lucifer on the one hand and those of Ahriman on the other. All our greed, egotism, ambition, pride, vanity, all qualities connected with this inflation of our Ego, this desire to be in the limelight, all this is the result of luciferic temptations. In other words, if we fall victims to the forces active within our astral body so that they find expression in our egotistical greeds and passions, we are in that incarnation performing actions to which we are tempted by Lucifer. And during the period between death and rebirth, we see the results of such deeds inspired by Lucifer. We then contract the tendency to incarnate ourselves in conditions where we shall have to suffer an illness which, if it is overcome, will free us still further from the clutches of these luciferic powers. If the luciferic power did not exist, we should not fall into those temptations that lead us to seek for renewed powers.

If there were nothing else in life but the egotistical impulses and passions born of Lucifer, we should never be able to free ourselves from them, not even in successive incarnations, for we should ever again succumb to them. Suppose for instance we had been left to our own devices during Earth Evolution, but still subject to the luciferic influence. We should have the temptations of the luciferic powers in one incarnation and then after death perceive where they had led us. This would bring about an illness, but if nothing else co-operated, the illness would lead to no great improvement during the life in which it is experienced. It leads to an improvement only because other powers, adversaries of Lucifer, add something to the whole process.

When we fall into the power of Lucifer, there immediately intervenes a counteraction by powers antagonistic to the luciferic powers. These exercise an opposing force, whereby the luciferic influence may be actually driven out of us. And it is these forces, opponents of the luciferic powers, which add pain to the process resulting from Lucifer's influence. Thus, if the luciferic powers are evil, we must regard pain as something which is given us by benevolent forces, because through pain we escape from the clutches of these evil powers, and do not succumb to them again. If there were no pain connected with illnesses which result from yielding to the luciferic powers, we should feel that it was not so bad after all to succumb to these powers. And there would be nothing impelling us to escape from the luciferic forces. Pain, which is the consciousness of the astral body in a wrong waking state, is also that which prevents us from ever again falling prey to the luciferic powers in that realm where we have already succumbed. Thus pain becomes our schoolmaster in regard to the temptations of the luciferic powers.

But how can pain become our schoolmaster, if we only feel the pain and are in no way aware of its beneficent force. If this is the case it is the result of our Ego-consciousness. In that consciousness that we have described as lying beneath our Ego-consciousness, and which is not perceived in the normal state, a process is already taking place whereby we realise that we are experiencing pain, and that this is brought about by the beneficial forces to counteract our transgressions. This is a force in our subconscious mind acting truly as karmic fulfilment — as an impulse to fall no more into those deeds, inclinations, and greeds that brought about the illness.

Thus we see how karma acts, how we fall a prey to the luciferic powers, how these powers effect an illness in the following incarnation, and how the beneficent forces add pain to the organic trouble, so that through pain we may educate the subconscious. We may therefore say that in every case where pain makes itself felt, we are dealing with an illness provoked by the luciferic forces. Pain is a sign that the luciferic power lies at its roots. People who go in for classification will now be longing to distinguish these illnesses that are due to purely luciferic influence from those which can be traced to purely ahrimanic influence. For in all theorising it is most convenient to classify —to make formulae —and people delude themselves into believing that they have comprehended much in this way. In reality, however, things do not arrange themselves in such a way that they can be grasped in this convenient manner. In reality they continually intercross and interpenetrate. And it will be easy to understand that during the course of an illness there are phenomena which may be traced in part to Lucifer's influence — to the activities of our astral body — and others which are traced to the ahrimanic influence. Thus no one must believe that if we feel pain, it is traceable only to luciferic influences. Pain reveals that part of our illness is traceable to luciferic influence. But this will become clearer if we ask whence the ahrimanic influence comes.

We should not have fallen a prey to ahrimanic influence if we had not first succumbed to that of Lucifer. Through the luciferic influence there came about the relation of the four elements constituting man — the physical body, etheric body, astral body and the Ego —a relation which would not have existed if only the forces opposed to Lucifer had operated. In that case we should have developed quite differently. Thus the luciferic principle caused disorder in the inner being of man, and the position of man in relation to the external world depends upon what he is himself. Just as we cannot see the world when we have imperfect eyes, so through luciferic influence we are prevented from seeing the external world as it really is. And because of man's incapacity to see the external world as it really is, the ahrimanic influence has been able to insinuate itself into this inaccurate picture. So it is the luciferic influence on man which has made Ahriman's approach possible. Subjected to the ahrimanic influence we can fall a prey not only to egotistical passions, urges, greeds, vanity and pride, and so forth, but now egotism can affect the human organism to such an extent as to develop organs through which we can see the external world distorted and inaccurate. Ahriman has insinuated himself into this inaccurate picture, and under his influence we succumb not only to inner temptations, but also to error. We fall into untruth in our judgement of the external world and our assertions concerning it. Thus Ahriman acts from outside; but we have made it possible for him to reach us.

The ahrimanic and luciferic influences are thus never separated. They always react upon one another, and in a certain sense keep a balance. Lucifer manifests outwards from within, Ahriman acts from without, and our picture of the world is formed between the two. If in one incarnation the inner man gains in strength, if the man is more exposed to the inner influences, then he will succumb more easily to Lucifer, when his pride, his vanity, etc., will come into play. In an incarnation in which man is not through his general karma predisposed to yield to inner influences, he will be more inclined to fall a prey to error and the temptations of Ahriman. This is what actually happens. So that in daily life we at one moment fall a prey more to the temptations of Lucifer, and at another to those of Ahriman. And we oscillate between these two influences which lead us — the one to inner conceit, and the other to illusions about the external world.

Since it is a matter of singular importance, it might here be mentioned that the temptations from both sides must be especially resisted by anyone who is called to a spiritual development, and who wishes to penetrate into the spiritual world, whether by penetrating into that external spirituality which lies behind the phenomena of the external world, or whether by descending mystically into his own inner being. When we penetrate the world which lies behind the physical world, we always find those deceptive images which Ahriman conjures up. When a man tries to descend mystically into his own soul, he is exposed to the temptations of Lucifer in a special degree. When he tries to descend without having previously taken precautions against pride, vanity, and so forth; when he succeeds in living as a Mystic without having given heed to a special moral culture, he is the more liable to fall victim to the temptations of Lucifer, who acts upon the soul from within. If a Mystic has not given careful heed to his moral culture, he will be in great danger when penetrating his inner being, of calling forth even more strongly than before the reactionary forces of Lucifer, and of becoming even more vain and proud than he was formerly. For this reason it is essential first to ensure that through the forming of our character we are able to resist the temptations of vanity, conceit, and pride to which we in any case shall be exposed. We can never do enough towards the acquisition of such qualities as lead to modesty and humility. This is essential for that aspect of our development which we call ‘Mystic.’ On the other hand it is necessary to defend ourselves against the delusions of Ahriman when we attempt to reach the spiritual origin of things, by following the path which leads behind the phenomena of the external world. If we do not form a strong and steadfast character which enables us to fortify ourselves, to acquire a strong inner life, it may well happen that just at the moment when we are succeeding in going out into the spiritual world, we fall into the clutches of Ahriman, who will beguile us by illusion upon illusion, hallucination upon hallucination.

We must understand that these things must be accepted in the spirit and not in the letter. Because the fact is so often emphasised that a higher development desirous of comprehending phenomena of the external world must be accompanied by full consciousness, it happens that again and again somnambulists assure us that they perceive the spiritual world, and do so when fully conscious. The only thing that can be done is to assure them that it would be far better for them, and far wiser if they did not have this full consciousness. For people are mistaken as to the nature of this consciousness, which is merely an image or astral consciousness. If these people were not conscious in a lower degree they would not perceive anything, and what matters is that we should on entering the spiritual world maintain the integrity of our Ego-consciousness. With the Ego-consciousness however is linked our power of judgement and our faculty for acute discrimination. This is what is lacking regarding the forms which they see in the spiritual world. That they should have some consciousness is in no way remarkable, but the consciousness they should have is that which is linked to the culture of our Ego. That is why during our development towards the perception of the higher worlds we are not so keen on reaching these higher worlds as speedily as possible, on seeing a world filled with images and all kinds of forms, of hearing perhaps all kinds of voices. Rather do we emphasise the fact that entrance to the spiritual world can only bring happiness or be of advantage when our consciousness, our faculty of discrimination and discernment, and our power of judgement have been so sharpened that in the higher worlds we shall be subject to no delusion. This can best be achieved through a study of Anthroposophical truths. For this reason we insist that the study of Anthroposophy is the best safeguard against these alleged visions, which by their nature are not capable of being brought to the test of a sound judgement. One schooled in Spiritual Science will not accept everything that comes his way, but will be able to distinguish between reality and mirage. He will also know that any auditory perceptions must be treated with the greatest circumspection, for no such perceptions can correspond to reality unless the hearer has previously passed through the sphere of absolute silence. He who has not first experienced the absolute silence and calm of the spiritual world may be certain that what he perceives are delusions, even though what they convey to him seems most portentous. Only he who has taken the pains to fortify his judgement by trying to comprehend the truths of the spiritual worlds, only he can defend himself against such delusions. The means which external science offers are insufficient. External science does not provide us with the power of judgement sure enough and strong enough for true discernment in the spiritual world. That is why we say that if information concerning the higher worlds is given us by people who have not carefully fortified the power of judgement — and this can be done through the study of Anthroposophy — such information is always questionable, and must in any case first be checked by the methods attained through genuine training. From this we see that Lucifer and Ahriman do not suspend their temptations when we strive for a higher development.

There is but one power before which Lucifer retreats, and that is morality which burns him like the most dreadful of fires. And there is no means by which to oppose Ahriman other than a power of judgement and discernment schooled by Spiritual Science. For Ahriman flees in terror from the wholesome power of judgement acquired upon Earth. In the main there is nothing to which he has a greater aversion than the qualities we gain from a healthy education of our Ego-consciousness. For we shall see that Ahriman belongs to a very different region far removed from that force of sound judgement which we develop in ourselves. The moment Ahriman encounters this, he receives a terrible shock, for this is something completely unknown to him, and he fears it. The more we apply ourselves in our life to develop this wholesome judgement, the more do we work in opposition to Ahriman. This appears particularly in numbers of cases of people brought before one, who recount from dawn to sunset all they have seen in the spiritual worlds. And if one attempts to give to these people some explanation, and to develop their judgement and discernment, Ahriman generally has them so completely in his power, that they can hardly enter into the discussion. It is even more difficult to get them to listen to reason when Ahriman's temptations come to them from the auditory side. There are many more ways of dealing with delusions which appear as images than with those which come acoustically — in voices heard and so forth. Such people have a great aversion to any serious study that would contribute to the development of their Ego-consciousness between birth and death. But it is not they themselves who do not like it; it is the ahrimanic forces that drag them away from it. If one leads those people so far as to develop a wholesome discernment, and they begin to accept instruction, it soon becomes evident that the visions, voices, and hallucinations cease. They were merely ahrimanic chimera, and Ahriman is possessed by fear as soon as he feels that from out of this man there comes forth a wholesome power of judgement.

In fact, the best remedy against the particularly harmful diseases which result in visions and delusory voices induced by Ahriman is to make all efforts to induce the person to acquire a wholesome and rational judgement. In many such cases it is extraordinarily difficult to do this, for the other powers make things very easy for the deluded ones and guide them on. He who attempts to expel this power cannot make things so comfortable, and in consequence finds his task a difficult one; for they maintain that they are being deprived of that which before had led them into the spiritual world. The truth of the matter is that they are being healed and safeguarded against further encroachment by these evil powers.

We now know what the luciferic and ahrimanic forces abhor. Lucifer has an aversion for humility and modesty in man and is repulsed if we have only such an opinion of ourselves as a wholesome judgement entitles us to hold. On the other hand, he is present, like the flies in the dirty room, whenever the qualities of vanity and ambition arise. All this and the illusions which we engender about ourselves, prepare us to receive Ahriman as well. Nothing can defend us against Ahriman unless we really make an effort to think wholesomely, as life between birth and death teaches us to do. And especially we, who stand on the rock of Spiritual Science, have every reason to emphasise again and again and as intensively as possible, the fact that it is not meet for us as earth-beings to disregard that which is to be given us through life upon earth. People who disdain the acquisition of a wholesome judgement and a rational discernment, and who aspire to a spiritual world without making this effort, are really trying to shun earth life. They, being of the opinion that it is really far too trivial an occupation for them to concern themselves with matters that may lead to comprehension of this life, aspire to soar above it. They consider themselves superior and it is just this frame of mind which constitutes a fresh cause of pride. For this reason we see constantly that such people who incline towards sentimental fanaticism — ‘Schwärmerei’ — towards a shrinking from being touched by the things of this earth and earth life, refusing to learn because they already have the inner knowledge, have nothing in common with a movement such as ours. Such people say ‘Humanity must enter the Spiritual World.’

Certainly — but there is only one healthy path by which we can enter, and that is the morality that must be acquired upon earth, a morality in the highest sense of the word, which will keep us from over-estimation of ourselves, and will make us less subservient to our impulses, greeds and passions, but which on the other hand will be an active, wholesome co-operation with the conditions of earth life, and not a desire to soar above such conditions.

Here we have again drawn from out of the depths of karma something connected with the depths of spiritual life. This may be of great value, but nothing from the spiritual world is of value to the development of man and of his individuality unless it be brought forth from the spiritual world for a wholesome reason, and with morality.

When considering all the discussions of our last lecture and those of to-day we shall ask: Why should not the luciferic influence, just for the very reason that it worked earlier and has been transformed into illness, and then equalised through the pain, why should it not call forth in man, draw after it, as it were, the ahrimanic influence? And why should not that which causes us pain and announces the luciferic influence of a disease, why should not the ahrimanic influence take part in this as a consequence of the luciferic influence? But how does the ahrimanic influence work? How are the temptations of Ahriman turned into causes of illness? How do they manifest in later incarnations?

Whatever is to be traced to ahrimanic influence is indirectly attributable to Lucifer; when, however, the luciferic influence has been so strong as immediately to call forth the ahrimanic influence, then this influence is the more malicious. It anchors itself not only in the transgressions of the astral body, but in those of the etheric body. It manifests itself in a consciousness lying deeper than our pain consciousness, causing damage not necessarily accompanied by pain, damage that renders useless the organ which it attacks.

Let us suppose that in one incarnation an ahrimanic influence had been exercised on a being bringing with it certain consequences. Now the man passes through the period between death and a new birth, and reappears in a new incarnation. Then it will become manifest that some organ has been attacked by Ahriman; in other words, the etheric body has entered this organ more deeply than it should — more deeply than normal. In such a case, precisely because of this defective organ, the man is even more open to temptations of error which are the work of Ahriman upon earth. By means of the organ which owes its defect to ahrimanic influence, and into which the etheric body has too deeply penetrated, the man would, if he were to experience the whole of this process, become even more enmeshed in what Ahriman can effect, namely, ‘Maya.’ Since nothing however produced by the material world as Maya can be carried into the spiritual world, the spiritual world withdraws further from him. For in that world there is to be found only truth and no illusion. The more he becomes entangled in the illusions effected by Ahriman, the more are we impelled to enter even further into the external world of the senses, into the illusions of the physical senses, much further than would be the case without the defective organ.

A counteracting effect comes into play, however, just as we have the effect of pain counteracting the luciferic influence. This counteracting effect will operate in such a way that the moment there is any danger of our being linked too closely with the physical world of the senses, and of our losing the forces which lead us up into the spiritual world, in that moment the organ is destroyed; it will either be paralysed or else rendered too weak to be effective. A process of destruction takes place. Thus if we see an organ approaching destruction, we must realise that we owe this to beneficial forces; the organ is taken from us so that we may find our way back into the spiritual world. When there is no alternative of escape, certain forces do in fact destroy our organs or weaken them so that we may not become too greatly entangled in Maya or illusion and may find our way back into the spiritual world.

Let us take the case of a person who has a disease of the liver, but such as is not accompanied by pain. We are here dealing with the effect of a preceding ahrimanic influence which has resulted in this disorder in the liver. If this organ had not been taken from him, the forces connected with a deeper penetration by the etheric body would have led him too far into Maya.

Sagas and myths have always known of the deepest wisdom, and have expressed it. Of this the liver is a very good example. It is an organ which can most easily be exposed to the danger of driving man into the physical illusory world, and at the same time the liver is the organ which binds us to the earth. This truth is connected with the fact that precisely that being who, according to the legend, gave to man the force which leads him into earthly life and which makes him very active there — namely, Prometheus — should have his liver gnawed by a vulture. A vulture gnaws at his liver, not because this would cause Prometheus any severe pain, for in that case the legend would not correspond with physiological facts! The vulture gnaws at the liver because it does not hurt. By this it is indicated that Prometheus brought about something which could entangle men more deeply in the ahrimanic illusion, if a counteracting effect could not be produced. Occult records are always in accord with the truths which we make known in Spiritual Science.

I have shown you to-day by a simple analysis of facts that it is the beneficial powers which bring pain to us to react against the influence of Lucifer. Let us compare this with the records of the Old Testament. After Lucifer's influence had made itself felt, as is symbolised by the serpent's temptation of Eve, Lucifer's adversaries had to inflict pain to hinder what Lucifer was trying to achieve in men. The powers which opposed Lucifer had then to appear and disclose that thenceforth humanity should know pain. This was done by Jehovah, or Jahveh, when He said: ‘In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.’

Usually we do not fully appreciate these sayings of the biblical records until we possess the explanations of Spiritual Science. Later we realise how profound these records are. Before we can speak about the passage: ‘In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children,’ we must study karma, for only when the time comes shall we be able to give an explanation. For this reason it is of little use to ask for an explanation of this or that passage from occult records before having attained the required state in one's occult development. It is then not good to ask what is the meaning of this or that. We must be patient and wait until we have reached the required stage. For with explanations alone we shall arrive at nothing.

Thus we see our life affected by the luciferic powers on the one side, and on the other by the powers opposed to Lucifer. Then the ahrimanic powers intrude into our lives, and we must realise that those powers which incapacitate our organs when we fall a prey to ahrimanic influences are to be counted among the beneficent powers, whose adversary is no other than Ahriman. If we set out from all that has been said here, we shall be able to get an insight into the complicated structure of human nature, and we shall arrive at the following conclusion; the luciferic powers are those that have remained behind during the ancient Moon period, and to-day during our Earth evolution they influence human life by means of forces which are really Moon forces, and which can only operate in that cosmic plan which is working in accordance with those forces which oppose Lucifer. These forces are not within our Earth evolution. Thus does Lucifer influence the plans of another being.

We can now go back to an earlier epoch. If on the one side we perceive that on the Moon, beings remained behind in their development, so as to intervene in human life upon Earth, it may seem feasible that also upon the ancient Sun there remained behind beings who played a part upon the Moon analogous to that played by the luciferic powers upon Earth at present. In the present human being we observe what may be described as a conflict — the conflict between the luciferic powers which penetrate into our astral body, and those benevolent powers which can affect us only through our Ego and through our earth achievement. For the powers opposed to Lucifer can only act upon us through our Ego. If we acquire a clear insight into, and a true valuation of ourselves, we do so only with the help of those powers which affect our Ego. For this we must make use of our Ego. Therefore we may say that while our Ego struggles with the luciferic powers, Jahveh, or Jehovah, is fighting within us against Lucifer. That which watches over the ordered cosmic design is fighting against that which rebels against this design and against its exclusiveness. Our innermost being stands in the midst of this strife, between Lucifer and other beings. We ourselves are the battlefield of this struggle, and the fact that we are the battlefield in this fight draws us into karma, but only indirectly, through the fact that this battle is fought against Lucifer. If on the contrary we turn our gaze outward, we are attracted by the influence of the ahrimanic powers. Something is enacted that comes from outside, and here Ahriman enters within us.