Karmic Relationships V
31 March 1924, Prague
In the lecture yesterday I spoke of certain aspects of karma operating through the earthly lives of men, and of the forming of destiny, and I shall try to-day to give you an idea of how destiny actually takes shape.
When a man passes through the gate of death he comes into a spiritual world that is not, so to speak, more devoid of happenings and beings than our physical world, but infinitely richer. Understandable as it may be that it is never possible to do more than describe one phenomenon or another from the wide orbit of this spiritual world, the different descriptions given will have conveyed some idea of the infinite richness and manifoldness of man's life between death and a new birth. Here on the Earth, where our life between birth and death runs its course, we are surrounded by the several kingdoms of nature: by minerals, plants and animals, and by the physical human kingdom. Apart from the human kingdom, we rightly consider that the beings comprised in these other kingdoms belong to a rank below that of man. During his earthly existence, therefore, man feels himself — and rightly so — as the highest being within these kingdoms of nature. In the realm into which he enters after death, exactly the opposite is the case: man feels himself there to be the lowest among orders of Beings ranking above him. In Anthroposophical literature I have, as you know, adopted for these Beings the names used in olden times to designate the higher Hierarchies. The first is the Hierarchy immediately above man, linked with him from above as the animal kingdom on Earth is linked with him from below. This is the Hierarchy of the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai. Then, above this Hierarchy, comes that of the Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes, and then the highest Hierarchy of all — the Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. There are nine ranks, three times three ranks of Beings higher than man. Between each group of three higher ranks (ranging from below upwards) there is a parallelism with the three lower stages (ranking from above downwards) of animal, plant, mineral. — Only by including all these ranks have we a complete picture of the world to which man belongs.
Human existence may also be characterised by saying that at physical birth or conception man passes from a purely spiritual existence into the realm of the natural orders of animal, plant, mineral; when he passes through the gate of death he enters the realm of Beings ranking above him. Between birth and death he lives in a physical body which connects him with the kingdoms of nature; between death and a new birth he lives in a ‘spirit body' which connects him with the Beings of the higher Hierarchies. Here on Earth our attention is directed, first and foremost, to our environment; we feel on a level with this world and from the Earth we look upwards to the Heavens, to the realm of spirit — whatever may be the designation used in the different religions. From the Earth man looks upwards with his longings, with his piety, with his highest aspirations in earthly existence. And in trying to envisage the spiritual realm above him, he uses imagery borrowed from the earthly world, he pictures what is above him in forms derived from earthly existence. In the life between death and a new birth it is the opposite: his gaze then is directed downwards from above. You may say, “But this means that his gaze is directed to an inferior world.” That is not the case, for the earthly world presents a quite different aspect when seen from above. And precisely in the study of karma it will become clear to us how different happenings on the Earth appear when seen from above.
Having entered the spiritual world through the gate of death, we come, first of all, into the realm of the lowest Hierarchy: Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai. We feel linked with this next higher Hierarchy and we are aware that just as in the earthly realm everything around us means something to our senses, what the spiritual realm contains means something to the innermost core of our soul. We speak of minerals, of plants, of animals, inasmuch as we see them with our eyes and touch them with our hands, inasmuch as they are perceptible in a material sense. Between death and a new birth we speak of Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai, inasmuch as these Beings have a connection with the innermost core of the soul. And passing on through the long existence spent between death and a new birth, we learn gradually to become part of the life of the Beings of the next higher Hierarchy who are concerned with us and with one another. These Beings are as it were the link connecting us with the spiritual outer world. During the first period of life between death and a new birth we are also very deeply occupied with ourselves, for the Third Hierarchy has to do with our own inner life and being. But then, after a certain time, our gaze widens: we come to know the spiritual world outside us, the objective spiritual world. Our leaders here are the Exusiai, the Dynamis, the Kyriotetes. They bring us into connection with the spiritual outer world. Just as here on Earth we speak of what is around us — mountains, rivers, forests, fields, whatever it may be — so do we speak in yonder world of that to which the Beings of the Second Hierarchy lead us. That is now our environment. But this environment is not a world of objects like the Earth; everything lives and has being, lives as spiritual reality. Nor in this life between death and a new birth do we come to know Beings only; we come to know their deeds as well, we feel that we ourselves are participating in these deeds.
But then a time comes when we feel how the Beings of the Third Hierarchy — Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai — and the Beings of the Second Hierarchy — Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes — are working together with us at what we ourselves are to become in the next earthly life. A mighty, awe inspiring vista opens before us. We behold the activities of the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai and we perceive how these Beings act in relation to one another. Pictures come to us of what is proceeding among these Beings of the Third Hierarchy; but all these pictures are related to ourselves. And gazing at these pictures of the deeds of the Third Hierarchy, it dawns upon us that they represent the counterpart, the counter image of the attitude of soul, of the inner quality of mind and heart that characterised us in the last earthly life. We now no longer say in terms of an abstract idea of conscience, “You were a man who acted unjustly to this person or that, whose thoughts were unjust.” No, in the majestic pictures of the deeds of the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai, we behold the fruits of our attitude of mind and heart, of our life of soul, of our mode of thinking, in the last earthly life; we perceive images of this in what the Beings of the Third Hierarchy are doing. Our attitude, our feelings towards other individuals, towards other earthly things, are now outspread in the spiritual sphere of the Universe. And we become aware of what our thinking and our feeling signify. Here on the Earth this inner activity manifests in Maya, as if it were enclosed within our skin. Not so in the life between death and a new birth. The manner of its appearance then is such that we know that whatever thoughts, feelings or sentiments we unfold are part of the whole world, work into and affect the whole world.
Echoing the East, many people speak of Maya, of the illusion of the external world; but it remains an abstract thought. Studies like those we have been pursuing make us aware of the deep import of the words: “The world surrounding us is Maya, the great illusion.” We realise, too, what an illusory view prevails of the life of soul. We think that this is our affair and ours alone, for the truth is revealed only during our existence between death and a new birth. We perceive then that what seemed to be enclosed within us forms the content of a vast and majestic spiritual world. As our life after death continues, we observe how the Beings of the Second Hierarchy, the Exusiai, Dynamis and Kyriotetes, are connected with the faculties we have acquired in earthly life as the fruits of diligence, activity, interest in the things and happenings of the Earth. For having cast into mighty pictures our interest and diligence during the last earthly life, the Exusiai, Dynamis and Kyriotetes then proceed to shape images of the talents and faculties we shall possess in our next earthly life. In the images and pictures fashioned by the Beings of the Second Hierarchy we behold what talents and faculties will be ours in the next incarnation.
The course of this life continues and when the middle point of time between death and a new birth is about to be reached, something of particular importance takes place. From our habitations here on Earth — especially in those moments when as we look upwards to the firmament of heaven the stars send down their shimmering radiance — we feel the sublimity of the heavens above us. But something of far greater splendour is experienced as we gaze downwards now — from the realms of spirit. For then we behold the deeds of the Beings of the First Hierarchy, of the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones working in mutual interrelationship. Mighty pictures of spiritual happenings are revealed to us as we gaze downwards — for our heaven now lies below. Just as in physical existence on Earth we gaze at the starry script above us, so when we look downwards from the realm of spirit we behold the deeds of the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. And in this spiritual existence we are aware that what is proceeding among these Beings, revealed in sublime, majestic pictures, has something to do with what we ourselves are and shall become. For now we feel that what is taking place there among the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones reveals the consequences which our deeds of the previous earthly life will have in the earthly life to come. We perceive how in earthly life we behaved in this way to one individual, in that way to another individual, how we were compassionate or pitiless, whether our deeds were good or evil. Our attitude and disposition are the concern of the Third Hierarchy, our deeds of the First Hierarchy, the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. Then, in the cosmic memory now alive in us, there arises a shattering, awe inspiring realisation of our deeds and actions between birth and death in the last earthly life. Down below we behold the deeds of spiritual Beings, of Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones. What are they doing? They show us, in pictures, what our experiences with individuals with whom we had some relationship in the previous incarnation will have to become in the new relationship that will be established in order that mutual compensation may be made for what happened between us in the previous life. And from the way in which the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones work in cooperation, we realise that the great problem is there being solved. When I have dealings with an individual in some earthly life, I myself prepare the compensatory adjustment; the work performed by the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones merely ensures that the compensation will be made, that it will become reality. And it is these Beings who also ensure that the other individual with whom I shall again make contact is led to me in the same way as I am led to him. It is the majestic experiences arising from the pictures of the deeds of the higher Hierarchies which are recorded by the Moon Beings and subsequently inscribed by them in our astral body when the time comes for the descent to another earthly existence. Together with us in the life between death and a new birth, these Moon Beings witness what is happening in order that the adjustment of the previous earthly life may take place in a subsequent life.
This, my dear friends, will give you an inkling of the majesty and grandeur of what is here revealed, as compared with the sense world. But you will realise, too, that the things of the sense world conceal far, far more than they actually make manifest.
Having lived through the region of the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones, man passes to still other realms of existence. More and more the longing arises in him for a new incarnation in which compensation can be made for what he did and experienced in his previous earthly life.
Anthroposophy has failed in its purpose when it remains a mere collection of ideas and conceptions, when people speak abstractly of the existence of karma, of the way in which one incarnation works over into another. Anthroposophy is only fulfilling its real purpose when it speaks not only to the head but awakens in the heart a feeling, a discernment, of the impressions that can be received in the super-sensible world through the Beings of that world. It seems to me that nobody with an unprejudiced, receptive mind can listen to such communications about the super-sensible world as I am now giving, without being inwardly stirred. We ought to be able to realise that although here on Earth we live through the whole gamut of human experiences, from deepest suffering to supreme happiness, what we are able to experience of the spiritual world should affect us far more potently than the most intense suffering or the highest happiness. We can only have the right relationship to the spiritual world when we admit, “In comparison with earthly sufferings or earthly happiness, what we are able to experience of the truths and beings of the spiritual world remains shadowy” — as indeed it does to those who merely listen to information about Initiation science. But to Initiates themselves it is far from shadowy. We should also be able to say, “I can feel how deeply what is here imparted about the spiritual world would affect the soul, if the soul had only sufficient strength and energy.” A man should ascribe it to earthly weakness if he is incapable of experiencing every degree of feeling, from fiery enthusiasm to deepest suffering, when he hears about the spiritual world and the Beings of that world. If he ascribes to his own weakness the fact that he is unable to feel these things with due intensity, then the soul has gone some way towards establishing the true and right relationship to the spiritual world.
When all is said and done, what value is there in spiritual knowledge if it cannot penetrate to the concrete facts or indicate what is really taking place in the spiritual world! We do not expect our fellow men on Earth to talk about a meadow in the way that pantheists or monists or would-be philosophers talk about the Godhead; we expect a detailed description of the meadow. And the same applies to the spiritual world. It must be possible to describe the concrete details. People to-day are still unaccustomed to this. Many who are not out and out materialists will accept generalities about the existence of a spiritual world and so forth. But when this spiritual world is described in detail they often become indignant because they will not admit that it is possible to speak in this way of the Beings and happenings of the spiritual world. If human civilisation is not to fall into chaos, more and more will have to be said about the realities of the spiritual world. For earthly happenings too remain obscure when people have no understanding of what lies behind them.
In this connection, my dear friends, there is something in the destiny of the Anthroposophical Society that strikes a note of tragedy. But if the necessary understanding for these things becomes more widespread, at any rate among Anthroposophists themselves, there is justification for hoping that good may develop out of the tragedy, that from the Anthroposophical Society there may go forth a quickening of the civilisation that is so obviously heading for the chaos of materialism. But if that quickening is to be a reality, something must be understood which at the beginning was not understood — which can more easily be understood to-day because more than two decades of effort have passed since the founding of Anthroposophical work.
At the beginning, as you know, the Anthroposophical Movement was within the Theosophical Movement. When we founded in Berlin the Section from which the Anthroposophical Society eventually developed, I wanted at our first gathering to strike a kind of keynote for what ought really to have followed. And now that we have tried through the Christmas Meeting at the Goetheanum to reorganise the Anthroposophical Society, I am able to speak about a certain fact to which probably very little attention has been paid hitherto. Nor could it have been otherwise here, because as far as is known to me none of our friends from Bohemia was present at the time. I gave a first lecture which was similar in character to the lectures given later on to the Groups. This first lecture had an unusual title, one which might at the time have been considered rather daring. The title was: “Studies of the practical working of karma.” (Praktische Karmaübungen.) My intention was to speak quite openly about the way in which karma works.
Now the leading lights of the Theosophical Movement who at that time regarded me as something of an intruder, were present at the meeting and they were convinced at the outset that I was not qualified to speak of inner, spiritual matters. At that period the leading lights of the old Theosophical Movement were always reiterating: “Science must be upheld, account must be taken of modern science. ...” Well and good — but nothing much came of it. Things have now been set on the right path but only the very first steps have been taken; nor will anything essential have been achieved until we have advanced beyond these first steps. And so what was intended in those early days all became rather theoretical. “Studies of the practical working of karma” were announced but nobody at that time would have understood their import, least of all the leading lights of the Theosophical Society. It therefore remained a task which had to be pursued under the surface as it were of the Anthroposophical stream, performed as an obligation to the spiritual world. But to-day — and how often it has been so during the development of the Anthroposophical Movement — I am reminded of the title of what was to have been the first Anthroposophical Group lecture: “Studies of the practical working of karma.” I can also remember how shocked the leading lights of the Theosophical Society were by such a presumptuous title.
But time marches on and more than two decades have elapsed since then — much has been prepared, but this preparatory work must also have its results. And so to-day these results must become reality. “Studies of the practical working of karma” which one desired — rather boldly — to begin at that time, must be actually undertaken. Such indeed was the aim of our Christmas Meeting: to bring real and living esotericism into the Anthroposophical Movement. This must be taken in all earnestness. By formalism alone the Anthroposophical Movement will have no regenerating effect upon our civilisation. In the future we must not shrink from speaking quite openly about the things of the spiritual world.
I want to begin to-day to speak of spiritual realities underlying earthly happenings and the life of humanity on Earth. Within the whole process of earthly evolution stands the Mystery of Golgotha — the Event which imbued this evolution with meaning. To deeper observation, everything that preceded this Event was in the nature of preparation. And although on account of the shortcomings of men and the influence of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic Powers from the spiritual side, the impediments to progress are more in evidence than the progress itself, it is nevertheless true that since the Mystery of Golgotha everything proceeding from the physical and spiritual worlds alike has come to pass for the sake of bringing man further along the path of world evolution as a whole. The gifts of Christianity to humanity will — if men prove worthy to receive them in their deeper, spiritual significance — be revealed only in times to come. But the essential impulse — and this applies, as well, to everything that Anthroposophy can achieve — lies in the Mystery of Golgotha.
We know that the influence of the Mystery of Golgotha made its way, to begin with, across the South of Europe and on into Middle Europe. But I do not want to speak of that to-day. I want you to think of how Christianity spread across the North of Africa into European civilisation. You know that some six hundred years after the founding of Christianity through the Mystery of Golgotha, a different religious stream — the stream of Mohammedanism — spread across from Asia. In contrast to Christianity, the spiritual life that is connected with the name of Mohammed expresses itself more in abstractions. In Christianity there are many more direct descriptions of the spiritual world than there are in Mohammedanism. But it has been the destiny of Mohammedanism to absorb much ancient science, much ancient culture. We see how Mohammedanism comes over from Asia and spreads in the wake of Christianity. It is an interesting spectacle. We see the stream of Christianity flowing towards the North, reaching Middle Europe; we see, too, how Mohammedanism twines as it were around this Christian stream — across North Africa, Spain and on into France.
Now it is quite easy to realise that had Christianity alone been at work, European culture would have taken a quite different form. In an outer, political sense it is of course true that Europe repulsed the waves of Mohammedanism — or better said, of Arabism. But anyone who observes the spiritual life of Europe will realise, for example, that our modern way of thinking — the materialistic spirit on the one side and science with its clear cut, arabesque like logic on the other — would not have developed had Arabism not worked on, despite its setbacks. From Spain, from France, from Sicily, from North Africa, mighty and potent influences have had their effect upon European thinking, have moulded it into forms it would not have assumed had Christianity alone been at work. In our modern science there is verily more Arabism than Christianity!
Later on, as a result of the Crusades, much Eastern culture — by then, of course, in the throes of decadence — came directly to the ken of the European peoples. Many of the secrets of Eastern culture found their way to Europe through this channel. In Western civilisation, above the stratum of Christianity, lie those elements of oriental spiritual life which were absorbed into Arabism. But you see, none of this is really understandable when perceived only from the outside; it must all be perceived from within. And from within, the spectacle presented to us is that although wars and victories brought about the suppression of Arabism and the bearers of Mohammedanism, the Moors and so forth, nevertheless the souls of these people were born again and continued to work. Nothing whatever can be gained from abstract accounts of how Arabism made its way to Europe from Spain; insight can only arise from a knowledge of the inner, concrete facts.
We will consider one such fact. At the time of Charles the Great in European history — it was at the end of the 8th and beginning of the 9th centuries — Haroun al Raschid 1Haroun al Raschid, 764–809. was living over in Asia, in Baghdad, in an entourage of brilliant oriental scholarship. Everything then existing in the way of Western Asiatic learning, indeed of Asiatic learning in general, had been brought together at the Court of Haroun al Raschid. True, it was all steeped in Mohammedanism, but everything in the way of culture — mathematics, philosophy, architecture, commerce, industry, geography, medicine, astronomy — was fostered at this Court by the most enlightened men in Asia. People to-day have little conception of the grandeur and magnificence of what was achieved at the Court of Haroun al Raschid. First and foremost there was Haroun al Raschid himself — not by any means a ruler of mediocre intelligence or one who merely for the sake of self glorification called to his Court the greatest sages of Western Asia, but a personality who in spite of unwavering adherence to Mohammedanism was open and receptive to everything that oriental civilisation had to offer. At the time when Charles the Great was struggling with difficulty to master the rudiments of reading and writing, much brilliant learning flourished at the Court of Baghdad. The conditions in which Charles the Great lived are not comparable in any way with those brought into being by Haroun al Raschid.
This was at a time when many regions of Western Asia and wide territories in Africa had already adopted Mohammedanism, and the brilliant learning cultivated at the Court of Haroun al Raschid had spread far and wide. But among the wise men at that Court — men deeply versed in geography, in nature lore, in medicine and so forth — was many a one who in still earlier incarnations had belonged to ancient Mystery Schools. For men who were Initiates in an earlier life do not always give direct evidence of this in another incarnation. In spite of having been an Initiate in earlier Mysteries, it is only possible for a man in any given epoch to absorb the spirituality and develop the constitution of soul which the body of that particular epoch allows. Seen in its essential nature, the life of the soul does not tally with the intellectual ideas of the psyche in man prevailing at the present time. The soul lies at a far deeper level than is usually imagined.
Let me give you an example. Think of a personality like Ernst Haeckel. 2Ernst Haeckel, 1834-1919. The first impression one gets of him is that his view of the world is coloured by materialism, that he expounds a kind of mechanism by which the life of nature and also the life of soul is determined, that in his invectives against Catholicism he is sometimes fascinating, sometimes fanatic, and sometimes, too, lacking in taste. One who is cognisant of the threads connecting the different earthly lives of a human being will pay little attention to these traits; he will look at the deeper qualities of soul. Nobody who in trying to observe the actual manifestations of karma allows himself to be blinded by Haeckel's most striking external characteristics will be able to discover his previous incarnation. In order to find Haeckel's previous incarnation attention must be paid to the way and manner in which he expounded his views. The fact that Haeckel's erudition bore the stamp of materialism is due to the age in which he lived; that, however, is unimportant; what is important is the inner constitution and attitude of soul. If this is perceived by occult sight, then in the case of Haeckel the gaze is led back to Pope Gregory VII, 3Gregory VII, Pope from 1053 to 1085. the former Abbot Hildebrand — actually one of the most impassioned advocates of Catholicism. If one compares the two personages, knowing that both come into the picture here, one will perceive that they are the same and also learn to recognise the unessentials and the essentials in respect of the great affairs of humanity as a whole. The theoretical ideas themselves are by no means the prime essential; they are only essential in this abstract, materialistic age of ours. Behind the scenes of world history it is the quality, the modus operandi, of the soul that is all important. And when this is grasped it will certainly be possible to perceive the similarity between Gregory VII and his reincarnation as Haeckel.
Insight of this kind has to be acquired in studying the concrete realities of karma, and if it is to mean anything to us to be told that at the Court of Haroun al Raschid, for example, there were men who, although their physical bodies and education make them appear outwardly to be typical products of the 8th and 9th centuries, were nevertheless the reincarnations of Initiates in ancient Mysteries. When the eye of spirit is directed to this Court, a certain personality stands out in bold relief — one who was a deeply discerning, influential counsellor of Haroun al Raschid, and for that epoch a man of great universality. A remarkable destiny lay behind him. In a much earlier incarnation, and in the same region afterwards ruled over by Haroun al Raschid, but inhabited, then, by quite different peoples, he had participated in all the Initiations which had there taken place, and in a later incarnation, as a different personality, he had striven for Initiation with deep and intense longing, but was unable to achieve it because at that time destiny prevented it. Such a personality lived at the Court of Haroun al Raschid but was for this reason obliged to conceal deep down in his inner life what lay within him as the fruits of the earlier incarnation as an Initiate. The inability to achieve Initiation occurred in a later incarnation and after that came the incarnation at the Court of Haroun al Raschid. And at this Court, for the reason that in those times Initiations in the old sense were no longer possible — this personality was one who out of a strong inner impulse and with powerful and sound imagination, organised and vitalised everything that was cultivated at this Court. Scholars, artists, a whole host of poets, representatives of all the sciences, were to be found there; moreover Baghdad itself at that time was the centre of the very widespread scientific and artistic activity prevailing in the empire of the Caliphs. The organisation of it all was the work of this personality — a personality endowed with great powers of initiative. Such individuals invariably play a significant role in the onward march of civilisation.
Let us think of Haroun al Raschid himself. If with occult sight one discerns the qualities of soul he possessed and then tries to discover whether he has since reincarnated, one finds that Haroun al Raschid continued to be associated with and to carry further what he had instituted on Earth; having passed through the gate of death he participated, spiritually, in the earthly evolution of mankind; from the spiritual world his influence was considerable but he himself assimilated a great deal. And then, in the form appropriate to the epoch, this personality came again as Lord Bacon of Verulam, 4Bacon of Verulam, 1561–1626. the founder of modern science. From England, Bacon of Verulam. gave a strong impetus to European thinking. You may say: but what a different personality from Haroun al Raschid! ... Nevertheless it is the same individuality. The outward differences are a matter of the external world only. We see the soul of Haroun al Raschid after death moving across from Asia and then, from the West, influencing the later civilisation of Europe, doing much to lay the foundations of modern materialism.
The other personality — he who had been not only the right hand but the very soul of Haroun al Raschid's Court and had had that strange spiritual destiny — this personality took a different path. Far from seeking a life of outward brilliance, the urge in this soul after death was to unfold a rich inner life, a life of deep inwardness. Because this was so, there could be no question of taking a path leading to the West. Think again of Haroun al Raschid and his Court — outward brilliance and magnificence, inner consolidation of the fruits of civilisation, but at the same time the impulse to externalise everything contained in Mohammedanism. This was bound to come to expression in a subsequent incarnation. The wide and all embracing application of scientific method had to come to the fore — and so indeed it did. The outward brilliance that had characterised the Court of Haroun al Raschid came to clear expression in Bacon himself.
The other personality who had been the very soul of the Court in Baghdad was of a deeply inward nature, closely related to what had been cultivated in the ancient Mysteries. This could not come to expression — not at any rate until our own time when, since Kali Yuga is over and the Michael Age has begun, it is possible once again to speak openly of the spiritual. Nevertheless it was found possible to pour what had been received from the Mysteries in such volume and with such vital power into civilisation that its influence was profound. Something of the kind may be said in connection with the other personality whose development in the spiritual world after death was such that finally, when the time arrived for a new incarnation, he could not land, so to speak, in the Western world where materialism had its rise; he was led, inevitably, to Middle Europe and was able there to give expression to the impulse deriving from the ancient Mysteries but conforming with the altered conditions of the times. This personality lived as Amos Comenius. 5Amos Comenius, 1592–1671. And so in the later course of world history these two souls who had lived together at the Court of Baghdad took different paths: the one as it were circling the South of Europe in order, from the West, as Bacon of Verulam, to become the organising genius in modern literature, philosophy and the sciences; the other taking the overland path — as did the Crusades — towards Middle Europe. He too was a great and gifted organiser but the effects of what he achieved were of an entirely different character. It is a wonderful and deeply impressive spectacle — there they were, Amos Comenius and Bacon of Verulam, having taken different paths. The fact that the period of their lives did not exactly coincide is connected with world karma, but ultimately — if I may express it in a trivial way — they met in Middle Europe. And a great deal that is needed in civilisation would become reality if the esoteric influences contained in the work of Amos Comenius were to unite with the power achieved by the technical sciences founded through Bacon of Verulam. This outcome of the paths taken by two souls who in the 8th and 9th centuries worked at the Court of Haroun al Raschid is one of the most wonderful illustrations of how world history runs its course. Haroun al Raschid makes his way across Africa and Southern Europe to England, whence his influence works over into Middle Europe; Amos Comenius takes the path which brings him to Middle Europe, and in what develops from his achievements there he meets the other soul.
Only when history is studied in this way does it become reality. What passes over from one epoch of world history so into another does not consist of abstract concepts; it is human souls themselves who carry onward the fruits of each epoch. We can only understand how what makes its appearance in a later epoch has come over from an earlier one, when we perceive how the souls themselves develop onwards from one epoch to the next. The distinction between what is called ‘Maya' and inner reality must everywhere be taken earnestly. Perceived in its outward aspect only, history is itself Maya; it can only be rightly understood by getting away from the Maya and penetrating to the truth.
We will continue these studies in the next lecture to Members. May the right kind of understanding be forthcoming as we now pursue the task inaugurated by the Christmas Foundation Meeting: to make into a reality what was announced at the very beginning, perhaps rather naively, as ‘Studies of the practical working of karma.' After preparation that has been going on for decades now, a genuine study of karma and of its manifestations will certainly be possible in the Anthroposophical Society without causing misunderstanding and apprehension.