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Karmic Relationships II
GA 236

Lecture XV

30 May 1924, Dornach

Dornach, 27th June, 1924

Our study of karma can lead us only slowly and by degrees to an understanding of this fundamental and complicated law. To-day I should like, first of all, to repeat that in the elaboration of karma during the life stretching between death and a new birth there is co-operation primarily between those human beings who are living this life between death and a new birth. We work together with those with whom we are specially connected by karma. In the elaboration of karma during this life between death and a new birth, groups of human beings united by their karma work together and it can truly be said that in this purely spiritual life there are clear differentiations between the groups. This does not preclude the fact that we also form part of the whole of humanity in the life between death and a new birth, and still more do we form part of the life of those who are incarnate on the earth. The fact that we belong to a particular group of souls does not exclude us from forming part of humanity as one whole. And into all these groups and down into the destiny of each individual there flows the work of the Beings of the higher Hierarchies.

Those Beings of the higher Hierarchies who elaborate karma by the side of man during the life between death and a new birth, work also into the life we spend between birth and death, where karma works itself out in the moral sense, as destiny. And to-day we must find an answer to the question: In what way does the work of the Hierarchies influence human life?

Speaking now with the help of Initiation-Science, we shall admit that this is a deep and searching question. For you can understand from what I have told you in the course of recent lectures, that the phenomena of nature too are connected with the karma of mankind.

The man who directs his gaze to the whole flow of cosmic and human events and not alone to the immediate facts presented by the world of nature, perceives the connection between the events which take place among larger or smaller groups of men at one epoch and the facts of nature at another. There are occasions when we can observe events in nature breaking into the orbit of human life on earth. We witness devastating volcanic eruptions and we know what is brought about by natural influences during floods or suchlike phenomena.

If we regard such events as belonging merely to the natural order, we are confronted with something that is incomprehensible in its relation to the general impression we have of the world. For here we behold events that simply break into the cosmic order, events which are so envisaged by man that he gives up all hope of understanding them and accepts the distress they bring as a stroke of destiny. The investigations of spiritual science are able, however, to take us a little further, for they open up remarkable information precisely in connection with these elemental events in nature.

When we let our mind's eye scan the face of the earth, we find certain areas of the earth literally covered with volcanoes. We find that other parts of the earth are liable to earthquakes or other catastrophes. And if we examine the karmic connections of such events as these in the same way as we have examined them in recent lectures from the point of view of the history of certain personalities, then we arrive at very remarkable results. We find the following: Up above in the spiritual worlds, human souls are gathered together in groups according to their karma; they are elaborating their karma in conformity with their past and future existence. And we see one of these groups of human souls in their descent from pre-earthly into earthly existence wander to regions situated, for example, in the vicinity of volcanoes, or to districts where earthquakes are liable to occur, in order there to receive their destiny from the elemental phenomena of nature. 1The Deed of Christ and the Opposing Spiritual Powers. Two Lectures by Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, 1st Jan. and 22nd March, 1909. We even find that during this life between death and a new birth when man's conceptions and feelings are of quite a different nature, that such places are deliberately chosen by the souls thus karmically connected, in order that they may experience this very destiny. For a thought which finds little enough understanding in our souls on earth, such as the thought: “I choose a great disaster on earth in order to become more perfect, I choose it because I am still so far from fulfilling what lies in my past karma” — such a thought for which, as I have said, there is so little understanding in earthly life, can be present in the life between death, and a new birth, and has there an inherent value.

It can happen that we deliberately seek out a volcanic eruption, or an earthquake, in order to find in the path of disaster the path to perfection. Clear distinction must be made between these two completely different outlooks upon life, — one outlook being that of the spiritual world and the other of the physical world.

But in this connection there are other things to be considered. In the outer world, the everyday happenings of nature proceed with an ordered regularity inasmuch as the world of the stars is playing a part in them. For the world of stars with its mysteries works with a certain regularity. This above all is the case in connection with the sun and moon, indeed with all the stars with the outstanding exception of the enigmatic phenomena of meteorites and comets which burst in upon the regular, rhythmical order of the cosmos in a most mysterious way. But that which cuts across the regular course of natural existence in the way of thunderstorms, hailstorms and other climatological and meteorological events — all this interrupts the regular rhythm of natural happenings. We realise these things and, to begin with, resign ourselves to the outer course taken by natural phenomena. But later on, when a longing to understand spiritual things awakens within us, we listen to what is told us by Initiation-Science, namely that besides this outwardly visible world there is also the super-sensible world where dwell the Beings of the higher Hierarchies. And in our life between death and a new birth we enter the domain of these higher Hierarchies, just as in our life between birth and death we live among the three kingdoms of nature — the mineral, the plant and the animal kingdoms.

We listen to what is taught by Initiation-Science and try to envisage the existence of this second world, but we often stop short at the idea of the two worlds being there side by side, without connecting them together in our thought. We can form a true idea of the two worlds only when we are able to realise their existence simultaneously, and when with inner vision we can realise the way in which they work together and are interwoven. For this interworking must be known if we are to understand the shaping and forming of karma. In the life between death and a new birth, karma is prepared. But karma is worked out and elaborated on earth, too, with the help of the Beings of the higher Hierarchies who are also active during the life we lead between birth and death.

The question therefore arises: In what way do the higher Hierarchies work into earthly life?

In their work upon earthly life, these Beings of the higher Hierarchies make use of earthly processes. We shall best understand what this means if we look, to begin with, at all that is spread out before our senses, in the world of stars as well as in the physical world. Throughout our waking-day life, we see the sun up there in the heavens. Through the hours of the night we behold the radiance of the moon and of the stars. Think, my dear friends, of how we look out into the world, and how we allow what is above us, and what is around us in the kingdoms of nature, to work upon us. And let us remind ourselves that this world of the senses has in itself just as little meaning as a human corpse. The forces that are at work in the earth outside man are the forces that are in a corpse. But in a corpse we do not find the forces of the living man. In itself, the corpse is meaningless. It has significance only inasmuch as it is the remains of a living human being. It is not reasonable to imagine for a moment that a corpse could exist in itself as a collection of phenomena having an independent being of their own. A corpse can only reveal the form of something that is no longer visible. Just as one is led back from a corpse to a living human being, so too are we led by everything in the visible world of physical existence to the spiritual world. For this physical sense-existence has just as little meaning of its own as has a corpse.

Just as we are led in thought from the corpse to a living man, and say: This is the corpse of a living human being; so, in relation to nature, we say: This is the revelation of divine-spiritual powers.

No other way of thinking can be reasonable, indeed no other way is sound or healthy. To hold a different view would imply a morbid way of thinking.

But what is the nature of the spiritual world for which we are to look behind the physical world of sense? The spiritual world behind the physical world is the world of the Beings of the Second Hierarchy: Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes. The Second Hierarchy is behind everything on which the sun sheds its light. And what is there in the whole compass of our sense-experience that is not lit up and kept alive by the sun? The sun is the source of the light and the life of everything.

These Beings of the Second Hierarchy have their chief dwelling place in the sun. From the sun they rule over the visible world which is their revelation. Thus we can say: There we have the earth, with the sun shining down upon it, and behind and through the workings of the sun weave the Beings of the Second Hierarchy: Exusiai, Kyriotetes, Dynamis.

Upon the rays of the sun which are the deeds of the Second Hierarchy are borne all the sense-impressions that come to our senses through the hours of waking-day consciousness.

And so we speak truly if we say: Within and through and behind the workings of the sun throughout our physical sense-existence is the super-sensible world of the Second Hierarchy.

Now there is another and different condition of our earthly existence. We spoke of this different condition in the last lecture from a certain point of view. We have the condition of sleep. How does this condition of sleep present itself in its cosmic counterpart? Let us consider it for a moment. When our physical and etheric bodies are there in the bed, and our astral body and ego outside, then out in the cosmos we have to think of the sun at a position where the earth must first let the rays of the sun pass through it before they reach us. Now in all the ancient Mysteries a certain teaching was given which, if fully understood, produced a profoundly moving impression in those who become pupils in the Mysteries and gradually mastered the Science of Initiation. They reached a certain stage of inner development which they might have described in the following way. — I am now telling you what might have been said by one of these ancient Initiates when he had attained to a certain degree of Initiation. — He would have spoken somewhat as follows: “When I stand in the open fields in the daytime, when I direct my gaze upwards and give myself up to the impressions of the senses, then I behold the sun; I see it in its dazzling strength at noontide and behind the dazzling strength of the noontide sun I behold the working of the spiritual Beings of the Second Hierarchy in the substance of the sun. Before my Initiation the substance of the sun vanished from me at the moment of its setting. The shining radiance of the sun vanished in the purples of sunset. Before my Initiation I went through the dark path of night, and in the morning, when the dawn came, I remembered this darkness. Out of the dawn the sun shone forth again and took its course onward towards the dazzling brightness of noon. But now, having attained to Initiation, when I experience the dawn and behold the sun as it passes from dawn on through its daily course, a memory of my life during the night-time awakens within me. I know what I have experienced in this night life, I remember clearly how I beheld a blue, glimmering light arise from the evening twilight and gradually spread, travelling from west to east. And I remember how I beheld the sun at the midnight hour, at the opposite point in the firmament to where it had stood in its noontide, dazzling strength; I saw it gleaming there behind the earth, full of deep and solemn meaning. I beheld the Midnight Sun!”

Such has actually been the monologue of Initiates in their meditation, and it faithfully expresses their experience. The Initiate is conscious of these things. And when we read Jacob Boehme's book entitled Aurora then we cannot help being deeply moved by the realisation that the words which are written in this book are echoes of a wonderful teaching of the ancient Mysteries.

What is the “Dawn” to Initiates? It is an instigation to cosmic remembrance, to remembrance of the vision of the Midnight Sun behind the earth. With our ordinary sight we see the radiant yellow-white disc of the sun at noon, but with the vision of Initiation we see the bluish-violet sun at the opposite point of the heavens. The earth appears as a transparent body, with the sun gleaming on the other side of it with a bluish-red light. But this bluish-red sheen is not what it seems. I must utter the paradox: — it is not what it seems. When we are gazing at the Midnight Sun it seems at first that we are looking at something hazy in the distance. And when we learn with the help of Initiation more and more clearly to see what at first appears as a blur in the distance, then the bluish-red light will begin to take shape and form; it will spread itself over the whole of the sky but still on the other side of the earth and covered by the earth. It becomes peopled. And just as when we go out of our house on a starlit night and look up at the majestic spectacle of the starry heavens with its sparkling points of light, perhaps with the moon in the centre, so to the gaze of Initiation a whole world becomes visible on the farther side of the earth which is now transparent. It is a world that emerges, as it were, out of the clouds, becoming a world of living forms. It is the world of the Second Hierarchy, of the Exusiai, Kyriotetes, Dynamis. There they appear, these Beings of the Second Hierarchy. And as we watch more and more closely, if we can attain the stillness of soul that is required, then something else happens. All this reveals itself after preparation and meditation and only becomes a conscious experience at dawn, as an after-memory, when it is immediately present with us, when we know we have actually beheld it during the night. What appears on yonder side of the earth is in reality the weaving world of the Beings of the Second Hierarchy. And from out of this weaving, living world of the Second Hierarchy there now radiates a world of other Beings — raying to us through the earth. It is a truly wonderful world of Beings that works thus through the earth at night, hovering there in the firmament, now approaching man, now drawing away, now approaching him again. We see how the line of the weaving Beings of the Second Hierarchy ever and again fades out, while another Hierarchy approaches man, now hovering towards him and now drawing away from him again. And by-and-by we learn to know what all this really means.

We have been conscious the whole day long and now we lie down in sleep. This means that the physical and etheric bodies are left to themselves, working in sleep as a plant and mineral world. But by day we have thoughts; all day long, ideas have been passing through our being. They have left their traces in our physical and etheric bodies. We should not be able to remember the experiences of our earthly existence at all if these traces which we subsequently use in our memories did not remain. There they remain, these traces, in what is left of man as he lies asleep at night — in that part of his being which he has left behind. A mysterious process takes place there, above all in the etheric body. All that man has thought during his waking life from morning till evening begins to move and ring on waves of sound. If you think of a certain region of the earth where men are sleeping, and think of all that weaves and works in the etheric bodies as an echo of all that these sleeping men have been thinking during the hours of their waking life, this will give you a picture of what has happened through the hours of the day.

And those Beings who hover over us, rising and descending, busy themselves through our hours of sleep with the traces that have remained in our etheric bodies. This becomes their field of action. It is an immediate experience in them and absorbs their attention. When this is revealed to us, we say with a sense of deep reverence: “Thou, 0 Man, hast left thy body. And as it lies there it bears within it the traces of the day's experiences. It is the field where live the fruits of thy thoughts and ideas during the day. The Beings of the Third Hierarchy, the Angels, Archangels and Archai, now enter this field. While thou hast left thy physical and etheric bodies, these Beings experience what thou hast thyself experienced from the thoughts and ideas of thy waking hours.” — Deep reverence fills us at the sight of some region of the earth where human bodies are left in sleep and whither the Angels, Archangels and Archai wend their way to all that unfolds as an echo of the life of day. And we here behold a wonderful life, born of all that is unfolded between the Beings of the Third Hierarchy and the traces of the thoughts we have left behind.

As we gaze at this field, we become aware how, as human beings, we have our place within the spiritual cosmos, and how, when we wake, we create work for the Angels during our hours of sleep. It is so indeed: during our waking hours we create work for the Angels during the time of sleep. And now we learn to understand something about our world of thought. We realise that the thoughts which pass through our heads contain the fruits of what we lay into our own physical and etheric bodies — fruits which Angels gather at night. For Angels gather these fruits and bear them out into the cosmos in order that they may find there their place in the cosmic Order.

One thing more we see as we behold these Beings of the Third Hierarchy — Angels, Archangels and Archai — coming forth from the Beings of the Second Hierarchy and their activity. We behold how behind this weaving, again Beings of sublime majesty and grandeur take part in the activity of the Second Hierarchy. We gaze at the Second Hierarchy, and we see how into this weaving life of the Second Hierarchy something else works from behind; and we soon become aware how this not only strikes, lightning-like, into the weaving and working of the Second Hierarchy, but striking right to the other side of the earth, it has to do, not with the part of man that is left on the earth, but with that other part of his being that has gone out, namely, the ego-organisation and astral body. And as we gaze at what has been left behind and behold it as a field where the fruits of thoughts throughout the day are being gathered by the Angels, Archangels and Archai for the purposes of cosmic activity, so too we see how the Beings of the Second Hierarchy, the Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes, uniting their activity with that of the First Hierarchy — the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones — concern themselves with the astral body and ego. And in his morning memory the Initiate says to himself: “I have lived from the time of falling asleep till the time of waking in my ego and astral body. I have felt myself enwrapped in all that the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones are unfolding, together with the Kyriotetes, Dynamis and Exusiai. Living in this world I gazed down at my physical body and my etheric body and hovering above them I perceived the Angels, Archangels and Archai, gathering the fruits of my thoughts. I felt myself one with the Beings of the First and Second Hierarchies, and I beheld the weaving and working of the Third Hierarchy in mighty spirit-clouds over my body.”

And so, my dear friends, in this way you can get a clear picture of how the Beings of the three Hierarchies appear to the imaginative vision of Initiation, how they appear there on the opposite side of the earth in the picture of the physical world, but only when this physical world is plunged in darkness.

Knowledge and vision of these sublime truths penetrated more and more deeply into the hearts and souls of those who in days long since gone by, partook in the ancient mysteries of Initiation.

And once again this knowledge can find its way into the hearts and souls of those who are led to the modern science of Initiation.

Let us picture this majestic imagination which arises before the soul. We can picture the human soul liberated from the body, free from its physical and etheric bodies, weaving in the streaming forces of the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones, the Kyriotetes, Dynamis, Exusiai.

In the ancient Mystery rite this was wont to be presented to the uninitiated in plastic form and in colour. The purpose was to present in plastic form what the Initiate was able to see in such sublime grandeur on the other side of the earth. And, in order to show that this world is also the world where karma is elaborated in communion with the highest Beings, in front of the plastic form stood the highest Initiates, those who during earthly existence itself could already behold with that vision which otherwise comes to man only between death and a new birth. The highest Initiates stood in front of the plastic form and still another form was set up, with human figures all around it. There stood the lesser Initiates whose work upon their physical and etheric bodies was not yet complete. The spectacle thus placed before the eyes of men was a copy of what the Initiates beheld in the Mysteries. Such was the origin of the altar, where the ritual was enacted by the higher and lower grades of the priesthood as a copy of what is revealed in Initiation-Science.

In Roman Catholic Churches to-day, as you look from the nave towards the altar, you have a faint copy of what was once inaugurated by Initiation-Science. And you begin to understand the origin of the cult. A ritual is not invented, for if it is invented it is not a true ritual. True ritual is brought into existence as a copy of happenings in the spiritual world.

If I may give an example, let me speak of one part of that great and all-embracing cult which has found its place in the Christian Community, and with which the majority of you are already familiar. Let me remind you of the ritual for the burial of the dead, as it is given in our Christian Community.

Watch the order of this ritual. There rests the coffin, containing the mortal remains of the dead. And before the coffin a ritual is enacted. Prayer is uttered by the priest. Other things could be introduced to make the ceremony more complicated, but the help it can be to humanity can also be clothed in simplicity. What is this ceremony? Let us suppose, my dear friends, that here we have a mirror and here again some object. You see the reflection of the object in the mirror. You have the two things — the original and the reflection. Similarly, when a ritual for the dead is enacted, there are the two things. The ritual enacted by the priest before the coffin is a reflection. It is a reflection, and it would be no reality if it were not a reflection. What does it reflect? The acts of the priest as he stands before the dead body have their prototype in the super-sensible world. For while we celebrate the earthly rite before the physical body, and the etheric body is still present, on the other side the heavenly ritual is enacted by the Beings beyond the threshold of earthly existence. Over yonder, the soul and spirit are received by what we may call a ritual of welcome, just as here on earth we assemble before the dead for a ritual of farewell. A cult or ceremony is only true when it has its origin in reality.

Thus you see how the super-sensible life works into earthly life and permeates it. If we celebrate a true ritual for the dead, a super-sensible ritual is enacted simultaneously. The two work together. And if there is sanctity, truth and dignity in the prayers for the dead, then the prayers of the Beings of the Hierarchies in the super-sensible world echo in the prayers for the dead and weave in them. The spiritual world and the physical unite.

Thus in all things there is accordance between the spiritual world and the physical world. The spiritual and the physical world interplay in the very truest way when there comes into being on earth a copy of what is woven as karma in the super-sensible world between death and a new birth together with the Beings of the higher Hierarchies.