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The Riddles of the World and Anthroposophy
GA 54

XII. Reincarnation and Karma

15 February 1905, Berlin

There are riddles of the world in which somebody takes an interest who wants to deeper penetrate into the structure and texture of our existence. Such riddles of the world are, for example, these: where from do materials and forces come, where from does life come into the world? Where from the purposiveness of nature, where from consciousness? How have we to assess the question of the origin of language, how the question of the riddle of the free will? These questions force themselves to somebody who wants to deeper penetrate into the understanding of existence indeed, questions which are not far from an advanced, educated intelligence. But before these questions there are more obvious, big human questions which have no theoretical, no scientific value at first, but which force themselves, which allow us to look up from the works and efforts of life at that which we want to call the imperishable compared to the transient. These questions are connected with that which meets us wherever we go, with that which must face us everywhere in the world as a riddle. These are questions on whose reply not only the satisfaction of our theoretical or scientific interest depends, but it also depends on them whether we have strength, courage and assurance in life, whether we have hope for a prosperous future of the human race and the single human being.

Such vital matters face us if we turn our look at the immediate existence of the human being, if we see how one is equipped at his birth with a low ability and strength and is inclined by these dispositions and talents. With it, we can foresee how he is condemned to a wretched, miserable existence that he has to carry on between birth and death. He may be born into a family so that he seems to be condemned to misery already without any guilt due to the circumstances and facts. The other is born into a family which makes sure from the start that he has a happy existence full of joy; he has talents and abilities so that we can say, he accomplishes something great and significant in his life. All that and other things embrace the big and immediate riddles, if we consider life, as it faces us, impartially. The great worldviews and their preachers always tried hard to solve these riddles of existence. However, in every new time the riddles of existence need a new solution. Not as if the old truth is no longer true, it does not concern this, but the fact that thinking and feeling of the human beings change, that the feeling of the soul changes more than one assumes usually, that one does not put other questions, but that one puts the old questions differently. The theosophical or spiritual-scientific approach to life, spreading out for thirty years in educated cultures, tries to solve the riddles of existence in such a way that the modern human being can be satisfied with such a solution.

There are two spiritual-scientific concepts that should form the object of our issue today and give answer to the raised questions: the idea of reincarnation or of the repeated earth lives, and the idea of karma or the big principle of existence. The spiritual-scientific worldview wants to answer the riddles of existence with these both ideas as the physical researcher answers his questions from knowledge, not from mere belief. What the spiritual-scientific worldview wants to give has the same character as what the remaining research wants to offer. The only difference may be that for the understanding of the scientific truth preconditions are necessary. A certain scientific basis also belongs almost to the complete popular scientific representation. However, the theosophical or spiritual-scientific worldview is understandable for every human being. It satisfies every human being, from the simple, naive mind which is only able to follow the questions and answers with sensation and feeling up to the most sophisticated sage who approaches these matters with the biggest doubt at first and who—if he only has the patience and perseverance to come to grips with these matters—finds his satisfaction. They all find not only satisfaction, not only that releasing feeling which approaches us in the soul if we have longed a long time for getting an answer to any question—who knows this feeling knows something about the intimate happiness of the soul—, but also concerning the vital matter it gives something quite different. There does not come into consideration what satisfies our thirst for knowledge, but something that gives us the assurance of life, something that should not give an answer only for single but for all soul forces.

Because we deal with so important and basic questions today, let me say first, in which sense the spiritual-scientific answers are to be understood based on life. One often counters the spiritual scientist, out of an entire misunderstanding: bring forward proof of that which you state there if we should believe you what you say about higher, spiritual worlds and about matters that are inaccessible to the usual senses of experience at first.—The spiritual scientist can appropriately answer only: nobody needs to believe me, from nobody I ask more than trust in my assertions, because there cannot be such proofs of the spiritual-scientific truth as one normally demands them. Who demands them does not understand the character and the sense of the spiritual-scientific truth.

Life delivers the proofs of the spiritual-scientific truth and life delivers them if not only we look with the senses here within that which our own eyes, ears, and our sense of touch teach us, but life in its entirety up to the highest spiritual parts of life. If anybody comes and says: I do not believe what you tell there, because this may be anything that you have devised, this may be fantasies—, and one can answer: well, believe it, believe that the spiritual scientists are the biggest swindlers of the world. However, something else is between belief and disbelief. This is an impartial listening.—Take a drastic proof. Take a map of Asia Minor. A man says, this is no map of Asia Minor, you have thought up this.—One can only answer to him: well, never mind, but remember what I have shown to you on this map, take note of it, and memorise it. If you come to Asia Minor once, you see that it is right.—The same applies to the spiritual-scientific teachings. No one needs to believe them. If only we want to observe carefully and impartially, there are enough proofs of it in life, also for that life when we have passed the gate of death, when we are on the other side.

One has to answer the old questions in a new way. Still in the 17th century, it was not only a superstition of the big mass, but also a common conviction of all learnt people who believed to understand something of natural sciences that not only quite low animals, but also even earthworms can grow out of ordinary river mud. One thought this generally. One did not have the conviction that an earthworm must come from an earthworm, but one believed that it originated from mud. The Italian scientist Redi (Francesco R., 1626-1697) put up the sentence: life comes only from life. Never comes life from lifelessness. The earthworm originates not from the mud, but by a reproduction of an earthworm.—So young is this conviction! Thus, the human race advances concerning truth. Everybody would be regarded as a fool today who believed that earthworms could grow out of mud. What Redi expressed at that time—who escaped the destiny of Giordano Bruno by the skin of his teeth—, applies to the spiritual-scientific worldview today. As well as it was contrary to the ways of thinking at that time to admit that life must come from life, the teaching of reincarnation is contrary to the present ways of thinking.

Some run literally wild by the spiritual-scientific truth as in those days the human beings ran wild if anybody stated that the earthworms do not grow out of mud. In the same sense, like that which I have stated now the spiritual-scientific worldview says, spirit and soul come only from spirit and soul. If folly does not win over reason, there is no doubt that in two centuries exactly just as the scientific truth, the spiritual-scientific worldview will have seized all circles.

What does it mean that spirit and soul come only from spirit and soul? Spirit and soul face us if we consider the destiny of the human being how it depends on external facts, on dispositions and abilities, on the overall character. Only someone who is not able to observe the fine, intimate peculiarities of a human soul in its becoming, who only has a sense of the coarse physical can deny that we see something growing up in the child that can be explained just as little from a non-mental, a non-spiritual as the earthworm from mud. Schiller's nose, Schiller's red hair and some other of his physiognomy are indeed explicable by bodily inheritance, exactly as the carbon particles and the oxygen particles in the earthworm come from other carbon particles and oxygen particles of the surroundings.

The lifeless parts of the earthworm come from the lifeless parts of the surrounding nature and the physical parts of our body come from the physical surroundings. However, we can explain Schiller's abilities and talents from the surroundings just as little as the earthworms from the mud. Nevertheless, it does not depend on Schiller. He is given only as a radical example. It applies to every human being, also to the simplest, that he develops gradually from the type. It is impossible to derive the individual from the physical inheritance. One can see that easily. Try to understand once how Goethe's saying applies here,: “Nature, mysterious in day's clear light, lets none remove her veil, and what she won't discover to your understanding you can't extort it with levers and with screws” (Faust I). This is nothing for pliers and microscope. Have a look at the child how it faces you in the first months and years. On its face expresses itself what it has from father, mother, and ancestors. The general-human expresses itself, the type, the character of the clan, of the family. We often say, the mild trait of the child comes from the father, from the mother, from uncle or aunt.

However, when we see the child growing up, a strange change takes place that is visible to a subtler sense. What we can perceive as the confluence of father, mother, grandmother et cetera like an imprint changes and takes shape from its inner being. What lives in the core one cannot derive from father and mother expresses itself gradually in the traits. The more something individual is in the soul that is above the type, the more the soul creates in the body from inside and transforms it. How could one explain the face of a great thinker, of a great world benefactor by inheritance who works from his inside and enriches the world with anything new? From the face, you can see how the human being outgrows the mere type. In every human being, just a spiritual essence reveals itself, which is not born out of physical inheritance, but is born into it. If you cannot lead back this spiritual core to father and mother, to the ancestors, we must be able to lead it back to something spiritual. Soul and spirit come from the soul and spirit. There is only the idea of development, the idea of repeated incarnations. The being that impresses its traits to the child already existed, was already repeatedly in a body. There you find an explanation of soul and spirit just as you find an explanation of the earthworm if you say, the earthworm has originated from an earthworm and not from mud or sand. Once there was something imperfect, however, we cannot go into it in this talk.

How does spiritual science explain the perfect and the imperfect in the mental-spiritual realm? As well as the small plasmodium originated, according to Haeckel from simple living conditions, and as the following animal formed bit by bit by the development of the external physical figure, we can say about a perfect soul that it gradually formed from an imperfect soul which became more perfect bit by bit. The imperfect savage with his childish soul has preserved that figure of our soul through which we had to go to raise ourselves to the spiritual figure of our soul. On the other hand, compare the soul of an average European with the soul of a human being as Darwin still met one. The soul of a modern human being has concepts of good and bad, of right and wrong, of false and true.

Darwin wanted once to make clear to a savage who was still a cannibal: you are not allowed to eat a human being, because it is bad.—The savage looked at him peculiarly and said, why? Where from can you know this without having eaten him? If we have eaten him, we know whether he was good or bad.—Thus, you have an imperfect soul that develops more and more completely. Our soul comes into the world not as a baby, but this soul has developed in imperfect incarnations first where it had understood nothing of good and bad but the pleasant and the disagreeable to the palate and the like. It developed through such stages and advanced to our level through many incarnations. We carry our soul in ourselves with the abilities and forces, which we have, with the destiny, which it experiences. We see more precisely if we come again in another incarnation on earth; we appear more perfect on earth, until that stage is attained on which we are able to ascend to a higher and more divine existence of which we do not need to speak today. There are indeed still other explanations of existence than the teaching of reincarnation, but this can solely solve the riddles of human existence.

A core of existence faces us in that human being about whom we say that he goes through many lives, through repeated lives. The materialistically minded says to us that mind and soul are only attachments to the body, developed only from the body; the thoughts and language are only higher forms of that which we meet also in the physical-animal realm. The materialist brings us to mind that our most elated moral ideals, our holiest religious feelings are nothing but the results of our physical organization. On the contrary, the spiritual-scientific worldview shows us that everything that rests in our souls is our everlasting essence, which formed its body step-by-step. The physical-bodily comes from the spiritual-mental: this is the teaching of the spiritual-scientific worldview, which becomes clearer and clearer, the more you immerse yourselves in it. It is a teaching that is not based on blind faith, although—if one wants to show it popularly in one short hour—one can outline it only briefly and cannot introduce in it extensively. However, it is a teaching that is founded as certainly and firmly like any scientific teaching. It works with the same methods, only in the spiritual realm, as the sensuous science in the physical realm.

Spiritual science speaks of the fact that the human being consists of a higher and a lower nature, and that his lower nature—when he walks through the gate of death—is given back to those elements, which it belonged to. The body is handed over to the earth; other parts are handed over to other elements. However, an everlasting essence is in the human being that always takes on a new human figure and form like the lily as a species always takes on new forms, while it goes repeatedly through the grain to come to a new life.

This teaching of reincarnation of the being, which shows us the development in the spiritual realm as the higher counter-image of the development in the sensory realm, leads us to see those finer, more intimate things in the human being. We speak of the fact that this essence of the human being contains a triple basic being, that it is of triple nature. We speak of the fact that something exists in the deepest inside of the human beings that is quite undeveloped with the normally educated people, exists only embryonic. We call this innermost essence of the human being atman or spirit man. With the most human beings, it is not even visible by vision.

The second member of this spiritual essence of the human being is the buddhi. In English, we would call it life spirit. This second element in the human soul is something that is expressed with the most developed human beings, with the leaders of humanity in a certain way. We can describe this life spirit in a certain way. This buddhi of the highest glory and sublimity inhabited the old religious founders, Hermes, Buddha, Zarathustra and—in the extreme—Christ Jesus. If I make clear what this buddhi signifies in the spiritual realm, I can do it only by a symbol. One must behold the spiritual either, or one has to sum up the everlasting in a symbol, like Goethe does who says: “All that is transitory, is only a symbol.” I would like to give such a symbol of buddhi. If you imagine the usual productive strength in the usual sensuous life, combined with love, but not with receptive love, but with devoted love: this is buddhi. There is in nature no other symbol than the hen, which sits on the egg, conjuring up a new life with its own warmth, sacrificing its own existence in love for the new life. Now imagine this transferred to the spiritual, imagine an individuality who produces the big, propelling forces, the spiritual impulse in the human nature for the further development in such a way as I have just described, then you have it.

The element of Christian feeling and sensation had been a basic strength since two millennia. It flowed as blessing through the Western hearts and fulfilled them with bliss. Did Christ not generate it and did it not exist in Christ? Was it not brought into this world with the highest glory, showing that spiritually, which lives in the sensuous, the devoted love which creates—which does not create a human being, but spiritual love which brings forth the universal wisdom, for centuries? Imagine this element in the human nature, and then we have what we call Christ in the Christian mysticism, Chrestós in the Greek mysticism, buddhi in the Eastern mysticism, the life spirit in its highest potentiality. Everybody who feels something of that which it means to produce spiritually what is incorporated as a force in the human development, everybody who feels something of it has a feeling of spiritual, bright clearness like that which expresses itself here below by a symbol, the true blissful sensation with which the chicken sits on the egg. This is buddhi. It exists in every single human being to a certain extent, at least as disposition.

The third soul force is that by which we understand the world. It would be brainless in the highest degree to believe that one could get water out of a vessel if no water is in it. However, such brainless people are those who say that they can get the wisdom of the world if it is not there. The astronomer tries to calculate and to understand the wisdom in the universe. The world is to be understood only by wisdom. Would it not be the biggest folly to want to take wisdom from the universe unless wisdom were in it? If not wisdom were given, we could never get wisdom there. The universe is created by the same wisdom by which we want to understand it. This is the third element that flows through the whole world. This is the manas. In English, it is translated best of all saying: wisdom is born out of the world, our spirit self is this third element. If you take these three things: atman, buddhi, manas, and then you have the deepest essence of the human being. Then you have what walks from incarnation to incarnation what is imperfectly formed with the savage where this triad also exists on a low level, up to where we see it with the modern human being, up to the great leader of humanity. The human being walks from incarnation to incarnation, from the cultured man up to the spiritually not only ideal, but also holy leader of humanity, up to Francis of Assisi, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) or others. The student can completely get to know the passage through the repeated earth-lives by the way the human beings stand side by side in this development.

What I have stated expresses itself in the whole human being to somebody who sees more intimately. I have said, this essence of the human being exists only as disposition with the normally educated person. It becomes perfect. However, what we form from our essence today formed and created us from the outset. Thus, we see this tripartite being, this essence working in the human being unconsciously at first and then consciously. Just now I have only mentioned an example how the inner being expresses itself in the physiognomy of the thinker. Not only in the steady physiognomy, but also in the gesture and in the mobility of the traits the essence expresses itself. They are accordingly formed bit by bit, depending on the essence growing out with the child. Spiritual research, occultism gives you the coherence of this tripartite being of the human being and that, which is expressed externally in his body, in his instrument. The so-called occultist says, with the man the spirit self-expresses itself in the traits at first. Buddhi develops in his organ of speech, lives in his voice, preparing future levels. The third force, atman, lives in man's gesture, in the movement of his hands. I said, in the organ of speech and in the voice the second member, buddhi, or Christ, lives as you have seen just now. The Christian mysticism expressed this the deepest in John's Gospel where you read: “In the beginning the Word already was. The Word was in God's presence, and what God was, the Word was.” John directly calls the speech Christ. In the female nature, it is somewhat different. Of course, I would like to say nothing against the absolute gender equality practiced in theosophy. Atman, buddhi, manas are the same with the man and with the woman. They have nothing to do with the gender, however, with the external figure. With the woman manas comes into its own in the speech, buddhi in the gesture of the hands, and atman appears in the whole body. These are the so-called occult differences between the male and the female figures, not between the essence of man and woman.

What is now this idea of reincarnation compared with the principle of karma? Karma comes from or is connected at least with the Sanskrit word karnoti that means acting, doing, and working. It is exactly the same stem like in Latin “creare,” create. Creare, do and create is the same. Karma and creating is the same, expressed only in two different languages. Now we want to realise what one calls karma. Karma is called, in English expressed, activity, becoming, and action. With a simple example, let me make clear what one calls karma. Imagine, you work on anything from morning to night. Then you go to bed, sleep the whole night through, and get up in the morning again. If now you say to yourself, what I have worked yesterday does not concern me, I start afresh today, and then you are brainless, are you not? Nevertheless, the only possibility is that you take up in the morning again, what you have left in the evening, saying to yourself, this is my work and where I have stopped yesterday, I must resume today. What does that mean? That only means that my destiny of today is determined by my work of yesterday. Yesterday I have created my destiny of today. With it the whole concept of karma is given. Every being makes his future destiny.

Take another example. Once animals walked into dark caves. Something peculiar occurs to these animals. They lose their sight. The food juices move to other parts of the body that they need them more than the eyesight. The result is that the faculty of seeing withdraws, the animals become blind. What do we have before ourselves if we see these animals producing blind generations repeatedly? There we must say, in the blindness of the animals we have the effect of the fact that the animals have moved into dark caves. By which have these animals created their present figure? By their preceding action. Nothing else is karma, as if one prepares his future destiny by his work in the past. Cause and effect are always connected. If the human being goes through a life on earth between birth and death, he commits a number of actions. He goes in the interim through death and new birth and enters a new life then. It is as well as if we wake up and take up again what we have left in the evening. What we have sowed in the past life on earth, we harvest this as a fruit in the new life on earth. If we he have made a bad, disgusting destiny in the past life, the effect of our own actions faces us in the new earth-life.

If we have caused anything bad to a person, he appears to us in the new life again and causes something bad to us as compensation. If a person faces me and commits anything bad to me, I can suppose that I had already been together with him in a previous earth-life and caused that which he now does. Thus, the destiny of the single human being becomes more transparent and explicable with the help of the big principle of karma, and the biggest riddle of life, which meets us at every turn, receives light and solution. Now I get an explanation why one is born in the deepest need and misery and why such a disgusting destiny affects him apparently undeservedly. It is the same as if someone has not done his work properly. He is condemned by the bad preparation of yesterday to do bad work again today. Thus, the same applies if I say that anybody who lives in need and misery now himself caused it in a previous life. I also know that nothing remains without effect. That has its effect in the coming life, which I do well or wrongly. The effect in the world is connected with the cause, the observation of the stars and the sun teaches that. The same applies also to the astral and spiritual worlds. What we do now is compensated in a later life. The biblical saying is right: “God is not to be fooled, everyone reaps what he sowed” (Galatians 6:7).—

Paul as an initiate knew why he especially pronounced such words. This is the big world principle that leads the human destiny. Now I know very well that it is also necessary to get an idea how this principle works, and about which I would still like to say some words. Who has heard some of my talks, already knows what I want to indicate herewith. If we look at the human being with spiritual sense, he does not face us as this physical body, but we know that this physical body is only one part of the big being, that behind him something is that Paul calls the spiritual body and that the spiritual scientist calls the etheric body. The etheric body is like a portrayal of the physical body, or better vice versa, the physical body is a portrayal of the etheric body. This is the second member of the human being, the etheric body. The third member is the astral body, that which the human being bears in himself as joy and sorrow, instincts, desires, passions, everything that faces us if a human being faces us that we do not see or perceive, however, with sensuous-physical means. What do we see if a human being stands in front of us? We see the skin, its colour and so on.

The anatomist can look with physical means still at bones, at muscles, nerves et cetera, but the desire and pain, instincts, and passions that are also in the same room are not sense-perceptible. One calls this the astral body and in it only the spiritual being of the human being exists which we call our ego, the bearer of our self-consciousness. While we have this, we become on our part again the bearers of atman, buddhi, manas, of that which I have described as spirit self, life spirit, and spirit man.

The animal already has the astral body. It has desire, joy, and pain. What exists, however, in the highest configuration with the leaders of humanity and exists as disposition with all human beings is the everlasting essence of the human being who advances from incarnation to incarnation. If now the human being dies, what remains there and what passes? The physical body, what one sees with eyes and can feel with hands is handed over to the earth. The etheric body is merged in the general life ether, namely not long after we have gone through death. The third member is the astral body on which the human being has already worked. Take such a soul that lives in the civilised human being, there you have the inner essence and the sum of his desires and passions. With the savage, on the first stage of incarnation, atman, buddhi, manas have worked a little on the instincts. Hence, they are still animal. What does the spiritual essence do? It works perpetually, while it improves the animal passions. The civilised human being differs from the savage because his astral body is no longer animal. Then the human being dies and goes to the astral and spiritual worlds.

One sees there what was still in him as desire from the first-time incarnation. If the human being enters incarnation for the first time, the animal passions are not purified. He eats his fellow men et cetera. Then the results appear. He starts roughly understanding something. We suppose the radical case that he says to himself if I can eat the other, he also can eat me. He understands that he can be also eaten up. The consequence becomes clear to him at the last minute, and there the first moral consciousness dawns on him. Then he purifies his desire by the judgement that he has formed, and this judgment comes from his spiritual essence. His judgment appears with the second incarnation as disposition. He has become somewhat nobler. He is now purifying his passions and desires more and more. He enhances them from incarnation to incarnation. That really happens if the human being dies. The physical body is delivered to the earth; the etheric body is merged in the life ether. What happens now with the human being, what takes place now?

Not only the ability to look clairvoyantly at the world but already the intellect could teach somebody who thinks deeper what must happen. The human being is disembodied, he has no physical body. What has he done, however, throughout his whole life? He has the conveniences of food by the sense of taste throughout the whole life.

This convenience of food, the taste of the dishes, the palatal pleasure is mental. The palate itself is physical. If the human being did not have the physical, he could not get the mental pleasure. If he had no physical ear, he could not hear, had he no physical eye, he could not see. We perceive everything that we perceive with the physical senses at first. The modern human being can perceive nothing without his physical senses. He is used to them. He is used to satisfying such wishes that can be satisfied by the sense organs. The habit to have wishes, to have pleasures, remains, the means by which he can satisfy them disappear; tongue, eyes and ears disappear. He does no longer have them. Now he misses them after death. He is still thirsting for the pleasure, which can only be satisfied by the sense organ. The result is that the human being comes to a state of consciousness after death, which consists in breaking the habit of being satisfied only by the sense organs. The soul must stop asking for sensuous satisfaction, has to purify itself beyond that which satisfied it on earth and can be satisfied only by sensuous, physical means. That is kamaloka in the theosophical worldview. We know it as the purgatory. One can compare that not improperly, which the human being experiences there, to a feeling of burning thirst, to a kind of burning privation. This is the state after death. The suitable means is not there sensuous-physical after death; the organ is not there by which the thirsting soul can be satisfied. If a soul has finished this connection with the physical in the course of years in the kamaloka, it lives in the spiritual world, to which it belongs as soul. It takes that along into the spiritual world. The spiritual-scientific worldview calls this spiritual world devachan or spirit land. What does the soul take along?

The purified desires and passions are now spiritualised. If the human being was incarnated on earth, he takes what he has gained to the devachan and processes it there for a new earth-life. A strength of life has to emerge from his experience. It is not enough that the human being experiences anything. Consider the difference between the experience and strength of life exactly. If an undeveloped soul finds out by consequence that it is impossible to eat his fellow man without putting himself in danger and damaging himself, if this faces the soul as experience, then it is this experience that must be transformed into strength, so that an inner voice exists: you are not allowed to eat a human being.

This becomes will, the voice of conscience, which becomes more and more perfect, the more embodiments we have experienced. Experience changes into will, in the voice of conscience in the course of our incarnations. You know now what the human being does in the devachan. In the kamaloka, he purifies himself, in the devachan; he transforms the experiences, which he had, to strength for the next earth-life to appear as a powerful, inner, individual nature. Hence, you can perceive it if an undeveloped soul appears in the savage; you can perceive this in his gestures and traits, in the movements of his hands as something typical. The more incarnations we have lived through, the more our individual comes out. What is elaborated? The experiences of his former incarnations which become his character.

You can raise another question: why does the human being not remember his former incarnations?—This question has little sense if it is put in such a way. You immediately realise this. It is in such a way, as if anybody comes and says: the human beings are called human beings, and a four-year-old child stands before us which is innumerate—, and now he says: this child is innumerate, however, it is a human being, so the human beings are innumerate.—However, this is a question of development. Every human being arrives at that level once where some advanced persons have already arrived who can remember their former earth-lives. If he cannot remember, it is because he must acquire this ability to himself first, as the child acquires the ability of reading, calculating, and writing. The human being is not allowed to let destiny pass himself in dullness if he wants to achieve the point of view by these experiences to remember his former earth-lives. How does this recollection of the former earth-lives appear?

This life is bound to the fact that the human being has developed as much as possible of his inner spiritual essence. The more free and independent from sensuousness the human being has become in this life, the more he lives in the soul, the less he is dependent on the pleasures provided by the senses, the more he approaches the state where he recognises himself in the former states. However, how should such a human being remember former earth-lives? Examine only once what normally fulfils a usual human being. Only that which the sensuous view offers! Of course, this disappears, because a recollection of former earth-lives is not possible. Not before the human being leads a life in his divine self, he remembers in the same extent what he has experienced in his former incarnations, and those who become engrossed in the spiritual life are certainly reincarnated with a recollection of the spiritual life.

Another objection is normally done against the teaching of karma. One says, well, it is the old principle of fate. Now one says, the human being has prepared everything for himself in his former earth-life. Destiny and character are thereby determined irreversibly. There is no longer freedom nor free will. There we are subject to fate.—If anybody said so, this would be as clever, as if anybody wanted to say: here I have a cashbook. On the left, I have all debits, on the right all credits. If I add both sides, a certain number results. If I subtract both figures, the profit or the loss arises as a result. If I add this on one side again, we have a balance.—Indeed, this is also with a life balance. The good actions are on one side, the bad and foolish actions on the other. There is also a life account with the life balance as there are accounts and balances in the accounting. Imagine now a businessman who said, my annual accounts are done, I am no longer allowed to register anything, I am no longer allowed to bargain, because everything that I am still allowed to do is predetermined by the previous registrations.

The same would be if the human being said, I am no longer allowed to commit new actions. The registrations and the balancing do not forbid him this. Just as little as the accountancy forbids the businessman to do new deals, just as little the karma forbids him good or bad actions. At every moment, we can register new posts; at every moment, we can increase the debit side and the credit side. Some people also say, if I help anyone who is in need and misery, I intervene in his karma. However, I am not allowed to do this.—This is not true. You can help the person to register new and good posts in his karma and to transform his life account to a favourable one. What you register as laziness, neglect, and fatalism is not connected so positively with the principle of karma. However, something else is connected with it.

If you see a chemist going to his laboratory, he will maybe go in with the idea: if I bring together sulphur, oxygen, and hydrogen in a certain way, sulfuric acid originates according to an irrevocable principle. Nothing is to be argued against this principle. However, the chemist can also omit to carry out the mixture, he can do it or not. The principle does not impair his free will at all. Nevertheless, the principle gives him the certainty that that really happens which shall happen. You cannot get carbonic acid one time and sulfuric acid the other time from the same mixture. The principle allows us to build on a certain effect. That also applies to karma. The principle of karma can keep us from no action, but there is the certainty that a right and fair balance must take place in life that every good action must have its good effect and every clever action its corresponding effect. The fact that everything happens according to a spiritual principle gives us the certainty. It shows us that nothing is accidental that we do but that everything we do is done in such a way that we can build on a right world connection.

Thus, this principle of karma is not only a scientific principle, not something that satisfies the theoretical interest only, but something that contains the solution of the riddle of life, the riddle of the world. It gives strength and certainty in life, it works in such a way that we know that everything in this life is connected according to a principle that is recognised more and more that we interpret unconsciously at first and then more and more consciously. Not only is the urge for knowledge satisfied with the spiritual-scientific worldview. Something else is given, namely strength, courage, and certainty. Not only one tells something of our determination to us, but at the same time we get the possibility to live according to our determination, to live in such a way that we advance to a more and more perfect existence. The solution of the riddle of life is not dogmatic and doctrinal, but full of life and mind-impregnated because of the facts of the principles of karma and reincarnation.

All those who looked deeper in nature, in the nature of the spiritual life found more or less this principle of karma and reincarnation. Giordano Bruno was a supporter of the principle, and when from a dullness a new intellectual culture emerged, Lessing (Gotthold Ephraim L., 1729-1781, writer, philosopher, dramaturg) concluded his wisdom in the teaching of reincarnation. I know that many people do not want to criticise Lessing. However, if one likes to praise him, they will not go along. It is strange towards a great man that one only accepts from him what suits one. This also applies to Giordano Bruno and Goethe with whom one regards these ideas as senility or the like. We see that also our German theosophy is deeply penetrated by this view. Only today, only since some decades it is possible again to inform in public about this view. For the centuries of the new development, this was not possible because the human culture had another task as I have already explained.

The teachings of karma and reincarnation appeared in the dawn, and also these great spirits were only able to announce them figuratively, symbolically, they understood them full of life. Where life could become explicable to them in its deepest depths, they often pointed with big life humour to this truth, to this everlasting principle of reincarnation that determines what we now experience between birth and death. Goethe pointed to it when he wanted to explain his deep soul friendship to Mrs. von Stein saying, “Oh you were my sister or my woman in past times.” However, Goethe also expresses the principle of karma like other great spirits. He expresses the fact that we enter the world according to our disposition following the principle of cause and effect like everything in the world in the nice words:

As on the day that lent you to the world
The sun stood to greet the planets,
You instantly thrived and continued to do so
In accordance with the law by which you made your appearance.
Thus, you must be, you cannot escape yourself,
Thus, sibyls and prophets have already spoken,
And no passage of time nor any can break into bits
A moulded form that develops as it lives.

(From: Primal Words. Orphic. Daimon)

However, he said the deepest what he had to say figuratively, among other things, in the beautiful poem where he compares the human soul with the water and the human destiny with the wind. He compares with that which flows along from embodiment to embodiment in the life stream; and the destiny is the wind, which lets the soul surge up and down in perpetual waves. As every following wave is dependent in its figure on the preceding one, the soul is depending on its previous figure, and as well as the wind becomes always new, in the life account of the human being always something new is registered. “Soul of man, how you resemble water! Destiny of man, how you resemble the wind!” he says at the end of the poem where he downright shows the reincarnation in the earth-life. “The soul of man resembles water, it comes from heaven, it rises to heaven, and it must descend back to earth, in eternal alternation.” Goethe shows the soul that way. It comes from the spiritual world, descends to the earth, goes back to heaven and comes again in a new incarnation

The soul of man
resembles water:
it comes from heaven,
it rises to heaven,
and it must descend
back to earth,
in eternal alternation.

The pure jet
streams from the lofty,
steep rock wall,
then falls as charming droplets
in cloudy waves
on the smooth rock,
and, gently received,
it bubbles with a veil of mist
and a quiet murmur
down to the depths.

If cliffs loom up
to meet its plunge,
it foams indignantly,
in stages,
into the abyss.

In its flat bed
it moves quietly down the meadowy valley
and in the smooth lake
all the heavenly bodies
cool their faces.

Wind is the wave's
amorous lover
wind stirs foaming waves
up from the very bottom

Soul of man,
how you resemble water!
Destiny of man,
how you resemble the wind!