30 May 1907, Munich
We come today to what man experiences in the physical world, in so far as these experiences are determined by an earlier incarnation. At the outset it must be emphasised that life is not determined by previous incarnations alone but also, though in a small degree, by the present life. The law of how man's past, present and future are connected, is called in Spiritual-scientific literature, the Law of Karma. It is the true law of human destiny; an individual life is only a specific application of the great law of the Cosmos, for the law of Karma is a universal, cosmic law with a specific application in the life of a human being. Whenever we envisage a connection between preceding conditions and subsequent effects, we are thinking in line with this law. I want therefore to explain in detail the individual application of this cosmic law in the life of the human being.
Suppose we have two vessels of water in front of us and put into one of the vessels a red-hot iron ball. The water will hiss and become warm. If we take the ball out and put it into the other vessel, the water in this case neither hisses nor gets warm, because the ball is no longer red hot; it has been cooled by immersion in the first vessel of water. The effect of the behaviour of the iron ball in the first vessel determines its behaviour in the second. Thus are cause and effect always connected in physical life. Subsequent behaviour depends upon what has happened previously.
Another example is afforded by certain animals whose organ of sight has atrophied in consequence of having made their home in dark holes and caves. In such animals, the substances which formerly nourished the eyes were led to other parts of the body because as it was no longer necessary for the eye to see, these substances were not required. The eyes atrophied and remain atrophied in all subsequent generations. Through their earlier wanderings these animals determined the actual behaviour of their organs; the destiny of subsequent generations was determined by what had happened in the past; these animals prepared their destiny for the future. And it is the same in human life.
Man determines his future by his past and because his innermost being is not confined to one incarnation but passes through many, the causes of what confronts him in a given life are to be sought in an earlier life.
We will now consider the chain of happenings which can be understood if we think of the consequences of human deeds, thoughts and feelings. It is so often said in everyday life: Thoughts are duty-free! — meaning that we can think what we like and nobody in the external world will be affected. This is one important point where a man who has really grasped spiritual impulses is at variance with the materialistic thinker.
The materialist agrees that injury is caused if he throws a stone at a man, but he thinks that a thought of hatred which he may harbour against a fellow-creature, does not hurt him. Those however who have real knowledge of the world know that far, far stronger effects proceed from a thought filled with hatred than can ever be caused by a stone. Everything that a man thinks and feels has its effects in the outer world and the seer can follow with great precision the effect of a loving thought that goes out to another man, and the very different effect that is produced by a thought filled with hatred. When you send out a loving thought to someone the seer perceives a form of light shaped like a sort of flower-calyx, playing around his etheric and astral bodies, thereby contributing something to his vitality and happiness. On the other hand a thought of hatred bores its way into the etheric and astral bodies like a wounding arrow.
Very varied observations are to be made in this domain. There is a tremendous difference in the astral world if one voices a thought that is true or a thought that is untrue. A thought is related to a thing and is true if it coincides with that thing. Every event that happens causes an effect in the higher worlds. If someone relates this event truly, an astral form rays out from the teller, unites with the form emanating from the event itself, and both are strengthened. These strengthened forms help to make our spiritual world richer and more full of content — which is necessary if humanity is to make progress. But if the event is related untruthfully, in a way that does not coincide with the facts, then the thought-form of the teller comes up against the thought-form that has proceeded from the event; the two thought-forms collide, causing mutual destruction. These destructive “explosions” caused by lies work on the body like a tumour which destroys the organism. Thus do lies kill the astral forms which have arisen and must arise, and in this way they obstruct or paralyse a part of evolution. Everyone who tells the truth actually promotes the evolution of humanity and everyone who lies, obstructs it. Therefore there is this occult law: Seen with the eyes of Spirit, a lie is a murder. Not only does it kill an astral form, but it is also self-murder. Everyone who lies places obstacles along his own path. Such effects are to be observed everywhere in the spiritual world. The clairvoyant sees that everything a man thinks, feels and experiences has its effect in the astral world. A man's disposition, temperament, enduring qualities of character, thoughts that are not merely transient — all this streams continually not only into the astral world but into the world of Devachan as well. A man with a happy disposition is a source, a centre, of certain processes in Devachan; a man who is hypocritical has the effect of multiplying the essences and substances associated with hypocrisy in human character. Thus Spiritual Science shows us that we do not live as isolated beings but that our thoughts continually produce forms which cast shadows in the world of Devachan and permeate it with all kinds of substances and essences. The four regions of Devachan-the “Continental,” the “Oceanic,” the “Atmospheric” and the region of original “Inspirations” are influenced all the time by the thoughts, feelings and sensations of human beings.
The higher regions of Devachan, in which the Akasha Chronicle appears, are influenced by deeds. What happens in the external world plays into the very highest region of Devachan — the “world of Reason.” We shall understand in this way how on his descent to a new incarnation the human being reconstitutes his astral body and attaches it to himself All his thoughts and feelings and experiences had become integral parts of the astral world, leaving many traces there. If his thoughts had contained much truth, these traces gather together to form a good astral body for him. What he had incorporated into the lower Devachanic world as his temperament and so on, gathers together the new etheric body, and from the highest regions of Devachan where the Akasha Chronicle is to be found, his past deeds play their part in establishing the station, the localisation of the physical body. Here are the forces which bring a human being to a definite locality. If a man has done evil to someone, this is an external fact which reaches into the highest regions of Devachan; when the time comes to enter a new physical body it works as forces which the man has left in his trail, and impels him — under the guidance of higher Beings — to the associations and to the place where he will now be able to experience the effects of his past deeds in the physical world.
Experiences in the external world which do not inwardly affect us very strongly work upon our astral body in the next incarnation, drawing into it corresponding feelings and a characteristic life of thought. If a man has spent his life profitably, if he has been very observant and has acquired wide knowledge, his astral body in the next incarnation will be born with special gifts in these directions. Experience and acquired knowledge thus express themselves, in the next incarnation, in the astral body. Inner experience, all that a man feels in the way of happiness, sorrow and so on — this works down to the etheric body in the next incarnation and imbues it with lasting propensities. The etheric body of a man who experiences much happiness will have a temperament disposed to joy. A man who tries to perform many good deeds, will, as a result of the feelings evoked, have a decided talent in the next life for good deeds; he will also possess a thoroughly developed conscience and will be a person of high moral principles.
That of which the etheric body is the bearer in the present life — the permanent character, talents etc. — appears in the next life in the physical body. For instance, a man who has developed bad inclinations and passions in one life will be born in the next with an unhealthy physical body. On the other hand, a man who enjoys good health, who has great powers of endurance, unfolded good qualities in the previous life. A person who is continually prone to illness, has worked bad impulses into himself. Thus we have it in our power to create for ourselves health or illness in so far as these inhere in the natural constitution of the physical body. All that is required is the elimination of bad tendencies for we then prepare a healthy, vigorous physical body for the next life.
It is possible to observe, in all details, how the tendencies that were present in one life, work, in the next, on the physical body. A person who is disposed to love everything around him, who is loving to all creatures, who pours out love, will have in the next incarnation a physical body that remains young and fresh until late in life. Love for all beings, the cultivation of sympathy, gives rise to a physical body that preserves its youthful vigour. A man who is full of antipathy against other human beings, who criticises and grumbles at everything, trying to keep aloof from it all, produces, as the result of these tendencies, a physical body that ages and becomes wrinkled prematurely. Thus are the tendencies and passions of one life carried over to the physical, bodily life of subsequent incarnations.
The very details can be observed and it can be found that a passion for acquisition, an urge that makes a person hoard possessions and becomes a rooted disposition in him, produces, in the next life, a tendency to infectious diseases in the physical body. Absolute confirmation is possible of cases where a pronounced tendency to infectious diseases leads back to an earlier, very strong sense of acquisition, the bearer of this quality being the etheric body. On the other hand disinterested striving, free from any desire for self-profit and wishing only to work for the well-being of all mankind — this tendency in the etheric body gives rise, in the next life, to a strong power of resistance to infectious diseases.
Thus knowledge of the connection between the physical and the astral world enables us to have a clear understanding of the world in its inner process of development; things are often connected in quite a different way from what people like to imagine. Many people deplore pain and suffering, but from a higher point of view this is quite unjustified, for if they are overcome and the person is ready for a new incarnation, suffering and pain are the sources of wisdom, prudence and comprehensiveness of vision. Even in writing emanating from the modern, materialistic standpoint, we find it stated that there is something like “crystallised pain” in the face of every thinker. What this materialistically minded author says here has long been known to the occultist, for the greatest wisdom of the world is acquired by the quiet endurance of pain and suffering; this creates wisdom in the next incarnation.
No one who shudders at the unpleasantness of pain, who is unwilling to bear pain can create in himself the foundations for wisdom; indeed when we look deeper, we cannot really bemoan illnesses, for regarded from a higher standpoint, from the standpoint of Eternity, they take on a very different aspect. Illnesses calmly borne often appear in the next life as great physical beauty; great physical beauty in a human being is acquired at the cost of illnesses in the preceding life. Such is the connection between impairment of the body through illness, particularly also through external circumstances, and beauty.
The following words of the French writer, Fabre d'Olivet can be applied to this very remarkable connection: “When we observe the life of the human being, it often seems to be like the formation of the pearl in the oyster-shell — the pearl can only come into being through disease.” And so it is actually in human life: Beauty is karmically connected with illnesses and is their result. When I said, however, that a man who unfolds reprehensible passions creates in himself the disposition to illness, it must be fully realised that in this case it is a matter of inherent tendency to illnesses. It is a different matter if a man falls ill through working in a poisonous atmosphere; this too may be a cause of illness but is not connected with the inherent constitution of the physical body.
Everything that is a fact on the physical plane, everything that constitutes a deed, expressing itself in such a way that it has a definite effect in the physical world, from a footstep and movement of the hand to the most complicated processes, for instance the building of a house, comes to the human being in a later incarnation from outside as an actual physical effect. As you see, we live our life from within-outwards. What lives as joy, pain, happiness, sorrow in the astral body appears again in the etheric body; the lasting impulses and passions that are rooted in the etheric body appear in the physical body as constitutional tendencies; deeds that require the agency of the physical body appear as outer destiny in the next incarnation. What the astral body does becomes the destiny of the etheric body; what the etheric body does becomes the destiny of the physical body; and what the physical body does comes back from outside in the next incarnation as a physical reality.
Here you have the actual point where external destiny intervenes in human life. This working of destiny may be postponed for a long time but must inevitably approach the human being sooner or later. If a man's life is followed through the different incarnations it can always be seen that his life in a subsequent incarnation is prepared by Beings who work at his physical embodiment in such a way that he is led to a particular place in order that his destiny may overtake him.
Here again is an example drawn from life. At a Vehmic Court in the Middle Ages a number of judges condemned a man to death and executed the sentence themselves. Earlier incarnations of the judges and of the dead man were investigated and it was found that they had all been contemporaries; the prisoner who had been put to death had been the Chief of a tribe who had ordered the death of those who were now the Vehmic judges. The deed of the former physical life had created the connection between the persons, and the forces had inscribed themselves in the Akasha Chronicle. When a man again comes down to incarnation, these forces cause him to be born at the same time and place as those to whom he is tied in this way, and they work out his destiny. The Akasha Chronicle is a veritable source of power in which everything that is due to be expiated between one human being and another, is inscribed. Some people can sense these processes, but very, very few are really conscious of them.
Suppose a man has a profession in which he is apparently happy and contented; for some reason or other he is forced to leave it and finding no other occupation in the same place is driven far away — into another country, where he has to strike out on an entirely new line of work. Here he finds a person with whom he has in some way to be associated. What has happened in such a case? He had once lived with the person whom he has now met and remained in his debt for some reason or other. This is inscribed in the Akasha Chronicle and the forces have led him to this place in order that he may meet the man and discharge his debt.
Between birth and death the human being is perpetually within a network of these forces of soul which weave around him on all sides; they are the directing powers of his life. You bear within you all the time the workings of earlier lives; and all the time you are experiencing the outcome of former incarnations.
You will realise, therefore, that your lives are guided by Powers of which you yourselves are not aware. The etheric body is worked upon by forms which you yourselves previously called into existence on the astral plane; beings and forces in the higher regions of Devachan, inscribed by you yourselves in the Akasha Chronicle, work upon your destiny. These forces or beings are not unknown to the occultist; they have their own place in the ranks of similar beings. You must realise that in the astral body and in the etheric body, as well as in the physical body, you feel the workings of other beings; all that you do involuntarily, everything to which you are impelled, is due to the working of other beings; it is not born from nothingness. The various members of man's nature are all the time actually permeated and filled by other beings, and many of the exercises given by an initiated teacher are for the purpose of driving out these beings in order that a man may become more and more free.
The beings who permeate the astral body and make it unfree are known as “Demons.” Your astral body is always interpenetrated by demons and the beings you yourselves generate through your true or false thoughts are of such a nature that they gradually grow into demons. There are good demons, generated by good thoughts; but bad thoughts, above all those that are untruthful, generate demoniacal forms of the most terrible and frightful kind and these interlard the astral body — if I may so express it. The etheric body is also permeated by beings from which man must free himself; these beings are called “Spectres”, “ghosts.” And finally, permeating the physical body there are beings known as “Phantoms.” Besides these three classes there are yet other beings, the “Spirits,” who drive the Ego hither and thither — the Ego itself also being a Spirit. In actual fact the human being generates such creatures who then determine his inner and outer destiny when he descends to incarnation. These beings work in your life in such a way that you can feel the “demons” created by your astral body, the “ghosts” or “spectres” created by your etheric body and the “phantoms” created by your physical body. All these beings are related to you and approach you when the time comes for reincarnation.
You will remember that religious documents express these truths. When the Bible speaks of the driving-out of demons, this is not an abstraction but is to be taken literally. Christ Jesus healed those who were possessed of demons; He drove the demons out of the astral body. This is an actual process and, the passage is to be taken literally. The wise man Socrates also speaks of his “Daimon” which worked in his astral body. This was a good demon; such beings are not always evil.
There are, however, terrible and corrupt demonic beings. All demons that are born of lying work in such a way as to throw man back in his development; and because owing to the lies of eminent figures in world-history demons who grow into very powerful beings are all the time being created, we hear of the “Spirits of Hindrance”, “Spirits of obstruction.” In this sense Faust says to Mephistopheles: “Thou art the Father of all hindrances!”
The individual human being, membered as he is within mankind as a whole, has an effect upon the whole world according to whether he speaks the truth or lies; for beings created by truth or by lies produce quite different effects. Imagine a people which was composed entirely of liars, the astral plane would be populated solely by the corresponding demons and these demons would be able to express themselves in constitutional tendency to epidemics. Thus there is a certain species of bacilli who are the carriers of infectious diseases; these beings are the progeny of the lies told by human beings; they are nothing else than physically embodied demons generated by lies.
You see therefore that lies and untruths of earlier ages appear in world-karma as a definite host of beings. A passage in Faust indicates how much deep truth is contained in myths and sagas. You will find there a connection between vermin and lies in the role played by rats and mice in connection with Mephistopheles, the Spirit of Lies. Legends have often preserved wonderful indications of the connection between the spiritual world and the physical world.
In order to understand the Law of Karma we shall have to speak about many other things. The Movement of Spiritual Science itself is the outcome of an intimate knowledge of the Law of Karma.
You have just heard that forces which lie in the etheric body work upon the physical body in the next incarnation. Thus the attitude of mind, the tendency to think along particular lines, works upon the physical body. A spiritual or a materialistic attitude of mind is by no means without importance for the next incarnation. A man who has some knowledge of the higher worlds — he need only believe in their existence — has in his next life a well centred physical body and tranquil nervous system, a body which he has well in hand, including the very nerves. On the other hand, a man who believes in nothing except what is to be found in the world of the senses, communicates this kind of thinking to his physical body and in the next incarnation has a body prone to nervous diseases, a frail, fidgety body in which there is no steadfast centre of will. The materialist scatters himself in pure details; the Spirit binds together, for Spirit is Unity!
The tendency or disposition comes to light, in the case of the individual, through destiny in his next incarnation, but it continues through the generations, so that the sons and grand-children of materialistic fathers have to pay for this by badly constituted nervous systems and nervous disorders. An “epoch” of nerves is the outcome of the materialistic attitude of the last century. And as a counteraction, the Great Teachers of mankind have recognised the necessity of allowing the inflow of spiritual ways of thinking.
Materialism has also found its way into religion. There are people who “believe” in the spiritual worlds but have not the will to acquire real knowledge of them. Can it be said that such people are not materialists? It is materialism in religion which makes people want to have the mystery of the Six Day of Creation — as the Bible describes the evolution of the worlds — displayed before their very eyes; it is materialism which speaks of Christ Jesus as an “historical personality” and ignores the Mystery of Golgotha. Materialism in natural science is primarily a consequence of materialism in religion, and would not exist if the religious life were not saturated with materialism. Men who have been too lazy to deepen their religious life — it is they who have introduced materialism into science. And the derangement of the nerves caused by this materialism works itself out among racial stocks and among whole peoples, as well as in the individual.
If the stream of spirituality is not powerful enough to influence lazy and easy-going people as well, the karmic consequence of nervous derangement will gain greater and greater hold over humanity, and just as in the Middle Ages there were epidemics of leprosy, so, in future, materialistic thinking will give rise to grave nervous diseases; there will be epidemics of insanity besetting whole peoples.
Insight into this domain of the Law of Karma reveals that Spiritual Science should never be a matter of strife but a healing power in humanity. The more spiritual men become, the more will troubles connected with diseases of the nervous system and derangement in the life of soul, be expunged.