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Karmic Relationships II
GA 236

Lecture I

6 April 1924, Dornach

We will now continue our study of karma. I have pointed out to you how the impulses in the souls of human beings work on and are transplanted, as it were, from one earthly life into another, so that the fruits of an earlier epoch are carried over to a later one by men themselves.

An idea such as this must not be received merely as a theory; it should take hold of our very hearts and souls. We should feel that we who are now here have been many times in earthly existence, and that in every life we assimilated the culture and civilisation then around us; we took it into our souls and carried it over into the next incarnation, after working upon it spiritually between death and a new birth. Only when we look back in this way do we really feel ourselves standing within the community of mankind.

In order to be able to feel this, in order that in the coming lectures we may pass on to questions which concern us more intimately and will bring home to us the actual effects of karmic connections, I have found it necessary to give concrete examples. And I have tried to show you by these examples how the effects of what a man experienced and achieved in olden times, remain, and continue to work into the present, inasmuch as his achievements and experiences form part of his karma.

I spoke, for example, of Haroun al Raschid, that illustrious follower of Mohammed in the 8th and 9th centuries, who was the figure-head of a wonderful life of culture far surpassing anything to be found in Europe in those days. 1See Volume 1, lecture X; also Cosmic Christianity lecture II (given by Rudolf Steiner in Torquay, 14th August, 1924). Such culture as existed in Europe at that time — it was during the reign of Charlemagne — was extremely primitive; whereas over in the East at the Court of Haroun al Raschid there came together everything that an Asiatic civilisation fructified from Europe could produce — the fruits of Greek culture and of ancient Oriental culture in practically every domain of life and knowledge. Architecture, astronomy (in the form in which it was pursued in those days), philosophy, mysticism, the arts, geography, poetry — all these branches of culture flourished at the Court of Haroun al Raschid.

Haroun al Raschid gathered around him the best of those who were of real account in Asia at that time. For the most part they were men who had been trained and educated in the Initiate Schools. Let me tell you of one of these personalities at the Court of Haroun al Raschid. The East, too, had reached its own Middle Ages, and this personality had been able to assimilate, in a rather more intellectual way, wonderful treasures of the spirit that had been carried over from long past ages into those later times. In a much earlier period he had himself been an Initiate.

Now as I have told you, it may easily happen that a personality who was an Initiate in a former age does not appear as one when he reincarnates, because he is obliged to adapt himself to the body at his disposal and to the educational facilities available at the time. Nevertheless he bears within him all that he acquired and experienced during his life as an Initiate.

In the case of Garibaldi, we have seen how in that he became a kind of seer in his life of will, giving himself up to the circumstances of the immediate present, he lived out all that he had been as an Irish Initiate. 2See Vol. I, lectures XI and XII. We can see that while participating in the events of the day he bears within him impulses of quite a different character from those which an ordinary man could have gained from his education and environment. The impulse of Garibaldi's Irish initiation was still active; it was merely under the surface. And when some special experience or stroke of destiny befell Garibaldi there may very probably have welled up in him in the form of Imaginations, all that he bore within him from his life as an Irish Initiate.

So it has always been; and so it is to this day. A man may have been an Initiate in a certain epoch, and because in a later epoch he must make use of a body unable to contain all the impulses that are alive in his soul, he does not appear as an Initiate; nevertheless the impulse of initiation is at work in his deeds or relationships in life. So it was in the case of the personality who lived at the Court of Haroun al Raschid. He had once been an Initiate of a very high degree. He was not able to carry over in outwardly perceptible form the whole content of his earlier initiation, but nevertheless he was a shining light in the Oriental culture of the 8th and 9th centuries. For he was, so to speak, the organiser of all the sciences and arts studied and practised at the Court of Haroun al Raschid.

We have already spoken of the path taken by the individuality of Haroun al Raschid in later times. When he passed through the gate of death there remained with him the urge to carry further into the West the Arabism that was already spreading in that direction. And, as you know, Haroun al Raschid, whose field of vision embraced all the several arts and sciences, reincarnated as Lord Bacon of Verulam, the famous reformer of modern philosophy and science. All that had been within Haroun al Raschid's field of vision came forth again, in a Western guise, in Bacon.

The spiritual path taken by Bacon led from Bagdad, his home in Asia, to England. And from England, Bacon's work for the sciences spread over Europe more widely and with greater force than is generally realised.

After they had passed through the gate of death, these two personalities, Haroun al Raschid and his great counsellor — the outstanding personality who had been a high Initiate in earlier times — separated, in order to carry out a common work. As I have told you, Haroun al Raschid himself, who had occupied a position of great power and splendour, chose the path which led to England, where, as Lord Bacon of Verulam, he accomplished what he did for science, for the sphere of knowledge in general. The other soul, the soul of the man who had been his counsellor chose the path leading to Middle Europe, in order to meet there what was coming over from Bacon. The dates do not, it is true, absolutely coincide; but that is not important in a matter where actual time means little. Impulses separated by hundreds of years may often work simultaneously in a later civilisation.

The counsellor of Haroun al Raschid chose the path through Eastern to Middle Europe — chose it during his life between death and a new birth. And he was born again in Middle Europe; he was born into the spiritual life of Middle Europe as Amos Comenius.

These are remarkable events, of profound significance in history. Haroun al Raschid goes through his later evolution in such a way as to lead over from West to East a stream of culture that is abstract and bound up with the outer senses; whereas Amos Comenius unfolds his activity from the East, from Siebenbürgen in what is now Czechoslovakia, coming to Germany and afterwards undergoing exile in Holland, bringing with him his profoundly significant impulses for the development of thought and knowledge. If you follow his life you will see how he comes forward as the champion of the new pedagogy and as the author and originator of the so-called Pansophia. What he had formerly brought from his initiation in very ancient times and developed at the Court of Haroun al Raschid — all this he now brought to the movements of the day. It was the time when the Order of the Moravian Brothers had been founded, when Rosicrucianism had already been at work for several centuries; it was the time, too, when the Chymical Wedding had appeared, and also the Reformation of Science, by Valentin Andreae. And into the midst of all these movements which sprang from the selfsame source, came Comenius, that significant figure of the l7th century, with his message and his impulse.

You have there three successive earthly lives of importance, and it is by studying the more significant incarnations that one can learn how to study those of less importance and finally begin to understand one's own karma. — Three significant earthly lives follow one another. First we see, far away in Asia, the very same individuality who afterwards appears in Amos Comenius; we see him receiving in the places of the ancient Mysteries all the wisdom possessed by Asia in far distant ages; we see him carrying this over into his next incarnation, living at the Court of Haroun al Raschid, becoming there the great organiser and administrator of all that flourished under the aegis and protection of Haroun al Raschid. And then he appears again, this time going forth as it were to meet Bacon, who is the reincarnated Haroun al Raschid; he meets him in European civilisation where the impulses which both of them had caused to flow into this European civilisation are at work.

What I am now saying, my dear friends, has really great point and meaning. For if you will study the letters that were written and that build, as it were, a road from Bacon to Comenius — naturally they do so in a roundabout way, as is also the case with letters to-day! — if you will study the letters that were exchanged between Baconians, or between people in very close connection with the Baconian culture and the followers of the Comenius school, of the Comenius wisdom, you will be able to discern in the writing and answering of these letters the very same event that I have sketched diagrammatically on the blackboard.

The letters that were written from West to East and from East to West represent the living confluence of the two souls who meet one another in this way, having themselves laid the foundation for this meeting when they worked together over in the East during the 8th and 9th centuries. Now they unite again, to work once more in co-operation; this time they work from opposite directions, yet no less harmoniously.

This is the way in which history should be studied in order to gain insight into the working of human forces and the part they play in history.

Again, let us take another case. — It happened that peculiar circumstances drew my attention to certain events that occurred in the region we should now call the north-east of France. These events also took place in the 8th–9th century — a little later, however, than the time of which we were just now speaking. It was before the formation of large States, in the days when events took place more within smaller circles of people.

In the region, then, which to-day we should call the north-east of France, lived a personality who was full of ambitions. He had a large estate and he governed it remarkably well, quite unusually systematically for the time in which he lived. He knew what he wanted; there was a strange mixture of adventurousness and conscious purpose in him. And he made expeditions, some of which were more and some less successful; he would gather soldiers and make predatory expeditions, minor campaigns carried out with a small troop of men with the object of plunder.

With such a band of men he once set out from north-east France. Now it happened that during his absence another personality, somewhat less of an adventurer than himself, but full of energy, took possession of all his land and property. — It sounds fictitious to-day, but such things actually happened in those days. — And when the owner returned home — he was all alone — he found another man in possession of his estate. In the situation that developed he was no match for the man who had seized his property. The new possessor was more powerful; he had more men, more soldiers. The rightful owner was no match for him.

In those times it did not happen that if anyone were unable to go on living in his own home and estate he immediately went away into some foreign country. The rightful owner was an adventurer, certainly, but emigration was not such an easy matter then; he had neither the wherewithal nor the facilities. And so he became a kind of serf, he with his followers — a kind of serf attached to his own estate. His own property had been wrested from him and he, together with a number of those who once used to accompany him on adventures were forced to work as serfs.

In all these people who were now serfs where formerly they had been masters, a certain attitude of mind began to assert itself, an attitude of mind most derogatory to the principle of overlordship. On many a night in those well wooded parts, fires were burning, and round the fires these men came together and hatched all manner of plots against those who had taken possession of their property.

In point of fact, the dispossessed owner, who from being the master of a large estate had become a serf, more or less a slave, filled all the rest of his life — as much of it as he was not compelled to give to his work — with making plans for regaining his property. He hated the man who had seized it from him.

And then, when these two personalities passed through the gate of death, they experienced in the spiritual world between death and rebirth, all that souls have been able to experience since that time, shared in it all, and came again to earth in the 19th century. The man who had lost home and property and had become a kind of slave, appeared as Karl Marx, the founder of modern socialism. And the man who had seized his estate appeared as his friend Engels. The actions which had brought them into conflict were metamorphosed in the course of the long journey between death and a new birth into an impulse and urge to balance out and set right what they had done to one another.

Read what went on between Marx and Engels, observe the peculiar configuration of Marx's mind, and remember at the same time what I have told you of the relationship between these two individuals in the 8th–9th century, and you will find a new light falling upon every sentence written by Marx and Engels. You will not be in danger of saying, in abstract fashion: This thing in history is due to this cause, and the other to the other cause. Rather will you see the human beings who carry over the past into another age, in such a way that although admittedly it appears in a somewhat different form, there is nevertheless a certain similarity.

And what else could be expected? In the 8th–9th century, when men sat together at night around a fire in the forest, they spoke in quite a different style from that customary in the 19th century, when Hegel had lived, when things were settled by dialectic. Try all the same to picture to yourselves the forest in north-eastern France in the 9th century. There sit the conspirators, cursing, railing in the language of the period. Translate it into the mathematical-dialectical mode of speech of the 19th century, and you have what comes to expression in Marx and Engels.

Such things lead us away from sensationalism — which creeps all too easily into ideas relating to the concrete facts of reincarnation — towards a true understanding of history. And the best way to steer clear of sensationalism is, instead of giving way to a feverish desire to know the details of reincarnation, instead of that, to try to understand in the light of the repeated earthly lives of individual human beings, those things in history that bring weal or woe, happiness or grief to mankind.

It was this point of view that while I was still living in Austria — although in Austria one is really within the German world — I was particularly interested in a certain personality who was a Polish member of the Reichstag. Those of you who have been attending lectures for a long time will remember that I have often spoken of Otto Hausner, the Austrian-Polish member of the Reichstag who was so active in the seventies of last century. Truth to tell, ever since I heard and saw Otto Hausner in the Austrian Reichstag about the end of the seventies and beginning of the eighties, the picture of this remarkable man has been before my mind's eye. He wore a monocle; he looked at you sharply with the other eye, but all the time the eye behind the monocle was watching for the weak points in his opponent. And while he spoke, he was looking to see whether the dart had struck home.

Now Hausner had a remarkable moustache — in my autobiography I did not want to go into all these details — and he used to accompany what he said with his moustache, so that the moustache made a kind of Eurythmy of the speech he poured out against his opponents!

It is interesting when you picture it all. — Extreme Left, Left, Middle Party, Czech Club (as it was called) and then Extreme Right, Polish Club. Here stood Hausner, and over on the extreme Left were his opponents. That was where all of them were.

The curious thing was that when, over the question of the occupation of Bosnia, Hausner was on the side of Austria, he received tumultuous applause from these people on the Left. When, later, he spoke about the building of the Arlberg railway, the most vehement opposition came from the same people on the extreme Left. And the situation remained so, in regard to everything he said after that.

Very many warnings and prophetic utterances made by Otto Hausner in the seventies and eighties have, however, since proved true. One often has occasion nowadays to look back in thought to what Otto Hausner used to say.

Now there was one feature that appeared in almost every speech Otto Hausner made, and this, among other less significant details in his life, gave me the impulse to investigate the course of his karma. Otto Hausner could hardly make a speech without uttering a kind of panegyric, as it were in parenthesis, on Switzerland. He was forever holding up Switzerland to Austria as a pattern. Because in Switzerland three nationalities get on well together, are indeed quite exemplary in this respect, he wanted the thirteen nationalities of Austria to take example from Switzerland and live together in the same federal unity as do the three nationalities of Switzerland. Again and again he would come back to this theme. It was quite remarkable.

In Hausner's speeches there was irony, there was humour, there was logic — not always, but very often — and there was the panegyric on Switzerland. It was perfectly clear that this panegyric arose out of a pure feeling of sympathy; this feeling gripped hold of him; he wanted to say these things. And moreover he knew how to shape his speech so that no one, except a group of German-Liberals on the Left, was seriously provoked or offended by it.

It was most interesting to see how, when some Left Liberal member had spoken, Otto Hausner would get up to oppose him, and with his monocled eye never turn his gaze aside for a moment but pour upon the Left Wing a perfectly incredible torrent of abuse and scorn. There were men of importance and standing among them, but he spared none. And there was always breadth of view in what he said; he was one of the most cultured members of the Austrian Reichstag.

The karma of such a man may readily arouse interest. I took my start from this passion of his for returning again and again to praise of Switzerland, and further, from the fact that once in a speech subsequently published as a brochure, German Culture and the German Empire, he collected together in a spirit of impishness and yet at the same time with nothing short of genius, all there was to be said for German culture and the German people and against the German Empire. There was really something grandly prophetic about this speech that was made in the early eighties, scuttling the German Empire as it were, saying all manner of harsh things about it, calling it the wrecker and destroyer of the true being and nature of the Germans. That was the second thing — this singular ‘loving hatred’, if I may put it so, and ‘hating love’ for all that is truly German, and for the German Empire.

And the third thing was the extraordinary interest which made itself manifest when Hausner spoke of the Arlberg Tunnel, of the plan to build the Arlberg railway from Austria to Switzerland and thus unite Middle Europe with the West. Needless to say, here too he introduced his song of praise for Switzerland, for the railway was to run into Switzerland. But when he spoke of this railway — and his speech was well-seasoned, though delivered with perfect delicacy — one really had the feeling: the man is basing it all on tendencies and proclivities he must have acquired in some remarkable way in a former earthly life.

Everyone was talking in those days of the enormous advantages that would accrue to European civilisation from the alliance of Germany with Austria. At that very time Hausner was developing in the Austrian Parliament his idea of the Arlberg railway; he was saying, and naturally all the others were going for him hammer and tongs about it, that the Arlberg railway must be built, because a State as he pictured Austria, uniting thirteen nations after the pattern of Switzerland, must have a choice of allies; when it suits her, Austria has Germany, and when it suits her she must also have a strategic route from Middle Europe to the West, so that she may be able to have France for an ally when she wishes. Naturally, when such an opinion was expressed in the Austria of those times, it received short answer! It was reported that Hausner was ironed out flat! In truth, however, it was a marvellous speech, highly spiced and full of poignancy. And this speech, I would have you note, pointed in the direction of the West.

Holding these three things together in mind, I discovered that the individuality of Otto Hausner had wandered across Europe from West to East at the time when Gallus and Columbanus [Not St. Columba, but a slightly younger Irish monk — St. Columbanus (sometimes called Columba the Younger).] were journeying in the same direction. He set out with men who had been inspired by the Irish initiation, for the purpose of bringing Christianity to those regions. In company with them, his aim was to carry Christianity to the East. On the way, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Alsace of to-day, he found himself extraordinarily attracted by the relics of ancient Germanic paganism, by the old memories of the gods, the old forms of worship, the figures and statues of the gods that he found in Alsace, and also in Germany and Switzerland. He received all this into his heart and mind in a deeply significant way.

Afterwards there developed in him, on the one hand, a liking for the Germanic nature and, on the other hand a counterforce which came from the feeling that he had gone too far in that past life. He underwent a drastic inner change, an inner metamorphosis, and this showed itself in the wide and comprehensive outlook he possessed in this later incarnation. He could speak of the German people and culture and of the German Empire like one who has once had close and intimate contact with these things, and yet who feels all the time that he ought not to have been influenced by them. He should have been spreading Christianity. He had come into these parts while his duty lay elsewhere. — One could hear it in the very tone of his speeches. — And he wanted to go back and make good again! Hence his passion for Switzerland; hence his passion for the building of the Arlberg railway. Even in outward appearance, he did not really look Polish. Hausner himself used often and often to say that he was not a Pole at all by physical descent but only by civilisation and education, and that ‘Raetian-German’ blood flowed in his veins. He had brought over from an earlier incarnation the tendency to look towards the region where once he had been, whither he had accompanied St. Columbanus and St. Gallus with the resolve to spread Christianity, but where, instead, the old Germanic religion and culture had captured him and held him fast. And so it came about that he did his best, as it were, to be born again in a family as little Polish as possible, far away from the land in which he had lived in his earlier life, far removed from it and yet so that he could look longingly towards it.

These are examples which I wanted to unfold before you to-day in order to show you how strange and remarkable is the path of karmic evolution. — In the next lecture we shall consider the question of how good and evil develop through successive incarnations of human beings, and through the course of history. By studying in this way the more important and significant examples that meet us in history, we shall be able to throw light on relationships belonging more to everyday life.