Our bookstore is now open. Shop today →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Karmic Relationships II
GA 236

Lecture II

12 April 1924, Dornach

It is a little difficult to continue what has been given in the last lectures, because so many friends who have not taken part in these studies are here to-day. On the other hand it is hardly possible to make a new beginning, for many things contained in the previous lectures have still to be completed. Friends who have just arrived will have to realise that if some of our thoughts to-day prove somewhat difficult to understand, it is because they are connected — inwardly, though not outwardly — with preceding lectures. At Easter we shall have a self-contained course, but to-day I must continue what has gone before. We did not expect so many friends at this date, although needless to say we are extremely glad that they have come.

In recent lectures we have been speaking of definite karmic relationships — not with the object of finding anything sensational in the successive earthly lives we have studied, but in order to arrive step by step at a really concrete understanding of the connections of destiny in human life.

I have described successive earthly lives of certain historic figures, in order to call forth an idea of how one earthly life works on into the next — and that is not an easy matter.

Again and again it must be emphasised that a new trend has come into the Anthroposophical Movement since the Christmas Foundation Meeting at Dornach. Of this I should now like to say a few introductory words. — You know, my dear friends, that since the year 1918 there have been all manner of undertakings within the Anthroposophical Society. Their origin is clear. When the Anthroposophical Society was founded, this question was really being asked, out of a deep occult impulse: Would the Anthroposophical Society continue to evolve by virtue of the inner strength which (in its members) it had acquired until then? There was only one way to make the test. Until then, I, as General Secretary, had had the leadership of the German Section, which was the form in which the Anthroposophical Movement had existed within the Theosophical Society. The only way now was for me no longer to take in hand the leadership of the Anthroposophical Society but to watch and see how this Society would evolve through its own inherent strength.

You see, my dear friends, that is something quite different from what the position would have been if already at that time (as at our Christmas Foundation Meeting) I had said that I would undertake the leadership of the Society. For the Anthroposophical Society, if led by me, must naturally be an altogether different thing than if led by someone else. Moreover, for certain deep reasons, the Society might have been led all the better if I myself had not had the administrative leadership. Many things might have been done if human hearts had spoken — things which in fact remained undone, or which were even done from outside, often enough under resistance from the anthroposophists.

During the War, of course, we had little opportunity to unfold our forces in all directions. So it came about that after the year 1918, the prevailing state of affairs was taken advantage of by those from many quarters who wanted to do this or that. If I had said at the time, “No, these things shall not be done”, then of course we should hear it said to-day: “If this or that had only been allowed, we should now have numbers of flourishing undertakings.”

For this very reason it was the custom at all times for the leaders of occult movements to let those who wanted to do something try it out and see what became of it, so that convictions might be called forth by the facts themselves. For that is the only way to call forth conviction. And so it had to be in our case too.

The upshot of it all has been that since the year 1918, opposition to our Movement has grown rife, and has brought about the present state of affairs, when it is impossible for me, for instance, to give public lectures in Germany.

At the present moment these facts must in no way be concealed from the Anthroposophical Movement. We must face them with all clarity. As long as we work with unclear situations we shall make no progress.

As you know, all manner of experiments were made in the hope of being ‘truly scientific’ — shall we say? Quite naturally so, in view of the characters of those concerned! Scientists who also partake in our Society naturally like to be scientific. But that is the very thing that annoys our opponents. When we say to them, “As scientists we can prove this or that truth”, they come forward with all their so-called scientific claims, and then of course they become furious. We should be under no illusions on this point. Nothing has annoyed our opponents more than the fact that our members have tried to speak on the same subjects as they themselves do, and in the same manner, only — as these our members often used to say — “letting a little Anthroposophy flow into it.” It was precisely this which called forth our opponents in such overwhelming numbers.

Again, we offend most strongly against the life-conditions of Anthroposophy if we give ourselves up to the illusion that we can win over the adherents of various religious communities by saying the same or similar things as they, only once more “letting Anthroposophy flow into it.”

But now, since the Christmas Foundation Meeting, an entirely new element must come into all that is being done in the field of Anthroposophy. Those of you who have observed the way Anthroposophy is now being presented here, or the way it was presented at Prague and again at Stuttgart, will have observed that impulses are now at work which call forth something altogether new, even where our opponents are concerned. If we try to be ‘scientific’ in the ordinary sense of the word — as, unfortunately, many of our members have tried to be — then we are presuming, so to speak, that it is possible to enter into discussion with them. But now take the lectures that have been given here, or the lectures at Prague, or the single lectures at Stuttgart — can you believe for a single moment that there can be any question of entering into discussion with our opponents on these matters? It goes without saying: we can enter into no discussion with our opponents when we speak of these things. How, for example, should we discuss with any representative of the civilisation of to-day the statement, for example, that the soul of Muavija appeared again in the soul of Woodrow Wilson? 1See Vol. I, lecture X.

Thus in the whole Anthroposophical Movement there is now a prevailing quality which can tend to nothing else than this. — We must take it at last in real earnest that there can be no question of entering into discussion or argument with our opponents. For if we do so, it will in any case lead nowhere. Thus we must realise that, with regard to our opponents, it can only be a question of refuting calumnies, untruths and lies. We must not give up ourselves to the illusion that these things can be discussed. They must expand by their own inherent power; they cannot be decided by any dialectic.

Through the whole tenor of the Anthroposophical Movement as it has been since Christmas last, this will perhaps be realised increasingly, even by our members. Henceforth the Anthroposophical Movement will take this attitude: It will no longer pay heed to anything other than what the spiritual world itself requires of it.

It is from this standpoint that I have placed before you various thoughts on karma. Those of you who were here, or who heard my last lecture at Stuttgart, will remember that I tried to show how the individualities who lived in the 8th and 9th centuries A.D. at the Court of Haroun al Raschid in Asia, having continued to evolve after death in different directions, played certain definite parts in their new incarnations. At the time of the Thirty Years' War (and a short time before) we have on the one hand the individuality of Haroun al Raschid, reincarnated in the Englishman, Bacon of Verulam. And a great organiser at the Court of Haroun al Raschid, who had lived at the Court — not indeed as an Initiate, but as the reincarnation of an Initiate — this individuality we found again as Amos Comenius, whose field of action was rather in Middle Europe. From these two streams, much in the spiritual part of modern civilisation flowed together. In the spiritual and intellectual aspect of modern civilisation, the Near East — as it was in the time immediately after Mohammed — lived again, on the one hand through the reincarnated Haroun al Raschid, Bacon of Verulam; and on the other hand through Amos Comenius, who had been his counsellor.

In the present lecture I wish to emphasise the following fact: — The evolution of man does not merely take place when he is here on earth, but also when he is between death and a new birth. Bacon as well as Amos Comenius, having fastened Arabism — so to speak from two different sides — on to the civilisation of Europe, died again and passed into the life between death and a new birth. And there they were together with many souls who came down to earth after their time. Bacon and Amos Comenius, having died in the 17th century, lived on in the spiritual world. Other souls, who came down to earth in the 19th century, were in the spiritual world together with the souls of Bacon and Amos Comenius from the 17th to the 19th. On the one hand there were souls who gathered mainly around the soul of Bacon — Bacon whose work became so dominant. Then there were the souls who gathered around Amos Comenius. And though this is rather a pictorial way of speaking, we must not forget that there are ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’ — albeit under quite different conditions — even in the spiritual world which men pass through between death and a new birth. Such individualities as Bacon or Amos Comenius worked not only through what they brought about on earth — through their writings, for example, or through the traditions of them which lived on on earth. No, these leading spirits were also working through the souls whom they sent down, or the souls with whom they were together and who were then sent down; they worked by causing certain tendencies to germinate in these souls in the spiritual world. Thus among the men of the 19th century we find souls who had become dependent already in their evolution in the pre-earthly life on one or other of these two spirits — the discarnate Amos Comenius, and the discarnate Bacon.

As I said, I want to lead you more and more into the concrete way in which karma works. Therefore I will now draw your attention to two personalities of the 19th century whose names will be known to most of you. One of them was especially influenced in his pre-earthly life by Bacon, and the other by Amos Comenius.

If we observe Bacon as he stood in earthly civilisation — in his earthly life as Lord Chancellor in England — if we observe him there, we find that his working was such that an Initiate stood behind him. The whole Bacon-Shakespeare controversy, as it is outwardly pursued by the historians of literature, is appallingly barren. All manner of arguments are brought forward which are supposed to show that Shakespeare the actor did not really write his dramas, but that they were written by Bacon the philosopher and Lord Chancellor, and so on ...

All these things — working with external methods, seeking out similarities in the way of thought in Shakespeare's dramas and Bacon's philosophic works — all these are barren superficialities. They do not get at the real truth. For the truth is that at the time when Bacon, Shakespeare, Jacob Boehme, and a fourth were working on the earth, there was one Initiate who really spoke through all four. Hence their kinship, for in reality it all goes back to one and the same source. Of course, these people who dispute and argue do not argue about the Initiate who stood behind, especially as this Initiate — like many a modern Initiate — is described to us in history as a rather intolerable fellow. But he was not merely so. No doubt he was so sometimes in his external actions, but he was not merely so. He was an individuality from whom immense forces proceeded, and to whom were really due Bacon's philosophic works as well as Shakespeare's dramas and the works of Jacob Boehme, and also the works of the Jesuit, Jacob Balde.

If we bear this in mind, then we must see in Bacon, in the philosophic realm, the instigator of an immense and far-reaching stream of the time.

It is most interesting to observe what could become of a soul who lived throughout the two centuries, in the life beyond the earth, under the influence of the dead Bacon. We must turn our attention to the way in which Bacon himself lived after his death. For our studies of human history it will in fact be more and more important to observe the human beings who have lived on earth not only until the moment of their death but in their working beyond death, where they work on and on upon those souls who are afterwards to descend to earth. This applies especially to those who have themselves been responsible for great spiritual achievements.

No doubt these things may be somewhat shocking for men of the present time. So for instance I remember — if I may make this digression — I remember on one occasion I was standing at the entrance to the railway station in a small German University town with a well-known doctor who went in a great deal for occultism. Around us stood many other people. Presently he warmed up to his subject and out of his enthusiasm said to me in a loud voice, so that many of those who were around could hear him: “I will make you a present of the biography of Robert Blum; but that is a biography which begins only after his death.” Spoken loudly as it was, one could well observe the shock it gave to those who were standing around us! One cannot say without more ado to the people of to-day, “I will make you a present of the biography of a man, but it begins only after his death.”

For the rest — apart from this two-volumed biography of Robert Blum, which begins not with his birth but with his death — little has yet been done in the way of relating the biographies of men after their death. Biographies generally begin at birth and end at death; there are not yet many works that begin with a man's death.

Yet, for the real happenings of the world, what a man does after his death is immensely important, notably when he passes on the results of what he did on earth — translated into the spiritual — to the souls who come down after him. We cannot understand the age which succeeds a given age if we do not observe this side of life.

Now I was specially interested in observing those individualities who surrounded Bacon after his death. Among them were individualities who were subsequently born as natural scientists. But there were also others who were born as historians; and if we observe the influence of the dead Lord Bacon on these souls, we see how the materialism which he founded upon earth — the mere researching into the world of sense (for, as you know, everything else was for him an ‘idol’) — translated into the spiritual, reverts into a kind of radicalism. And so indeed, in the very midst of the spiritual world, these souls received impulses which worked on in such a way that after their birth, having descended to the earth, they would attach no value to anything that was not a concrete fact visible to the senses.

I will now speak in a somewhat popular form, but I beg you not to take my words too literally, for if you do so it will of course be only too easy to say: ‘How grotesque!’ Among these souls there were also some who, by their former tendencies — derived from former earthly lives — were destined to become historians. And among them was one who was the greatest. (I am still speaking of the pre-earthly lives of all these souls). One among them was the greatest. Under the influence of Lord Bacon's impulses, all these souls said to themselves, in effect: It is no longer permissible to write history as it was written in former times, to write it with Ideas, investigating the inner connections. Only the actual facts must now be the object of our research.

Now I ask you, what does this mean? Are not the intentions of men the most important thing in history? — and they are not outwardly real! These souls, however, no longer permitted themselves to think in this way; and least of all did the soul who afterwards appeared again as one of the greatest historians of the 19th century — Leopold von Ranke. Leopold von Ranke was a pre-earthly disciple of Lord Bacon.

Study the earthly career of Leopold von Ranke as a historian. What is his principle? Ranke's principle as a historian is this: nothing must be written in history save what is to be read of in the archives. We must compile all history from the archives — from the actual transactions of the diplomats.

If you read Ranke you will find it so. He is a German and a Protestant, but with his sense of reality this has no effect on him. He works objectively — that is to say, with the objectivity of the archives. So he writes his History of the Popes — the best that has ever been written from the pure standpoint of archives. When we read Ranke we are irritated, nay dreadfully so. It is a barren prospect to imagine the old gentleman — quick and alert as he was until a ripe old age — sitting forever in the archives and merely piecing together the diplomatic transactions. That is no real history. It is history which reckons only with the facts of the sense-world — that is to say, for the historian, with the archives.

And so indeed, precisely by taking into account the life beyond the earth we have the possibility to understand why Ranke became what he was.

But now we can also look across to Amos Comenius, and observe how he worked on the pre-earthly willing of souls who afterwards descended to the earth. For just as Leopold von Ranke became the greatest disciple of Bacon — of Bacon after his death — so did Schlosser become the greatest disciple of Comenius after his death.

Read Schlosser's History; observe the prevailing tone, the fundamental note he strikes. On every page there speaks the moralist — the moralist who would fain seize the human heart and soul — whose object is to speak right into the heart. Often he scarcely succeeds, for he is still rather a pedant. He speaks, in effect, like a pedant speaking to the heart. Nevertheless, being a pre-earthly disciple of Amos Comenius, he has absorbed something of the quality that was in Comenius himself, who was so characteristic by virtue of the peculiar quality of his spirit. For after all, Comenius too came over from Mohammedanism. Though he was very different from the spirits who gathered around Lord Bacon, nevertheless Comenius too, in his incarnation as Comenius, concentrated on the real, outer world. Everywhere he demanded visibility, objectivity, in education. There must always be an underlying picture. He demands vision — object lessons, as it were; he too lays stress on the sense-perceptible, though in quite another way. For Amos Comenius was also one of those who at the time of the Thirty Years' War believed most enthusiastically in the coming of the so-called Millennium. In his Pansophia he wrote down great and world-embracing ideas. He wanted to work for human education by a great impulsive power. This too worked on Schlosser. It is there in Schlosser.

I mention these two figures — Ranke and Schlosser — in order to show you how we can understand what appears as the spiritually productive power in man only if we also take into account his life beyond the earth. Only then do we understand it — just as we have also learnt to understand many things by taking into account repeated lives on earth. For in the thoughts which I have recently placed before you, we have observed this marvellous working across from one incarnation to another. As I said, I give these examples in order that we may then consider how a man can think about his own karma. Before we can dwell on the way in which good and evil — or illnesses or the like — work over from one incarnation to another, we must first learn to perceive how that which afterwards emerges in the spiritual and intellectual life of civilisation also works across from one incarnation to another.

Now my dear friends, I must admit that for me one of the most interesting personalities in modern spiritual life, with regard to his karma, was Conrad Ferdinand Meyer. Anyone who observes him closely will see that his most beautiful works depend on a peculiar fact, namely this: Again and again, in his whole human constitution, there was a kind of tendency for the Ego and astral body to flee from the physical and the etheric bodies.

Morbid conditions appear in Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, bordering very nearly on dementia. But these morbid conditions only express in a rather more extreme form what was always present in him in a nascent state. His soul-and-spirit tends to go out — holds to the physical and etheric only by a very loose thread. And in this condition — the soul-and-spirit holding to the physical and etheric by a very loose thread only — the most beautiful of his works originate; I mean the most beautiful of his longer works and of his shorter poems too. Conrad Ferdinand Meyer's most beautiful poems may even be said to have originated half out of the body. There was a peculiar relationship between the four members of his nature. Truly there is a great difference between such a personality and an average man of the present time. With an average man of this materialistic age we generally find a very firm and robust connection of the soul-and-spirit with the physical and etheric. The soul-and-spirit is deeply immersed in the physical and etheric — ‘sits tight’, as it were. But in Conrad Ferdinand Meyer it was not so. He had a very tender relation of the soul-and-spirit to the physical and etheric. To describe his psyche is really one of the most interesting tasks one can undertake when studying the developments of modern spiritual life. Many things that emerge in Conrad Ferdinand Meyer appear almost like a dim, cloudy recollection — a recollection which has however grown beautiful in growing dim. When Conrad Ferdinand Meyer writes we always have the feeling: He is remembering something, though not quite exactly. He changes it — but changes it into something beautiful and form-perfected. We can observe this wonderfully, piece by piece, in certain of his works.

Now it is characteristic of the inner karma of a human being when there is such a definite relationship of the four members of his nature — physical body, etheric body, astral body and Ego. And in Conrad Ferdinand Meyer's case, when we trace back this peculiarly intimate connection, we are led, first of all, to the time of the Thirty Years' War. This was the first thing clear to me in his case: there is something of a former earthly life at the time of the Thirty Years' War. And then there is a still earlier life on earth going back into the pre-Carlovingian age, going back quite evidently into the early history of Italy.

When we endeavour to trace Conrad Ferdinand Meyer's karma, the peculiar, intangible fluidity of his being (which none the less expresses itself in such perfection of form) — the peculiar, intangible fluidity of his life somehow communicates itself to our investigation, until at length we feel: We are getting into confusion. I have no other alternative but to describe these things just as they happened in the investigation.

We go back into the time of the 6th century in Italy. There we have the feeling: We are getting into an extraordinarily insecure element. We are driven back again and again, and only gradually we observe that this is not due to ourselves but to the object of our research. There is really in the soul — in the individuality — of Conrad Ferdinand Meyer something that brings us into confusion as we try to investigate him. We are driven to return again and again into his present incarnation or into the one immediately before it. Again and again we must ‘pull ourselves up’ and go back again.

The following was the result. — You must remember, all that has lived in a human soul in former incarnations becomes manifest in the most varied forms — in likenesses which are often quite imperceptible to outer observation. This you will have seen from other instances of reincarnation given here.

So at length we come to an incarnation in Italy in the early Christian centuries — at the end of the first half of the first millennium A.D. Here we come to a halt. We find a soul living in Italy, to a large extent at Ravenna, at the Roman Court. But now we come into confusion. For we must ask ourselves: What was living in that soul? The moment we ask ourselves this question (in order to call forth the further occult investigation), the whole thing is extinguished once again.

We become aware of the experiences which this soul underwent while living at the Court at Ravenna — at the Roman Court. We enter into these experiences and we think we have them, and then again they are extinguished — blotted out from us; and we are driven back again to Conrad Ferdinand Meyer as he lived on earth in the immediate past. At length we perceive that in this later life he obliterates from our vision the content of his soul in the former life. Only after long trouble do we perceive at length how the matter really stands. Conrad Ferdinand Meyer — or rather the individuality who lived in him — was living at that time in a certain relationship to one of the Popes who sent him, among others, to England on a Roman Catholic, Christian Mission.

The individuality who afterwards became Conrad Ferdinand Meyer had first absorbed all that wonderful sense of form which it was possible to absorb in Italy at that time. The Mosaic art of Italy bears witness to it; also the old Italian painting, the greater part, nay practically the whole of which has been destroyed. This art did not continue.

And then he went on a Roman Catholic Christian Mission to the Anglo-Saxons. One of his companions founded the Bishopric of Canterbury. What afterwards took place at Canterbury began essentially with this foundation. The individuality, however, who after-wards appeared as Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, was only there as a witness, so to speak. Nevertheless, he was a very active person, and he called forth the ill-will of an Anglo-Saxon chieftain, at whose investigation he was eventually murdered. That is what we find to begin with.

But while he lived in England there was something in the soul of this Conrad Ferdinand Meyer which robbed him of real joy in life. His soul was deeply rooted in the Italian art of his time — or, if we will call it so, in the Italian spiritual life. He gained no happiness in the execution of his missionary work in England. Yet he devoted himself to it with great intensity — so much so that his assassination was a reaction to it.

This constant unhappiness — being repelled from something which he was none the less doing with all force and devotion out of another impulse in his heart — worked on in such a way that when he passed through his next earthly life there ensued a cosmic clouding-over of his memory. The inner impulse was there but it no longer coincided with any clear concept.

And so it came about that in his subsequent incarnation as Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, an undefined impulse was at work in him, to this effect: ‘I was once working in England. It is connected somehow with Canterbury. I was murdered owing to my connection with Canterbury.’

So indeed the outer life of Conrad Ferdinand Meyer in this incarnation takes its course. He studies outer history, he studies Canterbury, studies what happened in Canterbury, in connection with the history of England. He comes across Thomas à Becket, Chancellor of King Henry II in the 12th century. He learns of the strange destiny of Thomas à Becket, who from being the all-powerful Chancellor of Henry II, was murdered virtually at his instigation. And so in this present incarnation as Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, his own half-forgotten destiny appears to him in Thomas à Becket. It comes before him, half-forgotten in his subconsciousness, for I am speaking of course, of the subconscious life which comes to the surface in this way. So he describes his own fate in a far distant time. But he describes it in the story of what actually happened in the 12th century between King Henry II and Thomas à Becket of Canterbury, whose fate he recounts in his poetic work Der Heilige (The Saint). So indeed it is — only all this takes place in the subconscious life which embraces successive incarnations. It is as though within a single earthly life a man had experienced something in his early youth in connection with a certain place. He has forgotten it. He experienced it maybe in the second or third year of his life. It does not emerge, but some other similar destiny emerges. The very same place is named, and as a result he has a peculiar sympathy for this other person's destiny. He feels it differently from one who has no ‘association of ideas’ with the same place.

Just as this may happen within one earthly life, so it took place in the concrete instance I am now giving you. There was the work in Canterbury, the murder of a person connected with Canterbury (for Thomas à Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury), the murder of Thomas à Becket at the instigation of the King of England. All of these schemes work in together. In the descriptions in his poem he is describing his own destiny.

But now the thing goes on — and this is most interesting in Conrad Ferdinand Meyer's case. He was born as a woman about the time of the Thirty Years' War — a lively woman, full of spiritual interest in life, a woman who witnessed many an adventure. She married a man who first took part in all the confused events of the Thirty Years' War, but then grew weary of them and emigrated to Switzerland, to Graubünden (Canton Grisons), where he lived a somewhat philistine existence. But his wife was deeply affected and impressed by all that took place in the Graubünden country under the prevailing conditions of the Thirty Years' War.

This too is eclipsed, as though with another layer. For it is so with this individuality: That which is living in him is easily forgotten in the cosmic sense, and yet he calls it forth again in a transmuted form, where it becomes more glorious and more intense. For out of what this woman observed and experienced in that incarnation there arises the wonderful characterisation of Jürg Jenatsch, the man of Graubünden, in Conrad Ferdinand Meyer's historic novel. Observing Conrad Ferdinand Meyer in this incarnation, we have indeed no explanation of his peculiarity if we cannot enter into his karma. I must say — speaking with a grain of salt — that I envy the people who ‘understand’ him so light-heartedly. Before I knew his reincarnations, all that I understood was that I did not understand him. This wonderful inner perfection of form, this inner joy in form, this purity of form, all the strength and power that lives in Jürg Jenatsch, and the wonderful personal and living quality in The Saint, — a good deal of superficiality is needed to imagine that one understands all this. Observe his beautiful forms — there is something of clear line in them, almost severe; they are painted and yet not painted. Here live the mosaics of Ravenna. And in The Saint there lives a history which was undergone once upon a time by this individuality himself; but a mist of the soul has spread over it, and out of the mist it emerges in another form.

And again one needs to know: All that is living in his romance of Graubünden, Jürg Jenatsch, was absorbed by the heart and mind of a woman; while in the momentum, the driving power that lives in this romance there lives again the swashbuckler of the Thirty Years' War. The man was pretty much of a philistine, as I said, but he was a swashbuckler. And so, all that comes over from former experiences on earth comes to life again in a peculiar form in Conrad Ferdinand Meyer. Only now do we begin to understand him. Now we say to ourselves: In olden times of human evolution, men were not ashamed to speak of Spirits from beyond descending to the earth, or of earthly human beings finding their way upward and working on from spiritual worlds. All this must come again, otherwise man will not get beyond his present outlook of the earthworm. For all that the natural-scientific conception of the world contains, it is the world-outlook of the earth-worm. Men live on earth as though only the earth concerned them, as though it were not true that the whole Cosmos works upon all earthly things and lives again in man. As though it were not true that earlier epochs of history live on, inasmuch as we ourselves carry into later times what we absorbed in former times.

We do not understand karma by talking theoretic concepts about successive earthly incarnations. To understand karma is to feel in our hearts all that we can feel when we see what existed ages ago flowing into the later epochs in the souls of men themselves. When we begin to see how karma works, human life gains quite a new content. We feel ourselves quite differently in human life.

Such a spirit as Conrad Ferdinand Meyer feels his former earthly lives like an undertone — an undertone that sounds from far away. We understand what appears in him only when we develop an understanding for this undertone. The progress of mankind in spiritual life will depend on its ability to regard life in this way, to observe in all detail what flows across from former epochs of the world's evolution into later epochs through the human beings themselves. Then we shall cease, in the childish way of psycho-analysts, to explain the peculiarities of souls by speaking of ‘hidden underlying regions’ and the like. After all, one can ascribe anything one likes to what is ‘hidden’. We shall look for the real causes. In some respects, no doubt, the psycho-analysts do quite good work. But these pursuits remind us of the story of how someone heard that in the year 1749 a son was born to a certain patrician. Afterwards this son emerged as a very gifted man. To this day we can point to the actual birth-place in Frankfurt of the man who afterwards came forth as Wolfgang Goethe. ‘Let us make excavations in the earth and see by dint of what strange emanations his talents came about’. Sometimes the psycho-analysts seem to me just like that. They dig into the earth-realm of the soul, into the hidden regions which they themselves first invent by their hypotheses, whereas in reality one ought to look into the preceding lives on earth and lives between death and a new birth. Then if we do so, a true understanding of human souls is opened out to us. Truly the souls of men are far too rich in content to enable us to understand their content out of a single life alone.