18 September 1924, Dornach
In the lectures to-day and to-morrow I wish to give certain indications which will throw light, not only on the working of karma, but on the wider importance of karmic knowledge for our general knowledge of the history of evolution, especially in the domain of the spiritual life. We cannot understand the real working of karma if we merely consider the successive earthly lives of any one individuality. Certain it is that within this earthly life, being strongly impressed by the earthly career and history of one man or another, or maybe even of ourselves, we are most keen to know: How do the results of former earthly lives reach over into a later one? But the ways of the working of karma would never become clear to us if we stopped short at the earthly lives themselves. For between one earthly life and another man spends the life between death and a new birth, and it is there that karma is elaborated from what has happened in a former earthly life. There it is elaborated in co-operation with other karmically connected human souls who are also in their life between death and a new birth, and with the Spirits of higher and lower Hierarchies. And this elaboration of karma can only be understood if we can look to the world of stars beyond the earth. For we know that the realm of the stars as it appears to physical sight, reveals only its external aspect.
Again and again we must repeat that the physicist would be in the highest degree astonished if he arrived at the places of the stars which he observes through his telescope, whose constitution and substances he analyses with his spectroscope. The physicist, if he were to go to the places where the stars are, would be astonished to see something totally different from what he would expect. For what the star shows to earthly observation is in reality only an outward semblance, comparatively unessential to its own true being. What the star really contains is of a spiritual nature, or, if physical it appears as the remnant, so to say, of something spiritual.
We can best explain this in the following way. Imagine that an inhabitant of some other star were to observe the Earth in the way our astronomers and astro-physicists observe other stars. He would describe a luminous disc shining far out into the cosmos. On it he would find perhaps darker and lighter spots which he would somehow interpret. Probably the interpretation would altogether disagree with what we who inhabit the globe know amongst ourselves. Or perhaps, if Vesuvius were erupting and such a being could observe it, he would theorise that a comet was colliding with the Earth, and so forth. At any rate, what such a being described would have very little to do with the real essence of our Earth.
For what is the essence of our Earth? You must remember that this Earth has proceeded from the Saturn-existence as I described it in my Occult Science. In Saturn there was as yet no air, no gas, no liquid, no solid earth-constituent. There were only varied differentiations of warmth. But in those warmth-conditions, everything that afterwards became the mineral, plant and animal, and human kingdoms was contained germinally. We human beings, too, were in the warmth of ancient Saturn.
Then evolution went forward. Out of the warmth, air was precipitated, water was precipitated, and at length the solid element. All these are remnants, precipitated, cast out by humanity in order that it might attain its further evolution. The whole solid mineral world belongs to us. It is but a relic that has remained behind. So, too, the watery and airy elements. Thus the real essence of our Earth is not what we have in the kingdoms of Nature, and not even what we carry in our bones and muscles (for these too are composed of what we have thus cast out and afterwards absorbed again). Our own souls are the real essence, and everything else is in reality more or less a semblance, a remnant, a waste product, or the like.
The only true description of the Earth would be to describe it as the colony of the souls of man in cosmic space.
Thus are all the stars colonies of spiritual Beings in cosmic space, colonies which we can learn to know as such. And having passed through the gate of death, our own soul lives and moves among these starry colonies. It goes on its further journey, evolving towards a new birth in community with other human souls that are there, and with the Beings of higher or even of lower Hierarchies. And when a man's karma is elaborated and he is ripe to take on an earthly body once again, his soul starts on the returning journey.
To understand karma, therefore, we must return once more to a wisdom of the stars. We must discover spiritually the paths of man between death and a new birth in connection with the Beings of the stars.
Now until the beginning of the age of Michael there have been the greatest difficulties for the men of modern time to approach a real wisdom of the stars. And Anthroposophy, having nevertheless found its way to such a wisdom, must be deeply thankful for the fact that the dominion of Michael really did enter the life of Earth-humanity with the last third of the 19th century. For among many things that we owe to the dominion of Michael there is this too: we have gained once more unhindered access to discover what must be investigated in the worlds of the stars if we would understand karma and the forming of karma in the sphere of humanity.
To introduce you gradually into the extremely difficult questions that arise in the investigation of karma, I will give you an example to-day. It will show you by an illustration how much must be achieved before we can speak of the working of karma as we are doing in these lectures.
It is true enough, is it not, that if we were to speak popularly or in public of the content of these lectures nowadays, these things which are truly an outcome of exact research would be treated as an absurdity. Nevertheless it is a most exact research and you must make yourselves acquainted with all the responsibilities of which one becomes aware in the course of it. You must learn to know all the obstacles and difficulties one meets in such research — the thorny hedges, as it were, which one must pass. For all these things are necessary in order that at length a number of human beings, united karmically in the community of Michael, can learn to know the things of karma. You must know that these are questions of the most earnest spiritual research, far removed from what is imagined by the layman who stands outside this Anthroposophical Movement.
Most of you will remember a character who occurs again and again in my Mystery Plays — the character of Strader. I have already to some extent spoken of these things. The character of Strader is partly drawn from life, in so far as that is possible in a poetic work. I had a kind of pattern for the personality of Strader. It was a man who lived through the developments of the last third of the 19th century and came to a kind of rationalistic Christianity. After an extremely difficult period of youth (as is suggested in the description of Strader) this man became a Capuchin monk, but he could not bear it in the Church, and at length became a professor.
Having been driven from theology into philosophy, he wrote and spoke with great enthusiasm of Lessing's “free-thinking religion” if one may so describe it. Having come into an inner conflict with official Christianity, he then wanted to found a sort of rationalistic Christianity on a basis of reason and in a quite conscious way. The soul-conflicts of Strader as described in my Mystery Plays did indeed take place in the real life of this man, though of course with certain variations.
Now you know that in the last Mystery Play, Strader dies. I myself, if I now look back and see how I wove the character of Strader into the plot of the four Mystery Plays, must see that though there was no external difficulty in letting him live on just like the other characters, he dies out of an inner necessity at a certain moment. One may well feel his death as a surprise when reading through the plays. But I had the strong inner feeling that I could no longer continue the character of Strader in the plays.
Why was it so? You see, in the meantime the original, the model, if I may call him so, had died. Now having based the character of Strader on him, you may well imagine how deeply interested I was in the original, in his further course of evolution. He continued to interest me when he had passed through the gate of death.
Now it is a peculiar thing when we wish to follow the life of a human being clairvoyantly through the time directly after death, through the period that lasts about a third of the physical life on earth. The earthly life, as we know, is in a certain way gone through again backward, at a threefold speed. Now what is the human being really experiencing in these decades that immediately follow his earthly life?
Imagine a human life here upon earth. We know how it falls into day and night — alternating conditions of waking and sleeping. Already in the periods of sleep man experiences reminiscences of the day-waking life pictorially, but he is not conscious. Ordinarily when we look back upon our life we remember only the day-waking states. Nor do we bear in mind what the chain of memories is really like, for in reality we should say: I remember that day from morning till evening, then there is a break, then again from morning till evening, then again a break and so on. But, as the nights are an empty void in our memory, we draw the line continuously through and thus falsify the chain of memory by placing one day directly after another. After death it is different, for then we must live with intense reality through all the experiences that were present in the nights of our life, comprising about a third of the length of our life. We live through it backwards. Now this is the peculiar thing — we have, as you know, a certain sense of reality, a certain feeling of real existence with regard to the things we meet with here in the physical world. If we had not this sense of reality we could consider as a dream all the things we meet with, even in the daytime. Thus we undoubtedly have a sense of the reality of things. We know that they are real; they hit us if we knock against them; they send us light and sound. In short, there are many things that give us our sense of reality here in this earthly life between birth and death.
Now all that we have here on earth as feeling of reality, all that we should describe as the reality — the real existence — of human beings whom we meet here, is in its intensity like the reality of a dream compared to the immensely strong reality which we experience in the decades immediately after death and which the clairvoyant observer can experience with us. For there, everything seems to us more real. The earthly life seems like a dream. It is as though the soul were only then awakening into the real intensity of life. — That is the peculiar thing.
Now as I followed the image of Strader (or of his counterpart) after his passage through the gate of death, the real individuality living after death naturally interested me far more than the reminiscence of his earthly life. For the earthly seems like a dream compared to what emerges after death. Faced with the strong impressions of the dead I could no longer have evolved sufficient interest in the living man to describe his life. In this case I speak out of my own experience. How weak is the reality of earthly life compared with that intensest life which meets us when we follow a man after his death!
When our interest has been kindled on the earth and we try to follow the life of a man in his further course after death, we begin to realise the tremendous difficulties and hindrances. For if we observe rightly and penetratingly, we see, already in that backward course which takes about a third of the time of the past earthly life, how the dead man begins to approach and prepare for the forming of his karma. In a reverse and backward life, he sees all that he underwent during his life on earth. If he offended another man he experiences the event again. If I die at the age of seventy-three, and at the age of sixty I offended someone, I experience it again on the backward journey. But this time I experience, not the feelings which I had in giving the offence, but the feelings of the other man. I live right over into him. Thus I with my own experience live in those who were touched in a good or in a bad sense by these my experiences in life. And thus the tendency is prepared and grows in me myself, to create the karmic balance.
Now my interest in the earthly archetype of Strader who now appeared before me as an individuality in higher worlds — my interest in him had been kindled especially by his desire to take hold of Christianity in a very penetrating, in a very brilliant, but rationalistic way. In his case we cannot but admire the thinker, and yet in the books he wrote, in his rationalistic description of Christianity, we see again and again how the thread of rationalism, the thread of abstract concepts breaks at the critical moment, and in the last resort appalling abstractions are the outcome. He cannot really enter a spiritual conception of Christianity. He builds up a religion of abstract philosophical concepts for himself. In short, the whole workings of modern intellectualism find expression in him.
This again appeared in a peculiar way as one followed his path of life after his death. Ordinarily, when there are no special difficulties, we find the human being living gradually into the sphere of the Moon, for that is the first station of the life after death. When we arrive after death in the Moon-region, we find all those whom we might call the “Registrars” of our destiny, who in primeval time were the wise Teachers of humanity. How often we have spoken of them here! As the Moon separated physically from the Earth, and, having been a part of earthly substance, became a heavenly body by itself, so the primeval Teachers of mankind afterwards followed the Moon, and we to-day, when as dead men we pass the region of the Moon, find the great primeval Teachers of mankind. They were not here in physical bodies, but they founded the primeval wisdom of which the traditions of sacred literature are but an echo.
Unhindered, if there are no special hindrances, we find our way after death into that region of the Moon. Now with the human being who was the archetype of Strader, something peculiar occurred. It was as though he was simply unable to approach the Moon-region unhindered and undergo that life of soul which follows directly after death. There were perpetual hindrances, as though the Moon-region simply would not let this individuality approach it.
Then if one followed the real events and causes in pictorial Imagination, the following appeared. — It was as though the Spirits, the primeval Teachers of mankind who had once brought to humanity the original and spiritual wisdom, called out again and again to this human being, the archetype of Strader: “Thou canst not come to us, for owing to thy special qualities as man thou mayst not know anything as yet about the stars. Thou must wait, and first repeat and recapitulate many things that thou didst undergo not only in thy last, but in thy former incarnations. Thou mayst not know anything at all of the stars and their real being, till thou hast thus prepared thyself.” — It was a strange scene. One had before one an individuality who simply could not grow out towards the spiritual of the world of stars — or could only do so with the greatest difficulty. And in this case I made the strange discovery that these modern individualities of the rationalistic, intellectualistic mind, find the great hindrance in the shaping of their karma, inasmuch as they cannot approach unhindered the spiritual being of the stars.
On further investigation it appeared that this personality had drawn all the forces of his rationalism from the time that still preceded the dawn of the Age of Michael. He was not yet really touched by the dominion of Michael.
In this case I felt strongly called upon to follow the individual karma farther into the past. It was a real challenge. For I said to myself: something is here, which, working from the results of former lives on earth, has prepared this human being karmically, so that the karma works itself out not only in this earthly life, but extends even into the life after his death. It is indeed a strange phenomenon.
Then the following appeared. The earthly life which I have indicated in bare outline, which is reflected in the character of Strader, this earthly life of the individuality was preceded by a life in spiritual worlds which I can only describe as a sore and grievous trial. It was a trial in the spiritual worlds: “What shall I do with Christianity?” It was like a slow preparation of the influences which then made him insecure in earthly life in his conception of Christianity. This too shines through in the figure of Strader. He is in no way certain. He rejects the super-sensible in a way; he tries only to take hold of it with intellect, and yet after all he wants to see. Call to mind the character of Strader, and you will find it so. Thus the real life of the archetype of Strader grew out of his former karma. In effect, in his passage through the life between death and a new birth, before his earthly life at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, he had passed through the world of the stars in a very dim and darkened consciousness. His consciousness was darkened as he went through that life between death and a new birth. And as a reaction, in his life on earth he conceived concepts the more clear and sharply outlined for the bluntness of the conceptual pictures he had experienced between death and a new birth.
We go backward still — beyond these phenomena which seemed to show the starry worlds as though in a perpetual fog — backward to his former life on earth, and there we find the most remarkable thing of all. We are led to begin with, or at least I was led, to the Battle of the Minstrels in the Wartburg, A.D. 1206. It was the very time of which I told you how the old Platonists from the School of Chartres, for instance, had gone up into the spiritual worlds and the others had not yet descended. It was the time when a kind of heavenly conference took place between the two groups of souls as to the further progress of the activities of Michael. In that time there took place the Battle of the Minstrels in the Wartburg.
It is ever interesting to observe: What is happening here on earth and what is happening yonder? Thus we have an event on earth in the Battle of the Minstrels on the Wartburg, not directly connected with the continued stream of Michael.
Now who was there in the Battle of the Minstrels? The greatest German poets were there together, vying one with another in their song. The story is well known — how the Minstrels fought for the fame of princes and for their own repute: Walther von der Vogelweide, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Reinmar von Zweter, and how there was one who stood against all the others — Heinrich von Ofterdingen.
In this Heinrich von Ofterdingen I found the individuality that underlay the archetype of Strader.
Thus it was Heinrich von Ofterdingen. Now we must concentrate on this: Why did Heinrich von Ofterdingen meet with such difficulties when he had passed through the gate of death? Why did he have to go through the world of stars, as it were, darkened and befogged?
To answer this we must return to the story of the Battle of the Minstrels. Heinrich von Ofterdingen takes up the fight against the others. They have already called the hangman. He is to be hanged if he loses. He manages to withdraw; but, hoping to bring about a renewed contest, he summons the magician Klingsor from the land of Hungary. He did, in effect, bring the magician Klingsor from Hungary to Eisenach. A new Battle of the Wartburg ensues and Klingsor enters the lists for Heinrich von Ofterdingen. Klingsor himself sings against the others, but it is quite evident that he is not battling alone. He causes spiritual beings to battle with him. For instance, in order to do so, he makes a youth become possessed by a spiritual being — and then compels the youth to sing in his place. He calls still stronger spiritual forces into play in the Wartburg.
Over against all that comes from Klingsor's side stands Wolfram von Eschenbach. One of Klingsor's practices is to make one of his spiritual beings put Wolfram to the test, as to whether he is really a learned man. For Klingsor finds himself driven into a corner by Wolfram. In effect, Wolfram von Eschenbach, observing that some spiritual influence is at work, sings of the Holy Communion, the Transubstantiation, the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the spirit is obliged to depart, for he cannot bear it. There are indeed “real realities” underlying these things, if I may use the tautology.
Klingsor puts Wolfram to the test, and succeeds indeed, with the help of the spiritual being, in proving that Wolfram (though indeed he has a star-less Christianity, a Christianity that no longer reckons with the cosmos) is quite unlearned in all cosmic wisdom. This now is the point. Klingsor has proved that the Minstrel of the Holy Grail, even in his time, knows only that Christianity which has eliminated the Cosmic Christianity. Klingsor himself, on the other hand, is only able to appear with the support of spiritual beings, inasmuch as he possesses a wisdom of the stars. But we recognise, from the way he uses his wisdom, that what is called “Black Magic” is indeed mingled in his arts.
In a word, we see Wolfram von Eschenbach, who is a stranger to the stars, encountered by a wisdom of the stars unrighteously applied.
This was in the 13th century, immediately preceding the appearance of those Dominicans of whom I told you. It was at the very time when Christianity, just where it was greatest, had divested itself of all insight into the world of stars. Indeed at that time the wisdom of the stars only existed in quarters that were inwardly estranged from Christianity, as was the case with Klingsor of Hungary.
Now it was Heinrich von Ofterdingen who had summoned Klingsor. Heinrich von Ofterdingen, therefore, had allied himself with an unchristian wisdom of the stars. And thus Heinrich remained united in a certain way, not merely with the personality of Klingsor (who in fact afterwards vanished from Heinrich's life in the super-sensible) but with the unchristian cosmology of the Middle Ages. In this way he lived on between death and a new birth, and was reborn as I described it to you. He came into an uncertainty of Christianity.
But the most important thing is this. — He dies again and enters on the returning journey of his life. And in the world of souls, at every step he stands face to face with the necessity, if ever he is to approach the world of stars again, to pass through the grievous battle which Michael had to wage in the last third of the 19th century when he claimed his dominion especially against those demonic powers which were connected with the unchristian cosmology of the Middle Ages.
To complete the picture, I will add that it is clearly possible to see among those who fought hard against the dominion of Michael, and against whom the spirits of Michael had to proceed — it is clearly possible to see among them to this day, the very spirit-beings whom Klingsor conjured up in the Wartburg long ago against Wolfram von Eschenbach.
Thus we see a man whose other results of past karma even led him for a time into the services of the Capuchin Order, unable to come near to real Christianity. He could not come to it because he bore within him the antagonism to Christianity which he had raised in his past life,when he summoned Klingsor to his aid from the land of Hungary, against Wolfram von Eschenbach, the singer of Parsifal. Darkly in the unconscious life of this man the unchristian cosmology still showed itself, but in his ordinary consciousness he evolved a rationalistic Christianity which is not even very interesting. For the interest attaches more to the great conflict of his life, when with a Christian rationalism he tried to found a kind of rationalistic religion.
But it is most significant of all to recognise this connection of abstract rationalism, abstractly clever thinking, with that which lives in the subconscious as darkened, veiled conceptions about the stars and relationships to the stars. Such things, living in the subconscious, rise into consciousness as abstract thoughts. We can study the karma of the cleverest men of the present day — cleverest in the materialist sense — and we find that as a rule in former earthly lives they had something to do with cosmological aberrations into the realms of black magic. This is a very significant connection. An instinctive feeling of it is preserved in the peasants and country folk, who feel a certain aversion from the outset when they find among them someone who is all too clever in a rationalistic sense. They do not like him. In their instinctive conception of him there is something which, if we follow it up, leads eventually to such connections.
Now I want you to consider all these things in relation to our main subject. Such human spirits one could meet with in the last third of the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th. They are among the most interesting. A reborn Heinrich von Ofterdingen, who had to do with the blackest magician of his time, with Klingsor, proves indeed most interesting in his present-day rationalistic intellect.
We see here how great the difficulties are when one wishes to approach the wisdom of the stars rightly and righteously. Indeed the true approach to the wisdom of the stars, which we need to penetrate the facts of karma, is only possible in the light of a true insight into Michael's dominion. It is only possible at Michael's side.
I have shown you a single example to-day — the example of him who was the archetype of Strader. It will show you once more, how through the whole reality of modern time there has come forth a certain stream of spiritual life which makes it very difficult to approach with an open mind the science of the stars, and the science, too, of karma. But difficult as it is, it can be done. Despite the attacks that are possible from those quarters which I have described to-day, we can nevertheless go forward with assurance, and approach the wisdom of the stars and the real shaping of karma. As to how these things are possible, I will tell you more to-morrow.