21 September 1924, Dornach
The lectures I have now been giving under the impression of the presence of so many friends who have come here from different countries, have followed a certain main purpose. Out of karmic sources, I have tried to give a description which should lead, at any rate in a few broad outlines, to a spiritual understanding of the spiritual life of the present time. In a certain respect these lectures will after all form a totality, a single whole, which I will bring to a conclusion in my lecture next Tuesday.
To-day I will give an example to show how difficult it can be to carry into this present time a spiritual science which should really be suited to this time. I will not try to answer the question to-day by reference to external circumstances, but I will answer it by a karmic example. The individuality to whom this example will refer is not exactly typical. It is indeed a very peculiar individuality. Nevertheless this example will serve to show how difficult it is to carry into an earthly life in the present time, what every human being does after all bring with him from his former lives on earth. I mean what he brings with him in the sense that with the possible exception of his very last incarnation, he did after all still stand in original relationship of one kind or another to the spiritual world, or if not in reality, then at least by tradition. And yet in spite of this it is so difficult to carry into the bodily nature of the human being of to-day, into the conditions of present-day education and culture, anything spiritual that was received and absorbed in former time.
To this end I will now unfold before you a succession of earthly lives of an individuality which will reveal to you all manner of hindrances that can indeed arise to prevent the carrying of spiritual contents into the present time. This example will also show you how such difficulties were already prepared in many cases during former earthly lives.
To begin with, we will consider a human individuality incarnated in the 6th century B.C. It was the time when the Jews were led into the Babylonian captivity, and a little after that. In studying that period I was struck by an individuality who was incarnated as a woman belonging to the Jewish race. When the Jews were led into captivity, however, that is to say, before they actually arrived in the Babylonian captivity, this woman made her escape. And in the time that followed (she attained a considerable age in that incarnation) she received in Asia Minor all manner of teachings which could be received there at that time. She received among other things what was then living with great intensity, with great impressiveness, even in Asia Minor, elaborating in various directions what we may call the Zarathustrian world-conception with its intense dualism. You remember the description in a chapter of my Occult Science: the dualism recognising on the one hand Ahura Mazdao, the great Spirit of Light, who sends his impulses into the evolution of mankind, so as to be the source of the good and great and beautiful, who is surrounded by his ministering spirits, the Amschaspands, even as the sun is surrounded in the glory of the manifestation of the countenance of heaven by the twelve signs of the zodiacal circle. These then are the light aspects in the dualism which originated in ancient Persia. On the other hand there was the Ahrimanic opposing power, bearing into the world-evolution of mankind all that is dark, and not only dark but all that is evil, all that hinders and creates disharmony.
This teaching was bound up with the deep and impressive knowledge of the constellation of the stars in the sense of the astrology or astrosophy of ancient times.
All these things, the individuality of whom I am speaking, in her incarnation as a woman in that time, was able to receive because she had as her teacher in a sense, and as her friend, a man who was initiated into many of these doctrines of Asia Minor, and especially also into the Chaldean knowledge of the stars.
Thus we have to begin with a lively interchange of thought between these two, in the period following the abduction of the Jews into captivity. And we have the following remarkable phenomenon. Through the powerful impressions she received, through all the teachings which she absorbed with extraordinary interest and receptivity, powers of seership were awakened in the woman's inner life. She became able to behold the universe in visions which portrayed in a very real sense the cosmic order.
In this case we have to do with a really remarkable individuality. All that had been discovered and experienced between her and the semi-Initiate of Asia Minor who was her friend, all this sprang into life, as it were, within her. And a feeling came over her which we may express in these words: What were all the ideas I received during my instruction as against the mighty tableau of Imaginations that now stand before my soul? How great and mighty is the universe itself, how rich in inner content! — For she realised this through her visionary Imaginations.
This mood gave rise to a certain feeling of estrangement between the two, for the man was more inclined to value the tracing of world-conceptions along the lines of thought, while the woman tended more and more to the pictorial element. Then the two personalities went through the gate of death almost simultaneously, but with a certain feeling of estrangement between them.
Now the results of these two earthly lives became in a strange way fused together. The two individualities went through the most intense experiences in looking backward over their life, in passing backward through their life after their death, and in elaborating their karma between death and a new birth. The result of their life together upon earth was an intense life in community with one another after death.
In the one who had been a woman we find the feeling of preponderance of visionary Imaginations which she had had towards the end of her life no longer present so intensely after her death. Indeed there springs forth in her a kind of longing that in her next earthly life she may comprehend these things more in the form of thought. For in her past life which I have just described she had comprehended them more in the form of speech. From having been livingly experienced in speech they had passed over into the life of visionary Imaginations.
The two individualities, intensely connected as they were with one another in their karma, were reborn in the first Christian centuries at a time when the spiritual substance of Christianity was gradually becoming informed with a certain scholarship and scholarly activity. I have mentioned once before that many of the souls who out of a sincere impulse have since found their way into Anthroposophy, partook in the Christianity of those early Christian centuries. But at that time they could experience Christianity in a far more living form than it afterwards assumed.
Now in this case a peculiar thing appears. There comes before us a man who, as far as karma was concerned, has nothing directly to do with the two individualities of whom I am speaking. But he has to do with them through the history of the time in which they were now living. I refer to Martianus Capella, a dominant personality in the spiritual life of that time. It was he who first wrote the fundamental work on the Seven Liberal Arts, which were to play so great a part in all teaching and education throughout the Middle Ages. The Seven Liberal Arts were: Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music. In their combined activity and influence they provided what was then felt as knowledge both of Nature and of the Universe.
Martianus Capella's work appears at first sight somewhat dry and matter-of-fact. But we must know that such books, especially in the early Middle Ages, none the less proceeded from spiritual foundations. Indeed this was the case even with those later descriptions which went forth from the School of Chartres, whose apparent character is also dry, enumerating things in categories and the like. In Martianus Capella's descriptions concerning the Seven Liberal Arts and Nature that works behind them, matter-of-fact as they appear to us, we must be able to recognise the outpouring of certain instructive conceptions about higher things. For the Seven Liberal Arts were indeed conceived as real living Being, even as Nature herself was described as a living Being. However apparently dry in their writing, such personalities as Martianus Capella were, none the less, well aware that all these things can be seen in the spirit. Dialectic, Rhetoric, etc. are living Beings, inspirers of human skill, of human spiritual activity. Moreover, as I have explained in these lectures, Nature in her reality, the goddess Natura, was conceived in a similar way to the Proserpina of antiquity.
Now the woman of whom I have just spoken was reincarnated in this time and stood within this stream — within all that arose for mankind under the influence of what was contained in the Seven Liberal Arts, and in the conception of Nature that held sway over them. This time, however, she became a man, who, though in a man's body and a man's intellect, bore within him from the outset the tendency to elaborate whatever was to become his knowledge, not so much in thought, but once more in visionary conceptions.
It may perhaps be said that there were very few at that time, in the beginning of the 6th or at the end of the 5th century A.D. — there were few among those who might be called the pupils of Martianus Capella, in whom the spiritual content of that time lived in a fully vivid, pictorial and living way. But the personality to whom I refer, living now in a male incarnation, could actually speak of his intercourse with the inspiring powers, Dialectic, Rhetoric, and so forth. He was filled with the perception of living, spiritual activities.
And now once more he met the other individuality who had been a man in his former incarnation and who was now a woman, gifted with great intelligence. And once again (we can well imagine how this was karmically conditioned for we witness here the working of karma) — once again there arose an intense spiritual intercourse between them, an interchange, I cannot say of ideas, but of perceptions, a living and powerful assimilation.
But a strange thing arose in that personality who in the pre-Christian centuries had been a woman and was now a man. Because his perceptions and ideas were so vivid, there arose in the man an intense knowledge of how that visionary life which he possessed was connected altogether with the feminine nature. I do not mean to say that the visionary life is in general connected with a woman's personality, but in this case, the whole fundamental character of the visionary life had come over from the former incarnation of the individual as a woman. Thus innumerable secrets were revealed to this man, secrets relating especially to the mutual interaction of Earth and Moon, secrets relating, for instance, to the life of reproduction. The individuality living in this incarnation as a man became remarkably well versed especially in these domains.
Now we see the two individualities passing once more through the gate of death, undergoing the life between death and a new birth, and in their life approaching, in super-sensible regions to begin with, the dawn of the Age of Consciousness. For they were still in the super-sensible worlds when they experienced the first dawn of the age of the Spiritual Soul. Then the one whom I first described as a woman and in her subsequent incarnation as a man, was reborn as a man once more. It is very interesting that both of them were born once more together, but the other one, who in the former incarnation, i.e., in the second, had been a woman, was now once more a man. Thus both of them were now incarnated simultaneously as men. The one who will interest us especially, who was a woman in ancient time, and a man during the early Christian centuries, who on the first occasion had been of the Jewish race, and on the second had been of extraordinarily mixed blood according to his physical descent, this one was born again in the 16th century as the Italian Utopianist, Thomas Campanella, a very remarkable personality.
Let us now look closely at the life of Thomas Campanella in so far as is necessary for an understanding of his karma. He was born with a truly remarkable receptivity for the Christian education which he received. Thus at an early age he began to study the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas. Out of the very moods and feelings which he had acquired through his former visionary life, which became transformed ever more and more into their counterpart — into the impulse to learn to know things in their very forms of thought — he entered with full life into the strong element of thought which is to be found in the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas. Thus he studied with enthusiasm and so became a Dominican in the 16th century.
But into his thinking life which he tries to hold most strictly in the direction in which thought is held in the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas, there enters continually a certain restlessness of that atavistic visionary spiritual life which he had lived before. Thus it is remarkable to see how Campanella actually looked for supports and points of contact in order to bring some inner order and connection into that element which he had once commanded when he had been a visionary in his perceptions of the world. It is remarkable to see how on the one hand Thomas Campanella became a Dominican with full inner enthusiasm. And yet even in the monastery at Cozenza he makes the acquaintance of a very brilliant Jewish Cabbalist. He now combines the study of the Jewish Cabbala with that which emerges as an echo of his former visionary life, and combines it on the other hand with the Thomism which had evolved in the Dominican Order. All these things were living in him with a kind of visionary longing. He wants to do something to bring to appearance outwardly the full inner light of all his spiritual life. You will not find it in the biographies, but so it appears to spiritual vision. There is a perpetual feeling in his soul: Verily the spirit is everywhere behind all things. Surely then in the human life as well there must be a spirit, the same spirit that is in the universal All.
And these things influenced the sphere of his emotions. He lived in Southern Italy. The country was oppressed by the Spaniards. He took part in a conspiracy for the liberation of Southern Italy. For this conspiracy he was taken prisoner by the Spaniards and pined away in the dungeon from the year 1599 till 1626, thus living a life excluded from the world, a life of which one may really say that for twenty-seven years his earthly existence was blotted out.
Now let us place the two facts together. — When he was imprisoned, Thomas Campanella was at the beginning of the thirties of his life, at the very beginning of the thirties. He spent the ensuing time in prison. That is the one thing. But what kind of a spirit was he? What kind of a personality? He set up the idea of a Sun-State, a Solar State. Can you not see shining through from former incarnations into the soul of Thomas Campanella all those astrological conceptions, those visions of the spiritual world? In his work on the Solar State, he conceives and describes a social Utopia, wherein he imagines that by a rational configuration of the social life, all men may become happy. What he thus described as the City of the Sun, or as the Solar State, has about it a certain monastic severity. A good deal of what he has absorbed from the Dominican Order enters into the way he conceives the structure of the State. And extraordinarily much of his former spirituality finds its way through. At the head of this would-be ideal State, there is to be a single leader, a kind of head Metaphysicus who shall discover out of the spirit the guiding lines for the configuration and administration of the State. Other officials shall stand at the side of this Prime Minister, officials who should carry out even to the smallest detail the rules and regulations which a man of that time could only have had in mind if they arose out of his soul through karmic forces as reminiscences of far earlier conceptions of the earth. But in him all these things arose. In effect he wanted to have his Sun-State administered according to astrological principles. The constellations of the stars were to be carefully observed. Marriages were to take place according to the constellations. The acts of conception were to take place in such a way that births might coincide with certain constellations, which were to be calculated. Thus according to the constellations of the heavens the human race with all its destiny should as it were be born on to the earth.
Certainly the man of the 19th or 20th century, the neurologist or psychiatrist of the 19th or 20th century, coming across such a work would say: It is fit for the bibliography of lunatic asylums. Indeed, as we shall presently see, the psychiatrist of the 20th century did in a certain respect pronounce a very similar judgment.
Place the two things before your minds. Here is a personality with all the antecedents, the pre-disposing conditions from former earthly lives which I have now described. Out of the power of the sun and stars he wants to bring down and find on earth the guiding lines of the administration of the State. He wants to bring the sun itself into the earthly life, while he himself for more than twenty years pines away in the dark dungeon, and is only able to look out through narrow slits into the sunshine of nature, while in his soul, in very painful feelings and emotions, all manner of things which entered into him in former earthly lives come forth and find expression. — But at length he was set free from prison by Pope Urban. He went to Paris and found favour with Richelieu. He received a pension and lived for the rest of his life in Paris.
And this is the strange thing. The Jewish Rabbi whose acquaintance he had made at Cozenza, through whom his thinking had been coloured in a Cabbalistic way, so that far more became living in him than could otherwise have come to life — this Jewish Cabbalist was the other individuality reborn, the one who had been a man in the first incarnation I described, and in the second a woman.
Thus we see the co-operation of the two individuals, Thomas Campanella and his friend the Jewish Rabbi. And when they have both gone through the gate of death once more, there rises in the individuality who was Campanella in his last life, an extraordinary opposition to what he received in his former lives on earth. His feeling is somewhat as follows. He says to himself: What might not have become of all that if only I had not pined away in the dark dungeon through all those years, looking out through narrow slits into the sunlight of nature? Yet accordingly there comes over him a kind of antipathy and rejection of what he had before as a spiritual vision, a spiritual conception in the pre-Christian times and in the early Christian centuries. This is the strange thing. While the age of the Spiritual Soul approaches, an individuality goes on evolving in the super-sensible, becoming really hostile to the former spirituality which he possessed. Now it happened thus with very many souls. Even before their earthly life, while they lived through the age of the Spiritual Soul in super-sensible worlds, they became hostile to their former spiritual experience. For in effect it is really difficult to carry into a present earthly body what was experienced spiritually in former ages. The present earthly body, the present earthly education, lead the human being into rationalism and intellectuality.
Now this individuality, living on after his life as Campanella, could see no other possibility of creating a true balance than by returning, more or less prematurely, into a new life on earth. Yet the given conditions did not make this easy, for on the one hand even within the super-sensible he grew with extraordinary intensity into the element of the Spiritual Soul — I mean the rationalism and intellectualism of the first period in the epoch of the Spiritual Soul. On the other hand, especially when living through again the time of his captivity, his former visionary life and spiritual conception forced its way through ever and again.
Thus the soul of this individuality was laden, as it were, on the one hand with the strong tendency to intellectual enlightenment, repudiating his former spiritual life. Moreover this repudiation gradually assumed a peculiarly personal and individual form. For there arose in him an antipathy to his pre-Christian incarnation as a woman and withal an antipathy to women in general. This antipathy to women found its way into his personality, into his individual life. For so it is with karma. Instead of its being theoretical it becomes a personal concern, personal temperament, personal sympathy and antipathy — in this case, antipathy.
And now the possibility arose for him to live over again in free and open intercourse with the world that earthly life which in his former life on earth as Campanella he had spent in captivity.
Please understand this clearly. On this occasion the other individuality did not accompany him, for the other had no cause to come to earth. In the three preceding earthly lives the Campanella individuality had always had the other one with him to help him to support and guide his life. Now the opportunity arose for him to live once more in an earthly life through all that he had missed by his long years of imprisonment in the life as Campanella. What he had lived through in the darkness of imprisonment gave rise to the possibility of being lived through again in a new life on earth.
What was the consequence, after all the other things had gone before? Imagine for a moment, when Campanella was thirty years old, or thereabouts, this imprisonment came over him. Imagine the relative maturity of a man in the age of the Renaissance in the thirties of his life. Imagine that what he missed at that time is working again. And at the same time all the other elements, spiritual and rationalistic, are shining in, are raying in from without. Everywhere else and all around is light, only these years of imprisonment are darkness. All these influences are raying in and intermingling: clairvoyance, misogyny, born of the experiences which I described, and in addition, very great cleverness. All these things work into one another in the way they would do as a result of the stage of maturity of a man of the Renaissance in the thirties of his life.
All this is then reborn in the last decade but one of the 19th century or just a little earlier. In the childlike body there is born what is really predestined for a later epoch in man's life. No wonder that the boy — this time it is a male incarnation, for it is indeed only a repetition of the time of his imprisonment; such is the language of karma in this instance — no wonder that the boy is reborn with extraordinary precocity. Of course it is only the forces of growth of a child but working precociously, with the maturity of the thirties of life. — Such is the play of karma, working with all that was missed out of the time of his imprisonment.
And a peculiar inclination arises in this belated recapitulation of life, if I may call it so. The old astrological conceptions begin to dawn again, the old conceptions of spiritual life in all Nature which was so wonderful in him in the first Christian centuries. True, these things arise in a childlike way but they live in him so strongly that he has a veritable antipathy to the modern mathematical form of science. In the eighteen nineties he enters the Gymnasium or Grammar School. He learns languages and literature magnificently; he does not learn the sciences or mathematics. But the very curious thing is this, so curious as to overwhelm with surprise and joy one who can understand the karmic connections when he sees it — in the twinkling of an eye, beside the other modern languages, French and Italian, he learns Spanish so as to bring into his mentality all that roused his opposition and rebellion against the Spanish dominion in his former life, so as to refresh all this.
See how strangely karma works, how it works into this individuality! It is indeed striking how rapidly the boy learns Spanish, a language remote, outside of his school work, merely because his father happens to have a liking for it. This again is a working of karma. And it signifies a deep influence on the whole mood and attunement of his soul. The fundamental note of imprisonment when anger and indignation against the Spaniards fill his soul emerges in his soul once again now that the Spanish language becomes alive in him and permeates his thoughts and ideas. The very thing that was most bitter for him during his imprisonment now enters the subconscious region where language does in fact hold sway.
Only when he comes to the University does he begin to work at natural science because, in fact, the age demands it. If you would be an educated man in our age you must know something of natural science.
Now I must tell you who it is, for I must relate what happened afterwards. It is none other, then, than the unhappy Otto Weiniger. [Otto Weiniger, 1880–1903.] He makes up for lost time by studying natural science at the University. He studies philosophy at the University of Vienna and takes the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. And in his dissertation he brings forth all that is fermenting in him, fermenting in a way that is only possible when an earthly life is the repetition of an actual gap in the former one. So he writes his dissertation which after attaining his degree he elaborates into a big volume Sex and Character.
In this book Sex and Character, all that was there before is boiling and fermenting. Occasionally we see Campanellean utopianism flashing out with ancient primeval conceptions expressed in a most wonderful way. — What is morality? Weiniger answers the question thus. The light that shines forth in Nature is the manifestation of morality. He who knows light knows true morality. Hence in the deep-sea fauna and flora which lives without the light we must seek the source of all immorality on earth. And you find wonderful intuitions in his work. For example, he says: Look at the dog, look at its extraordinary physiognomy. What does it show? It shows that the dog has lost something, something is lacking to him; in effect he has lost freedom.
Thus in Weiniger you do indeed find something of spiritual vision combined with the extremest rationalism and hatred of what came to him in a former incarnation. Only this hatred now comes forth not as a hatred of his former knowledge but as a hatred of his incarnation as a woman which finds vent in the misogyny carried to a point of absurdity in the book, Sex and Character.
All this will show you how much spirituality can be latent in a soul, how much can have come together with intellectualism in the super-sensible world towards the age of the Spiritual Soul and yet it cannot come forth in the present age. It wants to come forth but cannot, even when the present life is no more than the repetition of a period of life that was lost, as it were, in former times.
Strange inclinations arise in Weiniger, extraordinarily significant once more for him who can grasp the karmic threads. His biographer tells us that he acquired the habit towards the end of his life of looking out through very narrow slits which he made for himself from a dark space on to a lighted surface. He took a special delight in doing so. Here you have the time spent in the dungeon, raying in once more into the inmost and most immediate habits of his life.
Think again how Southern Italy was connected with this life, for it was in Southern Italy that all these things had taken place which led him into the present life on earth.
But there is another item which I must mention which is always very important for the student of karma. Needless to say, Weiniger too was among the readers of Nietzsche. Imagine the mood and feeling that lived in his soul as he read Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil and like a bombshell there fell into his soul Nietzsche's statement and further explanation that Truth is a woman. Here indeed what I described to you before comes together coloured by his misogyny.
And now he is twenty-two years old, in the twenty-third year of his life. All these things have worked upon him. Strange habits are evolving in his soul. Is it to be wondered at that a life which is recapitulating a long time of imprisonment is painfully affected by the sunset which reminds him of the oncoming darkness? Thus Weiniger always feels sunsets quite unbearable. And all the time, in his youthful body he has the maturity of the thirties of man's life. I admit that when less talented men are arrogant and vain, it is not beautiful. But here the whole karma can make us understand that he thought much of himself. He had of course various abnormalities, for this life was the repetition of a life of imprisonment when one does not always do the ordinary, normal things, and when one finds karma being fulfilled one may well make the impression of an epileptic on an ordinary psychiatrist. Weiniger did make this impression, but his epilepsy was the repetition of the life of imprisonment. His attacks were acts of repulsion and defence. Without meaning in his present life of freedom, they were the karmic repetitions of a life of imprisonment. He was no ordinary epileptic.
Nor need we wonder that in the beginning of the twenties of his life he suddenly and quickly felt impelled all at once and for no reason, to go to Italy. During this journey he writes a wonderful little book, Über die letzten Dinge, containing descriptions of elemental Nature which seem almost like an attempt to caricature the descriptions of Atlantis, magnificent, but of course entirely mad from the standpoint of the psychiatrist.
Yet these things must be considered karmically. He suddenly rushes off to Italy, then he returns and spends a short time in the Brunner mountains near Vienna. Having returned from Italy he still writes down a few thoughts that came to him during his journey, magnificent ideas about the harmonies of the moral and the natural world. Then he takes a room in the house where Beethoven died. He lives on for a few days longer in Beethoven's death chamber and now he has finished living through his former imprisonment. He shoots himself. His karma is fulfilled. He shoots himself out of a deep inner impulse, having the idea that if he were to live on he would become a thoroughly bad man. There is no more possibility for him to live, for his karma is fulfilled.
From the point of view which is thus opened out, look at the world of Otto Weiniger, my dear friends. You will see all the hindrances in a soul who is placed so abnormally from the Renaissance age into the present time. You will see all the hindrances that stand in the way and prevent his finding the spiritual, though in the unconscious foundations of the soul he has so much. Now you may draw the conclusion, how many hindrances there are in the Age of Michael to hinder a man from doing full justice to this Age.
For of course it is by no means unthinkable that if the soul of Weiniger had been able to receive a spiritual world-conception he would have been able to continue in his evolution. He need not have put an end to his life by suicide, thus closing the repetition of his life of imprisonment. It is indeed significant to trace in this way how ancient spirituality evolves in souls of men down into modern time and then comes to a standstill. It is just in such interesting phenomena as this that we can see how it is brought to a standstill.
I think indeed that this will illumine certain karmic connections in the spiritual and intellectual life of the present time. It will enable us to look more deeply into the karmic relationships, now that we have placed before us these four successive incarnations of an extraordinarily interesting individuality, incarnations extending from the 6th century before the Mystery of Golgotha until to-day. That indeed is the span of time including all that we must study if we would understand the life of our own time.
To-day we have taken a case which teaches us how many things a soul can undergo during this age. I would far rather describe these things by the concrete experiences of the soul than by abstract explanations.
I will close the present cycle of lectures next Tuesday evening which will indeed be the last of these lectures to Members.