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Karmic Relationships V
GA 239

Lecture I

29 March 1924, Prague

I want to begin these lectures for Members by speaking of how Anthroposophy lifts human consciousness above the earthly and material domain simply through the light it sheds upon the nature and being of man.

It is hardly possible for anyone immersed in modern civilisation to think otherwise than that during his life from birth to death he belongs to the Earth. Membership of a spiritual world is in most cases a mere belief or a dim inkling. Insight into the fact that man belongs to any world other than the Earth is scarcely within the power of human beings whose education and whole upbringing are the outcome of modern civilisation. Nevertheless, to believe that when man is being spoken of earthly conditions alone have to be considered is the great fallacy of all contemporary spiritual life in the West and in Middle Europe. The East alone has preserved a certain consciousness—although in a decadent form—of man's connection with the super-sensible, cosmic powers and forces around the Earth. In olden times man felt himself dependent on the stars as well as on the plants and the animals around him on the Earth; he knew, too, that the Moon is not simply a physical orb revolving in space. Interest in the Moon to-day does not really go much further than attempts to discover whether there are or are not mountains or water there; hypotheses are advanced, but little thought is given to any other aspect of this neighbouring planet. As for the other heavenly bodies, investigation is entirely concerned with their physical conditions. In ancient times it was altogether different. Man was aware of his dependence on the heavenly bodies just as to-day he is aware of his dependence on the Earth.

I will start with something that has a certain scientific importance; it is an example that may perhaps not be to the liking of some people, but it is easy to follow. I have often emphasised in Anthroposophical lectures that the formation of the human embryo in earthly life, even when investigated from the purely scientific point of view, provides the proof in itself that something extra-earthly is at work in the process. Natural science believes the ovum to be the most complex structure that can possibly exist on Earth. Much thought is given to this complex structure of the ovum and recently we have been hearing about the wonders of the atom and the molecule! The structure of a cell is said to be indescribably complex. But this is a fallacy, for the ovum is, in reality, chaos; it is not a complex structure. The chemical physical structure goes to pieces, and before a living being can arise the ovum must have been in a state of chaos. The very purpose of fertilisation is to produce this state of chaos in the ovum, so that within the mother's organism there is matter which has been completely broken down. The processes in the mother's body produce this state of chaos. And now think of a crystal. The Cosmos cannot work in a crystal with its hard, firm edges; neither can the Cosmos work in the substance of a plant, which also has solid form; nor in that of an animal. Fertilisation means that the ovum becomes a chaos. Only then does the whole surrounding Cosmos work in upon this germinating entity and build up the living human form in such a way that the being of soul and spirit coming from earlier earthly lives can enter into it.

According to modern views this is so much nonsense—but it happens to be the truth! What is so deplorable in our time is that when one speaks the truth it is almost inevitably pooh-poohed by contemporary scholarship. Some people may say: “This statement of yours may be based upon occult vision; but is it also capable of proof?” It is indeed—and in more ways than one might imagine. At our Institute for Biological Research in Stuttgart remarkable confirmation of this fact has come to light. Investigations have been made into the function of the spleen. You know, perhaps, that the spleen has always been considered a very enigmatical organ. The story goes that in a viva voce examination the candidate was asked by the professor: “Can you tell me anything about the spleen?” The candidate puzzled his brains and at last blurted out in desperation: “I have forgotten it.” “What a pity!” said the professor. “Nobody has ever known anything about the spleen; you apparently were the only one, and you have forgotten it!”

I indicated a certain method, based on the principles of Spiritual Science, according to which Frau Dr. Kolisko has investigated the function of the spleen. The validity of her results is still being questioned but they will eventually win through, because the investigations were genuinely exact. During the investigations something else came to light. Because of the methods in general use to-day, one is sometimes obliged to adopt procedures that go much against the grain, but we finally decided to excise the spleens of rabbits. It was nothing in the least like vivisection but a quite simple operation; and we did everything that could possibly be done to avoid causing suffering. Unfortunately one of the rabbits died from a chill after the operation because by an oversight it was not taken immediately into the heated room. What result was to be expected from this operation? After the removal of the spleen something developed in the rabbit's body at the same place, something to which the Cosmos could have access. As long as the spleen itself was there the Cosmos could do nothing; but if the spleen is removed, the etheric spleen alone remains, and the etheric spleen adapts itself to the working forces of the Cosmos. It was to be expected, then, that at the place where the spleen had been, something would develop in the form that is a copy of the Cosmos, namely, the spherical form. And this is what we actually found! When we opened the rabbit we found a tiny organic body, spherical in shape; it had been produced by the in-working cosmic forces—when the condition in which the Earth alone works had been removed. This is entirely in line with the contention that the fertilised ovum is a body in which a state of chaos has been induced. And so karma led us to an external proof of something that holds good in another sphere altogether.

In many respects it is the case that if a man's thoughts and feelings are the outcome of contemporary civilisation, his outlook is bound to be limited to the Earth; he is incapable of directing his gaze in any real sense to the Cosmos. Let me remind you of what is said in the book Occult Science, namely that the Moon and the Earth were originally one body, but that the Moon subsequently separated from the Earth. This fact is revealed to seership but it is also to some extent recognised by modern natural science. Particularly in the last few years a certain literary and scientific movement has been speaking—although in an erroneous way—of this relationship of the Moon to the Earth. The Moon in the heavens was once united with the Earth, was then ejected—if I may so express it—and since then has been circling around the Earth.

I must now speak of a second fact, connected with man's spiritual development in earthly existence. Even a purely external survey of what men have achieved on the Earth indicates the existence of a primordial, archetypal wisdom. It was not, of course, imparted in the abstract, intellectual forms demanded to-day, nor was it so closely bound up with the senses. It was imparted in a more pictorial, poetic form. Of this primordial wisdom itself, which existed on the Earth in times long before writing was known, nothing has remained. Echoes have been preserved in sagas and myths, in the wonderful Vedic literature, in the Vedanta and other Eastern texts. Anyone who steeps himself in this literature—not in the style of Deussen who sees only the outermost surface but for all that is an interpreter of great renown—anyone who can get to the depths of what this literature contains will have a profound reverence for the infinite wisdom there expressed in a pictorial, poetic form. He will feel that behind it all there was something unuttered and unwritten, perhaps even greater and more significant a primordial, archetypal wisdom. How was this wisdom attained? Men did not study as we do to-day, imbibing the contents of book after book and so gradually amassing a certain amount of information. Every human being who had developed a certain insight in those ancient times knew what Inspiration is, knew how to read in the world itself—not in books—when he induced in himself the right attitude of soul. He knew the reality of inner illumination; it was as real to him as the reading of books is real to us to-day. The priests in the Mysteries brought him to the stage where he was able to experience this inner illumination and become aware of spiritual reality in the Universe. This indeed was the purpose of the instruction he received in the Mysteries. He did not feel that the illumination came to him from the clouds. If we to-day were listening to someone talking from behind a screen, we should not attribute the voice to some undefined source but to an actual person. Similarly, a man who attained illumination knew: there are Beings on the Earth who, although they are not in physical incarnation, are the great Teachers of humanity. Man knew that he moved among Beings who were not, like himself, incarnate in flesh and blood but who were etheric Beings, imparting the illumination and the content of the primordial wisdom. He knew that the Earth was peopled not only by human beings of flesh and blood but by other Beings too, working and living in etheric bodies.

In studying these things we must get rid of the preconceived notion that humanity has lived on the Earth since the time of which records exist and that this was preceded by undefined conditions leading back to the man ape or the ape man. This is a really ludicrous idea! What the historians say holds good for a few centuries only, namely, that human beings have not changed fundamentally, except that they are supposed to have become cleverer. It is said that the Egyptians were a superstitious people, that they had mummies and other such customs, but apart from cleverness they are thought to have been just like modern men. Nothing is known with any certainty of the long period of previous history, but the view is that it leads back finally to the man ape.

That is a view of evolution which must be abandoned! Man peopled the Earth before the animals, only in a different form; man is the older being, as you can read in Occult Science. The ancient Teachers of the primeval wisdom did not incarnate in physical bodies but lived in spirit bodies, and the men who communed with them, having experienced—as we ourselves experienced—the event of the separation of the Moon, knew that these Beings who had been among them as great Teachers had gone forth into the Cosmos, that they were no longer on the Earth but on the Moon. So that in truth not only the physical substance of the Moon but these spiritual Beings too, separated from the Earth. Once upon a time these Beings—who do not pass through birth and death in the same way as man—withdrew from the Earth and took up their abode on the Moon, although the actual substance of the Moon has been involved for long ages in a constant process of change.

This applies equally to man. In a period of seven to eight years the physical substances in the human body have completely changed. If anyone imagines that the bodies sitting here are the same as they were a few years ago, he is mistaken. The physical substance is entirely different; the soul and spirit has remained. Natural science is aware of this fact but pays no attention to it. The following question was once put to me after a lecture: “It is said that bees, as a hive, have a real link with the beekeeper, that if he has been very devoted to his bees and then dies, the hive is aware of his death and often dies too. How can this possibly happen? The bees as single entities have no faculties for knowing a human being, and the hive is only the sum total of the single bees!”—But this is by no means correct. I answered by using the following analogy. “Twenty years ago, two men were together. One of them goes to America, the other stays behind; after fifteen years the former returns from America and recognises his friend again. Yet not a single particle of the same physical substance has remained!”—And so it is not a question of each individual bee but of the intelligence of the beehive as a unit and that is not really so very different from human intelligence. As men, we are distinct from the cells in our bodies, from our various organs. And just as no single particle of the bodies of those who attended my lectures ten years ago has remained, but only the soul and spirit, so, although the Moon substance which once left the Earth has long since passed away, has been exchanged in the Cosmos, the Beings have remained. How these Beings have continued to participate in the life of earthly humanity is clearly revealed to the vision of Initiation, and to deeper observation of what we call karma. I will begin to speak about this to-day and continue in the following lectures.

When we make the acquaintance of a human being we do not as a rule give sufficient thought to the fact that we have really steered our whole earthly life towards this meeting. Acquaintance with another human being may take two forms. If we pay close attention we shall find more or less the following.—We get to know some person and feel aware of an intimate bond with him, no matter what he is like outwardly—good looking or ugly, intelligent or stupid. We pay no attention to his outer appearance; we feel an inner bond with him. That is the one alternative, in its extreme form. The other alternative is this.—We make the acquaintance of someone without feeling any inner bond, but he makes an intellectual or a moral impression upon us. We can describe him in great detail. Our relationship with the first acquaintance is such that if, after our meeting, we are among other people who also know him, it goes against the grain to talk about him; we feel a kind of embarrassment; there is something essentially inward in our relationship with him. But to talk about the second acquaintance is quite easy. We say that he is intelligent, or that he is a fool; we can describe the very shape of his nose, but we have no inner affinity with him. In the case of some people, no sooner have we made their acquaintance than we are always dreaming about them. We may get to know another person extremely well; we may be with him every day but we never by any chance dream about him because we have not been stirred inwardly. Very rarely indeed will there by anyone like Garibaldi,1Garibaldi, 1807–1882. The maiden name of his Brazilian wife was Anita Riveira de Silva. who felt the inner bond even before there was any direct, personal relationship. Such cases are rare, but they do occur. The circumstances in which Garibaldi met his first wife are very interesting. External life affected him so little that he had no interest whatever in women. On a voyage to the coast of Brazil he happened to look at the land through his telescope and saw a girl standing on the shore. At that very moment he knew that she must become his wife. He hurried his ship to the land where a man greeted him in a friendly way and invited him to a meal at his house. Garibaldi accepted, and this man turned out to be the father of the girl he had seen through the telescope! Even before the meal was served he said to her—he spoke only Italian and she only Portuguese—that she must be his for life. She understood, and a very beautiful relationship was established between them. There you have a telling example of a karmic relationship. There was something heroic in the way the woman behaved. She accompanied Garibaldi on his campaigns in South America and when the news came that he had fallen on the battlefield, she went to search for him there. These were the circumstances in which she gave birth to her child, and in order to keep it warm she was obliged to strap it round her neck. Such experiences helped Garibaldi to find a firmer foothold in life. His wife eventually died and he married another woman whose acquaintance he made in an entirely conventional way; but this marriage lasted only for a day!

These are matters where karma stares us in the face, indicating two ways in which karma comes to expression between one human being and another. The karmic relationships differ entirely according to whether a man feels an inner bond or whether he can describe only the external characteristics of the other person.

When we study karmic experiences like that of an acquaintanceship where beauty or ugliness counts for nothing but where the feeling of kinship wells up entirely from within, we are led to discern the influence of those Beings of whom I have said that they were the original, primeval Teachers of mankind; they have remained active to this day, but now they work from outside, from the Cosmos. Such relationships are of special interest to these Moon Beings and through them they participate in the most intimate way in the evolution of earthly humanity.

Just as there are Beings who belong to the Moon, so there are Beings who belong to the Sun. We have spoken of relationships where we find it easy to describe the other person in a more external way. In these cases it is the Sun Beings who interest themselves in the threads that are woven between soul and soul.

In studying human relationships we are led away from the Earth, first of all to the Sun and the Moon. There are human relationships in which we discern the working of the Moon; others in which we discern the working of the Sun. And so stage by stage we are led from the Earth to the Cosmos.

All that has been possible to-day is to make a beginning and we will continue in the lectures that are to follow.