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Karmic Relationships V
GA 239

Lecture II

30 March 1924, Prague

In the lecture yesterday I gave certain indications in connection with the understanding of human destiny, and I said that an inkling of the power of destiny may come to a man from experiences which have had a significant effect upon his life. Suppose that at a certain age a man meets another human being; after the meeting their destinies run a similar course but the lives they both led hitherto have completely changed. An event like this meeting would have no rhyme or reason if it were entirely unconnected with previous happenings in their lives. Nor is this the case. Unprejudiced observation of the past reveals that practically every step taken in life was leading in the direction of this event. We may look right back into our childhood and we shall invariably find that some deed far removed in time from this event, that indeed the whole course of our life, led up to it as surely as if we had consciously and deliberately taken the path to it.

Such matters direct attention again and again to what in Anthroposophy we must call ‘karmic relationships.’

I also said that acquaintanceships differ in character and as examples I quoted two extreme cases. We meet someone and form a bond with him, no matter what outward impression he makes upon our senses or aesthetic feelings. We do not think about his individual traits; our attraction to him is caused by something that wells up from within us. When we meet other human beings, we are not inwardly stirred in this way; we are more conscious of the appearance they present to our senses, our mental life, our aesthetic feelings. I said that this difference comes to expression even in the life of dream. We make acquaintanceships of the first kind and during the night, while we are living in the Ego and astral body outside the physical and etheric bodies, we immediately begin to be aware of the persons in question; we dream about them. The dreams are a sign that something within us has been set astir by the meeting. We meet others of whom we do not dream because they have not stirred us inwardly and nothing wells up from within. We may be quite near to them in life but we never dream about them because nothing that reaches into our astral body and Ego organisation has been set astir.

We heard that such happenings are related to the extra earthly forces with which man is connected and of which modern thought takes no account—the forces working in upon the Earth from the surrounding, super terrestrial Universe. We learned that the forces proceeding from the spiritual Moon Beings are connected with the whole of a man's past. For the past is in very truth working in us when immediately we meet a human being we are impelled towards him by something that wells up from within.

Speculation and dim feelings must, however, be replaced by Initiation science which can actually bring to light the inner connections of these things. The Initiate before whom the spiritual world lies open, has both kinds of experiences, but in far greater intensity than is possible to ordinary consciousness. In the one case, where something rises up from within into the ordinary consciousness, a definite picture or a whole series of pictures filled with living reality rise up from within the Initiate when he meets the other human being and are there before him like a script he is able to read. The experience is quite clear to him; he himself is there within the picture which rises up in this way—it is as if an artist were painting a picture but instead of standing in front of the canvas were weaving in the canvas itself, living in every colour, experiencing the very essence of the colour. The Initiate knows that the picture arising in this way has something to do with the human being he meets. And through an experience resembling that of meeting a person again after the lapse of many years, he recognises in the human being standing physically before him, the replica of the picture that has risen up in him. As he compares this inner picture with the man before him, he knows that it is the picture of experiences shared in common with him in earlier earthly lives. He looks back consciously into an earlier epoch when these experiences were shared between them. And as a result of what he has undergone in preparation for Initiation science, he experiences in a living picture—not in dim feeling as in ordinary consciousness—what he and the man he now meets passed through together in a previous earthly life or a number of previous lives. Initiation science enables us to see a picture of experiences shared with a man with whom we are karmically connected; it rises up with such intensity that it is as if he were to break away from his present identity and stand before us in his earlier form, coming to meet himself in the form he now bears. The impression is actually as vivid as that. And because the experience has such intense reality, we are able to relate it to its underlying forces and so to discover how and why this picture rose up from within us.

When man is descending to earthly life from the existence he spends in worlds of soul and spirit between death and a new birth, he passes through the different cosmic regions the last being the Moon-sphere. As he passes through the Moon-sphere he encounters those Beings of whom I spoke yesterday, saying that they were once the primeval Teachers of humanity. He meets these Beings out yonder in the Universe, before he comes down to the Earth, and it is they who inscribe everything that has happened in life between one human being and another, into that delicate substance which, as opposed to earthly substances, the oriental sages have called ‘Akasha.' It is really the case that whatever happens in life, whatever experiences come to men, everything is observed by those Beings who, as Spirit Beings not incarnate in the flesh, once peopled the Earth together with men. Everything is observed and inscribed into the Akasha substance as living reality, not in the form of an abstract script. These spiritual Moon Beings who were the great Teachers during the age of primeval cosmic wisdom, are the recorders of the experiences of mankind. And when in his life between death and a new birth a man is once again drawing near the Earth in order to unite with the seed provided by the parents, he passes through the region where the Moon Beings have recorded what he had experienced on the Earth in earlier incarnations. Whereas these Moon Beings, when they were living on the Earth, brought men a wisdom relating especially to the past of the Universe, in their present cosmic existence they preserve the past. And as man descends to earthly existence, everything they have preserved is engraved into his astral body. It is so easy to say that man consists of an Ego organisation, an astral body, an etheric body, and so forth. The Ego organisation is most akin to the Earth; it comprises what we learn and experience in earthly existence; the more deeply lying members of man's being are of a different character. Even the astral body is quite different; it is full of inscriptions, full of pictures. What is known simply as the ‘unconscious' discloses a wealth of content when it is illumined by real knowledge. And Initiation makes it possible to penetrate into the astral body and to bring within the range of vision all that the Moon Beings have inscribed into it as, for example, the experiences shared with other human beings. Initiation science enables us to fathom the secret of how the whole past rests within man and how ‘destiny' is shaped through the fact that in the Moon-existence there are Beings who preserve the past so that it lies within us when we again set foot upon the Earth.

And now another case. When the Initiate meets a man in connection with whom the ordinary consciousness simply receives an aesthetic or mental impression unaccompanied by dreams, no picture rises up in him, to begin with. In this case the gaze of the Initiate is directed to the Sun, not to the Moon. I have told you of the Beings who are connected with the Moon—in the same way, the Sun is not merely the gaseous body of which modern physicists speak. The physicists would be highly astonished if they were able to make an expedition to the region which they surmise to be full of incandescent gases and which they take to be the Sun; at the place where they have conjectured the presence of incandescent gases, they would find a condition that is not even space, that is less than a void a vacuum in cosmic space. What is space? Men do not really know—least of all the philosophers who give a great deal of thought to it. Just think: if there is a chair here and I walk towards it without noticing its presence, I hit against it—it is solid, impenetrable. If there is no chair I walk through space unhindered.

But there is a third possibility. I might go to the spot without being held up or knocked, but I might be sucked up and disappear: here there is no space, but the antithesis of space. And this antithesis of space is the condition in the Sun, The Sun is negative space.2‘Negative space.’ See Physical and Ethereal Spaces, by George Adams; also Plant, Sun, Earth, by George Adams and Olive Whicher. And just because of this, the Sun is the abode, the habitual abode, of the Beings who rank immediately above man: Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai. In the case of which I am speaking, the gaze of the Initiate is directed towards these Beings in the Sun, the spiritual Beings of the Sun. In other words: a meeting of this kind that is not part of a karmic past, but is quite new, is for the Initiate a means of coming into connection with these Beings. And the presence is revealed of certain Beings with some of whom man has a close connection, whereas with others the connection is more remote. The way in which these Beings approach the Initiate reveals to him—not in detail but in broad outline—what kind of karma is about to take shape; in this case it is not old karma but karma that is coming to him for the first time. He perceives that these Beings who are connected with the Sun have to do with the future, just as the Moon Beings have to do with the past.

Even if a man is not an Initiate, his whole life of feeling will be deepened if he grasps what Initiation science is able to draw in this way from the depths of spirit-existence. For these things are in themselves a source of enlightenment. A comparison I have often used is that just as a picture can be understood by a man who is not himself a painter, so these truths can be understood by one who is not himself an Initiate. But if a man allows these truths to work upon him, his whole relationship to the Universe is immeasurably deepened. When man looks up to the Universe and its structure to-day, how abstract, how prosaic and barren are his conceptions! When he looks at the Earth he is still interested to a certain extent; he looks at the animals in the wood with a certain interest. If he is cultured, he takes pleasure in the slender gazelle, the nimble deer; if his tastes are less refined, these animals interest him as game; he can eat them. He is interested in the plants and vegetables, for all these things are directly related to his own life. But just as his feelings and emotions are stirred by his relationship with the earthly world, so his life of feeling can be stirred by the relationship he unfolds to the Cosmos beyond the Earth. And everything that comes over as destiny from the past—if it makes an impression upon us—impels us in heart and soul to look up to the Moon Beings, saying to ourselves: “Here on the Earth men have their habitations; on the Moon there are Beings who once were together with us on the Earth. They have chosen a different dwelling place but we are still connected with them. They record our past; their deeds are living reality within us when the past works over into our earthly existence.”

We look upwards with reverence and awe, knowing that the silvery moon is but the sign and token of these Beings who are so intimately connected with our own past. And through what we experience as men, we enter into relationship with these cosmic, super earthly Powers whose images are the stars, just as through our carnal existence we are related with everything that lives on the Earth. Looking with expectation towards the future and living on into that future with our hopes and strivings, we no longer feel isolated within our own life of soul but united with what is radiating to us from the Sun. We know that the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai are Sun Beings who go with us from the present on into the future. When we look up into the Cosmos, perceiving how the radiance of the Moon is dependent upon the radiance of the Sun and how these heavenly bodies are interrelated, then out yonder in the Cosmos we behold a picture of what is living within our very selves. For just as Sun and Moon are related to one another in the world of stars, so is our past—which has to do with the Moon—related to our future—which has to do with the Sun. Destiny is that in man which flows out of the past, through the present, on into the future. Woven into the Cosmos, into the courses of the stars and the mutual interplay of the stars, we behold the picture—now infinitely magnified—of what lives within our own being.

Our vision is thereby widened and penetrates deeply into the cosmic spheres. When a man passes through death he is released, to begin with, from his physical body only. He is living in his Ego organisation, his astral body, his ether body. But after a few days his ether body has released itself from the astral body and from the ‘I.' That which he now experiences is something that emerges as it were from himself; to begin with it is not large, but then it expands and expands—it is his ether body. This ether body expands into cosmic space, out into the very world of the stars—thus it appears to him. But as it expands the ether body becomes so fine, is so rarefied, that after a few days it vanishes from him. But something else is connected with this. While our ether body is being given over to the Cosmos, while it is expanding and becoming finer and more rarefied, it is as though we were reaching out to the secrets of the stars, penetrating into the secrets of the stars.

As we pass upwards through the Moon-sphere after death, the Moon Beings read from our astral body what we experienced in earthly existence. After our departure from earthly existence we are received by those Moon Beings, and our astral body in which we are now living is for them like a book in which they read. And they make an unerring record of what they read, in order that it may be inscribed into the new astral body when the time comes for us to descend to the Earth again.

We pass from the Moon-sphere through the Mercury-sphere, the Venus-sphere and then into the Sun-sphere. In the Sun-sphere, everything we have lived through, everything we have brought about and achieved in earlier incarnations becomes living reality within us. We enter into communion with the Beings of the higher Hierarchies, participating in their deeds, and we are now right within the Cosmos. Just as during earthly existence we move about on the Earth, are confined as it were within earthly conditions, we are now living in the cosmic expanse. We live in the infinite expanse, whereas on the Earth we lived in a state of confinement. As we pass through our existence between death and a new birth, it seems to us as though on the Earth we had been imprisoned ... for everything has now widened into infinitudes. We experience the secrets of the Cosmos, but not as if they were in any way governed by laws of physical nature: these laws of nature seem to us then to be insignificant productions of the human mind. We experience what is happening in the stars as the deeds of the Divine Spiritual Beings and we unite ourselves with these deeds: as far as in us lies we act among and together with these Beings. And from the Cosmos itself we prepare for our next earthly existence.

What we must realise in all its profound significance is that during his life in the Cosmos between death and a new birth, man himself fashions and shapes what he bears within him. In external life man perceives little, very little, of his own make up and organisation. An organ can only really be understood when there is knowledge of its cosmic origin. Think of the noblest organ of all—the human heart. Scientists to-day dissect the embryo, observe how the heart gradually takes shape and give no further thought to the matter. But this outer, plastic structure, the human heart, is in truth the product of what each individual, in cooperation with the Gods, has elaborated between death and a new birth. In the life between death and a new birth man must work, to begin with, in the direction leading from the Earth towards the zodiacal constellation of Leo. This stream which flows from the Earth towards the constellation of Leo teems with forces and it is along this direction that the human being must work in order that when the time comes he may project the germinal beginnings of the heart—a vessel in which cosmic forces are contained. Then, having passed through this region in the far spaces of the Universe, man comes to regions nearer the Earth; he passes into the Sun-sphere. Here again forces are at work which bring the heart to a further stage of development. And then man enters the region where he is already in contact with what may be called the Earth warmth. Out yonder in cosmic space there is no Earth warmth, but something altogether different. In the region of the Earth warmth the preparation of the human heart reaches the third stage. The forces streaming in the direction of Leo out of which the human heart is fashioned are purely moral and religious forces; in its initial stages of development the heart contains only moral and religious forces. To anyone who realises this it seems outrageous that modern natural science should regard the stars merely as neutral, physical masses, ignoring the moral element altogether. When man is passing through the Sun region, these moral forces are taken hold of by the etheric forces. And it is not until man comes still nearer to the Earth, to the warmth, that the final stages of preparation are reached; it is then that the forces which shape the physical seed for the being of soul and spirit who is descending, begin to be active.

Each organ is produced and shaped by cosmic forces; it is a product of these cosmic forces. In very truth man bears the stars of heaven within him. He is connected with the forces of the whole Cosmos, not only with the plant world through the substances which he takes into his stomach and which are then absorbed into his organism. These things can, of course, only be understood by those who have the gift of true observation. A time will come when the macroscopic aspect of things will be considered as well as the microscopic—which has really become a cult nowadays. People try to discover the secrets of the animal organism, of the human organism, by deliberately shutting off the Cosmos. They peer down a tube and call this microscopic investigation; they dissect a minute fragment, put it on a glass plate and try to eliminate the world and life as much as ever they possibly can. A tiny fragment is separated and studied by means of an instrument that cuts off any vista of the world surrounding it. There is, of course, no reason to belittle this kind of investigation for it brings wonderful things to light. But no real knowledge of man can be obtained in this way.

When we look from the Earth out into the Cosmos beyond the Earth, then, for the first time, part of the world is revealed. For after all it is only a part that becomes visibly manifest. The stars are not what they present to the physical eye—what the eye beholds is merely the sense image—but to this extent they are, after all, visible. The whole world through which we pass between death and a new birth is invisible, super-sensible. There are regions which lie above and beyond the world that is revealed to the senses. Man belongs to these realms of super-sensible existence just as surely as he belongs to the world of sense. We can have no real knowledge of the being of man until we consider the life he has spent in the vast cosmic expanse. And then it dawns upon us that when, having passed through the gate of death into the Cosmos, we have returned to the Earth once again, the connections with this cosmic life are still alive within us. There is within us a being who once dwelt on the Earth, ascended into the Cosmos, passed through the cosmic realms and has again come down into a restricted existence on Earth. Gradually we learn to perceive what we were in an earlier existence on Earth; our gaze is carried away from the physical, transported into the spiritual. For when we look back into earlier earthly lives the power inherent in Initiation science takes from us all desire for materialistic pictures.

In this connection, too, many strange things have happened. At one period there were certain theosophists who knew from oriental teachings that man passes through many earthly lives, but they wanted a materialistic picture although they deceived themselves to the contrary. It was said at that time that the physical organism of man disintegrates at death but that an atom remains and passes over in some miraculous way to the next earthly life. It was called the ‘permanent atom.' This was simply a way of providing a materialistic picture. But all inclination for materialistic thinking of this kind vanishes when one realises that in very truth the human heart is woven and shaped by the Cosmos.

The liver, on the other hand, forms in the near neighbourhood of the Earth; the liver has only little direct connection with the cosmic expanse. The knowledge gradually acquired from Initiation science makes us realise that the heart could not exist at all if it had not been prepared and inwardly formed by the Cosmos. But an organ like the liver or the lung only begins to form in the neighbourhood of the Earth. Viewed from the Cosmos, man is akin to the Earth in respect of the lungs and liver; in respect of the heart he is a cosmic being. In man we begin to discern the whole Universe. According to spiritual anatomy, the lungs and certain other organs might be depicted by sketching the Earth; the forces contained in these organs operate in a realm near the Earth. But for the heart one would have to make a sketch of the whole Universe. The whole Universe is concentrated, compressed, in man. Man is in truth a microcosm, a stupendous mystery. But knowledge of the macrocosm into which man is transformed after death is free from every element of materiality. We now learn to recognise the true connections between the spiritual and the physical, between one quality of soul and another.

For example, there are people who have an innate understanding of their environment, of the human beings around them in the world. If we observe life we shall find individuals who come into contact with numbers and numbers of others, but they never really get to know them. What they say about these other people is invariably uninteresting and tells one nothing essential. Such individuals are incapable of really sinking into the being of others, they have no understanding of them. But there are other individuals who possess this gift of understanding. When they speak of another person their words are so graphic and explicit that one knows at once what the man is like without ever having met him; he is there before one. The description need not be detailed. A man who can sink himself in the being of another is able to convey a complete picture of him quite briefly. Nor need it necessarily be another individual; it may be something in nature. Many people try to describe a mountain, or a tree, but one despairs of getting any real picture; everything is empty and one feels parched. Other individuals again have the gift of immediate understanding; one could easily paint what they describe. Such a gift or defect—understanding of the world or obtuseness—has not come from the blue but is the result of an earlier earthly existence. If with Initiation science one observes a man who has a deep understanding of his human and non human environment, and then investigates his preceding earthly life—I shall have much to say on this subject—one discovers the particular qualities of his character in that earlier life and how they were transformed between death and a new birth into this understanding of the world around. And one finds that a man who understands the world around him was by nature capable of great joy, great happiness, in the preceding life. That is very interesting: men who in their previous life were incapable of feelings of joy are incapable, now, of understanding human beings or the world around them. A man who has such understanding was one who in an earlier life took delight in his environment. But this quality, too, was acquired in a still earlier life. How does a man come to have this joyousness, this gift of taking delight in his environment? He has it if in a still earlier earthly life he knew how to love. Love in one earthly life is transformed into joy, happiness; the joy of the next earthly life is transformed into warm understanding of the surrounding world in the third life.

In perceiving the sequence of earthly lives one also learns to understand what streams from the present into the future. Men who are capable of intense hatred carry over into the next earthly life as the result of this hatred the disposition to be hurt by everything that happens. If one studies a man who goes through life with a perpetual grudge because everything hurts him, makes him suffer, that is what one finds. Naturally one must have compassion for such a man but this trait in the character invariably leads back to a previous incarnation when he gave way to hatred. Please do not misunderstand me here. When hatred is mentioned it is natural for everyone to say: “I do not hate, I love everybody.” But let them try to discover how much hidden hatred lurks in the soul! This becomes only too evident when one hears human beings talking about each other. Just think about it and you will realise that the derogatory things that are said about an individual far outweigh what is ever said in his praise. And if one were to go into the true statistics it would be found that there is a hundred times—really a hundred times—more hatred than love among human beings. This is a fact although it is not generally acknowledged; people always believe that their hatred is justified and excusable. But hatred is transformed in the next earthly life into hypersensitiveness to suffering and in the third life into lack of understanding, obtuseness traits which make a man hard and indifferent, incapable of taking a real interest in anything.

Thus it is possible to survey three consecutive incarnations through which a law is operating: love is transformed into joy, joy is transformed in the third life into understanding of the environment. Hatred is transformed into hypersensitiveness to suffering and this again, in the third life, into obtuseness and lack of understanding of the world around. Such are the connections in the life of soul which lead over from one incarnation to another.

But now let us consider a different side of life. There are individuals—it is perhaps for this very reason that they are as they are—who have no interest at all in anything except themselves. Now whether a man takes real interest in something or takes no interest at all has great significance in life. In this respect, too, odd things come to light. I have known men who had been talking to a lady in the morning but in the afternoon had not the slightest idea of what kind of hat or brooch she was wearing, or the colour of her clothes! There are people who simply do not observe such things. It is often regarded as a very excusable trait but in reality it is anything but that. It is really lack of interest, often going to such lengths that a man simply does not know if the person he met was wearing a black or a light coat. There was no inner connection with what stood before his very eyes. This is a somewhat radical example. I do not suggest that a man falls into the clutches of Ahriman or Lucifer when he does not know whether the lady he was talking to had fair or dark hair, but I merely want to indicate that individuals either have or have not a certain amount of interest in their environment. This is of great importance for the soul. If a man is interested in what is around him, the soul is invariably stimulated by it, lives with the environment. But whatever is experienced with lively interest, with real sympathy, is carried through the gate of death into the whole cosmic expanse. And just as man must have eyes in order to see colours on the Earth, so in his earthly existence he must be stimulated by interest, in order that it may be possible for him between death and a new birth to behold spiritually all that is experienced in the Cosmos. If a man goes through life without interest, if nothing captivates his eyes or his attention, then between death and a new birth he has no real connection with the Cosmos, he is as it were blind in soul, he cannot work with the cosmic forces. But when this is the case, the organism and the bodily organs for the next life are not being rightly prepared. When such a man enters the sphere of forces streaming in the direction of Leo, the rudimentary preparations for the heart cannot be made; he comes into the Sun region and is unable to work at its further development; then, in the region of terrestrial warmth, the Earth warmth, he is again unable to complete the preparation; finally he comes down to the Earth with a tendency to heart trouble.

Thus does lack of interest—which is an attribute of the life of soul—work over into the present earthly life. The nature of illness can only become fully clear when one is able to perceive these connections, when one perceives how the physical disability from which an individual is now suffering arose from something appertaining to the life of soul in a previous incarnation and has been transformed in the present incarnation into a physical characteristic. Physical sufferings in one incarnation are connected with experiences of a previous incarnation. Generally speaking, human beings who are said to be ‘bursting with health,' who never get ill, who are always robust and healthy, lead one's gaze back from their present existence to earlier lives when they took the deepest interest in everything around them, observed everything with keen and lively attention.

Naturally, things appertaining to the spiritual life must never be pressed too far. A stream of karma may also begin. Lack of interest may begin in the present life; and then the future will point back to it. It is not a question only of going back from the present to the past. Hence when karma is at work one can only say, as a rule it is the case that certain illnesses are connected with a particular trait or quality of soul.

Speaking generally, then, it may be said that qualities of soul in one earthly life are transformed into bodily traits in another earthly life; bodily traits in one earthly life are transformed into qualities of soul in another life. Now it is the case that anyone who wants to perceive karmic connections must often pay attention to what seem to be insignificant details. It is very important that the gaze should not be riveted on things that in the ordinary way are considered to be of outstanding significance. In order to recognise how one earthly life leads back to an earlier life, the gaze will frequently have to be directed to traits that seem of secondary importance. For example, I have tried—in all seriousness of course, not in the way that such investigations are often made—to discover the karmic relationships of various figures in history and in the sphere of learning, and my attention fell upon a personality whose inner life expressed itself so radically and remarkably that he ended by coining unusual forms of words. He has written a number of books in which the strangest forms of words occur. He was a very severe critic of social conditions, of men and their dealings with one another. He also deplored the jealousy shown by many learned men in their behaviour to their colleagues. He quotes examples to illustrate the tricks and intrigues of certain scholars in an effort to down their fellows, and the chapter in question is headed: Schlichologisches in der wissenschaftlichen Welt (underhand ways in the scientific world). Now when a man coins an expression like Schlichologisches, one feels that it is characteristic. And an alert, inner perception of what lies behind such expressions leads to the discovery that in a previous incarnation this personality had to do with all kinds of warlike undertakings, often calling for a great deal of manoeuvring and camouflaged actions. This was transformed, karmically, into a flair for coining such expressions for intrigues, disputes, quarrels. In the word pictures used for facts now under his observation, his head was describing that which in an earlier life he had carried out with feet and hands. And so in connection with this particular person I was able to give illustrations of how the physical had in a certain way been transformed into traits of soul.