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Karmic Relationships V
GA 239

Lecture IV

5 April 1924, Prague

Previous studies in the Anthroposophical Society here in Prague will have made it clear to you that the evolution of mankind is governed by the spirit—or perhaps it is better to say, by spiritual Beings—and that human souls, themselves filled with spirit, carry over their achievements from one epoch to another, including, of course, whatever burden of guilt they have accumulated in a particular epoch. All these things enable us to gaze deeply into the life of the Cosmos both from the physical aspect and from the aspect of soul and spirit, and only in this way is it possible for us to understand our real nature and being. For without yielding to pride we must acknowledge that in our own human nature we are united with the spiritual fount of the Cosmos and that we can understand our own being and constitution only through a spiritual understanding of the Cosmos.

Now since the Christmas Foundation Meeting it is not only a matter of conducting the affairs of Anthroposophy within the Anthroposophical Society; the conduct of these affairs must in itself be Anthroposophy. And this must also come to expression in the re casting of Anthroposophical work. In these lectures, therefore, I have not been afraid to lead our study from exoteric into more esoteric domains, and in this respect I want to add something to-day to what has already been said—something that provides concrete evidence of how the human soul passes over from one epoch into another. The general principle applies equally to individuals, and through an understanding of the karma of personalities known to us all, light can be shed upon our own karma. To-day, therefore, we will continue our study of karma in more concrete detail.

In the course of these lectures I have mentioned the name of an individual who is a remarkable example of how a certain visionary quality can reveal itself in one who is preeminently a man of will. I have mentioned the name of Garibaldi, the hero of the cause of freedom in Italy, and I have also spoken of certain of his outstanding characteristics. Everything about him gives expression to will, to impulses of will. What a tremendous power of will was in evidence when as a young man during the twenties and early thirties of the 19th century he set out again and again, quite voluntarily, on perilous voyages through the Adriatic, and after having been taken prisoner several times was always able, through his strength and courage, to escape. What a tremendous power of will was at work when, having seen that for the time being there was no field for his activity in Europe, he went over to South America where he became one of the most intrepid fighters in the cause of freedom there. I have spoken, too, of how in the circumstances of his betrothal and marriage he disregarded the usual customs and determined his own life as he saw fit. Then, on his return to Europe, he became the one to whom, in reality, modern Italy owes everything.

When the question was put to me one day: “What could have been the karmic connections of this personality?” two aspects came into consideration. For the finding of karmic connections is by no means a simple but a very complicated task. I have said already that one must often start from details which although clearly in evidence seem to be of minor importance and be led by them to the principles according to which the facts of the one earthly life are carried over into the later life.

The case of Garibaldi is strange in that although at heart and in sentiment he was a republican, through and through a republican, he laid the whole force of his will into the task of consolidating the Italian monarchy under Victor Emanuel. Simply by studying the biography of Garibaldi one can perceive a fundamental contradiction between this inner trend of feeling and his actual deeds. One perceives, too, that he felt a bond with men like Mazzini and Cavour, with whose ideas and convictions he was manifestly at variance and whose trend of thought differed so radically from his own. Then there is the striking fact that Garibaldi was born, in the year 1807, quite near to the birthplaces of the other three: the later King Victor Emanuel, Cavour the statesman, and Mazzini the philosopher. Their birthplaces were really in close proximity. And then one is led to investigate the connection between the karma of such personalities.

The other aspect—a very far reaching one—is the following. In studying Spiritual Science we must always have in our minds that in olden times there were Initiates, seers, men of vision in the widest sense. And the question may be asked: Since these wise men of times gone by must reincarnate, where are they working now, in the modern age? Where are they, these great personalities who worked as Initiates in the past?—They have indeed come again but it must be remembered that when a human being is born in a particular epoch he is obliged to use the body provided by that epoch. The bodies of olden days were more pliant, more flexible, yielding more readily to the spirit; and in earthly existence man must use the body to transform into earthly shape and earthly activity what was imbued into him before he came down to the Earth. Faced with conditions that are so full of riddles, we must remember—and no criticism is here implied—that for centuries now the effect of the whole of education upon the human organism has been such that what was once alive in an Initiate simply cannot come to expression. Much has to remain concealed in the deep substrata of existence. And for this reason, many Initiates of bygone days appear again as personalities who with the concepts and notions prevailing to-day cannot be recognised as former Initiates because they are obliged to use the body which their epoch provides.

Garibaldi is just such an example. If we go far back into the past, we find deep and profound Mysteries, great Initiates, in ancient Ireland. But the Irish Mysteries survived right on into the Christian era. Even to-day there is still much living spirituality in Ireland—not of an abstract, conceptual kind, but alive, spiritually potent. Chaotic as conditions in that country appear to-day, there is in Ireland much real spiritual life. But it is only the very last vestige of what once existed. In Hibernia, in Ireland, there were deep and penetrating Mysteries whose influences still made their way across to Europe in the early centuries of the spread of Christianity. And there one finds an Initiate whose path in the 8th to 9th centuries after the founding of Christianity led him from Ireland to the region corresponding approximately to modern Alsace. Under the stormy conditions then prevailing, this Initiate achieved much for the cause of true Christianity, for which, if the truth be told, Boniface accomplished very little. To this Initiate came three pupils from different quarters of the world—three pupils who entrusted themselves to him. These three pupils came to him—one from far away, another from nearer at hand. But in the Irish Mysteries there was an inviolable decree that an Initiate to whom pupils had entrusted themselves must not abandon them in the later incarnation but must accomplish in earthly life something that will hold them to him, something that establishes a bond between him and these pupils. The Initiate of whom I am speaking was born again as Joseph Garibaldi, with that visionary quality of will which in olden times had been able to express itself in a quite different form from that possible in a body belonging to the 19th century. Garibaldi received only a very inferior education, quite unlike the education that was typical of the 19th century. The three others I have named were the pupils who in the past had come to him from different parts of the world. But the impulse working from the one incarnation over into the other was far deeper and more potent than external principles of action. In comparison with the link stretching across the incarnations between man and man, it is a triviality to contend: I am a Republican, you are a Monarchist. In these things one must realise how greatly earthly Maya, the great illusion, the semblance of being, deviates from the spiritual reality which is in truth the motive power behind the phenomena of existence. And so in spite of the radical difference in sentiment and conviction, Garibaldi could not abandon, for example, Victor Emanuel. Sentiment and conviction in connection with earthly matters and not with human beings belong to the epoch, not to the individuality who passes from one earthly life to another.

I want to give another example, one with which I came into close personal contact. I had a geometry teacher1Gregory VII, Pope from 1053 to 1085. who was of enormous help to me. My autobiography will have indicated to you that geometry is one of the subjects to which I owe most because of the impulses it quickened in me. This geometry teacher himself played a very valuable part in my life. The fact that he was an excellent constructor might well have led to my great affection for him because I myself loved geometrical construction and because he expressed everything with genuine independence of mind and also with all the exclusiveness belonging to geometrical thinking. His mind was focused so exclusively upon geometry that in the real sense of the word he was no mathematician; he was a geometrician and nothing else. In this sphere he was brilliant but it could not be said that he was deeply versed in mathematics. He lived at a time when all descriptive geometry—his special subject—underwent changes. Characteristically, however, he kept to the old forms. But something else about him provided a far more revealing clue for occult investigation: he had what is called a club foot. Now the strange thing is that the force—not, of course, the physical substance—the force which a man has in his feet in one incarnation, the character of his tread, how his feet lead him into wrong-doing or well doing—this force is metamorphosed. Whatever is connected with the feet may live itself out in a subsequent incarnation in the head organisation; whereas what we now bear in our head may come to expression, in the later incarnation, in the organisation of the legs. Metamorphosis takes a peculiar form here. One who is conversant with these things can discern from the style and manner of a man's gait, how he treads with his toes and heels, what quality of thinking characterised him in an earlier incarnation. And one who observes the qualities of a man's thinking—whether his thoughts are quick, fleeting, cursory, or deliberate and cautious—will be able to picture how he actually walked in a previous incarnation.

In the earlier incarnation, a man whose thoughts are fleeting and cursory walked with short, rapid steps, as though tapping over the ground, whereas the gait of a man who thinks cautiously and with deliberation was firm and steady in the earlier life. It is just these apparently minor characteristics that lead further when one is looking for the deeper, spiritual connections and not those of an external, abstract kind. And so when time and time again I called up the picture of this greatly loved teacher, I was guided to his earlier incarnation. With this picture another associated itself—also of a man with a club foot: Lord Byron.2Lord Byron, 1788–1824. The two men were there before me in this inner picture. And the karma of my teacher, as well as the peculiarity of which I have told you, led me to the discovery that in the 10th or 11th century, both these souls had lived in their earlier incarnations far over in the East of Europe where they came one day under the influence of a legend, a prophecy. This legend was to the effect that the Palladium, which in a certain magical way helped to sustain the power of Rome, had been brought to that city from ancient Troy, and hidden. When the Emperor Constantine conceived the wish to carry Roman culture to Constantinople he caused the Palladium to be transported with the greatest pomp and pageantry to Constantinople and hidden under a pillar, the details of which gave expression to his overweening pride. For he ordered an ancient statue of Apollo to be set at the top of this pillar, but altered in such a way as to be a portrait of himself. He caused wood to be brought from the Cross on which Christ had been crucified and shaped into a kind of crown which was then placed on the head of this statue. It was the occasion for indulging in veritable orgies of pride!

The legend went on to prophesy that the Palladium would be transferred from Constantinople to the North and that the power embodied in it would be vested eventually in a Slavonic Empire. This prophecy came to the knowledge of the two men of whom I have been speaking and they resolved to go to Constantinople and to carry off the Palladium to Russia. They did not succeed. But in one of them especially—in Byron—the urge remained, and was then transformed in the later life into the impulse to espouse the cause of freedom in Greece. This impulse led Byron, in the 19th century, to the very region, broadly speaking, where he had searched for the Palladium in an earlier incarnation.

It is a question, you see, of finding the threads which lead back into earlier ages. On another occasion my attention fell on a personality who lived about the 9th century in the north east of France as France is to-day, and who during the first part of his life was the owner of extensive landed estates. He was, for those times, a wealthy man, and being of a warlike nature he engaged in many rather quixotic military adventures not on a large but on a small scale. When he had reached a certain age, this personality gathered around him people who then accompanied him on a campaign which ended in disaster and brought bitter disillusionment in its train. Without having achieved anything at all, he was obliged to return home. But meanwhile—as was a common practice in those days—another had taken possession of his house, land and people during his absence. On his arrival he found that his own estates were in other hands strange as the story is, it actually happened so and he was obliged thereafter to serve in his own manor as a kind of helot or serf. Many a meeting took place there with people of the neighbourhood, usually by night, and in a rather uncultured, rough and ready way, ideas were elaborated for seizing power—although beyond the fact that such ideas were worked out, nothing could possibly come of them. These ideas for rebelling against the overlords—almost as in the days of Rome—were the subject of much heated and fervid dialectic. Our interest may well be roused by this personality who had been ousted from estates, possessions and authority but who with an inflexible will stirred up the whole district, particularly against the one who had usurped the property. The personality of whom I am speaking was born again in the 19th century, when inwardly, in mind and soul, he became the kind of character one would expect from the circumstances of the earlier incarnation: he became Karl Marx3Karl Marx, 1818–1883. the socialist leader. Just think what a light is shed upon world history when one can study it in this way, when one can actually follow the souls passing from one epoch into the other, observing how what these souls bear within them is carried over from epoch to epoch. History and the evolution of mankind are seen in this way in their real and concrete setting.

In Dornach recently I was able to call attention to another connection of karma, one which caused me repeatedly during the War, and especially at the end of the War, to warn people against allowing themselves to be blinded by a certain outstanding figure of modern times. In the Helsingfors4Helsingfors lecture course: 'The Occult Foundations of the Bhagavad-Gita.' 9 lectures, May/June, 1913. lectures of 1913 I had already spoken of the very limited abilities of the person in question. This was because the connection between Muawiyah,5Muawiyah, Caliph in Syria from 661 to 680. Founded the dynasty of the Omayyads. a follower of Mohammed in the 7th century, and Woodrow Wilson, was clear to me. All the fatalism which characterised the personality of Muawiyah, came out in the otherwise inexplicable fatalism of Woodrow Wilson—in his case, fatalism of will. And if anyone wants to find corroboration, to discover the origin of the well known Fourteen Points, he has only to turn to the Koran. Such are the connections. These things must be kept absolutely free from sympathy or antipathy; it is not a question of criticism but only of the purest objectivity. But this very objectivity leads from one point in history at which a soul has appeared, to another such point. When humanity outsteps in some degree the still surviving heritage of materialism, people will be willing to listen to such things and observe for themselves. And then they will feel quite differently about their place in modern civilisation because they will be able to see it not in a dead but in a living setting. That is the important point. The whole process of historical development will be imbued with life. And if man is to get beyond the blind alley in which he is now standing in his civilisation, he needs the living spirit and not the dead spirit of abstract concepts and ideas.

In their study of history, people will probably be very reluctant to approach the spiritual in the way indicated in my public lecture here a few days ago, but nevertheless they will ultimately be obliged to do so. For ordinary historical study which has only documentary evidence to go upon is full of insoluble enigmas. Things of which the origins cannot be explained are forever cropping up. Why is it so? It is because the origins are not understood, they have been completely obscured. When such things are investigated, a great deal in history becomes living reality. But it also becomes apparent that men themselves have done a great deal to garble and falsify history in important respects.

It will certainly seem strange and perplexing when in connection with a relatively near past, the spiritual investigator is forced to assert that a wonderful work of art has been wiped out of existence by the hostility of a certain stream of spiritual life. In the early centuries of Christendom there was extant in the more southerly regions of European civilisation a literary work of art setting forth the nature of advancing culture immediately after Christianity had taken root in the evolution of humanity in Europe. This work of art—it was an epic drama, a dramatic epos—narrated how since the recent revelation of Christianity man cannot draw near to the true Being of Christ unless he undergoes a definite preparation similar to that given in the Mysteries.

In order to understand the real import of this, the following must be clear to us. To His intimate disciples Christ had made it abundantly clear that He, as a Sun Being, a Cosmic Being, had come down into the one born in the East as Jesus, in the thirtieth year of his life. Jesus of Nazareth was born into a Moon religion. What was the nature of the Jahve, the Jehovah religion, and of the Being Jahve himself? In looking upwards to Jahve, men were gazing, in reality, at the human ‘I,' the ‘I' that is directly dependent upon the physical human configuration that is born with us. But what is born with us, what has taken shape and developed inasmuch as in the mother's body we were moulded into a vessel for the human ‘I' this is dependent upon the Moon forces. Jahve is a Moon God. And in lifting their eyes to Jahve, men said to themselves: Jahve is the Regent of the Moon Beings, from whom proceed those forces which bear man into his physical existence on Earth.—But if Moon forces alone were at work, man would never be able to transcend what is laid into him in the life that belongs to the Earth. This he can no longer do of himself, but in earlier times it was different. If we go back into prehistoric ages we find something very remarkable, something that to the modern mind sounds extremely strange. We find that in the thirtieth year of life, human beings experienced a complete transformation of soul. This was the case in the great majority of people belonging to a certain class. Strange as it sounds to modern ears, it was really the case in an age of which the Vedas are mere echoes. There were men in ancient India to whom the following might happen.—When another man whom they had seen a few years previously came up to them, he might find that although they saw him, they did not recognise who he was; they had forgotten everything that had happened to them during the previous thirty-years, they had forgotten it all—even their own identity. And there was an actual institution—we should call it, as we call every such institution to-day, an official department or board of authorities—to which such a person must apply in order to be informed who he was and where he had been born. Only when, in the Mysteries, these people had been given the necessary training were they able to remember their lives up to the age of thirty. They were men who at a later time, were called the ‘twice born,' who owed the first period of their existence to the Moon forces, the second to the forces of the Sun.

The metamorphosis which in ancient times came about in so radical a way in the course of earthly life, the ‘being born a second time,' was ascribed to the Sun—and rightly so, for the Sun forces have to do with what a human being is able, by dint of his own free will, to make of himself. But as the evolution of humanity progressed, this gradually ceased to be part of the process of development; man no longer brought down into the physical realm any consciousness of having gazed into the cosmic worlds. Julian the Apostate wished to revive the knowledge of these things and had to pay for the attempt with his death. But through the power enshrined in His words, Christ wished to bring to men through morality, through a deepening of the moral and religious life, what nature does not bring. It was Christ Who taught: “When you learn to feel as I feel, when instead of turning your eyes to the Sun you behold what is alive in me—who was the very last to receive the Sun Word in the thirtieth year—then you will find the way to the essence of the Sun once again!” The teachers in the Mysteries during the early period of Christianity knew with certainty that the development of the intellect, of intellectuality, was then beginning; intellectuality does indeed bring man freedom but deprives him of the ancient clairvoyance which leads him into the cosmic spirituality. Therefore these wise men of the old Christian Mysteries instituted teaching which was then set forth in that epic drama of which I spoke. It was the narration of the experiences of a pupil in the Christian Mysteries, who by the sacrifice of intellect at a certain point in his youth was to be led to true Christianity when the realisation had dawned in him that Christ is a Sun Being Who came to dwell in Jesus of Nazareth from his thirtieth year onwards.

This epic was a moving and impressive narration of how a human being seeking the inmost truth of Christianity makes the sacrifice of intellect in early years—that is to say, he vows to the higher Spiritual Powers that intellectuality shall not be his mainstay but that he will so deepen his inner life that he may come to know Christianity not as mere history or tradition but in its cosmic reality and setting, seeing in Christ the Bearer of the spirituality of the Sun. A scene of dramatic grandeur and impressive content was presented by this transformation in a human being by the sacrifice of intellectuality. A human being who, to begin with, received Christianity merely according to the letter of the Gospels—as was customary later on—became one who learned to behold the cosmic realities and Christ's living connection with the Cosmos. The awakening of clairvoyant vision of Christianity as cosmic reality—such was the content of that ancient epic drama. The Catholic Church took care to ensure that every trace of this epic should be exterminated. Nothing has remained—the Catholic Church has had power enough for that. It is only by accident that a transcript has been preserved of which, too, nothing would be known, had it not been from the hand of a personage living at the Court of Charles the Bald—from the hand of Scotus Erigena.

Those who realise the import of these things will not think it so strange when spiritual investigation urges one to speak of this epic story of a man who by vowing to sacrifice intellectuality was transformed in such a way that the heavens were opened to him. But in the form of tradition many a fragment from that ancient epic has survived, in substance largely unchanged, but no longer understood—above all its great setting and its imagery were no longer understood. The content of this work of poetic art became the subject of numerous paintings. These paintings too were exterminated and only traditions survived. Fragments of these traditions were known in a circle to which Brunetto Latini, the teacher of Dante, belonged. From this teacher Dante heard something of the traditions—not of course in precision of detail, but in aftermath—and in his Divine Comedy echoes from that old epic still live on. But the work existed, as truly and as surely as the Divine Comedy itself exists.

Recorded history, you see, does not tally with the realities and a great deal of what was exterminated by enemies will have to be discovered again through spiritual investigation. For it was all to the interests of a certain side to root out every indication that Christ comes from the Cosmos. The birth of Christ which actually took place in Jesus' thirtieth year has been confounded with the physical birth. What then became a Christian doctrine could never have been established had the epic drama of which I have spoken not been exterminated. The time will come when spiritual investigation will have to play a part if human civilisation is to make real progress.

You know the devastating effect of illnesses of the kind which befell someone I once knew well. He held a post of considerable authority but one day he left his home and family, went to the railway station and took a ticket for a far distant place, having suddenly forgotten everything about his life hitherto—his intellect was in order but his memory was completely clouded. When he arrived at his first destination he took another ticket, travelling in this way through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Galicia, and finally, when his memory came back to him, he found himself in an asylum for the homeless in Berlin.

It is in truth the ruin of the whole Ego when a man forgets what he has lived through and experienced. It would also mean the ruin of the Ego of civilisation, the Ego of European humanity, were men to forget completely the things that were part of their historical experience, those things which have been rooted out. Spiritual Science alone can bring back the power of remembrance.

But even to men who, comparatively speaking, are kindly disposed, Spiritual Science still seems strange and foreign. One cannot read without a certain irony what a man, who is in other respects so promising, says about me as the founder of Anthroposophy. In The Great Secret, Maurice Maeterlinck6Maurice Maeterlinck on Rudolf Steiner. See Le Grand Secret, p. 253 (Bibliothèque Charpentier, Paris, 1921). The words referred to are as follows: ‘Steiner ... nous décrit les transformations successives des entités qui deviendront des hommes, et il le fait avec tant d'assurance qu'on se demande, après l'avoir suivi avec intérêt à travers des préliminaires qui dénotent un esprit très pondéré, très logique et très vaste, s'il devient subitement fou ou si l'on a affaire à un mystificateur ou à un véritable voyant. ...’ seems unable to deny that the introductions to my books contain much that is reasonable. He is struck by this. But then he finds things which leave him in a state of bewilderment and of which he can make absolutely nothing.—We might vary slightly one of Lichtenberg's remarks, by saying: “When books and an individual come into collision and there is a hollow sound, this need not be the fault of the books!” But just think of it—Maurice Maeterlinck is certainly a high light in our modern culture and yet he writes the following—I quote almost word for word: ‘In the introductions to his books, in the first chapters, Steiner invariably shows himself possessed of a thoughtful, logical and cultured mind, and then, in the later chapters he seems to have gone crazy' (See note, p109). What are we to deduce from this? First chapter—thoughtful, logical, cultured; last chapter—crazy. Then another book comes out. ‘Again, to begin with, thoughtful, logical, cultured; and finally—crazy!' And so it goes on. As I have written quite a number of books I must be pretty expert at this sort of thing! According to Maurice Maeterlinck a kind of juggling must go on in my books But the idea that this happens voluntarily ... such a case has yet to be found in the lunatic asylums!

The books of writers who think one crazy are really more bewildering still The very irony with which one is bound to accept many things to-day shows how difficult it still is for men of the present age to understand genuine spiritual investigation Nevertheless such investigation will have to come. And in order that we shall not have been found wanting in the strength to bring about this deepening of the spiritual life, the Christmas Foundation Meeting was held as a beacon for the further development of the Anthroposophical Society in the direction I have indicated. The Christmas Foundation Meeting was intended, first and foremost, to inaugurate in the Anthroposophical Movement an epoch when concrete facts of the spiritual life are fearlessly set forth—as has been the case to-day and in the preceding lectures. For if the spirit needed by mankind is to find entrance, a stronger impetus is required than that which has prevailed hitherto.

It has been for me a source of real gladness that in the lectures here, given either to the public or to a smaller circle, the opportunity has been afforded me to lead a little further into the depths of spiritual life. And with this inner gladness let me express my heartfelt thanks for the cordial words addressed to me by Professor Hauffen at the beginning of this evening's session. I thank you for your welcome and for the way in which your souls have responded during my presence here. And you may rest assured that Professor Hauffen's words will remain with me as a wellspring of the thoughts which I shall constantly send you and which will be with you alike when you achieve your aims and when you are working here. Even when we are separated from one another in space we are, as Anthroposophists, together in our hearts, and this should be known and remembered. For many years I have been privileged to speak in Prague of different aspects of the spiritual life and it has always been a source of satisfaction to me. Particularly is it so on this occasion, because the demands made upon your hearts and souls have been relatively new, because this time you have had to receive with an even greater open mindedness what I had to say to you in discharging a spiritual commission. When I say ‘spiritual commission,' let us take these words to imply that in the spirit we remain together. The aim before us will be achieved if friends work together with all their hearts, if, above all, they remain united in Anthroposophical thinking, feeling and willing.

Together with my thanks, please take this as a cordial farewell—betokening no separation but rather the establishment of a spiritual communion. This feeling of communion should flow through every word that is spoken among us. Everything that is said among us should serve to unite us more and more closely. In this sense let me assure you with all my heart that my thoughts will be with you, seeking to find among you one of those places where true Anthroposophical will and the Anthroposophical stream of spiritual life are able to work. And so we will go our ways, but in the body only, remaining spiritually and in our hearts together.