A true prayer has something to give to all of us

A true prayer has something to give to all of us, whatever stage of development we may have reached. The simplest person, who perhaps knows nothing more than the words of the prayer, may still be open to the influence of the prayer on his soul, and it is the prayer which can call forth the power to raise him higher. But, however high a stage we may have reached, we have never finished with a prayer; it can always raise us to a still higher level. And the Lord’s Prayer is not for speaking only. It can call forth the mystical frame of mind, and it can be the subject of higher forms of meditation and concentration. This could be said of many other prayers. 

Since the Middle Ages, however, something has come to the fore, a kind of egotism, which can impair the purity of prayer and its accompanying state of mind. If we make use of prayer with the aim only of withdrawing into ourselves and making ourselves more perfect — as many Christians did during the Middle Ages and perhaps still do today — and if we fail to look out at the world around us with whatever illumination we may have received, then prayer will succeed only in separating us from the world, and making us feel like strangers in it. That often happened to those who used prayer in connection with false asceticism and seclusion. These people wished to be perfect not in the sense of the rose, which adorns itself  in order to add beauty to the garden, but on their own account, so as to find blessedness within their own souls.

Anyone who seeks for God in his soul and refuses to take what he has gained out into the world will find that his refusal turns back on him in revenge.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 59 – Metamorphoses of the Soul Vol.2 – Lecture 4: The Nature of Prayer – Berlin, 17th February 1910

Translated by Charles Davy and Christian von Arnim

When men grow old they do not become weak or even feeble-minded

For very many people it will be a hard nut to crack if they are told to believe that when men grow old they do not become weak or even feeble-minded, but more psychic and more spiritual. Only, when the body is worn out, we can no longer express the psycho-spiritual which we have cultivated, through the body. It is like the case of a pianist: he might become a better and better player, but if his piano is worn out we cannot perceive this. If you were only to know his capabilities as a pianist from his plane (? play, I presume), you will not be able to gather much if the piano is out of tune and has broken strings. So that Kant, when he was an old man and “feeble-minded” was not weak minded as regards the spiritual world; there he had become glorious.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 181 – Anthroposophical Life Gifts – Lecture III: Thoughts about the Life Between Death and RebirthBerlin, 2nd April 1918

Translated by Harry Collison

Why do old people become mentally weak, even if the soul cannot change?

The soul, indeed, does not change. It never descends from the stage once reached. But its instrument has become weak, like a great pianist who can no longer play as he played formerly, if he has a bad instrument. You will say the soul no longer knows its own stage. Yes, the soul does not see itself as long as it is in a physical body. There is only to be found the reflection of the soul, the mirror image. Now the mirror becomes clouded or broken. Then it can no longer reflect. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 97 – The Christian Mystery – Leipzig, 16th March 1907

800 years ago it was already a fiasco

Today (1922), it is clear, we can only look with horror at the social organization that is trying to establish itself in Eastern Europe. Yet in considering what is going on there today, we cannot help remembering what happened some eight hundred years ago, in China. Here, quite suddenly, men sought and very largely realized a political system that aimed at ordering all the affairs of man, even those of an economic nature, in every detail on behalf of the state. At this period in China, there were government authorities that fixed prices from week to week, authorities that laid down how the land was to be cultivated here, there and everywhere, authorities that provided country people with the seed for the year.

At this period in China, an attempt was made to impose a high rate of tax on people who were particularly rich, so that gradually their fortunes passed to the general public. Remembering all this, we may say: the social configuration sought in Europe in our time by certain circles was largely realized eight hundred years ago, over a period of three decades, until the Socialist government concerned was overthrown and its supporters expelled from China. For thirty years, a system persisted whose features, if we described them without mentioning China, might very well be taken to refer to present-day Russia.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 83 – The Tension Between East and West – Vienna, 8th June 1922

Translated by B.A. Rowley

Reincarnation: beginning and ending

It is a wrong conception when theosophists believe that reincarnation had no beginning and will have no ending. […] It is only a certain period of time in earth evolution during which mankind reincarnates. It was preceded by a most spiritual condition which precluded any necessity for reincarnation and there will follow again a spiritual state which will likewise obviate the necessity for reincarnation.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 93 – The Temple Legend – Lecture 1 – Berlin, 23rd May 1904