What is a poison?

What is a poison? Water is a strong poison if you consume it by the bucketful in a short time; and what today is poison could have the most beneficial effect if rightly administered. It depends always on the quantity, and under which circumstances, one takes a substance into oneself; in itself, there is no poison.

In Africa there is a tribe who employ a certain breed of dog for hunting. But there is a fly in those parts carrying a poison deadly to the dogs that they sting. Now these savages of the Zambesi river have found a way of dealing with this sting. They take the pregnant dogs to a district where there is an abundance of tsetse flies and let these animals be bitten, choosing the time when they are just going to whelp, with the result that the puppies are immune and can be used for hunting.

Something happens here which is very important for the understanding of life — a poison is taken up into a life process, where a descending line passes over in an ascending one, in such a way that the poison becomes a substance inherent in the organism. What is thus taken from external nature strengthens us and is of use to us.

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Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 55 – The Origin of Suffering, Origin of Evil, Illness and Death – Berlin, 13nd December 1906

Translated by Violet E. Watkin

Frequently we hear it said that death is an unsolved riddle

Today our subject is one that undoubtedly concerns all human beings, for the words “illness” and “death” express something which enters in every life, often as an uninvited guest, often too in a vexing, frustrating, frightening guise, and death presents itself as the greatest riddle of existence; so that when anyone has solved the question of its nature he has also solved that other question — the nature of life. Frequently we hear it said that death is an unsolved riddle — a riddle which no-one will ever solve. People who speak thus have no idea how arrogant these words are; they have no idea that there does exist a solution to the riddle which, however, they do not happen to understand. 

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Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 55 – The Origin of Suffering, Origin of Evil, Illness and Death – Berlin, December 13, 1906

An ascetic fleeing from the world does not serve clairvoyance

Spiritual science teaches of the existence of certain highly evolved men, the initiates, and it has been taught in the Mystery Schools of all times how man can bring himself to such a stage of evolution. Definite exercises were prescribed there which develop man in quite a natural way. They are exercises of meditation and concentration which are to give man another kind of sight which cannot be attained with the intellect and the five senses. Meditation in the first place leads away from the grasp of the senses. Through inner soul-work man becomes free of the senses. Something then takes place similar to the operation on a man born blind. There is a kind of operation which opens man’s spiritual eyes and ears. It will be attained in the development of the whole human race in the course of a long period of time. But one must not disclaim the world when one wishes to rise higher; an ascetic fleeing from the world does not serve clairvoyance. Clairvoyance is the fruit of what the soul collects in the sense-world. Greek philosophy beautifully compared the human soul with a bee. The world of colour and light offers the soul honey which it brings with it into the higher world. The soul must spiritualise sense experience and carry it up into higher worlds.

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Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 55 – The Origin of Suffering, Origin of Evil, Illness and Death – Berlin, 22nd November 1

 Translated by M. Cotterell

The origin of suffering and pain

When we realise this connection of suffering and pain with the conscious spirit that surrounds us, we shall well understand the words of a Christian initiate who knew such things fundamentally and intuitively, and saw pain at the basis of all conscious life. They are the words: In all Nature sighs every creature in pain, full of earnest expectation to attain the state of the child of God. — You find that in the eighth chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans as a wonderful expression of this foundation of consciousness in pain. Thus one can also understand how thoughtful men have ascribed to pain such an all-important role. I should like to quote just one example. A great German philosopher says that when one looks at all Nature around one, then pain and suffering seem to be expressed everywhere on her countenance. Yes, when one observes the higher animals they show to those who look more deeply an expression full of suffering. And who would not admit that many an animal physiognomy looks like the manifestation of a deeply hidden pain?

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Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 55 – The Origin of Suffering, Origin of Evil, Illness and Death – Berlin, 8th November 1906

Translated by M. Cotterell