The underlying reasons for suffering

In pursuing the laws of karma, we shall discover that the underlying reasons for suffering are similar to what can be described by the following example relating to the ordinary life between birth and death. Let us assume that a youngster has lived until his eighteenth year at the expense of his father. Then the father loses all his wealth and goes into bankruptcy. The young man must now learn something worthwhile and make an effort to support himself. As a result, life hits him with pain and privation. It is quite understandable that he does not react sympathetically to the pain that he has to go through.

Let us now turn to the period when he has reached the age of fifty. Since, by the necessity of events, he had to educate himself at an early age, he has become a decent person. He has found a real foothold in life. He realizes why he reacted negatively to pain and suffering when it first hit him, but now he must think differently about it. He must say to himself that the suffering would not have come to him if he had already acquired a sense of maturity — at least, to the limited degree than an eighteen year old can attain one. If he had not been afflicted by pain, he would have remained a good-for-nothing. It was the pain that transformed his shortcomings into positive abilities. He must owe it to the pain that he has become a different man in the course of forty years. What was really brought together at that time? His shortcomings and his pain were brought together. His shortcomings actually sought pain in order that his immaturity might be removed by being transformed into maturity.

Even a simple consideration of life between birth and death can lead to this view. If we look at the totality of life, however, and if we face our karma as it has been explained in the lecture two days ago, we will come to the conclusion that all pain that hits us, that all suffering that comes our way, are of such a nature that they are being sought by our shortcomings. By far the greater part of our pain and suffering is sought by imperfections that we have brought over from previous incarnations. Since we have these imperfections within ourselves, there is a wiser man in us than we ourselves are who chooses the road to pain and suffering. It is, indeed, one of the golden rules of life that we all carry in us a wiser man than we ourselves are, a much wiser man. The one to whom we say, “I,” in ordinary life is less wise. If it was left to this less wise person in us to make a choice between pain and joy, he would undoubtedly choose the road toward joy. But the wiser man is the one who reigns in the depth of our unconscious and who remains inaccessible to ordinary consciousness. He directs our gaze away from easy enjoyment and kindles in us a magic power that seeks the road of pain without our really knowing it. But what is meant by the words: Without really knowing it? They mean that the wiser man in us prevails over the less wise one. He always acts in such a way that our shortcomings are guided to our pains and he makes us suffer because with every inner and outer suffering we eliminate one of our faults and become transformed into something better.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – Facing Karma – Vienna, February 8, 1912

Translated by Dietrich V. Asten

Previously posted on March 6, 2015

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Understanding the New Testament

The New Testament stands there as a record for humanity — but the whole future course of the Earth’s evolution will be required for a full understanding of the New Testament to be reached. In the future, men will acquire much knowledge of the external world and of the spiritual world also; and if taken in the right sense it will all contribute to an understanding of the New Testament.

The understanding comes about gradually, but the New Testament is written in a simple form so that it can be absorbed and, later, gradually understood. To permeate ourselves with the truth that resides in the New Testament is not without significance, even if we cannot yet understand the truth in its deepest inwardness. Later on, truth becomes cognitional force, but it is already life-force, in so far as it is imbibed in a more or less childlike form.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 155 – Christ and the Human Soul: Lecture 4 – Norrkoping, 16th July 1914

Translated by Charles Davy

Truths contain life-force

Mankind is always in need of truths which cannot, in every age, be wholly understood. The assimilation of truths is not significant only for our knowledge; truths themselves contain life-force. By permeating ourselves with truth we permeate our soul-nature with an element drawn from the objective world, just as we must permeate our physical being with air taken from outside in order to live. Deep truths are indeed expressed in great religious revelations, but in such a form that their real inner meaning is often not understood until much, much later.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 155 – Christ and the Human Soul: Lecture 4 – Norrkoping, 16th July 1914

Translated by Charles Davy

What self-seeking has brought this discontent upon me?

All obstinacy, all self-seeking, have a destructive effect upon thinking. All characteristics connected with obstinacy and selfishness — such as ambition, vanity all these things that seem to tend in a very different direction make our thinking unsound, and act unfavourably upon our mood of soul. We must seek, therefore, to overcome obstinacy, self-seeking, egoism; and cultivate, on the contrary, a certain absorption in things and a certain self-sacrificing attitude toward other beings.

Absorption, a self-sacrificing attitude, in regard to the most insignificant objects and occurrences have a favourable effect upon thinking and upon one’s mood. In truth, self-seeking and egoism bring their own punishment because the self-seeking person becomes more and more discontented, complains more and more that he comes off badly. When anyone feels this way about himself, he ought to place himself under the law of karma and ask himself, when he is discontented: ‘What self-seeking has brought this discontent upon me?’

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz – Lecture 2 – Leipzig, 5th November 1911

Translated by Pauline Wehrle

Previously posted on March 5, 2015

The most important characteristic of the devachanic world

The most important characteristic of this devachanic world (heaven) is that in it moral actualities are no longer separable from the physical, that moral and physical laws are one and the same. What does that mean? Well, is it not true that in the ordinary physical world the sun shines upon the just and the unjust? Whoever commits a crime may be put in prison, but the physical sun is not darkened. That is to say: in the physical world there is a realm of moral and physical laws, leading in two very different directions.

It is not so in Devachan, not at all; instead of this, everything proceeding from morality, from intelligent wisdom, from the aesthetically beautiful, and so on, leads to growth (is creative,) and that which arises from immorality, intellectual falsity, and aesthetic ugliness leads to withering and destruction. And there the laws of nature are such that the sun does not shine upon the just and the unjust alike but, if we may speak figuratively, it darkens upon the unjust; so that the just, passing through Devachan, have there the spiritual sunshine, that is to say, the influence of the fertilizing forces that bring about their forward progress in life.

The spiritual forces draw back from the dishonest or ugly human being. The following is possible there which is impossible here on earth. When two people — just and unjust — walk here side by side, the sun cannot shine upon one and not upon the other; but in the spiritual world the effect of the spiritual forces depends absolutely upon the quality of the individual concerned. That is to say: the laws of nature and the spiritual laws do not follow two separate roads, but one and the same. That is the fundamental, essential truth. In the devachanic world the natural, moral, and intellectual laws act together as one.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 143 – Psychoanalysis in the Light of Anthroposophy – Munich, February 25, 1912

Translated by May Laird-Brown