Nothing can be truly understood if it is looked at from one side only

Nothing can be truly understood if it is looked at from one side only. Everything which appears to us in one condition was quite different in earlier times; only by relating the present to the past can it be understood. Similarly, if you do not look beyond the physical world of the senses, you will never understand illness, or the mission of evil.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 95 – At the Gates of Spiritual Science – Lecture VIII: Good and Evil. Individual Karmic Questions – Stuttgart, 29th August 1906

Translated by E. H. Goddard & Charles Davy

Previously posted on May 18, 2017


Everything we experience by day we work upon during the night

In the time between your sleeping and waking — quite unconsciously, of course, as regards the normal consciousness — you will work upon much of what you are now in a position to hear. You will work upon it a great deal in your next sleep and perhaps also during the following nights. One sees souls labouring between sleeping and waking in quite a different fashion at what they have absorbed. And even if it occurred that someone had listened very inattentively, and had merely been somewhat receptive, yet through that receptivity he would draw into his soul the spiritual powers and impulse in the lecture. And that would be worked upon during sleep, and transformed into what we require not only for the rest of life up till death, but beyond death. Thus we work over our whole life as it transpires by day between our waking and sleeping.

Everything we experience by day we work upon during the night. Thus as it were, we learn lessons which we need for all the rest of our life here, and beyond death into the next incarnation. When we are asleep, we are our own prophetic transmuters of our life. This sleep-life is full of tremendously deep riddles, for it is much more deeply connected with what we experience, than is the external consciousness, and we work at it all from the standpoint of its fruitfulness for the following life. What we can make of ourselves through what we have experienced, is the object of our labour in the time between sleeping and waking. Whether we become stronger and more powerful in our soul, or perhaps have to reproach ourselves, we labour at all our experiences so that they become life-fruit. You see from this, that the life between sleeping and waking is really enormously significant, and that it goes deeply into the whole riddle of man.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 157a – The Forming of Destiny and Life after Death:

Translated by Harry Collison

Karma and heredity

How is the law of karma related to physical heredity? Physical heredity plays a great role; we know that some of the characteristics of a father and his ancestors may be found again in the son. In the Bach family, for instance, there were twenty-eight highly gifted musicians in a period of 250 years. Again, Bernoulli was a great mathematician, and eight other gifted mathematicians came after him in his family. This is all a matter of heredity, we are told; but that is only partially true. In order to be a good musician you need more than a musical predisposition in your soul; you need also a good ear in the physical sense. This good ear is a physical quality to be found in a family of musicians, and is passed on from one generation to the next. In a family, then, where a great deal of music is performed, you will find good musical ears, and so when a soul with a strongly developed musical talent is to be incarnated, it will naturally not choose a family with no interest in music — where it would languish — but one which has suitable physical organs. This fits in very well with the law of karma.

The same thing applies to moral courage. If a soul with that predisposition cannot find a suitable heredity, the characteristic will fade out. You can see that you have to be very careful in your choice of parents! The fact is not that the child resembles his parents, but that he is born into a family where the parents most resemble him.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 95 – At the Gates of Spiritual Science: Lecture 7: Workings of the law of karma in human life – Stuttgart, 28th August 1906

Translated by E. H. Goddard & Charles Davy

Previously posted on May 16, 2017


In the Middle Ages no one would have ever dreamt of destroying life in order to understand it, and in ancient times any doctor would have looked on this as the height of madness. In the Middle Ages a number of people were still clairvoyant; doctors could see into a man and could discern any injury or defect in his physical body. So it was with Paracelsus, for example.

But the material culture of modern times had to come, and with it a loss of clairvoyance. We see this particularly in our scientists and doctors; and vivisection is a result of it. In this way we can come to understand it, but we should never excuse or justify it.

The consequences of a life which has been the cause of pain to others are bound to follow, and after death the vivisectionist has to endure exactly the same pains that he inflicted on animals. His soul is drawn into every pain he caused. It is no use saying that to inflict pain was not his intention, or that he did it for the sake of science or that his purpose was good. The law of spiritual life is inflexible.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 95 – At the Gates of Spiritual Science: LECTURE THREE: LIFE OF THE SOUL IN KAMALOKA – Stuttgart, 24th August, 1906

Translated by E.H. Goddard & Charles Davy

Tolerance for other opinions

It is the most extraordinary thing that nobody nowadays really ever listens to anybody else. Is it ever possible to start a sentence without someone interrupting to state his own view of the matter, with a resultant clash of opinion? It is a fundamental characteristic of modern civilization that nobody listens, that nobody respects anyone’s opinion but his own, and that those who do not share his opinions are looked upon as dunces.

But when a person expresses an opinion, my dear friends, it is a human being’s opinion, no matter how foolish we may think it, and we must be able to accept it, to listen to it. […]

If one has acquired a little wisdom, one even takes pleasure in hearing people say something foolish, if you will forgive my putting it so bluntly. One sometimes finds such stupidities cleverer than the things people of an average degree of cleverness say, because they often issue from a far greater humanness than underlies the average cleverness of the average of clever people. An ever deepening insight into the world increases one’s interest in human foolishness, for these things look different at differing world levels. The stupidities of a person who may seem a fool to clever people in the ordinary physical world can, under certain circumstances, reveal things that are wisdom in a different world, even though the form they take may be twisted and caricatured.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 257 – Awakening to Community – Dornach, 4th March 1923

Translated by Marjorie Spock