The aestheticist Theodor Vischer included in his novel Auch Einer a clever little story that I will introduce here because I am speaking of vocational life in a more comprehensive way, that is, including everything that is connected with one’s occupation. So I will give an illustration of this. In Vischer’s novel, there is a conversation between a father and his son.
They are walking together and, after the father has questioned his son about all sorts of things, the boy says, “Just think, the teacher told us that we should always ask what a person’s occupation is because to have a proper occupation is important. In this way it is possible to learn whether or not the person is respectable and whether he has a good soul life.” “I see,” says the father. “Yes, indeed, and after the teacher told us this I had a dream in which I was walking by the lake over there and in my dream I asked the lake what sort of occupation it had, and the lake answered, ‘I have the occupation of being wet.’ ” “Is that so?” says the father.
This is a most clever anecdote and one that reveals that the person who thought it out had much knowledge of life. The father said, “Is that so?” because he naturally did not wish to confuse his son and tell him what a stupid thing the teacher had said. But that father no doubt had his thoughts on the subject. He really should have enlightened his son in a more intelligent way than the teacher had done, and should have said to him, “We should not form our judgments so superficially. It might well be that a person would be wrong as to what a respectable occupation is and might falsely consider a man to be disreputable; he might also be disadvantaged in some way.”
In short, the father would have had to correct his son, but in this particular case it was not necessary. The boy was still young, and his dream could still work in a favorable manner on him. This dream worked in his subconscious, but in such a way as to erase the stupidity of the teacher from his soul. Thus, the dream took on a form in the boy’s subconscious, which is cleverer than the superficial consciousness, in such a way that a breath of ridicule was spread over the stupidity of the teacher. The lake said its occupation, its vocation, was to be wet. This is something that will work in a wholesome way in expelling the harmful influences of such teaching.
Here the dream is a reminiscence that comes the very next night, but it also serves as a corrective in life. In fact, the astral body often works in this way, and we might find, together with the residue remaining in the soul from living experiences, particularly from wrongful instruction, that a corrective is also present in the subconscious forces of the soul. This often produces its influence even in the same incarnation in young people. Above all, however, its influence is carried through the portal of death and continues further. This constitutes a means of self-correction in man, and we must pay attention to this fact.
Rudolf Steiner – GA 172 – The karma of vocation – Dornach, 13 November 1916
Translated by Olin D. Wannamaker