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

Rudolf Steiner

Previously posted on 31 August 2018

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Interest and health

It is certainly more or less risky nowadays to speak of these things. But we shall understand the relationships of karma only if we are ready to occupy ourselves with the details about it. The art of painting, for example, already existed at a time when human souls, now living, were living in a former earth life; and there were human beings who had no interest at all in painting. Even today there are people who are quite indifferent whether they have some atrocity hanging on the walls of their room, or a well-painted picture. And there were also such people at the time when the souls who are living today were present in former earth lives. Indeed, my dear friends, I have never found a human being with a pleasing face, a sympathetic expression, who did not take delight in the art of painting in a former earth life. The people with an unpleasing expression (which, after all, also plays its part in karma and has its significance for destiny) were always those who had passed by the works of the art of painting with obtuse and phlegmatic indifference.

But these things go much farther. There are human beings (and there were also such in former epochs of the earth) who never look up at the stars, who do not know where Leo is, or Aries, or Taurus, who have no interest in anything in this connection. Such people will be born, in a subsequent earth life, with a body that is somehow indolent; or, if through the vigor of their parents they receive a model which carries them beyond this, they become flabby, lacking in energy and vigor in the body which they then build for themselves.

And thus, it is possible to trace back the state of health which the human being bears with him in a given earth life to the interest he had taken in the visible world to the widest extent during his former earth life.

People, for instance, who in our time take absolutely no interest in music — people to whom music is a matter of indifference — will certainly be born again in a next earth life with asthmatic trouble, or with some disease of the lungs; or, they will be born with a susceptibility to asthma or lung disease. It is an actual fact that the quality of soul which develops in one earth life through the interest we take in the visible world comes to expression in our next earth life in our general bodily disposition in regard to health or illness.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 235 – KARMA: 5 – The Single Factor of Karma – Dornach, 1 March 1924

Translated by Henry B. Monges

European Sculpture

A human being’s destiny is composed of many and diverse factors

If we speak in detail about karma, we naturally must distinguish, in the first place, between those karmic events of life which come to a human being from outside and those which arise, as it were, within his inner being. A human being’s destiny is composed of many and diverse factors. His destiny is dependent on his physical and etheric constitution. It is dependent on what the human being, according to his astral and ego constitution, can bring of sympathy and antipathy toward the outer world, what others, again, according to his constitution can bring to him as sympathy and antipathy. Moreover, the destiny of the human being depends on the most manifold complications and entanglements in which he finds himself involved on the path of life. All of this determines the human being’s karmic situation for any given moment of time or as a totality for his whole life.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 235 – KARMA: 5 – The Single Factor of Karma – Dornach, 1 March 1924

Translated by Henry B. Monges

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Not only is morality advanced by good habits, but also health

In considering karma and disease, both of the individual and whole populations, we have seen that what has been prepared during earlier times spiritually asserts itself later in physical life. Therefore, if we ensure that humanity has good education and habits, we will promote health too! Not only is the moral element promoted by good habits, but also health, since bad habits create disease in the next incarnation. Nervousness, one of the most typical illnesses today, results from a particular state of mind in an earlier life. It would never have occurred if the materialistic worldview with its habits of thought had not become so prevalent. Should this mindset persist, it would devastate public health and drive humankind to madness.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 97 – Das christliche Mysterium – Stuttgart, March 14, 1906 (page 255)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger 

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How long is the time in the devachan?

The time in devachan (spirit-land) is not of equal length for all human beings. The uneducated savage who has experienced a little of this world only who has applied his mind and sense only a little has a short stay in the devachan. The devachan is basically supposed to elaborate what the human being has learnt in the physical, to unfold it freely, to make it suitable to a new life. The human being, who is on a higher level of existence who has collected rich experiences, has to process a lot and, hence, has a long stay in the devachan. Only later, when he is able to look into these states, the stays become again shorter up to the point where the human being can immediately walk after death again to a new incarnation because he has already experienced what is to be experienced in devachan.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 53 – Origin and Goal of the Human Being: Lecture VII: The Spirit-land – Berlin, 17th November 1904

The link to this lecture is currently unavailable.

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Previously posted on May 30, 2016