Karma / Joy / Pain

In human life joy is usually something one has not deserved through previous actions. When we investigate karma by occult means, we always discover that in most cases joy has not been earned, and we should accept it gratefully as sent to us by the gods, as a gift of the gods, and to say to ourselves: The joy which comes to meet us today ought to kindle in us the will to work in such a way as to take into ourselves the forces streaming to us through this joy, and to apply these usefully. We must look upon joy as a sort of prepayment on account for the future.

In the case of pain, on the other hand, we have usually merited this, and we always find the cause in our present life or in earlier lives. And we must then realise with the utmost clarity that we have often failed to conduct ourselves in our external life in accordance with this karmic mood. We are not able to conduct ourselves always in external life in the presence of what causes us pain in such a way that our conduct shall seem to be an acceptance of our destiny. We do not generally have an insight into such a thing at once — into the law of destiny. But, even though we are not able to conduct ourselves outwardly in such a way, yet the principal thing is that we shall do this inwardly.

And even if we have conducted ourselves outwardly in accordance with this karmic mood, yet we should say to ourselves in the depths of our souls that we ourselves have been the cause of all such things. Suppose, for instance, that someone strikes us, that he beats us with a stick. In such a case it is generally characteristic for a person to ask: ‘Who is it that strikes me?’ No one says in such a case: ‘It is I that beat myself.’ Only in the rarest cases do people say that they punish themselves. And yet it is true that we ourselves lifted the stick against another person in days gone by. Yes, it is you yourself who then raised the stick. When we have to get rid of a hindrance, this is karma. It is karma when others hold something against us. It is we ourselves who cause something to happen to us as recompense for something we have done. And thus we come to a right attitude toward our life, to a broadening of our self, when we say: ‘Everything that befalls us comes from ourselves. Our own action is fulfilled outwardly even when it seems as if someone else performed it.’


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 3, 2018

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The greatest wisdom is acquired by the quiet endurance of pain and suffering

Knowledge of the connection between the physical and the astral world enables us to have a clear understanding of the world in its inner process of development; things are often connected in quite a different way from what people like to imagine. Many people deplore pain and suffering, but from a higher point of view this is quite unjustified, for if they are overcome and the person is ready for a new incarnation, suffering and pain are the sources of wisdom, prudence and comprehensiveness of vision. 

Even in writing emanating from the modern, materialistic standpoint, we find it stated that there is something like “crystallised pain” in the face of every thinker. What this materialistically minded author says here has long been known to the occultist, for the greatest wisdom of the world is acquired by the quiet endurance of pain and suffering; this creates wisdom in the next incarnation.

Source: GA 99 – Theosophy of the Rosicrucian – VI. The Law of Destiny – Munich, 30th May, 1907

Translated by M. Cotterell & D. S. Osmond

Previously posted on February 19, 2018

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Deadening of the soul

We only need to look at certain details in present-day education to appreciate the great difficulties in the way of progress. Those who today consider themselves well-versed in the problems of education say again and again that all instruction, even in the lowest grades, must be in the form of object lessons. In the teaching of arithmetic, for instance, mechanical aids to calculating are introduced. The greatest value is placed upon having the child see everything first, and then form his own inner concepts about it. To be sure, the urge for such objectivity in education is in many respects fully justified. 

Nevertheless, it raises the question, what becomes of a child if he only receives object lessons? He becomes psychically dried up; the inner dynamic forces of his soul gradually die out. His whole being unites with the objective surroundings, and what should sprout from his inmost soul is gradually deadened. The way material is presented in much of our education today is connected with this deadening of the soul. People do not realize that one kills the soul, but it really happens. 

And the consequence is what we experience with people today. How many are problem-laden personalities! How many are unable in their later years to produce out of their own inner resources that which could give them consolation and hope in difficult times and enable them to cope with the vicissitudes of life! We see at present many shattered natures. At important moments we ourselves are doubtful as to the direction we should take.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 296 –Education as a Social Problem: Lecture IV: Education as a Problem Involving the Training of Teachers – Dornach, August 15, 1919

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Consolation: Any grief is the cause of a rise of the soul-life

The soul continually puts questions about the human destiny and his dissimilarity to itself. Can a thoughtful soul endure that on one side innocent human beings live in bitterness and misery, and on the other side, people live apparently in happiness who do not deserve it? This is the big question which the human soul has to put to destiny. As long as we consider life only between birth and death, we never find an answer to this riddle.

We never find consolation for the soul. If we look, however, at the law of karma, we know that any bitterness, any misery is the result of causes which were there in former lives. Then we say on one side: what the soul experiences today as its destiny is the effect of former experiences. This cannot be anything else.

Consolation becomes this explanation immediately when we look at the future because we say: somebody who experiences something painful or bitterness and grief today can complain of his destiny not only, but he has to say to himself: bitterness, heartache have effect on the future. What is your pain today is for your future life in such a way as the pain of a child if it falls: it learns to go. Thus any grief is the cause of a rise of the soul-life, and the soul finds consolation immediately if it says to itself: nothing is without effect. The life which I experience today must bear its fruit for the future.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 52 – Spiritual Teachings of Soul/World: Course V – Lecture I: What Does the Modern Human Being Find in Theosophy? – Berlin, March 8, 1904

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