Imponderable things of life

It is no exaggeration to say: If a man most inwardly endeavours to be a good man in the presence of a child before the age of seven; if he endeavours to be sound in every way, if he conscientiously resolves to make no allowances for himself even in his inner life, in thoughts and feelings that he does not outwardly express — then, through the intangible, imponderable things of life, he works most powerfully upon the child.  

In this connection there are many things still to be observed, things which, if I may so express myself, “lie between the lines.” We have become enmeshed in a more materialistic way of life, especially as regards life’s more intimate and finer aspects. And so we have grown accustomed to pay little attention to these things. Yet it is only when they are rightly observed and estimated once again, that a certain impulse will enter into our educational thought and practice — an impulse that is very badly needed, especially in an age which claims to be a social age, an age of social thought.

There are certain experiences in life, which we cannot rightly estimate unless we take into account these real observations of the soul- and spiritual-life within the human being.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 297 – Spiritual Science and the Art of Education – November 27, 1919   

Translated by George Kaufmann from a Shorthand Manuscript of an Address to School Teachers

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A Working-man in America

An uncommonly interesting book has recently appeared, A Working-man in America (Als Arbeiter in Amerika, pub. Sigismund, Berlin). The author is State-Councillor Kolb, who had the enterprise to spend several months as a common worker in America. In this way he acquired a discrimination of men and of life which was obviously neither to be obtained along the educational paths that led to councillorship, nor from the mass of experience which he was able to accumulate in such a position and in all the other posts that a man fills before he becomes a Councillor of State. He was thus for years in a position of considerable responsibility; and yet, not until he had left this, and lived — just a short while — in a foreign land, did he learn the knowledge of life that enabled him to write the following memorable sentence in his book: “How often, in old days, when I saw a sound, sturdy man begging, had I not asked, in righteous indignation: Why doesn’t the lazy rascal work? I knew now, why. The fact is, it looks quite different in theory from what it does in practice; and at the study table one can deal quite comfortably with even the most unsavory chapters of political economy.”

To prevent any possible misunderstanding, let it be said at once, that no one can feel anything but the warmest appreciation for a man who could bring himself to leave a comfortable position in life, in order to go and do hard labor in a brewery and a bicycle factory. It is a deed worthy of all respect, and it must be duly emphasized, lest it should be imagined that any disparagement is intended of the man who did it. Nevertheless, for anyone who will face the facts, it is unmistakably evident that all this man’s book-learning, all the schooling he had been through, had not given him the ability to read life.

Just try and realize all that is involved in such an admission! One may learn everything which, in these days, qualifies one to hold posts of considerable influence; and yet, with it all, one may be quite remote and aloof from that life where one’s sphere of action lies. Is it not much the same, as though a man were to go through a course of training in bridge construction, and then, when called upon actually to build a bridge, had no notion how to set about it? And yet, no! — it is not quite the same. Anyone who is not properly trained for bridge building will soon be enlightened as to his deficiencies when he comes to actual practice. He will soon show himself to be a bungler and find his services generally declined. But when a man is not properly trained for his work in social life, his deficiencies are not so readily demonstrated. A badly built bridge breaks down; and then even the most prejudiced can see that he who built it was a bungler. But the bungling that goes on in social work is not so directly apparent. It only shows itself in the suffering of one’s fellow-men. And the connection between this suffering and bungling is not one that people recognize as readily as the connection between the breakdown of a bridge and the incompetent bridge builder.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – Anthroposophy and the Social Question – Part 1 (essay which first appeared in the journal “Lucifer-Gnosis”, October 1905/1906 – translated by Harry Collison)

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Previously posted on april 8, 2018

Vegetarianism – Why don’t you eat dogs or cats?

So long as a desire for meat persists, vegetarianism is useless. It is helpful only when it results from an attitude that I will illustrate with a little story.

Not very long ago, someone was asked: “Why don’t you eat meat?” He replied with a counter-question: “Why don’t you eat dogs or cats?” “One just can’t”, was the answer. “Why can’t you?” “Because I would find it disgusting.” “Well, that is just what I feel about all meat.”

That is the point. When pleasure in eating meat has gone, then to abstain from meat may be of some use in relation to the spiritual worlds.

Until then, breaking the meat-eating habit can be helpful only for getting rid of the desire for meat. If the desire persists, it may be better to start eating meat again, for to go on tormenting oneself about it is certainly not the right way to reach an understanding of Spiritual Science.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 58 – Metamorphoses of the Soul, Vol 1: Lecture 6: Asceticism and Illness – Berlin, 11th November 1909

Translated by Charles Davy and Christian von Arnim

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Preeviously posted on April 2, 2018

A stroke of destiny

A stroke of destiny that befalls a person during life in the physical world may seem, from the point of view of that (physical) life, to contain something altogether opposed to the man’s own will. In the life between death and rebirth a force, resembling will, rules in the soul that gives to the person the tendency toward experiencing this very blow of fate. The soul sees, as it were, that an imperfection has clung to it from earlier earth-lives — an imperfection that had its origin in an ugly deed or an ugly thought. Between death and re-birth, there arises in the soul a will-like impulse to make good this imperfection. The soul, therefore, becomes imbued with the tendency to plunge into a misfortune in the coming earth-life, in order, through enduring it, to bring about equilibrium. After its birth in the physical body, the soul, when met by some hard fate, has no glimmering of the fact that in the purely spiritual life before birth, the impulse that led to this hard fate has been voluntarily accepted by it. What, therefore, seems completely unwished for from the point of view of earth-life is willed by the soul itself in the supersensible.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 9 – Theosophy: Addenda (No. 12)

Translated by Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Gilbert Church, Ph.D.

Previously posted on March 31, 2018

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Accidental death and karma

Before you have lived through your present life, you have experienced many others. What you have experienced in your past life will be worked out in a particular way. For example, it might be that you need to have a long life this time so that everything can work out according to what occurred in previous earth lives. However, outer events can be in contradiction to this necessity. 

I could have an accident due to external circumstances, and I could die so that, for example, based on my previous earthly life, I die proportionately too early. In connection with the previous life on earth, it is not meant that I should die so early because I still have things to do on earth. However, I could still die. Please do not believe that it is definitely sure that I will not die! I might die; the accident might happen anyway. I might die so that my whole destiny would be changed. For I would not have the experience, I would have had to go through. My whole destiny would be changed! This is where the spiritual being who leads man from earthly life to earthly life can intervene and warn him. There is always an explanation for such a warning. 

But of course, the relations are incredibly complicated, and it can also be that this being who wants to protect the human being – if we’re going to call it that – has to do with other beings who prevent this warning. In the spiritual world, such conflicts can undoubtedly take place. But if these evil beings, if I may put it this way, have no particular interest in keeping this warning back, then it comes through. […] And so extraordinary things can happen, even outwardly; this happens countless times.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 350 – Rhythmen im Kosmos und im Menschenwesen / Wie kommt man zum Schauen der geistigen Welt? – Dornach, June 13, 1923 (page 92-93)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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