Why does the human being not remember his former incarnations? 

Why does the human being not remember his former incarnations? Put like this, this question makes little sense. You will understand in a moment why I say this. It is as if someone says: ‘human beings call themselves human beings; in front of us stands a four-year-old child that can’t count’. Then he continues to say: ‘this child cannot count, however if it is a human being so that means humans cannot count.’ It is, however, a matter of development. At some stage in life every person will come to a point which advanced students have already reached, namely the ability to recall past lives; If he cannot remember anything, then he has to acquire this skill first just like the child acquires the skill of reading, doing arithmetic and writing. The person must not unconsciously let destiny pass him by if he intends to let his experiences lead him towards the point where he can remember earlier lives on earth.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 054 – Berlijn, Die Welträtsel und die Anthroposophie – February 15,  1906 (page 300)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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Previously posted on July 5, 2018


Reincarnation/Karma/Talents (1 of 2)

You have no doubt often heard anthroposophists say when they meet a good arithmetician: “In his previous incarnation this man was a good arithmetician!” Unfortunately, many undeveloped anthroposophists string together links of reincarnation in such a way that it is thought possible to find the earlier incarnation because the present gifts must have existed in the preceding incarnation or in many previous incarnations. This is the worst possible form of speculation and anything derived from it is usually false. 

True observation by means of Spiritual Science, discloses, as a rule, the exact opposite. For example, people who in a former incarnation were good arithmeticians, good mathematicians, often reappear with no gift for mathematics at all. If we wish to discover what gifts we may probably have possessed in a former incarnation (here I must remind you that we are speaking of probabilities!) — if we wish to know what intellectual or artistic faculties, say, we possessed in a former incarnation, it is well to reflect upon those things for which we have least talent in the present life.

These are true indications, but they are very often interwoven with other facts. It may happen that a man had a special talent for mathematics in a former incarnation but died young, so that this talent never came to full expression; then he will be born again in his next incarnation with a talent for mathematics and this will represent a continuation of the previous incarnation. Abel, the mathematician who died young, will certainly in his next incarnation be reborn with a strong mathematical talent.  But when a mathematician has lived to a great age, so that his talent has spent itself — then in his next incarnation he will be stupid as regards mathematics. I knew a man who had so little gift for mathematics that as a schoolboy he simply hated figures, and although in other subjects he did well, he generally managed to get through his classes only because he obtained exceptionally good marks in other subjects. This was because in his former incarnation he had been an exceedingly good mathematician.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 135 – Reincarnation and Karma – I – Berlin, 23rd January 1912

Translated by Dorothy S. Osmond & Charles Davy

Previously posted on June 27, 2016


Why we do not remember our former incarnations?

People often ask why we do not remember our former incarnations. I have often answered this question, which is like saying that because a four-year-old child cannot do arithmetic, human beings cannot do arithmetic. When the child reaches ten, he or she will be able to multiply with ease. It is the same with the soul. If it cannot remember our former incarnations today, the time will come when it will be able to do so. Then it will possess the same capacity initiates have.

This new development is happening today. There are numerous souls nowadays who are so far advanced that they are close to the moment of remembering their former incarnations, or at least the last one. A number of people are at the threshold of comprehensive memory, embracing life between birth and death as well as previous incarnations. Many people will remember their present incarnation when they are reborn in their next life. It is simply a question of how they remember. The anthroposophical movement is to help and guide people to remember in the right way.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 117 – The ego – Lecture 1 – Munich, December 4, 1909

Translated by Gilbert Church

Previously posted on Eebruary 16, 2018

What is the usual method of punishment in schools?

Punishments are often opposed to the real development of the child’s nature. In the Waldorf School we have had some very gratifying experiences of this. What is the usual method of punishment in schools? If a child has done something badly he has to “stay in” and do some Arithmetic for instance.

Now in the Waldorf School we once had rather a strange experience: three or four children were told that they had done their work badly and must therefore stay in and do some sums. Whereupon the others said: “But we want to stay and do sums too!” For they had been brought up to think of Arithmetic as something nice to do, not as something which is used as a punishment.

You should not arouse in the children the idea that staying in to do sums is something bad, but that it is a good thing to do. That is why the whole class wanted to stay and do sums. So that you must not choose punishments that cannot be regarded as such if the child is to be educated in a healthy way in his soul life.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 311 – The Kingdom of Childhood: Lecture 3 – Torquay, 14th August 1924

Translated by Helen Fox

Previously posted on November 9, 2016

About arithmetic and morality

There are two things which in logic seem very far removed from one another: arithmetic and moral principles. It is not usual to hitch arithmetic on to moral principles because there seems no obvious logical connection between them. But it is apparent to one who looks at the matter, not logically, but livingly, that the child who has a right introduction to arithmetic will have quite a different feeling of moral responsibility from the child who has not. And — this may seem extremely paradoxical to you, but since I am speaking of realities and not of the illusions current in our age, I will not be afraid of seeming paradoxical, for in this age truth often seems paradoxical. — If, then, men had known how to permeate the soul with mathematics in the right way during these past years we should not now have bolshevism in Eastern Europe. This it is that one perceives: what forces connect the faculty used in arithmetic with the springs of morality in man. […]

[…] in addition we do not go from the parts to arrive at the sum, but we start with the sum and proceed to the parts. Thus to get a living understanding of addition we start with the whole and proceed to the addenda, to the parts. For addition is concerned essentially with the sum and its parts, the members which are contained, in one way or another, within the sum.

In this way we get the child to enter into life with the ability to grasp a whole, not always to proceed from the less to the greater. And this has an extraordinarily strong influence upon the child’s whole soul and mind. When a child has acquired the habit of adding things together we get a disposition which tends to be desirous and craving. In proceeding from the whole to the parts, and in treating multiplication similarly, the child has less tendency to acquisitiveness, rather it tends to develop what, in the Platonic sense, the noblest sense of the word, can be called considerateness, moderation. And one’s moral likes and dislikes are intimately bound up with the manner in which one has learned to deal with number. At first sight there seems to be no logical connection between the treatment of numbers and moral ideas, so little indeed that one who will only regard things from the intellectual point of view, may well laugh at the idea of any connection. It may seem to him absurd. We can also well understand that people may laugh at the idea of proceeding in addition from the sum instead of from the parts. But when one sees the true connections in life one knows that things which are logically most remote are often in reality exceedingly near.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 305 – Spiritual Ground of Education: V: HOW KNOWLEDGE CAN BE NURTURE – Oxford, 21st August 1922

Translated by Daphne Harwood