Why comprehension for the spiritual world was to be darkened?

How did it come about that man has now lost the understanding for the spiritual life which lies at the foundation of all physical existence? Why had this to occur?

Let us turn our gaze to our immediate surroundings. Were you able to compare man’s present environment with that which once surrounded him at every step, you would find that at that time (Steiner is referring to the culture period from about 3000 to 500 BC) man only possessed the most necessary means of subsistence; but he had, on the other hand, more comprehension for spiritual things. This comprehension for the spiritual world had to withdraw in order to give man the possibility to acquire his present dominion over the earth. Every technical and industrial progress of the present time could only be achieved through a world-conception which had become materialistic, through the fact that the spirit, the super-sensible world, withdrew. At the cost of spiritual contemplation man gained, in the course of the last centuries, his rule over the physical world. It is a primordial, eternal law of humanity that capacities acquired in one sphere, can only be gained by the withdrawal of others upon another sphere. For instance, man could never have called into life the possibilities of travel and communication had other capacities not withdrawn. The sense for spiritual things had to withdraw, in order that everything which now surrounds us might arise. All that once filled the human soul had to withdraw, to render possible the conquest of the physical world.

Thus we see that around the 16th century men lost the vision of the spiritual world, and we see how the materialistic conception took hold of humanity. Those who believe that they themselves do not live in the very midst of such materialism are greatly mistaken.

It is not the task of spiritual science to deny or renounce things; it does not intend to criticise the bad world of to-day; but it wishes to indicate the necessity of man’s descent into matter. The great horizon of spiritual life had to withdraw from humanity while this descent took place, and this explains why man lost the old way of comprehending spiritual things. The truths exist in their old, earlier forms. Spiritual science can show how those truths can be rendered accessible to modern men. This is its chief aim. Consequently anthroposophy is merely the instrument whereby the deepest truths can be rendered accessible to the modern human spirit, in order that they may be grasped in their full depth.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 100 – Theosophy and Rosicrucianism: Lecture I: Theosophy and Rosicrucianism – Kassel, 16th June 1907

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Previously posted on May 6, 2018

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Opposing forces (2 – End)

These forces are so powerful that our organism would waste away beneath their holiness if they continued to work on us. However, for the activity that brings us into conscious contact with the supersensible world, we have to call upon these forces again.

This leads us to a realization that is very significant if we understand it rightly. In the New Testament it is put thus: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) What then seems to be the highest ideal for a human being if the above statement is correctly understood? Surely that our ideal must be to approach ever closer a conscious relationship with the forces that worked on us, without our awareness, in the first years of childhood. At the same time, we must realize that we would collapse under the power of these forces if they were immediately and too easily to affect our conscious life. That is why a careful preparation is necessary to achieve the capacities that lead to a perception of supersensible worlds. The goal of this preparation is to enable us to bear what we simply cannot bear in ordinary life.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 15 – The Spiritual Guidance of the Individual and Humanity: Lecture One – Copenhagen, June 6, 1911

Previously posted on May 9, 2019

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A human being is born less capable than, for example, a hen, or a beaver

In the course of his history man has had to learn the use of the most primitive instruments, and our children have still to learn the simplest things, and have to spend a certain time in order to learn them.

Man has to make efforts to produce even the simplest things, or to manufacture his instruments and tools. When, on the other hand, when we observe the animals we are obliged to admit how much easier it is for them in this respect.

Think how the beaver builds its complicated dwelling. It does not need to learn; it knows how to do it, because it brings the knowledge with it as an indwelling law, just as we human beings bring with us the power of changing our teeth at about seven years of age. No one needs to learn that.

In the same way, such animals as the beavers bring with them the capability to build their houses. If you observe the animal kingdom you will find that the animals bring with them definite capacities by which they can achieve things which human art, great as it is, is far from achieving.

The question may now arise: How does it come about that when a human being is born he is less capable than, for example, a hen, or a beaver; and that he has first, with much pains, to acquire what these creatures already bring with them? (See link full lecture below)  

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 120 – Manifestations of Karma: LECTURE 2: KARMA AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM – Hamburg, 17th May 1910

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How did the beaver learn to build its complicated dwelling?

Hidden spiritual causes (2 of 2)

The same may apply to another supposition. Again assume that what spiritual science says is true, namely, that the fruits of a past life are incorporated in the spiritual human seed, and that the land of the spirits in which this seed exists between death and rebirth is the realm in which these fruits ripen in order to appear again in a new life changed into talents and capacities, and to form the personality in such a way that it appears as the effect of what has been gained in a former life. — 

Anyone who makes these assumptions and, with them, observes life without prejudice will see that through them all facts of the sense world can be acknowledged in their full significance and truth, while at the same time everything becomes comprehensible that must remain forever incomprehensible to the one who, while relying only on physical facts, directs his attitude of mind toward the spiritual world. Above all, every illogical assumption will disappear, for instance the one mentioned above, that because the most important name stands at the end of a blood relationship series, the bearer of that name must have inherited his talents. Life becomes logically comprehensible by means of the supersensible facts communicated by spiritual science.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science: III: SLEEP AND DEATH

Translated by Maud and Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Lisa D. Monges.

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Inheritance of talents and capacities (3 – End)

Thus the human being is born into that family which is able to transmit to him by heredity the bodily conditions which correspond to his karmic potentialities. It then looks, if we go back to the example of moral courage, as if the latter itself had been inherited from the parents. The truth is that man, through his individual being, has searched out that family which makes the unfoldment of moral courage possible for him. 

In addition to this it may be possible that the individualities of the children and the parents have already been connected in previous lives and for that very reason have found one another again. The karmic laws are so complicated that we may never base a judgment upon outer appearances. Only a person to whose spiritual sense-organs the higher worlds are at least partially manifest may attempt to form such a judgment. 

Whoever is able to observe the soul organism and the spirit, in addition to the physical body, is in a position to discriminate between what has been passed on to the human being by his forebears and what is his own possession, acquired in previous lives. For ordinary vision these things are not clearly distinguishable, and it may easily appear as if something were merely inherited which in reality is karmicly determined. 

It is a thoroughly wise expression which states that children are “given” to their parents. In respect of the spirit this is absolutely the case. And children with certain spiritual qualities are given to them for the very reason that they, the parents, are capable of giving the children the opportunity to unfold these spiritual qualities.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – ANSWERS TO SOME QUESTIONS CONCERNING KARMA – Essay in Luzifer/Gnosis – October 1904

Translated by Lisa D. Monges

Previously posted on January 28, 2017