All intellectual reasoning must cease when it is a matter of earlier earthly lives

The moment we turn from one earthly life to an earlier life in the past, all intellectual reasoning comes to a standstill. Vision alone is the criterion here. A last vestige of intellectual understanding is possible when it is a matter of relating earthly life to the last phase of existence between death and rebirth from which it has directly proceeded — that is, to the life of soul-and-spirit just before the descent to earth. Here, up to a point, an intellectual approach is possible. When, however, it is a matter of showing the relation between one earthly life and a preceding incarnation, this can be done only in the form of narrative, for vision is the sole criterion.

In undertaking such investigations it is absolutely essential to get rid of all preconceived notions. If, because of some opinion or view we may hold concerning the present or the last earthly life of a human being, we imagine that it is justifiable to argue intellectually that because of what he is now, he must have been this or that in an earlier incarnation — if we make judgments of this kind, we shall go astray, or at any rate it will be very easy to go astray. To base an intellectual judgment of one incarnation upon another in this way would be just as if we were to go into a house for the first time, look out of the windows facing north, and seeing trees outside were to conclude from these trees what the trees look like from the windows facing south. What must be done is to go to the south windows, see the trees there and look at them with entirely unbiased eyes.

In the same way, all intellectual reasoning must cease when it is a matter of apprehending the Imaginations which correspond to the earlier earthly lives of the personalities in question.


Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 235 – Karmic Relationships, Volume I: Lecture VIII – Dornach, 9th March, 1924

Translated by G. Adams, M. Cotterell, C. Davy, & D. S. Osmond

Previously posted on March 20, 2018

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All we do is guided from elsewhere

As a matter of fact, many of the feelings and impulses that we carry in our soul are there as a result of earlier lives on earth; only we do not observe them as such because we remain in our body. Suppose we meet someone, and the meeting leads to a friendship that alters the whole course of our life. When we look back over the earlier years, we discover with the eye of the spirit what we could never find by the aid of bodily vision alone: namely, that our whole life up to the moment of meeting him was a search for that person. 

One who is already a little older and looks back in this way is able to see his life as the working out of a plan; he recognises how, when he was quite a little child, his life took a direction that was to bring about eventually the meeting with this friend. We can go further in this kind of observation of life and discover that all we do, though it may seem to result from the working of earthly physical forces, is in reality guided from elsewhere. We come in fact to recognise that the life we are now living is dependent on earlier lives on earth. And between these have been also lives in a spiritual world.

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Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 231 – SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE: A WAY OF LIFE – The Hague, November 16, 1923

Translated by Mary Adams

Previously posted on May 25, 2017

Strength by overcoming obstacles

Man has to acquire his strength by overcoming obstacles in the world, one after another. Strictly speaking all our strength was acquired by the overcoming of obstacles in previous incarnations. Our present capacities are the result of our illnesses in earlier lives.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 107 – The Being of Man and His Future Evolution – Illness and karma – Berlin, 26th January 1909

Translated by Pauline Wehrle

Previously posted on September 9, 2015

All intellectual reasoning must cease when it is a matter of earlier earthly lives

The moment we turn from one earthly life to an earlier life in the past, all intellectual reasoning comes to a standstill. Vision alone is the criterion here. A last vestige of intellectual understanding is possible when it is a matter of relating earthly life to the last phase of existence between death and rebirth from which it has directly proceeded — that is, to the life of soul-and-spirit just before the descent to earth. Here, up to a point, an intellectual approach is possible. When, however, it is a matter of showing the relation between one earthly life and a preceding incarnation, this can be done only in the form of narrative, for vision is the sole criterion.

In undertaking such investigations it is absolutely essential to get rid of all preconceived notions. If, because of some opinion or view we may hold concerning the present or the last earthly life of a human being, we imagine that it is justifiable to argue intellectually that because of what he is now, he must have been this or that in an earlier incarnation — if we make judgments of this kind, we shall go astray, or at any rate it will be very easy to go astray. To base an intellectual judgment of one incarnation upon another in this way would be just as if we were to go into a house for the first time, look out of the windows facing north, and seeing trees outside were to conclude from these trees what the trees look like from the windows facing south. What must be done is to go to the south windows, see the trees there and look at them with entirely unbiased eyes.

In the same way, all intellectual reasoning must cease when it is a matter of apprehending the Imaginations which correspond to the earlier earthly lives of the personalities in question.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 235 – Karmic Relationships, Volume I: Lecture VIII – Dornach, 9th March, 1924

Translated by G. Adams, M. Cotterell, C. Davy, & D. S. Osmond

Previously posted on January 18, 2015

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 September 4, 2014