Many want the great truths to be simple and easy

The truths in the religious documents have emerged from the depths of wisdom. But then many say: you give us complicated material; we want to have the gospel uncomplicated and straightforward. The great truths must not be complex. 

In a certain respect, these people are correct, but apart from superficial efforts, deeper (German: weisheitsvolle) wisdom-filled thinking must also find the highest truths. The standpoint from which we consider these things cannot be high enough. In the future, we must increasingly leave behind convenient points of view to seriously penetrate the most profound insights.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 97 – Das christliche Mysterium – Keulen, March 8, 1907 (page 134)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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No virtue can be cultivated without developing also a disposition towards the opposite vice (1 of 2)

It is easy enough to say that good will is a virtue and should be cultivated, or that justice is moral and ought to be established. It is also easy enough to make laws and arrangements accordingly. One can even elect parliaments in which clever people come together to make all kinds of decisions based on good will and justice. But if things are handled the way they have been so far they will result in something similar to the situation we see spread all over the world today, if only people would have the courage to recognize that there is a direct connection between the terrible events taking place at present and the kind of concepts and ideas which preceded them.

Good will is certainly a virtue and one can even get a sensuous feeling of pleasure from practicing it. A kind of cathechism of virtues could be devised: Thou shalt have good will, thou shalt be just and so on; one would then possess a list of virtues and no understanding of any of them.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 176 – Karma of Materialism: Lecture 9 – Berlin, September 25, 1917

Morality cannot be established by ethical preachings (1 of 2)

The philosopher, Schopenhauer, in spite of much that is entirely erroneous in his philosophy, made this very true statement regarding the principles of morality. “To preach morals is easy, but to give them a foundation is difficult.” This statement is very true, for there is scarcely anything easier than to pronounce in a manner appealing to the commonest principles of human feeling and perception, what a person ought to do or leave undone in order that he may be a good man.

Many people no doubt are offended when it is asserted that this is easy, but it is easy, and one who knows life, and knows the world, will not doubt that scarcely anything has been spoken about so much as the right principles of ethical action, and the man who speaks upon general ethical principles meets with almost universal approval. One might say it pleases listening minds, for they feel they can agree in an unqualified manner with what the speaker says when he discourses on the very commonest principles of human morality.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 155 – Anthroposophical Ethics – I – Norrköping, 28th May, 1912 

Translated by Harry Collison

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Arthur Schopenhauer

Previously posted on December 12, 2017

Easier said than done

It is often said light-heartedly that, after all, a man need only know himself, need only try to be a good and righteous human being — and then he is a sufficiently good Theosophist. Yes, my dear friends, but precisely this gives us the deeper knowledge that there is nothing more difficult than to be a good man in the real sense and that nothing needs so much preparation as the attainment of this ideal.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – The Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz: III. THE TRUE ATTITUDE TO KARMA – Vienna, 8th February 1912

Translated by Dorothy S. Osmond

If we were always only to encounter what we wish for ourselves, such a life would make us weaklings

The whole feeling and attitude of soul that must emerge from a true understanding of karma, is one which makes us realise when, perhaps some misfortune befalls us as consequence of an earlier weakness in the life of soul — that if this misfortune had not come about, the weakness would have persisted. Looking into the depths of our soul, we must realise: It is good and right that this misfortune has come upon me, because it has enabled a weakness to be eliminated. […] That man alone faces misfortune aright who says to himself: ‘If it has occurred because of an earlier weakness, it is to be welcomed, for it will make me conscious of the weakness (which expressed itself perhaps in some definite failing); I will now eradicate the weakness, I will be strong again.’ […] In a case, on the other hand, where a misfortune befalls one as the first step in karma, the right attitude is to say to oneself: If we were always only to encounter what we wish for ourselves, such a life would make us out and out weaklings! One or two earthly lives might continue to be comfortable and easy through the fact that only that would befall us that we desired for ourselves — but in the third or fourth life a kind of paralysis of soul and spirit would supervene, and no effort to overcome obstacles would arise in us. For, after all, obstacles would not be there for us to overcome unless the unhoped-for, the undesired came upon us.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 224 – The Forming of Destiny in Sleeping and Waking – Bern, April 6, 1923

Previously posted on March 30, 2014