What is conscience?

Conscience is the outcome of experiences spread over a number of incarnations. Fundamentally, all knowledge, from the highest to the lowest, is the outcome of what a man has experienced; it has come into being as a result of trial and error.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 95 – At the Gates of Spiritual Science – Lecture VIII: Good and Evil – Stuttgart, 29th August 1906

Translated by E.H. Goddard & Charles Davy

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Previously posted on August 13, 2018

Memories disappear, the fruits remain as abilities

The impressions that man acquires from his experiences fade gradually from memory. Not so, however, their fruits. We do not remember all the experiences lived through during childhood while acquiring the arts of reading and writing. Yet we could not read or write had we not had such experiences, and had not their fruits been preserved in the form of abilities. Such is the transmutation that the spirit effects in the treasures of memory. The spirit consigns to its fate whatever can lead to pictures of the separate experiences, and extracts therefrom only the force necessary for enhancing its abilities. 

Thus not a single experience passes by unutilized. The soul preserves each one as memory, and from each the spirit draws forth all that can enrich its abilities and the whole content of its life. The human spirit grows through assimilated experiences, and although one cannot find past experiences in the spirit as if in a storeroom, one nevertheless finds their effects in the abilities that man has acquired.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 9 – Theosophy: Chapter II. Re-embodiment of the Spirit and Destiny

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

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Forgetting unhappy experiences

Memory and oblivion signify for the ego what waking and sleeping signify for the astral body. Just as sleep permits the cares and troubles of the day to disappear into nothingness, oblivion spreads a veil over the bad experiences of life, blotting out a part of the past. Just as sleep is necessary for the restoration of the exhausted life forces, so man has to eradicate certain parts of the past from his memory if he is to approach new experiences freely and without bias. 

But precisely through forgetting, strength develops for perception of the new. Consider certain facts, like that of learning to write. All the details the child has to experience in learning to write are forgotten. What remains is the ability to write. How would man be able to write if at every stroke of the pen all the past experiences in learning to write were to arise again in the soul as memory?

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science: II: THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF MANKIND

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

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Unconsciously experiences between going to sleep and waking

We carry within us during the day, from waking until going to sleep, the after-effects of the experiences of the night; and if it is true that for the civilization in which we live what we do with the instrumentality of consciousness is of great significance, it is no less true that all that goes on with our own selves depends very little indeed upon our consciousness, and very much upon what we experience unconsciously between going to sleep and waking.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 218 – The Experiences of Sleep and their Spiritual Background – Stuttgart, October 9th, 1922

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Previously posted on January 13, 2018

We are not coming together by chance with other people

In the present age we are not thrown together by chance with other people. That the path of life brings us into contact with certain people and not with others depends upon the working out of individual karma. [….] 

Think how much less karma had been accumulated in the earlier periods of earth evolution! With every incarnation fresh karma is made. At first, people had to meet under totally new conditions, with the possibility of forming fresh connections. But through repeated earth-lives we have gradually reached a point at which, as a general rule, we do not meet anyone with whom in former incarnations we have not shared this or that experience. And these experiences bring us into contact again with those who shared them. We meet other people as it would appear by chance but in reality because in former incarnations we had already met, and on the strength of this are brought together again.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 168 – How Can the Destitution of Soul in Modern Times Be Overcome? / Social Understanding – Liberty of Thought – Knowledge of the Spirit – Zurich, October 10th, 1916