Letter to Hermann Olpp   

In the book Letters by Rudolf Steiner, there is a letter to a certain Hermann Olpp. But unfortunately, who he was is not known. At the back of the book, it only says that he lived from 1897 to 1955, was an economic and fiscal consultant in Stuttgart and became a member of the Anthroposophical Association in 1916. What exactly he wrote to Steiner is also unknown because that letter is not in the book and probably was not preserved. From Steiner’s reply letter, however, one can see that Olpp worked in some occupation that he felt very unhappy about and did not like.   

On July 24, 1916, Steiner wrote to him:   

Dear Sir,  

It isn’t easy to advise on matters such as yours. If you stay in the position you have now for some time, you will be able to stand on your own two feet and move in a direction that better suits your talents and preferences later on. I cannot share the view that one should feel uneasy with such a livelihood. On the contrary, it is precisely from such a position that someone can develop further. If you look at your current work in a broader sense, you can say that you are not only doing something to develop your capabilities but also something that benefits other people. And it is precisely this realization that gives gratification. Many duties do not directly bring satisfaction through their content; their purpose is to perform something in the service of humanity. If you later acquire some savings with this occupation, you will indeed find an opportunity to find something that suits you. In these challenging times, it does not seem right to me to prepare for the future with borrowed money. I hope you will forgive me for saying this so bluntly. It seems to me that your father’s feelings about the matter are accurate. I can speak from my own experience. I had to stand on my own two feet early on and have done so for a long time as a private teacher. I can say that your current position would not have been less pleasant to me at the time than the job I had, whereby, after all, the concern remains whether one finds something again in due course. I must travel now; therefore, I can summarize my judgment only in these few lines.   

With warm regards,

Dr Rudolf Steiner

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 39 – BRIEFE BAND II 1890-1925 – number 631 (page 465-466)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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Wishes and desires after death (2 of 3)

When death takes place, the possibility for the gratification of these desires is cut off. The enjoyment of appetizing food can come only through the physical organs that are used for taking in food: the palate, tongue, and so forth. After throwing off the physical body man no longer possesses these organs. But if the ego still has a longing for these pleasures, this longing must remain ungratified. In so far as this enjoyment is in accord with the spirit, it exists only as long as the physical organs are present. If it has been produced by the ego, without serving the spirit, it continues after death as desire, which thirsts in vain for satisfaction. We can only form an idea of what now takes place in the human being if we think of a person suffering from burning thirst in a region in which water is nowhere to be found. This, then, is the state of the ego, in so far as it harbors, after death, the unextinguished desires for the pleasures of the outer world and has no organs with which to satisfy them. Naturally, we must imagine the burning thirst that serves as an analogy for the conditions of the ego after death to be increased immeasurably, and imagine it spread out over all the other still existing desires for which all possibility of satisfaction is lacking. 

The next task of the ego consists in freeing itself from this bond of attraction to the outer world. In this respect the ego has to bring about a purification and emancipation within itself. All desires that have been created by it within the body and that have no inherent rights within the spiritual world must be rooted out. — Just as an object takes fire and is consumed, so is the world of desires, described above, consumed and destroyed after death. This affords us a glimpse into the world that supersensible knowledge designates as the “consuming fire of the spirit.” All desires of a sensual nature, in which the sensual is not an expression of the spirit, are seized upon by this “fire.” The ideas that supersensible knowledge must give in regard to these processes might be found to be hopeless and awful. It might appear terrifying that a hope, for whose realization sense organs are necessary, must change into hopelessness after death; that a desire, which only the physical world can satisfy, must turn into consuming deprivation. 

To be continued

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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Practical thinking

There are three things to take into consideration if one truly wants to school practical training of thinking in itself: firstly, a person must develop interest in outer reality, interest in the facts and objects in his surroundings. Interest in the world around us, that is the magic word for training thinking. Passion and love for what we do, that is the second. And gratification for the topic that we are contemplating, that is the third. He who understands these three things: interest in the environment, passion and love for what we do and pleasure in thinking, will soon find that these are the most important requirements for developing practical thinking.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 057 – Wo und wie findet man den Geist? – Berlin, 11 February 1909 (page 252)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger 

The whole lecture in another translation can be found here.

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Previously posted on May 16, 2018

See also June 20, 2014

Desires of Body and Spirit

For the ego there are two kinds of desires in life: the desires that have their source in the bodies, and therefore must be satisfied within these bodies, ceasing with the disintegration of these bodies, and the desires that have their source in the spiritual nature of the ego. As long as the ego is within the bodies, these desires also are satisfied by means of bodily organs, for in the manifestations of the bodily organs the hidden spirit is at work, and in all that the senses perceive they receive at the same time something spiritual.

This spiritual element exists also after death, although in another form. All spiritual desires of the ego within the sense world exist also when the senses are no longer present. If a third kind of desire were not added to these two, death would signify merely a transition from desires that can be satisfied by means of the senses to those that find their realization in the revelation of the spiritual world. This third type of desire is produced by the ego during its life in the sense world because it finds pleasure in this world also in so far as there is no spirit manifest in it.

The basest enjoyments can be a manifestation of the spirit. The gratification that the hungry being experiences in taking food is a manifestation of spirit because through the eating of food something is brought about without which, in a certain sense, the spirit could not evolve. The ego can, however, transcend the enjoyment that this fact of necessity offers. It may long for good tasting food, quite apart from the service rendered the spirit by eating. The same is true of other things in the sense world. Desires are created thereby that would never have come into being in the sense world had the human ego not been incorporated in it. But neither do these desires spring from the spiritual nature of the ego. The ego must have sense enjoyments as long as it lives in the body, also in so far as it is spiritual; for the spirit manifests in the sense world and the ego enjoys nothing but spirit when, in this world, it surrenders itself to that medium through which the light of the spirit radiates. It will continue to enjoy this light even when the sense world is no longer the medium through which the rays of the spirit pass.

In the spirit world, however, there is no gratification for desires in which the spirit has not already manifested itself in the sense world. When death takes place, the possibility for the gratification of these desires is cut off. The enjoyment of appetizing food can come only through the physical organs that are used for taking in food: the palate, tongue, and so forth. After throwing off the physical body man no longer possesses these organs. But if the ego still has a longing for these pleasures, this longing must remain ungratified. In so far as this enjoyment is in accord with the spirit, it exists only as long as the physical organs are present. If it has been produced by the ego, without serving the spirit, it continues after death as desire, which thirsts in vain for satisfaction.

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.