Immortality/Unbornness

People talk of immortality only as the negation of death. Certainly this side of immortality is as important as the other — we shall have much more to say about it — but the immortality we first come to know in the way I have briefly indicated is not the negation of death, but “unbornness”, the negation of birth; and both sides are equally real. Only when people come once more to understand that eternity has these two sides — immortality and “unbornness” — will they be able to recognise again in man that which is enduring, truly eternal.

Modern languages all have a word for immortality, but they have lost the word “unbornness”, although older languages had it. This side of eternity, “unbornness”, was lost first, and now, in this materialistic age, the tragic moment is threatening when all knowledge of immortality may be lost — for in the realm of pure materialism people are no longer willing to know anything whatever of the spiritual part of man.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 227 – The Evolution of Consciousness: I: First Steps towards Imaginative Knowledge – Penmaenmawr, 19th August 1923

Translated by Violet E. Watkin & Charles Davy

Previously posted on August 16, 2018

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Charity & Egoism

If someone gives a coin to a poor man, this may be an unselfish deed; but only to the extent that it was absolutely selfless does it find its way to the sphere of immortality — and very few deeds are selfless to this degree. An act of charity may be extremely egoistical when, for instance, it gives rise to a comforting feeling. Charity very often springs from selfish motives. If a poor man living among us has no meat at Christmas and we feel bound to give him some in order that we may feel justified in eating our own Christmas dinner — that, after all, is egoism.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 93 – The Work of Secret Societies in the World – Berlin, 23rd December 1904

Translated by Margaret Deussen

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Previously posted on July 21, 2017

About the immortality of the human soul  

One of the most central questions for human life is how to gain knowledge about the immortality of the soul, about the eternal being of the human soul beyond birth and death. What could be of more interest to the human soul than this question? The human being focuses on this question out of interest. Now, an old spiritual science maxim says: only he can obtain actual knowledge about immortality, who has developed so far, that it is equally bearable, equally sympathetic to him, whether he is immortal or not. Before that, personal interest blurs true knowledge. Only when you are so advanced, have your feelings so well in hand, that the thought ‘in death I disappear into nothingness’ is of equal interest to you as the thought ‘I live on after death’ -, only then is it possible to have objective knowledge, through inspiration, on the immortality of the soul. It requires cumbersome inner labour to be thus in control of one’s inner life.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 69a – Wahrheiten und Irrtümer der Geistesforschung/ Geisteswissenschaft und Menschenzukunft – Munich, November 25, 1912 (page 119-120)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on November 27, 2017

The whole civilisation of to-day, even into the sphere of the most spiritual life, is founded on the egoism of humanity

The whole civilisation of to-day, even into the sphere of the most spiritual life, is founded on the egoism of humanity. In the first place, consider with an open mind that domain of spiritual life which receives men’s reverence to-day — the domain of religion. Ask yourselves if our present civilisation, particularly in the religious sphere, is not so constituted, as to appeal to man’s egoism. It is typical of all sermons and preaching of our time that the preacher tries to reach men through their egoism. Take for example that question which should concern people most deeply — the question of immortality. You will see how almost everything to-day, even in sermons and exhortations, is directed by the preachers to appeal to man’s egoism in the super-sensible sphere. Egoism impels man to cling to his own being as he passes through the gate of death, to preserve his Ego. This is a form of egoism, however refined. And to-day every religious denomination appeals largely to this egoism when treating of immortality. Hence official religion mostly forgets one end of our earthly existence in addressing man, and takes account only of the other. It fixes its gaze on death and forgets birth. Though these things may not be openly acknowledged, they are nevertheless underlying tendencies. We live in a time when this appeal to human egoism must be combated in every domain, if the life of mankind is not to decline further and further on its present downward course.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 293 – The Study of Man: Lecture I – Stuttgart, 21st August 1919

Translated by Daphne Harwood & Helen Fox

Previously posted on July 31, 2015

As the butterfly soars up from the chrysalis, so after death the soul of man from the house of the body

It is of vast importance for the child that he should receive the secrets of Nature in parables, before they are brought before his soul in the form of ‘natural laws’ and the like. An example may serve to make this clear. Let us imagine that we want to tell a child of the immortality of the soul, of the coming forth of the soul from the body. The way to do this is to use a comparison, such for example as the comparison of the butterfly coming forth from the chrysalis. As the butterfly soars up from the chrysalis, so after death the soul of man from the house of the body. No man will rightly grasp the fact in intellectual concepts, who has not first received it in such a picture. By such a parable, we speak not merely to the intellect but to the feeling of the child, to all his soul. A child who has experienced this, will approach the subject with an altogether different mood of soul, when later it is taught him in the form of intellectual concepts. It is indeed a very serious matter for any man, if he was not first enabled to approach the problems of existence with his feeling. Thus it is essential that the educator have at his disposal parables for all the laws of Nature and secrets of the World.

Here we have an excellent opportunity to observe with what effect the spiritual knowledge of Anthroposophy must work in life and practice. When the teacher comes before a class of children, armed with parables he has ‘made up’ out of an intellectual materialistic mode of thought, he will as a rule make little impression upon them. For he has first to puzzle out the parables for himself with all his intellectual cleverness. Parables to which one has first had to condescend have no convincing effect on those who listen to them. For when one speaks in parable and picture, it is not only what is spoken and shown that works upon the hearer, but a fine spiritual stream passes from the one to the other, from him who gives to him who receives. If he who tells has not himself the warm feeling of belief in his parable, he will make no impression on the other. For real effectiveness, it is essential to believe in one’s parables as in absolute realities. And this can only be when one’s thought is alive with spiritual knowledge. Take for instance the parable of which we have been speaking. The true student of Anthroposophy need not torment himself to think it out. For him it is reality. In the coming forth of the butterfly from the chrysalis he sees at work on a lower level of being the very same process that is repeated, on a higher level and at a higher stage of development, in the coming forth of the soul from the body. He believes in it with his whole might; and this belief streams as it were unseen from speaker to hearer, carrying conviction. Life flows freely, unhindered, back and forth from teacher to pupil. But for this it is necessary that the teacher draw from the full fountain of spiritual knowledge. His words and all that comes from him must receive feeling, warmth and colour from a truly anthroposophic way of thought.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy – Essay 1907  

Translated by George and Mary Adams

Previously posted on April 30, 2016