There is no development without suffering

Suffering is a side effect of higher development. We cannot avoid it in attaining insight. Human beings will one day say to themselves: ‘I am grateful for the joy the world gives me, but if I had to face the choice of keeping my joys or my sufferings, I would want to keep my sufferings for the sake of gaining insight. Every suffering presents itself after a certain time as something we cannot do without, because we have to grasp it as part of the development contained within evolution. There is no development without suffering, just as there is no triangle without angles.
[…]
By overcoming egotism, human beings get over the mood of depression and feeling lamed or paralyzed. In this phenomenon we can see something that is good: strength out of insufficiency or inadequacy. Thank God that I am encouraged by an inadequate deed–that is, by its failure–to further action! Human striving is not a vague matter of luck. Only those whose free will turns away from the destiny of the human being remain unredeemed. In the synthesis of the world process, suffering is a factor.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – The Spiritual Hierarchies and the Physical World, April 21, 1909 – 2008 edition, p. 147 (not  available in http://www.rsarchive.org)

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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

The six basic exercises – 3. Calmness in joy and sorrow

In regard to the world of feeling the soul should attain for spiritual training a certain degree of calmness. It is necessary for that purpose that the soul become ruler over expressions of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain. It is just in regard to the acquiring of this ability that much prejudice may result. One might imagine that one would become dull and without sympathy in regard to one’s fellowmen if one should not feel joy with the joyful and with the painful, pain. Yet this is not the point in question. With the joyful the soul should rejoice, with sadness it should feel pain. But it should acquire the ability to control the expression of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain. If one endeavors to do this, one will soon notice that one does not become less sensitive, but on the contrary more receptive to all that is joyous and sorrowful in one’s environment than one was previously. To be sure, if one wishes to acquire the ability with which we are concerned here, one must strictly observe oneself for a long period of time. One must see to it that one is able fully to sympathize with joy and sorrow without losing one’s self-control so that one gives way to an involuntary expression of one’s feelings. It is not the justified pain that one should suppress, but involuntary weeping; not the horror of an evil action, but the blind rage of anger; not attention to danger, but fruitless fear, and so forth. — Only through such practice does the student of the spiritual attain the tranquility of mind that is necessary to prevent the soul at the birth of the higher ego, and, above all, during its activity, from leading a second, abnormal life like a sort of Doppelganger — soul double — along side this higher ego. It is just in regard to these things that one should not surrender oneself to any sort of self-deception. It may appear to many a one that he already possesses a certain equanimity in ordinary life and therefore does not need this exercise. It is just such a person who doubly needs it. It may be quite possible to be calm when confronting the things of ordinary life, but when one ascends into a higher world, the lack of equilibrium that heretofore was only suppressed may assert itself all the more. It must be grasped that for spiritual training what one already appeared to possess previously is of less importance than the need to practice, according to exact rules, what one lacks. Although this sentence appears contradictory, it is, nevertheless, correct. Even though life has taught us this or that, the abilities we have acquired by ourselves serve the cause of spiritual training. If life has brought us excitability, we should break ourselves of the habit; if life has brought us complacency, then we should through self-education arouse ourselves to such a degree that the expression of the soul corresponds to the impression received. Anyone who never laughs about anything has just as little control of his life as someone who, without any control whatever, is continually given to laughter.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science – V: Cognition of the higher worlds. Initiation. (Part 2)

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

Previously posted on November 24, 2014

Happiness and joy are acts of grace 

Happiness and joy are acts of grace. A man who imagines that the happiness and joy in his karma indicate a desire on the part of the gods to single him out and place him above the others will achieve just the opposite. We must never imagine that happiness is allotted to us as a mark of favour or distinction but rather as a reason for feeling that we have been recipients of the grace outpoured by the divine spiritual beings. It is this realisation of grace which makes progress possible; the other attitude would throw us back in our development. Nobody should ever believe that joy comes to him because of special karmic privileges; he should far rather believe that it comes to him because he has no privileges.

Joy and happiness should move us to deeds of compassion and mercy, which we shall perform more effectively than if we are suffering the pangs of sorrow. What brings us forward is the realisation that we must make ourselves worthy of grace. There is no justification for the very prevalent view that one whose life abounds in happiness has deserved it. This is the very attitude that must be avoided. Please take this as an indication so that no misunderstanding may arise.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz – IV – INTIMATE WORKINGS OF KARMA – Vienna, 9th February 1912

Translated by Dorothy S. Osmond

Previously posted on November 12, 2015

One Man’s Joy is Another Man’s Punishment

Someone who takes great pleasure in nightly visits to the girlie shows or enjoys downing his eight glasses of beer, may encounter people who take joy in something of a higher level and remark how they punish themselves. What he does not realise is that their true punishment would be to sit with him in the music hall. Whoever enjoys the girlie shows and such belongs there, and it would be absurd to deprive him of the enjoyment. […]

One should work to ennoble one’s pleasures, one’s gratifications in life. It is not so that anthroposophists come together because they suffer when talking about higher worlds, but rather because it is their heart’s deepest enjoyment. It would be the most terrible deprivation for them to sit down and play poker.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 56 – Illusory Illness and the Feverish Pursuit of Health – 2 – THE FEVERISH PURSUIT OF HEALTH – Munich, 5th December 1907

Translated by Sarah Kurland