Why are we born into this physical world?

Especially when we direct our gaze toward spiritual worlds should this question concern us: Why are we born out of the spiritual worlds into this physical world? Well, we are born into this physical world (tomorrow and next day I will develop in greater detail what I shall sketch today) — we are born into this physical world because here on this earth there are things to be learned, things to be experienced, which cannot be experienced in the spiritual worlds; but in order to experience these things we must descend into this physical world, and from this world we must carry up into the spiritual worlds the results of this experience. In order to attain that, however, we must really plunge down into this physical world; our very spirit in its quest for knowledge must dive down into this physical world. For the sake of the spiritual world, we must immerse ourselves in this physical world.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 194 – The Mysteries of Light, of Space, and of the Earth – Lecture I – Dornach, December 12, 1919

Translated by Frances E. Dawson

Previously posted on January 8, 2015

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Do not think too much

The first ground rule for the study of man is that one does not have to think too much. That will seem strange at first, but you will soon understand what I mean. By thinking about something a man does obviously not learn particularly much about anything. If he only broods on what he saw, he will as a rule not make much sense of it.

Thus If one wants to learn about the world, one should not expect too much from thinking; It is not so important to think about something. When one needs to consider the facts, one must of course do that. But one must not consider this to be the main purpose. It does not bring any knowledge to brood on things afterwards. One has to look at other things, compare them and find the coherences. The more one looks for the coherences, the more one becomes aware of nature. Those who only think about nature find nothing more there than what they already knew.

If someone is a materialist, then he also talks about nature in a materialistic way, because that is how he stands in the world. He discovers nothing new. If someone talks about nature in an idealistic way, he does that because he already is an idealist. One can always find that by thinking, people find only what they already knew beforehand. Proper thinking arises only when one is led by the facts.


Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 348 – Über Gesundheit und Krankheit – Dornach, January 10, 1923 (page 237)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on March 15, 2015

Without effort it is impossible to attain a true knowledge

Without effort it is impossible to attain a true knowledge of the things which must gradually be made clear to the world through spiritual science. Today there are undoubtedly many people who argue: — “Why should we learn so many things through spiritual science? Must we become schoolboys again? Feelings or experiences seem to be the most important thing in it.” Indeed, feeling is precisely what should be taken into consideration — but, first of all, the right kind of feeling must be acquired.

The same thing applies to everything. A painter also would find it far more pleasant if there were no need for him to learn the elements of his art, and so forth, and if he were not obliged to paint his final picture slowly and gradually on the canvas. It would be far more pleasant if he could just breathe on the canvas, and so produce his finished picture! The peculiar thing in the world today is this — that, the more we reach the soul-spiritual sphere, the more people fail to understand that a mere breathing on the canvas does not suffice! In the case of music, few people will admit that a man who has learnt nothing at all can be a composer; this is quite obvious to them. They will also admit this in the case of painting — although less strictly than in the case of music — and in the case of poetry they will admit still less that study and training is necessary. This is why there are so many modern poets. No age has been so unpoetical as our present age, in spite of its many poets! Poets need not learn much — they are simply expected to write (although this has nothing to do with poetry) — at least orthographically; it suffices if they are able to express their thoughts intelligibly.

And less still is expected from philosophers. For it is taken for granted that anyone may express his opinion concerning all kinds of things which belong to a conception of the world, or life-conception. Everybody has his own point of view. Again and again we find that careful study, entailing the application of all means available to an inner activity, in order to investigate and know at least something of the world, counts for nothing in the present day. Instead, it is taken for granted that the standpoint of one who has toiled and worked in order, to venture to say at least a few things concerning the secrets of the universe is equivalent to the standpoint of one who has simply made up his mind to have an opinion!

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 143 – Reflections of Consciousness, Super-consciousness and Sub-consciousness – Munich, 25th February 1912

The more wisdom a person gains, the humbler he or she becomes

Whoever does not believe in all humility that his wisdom is the sum of all wisdom – that his judgement represents the highest judgement – will soon be able to observe that there are people apart from himself who have more wisdom and judgement [than himself], and he will listen to these beings and allow himself to be instructed by them. He will, when he gains some insight, become aware that he still has a path to follow that others have gone long before him. The more understanding a person obtains, the humbler he becomes. The clearer the realisation how much he still has to learn, the more he will be inclined to find those he can still learn from.

Anyone who thinks that he has nothing to learn from others only proves thereby that he or she has still not advanced very far. The more advanced a person is, the more he comes to recognise that human beings are on different levels of development and that there have always been those who were more advanced than their brethren – the spiritual leaders of humanity who are more advanced in their development, the highly developed, the most advanced individualities of humankind.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 264 – Zur Geschichte und aus den Inhalten der ersten Abteilung der Esoterischen Schule 1904–1914 (page 353-354)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on March 5, 2016

About experiences, learning and physical pleasures

Man is impelled by desire when he is descending to earthly incarnation. Not for nothing is desire for the Earth born in man. The end and aim is that he shall learn. We learn through all our experiences and they enrich our store of knowledge. But in order that man may learn on the Earth, he must be allured by, [or] involved in (physical) enjoyment.

When the soul is experiencing the past life in the astral world after death, in backward order, there must be abnegation of enjoyment, while the essence of the experience itself is retained. The passage through the astral world is thus a purification whereby the soul learns to forego all taste for physical pleasures.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 94 – An Esoteric Cosmology – IX: The Astral World – Paris, 2nd June 1906

Translated by Rene Querido

Previously posted on January 10, 2016