Mental Illnesses / Heredity

People are surprised that mental illnesses are hereditary. In fact, mental illnesses are always based on physical ailments; they arise from a malfunctioning of the body. Neither the spirit nor the soul can fall ill. Though mental illnesses are always rooted in physical problems, people wonder how they can occur through heredity, which indeed they can do. If a parent, particularly the mother, suffers from tuberculosis or another disease like arteriosclerosis, which admittedly occurs rarely in younger persons, the children do not necessarily become afflicted with these illnesses but instead can suffer from mental deficiencies. 

People are surprised about this, but need it puzzle us, gentlemen? Whatever the child can inherit must be inherited first of all from its head. Therefore, if the mother is consumptive, one need not be surprised that her condition is not passed on to the lungs of the unborn child, which, after all, are not even functioning yet. The condition is rather carried over into the head and comes to expression in the brain. 

Thus, nobody should be surprised that the disease inherited is quite different from that of the parent. Venereal disease, for example, can appear in children as an eye disease. It is no wonder, for when the child’s head is developing, its eyes are exposed to what afflicts the parents; its eyes are in an environment that’s venereally diseased! So it is not at all surprising.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 348 – Health and Illness I: Lecture II: Illnesses Occurring in the Different Periods of Life – Dornach, October 24, 1922



Spiritual individuality / Physical heredity

It is a foolish hypothesis, but we may make use of it, to make things clear: let us think for once what might have arisen if you all were merely born of your parents. Let us leave Karma out of consideration, and leave out of account the fact that we are, of course, born into definite families; and let us only regard physical heredity. Then you would all be alike as human beings. You would only have the general human physical character. That you are quite definite individuals, that so many individual beings sit here before us, rests on the fact that the general human form, even in its finest principles, is fashioned by the spiritual individuality which descends from the spiritual world and enters into that which is given by father and mother.

To that end, just as we must have fingers to grip an object in the physical world, just as we must perceive an object in order to grasp it — even as we must have the necessary organs and also must have learnt to grasp a thing — so must we have learnt to attach ourselves to all the different organs which form our body physically. We have all got ears, but we each hear in our own way. We all have eyes, but we see individually. For the external organs this is least perceptible; in the inner behaviour of man it is more striking. 

Thus we must insert our psychic-spiritual essence into all these quite general organs, and fashion them individually. We must learn to know the forces, the inner psychic-spiritual formations, so that what we receive through inheritance as ears, nose, eyes, brain, etc., we can fashion individually. That means that when at birth we enter the physical world we must have knowledge, and not only knowledge but practical possibilities of using it. This wonderful structure of man, how little do we really know of it through external science? 

We must inwardly learn the whole subtle structure of the brain, because we have to organise it inwardly. And all these spiritual-psychic processes, everything which makes it at all possible for us to be men in a human body between birth and death, all this we have to acquire for ourselves. Just as we have to acquire abilities for ourselves in life, so we must also acquire between death and rebirth the power of being men in physical life. We must keep this in view.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 157a – The Forming of Destiny and Life after Death – LECTURE 1: SPIRITUAL LIFE IN THE PHYSICAL WORLD AND LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH – Berlin, 16th November, 1915

Authorised Translation Edited by H. Collison


Inheritance of talents and capacities (2 of 3)

But nobody can pass on to his offsprings what is connected with the actual spiritual being of man, that is, for instance, the acuteness and accuracy of his life of thought, the reliability of his memory, the moral sense, the acquired capacities of knowledge and art. These are qualities which remain enclosed within his individuality and which appear in his next incarnation as capacities, talents, character, and so forth. 

The environment, however, into which the reincarnating human being enters is not accidental, but it is necessarily connected with his karma. Let us assume a human being has acquired in his previous life the capacity for a morally strong character. It is his karma that this capacity should unfold in his next incarnation. This would not be possible if he did not incarnate in a body which possesses a quite definite constitution. This bodily constitution, however, must be inherited from the forebears. 

The incarnating individuality strives, through a power of attraction inherent in it, toward those parents who are capable of giving it the suitable body. This is caused by the fact that, already before reincarnating, this individuality connects itself with the forces of the astral world which strive toward definite physical conditions.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – ANSWERS TO SOME QUESTIONS CONCERNING KARMA – Essay in Luzifer/Gnosis – October 1904

Translated by Lisa D. Monges

Previously posted on January 27, 2017

Inheritance of talents and capacities (1 of 3)

THE following question has been asked: “According to the law of reincarnation, we are required to think that the human individuality possesses its talents, capacities, and so forth, as an effect of its previous lives. Is this not contradicted by the fact that such talents and capacities, for instance moral courage, musical gifts, and so forth, are directly inherited by the children from their parents?”

Answer: If we rightly conceive of the laws of reincarnation and karma, we cannot find a contradiction in what is stated above. Only those qualities of the human being which belong to his physical and ether body can be directly passed on by heredity. The ether body is the bearer of all life phenomena (the forces of growth and reproduction). Everything connected with this can be directly passed on by heredity. What is bound to the so-called soul-body can be passed on by heredity to a much lesser degree. This constitutes a certain disposition in the sensations. Whether we possess a vivid sense of sight, a well-developed sense of hearing, and so forth, may depend upon whether our ancestors have acquired such faculties and have passed them on to us by heredity.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – ANSWERS TO SOME QUESTIONS CONCERNING KARMA – Essay in Luzifer/Gnosis – October 1904

Translated by Lisa D. Monges

Previously posted on January 26, 2017

Without spiritual insight earthly culture will die

The time now comes, where considering the human being as a spiritual being, going through a development between death and a new birth, must become a lively feeling. It must become a lively imagination, one must become able to live into perceiving the supernatural reality of human souls. Because without this understanding earthly culture will die. Practical activity will not be possible in the future, when there is no spiritual insight into the fact that every human being is a spiritual being. And one must add, as paradoxical as this still sounds to contemporary humanity, that one will have to learn not only to say: We are happy as parents that a child will be born for us, we welcome this expansion to our family, but the parents will also have to say: no, we are just the instruments. We provide the opportunity for a spiritual individuality, waiting to continue its existence on the earth.

Bron (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 196 – Geistige und soziale Wandlungen in der Menschheitsentwickelung – Dornach, February 6, 1920 (page 162)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on March 2, 2018