Strength by overcoming obstacles

Man has to acquire his strength by overcoming obstacles in the world, one after another. Strictly speaking all our strength was acquired by the overcoming of obstacles in previous incarnations. Our present capacities are the result of our illnesses in earlier lives.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 107 – The Being of Man and His Future Evolution – Illness and karma – Berlin, 26th January 1909

Translated by Pauline Wehrle

Previously posted on September 9, 2015

The underlying reasons for suffering

In pursuing the laws of karma, we shall discover that the underlying reasons for suffering are similar to what can be described by the following example relating to the ordinary life between birth and death. Let us assume that a youngster has lived until his eighteenth year at the expense of his father. Then the father loses all his wealth and goes into bankruptcy. The young man must now learn something worthwhile and make an effort to support himself. As a result, life hits him with pain and privation. It is quite understandable that he does not react sympathetically to the pain that he has to go through.

Let us now turn to the period when he has reached the age of fifty. Since, by the necessity of events, he had to educate himself at an early age, he has become a decent person. He has found a real foothold in life. He realizes why he reacted negatively to pain and suffering when it first hit him, but now he must think differently about it. He must say to himself that the suffering would not have come to him if he had already acquired a sense of maturity — at least, to the limited degree than an eighteen year old can attain one. If he had not been afflicted by pain, he would have remained a good-for-nothing. It was the pain that transformed his shortcomings into positive abilities. He must owe it to the pain that he has become a different man in the course of forty years. What was really brought together at that time? His shortcomings and his pain were brought together. His shortcomings actually sought pain in order that his immaturity might be removed by being transformed into maturity.

Even a simple consideration of life between birth and death can lead to this view. If we look at the totality of life, however, and if we face our karma as it has been explained in the lecture two days ago, we will come to the conclusion that all pain that hits us, that all suffering that comes our way, are of such a nature that they are being sought by our shortcomings. By far the greater part of our pain and suffering is sought by imperfections that we have brought over from previous incarnations. Since we have these imperfections within ourselves, there is a wiser man in us than we ourselves are who chooses the road to pain and suffering. It is, indeed, one of the golden rules of life that we all carry in us a wiser man than we ourselves are, a much wiser man. The one to whom we say, “I,” in ordinary life is less wise. If it was left to this less wise person in us to make a choice between pain and joy, he would undoubtedly choose the road toward joy. But the wiser man is the one who reigns in the depth of our unconscious and who remains inaccessible to ordinary consciousness. He directs our gaze away from easy enjoyment and kindles in us a magic power that seeks the road of pain without our really knowing it. But what is meant by the words: Without really knowing it? They mean that the wiser man in us prevails over the less wise one. He always acts in such a way that our shortcomings are guided to our pains and he makes us suffer because with every inner and outer suffering we eliminate one of our faults and become transformed into something better.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – Facing Karma – Vienna, February 8, 1912

Translated by Dietrich V. Asten

Previously posted on March 6, 2015

Reincarnation/Karma/Talents (1 of 2)

You have no doubt often heard anthroposophists say when they meet a good arithmetician: “In his previous incarnation this man was a good arithmetician!” Unfortunately, many undeveloped anthroposophists string together links of reincarnation in such a way that it is thought possible to find the earlier incarnation because the present gifts must have existed in the preceding incarnation or in many previous incarnations. This is the worst possible form of speculation and anything derived from it is usually false. True observation by means of Spiritual Science, discloses, as a rule, the exact opposite. For example, people who in a former incarnation were good arithmeticians, good mathematicians, often reappear with no gift for mathematics at all. If we wish to discover what gifts we may probably have possessed in a former incarnation (here I must remind you that we are speaking of probabilities!) — if we wish to know what intellectual or artistic faculties, say, we possessed in a former incarnation, it is well to reflect upon those things for which we have least talent in the present life.

These are true indications, but they are very often interwoven with other facts. It may happen that a man had a special talent for mathematics in a former incarnation but died young, so that this talent never came to full expression; then he will be born again in his next incarnation with a talent for mathematics and this will represent a continuation of the previous incarnation. Abel, the mathematician who died young, will certainly in his next incarnation be reborn with a strong mathematical talent.  But when a mathematician has lived to a great age, so that his talent has spent itself — then in his next incarnation he will be stupid as regards mathematics. I knew a man who had so little gift for mathematics that as a schoolboy he simply hated figures, and although in other subjects he did well, he generally managed to get through his classes only because he obtained exceptionally good marks in other subjects. This was because in his former incarnation he had been an exceedingly good mathematician.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 135 – Reincarnation and Karma – I – Berlin, 23rd January 1912

Translated by Dorothy S. Osmond & Charles Davy

Previously posted on 14 October 2014

Strength by overcoming obstacles

Man has to acquire his strength by overcoming obstacles in the world, one after another. Strictly speaking all our strength was acquired by the overcoming of obstacles in previous incarnations. Our present capacities are the result of our illnesses in earlier lives.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 107 – The Being of Man and His Future Evolution – Illness and karma – Berlin, 26th January 1909

Translated by Pauline Wehrle

steiner

Previously posted on June 28, 2014