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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A Working-man in America

An uncommonly interesting book has recently appeared, A Working-man in America (Als Arbeiter in Amerika, pub. Sigismund, Berlin). The author is State-Councillor Kolb, who had the enterprise to spend several months as a common worker in America. In this way he acquired a discrimination of men and of life which was obviously neither to be obtained along the educational paths that led to councillorship, nor from the mass of experience which he was able to accumulate in such a position and in all the other posts that a man fills before he becomes a Councillor of State. He was thus for years in a position of considerable responsibility; and yet, not until he had left this, and lived — just a short while — in a foreign land, did he learn the knowledge of life that enabled him to write the following memorable sentence in his book: “How often, in old days, when I saw a sound, sturdy man begging, had I not asked, in righteous indignation: Why doesn’t the lazy rascal work? I knew now, why. The fact is, it looks quite different in theory from what it does in practice; and at the study table one can deal quite comfortably with even the most unsavory chapters of political economy.

To prevent any possible misunderstanding, let it be said at once, that no one can feel anything but the warmest appreciation for a man who could bring himself to leave a comfortable position in life, in order to go and do hard labor in a brewery and a bicycle factory. It is a deed worthy of all respect, and it must be duly emphasized, lest it should be imagined that any disparagement is intended of the man who did it. Nevertheless, for anyone who will face the facts, it is unmistakably evident that all this man’s book-learning, all the schooling he had been through, had not given him the ability to read life.

Just try and realize all that is involved in such an admission! One may learn everything which, in these days, qualifies one to hold posts of considerable influence; and yet, with it all, one may be quite remote and aloof from that life where one’s sphere of action lies. Is it not much the same, as though a man were to go through a course of training in bridge construction, and then, when called upon actually to build a bridge, had no notion how to set about it? And yet, no! — it is not quite the same. Anyone who is not properly trained for bridge building will soon be enlightened as to his deficiencies when he comes to actual practice. He will soon show himself to be a bungler and find his services generally declined. But when a man is not properly trained for his work in social life, his deficiencies are not so readily demonstrated. A badly built bridge breaks down; and then even the most prejudiced can see that he who built it was a bungler. But the bungling that goes on in social work is not so directly apparent. It only shows itself in the suffering of one’s fellow-men. And the connection between this suffering and bungling is not one that people recognize as readily as the connection between the breakdown of a bridge and the incompetent bridge builder.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – Anthroposophy and the Social Question – Part 1 (essay which first appeared in the journal “Lucifer-Gnosis”, October 1905/1906 – translated by Harry Collison)

Previously posted on October 17, 2014

Maurice Maeterlinck – About Death

Recently a book was published which I can enthusiastically recommend, because it was written by a very intelligent man and proves what nonsense even intelligent people can say about spiritual things. I mean Maurice Maeterlinck’s Vom Tode (“About Death”). Among many nonsensical things, he affirms that when a person dies he is a spirit, and can no longer suffer because he has no physical body. Maeterlinck, a very intelligent man, suffers under the illusion that only the physical body can suffer and a dead person can therefore not suffer. He doesn’t notice the phenomenal, almost incredible nonsense it is to affirm that only the physical body, which consists of physical forces and chemical elements, can suffer. As if a stone could suffer! The physical body cannot suffer; it is the soul that suffers. It has come to the point where people think the opposite of what makes sense about the simplest things.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 148 – The Fifth Gospel: Lecture III – Oslo, Norway – October 3, 1913

Translated by Frank Thomas Smith

Previously posted on August 24, 2014

The greatest wisdom is acquired by the quiet endurance of pain and suffering

Knowledge of the connection between the physical and the astral world enables us to have a clear understanding of the world in its inner process of development; things are often connected in quite a different way from what people like to imagine. Many people deplore pain and suffering, but from a higher point of view this is quite unjustified, for if they are overcome and the person is ready for a new incarnation, suffering and pain are the sources of wisdom, prudence and comprehensiveness of vision. Even in writing emanating from the modern, materialistic standpoint, we find it stated that there is something like “crystallised pain” in the face of every thinker. What this materialistically minded author says here has long been known to the occultist, for the greatest wisdom of the world is acquired by the quiet endurance of pain and suffering; this creates wisdom in the next incarnation.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 99 – Theosophy of the Rosicrucian – VI The Law of Destiny – Munich 30th May, 1907

Translated by M. Cotterell & D. S. Osmond

Previously posted on June 27, 2014

No one should imagine himself to be better than others

Anthroposophists must feel part of the whole and, to some extent, responsible for all that happens. […] No one should imagine himself to be good or even much better than other people. We must be permeated by the thought that we can’t be much better than others. What is the advantage of making a few happy when our lifestyle reduces many to unhappiness? Ignorance is the root of suffering. Ignorant as we often are, we help sharpen the knife for those who use it for evil.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 266a – Aus den Inhalten der esoterischen Stunden – Berlin, 15 February 1904 (page 34-35)

Anonymous translator

Previously posted on July 22, 2016