The expression of suffering and pain

When we realise this connection of suffering and pain with the conscious spirit that surrounds us, we shall well understand the words of a Christian initiate who knew such things fundamentally and intuitively, and saw pain at the basis of all conscious life. They are the words: In all Nature sighs every creature in pain, full of earnest expectation to attain the state of the child of God. — You find that in the eighth chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans as a wonderful expression of this foundation of consciousness in pain.

Thus one can also understand how thoughtful men have ascribed to pain such an all-important role. I should like to quote just one example. A great German philosopher says that when one looks at all Nature around one, then pain and suffering seem to be expressed everywhere on her countenance. Yes, when one observes the higher animals they show to those who look more deeply an expression full of suffering. And who would not admit that many an animal physiognomy looks like the manifestation of a deeply hidden pain?


Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 55 – The Origin of Suffering, Origin of Evil, Illness and Death – Berlin, 8th November 1906

Translated by M. Cotterell

Previously posted on May 14, 2016


What actually constitutes wisdom?

What actually constitutes wisdom? Spiritual science has always maintained that human wisdom has something to do with experience, and that painful experience. He who is actually in the throes of suffering manifests in this suffering something that is an inward lack of harmony. He, however, who has overcome the pain and suffering and bears their fruits within him, will always tell you that through suffering he has gained some measure of wisdom. He says: — “the joys and pleasures of life, all that life can offer me in the way of satisfaction, all these things do I receive gratefully; yet were I far more loath to part with my pain and suffering than with those pleasant gifts of life, for ‘it is to my pain and suffering that I owe my wisdom.’ ”

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 55 – Occult Significance of Blood/An Esoteric StudyBerlin, October 25, 1906

Antipathy and karma (4 – End)

And now, as we go on again into the third life, the outcome of the suffering which came to us (though only of that suffering which came, as it were, out of our own stored-up hatred), the outcome of the pain which was thus spent in our soul is a kind of mental dullness — dullness as compared with quick, open-minded insight into the world.

There may be a man who meets the world with a phlegmatic indifference. He does not confront the things of the world, or other men with an open heart. The fact is, very often, that he acquired this obtuseness of spirit by his sufferings in a former life on earth, the cause of which lay in his own karma. For the suffering which subsequently finds expression in this way, in dullness of soul, is sure to have been the result of feelings of hatred, at least in the last earthly life but one. You can be absolutely sure of it: stupidity in any one life is always the outcome of hatred in this or that preceding life.

Yet, my dear friends, the true concept of karma must not only be based on this; it is not only to enable us to understand life. No, we must also conceive it as an impulse in life. We must be conscious that there is not only an a b c d, but an e f g h. That is to say, there are the coming earthly lives and what we develop as the content of our soul in this life will have its outcome and effect in the next life. If anyone wants to be extra stupid in his next earthly life but one, he need only hate very much in this life. But the converse is also true: if he wants to have free and open insight in the next earthly life but one, he need only love extra much in this life.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 235 – Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies – Volume I: Lecture IV – Dornach, 24th February 1924

Translated by G. Adams, M. Cotterell, C. Davy, & D. S. Osmond

Previously posted on September 16, 2016

Antipathy and karma (3 of 4)

Well, my dear friends, to picture, if I may, in homely and familiar fashion, the possibilities there are in this respect, think of an afternoon-tea, a real, genuine, gossiping party where half-a-dozen (half-a-dozen is quite enough) aunts or uncles — yes, uncles, too — are sitting together expatiating on their fellows. Think of it. How many antipathies are given vent to, what volumes of antipathy are poured out over other men and women, say in the course of an hour and a half — sometimes it lasts longer. In pouring out the antipathy they do not notice it; but when it comes back in the next earthly life, they notice it soon enough. And it does come back, inexorably.

Thus, in effect, a portion (not all, for we shall still learn to know other karmic connections) of what we experience as suffering that comes to us from outside in one earthly life, may very well be due to our own feelings of antipathy in former lives on earth.

But with all this, we must never forget that karma — whatsoever karmic stream it may be — must always begin somewhere. If these are a succession of earthly lives:

a b c (d) e f g h

and this one, (d), is the present life, it does not follow that all pain which comes to us from without, is due to our former life on earth. It may also be an original sorrow, the karma of which will work itself out only in the next life on earth. Therefore I say, a part — even a considerable part — of the suffering that comes to us from outside is a result of the hatred we conceived in former lives.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 235 – Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies – Volume I: Lecture IV – Dornach, 24th February 1924

Translated by G. Adams, M. Cotterell, C. Davy, & D. S. Osmond

Previously posted on September 15, 2016

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