12 November 1910, Berlin
Sleep has often been celled the younger brother of death. This simile illustrates the path pursued by the human spirit more perfectly than might be supposed, if it is only viewed superficially, for it give an idea of the way in which the various incarnations through which the human spirit passes are connected together.
In my articles on "Reincarnation and Karma from the standpoint of Modern Natural Science" (contained in the magazine “Lucifer Gnosis”, — number 5 and 6) it was shown that when the present natural scientific method of thinking is carefully followed to its conclusion it leads to the ancient teaching of the evolution of the eternal human spirit through many lives. From this knowledge the question necessarily arises: How are these many lives connected one with another? In what sense is the life of a human being the effect of his former lives and how does it become the cause for later embodiments?
In this respect the phenomenon of sleep affords an illustration of the connection existing between cause and effect. It is possible that many who think themselves great scientist will find the following explanations quite “unscientific.” This is comprehensible, for one who has no experience of the super sensible realms, and who at the same time has not be necessary reserve and modesty to admit that he can still learn something, is bound to make this objection. He should not say that the things here brought forward are “contrary to reason,” and that they cannot be proved by the intellect. The intellect can do nothing more than combine and systematize facts. Facts may be experienced but they cannot be proved by the intelloct, A person cannot prove the existence of a whale by means of the intellect; he must either see one for himself, or accept the description given by those who have seen one. This is the case too with super-sensible facts. If a person is not sufficiently advanced to see them for himself, he must accept the description given by others. I can assure you the super-sensible facts I am about to describe are, to those whose higher senses are opened, just as “real” as a whale.
Now to our illustration. I rise in the morning. My continued activity has been interrupted by sleep. If there is to be order and connection in my life, I cannot resume this activity in the morning in any way I choose. The preliminary conditions for what I have to do today were laid down by what I did yesterday. What I did yesterday makes my destiny today that is true in the fullest sense of the word. I myself have laid down the causes, to which I must add the effects. I find these causes again after I have been temporarily withdrawn from them. They belong to me, although I was for a time separated from them.
The effects of my experiences of yesterday along to me also in another way. I have become changed by them. Let us suppose I have undertaken something in which I have only half succeeded. I have thought over the reason why this partial failure happened. If I have something similar to do again, I avoid the recognized failure. I have therefore gained a new capacity. In this way my experiences of yesterday are the causes of my capacities today. My past is bound to me, it lives on in my present and will follow me into my future. Through my past I have made the position in which I find myself at present, and the order of life demands that I remain connected with this position. It would be senseless under normal conditions if I were not to occupy a house that I have had built for me.
If the effects of my actions were not to be my destiny of today I should not have had to waken this morning but be created anew out of nothing; and the human spirit would have to be newly created, it would have to originate out of nothing, if the results of its earlier lives were not connected with its later ones. Indeed man cannot live and any other condition than the one produced by his previous life. He cannot do it, any more than the animals which, after wandering into the caves of Kentucky, have lost the power to see, are able to live anywhere else than in these caves. Through the act of wandering into these caves that have made the conditions for their later life. When a being has once been active, it is as a result no longer isolated, it has placed itself in its actions, and all that it becomes his free from that time connected with the results of those actions. This connection of a being with the results of its actions is the Law of Destiny or Karma which governs the whole world; Karma is activity which has become destiny.
Sleep is a good picture of death, for during sleep we are really withdrawn from the field of action upon which our destiny awaits us. While we are asleep events continued in this field of action upon which our destiny awaits us. While we are asleep events continue in this field. For a time we have no influence upon this stream of events, yet we find the effects of our actions again, and we have to connect up with them. Our personality really embodies itself anew each morning in our world of action. What was separated from us during the night is laid upon us, as it were, during the day.
Thus it is also with our actions in former incarnations. Their results are incorporated in the world in which we were embodied; but they belong to us, just as the life in the caves belongs to the creatures which, on account of this life, have lost the power to see. These creatures are only able to live when they again find the environment to which they have adapted themselves, and in the same way the human spirit can only live in the environment which through its actions it has made for itself.
The human body is ensouled anew, as it were, every morning. Natural scientists admit that something takes place here which they cannot comprehend if they only consider the laws they have discovered in the physical world. Du Bois-Reymond, in his lecture on “The Limits of the Knowledge of Nature,” says, “If a brain which for some reason is unconscious, one that is asleep for instance, were examined by natural science (Du Bois-Reymond says ‘astronomically’), it would no longer contain any mystery, and also if the rest of the body were scientifically examined, the whole human machine with its breathing, it's heart beat, its metabolism, its warmth etc., up to the nature of matter and force, could be fully explained. We can understand a man who is sleeping dreamlessly. We can also understand the world until consciousness dawns in the; but at this point it becomes absolutely incomprehensible. And this is the case also with the sleeping human being as soon as the first dream-picture rises within him.” This cannot be otherwise, for what the natural scientist here describes as sleeping dreamlessly, is the only part of man that is subject to physical laws, but for the moment it is ensouled again it follows the laws of the soul life. When asleep the human body follows physical laws; when man awakes the light of reasonable action flashes like a spark into the purely physical existence. It is quite in accordance with the idea of the natural philosopher Du Bois-Reymond to say: we may examine every part of the sleeping body, but we shall not be able to find the soul in it. The soul continues the course of its logical actions where it left off before going to sleep. Thus man belongs — even according to this consideration — to two worlds. In the one he lives bodily, and this bodily life can be followed by the thread of physical laws; in the other he lives mentally, and we cannot discover anything about this mental life by means of physical laws. If we wish to study the one life we must follow the laws of natural science, but if we wish to comprehend the other must learn the laws of reasonable action, logic, jurisprudence, economics, aesthetics etc.
The sleeping human body, which is governed only by physical laws, can never do anything that belongs to the sphere of the laws of reason. It is the human spirit which carries these laws of reason into the physical world, and to the extent that it has done so does it find them again when after a pause of sleep it resumes the thread of its activity.
Let us for a moment consider our illustration of sleep. The personality must connect itself with its deeds of yesterday if its life is not to be senseless. It could not do this i it did not feel itself connected with these actions. I could not today resume my activity of yesterday if something from this was not still within me. If today I had forgotten all I experienced yesterday I should be a new man and could not connect myself with anything. It is my memory that enables me to connect myself with my deeds of yesterday. My memory binds me to the effects of my actions. What in the true sense belongs to my mental life — e.g. logic — is the same today as yesterday. This also applies to what did not yesterday, in fact never, entered into my field of vision. My memory binds my logical actions of today with my logical actions of yesterday. If it depended solely upon logic we could in fact begin a new life each morning, but that which binds us to our destiny is preserved in the memory.
So I find myself in the morning to be really a threefold being. I find my body again which during my sleep has obeyed merely physical laws. I find myself, my human spirit again, which today is the same as yesterday, it possesses today the gift of reasonable action as it did yesterday. And I find all which yesterday, in fact my whole past, has made out of me, stored up in the memory.
This gives us a picture of the threefold nature of man. In each new embodiment a man finds himself in a physical organism which is subject to the laws of external nature. In each embodiment too he is the same human spirit, and as such he is the eternal entity in the various embodiments. Body and Spirit confront each other. There must be something between them — just as the memory is between my deeds of yesterday and those of today — and this is the soul.
(Each of these parts — soul and spirit — is again subdivided into three, as explained in my books “Theosophy” and “An Outline of Occult Science,” so that man appears to be formed out of nine parts:–
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1. Physical Body
2. Etheric or life Body
3. Sentient or astral Body
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4. Sentient Soul
5. Intellectual Soul
6. Spiritual Soul
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7. Spirit Self
8. Life Spirit
9. Spirit Man
During the life in the physical world the sentient body and the sentient soul intermingle, so does the spiritual soul and Spirit Self. This makes it seem as if the nine parts were reduced to seven.)
The soul preserves the results of my actions in former lives. It causes the spirit in a new embodiment to appear as what former lives have made out of it.
Such are the relations between body, soul and spirit. The spirit is eternal. The body is subject to birth and death according to the laws of the physical world. The soul brings these two together again and again by weaving the destiny out of the deeds.
For the comparison of the soul with the memory it is also possible to refer to modern natural science. In the year 1870 the scientist Ewald Hering published an essay entitled, “Memory, a universal function of Organized Matter.” And Ernst Haeckel agrees with Hering's views. In his work “Uber die Wellemzeugung der Lebensteilchen” he says: “Deeper reflection convinces us that unless we except the idea of an unconscious memory in living matter the most important and vital functions are quite inexplicable.” The capacity of imagination, the formation of idea, thought and consciousness, of practice and habit, nourishment and propagation, depends upon the functions of unconscious memory, whose activity is infinitely more important than that of the conscious memory. Hering says quite rightly that it is to the memory we all almost all we are and have. Haeckel attempts to trace back the processes of heredity in living beings to this unconscious memory. The circumstance that the daughter is like the mother, that she inherits her characteristics from the mother, will therefore depend upon the unconscious memory of the living organism, which in the course of propagation preserves the remembrance of earlier forms. We will not now enter into the question as to what part of Hering's or Haeckel's views is scientifically tenable: what is important for us in our present study is, that the scientist finds himself forced when he searches beyond birth and death, when he must assume something that survives death, to postulate a principle which she conceives to be like the memory. He reaches out naturally to a super sensible force, when the laws of physical nature do not suffice.
In addition it must be noticed that we are only dealing here with a comparison, a simile; it must not be thought that by ‘soul’ we understand something that is exactly the same as conscious memory. In ordinary life also conscious memory is not always in play when we make use of the experiences of the past. We have the fruits of these experiences within us, even if we do not always consciously remember the experiences. Does a person remember all the details by means of which he learned to read and write? Indeed has he ever been fully conscious of all these details? Habit, for example, is a kind of unconscious memory. The comparison with the memory is only made to draw attention to the soul, which comes between body and spirit, and is the mediator between the eternal being in the physical body which is subject to birth and death.
The reincarnating spirit Lions in the physical world the results of its actions as its destiny, and the soul which is bound up with it connects it with this destiny. Someone might now inquire: how can the spirit find the results of its deeds, for when it reincarnates it is placed in a perfectly different world from the one it was in before? This question is based upon a very superficial conception of the linking up of destiny. If I leave Europe to live in America I find myself in new surroundings, and get my life in America will depend entirely upon my preceding life in Europe. It's in Europe I had been a mechanic my life in America will shape itself quite differently from what it would had I been a bank manager. In the one case I shall probably have machinery around me in America and in the other bank papers. In each case my previous life determined my environment; it draws to itself as it were, out of the whole surrounding world, the things that are related to it. This applies also to my spirit-soul. It surrounds itself of necessity within that which it was associated in a previous life. For no one can deny the likeness between sleep and death, — no one who was aware that he is dealing only with a comparison, although the most appropriate one. The immediate course of events takes care that in the morning I shall find the conditions I myself created the preceding day. When I reincarnated I shall find an environment corresponding to the results of my deeds in the preceding life, for this is provided by the relationship existing between my reborn spirit-soul and the things of this environment.
What brings me into this environment? Primarily the qualities of my spirit-soul in the new incarnation. I only possess these qualities through the deeds of my former life having imprinted them in the spirit-soul. These deeds and therefore are the real cause of my being born in certain conditions. And what I do now will be the cause of my meeting this or that condition in a future life. Thus a man really makes his own destiny. This destiny remains incomprehensible to him only as long as he considers the one single life by itself and does not look upon it as one in a series of lives.
We may therefore say that nothing can happen to a person in life except that her which he has himself made the conditions. Only through insight into the law of destiny doesn't become comprehensible why the good must often suffer, and why the wicked may be fortunate. This apparent injustice in one life vanishes when the view is extended over many. We must not, however, picture the law of destiny simply as an ordinary judge, or as being carried out in the way justice is administered in the state. That would be as if one were to imagine God as an old man with a white beard. Many fall into this mistake. Especially do the opponents of the idea of destiny start from such erronous suppositions. They fight against the conceptions which they presume the believers in destiny or karma possess, not against those really held by them.
What is man's relation to the surrounding physical world when he enters into a new incarnation? It depends upon two circumstances. First, that in the interval between the two incarnations he has taken no part in the physical world, and secondly, what his development has been during this interval. It is clear from the outset that nothing can flow into this development from the physical world. It can therefore only draw all that takes place in its out of it self, or out of the super-sensible world. While embodied it was entangled in the physical world of facts, after disembodiment is withdrawn from the direct influence of this world of facts and only retains from it what we have compared to the memory. This “remains of memory” consists of two parts. These become apparent when we consider what has contributed towards its construction.
The Spirit has lived in the body and hence, through the body, has come into contact with the outer world. This relation was expressed in the fact that by means of the body, impulses, desires and passions have developed, and that through these, external actions were performed. The body causes man to act under the influence of impulses, desires and passions, and these produce effects in two directions. On the one hand they give stamps to the external actions which a person performs, and on the other they form his personal character. The action I perform as a consequence of my desire, and I myself am as personality that which these desires bring to expression. The action passes over into the outer world; desire remains in my soul — like the concept in my memory. And as the idea-picture in my memory is strengthened by each new similar impression, so also are the desires of strengthened by each new action I perform through their influence. Therefore, because of my existence in the body, a number of impulses, desires and passions are in my soul. The sum-total of these desires is described as the “body of desire.” This body of desire is closely connected with physical existence, for it originates under the influence of the physical body. From the moment, therefore, when the spirit is no longer incarnated the body of desire can no longer continue its development. The spirit must liberate itself from the body of desire in so far as through it it has been connected with the one physical life. After the physical life follows another in which this liberation takes place. It might be asked: Is not this body of desire also destroyed after death? The answer is, No! To the extent to which the desire outweighs the satisfaction at any moment of physical life, to that extent does the desire still exist when the possibility of satisfying it has ceased. Only the man who wishes nothing at all from the sense-world has no surplus of desire above satisfaction. Only one who has no wishes dies without retaining a number of longings in his soul. The desire is carried by the soul through death must afterwards it gradually die away. The state in which this takes place is called: the sojourn in the realm of desire. It may easily be seen that this condition must last the longer the more a person has felt himself bound up with the sense life.
The second part of the “remains of memory” is formed in another way. Desire draws the spirit towards the past life; this other part points him towards the future. Through its activity in the body Spirit has made itself acquainted with the world to which this body belongs. Each fresh effort, each new experience increases this acquaintance. As a rule a person does anything better at the second attempt than at the first. The experience imprints itself upon the spirit as an increase in its capacities. Thus our experience affects our future, and when we no longer have opportunity to pass through experiences, the results of these experiences continues as “remains of memory.” But no experience could affect us had we not the capacity to learn something from it. What an experience signifies to our future on the way in which we are able to receive it and what we can make out of it. To Goethe and at variance with something different from what it was to his valet, and it had an entirely different result in the former from what it had in the latter. What capacities we acquire through an experience depends therefore upon the mental work we do in connection with the experience. A certain moment of life I always have within me a sum of results of my experiences, and this forms the foundation for my capacities which develop in consequence. When the human spirit passes out of the body at death he possesses a number of experiences. He takes these over into the super sensible life. If no bodily link now connects him with physical existence, and if he has also stripped off the wishes which bind him to this physical existence, then the fruits of his experiences remain in him. And these fruits are quite free from the direct influence of the past life. The spirit can now only see what it can make out of them for the future. After the spirit has left the “place of desire” it is in a condition in which the experiences of former lives change into seed-talents, capacities etc. — for the future. The life of the Spirit in this condition is described as the sojourn in the “Abode of Bliss.” (Bliss describes a state in which all care about the past is forgotten and the heart simply beats for the future.) It is self-evident that this condition will as a rule last longer the greater the prospect at death of the acquirement of new capacities. Naturally it is not a question here of setting forth all the knowledge relating to the human spirit, we only wish to show how the law of destiny operates in physical life. For this purpose it is sufficient to know what the spirit takes over with it out of the physical life into super sensible conditions, and what it brings back again to a new incarnation. It brings, in the form of qualities of it being, the results of the experiences gained in former lives.
In order that the range of this may be perceived we need only give a single example to make the process clear. Kant target=_blank>Kant says: “Two things fill me with ever-increasing admiration; the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” Every thoughtful person will admit that the starry heavens have not originated from nothing, but have gradually developed. It was constant self who, in 1755, in an important work, try to explain the gradual formation of a cosmos. But just as little may we accept the fact of the moral law without an explanation. This moral law also has not originated from nothing. In the first incarnation through which man passed the moral law did not speak in him as it spoke and Kant. Primitive man acts entirely in accordance with his desires. He takes with him the experiences gained from such action into the super sensible conditions. They're the development of higher capacity, and in the next incarnation it is not merely desire that works in him, but this is already guided by the results of previous experiences. And many incarnations are necessary before man, who was originally slave of his desires, confronts his environment with the refined moral law which Kant describes as something upon which he looks with just as much admiration as he does at the starry heavens.
The environment into which a person is born at a new incarnation brings to him the results of his deeds as his destiny. He himself enters into this environment with the past these he has formed in the supersets will conditions out of his former experiences therefore the oftener he has incarnated, or the greater his efforts have been in his previous incarnations, will his experiences in the physical world as a rule be at a higher stage. By this means his pilgrimage through the incarnations will be an upward development. The treasures collected in his spirit as the result of his experiences will grow greater and greater, and he will approach his environment and his destiny, in a more mature condition. This makes him more and more the ruler of his destiny, for this is exactly what he gains out of his experiences; he learns to understand the laws of the world in which these experiences are gathered. At first the spirit is unfamiliar with the surrounding world, it gropes in the dark, as it were; but with each new incarnation it grows lighter about it. The spirit acquires knowledge, it learns the laws of its environment; in other words it does more and more with consciousness than it formerly did a mental condition. The constraint of the environment becomes less and less, the spirit is able to determine itself more and more. But the spirit which does this is the free spirit. An action in the Fulbright light of consciousness is a free action. (In my book “The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity,” London 1922, I have endeavored to show the nature of the free human spirit.) the complete freedom of the human spirit is the ideal of its development. One should not ask: is man free or unfree? Philosophers who put the question concerning freedom in this manner can never arrive any clear idea about it, for man in his present condition is neither free nor unfree. He is on the way to freedom; he is partly free and partly unfree. He is free to the extent that he has acquired knowledge, consciousness of the laws of the world. These circumstance that our destiny comes to us in the form of an absolute necessity is no hindrance to our freedom, for when we act we approach this destiny with the amount of independence we have games for ourselves. It is not destiny that asked, but we act in accordance with the laws of this destiny.
When I strike a match, fire is produced in accordance with necessary laws, but it is I who set these necessary laws and motion. In the same way I can only perform an action in accordance with the necessary laws of my karma or destiny, but it is I who set these necessary laws into activity. And through my deeds new karma is created, just as fire continues to burn according to necessary laws of nature after I have kindled it.
This throws light upon another doubt that may arise regarding the action of the law of karma. Someone might say: if karma is in unalterable law, then it is useless to help anyone, for what happens to a person is the result of karma and it is absolutely necessary for this or that to befall him. Of course one cannot do away with the effects of karma that a human spirit has created for itself in the former incarnations, but the point is, how he meets this karma, and what new karma he creates under the influence of the old. If I help him I can bring it about that through his actions he gives a favorable turn to his karma; if I refrain from helping him, perhaps the opposite may occur. It will however depend upon whether my health is wise or unwise.
The progress of the human spirit through incarnation after incarnation brings about its higher development. This is expressed in the fact that the world in which the incarnation takes place is understood by the spirit more and more; but to this world along the incarnations themselves. Also in regard to these the spirit advances from the condition of unconsciousness to that of consciousness on the path of development lies the point at which a man is able with full consciousness to look back at his incarnations. This is a concept that make easily be ridiculed, and it is of course extremely easy to criticize it disparagingly, but one who does so has no idea of the nature of such truths. Ridicule and criticism place themselves like a dragon before the door of the sanctuary within which they can be recognized. But as regards truths that will only be realized by man in the future it is quite evident that he cannot recognize them as facts at the present. There is only one way to convince oneself of their reality, and that is, to make efforts to attain to this reality.
Answers to A Few Questions on Karma
Question: According to the law of reincarnation, is one to understand that the human individuality possesses its tendencies, capacities etc., as a result of its former lives? Does not the fact that tendencies and capacities such as moral courage, musical talent, etc. are directly handed down from parents to children contradict this?
Answer: With the right idea regarding the laws of reincarnation, re-embodiment and karma there is no contradiction to be found in the above question. Only those qualities of a person that belong to his physical and etheric bodies can be inherited from parents. The etheric body is the vehicle of all the vital phenomena, the forces of growth and reproduction, and everything connected with it can be directly inherited. What is bound up with the so-called soul-body is not inherited to the same extent. Under this head is to be understood a certain disposition in the feelings. Whether a person has good site, well-developed hearing etc., can depend upon whether his ancestors possess these qualities and bequeathed them to him. On the other hand no one can transmit to his successors that which is connected with the really spiritual being of man, for instance, the keenness and accuracy of his concepts, the reliability of his memory, the moral sense, the developed faculty for knowledge and art, etc. these are qualities that remain enclosed in his individuality, and come to light in his next incarnation as capacities, tendencies, character etc.
It must also be remembered that the environment into which the reincarnating spirit enters is not accidental, it is definitely connected with his karma. Suppose, for example, a person has acquired in his former life tendency towards a morally strong character. It's allies in his karma that this tendency shall be manifested when he is reincarnated. It could not possibly be manifested if he were not too incarnate in a body which is of a certain quality; but this bodily quality must be inherited from the ancestors the incarnating individuality is drawn by an indwelling force of attraction towards those parents who can give it be suitable body. This depends upon the fact that before reincarnation this individuality connects itself with those forces of the astral world which tend towards certain physical conditions. Thus the man is born into the family that can bequeath to him the bodily conditions corresponding to the tendencies within him. It then seems in the example of moral courage, as if this itself were inherited from the parents; in reality the man has through his individual nature sought out the family which enables him to manifest moral courage.
In the above example it may also be the case that the individualies of the children and of the parents were already connected in previous lives, and on that account have come together again. The karmic laws are so complicated that a true judgment can never be formed merely from the outer appearance. It can only be arrived at in a measure by one before whose spiritual sense-organs the higher worlds lie partly open. One who, in addition to the physical body, is able to provide the means whereby these mental qualities of the children can develop.
Question: “Does Anthroposophy say, there is no such thing as chance? I cannot imagine for example, that when at a theater fire 500 people are burnt to death, this was in the karma of each one of them!”
Answer: The laws of karma are so complex that no one should wonder if some fact seems at first sight to human intellect to be opposed to the general validity of this law. It should be remembered that the intellect is schooled primarily in our physical world, and that in general it is only accustomed to admit only what it has learned in this world. But the laws of karma belong to higher worlds. Hence if one thinks of any event that happens to a person as being brought about by, in the same way as one perhaps thinks of justice in the earthly physical life alone, one must necessarily meet with contradictions. We must understand that a common experience affecting a number of persons in the physical world, may signify something absolutely different and higher worlds to each single one of them. Naturally the reverse may also be the case, namely, that common ties may result in earthly experiences in common. He alone who is able to see clearly in the higher worlds can say what the facts of the matter are in each case. When the karmic ties of 500 people so work out that these people perish in a fire, the following cases are possible:
1. The karmic ties of these 500 people may have nothing whatever to do with one another. A common misfortune is then related to the karma of each of these persons in somewhat the same way as the silhouette of a 500 persons on a wall is related to the thoughts and feelings of these people. Perhaps an hour before these people had nothing in common, and again in an hours time they will perhaps have nothing in common. What they have experienced by meeting together in a large hall will have a particular result for each one. Their being together is expressed in the above-mentioned common silhouette, but one who from this silhouette wished to conclude that these persons belong together would be quite mistaken.
2. It is possible that the common experience of the 500 persons has nothing whatever to do with their karmic past, but that through this common experience something is prepared that will lead them together in the future. These 500 persons may in the far future start a common enterprise; through this calamity they have been brought together for higher worlds. Spiritual investigators know, for example, that society is now being formed over their origin to the circumstance that the persons who come together have experienced a common calamity in a far-distant past.
3. It may be result of former wrongs committed by these persons in common, — But there are also numberless other possibilities, — for example, it might be a combination of all three.
To speak of ‘chance’ in the physical world is certainly not unjustified. Although it is true that if all worlds are taken into consideration there is no ‘chance,’ it would be wrong to reject the word chance when speaking merely of the connection of things in the physical world. Chance in the physical world is brought about through the fact that in this world events take place in outer space. They must, inasmuch as they take place in space, obey the laws of space. But in this space certain external things may meet, which inwardly have nothing to do with one another. As little as my face is really distorted because it appears to be so in an uneven mirror, so little need the causes which make a tile all from the roof and injure a person just as he is passing, have anything to do with the karma originating from his past. The mistake here made is, that many think of karmic condition connections too simply. They presume, for example, that if this person has been injured by a tile he must karmically have deserved it. But this is not necessarily the case. In light every man is continually meeting with experiences which have nothing whatever to do with his merit or his fault in the past. Such experiences are balanced correctly in the future. What happens to me today unmeritedly will be compensated to me in the future. One thing is certain; everything is balanced karmically. But whether an experience which happens to a person is the result of his karmic past, or the cause of his karmic future, can only be determined by an examination of each case, and that cannot be done by the intellect which is bound up with the physical world, but solely by spiritual observation and experience.
Question: Is one to understand according to the teaching of reincarnation and karma that a highly developed human soul is born again in a helpless, undeveloped child? Too many to thought that one will have to begin again and again with the stage of childhood is unbearable and illogical.
Answer: How a person is able to work in the physical world depends entirely upon the physical instrument he possesses. For example, higher ideas can only be expressed in this world if there is a fully developed brain. Just as the pianist must wait until the pianoforte maker has so far perfected the piano that he can express his musical ideas upon it, so must the soul wait with its capacities gained in previous lives until the forces of the physical world have built up the bodily organs so far that they can become an expression for these capacities. The forces of nature must go their way, and the soul must also go its way. But from the beginning of human life there is a cooperation between the forces of the soul in those of the body. The soul works in the still plastic and supple body of a child so that later it can be a vehicle of the forces gained in earlier lives. It is absolutely necessary for the reborn human to enter into a new life with all previous attainments he would not harmonize with his environment. He has of course gained his capacities and powers under entirely different conditions in an entirely different environment. If he were simply to enter the world in his former condition he would be a stranger in it. Therefore the period of childhood is there to establish harmony between the old conditions and the new. How would even an exceedingly clever man belonging to Roman times up here in the world of the present day if he were simply born into this world with the powers he had attained? A force can only be utilized when it is in harmony with the environment. For example, if a genius is born, the power of genius is already in the part of his inner being called the causal body, but the intellectual soul and the soul body, the body of feeling, are capable of being molded, they are still plastic. These two parts of a human being are now developed. The causal body works from within, and the environment from without. When this work has been done these two parts can then be the instruments of the capacities that have been acquired. There is therefore nothing illogical or unbearable in the thought of being born as a child, it would be far more unbearable to be born as a full-grown man into a world in which one is a stranger.
Question: Are two consecutive incarnations similar to each other, so that for example an architect will be born again as an architect, and a musician as a musician?
Answer: That may be the case, but it is not necessarily so. It happens sometimes, but it is by no means the rule. A false conception may be formed on this subject if a person's ideas of the laws of reincarnation depended too much upon external things. For example, a person likes southern countries, and on this account imagines that in a previous life he must have been a Southerner. But such inclinations do not affect the causal body, they only apply to the one life. That which works over from one incarnation into another must lie deeper down in the nature of the human being. Take, for example, a musician. The spiritual harmonies and rhythms which express themselves in tones reach into the causal body. The tones themselves belong to the outer physical life, they are in that part of the human being which is born and dies. The higher part of the soul-body which in one life is the suitable apparatus for tone may in the next life be the apparatus for the perception of the conditions of number and space. Therefore the musician may in the next life become a mathematician. This circumstance makes it possible for a man in the course of his incarnations to become a versatile of being by going to the most varied experiences. But, as we have said, there are exceptions to this rule, and these exceptions can be explained when one knows the laws of the spiritual world.
Question: When through disease of the brain a person is condemned to idiocy, how is this to be regarded karmically?
Answer: Things such as visa should be considered from the standpoint of occult experience and not from speculation and hypothesis. This question shall therefore be answered by an example taken from life. A man was condemned in a previous life to lead a dull, apathetic existence on account of an undeveloped brain. In the interval between his death and a new birth he was able to work upon all the depressing experiences of such a life — being knocked about, and the unkindness of people — and he was reborn as a great philanthropist. A case such as this shows clearly how mistaken a person could be if he were to relate everything that happens to him in life simply to the past. He can by no means always say: This destiny comes from this or that fault in the past; he would just as often have to think: this experience is not in any way related to the past but is rather the cause for a karmic compensation in the future. An idiot need not have earned this fate through his deeds in the past, but the karmic results of his fate in the present life will certainly be reaped in the future. Just as in the case of a merchant his balance on any particular day is determined according to the figures in his cash-book, but he can always make fresh receipts and expenditures, so in the life of an individual new deeds and strokes of fate can come in, although his life's account is quite definite at any given moment. Therefore, must not be considered as something that cannot be influenced, it is absolutely consistent with freedom and with the will of man. Karma does not demand a surrender to an unalterable fate, on the contrary, it brings the certainty that no deed, no experience of man is without result or takes place in the world without law, it is a just, compensating law. Were there no karma, caprice would rule in the world, but with if I can know that each of my actions, each of my experiences dovetails into the whole governed by law. My action is free, its effect is governed by law. It is a free act of the merchant when he does a certain piece of business, but the result of this business fits into his balance according to law.