Manifestations of Karma
10. Free Will and Karma in the Future of Human Evolution
27 May 1910, Hamburg
There are certain deeper questions of karmic connection concerning more especially our human influence upon karma, particularly upon that of other people, and concerning also the changing of the direction of karma, be it to a greater or less extent. Such questions as these one can neither answer nor even give an idea of how they ought to be answered, without touching, as we shall today, upon certain important secrets of our world existence. They may perhaps arise out of what has been said, if we follow up what has been broached and had light thrown upon it from one side or another.
We may ask what happens in a person's karma when by reason of his previous acts or experiences there has arisen a necessity for illness to compensate for these acts and experiences, and this person is really healed through human assistance by means of remedies or other intervention. What does this signify and in what way is such a fact related to a deeper conception of karmic law?
Now I will begin by saying that in order to throw any important light at all upon this question, things must be touched upon which are far removed from the science and the present thought of today and which may, so to say, only be spoken of amongst Anthroposophists who, having absorbed some of the truths relating to the deeper foundations of existence, have already prepared themselves for such things, and have acquired a perception of how things which today can only be indicated, may nevertheless be fully proved. I should like, however, to take this opportunity of asking one thing of you. I am today compelled to talk about the deeper foundations of the earth's existence which I shall endeavour to express as precisely as possible. But this would be wrong if it were used in another connection or spoken of without any connection at all, and would lead to one misunderstanding after another. I ask you for the present just to accept it only, and make no other use of it. I must also make a point, regarding these things, that they should not be handed on; that no one should consider them as a teaching which may in any way spread further; for only the connection justifies such a statement, and such a statement is justifiable only when it is backed by the consciousness that can coin suitable words to express thoughts of this kind.
We are now speaking, on the one hand, of the deeper nature of material existence, and on the other, of the nature of soul existence. We must today acquire a deeper comprehension of what pertains to the soul and to the material world. This is, indeed, necessary for a quite definite reason — for the reason given in the previous lectures when we said that the soul of man can penetrate more or less deeply into matter. We described yesterday the nature of the male by saying that in a man the soul penetrates deeper into matter, while in the female the soul holds back in a certain way and is more independent of matter. We saw that much of karmic experience depends upon how the penetration of the soul into matter takes place. We saw also how certain illnesses in one incarnation appear as the karmic consequences of errors made by the soul in former incarnations when it worked at its deeds, experiences and impulses. Then on the way between death and a new birth the soul acquired the tendency to transform into matter that which was formerly only a characteristic, a mere influence in the soul; so it now permeates the body. Because the human being is then permeated by a soul which has also absorbed either the luciferic or ahrimanic influence, the human substance will in consequence be damaged. Here is to be found the cause of illness, and we may therefore say: In a sick body there dwells a damaged soul which has come under a wrong influence — a luciferic or ahrimanic influence; and the moment we are able to remove these influences from the soul, the normal relationship of soul and the body should come about, and health should be re-established. What then is the relation between these two members of the earthly human existence of which we are now speaking, matter and soul? What are they in their deeper nature?
The man of the present day is generally of the opinion that the answer to the question, ‘Of what does matter consist? What is the soul?’ — if it could be given at all — must prove to be the same all over the world. I do not think it would be easy for him to understand that for the beings who lived upon the old Moon, the answer to these questions must be quite different from those of beings who live upon the Earth. For existence is so much in the throes of evolution, that even the ideas may alter which a being may have about the deeper foundations of his own nature; so that the answer to this question, ‘What is matter, what is the soul?’ must also vary. It must at once be emphasised that the answers which will be given are only those which the earth-man can make, and are of significance only to the earth-man.
A person will at first judge ‘matter’ according to what confronts him in the external world in the shape of different beings and things, and everything which makes an impression upon him in any way. Then he discovers that there are different sorts of matter. But I need not go very far into that, for you may find in all the ordinary books those expositions which could be given here if we had time enough. These differences in matter present themselves to man when he sees the different metals, gold, copper, lead, and so on, or when he sees anything that does not belong to this category. You know, too, that chemistry traces these different materials back to certain fundamental substances of matter, called ‘elements.’ These elements, even in the nineteenth century, were still considered to be substances possessing certain properties which did not admit of being further divided. But in the case of a substance such as water, we are able to separate it into hydrogen and oxygen, yet in hydrogen and oxygen themselves we have substances which, according to the chemistry of the nineteenth century, were incapable of being further divided. One could distinguish about seventy such elements. You will doubtless also know that owing to phenomena which have been produced in connection with a few special elements — radium, for instance — and also owing to various phenomena produced in the study of electricity, the idea of the elements has been shaken in many ways. One has come to the conclusion that the seventy elements were only temporary limitations of matter, and that one could trace back the possibility of subdivision to a fundamental substance, which then through inner combinations, through the nature of its inner elementary being, manifests at one time as gold, at another time as potash, lime, and so on.
These scientific theories vary; and just as the scientific theories changed in ‘each fifty years’ of the nineteenth century, so it came about that certain physicists saw in matter certain entities which are charged with electricity; just as the ionic theory is now in fashion — for there are fashions in science — in the same way at no distant future other scientific methods will exist, and our idea of the constitution of matter will be quite different. These are facts. Scientific opinions are changeable, and must be changeable, for they depend altogether upon those facts which are of significance for one particular epoch. The teachings of Spiritual Science on the other hand continue through all ages — as long as there are civilisations on the earth — and will continue as long as these civilisations exist. It has always had the same comprehensive view regarding the nature of material existence and matter; and in order to lead you on to what Spiritual Science looks upon as the essential part of matter and of substance, I should like to say the following:
You all know that ice is a solid body — not through its own nature, but through external circumstances. It at once ceases to be a solid if we raise the temperature sufficiently; it then becomes a fluid substance. Therefore it does not depend upon what is in a substance itself as to what form it takes in the external world, but upon the entire conditions of the universe surrounding it. We can then further bring heat to this substance, and out of the water we can, after a certain point, produce steam. We have ice, water, steam, and through the raising of the temperature we have caused what we may describe as ‘the appearance of matter in manifold forms.’ Thus we have to distinguish in matter that the appearance it presents to us does not come out of an inner constitution, but that the manner in which it confronts us depends upon the general constitution of the universe, and that one must not isolate any part of the whole universe into individual substances. Now the methods of modern science cannot reach where Spiritual Science is able to reach. The science of today can never, by means of the methods at its disposal, bring the substance of ice — which, when the temperature is increased, is first made fluidic and then turned into steam — into the final condition attainable on earth, into which every substance can be transmuted. It is not possible today, by scientific means, to bring about conditions which show that ‘if you take gold and rarefy it as far as it can be rarefied upon the earth, you will bring it at last to a state which could equally be reached by silver or by copper.’ Spiritual Science can do this because it is based upon the methods of spiritual research; is thus able to observe how, in the spaces between substances, there is always a uniform substance everywhere which represents the extreme limit to which all matter is reducible. Spiritual research discovers a condition of dissolution in which all materials are reduced to a common basis, but what then appears there is no longer matter, but something which lies beyond all the specialised forms of matter around us. Every single substance, be it gold, silver, or any other substance, is there seen to be a condensation of this fundamental substance, which is really no longer matter. There is a fundamental essence of our material earth existence out of which all matter only comes into being by a condensing process, and to the question: What is this fundamental substance of our earth existence, Spiritual Science gives the answer: ‘Every substance upon the earth is condensed light.’ There is nothing in material existence in any form whatever which is anything but condensed light. Hence you see that to those who know the facts, there can be no necessity for such a theory as that of the ‘vibration hypothesis’ of the nineteenth century. Therein one sought to find light by methods which themselves are coarser than the light itself. Light cannot be traced back to anything else in our material existence. Wherever you reach out and touch a substance, there you have condensed, compressed light. All matter is, in its essence, light.
We have thus indicated one side of the question from the point of view of Spiritual Science. We have seen that light is the foundation of all material existence. If we look at the material human body, that also, inasmuch as it consists of matter, is nothing but a substance woven out of light. Inasmuch as man is a material being, he is composed of light.
Let us now consider the other question: ‘Of what does the soul consist?’ If we were to make research in the same way, by means of the methods of Spiritual Science, into the substance, into the really fundamental essence of the soul, then it would appear that just as all matter is compressed light, so all the different phenomena of the soul upon earth are modifications, are manifold transformations of that which must be called, if we truly realise the fundamental meaning of the word: love. Every stirring of the soul, wherever it appears, is in some way a modification of love, and if the inner and the outer are, as it were, intermingled, impressed into one another in man, we find also that his outer bodily part is woven out of light, and his inner soul is woven spiritually out of love. Love and light are, indeed, in some way interwoven in all the phenomena of our earth existence, and anyone who wishes to understand things as explained by Spiritual Science, will first of all ask: To what extent are love and light interwoven?
Love and light are the two elements, the two component parts of all earthly existence: love as the soul part, and light as the outer material part.
Now, however, another fact comes in. For both these elements, light and love, which would otherwise be side by side throughout the great course of the world existence, there must be found an intermediary, weaving the one element into the other — light into love. This must needs be a power which has no particular interest in love, which thus weaves light into the element of love — a power which is interested only in causing the light to be spread abroad to as great an extent as possible, and therefore causes light to stream into the element of love. Such a power cannot be terrestrial for the earth is the Cosmos of Love; and its mission is to weave love in everywhere. Anything, therefore, which is bound up with the earth existence can have no interest which is not to some degree influenced by love.
It is the luciferic beings which act here — for they remained behind upon the Moon upon the Cosmos of Wisdom. They are particularly interested in weaving light into love. The luciferic beings are everywhere at work when our inner part which is actually woven out of love comes into any sort of connection with light, in whatsoever form it may be found; and we are confronted with light in all material existence. Wheresoever we come into connection with light, the luciferic beings enter, and the luciferic influence becomes woven into love. In that way man first, in the course of his incarnations, entered the luciferic element. Lucifer has woven himself into the element of love; and all that is formed from love has the impress of Lucifer, which alone can bring us what causes love to be not merely a self-abandonment, but permeates it in its innermost being with wisdom. Otherwise, without this wisdom, love would be an impersonal force in man for which he could not be responsible. But in this way love becomes the essential force of the Ego where that luciferic element is woven, which otherwise is only to be found outside in matter. Thus it becomes possible for our inner being which, during earth existence, should receive the attribute of love in its fullness, to be permeated besides by everything that may be described as an activity of Lucifer, and from this side leads to a penetration of external matter; so that which is woven out of light is not interwoven with love alone, but with love that is permeated by Lucifer. When man takes up the luciferic — element, he interweaves into the material part of his own body a soul which is, it is true, woven out of love, but into which the luciferic element is interwoven. It is that love which is permeated with the luciferic element, which impregnates matter and is the cause of illness working out from within. In connection with what we have already mentioned as being a necessary consequence of an illness proceeding from a luciferic element, we may say that the ensuing pain, which we have seen is a consequence of the Luciferic element, shows us the effect of the working of the karmic law. So the consequences of an act or a temptation coming from Lucifer are experienced karmically and the pain itself indicates what should lead to the overcoming of the consequences in question.
Now ought we to help in such a case or not? Ought we in any way to cancel what has pressed in from the luciferic element with all its consequences working out in pain?
Remembering the answer to our question as to the nature of the soul, it follows of necessity that we have the right to do this only if we find the means, in the case of a man who has the luciferic element in him which caused his illness, to expel that luciferic element in the right way. What is the remedy which exerts a stronger action, so that the luciferic element is driven out. What is it which has been defiled by the luciferic element on our earth? It is love! Hence only by means of love can we give real help for karma to work out in the right way. Finally we must see in that element of love which has been psychically influenced by Lucifer resulting in illness, a force which must be affected by another force. We must pour in love. All those acts of healing dependent upon what we may call a ‘psychic healing process’ must have the characteristic that love is part of the process. In some form or other all psychic healing depends on a stream of love, which we pour into another person as a balsam. All that is done in this domain must finally be traced back to love; and this can be done. Even if we set simple psychic factors in action; if we assist another, perhaps, only to overcome depression, this can be traced back to love. All arises from the impulse of love, from simpler processes of healing, to that which is often, in amateur fashion called ‘magnetic healing.’ What does the healer communicate to the one to be healed? It is, to use an expression of physics, an ‘interchange of tensions.’ Certain processes in the etheric body of the healer create with the person to be healed a sort of polarity. Polarity arises just as it would arise in an abstract sense, when one kind of electricity, say positive, is produced and then the corresponding electricity — the negative — appears. Thus polarities are created, and this act must be conceived as emanating from sacrifice. One evokes in oneself a process which is not intended to be significant to oneself only, for then one would call forth one process only; in this case, however, the process is intended in addition to induce a polarity in another person, and this polarity, which naturally depends upon a contact between the healer and the person to be healed, is, in the fullest sense of the word, the sacrifice of a force which is no other than the transmuted action of love. That is what is really active in these psychic healings — a transmuted power of love. We must clearly understand that without this fundamental love-force the healing will not lead to the right goal. But these processes of love need not always run their course [so] that the person is fully aware of them with his ordinary day-consciousness; they run their course also in the region of the subconscious. In that which is considered as the technique of the healing process, even to the way in which the movements of the hands are made, and technically reduced to a system, we have the reflection of a sacrificial act. Therefore even where we do not see the direct connection in a process of healing, when we do not see what is being done, we have, nevertheless, before us an act of love, although the action may be completely transformed to a mere technique.
Since the soul consists fundamentally of love, we can assist with psychic factors. And these processes apparently lie very near the periphery of human nature, and by such factors of healing that which in its essence consists of love is enriched by what it requires in the way of love. Thus on the one side we see how we can help, so that, after being caught in the toils of Lucifer, the sufferer is able to free himself again. Because love is the fundamental essence of the soul, we may, indeed, influence the direction of karma.
On the other hand, we may ask, what has become of the substance woven from light in which the soul dwells?
Take the body — the outer man in his material part. If through a karmic process there had not been imprinted from out of the soul into matter a love substance such as is permeated by Lucifer or Ahriman; if a pure love substance only had poured in, it would not have been impurifying, or damaging to the substance woven out of light. If love alone were to flow into matter, it would then so flow into the human body that the latter could not be damaged. It is only because a love which has absorbed luciferic or ahrimanic forces can penetrate that the substance woven out of light becomes less perfect than it was originally intended to be. Therefore it is only through pouring into man of the luciferic or ahrimanic influences during his consecutive incarnations, that the human organisation is not what it might be. If it were as it ought to be, it would manifest healthy human substance; but because it has absorbed the activities of Lucifer and Ahriman, sickness and disease result.
How can we draw from outside those influences which have flowed in from an imperfect soul, that is, from a wrong love substance? What happens to the body by this influx of something which is faulty? According to Spiritual Science something happens which turns light in some way into its opposite. Light has its opposite in darkness or obscurity. Everything really presenting itself — strange as it may sound — as the defilement of that which is woven out of light, is a darkness woven out of a luciferic or ahrimanic influence. Thus we see darkness woven into the human substance. But this darkness was only thus interwoven because the human body has become the bearer of the Ego that lives on through the incarnations. This was formerly not there. Only a human body can be subject to this corruption, for such a corruption was formerly not contained in that which was woven out of light.
Man today draws the base of his material life out of what he has gradually rejected in the course of evolution — that is, the animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, and the mineral kingdom. These also contain the different substances woven out of light for earth existence. But in none of these substances are there any of the influences which, in the course of human karma have acted on the organism through the soul. In the three kingdoms around us, therefore, man cannot through his luciferic or ahrimanic influence, as emanating from his love forces, have a defiling effect. Nothing of him is here. And what in man has been defiled is spread around him in all its purity. Let us consider a mineral substance, a salt or any other substance which man has also within him, or might have within him. But in him it is interwoven with the love substance defiled by Lucifer or Ahriman. Outside, however, it is pure. Thus every substance outside is distinguished from that which man bears within him. Externally it is always different from what it is in man, because in him it is interwoven with the ahrimanic or luciferic influence. That is the reason why, for everything of external substance which can be more or less defiled by man, there must be something which can be found externally representing the same thing in its pure condition. That which exists in the world in its purity, is the external cure for the corresponding substance in its damaged state. If you apply this in the right way to the human being, you then have the specific for the corresponding injury.
Thus we find in quite an objective way, what may be applied to the human body as a remedy. Here is the injury characterised as a form of darkness — and that which is not yet dark as the outer woven pure light; and we see why we are able to remove the darkness to be found in man if we bring pure substance woven from light to bear upon him. Thus we have a specific remedy for the injury. Now attention has often been drawn to the fact that Anthroposophists in particular should not fall into the narrow-minded error of denying that in such cases there really is a specific remedy against this or that injury, or which beneficially affects this or the other organ. It has often been said that the organism has within it the forces with which to help itself. Even although the Vienna School of Nihilistic Therapeutics may be right in its assertion that by calling up the opposing forces we can bring about a cure, we may nevertheless help on the cure by specific remedies. Here we see a parallel which one may describe from Spiritual Science.
From what I have said about diphtheria, for instance, you may gather that the karmic causes have in this case particularly affected the astral body. Now closely related to the astral body is the animal kingdom You will always find in those forms of illness closer connected with the astral body, that medical science, unconsciously driven by a dim impulse, seeks for remedies from the animal kingdom. For such illnesses whose causes lie in the etheric body, science seeks for remedies out of the vegetable kingdom. An interesting lecture might be given about the relation of the purple foxglove to certain illnesses of the heart. These are things which, inasmuch as they are based on truth, are not right for five years only — as one doctor states — and then begin to be wrong — as in the case when only external symptoms are taken into consideration. But there is a certain treasure of remedies which can always in some way be traced back to some connection with Spiritual Science, which have been inherited without any knowledge whence they came. Just as today the astronomers do not know that the theory of Kant and Laplace came from the mystery schools of the Middle Ages, so people do not know whence came these real valuable remedies. Causes of illness, which are connected with the nature of the physical body, lead to the use of remedies from the mineral kingdom.
A simple consideration of these analogous views will provide a fingerpost for these matters. Through his connection with the surrounding world, man can be helped from two different sides: on the one hand bringing him transmuted love from the psychic method of healing and on the other hand by bringing him transmuted light in various ways by those processes which are connected with external methods of healing. Everything which can be done is brought about either by inner psychic means — by love — or by the external means of densified light. When one day science has advanced so far as to learn to believe in the super-sensible and in the saying: ‘Matter is a form of condensed light,’ then a spiritual light will be thrown by these words upon the systematic research on external remedies. Hence we see that what during long ages, from the mystery schools of old Egypt and old Greece, was gradually added to the treasure of healing is not mere nonsense, but that in all these things there is a sound kernel. Anthroposophy does not exist in order to attack a certain school of medicine, and to say, ‘There they give people poisons!’ The word poison today works as a suggestion, and people do not reflect how relative this word is. For what is ‘poison’? Every substance may be a poison. It is only a question of the methods of healing and of how much is taken at a time. Water is a strong poison, if one takes ten bucketfuls at one time. The results of this, considered chemically, are not very different from what they would be if one gave a person any other substance. It depends always upon the quantity, for all these ideas are relative.
From what we have gone into today, we can be glad that for every injury we can do to injure our body, there is to be found in surrounding nature, which now appears to us as the world, that which will make it whole again. It is also a beautiful relationship that we have for the external world, and we may rejoice not only because we see the beautiful flowers and the mountains glowing in the sunlight, but also because our surroundings are so intimately connected with what is in man himself, good or bad. We can rejoice in nature, not only for what appeals at first sight, but the deeper we go into what has condensed into external material existence, the more we shall find that this nature which causes us to rejoice has within it at the same time the mighty healer for all the damage man can cause himself. Somewhere in nature the remedy is concealed. It is a question, not only of understanding the language of the healer, but also of obeying it and really carrying it out. Today it is in most cases impossible for us to hear the voice of healing nature because our misunderstanding of light, and the darkness which has penetrated into knowledge has in many respects brought about conditions preventing us from hearing. Therefore we must clearly understand that where in one case no help can properly be given, where, on account of karmic connections, some suffering may not properly be lessened, this does not mean that it absolutely could not be done.
Here again we see a remarkable connection which allows us to perceive the whole great world, inclusive of mankind, as One Being. In the sayings: ‘Matter is woven light,’ and ‘the soul is in some way or other diluted love,’ are to be found the keys of innumerable secrets of earth existence. But these hold good only for the earth existence, and would not concern any other domain of the world existence. Thus we have shown nothing less than that we, if in any way we alter the direction of karma, unite ourselves in one or the other case with the elements composing our earth existence: on the one side with light which has become matter — and on the other side with love which has become soul. We either draw the remedies out of our surroundings, out of the condensed light, or out of our own soul by the healing loving act, the sacrificial act, and we then heal with the soul-forces obtained from love. We unite ourselves with what is most deeply justified upon the earth, when, on the one hand, we unite ourselves with light and on the other with love. All earth conditions are in some way conditions of balance between light and love and everything unhealthy is a disturbance of that balance. If the disturbance is in love, we can then help by unfolding the forces of love; and if the disturbance is in light, we can then help by somehow providing for ourselves, out of the universe, that light which is able to dissolve the darkness within us.
These are the fundamental ways of help, and we see again how everything depends upon the balance of opposites. Light and love are polar opposites and on their being interwoven depend ultimately all the psychic and material processes of our life. Therefore in all the spheres of human life, evolution continues from epoch to epoch with the balance inclining first to one side and then swinging back to the other, so that evolution resembles the surging of waves. This motion of an unstable equilibrium throws light even on the most complex processes of civilisation. Take a period when certain injuries entered into the evolution of mankind because man contemplated only [the] inner and neglected the outer, for example, in the Middle Ages. It was then that through the blossoming of the mystical side, the external remained unheeded and errors occurred not only in knowledge but in action. Then followed the age that was repelled by mysticism, and was attracted by the outer world so as to make the pendulum swing to the opposite side.
Here is the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times and many such disturbances of the balance, manifest in different ways.
In this connection I should like to note that just in such times as our own, a characteristic in many people is that they completely forget, and pay no attention to, that which one may call ‘the consciousness of a super-sensible world.’ They pay no attention whatever to the fact that there is a spiritual world, and they therefore turn away their thoughts from it. In such an age — or in all such ages — there is always in certain respects a counterpart to be found. I should like to show you this in a very simple manner.
When there are people upon the physical plane who are so absorbed in the physical that they completely forget the spiritual, then a contrary tendency appears among those souls who are living in the spiritual world between death and a new birth — a tendency which works over from the physical into the spiritual plane — impelling them to occupy themselves with the influences which act out of the spiritual world into the physical. It is this which brings about in the physical world the intervention by souls who are still in that state before birth. These souls work down into the physical world according to the means which offer and they are able to work indirectly through persons who are more sensitive to such influence from the spiritual world. In order to make this clearer, one must not accept everything that purports to be a revelation from a Spiritual world. We must distinguish the real characteristic cases in which the dead are anxious show in a palpable manner that there is indeed a spiritual world. Because there are so many people completely in the dark, who have woven so much darkness into themselves that they wish to know nothing about the spiritual world, there are, on the other hand, among the dead many who have the impulse to work into the physical world. Such things generally occur when nothing is done deliberately to bring them about on the physical plane and they occur without special preparation.
You will find much proof of these things collected in the book by our friend, Ludwig Deinhard, Das Mysterium des Menschen (The Mystery of Man). Here much has been collected and systematised which is just what one needs, and which in the scientific literature of to-day is so scattered that it is impossible for everyone to gather it together. Therefore it is a good thing to have in this book a collection of these spiritual facts, which, as you now see, are eminently characteristic of one aspect of our age. You will find very aptly described in this book the characteristic fact of an investigator, who by materialistic methods had in his earth life endeavoured to give every possible proof of the spiritual world — I mean the late Frederick Myers — and who after his death was strongly impelled to show to mankind by means of radiations from the spiritual world and by the help of the spiritual world, what he had endeavoured to do when here.
This is intended to illustrate how in the world and in world affairs we see continual disturbances of the balance, and then again the efforts for the restoring of the balance.
This continual disturbance and restoration of the balance between the two elements of light and love is fundamental for us; and in human karma, from incarnation to incarnation, both work to restore the disturbed condition. Karma, working its serpentine way through incarnations is just such a disturbed balance, until man, after all his incarnations, shall at last create the final balance which can be reached upon earth. Having fulfilled his mission on earth, he evolves then into a new planetary form.
I have endeavoured to set forth a few facts, without which a deeper establishment of karmic connections and laws would be impossible. I have not shrunk from touching to-day upon those mysteries for which our modern science will not for a long time be ripe: Matter is in reality woven light, and that which belongs to the soul is in some way or other refined love. These are ancient occult sayings, but they are sayings which will for all time remain true and will prove fruitful for human evolution, not only for knowledge, but also for human work and action.