Course V - Lecture I
What Does the Modern Human Being Find in Theosophy?
The theosophical world view is for those who need a more solid foundation of their concepts and ideas with regard to the super-sensible world, and for those who strive for such a more profound foundation of the knowledge of soul and mind. Those are really not few in our time.
We see that the cultural scholars made every effort for a long time to investigate the origin of the religions. They search for the origin of the religions with primitive tribes, with the so-called original peoples to recognise how the religious images have developed in the course of time. In these religious images that is included basically which ideas the human being made to himself in the different epochs, ideas of the super-sensible, psychic and spiritual worlds. There we see that — on the one side — the researchers make every effort to trace all religions back to nature worship originating in the simple, childish, naive human beings. On the other side, we see other researchers tracing back the origin of the religions to the fact that the simple, naive human being sees his fellow man stopping to live stopping to breathe, sees him dying, and that he cannot imagine that nothing more should remain. We see that he forms the idea — on account of his different experiences of the super-sensible world, of his dreams, of his spiritual experiences which the primitive human being has to a greater extent than the civilised one — that the forefather, the deceased ancestor, is still there, actually, that he is effective as a soul, holding his hand protectively over his descendants and the like.
So some researchers trace the origin of religions back to the ancestor worship, to the soul cult. We could still state a lot of other similar researches which should teach how religion came into the world. The human being tries to get a solid support for the question: are our images of a life after death, of a yonder realm which is not enclosed within the sensory world, how are our images of an eternal life solidly founded? How does the human being get to such images? — This is one kind how the human being tries today to found these ideas of the super-sensible.
The theosophical world view is not eager to offer this foundation to the present humankind. Whereas the cultural studies come back to the experience of the primitive, simple, naive, childish human being, the theosophical world view asks rather for the religious experience of the most perfect human being, of that who has come to a higher level of the spiritual view what he can develop as his view, as his experience of the super-sensible world. What the human being who has developed his inner life, who has got certain forces, certain abilities which are not yet accessible to the average person of today what such a human being is able to experience of the higher world is the basis of the theosophical world view. It is this higher experience which goes beyond the sensory one, which rests on the so-called self-knowledge of the soul and the mind, and forms the basis of the theosophical world view. What is this higher experience? What does it mean to experience something of the spiritual and astral worlds? Most of the human beings of today understand that fairly hard. This was not the case in former times. Today, however, the human being has moved with his experience to the sensuous world, the world of the external phenomena. In this world of the external phenomena the modern human being is at home. He asks how does this appear to the eye, how does that feel to the touching hand how can one understand this or that with the reason. He only sees the world of the external phenomena. Thus this world of the sensory experience lies before him openly.
Let us have a look once at that which this sensory experience can give us. We want to understand how this sensory experience faces us. We look at something that belongs to these external phenomena. We look at any being, at any thing of the world. We can show that all these things of the world have come into being once; they formed and were not there once. They were built up either by nature or by human hand, and after some time they will have disappeared. This is the quality of all things which belong to the external experience that they come into being and pass. We can say this not only of the lifeless things; we can say this also of all living things, also of the human being. He comes into being and passes if we look at him as an external phenomenon. We can say the same about whole nations. You need only to throw a glance at the world history and you see how peoples which have been setting the tone for centuries which have done big, tremendous actions disappeared from the world history, for example, the Ostrogoths and Visigoths. We move on from there to the phenomena which one calls human creations, to that which is regarded as the highest and most marvellous human performances. If we look at a work of Michelangelo or of Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio), or to something other, to a significant work of technology, you have to say to yourselves: such a work remains for centuries or millennia; and may the human eyes feel contented at the sight of the works of Raphael or Michelangelo, may human hearts be delighted at the sight of such works — but you cannot ignore the thought that that which appears here as an external phenomenon perishes once and disappears in the dust. Nothing remains of the external appearance. Yes, we can still go on. Natural sciences teach us today that our earth that our sun originated in a particular point of the cosmic evolution and the physicist already states that one can almost calculate when that point in time must have happened at which our earth has arrived at the end of its development at which it goes to a state of inflexibility, so that it cannot continue its development. Then the end of the external appearance has come. Then everything sense-perceptible has disappeared. Thus you can study the whole realm of external forms, of external phenomena — you find everywhere in this world: coming into being and passing; or if we go to the realm of the living beings: birth and death. Birth and death hold sway in the realm of the forms, in that realm which is accessible to the sensory experience.
We ask ourselves: is this realm the only one which is to us? We ask ourselves: is the realm, in which birth and death hold sway continually, the only one which is accessible to the human beings? For somebody who only accepts the sensory view who wants to know nothing about self-knowledge of the mind, of abilities which exceed the mere consideration of forms, the consideration of the external phenomena to him it may probably appear in such a way, as if everything is contained in the appearing and disappearing phenomena, in the processes of originating and passing, in birth and death. You can also not get to a higher view if you consider nature and spirit as you gain the external experience. You cannot go far beyond birth and death in the same way, by means of the senses.
You need to become absorbed in higher mental abilities; not in abnormal mental abilities which only particular people have, no, only in those soul forces which are beneath the external superficial layer. If anybody transports himself into that soul region, he is able to obtain another view about the things and beings with deeper consideration. Look at the simplest one: the plant life. There you see birth and death perpetually changing. You see a lily originating from the germ and you see the lily disappearing again, after it has delighted your eye some time and has pleased your heart. If you do no longer see with the eye of your body, but with the eye of your mind, you see even more. You see the lily developing from the germ and becoming a germ after its development again. Then a new lily comes into being which produces a germ again. Look at a seed; there you see how in this world a form comes into being and passes, but any figure already contains the seed and the germ of a new figure. This is the nature of the living; this is the nature of that which one calls force which exceeds the mere form and the mere figure.
There we come to a new realm which we can see only with the eyes of the mind which is as absolutely true for the eye of the mind as the external form for the bodily eye. The forms originate and pass; what appears, however, again and again what is there with every new figure time and again is life itself. For you cannot seize life rationally with natural sciences, with external observation rationally. However, you can see it flowing through the originating and passing figures with your spiritual eye. Which is the character of life? It appears time and again. As well as birth and death are the qualities of the external phenomena and forms, rebirth and perpetual renewal are the qualities of life. The form which we call alive has enclosed in itself the force, the same force which is able to let come into being a new figure in a new birth instead of the old one. Rebirth and once more rebirth is the being, the typical in the realm of the living beings as birth and death is the typical in the realm of the forms, the external figures. If we ascend to the human being if the human being considers himself, takes a look at his soul, then he finds that something exists in him that represents a higher level than life which we have seen with the plant; that this life must have, however, the same quality like the life in the plant, going from figure to figure.
We have said that it is the force which allows the new figure to be reborn from the old one. Look at the little seed; its external appearance is insignificant. What you cannot see, however, is the force, and this force, not the external appearance, is the creator of the new plant. The new lily comes from the insignificant seed because the force of the new lily slumbers in the seed. If you look at a seed, you see something externally insignificant, and of the way, as it has formed life, you can make an idea of the force to yourselves. If you see, however, in your own soul with your spiritual eye, then you are able to perceive the force in yourselves with which this soul works, with which this soul is active in the world of forms.
Which are the forces of the soul? These forces which cannot be compared at all with other forces, but are on a higher level and are not immediately identical to the life-force of the plant, these forces are sympathy and antipathy. The soul is thereby active in life and does actions. Why do I carry out an action? Because any sympathy located in my soul drives me. Why do I feel revulsion? Because I feel a force in myself which one can call antipathy.
If you try to understand this perpetually surging soul-life by means of internal observation, you find these two forces in the soul again and again and you can attribute them to sympathy and antipathy. That must induce the thoughtful soul observer to ask: what about it? Which forces must exist in the soul? — If you asked: where from has the lily originated — and you would say: this lily has originated from nothing, then one did not imagine that it has come from the seed in which already the force was put by the former plant; then one did not assume that from the seed a new figure could originate. The new figure owes its existence to the old, dead figure which has left behind nothing but the force of the creation of a new one. As we never understand how a lily comes into being if not another lily releases the forces to the creation of a new lily, just as little we can understand how the surging soul-life which consists of sympathy and antipathy could be there if we did not want to trace it back to the origin. Just as we must be aware of the question that every plant and its figure must be traced back to a preceding one, we must also realise that the force cannot have originated from nothing.
Just as little the force of the lily can disappear into nothing, just as little the force of the soul can disappear into nothing. It must find its effect, its further shaping in the external reality. We find rebirth in the realm of life, we also find it — considering our soul intimately — in the psychic realm. We only need to pay attention to these thoughts in the right way. We only need to imagine that infinite consequence, and we can easily move from the thought of rebirth or reincarnation on the force which must enliven the soul, without which the soul cannot be thought at all, if one does not want to imagine that a soul has originated from nothing and disappears into nothing.
With it we also come in the psychic life to reincarnation, and we only need to ask ourselves: how must reincarnation be in the psychic life? — The matter here is that you do not keep to the sensory view, but that you develop the view of the spiritual life in yourselves to understand the perpetual change of the figures in connection with the unchanging life. There you only need to take a great German spirit, then you will get an idea how you can look with the spiritual eye at the life flowing from figure to figure. There you only need to take Goethe’s scientific writings, which are written so gracefully, where you have lively considerations of life seen with the spiritual eye and you will recognise how one has to look at life.
If you transfer these considerations to the view of the soul-life, you are led to the fact that our sympathies and antipathies have developed that they have arisen from a germ, as well as the plant has come from a germ with regard to its figure. This is the first primitive mental picture that forms the basis of a main thought of the theosophical world view, the idea of the reincarnation of the psychic life. What we ask from the point of view of the thoughtful reflection is: how have we to imagine the intricate soul-life if we do not want to believe in the reincarnation of the soul? — One may argue: certainly, it would be a psychic miracle; it would be a psychic superstition if I had to admit that my soul-life has originated all at once, and that it has to have its effect, too. One could argue: yes, but the preceding figure of the soul does not need to have been on our earth, and its effect also does not need to be anywhere on this earth. — However, also there you can overcome the apparent cliff with some thoughtful reflection. The soul enters the world; the soul has a sum of dispositions, these are developed and have not originated from nothing. As little the psychic from the physical, as little anything psychic has originated from the material as little an earthworm has come into being from mud. As well as life comes into being only from something living, the soul can have originated only from something psychic.
The origin of the soul must be on our earth. If its abilities came from distant worlds, they would not fit into our world, and then the soul would be not adapted to the life of the world of appearance. As well as any being is adapted to its surroundings, the developing soul is adapted directly to its surroundings. Hence, you have not to search for the preconditions of the present soul-life anywhere in an unknown world, but in this world first of all. With it we have conceived the thought of reincarnation.
Thus everybody can get the idea of the reincarnation of the soul only using pure thoughtful reflection if he wants to become engrossed really. This has forced all the excellent spirits, who understood the living nature, to the idea of transmigration in this sense, in the sense of transmigration from form to form, a transmigration which we call reincarnation, reincarnation or re-embodiment.
I still want to refer to one of the most excellent spirits of the newer time, to Giordano Bruno who expressed the reincarnation of the soul as his creed considering the human being. Bruno died a martyr’s death because he agreed openly as the first to the father of modern natural sciences, Copernicus. Thus you admit that he knew to assess the external figure in its sensory appearance. However, he understood even more. He knew how to look at life flowing from figure to figure, and that is why he was led to the idea of reincarnation by itself.
If we go on, we find this teaching of reincarnation with Lessing in his Education of the Human Race. We find it touched also with Herder. We find it indicated in various forms with Goethe even if Goethe did not express himself very clearly in his careful kind. Jean Paul and countless other writers could still be mentioned. What these modern spirits induced, on whom our whole cultural life is dependent who also have influenced the most important conceptions, is not only the endeavour to satisfy the human being, but that, above all, an image is created by this teaching which makes the world explanation only possible. The soul incarnates perpetually. Sympathy and antipathy have been there and will always be there. The theosophical world view has to tell this about the soul.
We return now to our starting point. We have seen that figure transforms to figure, form to form in our sensory world that everything emerges and disappears, is birth and death. We have seen that also the most wonderful works which are created pass. If we ask ourselves, however: is only the work involved in the work? Is with the creation of Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio) or Michelangelo or with the simplest, primitive human creations, is nothing else involved there than this work? — Nevertheless, we have to distinguish the work and the activity which the human being has used, the activity which any being has used to achieve a work or something that can be called a creation. The work is given away to the external world of the figures and forms, and in this external form the work is subjected to the destiny of these external figures, to emergence and disappearance.
But the activity which takes place in the being itself, that which took place in the souls of Raphael or Michelangelo in those days when they created their works, this activity is also that which the soul, so to speak, draws back again in its own being. This is the activity which did not flow out into the work. As well as a seal impression remains in the seal, this activity remained in the soul; and with it we get to something that remains in the soul not only for a short time, but that remains as something imperishable in the soul. If we look at Michelangelo some time later, has his activity passed him without a trace?
No! This activity has increased his internal abilities, and he moves up to a new work, he creates not only with that which was before in him, but he creates with the help of that force which has only originated from his activity in former works. His forces are raised, are consolidated, have been enriched on account of his first activity. Thus the activity of the soul creates new abilities which transform again in the work, take action again, withdraw again into the soul and give forces to a new activity. No activity of the soul can get lost. What the soul develops as an activity is always the origin, the cause of a rise of the soul being, of developing a new activity.
This is the activity and life of the soul, this is the imperishable, and this is really formative force, this is not only a figure, not only life, this is a creative force. With my activity I create not only the work, but I cause a new activity, and I always create a new activity through the preceding one.
This forms the basis of all great world views. In a very nice way an old Indian writing tells how one has to imagine this activity inside of a being. It tells how all figures disappear in an endless world of figures how birth and death hold sway in the external world of the forms how the soul is born repeatedly. But even if lily on lily comes into being, a time comes when no new lily originates, a time comes when the soul does no longer live in sympathy or antipathy. The living is born time and again; what does not stop, however, is the activity which always increases which is imperishable.
This third level of existence, the always increasing activity, is characterised by the fact that it does not belong to the transient or to the constantly creative. On the first level our figure is a sensuous being, it is a being born repeatedly as a soul, and it is an imperishable higher being as spirit. The consideration of the spirit itself and its demands shows us that sympathy and antipathy must originate and also pass, even if their time of existence is much longer than that of the external figure. What does the spirit demand from the human being if he immerses himself in this spirit?
This spirit has the quality to remind us energetically and strongly time and again that it can never be content with the soul only, with sympathy and antipathy. This spirit says to us that the one sympathy is justified the other is not. This spirit is the guide of our soul activity. We have the task if we want to develop as human beings to arrange our sympathy and antipathy according to the demands of the cultural life, which should lead us to the heights of development. With it the spirit has the control over the world of mere sympathy and antipathy from the start, over the mere psychic. If the spirit overcomes the world of the unjustified lower sympathy and antipathy again and again, the soul ascends to the spirit. There are initial states of the soul; then it is involved in the figures of the external reality. At that time its sympathy went to external forms. But the higher developed soul listens to the demand of the spirit, and the soul develops from the tendency to the sensuous to the sympathy for the spirit that way.
You can still pursue that in other way. The soul is a demanding being at first. The soul is fulfilled with sympathy and antipathy, with the world of desire. However, the spirit shows the soul after some time that it is not allowed to demand only. If the soul has overcome the desire by the decision of the spirit, it is not inactive, and then love flows from the soul just as desire flows from the undeveloped soul. Desire and love are the opposite forces between which the soul develops. The soul which still clings to sensuousness and external appearance is the demanding soul; the soul which develops its relationship to and harmony with the spirit is that which loves. This leads the soul in its run from reincarnation to reincarnation that it turns from a desiring soul to a loving soul that its works become works of love.
We have shown the third form of the feelings, and we have represented the basic qualities of the spirit at the same time, have shown its effectiveness in the human being and have shown that it is the great educator of the soul from desire to love, and that it pulls up the soul to itself like with magnetic forces. On the one side, we see the world of the figures and forms, on the other side, the world of the imperishable spirit, and both associated with the world of the psychic. In this discussion I have merely taken a thoughtful self-reflection into consideration which every human being — if he finds the necessary rest in himself and is involved not only in external observation — can see with the eye of the spirit. Somebody, however, who has developed the higher spiritual abilities in himself, an occultist, learns something else. He knows not only how to reach these three worlds with the apt consideration, but he has a view of life and spirit, just as the external eye has a view of the external sensory reality.
As the eye distinguishes light and darkness, as the eye distinguishes different colours, the spiritual, the developed, open eye of the occultist distinguishes the higher, brilliant light of the spirit which is no sensory light which is a brighter shining light in higher worlds, in higher spheres, and this radiant light of the spirit is for the occultist also reality as our sunlight is reality for our view. We see that the sunlight is reflected at single things. In the same way the occultist distinguishes the self-illuminating spirit from the peculiar glimmering of the light, which is reflected by the world of figures, as psychic flame. The soul is reflected light of the spirit, spirit is radiating creative light.
These three fields are the spiritual world, the soul-world and the world of figures, because they appear to the occultist that way. Not only are the fields of existence different. — The external figure is for the occultist the emptiness, the darkness, what is basically nothing, and the great, only reality is the sublime, shining light of the spirit. What we feel as a brilliant light, what is put around the figures is the world of the psychic which is born again and again, until it is got by the spirit, until this has completely moved it up to itself and joins with it. This spirit appears in manifold figure in the world, but the figure is the external expression of the spirit only. We have recognised the spirit in its activity, in its always increasing activity, and we have called this activity karma.
What is now the really important
and typical aspect of this activity of the spirit? This spirit cannot remain
unaffected in its activity by the action which it has done once on the level
which it had then. I would like to make clear to you how this activity of the
spirit must have its effect. Imagine the following: you have a vessel with water
before yourselves and you throw a warm metal ball into this vessel. This ball
heats up the water; this is the work of the ball. However, the ball itself has
experienced a change while it caused a change.
That leads us to recognise that — as the great mystic Jacob Böhme says — on any action a sign is imprinted that cannot be taken away from it from now on, only if a new action takes place, so that the old imprint is replaced with a new one. This is the karma which the individual human being experiences. While the soul progresses from rebirth to rebirth, the imprints of its actions remain on it, the signature which it has attained during the actions, and a new experience only results from old experiences. This is the strict teaching of karma developing the concepts of cause and effect which the theosophical world view represents. I am the result of my former actions, and my present actions have their effects in future experiences. With it you have the law of karma. Somebody who wants to consider himself in his actions completely as a spirit must consider himself in this sense, he has to realise that any action has an effect that there is also the law of cause and effect in the moral world as it is in the external sensory world of forms.
These are the three basic laws of the theosophical world view: birth and death hold sway only in the world of forms, reincarnation holds sway in the world of life, and karma, or the perpetually forming and increasing activity, holds sway in the realm of spirit. The form is transient, life bears itself over and over again, and however, the spirit is eternal.
These are the three basic laws of the theosophical world view, and with it you have also received everything that the theosophical world view can introduce in the human life. The spirit educates the desiring soul to love. The spirit is felt by all within the human nature if this human nature is engrossed in its inside. The single figure is only interested in that which belongs to it as a single figure. Hence, this single figure works only for itself, and this working for itself is working in selfishness, is working in egoism. This egoism is all over the world of figures, of the external forms, the principal law. But the soul does not consist only of the single figure; it goes from figure to figure. It is longing for perpetually returning to a new birth. However, the spirit makes every effort to develop the perpetually transforming higher and higher, to form it from the imperfect to the perfect figure. Thus the soul leads in its desire from birth to birth, the spirit educating the soul leads from the undivine to the divine; for the divine is nothing else than the perfect to which the spirit educates the soul.
The education of the soul by the spirit from the undivine to the divine, this is the theosophical world consideration. Thus you also have the ethics of the theosophical world view. As well as the spirit cannot avoid educating the soul to love and to transform desire into love, the theosophical world view has as its first principle to found a human community which is built on love. The moral philosophy of the theosophical world view has got to harmony with the eternal laws of the spirit that way. Nothing else than what the spirit has to recognise as its innermost being, the transformation of desire into love, has led to the foundation of the Theosophical Society encompassing the whole humankind with the soul-fire of love. This ethical world view illuminates the theosophical movement.
We ask ourselves now: does the modern human being find his satisfaction in this world view? — The modern human being is used to no longer believe in external traditions, in external observation and in any authority. The human being rather develops in such a way that he looks for a world view which satisfies his thoughts which satisfies the self-knowledge of his mind. If the modern human being is eager to attain this self-knowledge, then there is for him nothing else than this theosophical view which excludes no confession basically, however, encloses everything. Because this theosophical view really offers to the soul what it looks for. The soul continually puts questions about the human destiny and his dissimilarity to itself. Can a thoughtful soul endure that on one side innocent human beings live in bitterness and misery, and on the other side, people live apparently in happiness who do not deserve it? This is the big question which the human soul has to put to destiny. As long as we consider life only between birth and death, we never find an answer to this riddle.
We never find consolation for the soul. If we look, however, at the law of karma, we know that any bitterness, any misery is the result of causes which were there in former lives. Then we say on one side: what the soul experiences today as its destiny is the effect of former experiences. This cannot be anything else. Consolation becomes this explanation immediately when we look at the future because we say: somebody who experiences something painful or bitterness and grief today can complain of his destiny not only, but he has to say to himself: bitterness, heartache have effect on the future. What is your pain today is for your future life in such a way as the pain of a child if it falls: it learns to go. Thus any grief is the cause of a rise of the soul-life, and the soul finds consolation immediately if it says to itself: nothing is without effect. The life which I experience today must bear its fruit for the future.
I want to mention another phenomenon, the conscience. This phenomenon is inexplicable at first. It becomes immediately clear to us if we look at its development. If we know that every soul shows a particular level of development, then we admit that the urge for figure lives in the undeveloped soul. However, if the spirit has drawn the soul to itself, has united more and more with it, the spirit speaks at any moment of sympathy and antipathy. The human being hears the spirit speaking from his soul; he perceives this as the voice of conscience. This conscience can appear only on a particular level of the human development. We never see the voice of conscience with primitive peoples. Later when the soul has gone through different personalities, the mind speaks to the soul.
These are the main concepts of the theosophical world view, and you have seen how clear this view is for that world of the external forms. Yes, we would never understand this world of forms if we did not understand them from our mind. However, somebody who lives only in the external figure who can be carried away in the world of forms is on the level of the transient, is on that level where he develops selfishness and egoism because our external form only has interest in the form.
But he develops out of selfishness because the spirit becomes more and more speaking. However, we only recognise this spirit, which is the same in any human being, if we bring ourselves to consider the eternally imperishable, the innermost core of the human being. We recognise the human being only in his innermost being if we get to his spirit. If we recognise the innermost core of the human being, we recognise the spirit in ourselves. However, only that who regards the other human being as a brother understands the spirit in the other human being; he understands him only if he completely appreciates brotherliness.
That is why the theosophical movement calls brotherliness the ideal which the spiritual development of humankind wants to achieve under the influence of this world view.
Dear audience, the modern human being finds this in the theosophical movement. Because this movement offers to the modern human being what he looks for, it has spread in the course of 29 years over all the countries of the earth. We find it in India, Australia, America, in all countries of Western Europe. It is to be found everywhere because it brings clear conceptions to this modern human being. Theosophy offers this to the modern human being. It is something that the modern human being looks for, it is something that the modern human being feels, something that any human being has felt clearly who knew how to look with thoughtful look at nature and human life and found what applies itself to this view of the spirit and impresses that which gives satisfaction, consolation, courage and life.
It is the view that the transient that birth and death are not the only one, but that in this transient, passing creative life of the external being the inner being of the spirit enjoys life. Then we safely look at the past and full of courage at the future if this view has become our conviction. Then we say from the deepest soul full of consolation and courage what the poet expressed by full conviction: