Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz
Intimate Workings of Karma
9 February 1912, Vienna
There was one point in the lecture yesterday about which I should not like misunderstanding to arise, but a conversation I had today indicated that this might be possible. It is, of course, difficult to formulate in words these matters connected with the more intimate workings of karma, and one point or another may well not be quite clear at the first time of hearing. In the lecture yesterday it was said that we have to regard our sufferings as having been sought out by the wiser being within us in order that certain imperfections may be overcome, and that by bearing these sufferings calmly we may make progress along our path. That, however, was not the point on which misunderstanding might have occurred. It was the other point, namely, that happiness and joy must not be regarded as due to our own merit or individual karma, but deemed a kind of grace whereby we are interwoven with the all-prevailing spirit. Please do not think that the emphasis here lies in the fact that joy comes to us as a mark of favour from the divine-spiritual powers; the emphasis lies in the fact that these experiences are made possible through grace. That is what our attitude must be if we are to reach a true understanding of karma. Happiness and joy are acts of grace. A man who imagines that the happiness and joy in his karma indicate a desire on the part of the gods to single him out and place him above the others will achieve just the opposite. We must never imagine that happiness is allotted to us as a mark of favour or distinction but rather as a reason for feeling that we have been recipients of the grace outpoured by the divine spiritual beings. It is this realisation of grace which makes progress possible; the other attitude would throw us back in our development. Nobody should ever believe that joy comes to him because of special karmic privileges; he should far rather believe that it comes to him because he has no privileges. Joy and happiness should move us to deeds of compassion and mercy, which we shall perform more effectively than if we are suffering the pangs of sorrow. What brings us forward is the realisation that we must make ourselves worthy of grace. There is no justification for the very prevalent view that one whose life abounds in happiness has deserved it. This is the very attitude that must be avoided. Please take this as an indication so that no misunderstanding may arise.
Today we will extend and widen the scope of our studies of karma, and talk about karma and our experiences in the world, so that Spiritual Science may become a real life force within us. Observation of life and its happenings will reveal, to begin with, experiences of two kinds. On the one hand we might say to ourselves: ‘Yes, a misfortune has befallen me, but thinking about it, I can see that it would not have come my way if I had not been careless or negligent.’ This realisation, however, will not always be within the power of ordinary consciousness; many a time we shall find it impossible to see any connection between the misfortune and the circumstances of our present life. With regard to much that befalls us, ordinary consciousness can only conclude that it was pure chance, unconnected with anything else. It will also be possible to make this distinction concerning undertakings which may either be successful or the reverse. In many cases we shall realise that failure was inevitable because of laziness, inattentiveness, or something of the kind, on our part; but in many others we shall be quite unable to discover any connection. It is a useful exercise to take stock of our own experiences and distinguish between things which have failed through no fault of our own, and others which succeed contrary to our expectations. We will try to get to the bottom of these matters, and of events which, on the face of them, seem to be due to pure chance, without any apparent cause, and also things we have done that are seemingly unrelated to our actual faculties. We will now make a close study of all these things.
We will proceed in rather a curious way. As an experiment, we will imagine that we ourselves have willed whatever may have happened to us. Suppose a loose tile from the roof of a house happened to crash down on us. We will picture, purely by way of experiment, that this did not happen by chance, and we will deliberately imagine that we ourselves climbed on that roof, loosened the tile and then ran down so quickly that we arrived just in time to be hit by it! Or, let us say, we caught a chill without any apparent cause; how would it be though, if we had given it to ourselves? Like the unfortunate lady who, being discontented with her lot, exposed herself to a chill, and died of it! In this way, therefore, we will imagine that things otherwise attributable to chance have been deliberately and carefully planned by ourselves. And we will also apply the same procedure to matters which are obviously dependent upon the faculties and qualities we happen to possess. Say some arrangement does not work out as planned. If we miss a train, for example, we shall not blame external circumstances but picture to ourselves that it was due to our own slackness. If we think of it in this way, as an experiment, we shall gradually succeed in creating a kind of being in our imagination, a very extraordinary being, who was responsible for all these things — for a stone having crashed upon us, for some illness, and so forth. We shall realise, of course, that this being is not ourselves; we simply picture such a being vividly and distinctly. And then, after a time, we will have a strange experience with regard to this being. We shall realise that though it is a creature we have only conjured up, yet we cannot free ourselves from him nor from the thought of him, and strange to say he does not stay as he is; he becomes alive and transforms himself within us. And then, when he has gone through this transformation, we get the impression that he really is there within us. And then we become more and more certain that we ourselves have had something to do with the things thus built up in imagination. There is no suggestion whatever that we once actually did them; but such thoughts do, nevertheless, correspond in a certain way with something we have done. We shall tell ourselves: ‘I have done this and that, and I am now having to suffer the consequences.’ This is a very good exercise for unfolding in the life of feeling a kind of memory of earlier incarnations. The soul seems to feel: I myself was there and prepared these things myself.
You will readily understand that it is not easy to awaken the memory of previous incarnations. For just think what mental effort is required to recall something only recently forgotten; genuine mental effort is required. Experiences which occurred in earlier incarnations have sunk into the depths of forgetfulness and much has to be done if they are to be remembered. One such exercise has just been described. In addition to what was said in the public lectures, let it be said here that a man will notice a kind of memory arising in his feeling: in former times you prepared this for yourself!
The principles indicated should not be ignored, for if we follow them we shall find that more and more light will be shed upon life, so that we grow stronger and stronger. Once the feeling has arisen that we ourselves were there and carried out the deeds ourselves we shall have quite a different attitude to events confronting us in the future; our whole life of feeling will be transformed. Whereas formerly we may have experienced fear and all the other similar feelings when something happened to us, we now have a kind of inner memory. And now when something happens, our feeling tells us that it is for a purpose; and that it is a memory of an earlier life. Life becomes much more tranquil and intelligible, and that is what men need, not only those who are sustained by a longing for Anthroposophy, but those too who are outside. It is no excuse to say: How can earlier incarnations matter if we cannot remember them! The right attitude towards earthly existence will certainly awaken memory, only it is a memory belonging to the heart, to the life of feeling, that must be developed, not the kind of memory that is composed of thoughts and concepts.
I considered it important during this particular visit to bring home to you how much can be given practical application, and how Anthroposophy can become actual experience in those who pursue it actively.
Now in addition to what accrued in earlier incarnations other factors are also of importance in a man's karma. We have a life between death and a new birth too, and this is by no means uneventful, it is filled with happenings and experiences. And the consequences of these experiences in the spiritual world appear in our earthly life, but in a peculiar form which often makes us inclined to attribute such occurrences to chance. Nevertheless they can be traced to significant experiences in the spiritual world.
I want to speak to you therefore of something which may seem remote from the first part of the lecture. But you will see that it is important for every human being and that what appear to be chance happenings may be deeply indicative of mysterious connecting threads in life.
I am now going to speak of an historical fact that is not preserved in history books but is in the Akashic Record. To begin with I have to draw your attention to the fact that the souls of all of us here now have been incarnated many times in earthly bodies, among the most diverse conditions of life, in ancient India, Persia, Egypt and Greece; again and again we have experienced different environments and conditions of existence, and there is purpose and meaning in the fact that we pass through one incarnation after another. Our present life could not be as it is if we had not lived through these other conditions. An extraordinary experience fell to the lot of men living in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of our era, for very exceptional conditions broke in upon humanity at that time — roughly speaking not quite seven hundred years ago. Conditions were such that the souls of men were completely shut off from the spiritual world; spiritual darkness prevailed, and it was impossible even for highly developed individuals to achieve direct contact with the spiritual world. In the thirteenth century even those who in earlier incarnations had been initiates were unable to look into the spiritual world. The gates of the spiritual world were closed for a certain period during that century, and although men who in former times had received initiation were able to call up memories of their earlier incarnations, in the thirteenth century they could not themselves gaze into the spiritual worlds. It was necessary for men to live through that condition of darkness, to find the gates to the spiritual world closed against them. Men of high spiritual development were, of course, also in incarnation at that time, but they too were obliged to experience the condition of darkness. When about the middle of the thirteenth century the darkness lifted, strange happenings occurred at a certain place in Europe. The name of this place cannot now be given, but sometime it may be possible to communicate it in a group lecture. Twelve men in Europe of great and outstanding wisdom, whose spiritual development had taken an unusual course, emerged from the condition of twilight that had obscured clairvoyant vision. Of these twelve wise men, seven, to begin with, have to be distinguished from the others. These seven men had retained the memory of their earlier initiations and this memory, together with the knowledge still surviving, was such that the seven men recapitulated in themselves conditions they had once lived through in the period following the Atlantean catastrophe — the ancient Indian epoch of culture. The teachings given by the seven holy Rishis of India had come to life again in the souls of these seven wise men of Europe; seven rays of the ancient wisdom of the sacred Atlantean culture shone forth in the hearts of these seven men who through the operations of world karma had gathered at a certain place in Europe in the thirteenth century and had found one another again. To these seven came four others. In the soul of the first of these four the wisdom belonging to the ancient Indian culture shone forth — he was the eighth among the twelve. The wisdom of the ancient Persian culture lived in the soul of the ninth; the wisdom of the third period — that of Egyptian-Chaldaean culture — lived in the soul of the tenth, and the wisdom of Greco-Roman culture in the soul of the eleventh. The wisdom of the culture as it was in that particular age — contemporary wisdom — lived in the soul of the twelfth. In these twelve men who came together to perform a special mission, the twelve different streams in the spiritual development of mankind were represented. The fact that all possible religions and all possible philosophies belong to twelve basic types is in itself a mystery. Buddhism, Brahmanism, Vedanta philosophy, materialism, or whatever it may be — all of them can be traced to the twelve basic types; it is just a matter of being quite exact. And so all the different streams of man's spiritual life — the religions, the philosophies and world conceptions that are spread over the earth — were united in that council of the twelve. 56all possible religions and all possible philosophies belong to twelve basic types: see Rudolf Steiner's ‘Human and Cosmic Thought’, 4 lectures Berlin, January 1914; Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1967.
After the period of darkness had passed and spiritual achievement was possible again, a thirteenth came in remarkable circumstances to the twelve. I am telling you now of one of those events which take place secretly in the evolution of mankind once and once only. They cannot occur a second time and are mentioned not as an indication that efforts should be made to repeat them but for quite other reasons. When the darkness had lifted and it was possible to develop clairvoyant vision again, the coming of the thirteenth was announced in a mysterious way to the twelve wise men. They knew that the time had come when a child with significant and remarkable incarnations behind him was to be born. Above all they knew that one of his incarnations had been at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. It was known, therefore, that one who had been a contemporary of the events in Palestine was returning. And the birth of the child in these unusual circumstances during the thirteenth century could not have been said to be that of a person of renown. In speaking of previous lives there is a deplorable and only too widespread tendency to refer back to important historical personages. I have come across all kinds of people who believe that they were incarnated as some historical personage or figure in the Gospels. Quite recently a lady informed me that she had been Mary Magdelene, and I could only reply that she was the twenty-fourth Mary Magdelene I had met in my life. In these matters the greatest care must be taken to prevent fantastic notions arising.
History tells us very little about the incarnations of the thirteenth. He was born many times with great and profound qualities of heart. It was known that this individuality was to be born again as a child and that he was destined for a very special mission. This knowledge was revealed to the twelve seers who took the child entirely into their charge and were able to arrange that from the very beginning he was shut off from the outside world. He was removed from his family and cared for by these twelve men. Guided by their clairvoyance they reared the child with every care in such a way that all the forces acquired from previous incarnations were able to unfold in him. A kind of intuitive perception of this occurrence has arisen in men who know something of the history of spiritual life. Goethe's poem The Mysteries 57see note 29. has been recited to us many times. Out of a deep, intuitive perception Goethe speaks in that poem of the council of the twelve, and he has been able to convey to us the mood of heart and feeling in which they lived. The thirteenth is not brother Mark but the child of whom I have been telling you, and who almost immediately after his birth was taken into the care of the twelve and brought up by them until the age of early manhood. The child developed in a strange and remarkable way. The twelve were not in any sense fanatics; they were full of inner composure, enlightenment and peace of heart. How does a fanatic behave? He wants to convert people as quickly as possible; while they, as a rule, do not want to be converted. Everybody is expected immediately to believe what the fanatic wants them to believe and he is angry when this does not happen. In our day, when someone sets out to expound a particular subject, people simply do not believe that his aim may be not to voice his own views but something quite different, that is, the thoughts and opinions of the one of whom he is writing. For many years I was held to be a follower of Nietzsche 58Nietzsche because I once wrote an absolutely objective book about him: ‘Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom’, Rudolf Steiner Publications, New Jersey, 1960. because I once wrote an absolutely objective book about him. People simply cannot understand that the aim of a writer may be to give an objective exposition. They think that everyone must be a fanatic on the subject of which he happens to be speaking.
The twelve in the thirteenth century were far from being fanatics, and they were very sparing with oral teaching. But because they lived in communion with the boy, twelve rays of light as it were went out from them into him and were resolved in his soul into one great harmony. It would not have been possible to give him any kind of academic examination; nevertheless there lived within him, transmuted into feeling and sensitive perception, all that the twelve representatives of the twelve different types of religion poured into his soul. His whole soul reflected the harmony of the twelve different forms of belief spread over the earth.
In this way the soul of the boy had to bear a great deal, and consequently it worked in a strange way upon the body. And it is precisely for this reason that the process of which I am telling you now may not be repeated: it could only be enacted at that particular time. Strange to say, as the harmony within the boy's soul increased, his body became more delicate — more and more delicate, until at a certain age it was transparent in every limb. The boy ate less and less until he finally took no nourishment at all. Then he lay for days in a condition of complete torpor: the soul had left the body, and returned into it again after a few days. The youth was now inwardly quite changed. The twelve different rays of human outlook were united in one single radiance, and he gave utterance to the greatest, most wonderful secrets; he did not repeat what the first, or the second, or the third had said, but gave forth in a new and wonderful synthesis all that they would have said had they spoken in unison; all the knowledge they possessed was gathered into one whole, and when he uttered it, it was as though this new wisdom had just come to birth in him. It was as though a higher spirit were speaking in him. Something entirely and essentially new was thus imparted to the twelve wise men. Wisdom in abundance was imparted to them; and to each, individually, greater illumination concerning what had been known to him hitherto.
I have been describing to you the first school of Christian Rosenkreutz, for the thirteenth is the individuality known to us by that name. In that incarnation he died after only a brief earthly existence; in the fourteenth century he was born again and lived then for more than a hundred years. All those things again appeared in him that had developed in him in the thirteenth century. Then his life had been brief, but in the fourteenth century it was very long. During the first half of this later incarnation he went on great journeys in search of the different centres of culture in Europe, Africa and Asia, in order to gather knowledge of what had come to life in him during the previous century; then he returned to Europe. A few of those who had brought him up in the thirteenth century were again in incarnation and were joined by others. This was the time of the inauguration of the rosicrucian stream of spiritual life. And Christian Rosenkreutz himself incarnated again and again.
To this very day he is at work — during the brief intervals, too, when he is not actually in incarnation; through his higher bodies he then works spiritually into human beings, without the need of spatial contact. We must try to picture the mysterious way in which his influence operates.
And I want to begin here by giving an example. Those who participate consciously in the occult life of the spirit had a strange experience from the eighties on into the nineties of the previous century; they became aware of certain influences emanating from a remarkable personality (I am only mentioning one case among many). There was, however, something not quite harmonious about these influences. Anyone who is sensitive to influences from contemporaries living a great distance away, would, at that time, have been aware of something raying out from a certain personality, which was not altogether harmonious. When the new century dawned, however, these influences became harmonious. What had happened? I will tell you the reason for this.
On the 12th August 1900 Soloviev had died — a man far too little appreciated or understood. The influences of his ether body radiated far and wide, but although Soloviev was a great philosopher, in his case the development of the soul was in advance of that of the head, the intellect; he was a great and splendid thinker, but his conscious philosophy was of far less significance than that which he bore in his soul. Up to the time of his death the head was a hindering factor and so, as an occult influence, he had an inharmonious effect. But when he was dead and the ether body, separated from the brain, rayed out in the ether world, he was liberated from the restrictions caused by his thinking, and the rays of his influence shone out with wonderful brilliance and power.
People may ask: How can such knowledge really concern us? This very question is an illusion, for the human being is through and through a product of the spiritual processes around him; and when certain occultists become aware of the reality of these processes, that is because they actually see them. But spiritual processes operate too in those others who do not see. Everything in the spiritual world is interconnected. Whatever influence may radiate from a highly developed Frenchman or Russian is felt not only on their own native soil, but their thought and influence has an effect over the whole earth. Everything that happens in the spiritual world has an influence on us, and only when we realise that the soul lives in the spiritual world just as the lung within the air, shall we have the right attitude.
The forces in the ether bodies of highly developed individualities stream out and have a potent effect upon other human beings. So too, the ether body of Christian Rosenkreutz works far and wide in the world. And reference must be made here to a fact that is of the greatest significance to many people; it is something that transpires in the spiritual world between death and a new birth and is not to be ascribed to chance.
Christian Rosenkreutz has always made use of the short intervals of time between his incarnations to call into his particular stream of spiritual life those souls whom he knows to be ripe; between his deaths and births he has concerned himself as it were with choosing those who are ready to enter his stream. But human beings themselves, by learning to be attentive, must be able to recognise by what means Christian Rosenkreutz gives them a sign showing them that they may count themselves among his chosen. This sign has been given in the lives of very many human beings of the present time, but they pay no heed to it. Yet among the apparently chance happenings in a man's life, there is for many people one in particular that is to be regarded as an indication that between death and a new birth Christian Rosenkreutz has found him mature and ready; the sign is given by Christian Rosenkreutz on the physical plane, however. This event may be called the mark of Christian Rosenkreutz. Let us suppose a man is lying in bed — in other places I have mentioned different forms of such a happening, but all of them have occurred — for some unaccountable reason he suddenly wakes up and, as though guided by instinct, looks at a wall that is usually quite dark. The room is dimly lit, the wall is dark, when suddenly he sees written on the wall: ‘Get up at once!’ It all seems very strange, but he gets up and leaves the house, and hardly has he done so when the ceiling over his bed collapses; although nobody else would have been in danger of getting hurt, he himself would inevitably have been killed. The most thorough investigation proves that nobody on the physical plane warned him to get up. If he had remained lying there he would certainly have been killed.
Such an experience may be thought to be an hallucination or something of the kind; but deeper investigation will reveal that these particular experiences — and they come to hundreds of people — are not accidental. A beckoning call has come from Christian Rosenkreutz. The karma of the one called in this way always indicates that Christian Rosenkreutz bestows the life he may claim. I say explicitly: such occurrences occur in the lives of many people at the present time, and it is only a question of being alert. The occurrence does not always take such a dramatic form as the example quoted, but numbers of human beings nowadays have had such experiences. Now when I say something more than once during a lecture, I do so quite deliberately, because I find that strange conclusions are apt to be drawn from things that are half or totally forgotten. I am saying this because nobody need be discouraged who has had no such experience; this might not be the case, for if he searches he will certainly find something of the kind in his life. Naturally I can only single out a typical example. Here then we have in our life a fact of which we may say that its cause does not lie in the period of actual incarnation; we may have met Christian Rosenkreutz in the spiritual world. I have laid particular stress on this outstanding event of the call. Other events, too, could be mentioned, events connected directly with the spiritual world that occur during the life between death and a new birth; but in our spiritual context this particular event should be of special significance for us as it is so intimately connected with our spiritual movement.
Such a happening surely indicates that we must develop quite a different attitude if we want to have a clear vision of what actually plays into life. Most human beings rush hectically through life and are not thoughtful and attentive; many people say that one should not brood but engage in a life of action. But how much better it would be if precipitate deeds were left undone and people were to brood a little their deeds, then, would be far more mature! If only the beckoning call were heeded with composure and attentiveness. Often it only seems as if we were brooding. It is precisely through quiet composure that strength comes to us — and then we shall follow when karma calls, understanding, too, when it is calling. These are the things I wanted to call your attention to today, for they do indeed make life more intelligible.
I have told you of the strange event in the thirteenth century, purely in the form of historical narrative, in order to indicate those things which men must heed if they are to find their proper place in life and understand the beckoning call of Christian Rosenkreutz. To make this possible the preparation by the twelve and the coming of the thirteenth were necessary. And the event in the thirteenth century was necessary in order that in our own time and hereafter such a beckoning or other sign may be understood and obeyed.
Christian Rosenkreutz has created this sign in order to rouse the attention of men to the needs of the times, to indicate to them that they belong to him and may dedicate their lives to him in the service of the progress of humanity.