Manifestations of Karma


Karmic Effects of Our Experiences as Men and Women.
Death and Birth in Relation to Karma

As I have several times pointed out, the great karmic laws can be here only briefly referred to, so that your interest in this almost infinite domain shall be awakened. If you reflect upon all that has been said within the last days, you will no longer be astonished at the idea that man is urged to seek in the external world for compensating effects of karmic causes which he himself has incorporated within his organism. He may, for instance, be driven to a place where he will encounter an infection which will offer him the compensation sought for, or he may even be driven by this need for compensation to what might be termed a ‘fatal accident.’

How does it affect the karmic course, if through some kind of measures we are able to prevent the person from seeking this adjustment?

Let us suppose that by certain hygienic measures we render impossible certain causes, certain maladies towards which the karma of a person draws him. We have already shown that the taking of such measures in no wise rests with him. We have seen, for instance, that in a certain period a need for hygiene is felt simply because this inclination that had disappeared in earlier periods, reappears by its reversed repetition in evolution. From this we see that it is in accordance with the great laws of human karma that we at definite periods adopt this or that measure. But it is easy to understand why such measures were not found before our epoch, for humanity in an earlier epoch was in need of such epidemics from which the world is now delivered by these measures. With regard to the great plans of life, human evolution is subject to definite laws, and we are not in a position to adopt such measures until they will be of significance and utility for the whole of human evolution. For these measures do not spring from the fully conscious life, from the rational life, between birth and death, but they spring rather from the general mind of humanity, so we need only remember that when mankind is ripe for it, and not before, these discoveries will make their appearance. A brief summary of the history of human evolution upon earth may prove useful.

Let us not forget that our ancestors — that is to say our own souls — dwelt upon the Atlantean continent in bodies quite different from the present human body. This continent was then submerged and it was only after a definite period that the inhabitants upon the one half of the earth which had emerged were brought into contact with these on the other half. It is only recently that the peoples of Europe have been able again to reach those territories that had emerged on the other side of the submerged Atlantean continent. Indeed, such matters are ordered by great laws. The discovery of one thing or another, the adoption of measures which make it possible to intervene in the realm of karma — these things are not dependent upon the caprice or the will of mankind, but they arrive when they are due to arrive.  Notwithstanding this, we can influence a person's karma by removing certain causes which would otherwise have existed, and which would have come to him as a karmic fulfilment. This ‘influencing’ does not mean that we have removed it, but merely that we have changed its direction. Let us suppose that a certain number of people are impelled by karma to seek for certain conditions which would represent to them a karmic compensation. Through hygienic measures these conditions have been removed and can no longer be met. These persons, however, will not be liberated from the karmic effect evoked by their inner being, but rather are they urged to seek other effects. Man cannot escape his karma. Through such measures he is not freed from that which he would otherwise have sought.

From this we may conclude that if the karmic reparation is escaped in one direction, it will have to be sought in another. When we abolish certain influences, we merely create the necessity of seeking other opportunities and influences. Let us assume that many epidemics and diseases can be traced to the fact that victims are seeking to remove what they have karmically fostered within themselves. This is the case, for instance, with smallpox which is the organ of uncharitableness. Although we may be in a position to remove the possibility of this disease, still the cause of uncharitableness would remain, and the souls in question would then be forced to seek another way for karmic compensation either in this or in another incarnation. The following will help us to understand what actually takes place. It is a fact that, at the present time, many influences and causes are removed which would otherwise have been sought for as adjustment for certain karmic matters with which mankind had burdened itself in earlier periods. But, in removing these influences we only remove the possibility of man's succumbing to their external effects. We make his external life more pleasant, and also more healthy, but what he would otherwise have sought as a karmic adjustment in the corresponding disease, will now have to be sought in another direction. People who today are saved in regard to health, are at the same time condemned to seek a karmic adjustment in another way. If life to-day is healthier and more agreeable, the soul receives an influence in the opposite sense. Little by little it discovers a certain emptiness — or frustration. If this state of things continued in such a way that the external life became ever more pleasant and healthy, in the materialistic sense of these words, then such souls would have but little inducement to inner progress and there would result an emptiness of the soul.

This can be observed even today by anyone who examines life more closely. There has been hardly a single epoch in which so many people have had such pleasant external conditions as is the case today and yet go about with such stagnant and empty souls. That is why such people rush from sensation to sensation. When means permit, they travel from town to town in order to see something, or if they are forced to remain in the same town, they rush night after night from pleasure to pleasure. Yet for all this the soul remains empty, realises the void, and in the end does not know what to seek in the world to fill it. In a life spent in external and physically pleasant conditions the tendency towards materialism is specially marked. Thus souls become increasingly diseased as external life is rendered more healthy. Least of all should an anthroposophist complain at this because anthroposophy teaches us a true understanding of these matters, and thus gives us knowledge as to where the compensation may be sought. Souls can remain empty only to a certain degree; then, through their own elasticity, they rush on to the opposite direction. They seek for something akin to their own souls, and they will then see how greatly they stand in need of an anthroposophical world view.

We see from this how the results of a materialistic conception of life may well ease external life, but creates difficulties in our inner life, leading us finally from the depths of sufferings to seek spiritual truths. The spiritual world conception as it is today presented by spiritual science, thus addresses itself to those souls who cannot find satisfaction through impressions which the external world can provide them. Souls will continue in their search, and seek ever again for new impressions until their elasticity will act so strongly in the other direction, that they will feel themselves again drawn to a spiritual life. Thus there exists a relationship between hygiene and the future hopes of the world view of spiritual science.

Even today this can be observed in a small way. Today there exist people who add to other superficialities a new superficiality, namely, an interest in the anthroposophical world conception and who take up the anthroposophical world conception as a new sensation. It is inevitable that what is of profound inner significance also appears as fashion, as sensation, and this tendency can be traced in every current of human evolution. But those souls who are truly ripe for anthroposophy are those who fail to find satisfaction from external sensations, and who realise that external science, in spite of all its explanations, cannot explain certain facts. These are the souls who through their general karma are so prepared that they become united to anthroposophy with the innermost members of their soul life. Spiritual science forms part of mankind's general karma, and as such will take its place there.

It is thus that we can give an orientation to human karma, but to the extent to which it is the effect of past actions we cannot prevent the reaction upon the individual souls. In some way it comes home.

We can show how logical is the working out of karma in the world by considering karma where its activity is still independent of morality — where we see it manifest in the universe, without concerning itself with the moral impulses emanating from the soul of man and leading him to moral or immoral deeds. We shall set before ourselves an aspect of karma in which morality plays no part, but in which something neutral appears as the karmic link.

Let us suppose that a woman lives in a certain incarnation. It cannot be denied that this woman, by reason of her sex, will undergo experiences which differ from those of a man, and that these are not merely dependent on her inner soul life, but for the most part they are connected with external happenings, with circumstances in which she will find herself simply because she is a woman, and which will again react upon the whole of the condition and disposition of her soul. We see, therefore, that certain acts of a woman are most intimately connected with the fact of her being a woman. Only in the realm of spiritual companionship is there any equality between man and woman. The further we penetrate into the purely spiritual and into the outer aspect of the human being, the more is accentuated the difference between man and woman in relation to their lives. We can say that woman differs from man also in certain qualities of the soul, and that she inclines more towards those impulses which must be termed emotional. For this reason we find that psychic experiences come to her more easily than to man. Intellectuality and materialism are, on the contrary, more natural to man's life, and these strongly influence the soul life. So the psychic and emotional predominate in woman and the intellectual and materialistic in man. Thus it is that there are certain shadings in woman's soul life by virtue of her womanhood.

It has already been described how the qualities we experience in our souls force their way between death and a new birth into our next bodily organism. That which is psychically and emotionally the strongest and that which in the life between birth and death penetrates most deeply into the soul, will have a greater tendency to enter more profoundly into the organism, and to impregnate it far more intensively. And because woman absorbs psychical and emotional impressions, she also receives the experiences of life into the profounder depths of the soul. Man may have richer and also more scientific experiences, but they do not penetrate his soul life as deeply as do those of woman. The whole of the world of her experiences is deeply graven into a woman's soul. Therefore those experiences will have a stronger tendency to affect the organism, to modify the organism more closely in the future. Thus woman's life absorbs the tendency towards deeper intervention in the organism by means of the experiences of one incarnation, and thereby towards the formation of the organism itself in the next incarnation. A deep working into and working through the organism will bring forth a male organism. A male organism appears when the forces of the soul desire to be more deeply graven into matter. From this we see that the effect of woman's experiences in one incarnation results in a male organism in the next incarnation. Occult teaching here shows that there is a connection which lies outside the bounds of morality. For this reason occultism states ‘man is woman's karma.’ The male organism of a later incarnation is the result of the experiences and events of a preceding female incarnation. At the risk of arousing in some of those present reflections which may possibly be uncongenial (it always happens that modern man is terrified of incarnating as woman), since these matters are facts, I must illuminate them objectively. What happens in the case of man's experiences?

We shall best understand them if we base them on what has been said before. In man's organism the inner man has penetrated thoroughly into matter, and has embraced it more closely than has woman. Woman retains more spirituality. She does not penetrate so deeply into matter, but keeps her materiality more flexible. It is characteristic of woman's nature that she retains a greater degree of free spirituality, and for that reason does not penetrate so profoundly into matter, and especially keeps her brain more flexible. Therefore it is not surprising that women have a special inclination for what is new, especially in the spiritual realm. And it is not by accident, but in accordance with a profound law, that in a movement whose very nature deals with spirituality, there should be found a greater number of women than of men. Any man knows that the male brain is frequently an intractable instrument. On account of its rigidity it offers terrible resistance when one would use it for more flexible lines of thought. It refuses to follow and must be educated by all sorts of means before it can lose its rigidity. With all men this can be a personal experience.

Man's nature is more condensed, more concentrated; it has been compressed more, rendered more rigid and hard by his inner being of a man; it has been made more material. A more rigid brain is first and foremost an instrument for the intellectual, rather than for the psychic. For intellectuality deals mainly with the physical plane. In this respect we might speak of a brain being frozen to a certain degree and if it is to deal with the finer channels of thought, it must first be thawed out. Therefore a man will be inclined to absorb less of those experiences that are connected with the depths of his own soul life, and what he does absorb is not very deep. We have an external proof of this in the shallowness of external science, and its comparative failure to comprehend the inner being. Although much thought is expended in a wide circumference, facts are concentrated with but little thoroughness. Let us cite an example of the superficiality of modern science:

Let us suppose a young man is in a college where a rabid Darwinian is lecturing. This is how the advocate of the theory of selection will characterise certain facts: Whence does a cock derive his beautiful iridescent feathers of bluish tints? This is to be traced back to sexual, natural selection; for the cock attracts the hens by his colours, and the hens will choose those from among the cocks who possess these bluish iridescent feathers. In this way the other cocks are ignored, and the consequence is that one particular species is developed. This is progress; this is ‘natural selection’! And the student is glad to know how progressive development is brought about.

Now he goes to the next hall, where physiology of the senses is dealt with. It may well happen that the student in this second hall will hear the following: Experiments have been made which show how the various colours of the spectrum affect various beings. It can be proved that of the whole colour spectrum, hens, for instance, can only see the colours ranging from green to orange, and red to ultra-red, but not those ranging from blue to violet.

Now a student, if he wants to combine these two statements which really are taught today, is forced to regard things superficially. The whole of the theory of natural selection is based on the fact that hens perceive the variegated colours of cocks and that these colours afford them special pleasure. This is not the case, for the colours to them appear raven black.

This is merely an example, but anyone willing to investigate really scientifically will encounter instances of this kind at every step. This will demonstrate that intellectuality does not penetrate very deeply into life but that it remains on the surface. I intentionally chose the more extreme examples.

It is not so easy to believe that intellectuality remains external and affects the inner being of man but slightly. And a materialistic mind affects the soul life even less. The consequence of this is that the person, on quitting an incarnation in which he has lived but little in the soul, carries with him the tendency between birth and death to penetrate less deeply into the organism in the next incarnation. He has but little power to do this, and that is why in the next incarnation the organism is less impregnated. So comes the inclination to build up a female body in the next incarnation, and it is therefore correct when occultism says that ‘woman is man's karma.’

In this neutral moral domain we see that what we prepare in one incarnation will be an organising force for our body in the next. And these influences intervene profoundly not only in our inner life, but also in our external experiences and deeds. Thus we must say that the fact of having man's or woman's experiences in one incarnation, in one way or another determines our actions in the next incarnation. Through woman's experiences we shall be disposed to form a male organism, and, conversely, through man's experiences a female organism. Only in rare cases will an incarnation in the same sex be repeated, and at most it can be repeated seven times. The rule is, however, that every male organism will in the following incarnation strive to become female, and conversely. All repugnance is of no avail, for it is not a question of our wishes in the physical world, but rather of our inclinations during the period between death and a new birth, and these are determined by much wiser reasons than a possible horror conceived during a male incarnation of reincarnating as a woman. From this it is clear that our later life is karmically determined by the earlier, and also that the deeds of a later life may be thus ordered.

It is important that we should learn to understand that yet another karmic connection will be essential if we are to throw light upon the important discussions of the next few days.

Let us, therefore, look back upon a remote epoch of human evolution when human incarnations began upon earth. This was in the ancient Lemurian period. It was then that the luciferic influence first acted effectively upon man, and that this then evoked the ahrimanic influence. Let us try to set before our souls how this luciferic influence acted externally in human life. The fact that man reached the stage in those ancient times in which he could absorb this luciferic influence, and also permeate his astral body with the luciferic influence, had the effect that his astral body was inclined to penetrate far more deeply into the organism, into the material part of the physical body, and to do so in quite a different way. Through the luciferic influence man became more material. Had this influence not been active, the human tendency to descend into the material world would have been far weaker, and man would have remained in higher spheres of existence. Thus there came about a far stronger penetration of external and internal man than would have been possible without the luciferic influence.

This penetration was the first cause of our failure to remember the events preceding our incarnation. The birth through which we entered existence was of such a nature that we became closely united with matter, thereby effacing all memory of earlier experiences. Otherwise we should have retained the memory of our spiritual experiences before birth. Through the luciferic influence we were robbed of our memory of the preceding experiences and for this reason we are forced during our lifetime to depend upon the external world for knowledge and experiences.

It would be a grave error to believe that only the coarser substances which we absorb act upon us. Not only do food and nutritious forces act upon us, but also other experiences, which flow into us by way of our senses. But through coarser union with matter, food affects us in a different way. Suppose that there had been no luciferic influence; then everything, from food to sense impressions would have a far more refined influence upon us. Everything experienced by us as our relation to the outer world would be permeated with what we experienced between death and a new birth. Because we have condensed matter, we are inclined to absorb what is denser.

Thus the luciferic influence is taking effect in such a way that through the condensation of matter we also attract towards us out of the external world denser matter than we should otherwise have done and the effects are far different. The less dense substances would have retained a memory of our earlier life, and would also have given us the certitude that all our experiences between birth and death will bear results for time without end. We should know that although there may be death, yet everything happening continues in its effect. Because man had to absorb dense substances, he creates from birth onward a strong reciprocal activity between his own bodily nature and the external world.

What results from this reciprocity? The spiritual world is eclipsed at birth. Before man can again live in the spiritual world, his earlier condition must be restored to him. Everything of dense matter entering us from outside will be taken from us. Because we have acquired a denser materiality we are forced, in order to re-enter the spiritual world, to await that period where the external material body will be taken from us. Denser matter penetrating us, from our birth onward, gradually destroys our human body. That which flows in destroys the body more and more, until it has been completely destroyed and it can no longer exist. From the moment of our birth, due to the luciferic influence, we absorb a denser materiality and we slowly destroy our body until, at the moment of death, it has become altogether useless.

From this we conclude that the luciferic influence is the karmic cause of man's death. If birth had not this character then death too would not be for man what it is. We should, but for the luciferic influence, approach death with an assured prospect of what lies before us. Death is the karmic effect of birth, and birth and death are karmically connected. Without birth, as experienced by us today, death as we experience it would not exist.

I have said before that we cannot speak of karma for animals in the same sense as for human beings. Were someone to say that in the case of animals also, birth and death are karmically connected, such a person would be ignorant of the fact that the birth and death of a human being is entirely different from that of an animal. That which outwardly appears identical, differs inwardly. It is the inner experience and not the physical event which is significant in birth and death. In the case of an animal, only the generic or group soul has experiences. For the group soul the death of an animal resembles somewhat our experience at the approach of summer, when we have our hair cut shorter, which will then slowly grow again. The group soul of a species feels the death of an animal like the death of a limb which will gradually be replaced. Thus we may compare the generic soul to the human Ego. It knows neither birth nor death; it is continually aware of what takes place before birth, and it sees continually what follows death. To speak of an animal's birth and death in the same way as we speak of man's would be absurd, because they are preceded by quite different causes. And it would be a denial of the activity of the spirit if we believed that what appears identical externally is due to identical inner causes. Identity of external events never points with certainty to identical causes.

If we would consider for a moment how outward appearances may be identical whilst inner experiences are not so in the least, we could arrive in a methodical and logical way at the conclusion that this is so. Suppose, for instance, we arrived at a certain place at 9 o'clock, and saw two people standing together. Later, we arrived at the same spot and these two people were again standing in the same place. Now we might conclude: ‘A’ is still standing in the same place: ‘B’ is still standing in the same place where he stood at 9 o'clock. If we enquire, however, into what these two people have done meanwhile, we may perhaps find that the one has been standing there all the time while the other has walked a long distance, and has become tired. We are here dealing with entirely different events. And just as it would be foolish to say, if two people at a later hour are again standing at the same spot, that they must have had identical experiences, it would be equally foolish when we find two cells of the same shape to conclude from their structure an identity of their inner function. It is necessary to know the whole connection of the facts that have brought the one cell to the place in question.

That is why the modern cellular physiology which sets out from an examination of the inner structure of the cells is taking the wrong course. Never can the external appearance prove the inner nature of a thing.

We must make reflections of this kind if we are to comprehend conclusions arrived at by occultists through occult observation — such as the difference between birth and death in the case of man and animals or birds. The study of these matters will be possible only when we occupy ourselves with what spiritual investigation has to tell us. As long as this is not generally done, external science, which adheres to external appearances and external facts, brings to light very beautiful facts, but all the opinions people can form upon suppositions concerning such facts will never be decisive for reality. That is why all our modern theoretical science is a creation of fantasy which has come about through combinations of external facts, having regard only to their outward appearance. In many departments external facts actually impel us towards a true interpretation, but modern opinion stands in the way.

Today we have allowed two neutral domains of karmic law to act upon us, and we shall see that they will be the foundation of our further discussions. We have seen that woman's organism is the karmic result of man's experiences, and man's organism the karmic result of woman's experiences; and we also have seen that death is the karmic result of birth in human life. If we try gradually to understand this, it may lead us to penetrate more profoundly into the karmic connections of human life.

Previous lectures at Back Issues. To be continued in the next issue of SCR.