--| PRACTICAL WORKINGS OF KARMA |----- When you look back to your childhood, you will certainly have to admit that you have brought about many changes in your character since then. But at the same time you will realize that observation of your characteristics, and learning how to change them, are processes related to each other, as are the minute hand of the clock and the hour hand . . . Whatever lights up in us temporarily and disappears again has its seat in the astral body. But what becomes a man's permanent stock in life, in so far as it comes to expression in the soul, everything that becomes a habit so that it is noticeable in a person for a long time-perhaps always- in his life, everything that has to do with the temperament, is situated in the etheric body, which is denser than the astral body. . . When someone accepts a moral principle but is obliged to say to himself repeatedly 'the principle exists, so that is why I obey it' then it is still only rooted in the astral body. But if it draws into him to such an extent that he can simply do no other, then it is established in the etheric body. The transition from the astral body to the etheric body takes place slowly and gradually in life. What takes place during the same life on Earth only slowly, namely the transition of something at first only in the astral body into the etheric body, happens karmically from one incarnation to another in the following way. Whoever has tried to judge things correctly in accordance with morality, and who in doing so may perhaps still have been prompted by other considerations, finds the fruits of this striving in his next life as a basic quality of his etheric body, as a kind of habit, as a quality of character Propensities and habits stem from ideas, thoughts and concepts formed in previous lives. If you pay attention to this, you can make provision for the next incarnation by laying the foundation of a definite organization of the etheric body. You can say to yourself: I shall try in this life to say to myself over and over again that this or that is right and good. Then the etheric body will ultimately show you that it is good and right in the very nature of things to follow the principle concerned. A concept that can be explained in the light of karma is important here. It is the concept of conscience. What arises from a man's conscience is equally something that has been acquired. He has a conscience, an instinct for what is good, right and true, only because in his past lives, in his experiences during life, in his moral principles, he has built up this conscience. You can provide for the strengthening and enhancement of conscience if you undertake to deepen every day your moral conceptions. Moral conceptions become conscience in the next and subsequent life. So you see that what the minute hand of life shows us becomes the hour hand in the next life. There need only be a certain repetition of the moral principles and ideas in one life, and then they are consolidated for the next. What is established in the etheric body of one life brings to maturity fruits for the physical hody of the next life. Good habits, good inclinations, good traits of character prepare healthiness, physical proficiency, physical strength, therefore a healthy physical body, for the next life. A healthy physical body in one life indicates that the person concerned prepared this in an earlier life through self-acquired habits and qualities of character. A particularly strong connection exists between a well-developed memory in one life and the physical body in the next... Whoever develops his memory conscientiously will be reborn with physical soundness, with limbs that can be truly useful to him for giving effect to what his soul inwardly desires. A body that cannot achieve this stems from a previous life during which no care was given to developing a good and healthy memory, but when through slovenliness it was left to be forgetful. Today we are speaking only of single phenomena, but you can realize the magnitude of the whole domain of which we are speaking... What I have put before you are not theories, but definite cases that have been tested; they are based on specific results of research... Facts alone are being presented... An individual whose past life was fraught with tainted quali ties of character has thus in this life an organism that is more eas ily prone to physical illnesses. One who was equipped with health, characteristics and a sound temperament will be reborn with body that can be exposed to every possible epidemic without being infected. You see therefore that things in the world are in a com. plex way subject to the law of cause and effect. For example, here is a case based on definite results of investigation. A person had developed an entirely egoistic urge for acquisition, a veritable greed for external wealth. It was not a matter of a healthy striving for riches, which may spring from an altruistic aim to be of help and engage in selfless activity in the world-that is something different-but an egoistic longing for acquisition which was abnormal, due to a particular constitution of the etheric body. Such a person will often be born in the next life with a physical body prone to catch infectious diseases. In numerous cases it has been established by spiritual research that people readily prone to infection from epidemics in the present life had a pathological sense for acquisition in the previous life. Other examples could be quoted. Thus there are two characteristics which have a clearly recognizable influence on the karmic formation of the following life. We must speak first of the strong influence exerted by a loving, benevolent attitude towards one's fellow men. In many cases this extends far beyond pure human kindness to a love of nature and of the whole world. The more strongly this all-embracing love has developed and become habit in the soul, hence rooted in the etheric body, the greater becomes the capacity to retain the qualities of youth for a long time in a subsequent incarnation... A body that shows the signs of age at a physically early age stems from the life of a perverse critic, from a life of aversion and ill-will. Thus we see that life can be influenced by a conscious intervention in karma... One who achieves occult development learns how to influence not only his astral body but also his etheric body and his physical body. Through the transformation of habitual behaviour, an irascible individual can become gentle, a highly emotional person an equable, harmonious human being. An esotericist must change his habits in a comparatively short time. Genuine development presupposes that what a man learns does not remain mere teaching but penetrates into the etheric body. A process that in ordinary life is distributed over many incarnations is shortened: the process of karma itself is shortened... Suffering in the preceding life-physical and also soul suffering-becomes heauty in a subsequent life, beauty of the external physical body. Here it is permissible to use an analogy: how does the beautiful pearl originate in an oyster? Actually as the result of an illness. Approximately speaking, there is a karmic process which represents the connection of illness, of suffering, with beauty. This beauty is often bought at the cost of suffering and illness. Wis dom too is in many respects bought at the cost of pain. It is not without interest that outer investigation today confirms what occultists have said for thousands of years, narnely that wisdom is connected with pain and sufferings, with a life of earnestness and renunciation in the previous existence... We must strictly differentiate between all a man accomplishes as his own deeds, deeds which proceed entirely from himself, and those made obligatory by his race, family and profession. Two councillors may do the same thing because they are councillors, but that is not the point. They may however also perform utterly different deeds because they are different people, and that is what concerns us now. Deeds that stem from a man's personality, that is what meets him as his outer destiny in the next incarnation. If someone finds himself in fortunate circumstances in life, if he enjoys a favourable destiny, this leads back to the just, ingenious, and good deeds of an earlier life. If a man's circumstances in life are unfavourable, if he has many failures and is surrounded by adverse conditions-external circumstances are meant, not qualities of the physical body-this equally leads back to personal deeds of the previous life. What a person has accomplished as the result of his vocation and family circumstances lies in his temperament and character. Thus the destiny of a man is determined by his personal deeds. Through good, intelligent and righteous deeds he can bring about a favourable destiny in the next incarnation. An individual who comes into contact with particular personalities has himself created the conditions for this in a preceding life. He had something to do with them and has himself now led them into his environment. Here is an example from the time of the Vehmic tribunals.* One such tribunal concerned an execution. The victim was placed before masked judges, who immediately gave judgement. This is a case where a man was condemned and executed. Investigation of his destiny in earlier incamations showed that the individual executed by the five judges had once as a chieftain allowed these five persons to be killed. His deed had again brought these five men as if with magnetic force into his life, and they wreaked their vengeance upon him. This is a radical case, but it is founded on a universal law. You cannot come into contact with a person who makes an impact on your life, if you have not yourself brought him into your orbit on the basis of earlier relationships. It may of course also be the case that through general conditions, through vocation or family, a man is led into contact with individuals he has never yet encountered; but then, through their mutual conduct, the foundation is laid for a meeting in the next incarnation, a meeting connected with the destinies and lives of the individuals concerned. You will realize that these illustrations of karma are in many respects complicated and by no means easy to explain. It is important to study these examples individually, because only so can we really understand life. It must be repeatedly stressed that the idea of karma, rightly understood, must never be thought to contradict the teaching of the Redemption to be found in Christianity. . . Karma is a kind of life account that may well be compared with a merchant's accounts. On the one side there are the debit entries and on the other the credit entries. They are added and a balance struck... Just as in every moment of a merchant's life a new transaction can be made, so at every moment through a new deed new karma can be created. If someone says that a man has himself brought about his suffering, he deserved it so I may not help him, this is nonsense. It is as if one were to say to a bankrupt merchant: five thousand pounds would help you, but if I were to give them to you I should upset your account book! The sum would simply be entered in the account. It is the same with life. Karma does not signify self-compensation, but only compensation through a deed. Now suppose you are a wealthy, powerful person who can help not only one but two. Then you can intervene in the karma of the two; just because karma exists you can intervene in the life accounts of both. There are individuals who can help three, four, five people, indeed even hundreds. *A system in Westphalia in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Such help can be vouchsafed by a most mighty being who once appeared in the world, to those who account themselves His fol lowers. Thls IS ChristJesus. The fact that the Redemption was brought about by certain forms of evil does not contravene the law of karma. The Redemption through ChristJesus is fully compatible with the law of karma, just as is the help given by a wealthy man to the bankrupt merchant. It is precisely through the intrinsic nature and importance of the deed of a single sublime being that the continuation of the law of karma is guaranteed.* When in the future these things are rightly understood, will it first become, evldent that anthroposophy is not an opponent of any confession that has a genuine foundation, and that far rather it leads to a true understanding of it. If you have discerned the law of karma in a certain number of cases, you will feel that you have here perceived a deep necessity of spiritual life The law of karma is rightly understood only by one for whom It is not merely theoretic knowledge, but who has made it part of his whole world of feeling and perception. Inner security and harmony then pervade the whole of life. To live in accordance with the law of karma means to infuse courage and hope unto the soul. The law of karma must above all throw light upon our future. We must think less about the past than about the future. It has been indlcated in many ways that a man can produce effects far ~nto the future in compliance with the law of karma, by preparing in hls astral body the future configuration of the etheric body, and in the course of further progress the future foundation of the physlcal body. When you have grasped the implications of this you will realize the tremendous importance of these connections. Joys are gifts of destiny Which reveal their worth in the present But sufferings are sources of knowledge those meaning shows itself in the future. Reference: Anthroposophical Quarterly, 1978, No 23/1, Berlin. October 15, 1906, GA 96 --


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