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Reincarnation and Karma

On-line since: 20th January 2001

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(a): It is necessary to make this statement, for today superficial readers are numerous, and they are always ready to read all manner of nonsense into the expositions of a thinker, even though the latter takes great pains to express himself precisely. For that reason I should like to add here quite especially that it would never occur to me to fight those who, resting upon scientific premises, follow up the problem of “spontaneous generation.” But even though it may be a fact that somehow mere “lifeless” substances do unite to form living albumin, this does not prove that, rightly understood, Redi's conception is wrong.

(b): The adherents of Wundt must feel disagreeably affected by my speaking of “soul” in such outmoded fashion, while they swear by the words of their master who just recently has proclaimed that we ought not to speak of “soul” since, after the “mythologizing of phenomena has evaporated into the transcendental,” nothing has remained of this “super-real” soul substance but an “interrelated occurrence.” Well, Wundt's wisdom resembles the assertion that we must not speak of “lily” because we are merely concerned with color, form, the process of growth, and so forth. (Wundt, Naturwissenschaft und Psychologie, Natural Science and Psychology.)

(c): There may be many people today who wish to inform themselves quickly about the teachings of spiritual science. They will find it very bothersome if we first present to them explicitly the natural-scientific facts in a light that will make them serve as the basis upon which an anthroposophical view may be erected. They say: we wish to hear something about spiritual science, but you give us natural-scientific facts which every educated person knows. This is an objection which shows very clearly how little our contemporaries are inclined to think seriously. In reality, those who make the above statement know nothing at all about the far-reaching consequences of their knowledge. The astronomer knows nothing about the consequences of astronomy, the chemist nothing about those of chemistry, and so forth. There is no salvation for them but to be modest and to listen quietly when they are shown that, because of the superficiality of their thinking, they know nothing at all about that which in their conceit they believe they have completely exhausted. — And even anthroposophists often believe that it is unnecessary to prove the convictions of karma and reincarnation by means of the findings of natural science. They do not know that this is the task of the human groups to which the inhabitants of Europe and America belong; and that without this basis the members of these groups cannot truly attain to spiritual-scientific insight. Whoever wishes merely to repeat what he hears from the great Teachers of the East, cannot become an anthroposophist within the European-American culture.

(d): The writer of this essay cannot be charged with failure to acknowledge the great merits of our modern believers for the very reason that he himself, in his book Die Raetsel der Philosophie (Riddles of Philosophy), has presented these merits in connection with the spiritual evolution of their epoch, fully appreciating and acknowledging their value.

(e): I can imagine that there are many people who consider themselves standing at the pinnacle of knowledge and who consider the present exposition “completely unscientific.” I can understand these people, for I know that this objection forces itself upon anyone who has no experience in the domain of the supersensible and who, at the same time, lacks the necessary restraint and modesty to admit that he still might learn something. Such people, however, should at least refrain from stating that the processes described here “contradict the intellect” and “cannot be proved by the intellect.” The intellect cannot do anything but combine and systematize facts. Facts can be experienced, but not be “proved by the intellect.” With the intellect, you cannot prove a whale. Either you must have seen it yourself, or you must let somebody describe it who has seen one. It is the same with the supersensible facts. If we have not yet attained to the point where we can see them ourselves, then we must permit them to be described to us. I can assure everyone that the supersensible facts which I describe in the subsequent pages are just as “factual” for the one whose higher senses are opened, as is the whale.

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