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Good Fortune

Its Reality and Its Semblance

A Lecture By
Rudolf Steiner
Berlin, December 7, 1911
GA 61

A Lecture given in Berlin 7th December, 1911. Publication by permission of the Rudolf Steiner — Nachlassverwaltung. Translation, from shorthand reports unrevised by the lecturer, by R. H. Bruce.

Copyright © 1956
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FOREWORD

In his autobiography, The Course of My Life (chapters 35 and 36), Rudolf Steiner speaks as follows concerning the character of this privately printed matter:

“The contents of this printed matter were intended as oral communications and not for print . . .

“Nothing has ever been said that was not the purest result of Anthroposophy as it developed . . . Whoever reads this privately printed matter can take it in the fullest sense as that which Anthroposophy has to say. Therefore it was possible, and moreover without misgivings . . . to depart from the accepted custom of circulating these publications only among the membership. But it will have to be remembered that faulty passages occur in the transcripts, which I myself did not revise.

“The right to form a judgment on the content of such privately printed matter can be admitted only in the case of one who has acquired the requisite preliminary knowledge. And in respect of all these publications, this is, at the very least, the knowledge of man and of the cosmos in so far as it is presented in Anthroposophy, and of what is to be found as ‘anthroposophical history’ in the communications from the spiritual world.”


GOOD FORTUNE ITS REALITY AND ITS SEMBLANCE

It is without question that among the teachings of spiritual science least acceptable to many of our contemporaries we may count that of repeated earth lives, and the echoing-on into a man's later earth-life of causes going back to a previous life of his on earth. This is what we call the law of spiritual causation or Karma. It is easy to understand that men of the present day are bound to adopt a suspicious and adverse attitude towards this knowledge; it follows from all the habits of thought in modern life and will doubtless last until a more general recognition is reached of the enlightening nature of these basic truths of spiritual science. But an unprejudiced observation of life, an unbiased outlook on the enigmas with which we meet daily, and which are only explicable on a basis of these truths, will increasingly lead to a change in the habits of thought, and thus to a recognition of the enlightening nature of these great truths.

To the phenomena we may include in this field quite certainly belong those usually comprised under such names as human fortune or misfortune, words with such manifold meanings. It is only necessary to utter these two words and immediately the sensitive judgment of man's heart will respond to the call to observe the boundaries set between his knowledge and the happenings in the outer world. This verdict sounds as clearly as any other in the soul, and leads to a fervent desire to know more of those inexplicable relationships which, though rejected again and again at a certain stage of enlightenment, must nevertheless be acknowledged by a really unprejudiced desire for Knowledge. To realize this, we need only call to mind how enigmatic good fortune or misfortune — especially the latter — may be in a man's life. This element of enigma can certainly not be solved by any theoretical answer; it clearly shows that something more than any theory, more than what may be called abstract science, is needed to answer it. Who can doubt that in man's soul there is a definite urge to be in a certain harmony with his environment, with the world? And what an amount of disharmony may be expressed when sometimes a man must say of himself, or his fellow-men of him, that throughout his life he is pursued by ill-luck! With such an admission is linked a “Why?” of deep significance for all we have to say about the value of human life, about the value too of the forces forming the foundation of human life. Robert Hamerling, the important but alas too little appreciated poet of the nineteenth century, has included in his Essays a short article on “Fortune”, beginning with a reminiscence that recurred to him again and again in connection with this problem. He had heard this story related in Venice — whether it was legendary or not is of no consequence. A daughter was born to a married couple. The mother died in child-birth. The same day the father heard that all his property had been lost at sea. The shock brought on a stroke, and he, too, died the day the child was born. Hence the infant met with the misfortune of becoming an orphan on the first day of her earthly existence. She was first of all adopted by a rich relation, who drew up a will bequeathing a large fortune to the child. She died, however, while the child was still young; and when the will was opened it was found to contain a technical error. The will was contested and the child lost the whole of the fortune intended for her. Thus she grew up in want and misery and later had to become a maid-servant. Then a nice, suitable young man whom the girl liked very much fell in love with her. However, after the friendship had lasted some time, and when the poor girl, who had been earning her living under most difficult conditions, was able to think that at last some good fortune was coming her way, it transpired that her lover was of the Jewish persuasion and for this reason the marriage could not take place. She reproached him most bitterly for having deceived her, but she could not give him up. Her life continued its extraordinary, alternating course. The youth was equally unwilling to give up the girl, and he promised that after the death of his father — who had not long to live — he would be baptized, when the marriage could be celebrated. He was in fact very soon called to his father's death-bed. Now, to add to the troubles of this unfortunate girl, she became very ill indeed. In the meantime, the father of her betrothed had died at a distance, and his son was baptized. When he came back to her, however, the girl had already died of the mental suffering she had endured in addition to her physical malady. He found only a lifeless bride. Now he was overcome by most bitter grief, and he felt that he could not do otherwise — he must see his beloved again although she was already buried. Eventually he was successful in having her body exhumed; and behold, she was lying in a position that clearly showed she had been buried alive and had turned in the grave when she woke.

Hamerling says he always remembered this story when talking or thinking of human misfortune, and of how it sometimes actually seemed as if a human being were pursued by misfortune from his birth, not only to his grave but as in this case beyond it. Of course, the story may be a legend, but that is of no consequence, for everyone of us will say: Whether the facts are true or not, they are possible, and might have happened even if they never actually did happen. But the story illustrates very clearly the disquieting question: How can we answer the “why” when considering the value of a life thus pursued by misfortune? This at any rate shows us that it might be quite impossible to speak of fortune or misfortune if a single human life only were taken into account. Ordinary habits of thought may at least be challenged to look beyond a single human life, when we have before us one that is so caught up in the intricacies of the world that no concept of the value of human life can fit in with what this life went through between birth and death. In such a case we seem compelled to look beyond the limits set by birth and death.

When, however, we look more closely at the words fortune or misfortune, we see at once that after all they can only be applied in a particular sphere, that apart from mankind there is much outside in the world that may indeed remind us of man's individual accordance or discordance with it, but that we shall hardly venture to speak of fortune or misfortune in connection with analogous occurrences outside mankind. Suppose that the crystal, which ought to develop regular forms according to definite laws, should be compelled, through the vicinity of other crystals, or through other forces of Nature at work near it, to develop one-sidedly and is prevented from forming its proper angles. There are actually very few crystals in Nature perfectly formed in accordance with their inner laws. Or, if we study the plants, we must say that in them, too, an inner law of development seems to be inborn. We cannot fail to see, however, that very many plants are unable to bring to perfection the whole force of the inner impulse of their development in the struggle against wind and weather and other conditions of their environment. And we can say the same of the animals. Indeed, we may go still further, we need only keep undeniable facts before our eyes — how many germs of living beings perish without reaching any real development, because under existing conditions it is impossible for them to become that for which they were organized. Think of the vast quantity of spawn in the sea alone, spawn that might become inhabitants of the sea, populating this or that ocean, and how few of them actually develop. True, we might say in a certain sense: We see quite clearly that the beings we come across in the different kingdoms of Nature have inner forces and laws of development; but these forces and laws are limited by their environment and the impossibility of bringing themselves into harmony with it. And indeed, we cannot deny that we have something similar when we speak of human fortune or misfortune. There we see that a man's power to live out his life cannot become a reality because of the many hindrances continually obstructing him. Or we may see that a man — like a crystal fortunate enough to develop its angles freely in every direction — may be so fortunate as to be able to say with the crystal: Nothing hinders me; external circumstances and the way of the world are so helpful to me that they set free what is purposed in the inmost core of my being. — And only in this case does a man usually say that he is fortunate; any other circumstances either leave him indifferent or impel him to speak directly of misfortune. But unless we are speaking merely symbolically, we cannot, without falling into a fantastic vein, speak of the ill-fortune of crystals, of plants, or even of the amount of spawn that perishes in the sea before it comes to life. We feel that to be justified in speaking of good or bad fortune, we must rise to the level of human life. And again, even in speaking of human life, we soon notice a limit beyond which we can no longer speak of fortune at all, in spite of the external forces by which man's life may be directly hindered, frustrated, destroyed. We feel that we cannot speak of “misfortune” when we see a great martyr who has something of importance to transmit to the world, condemned to death by hostile authorities. Are we justified in speaking of misfortune in the case of Giordano Bruno, for instance, who perished at the stake? We feel that here there is something in the man himself which makes it impossible to speak of ill-fortune, or if he is successful, of good fortune. So we see good or bad fortune definitely relegated to the human sphere — and within that to a still narrower one.

Now when it comes to man himself, to what he feels with regard to fortune or misfortune in his life, it would seem that when we try to grasp it conceptually, we very seldom succeed. For just think of the story of Diogenes (again this may be based upon a legend, but it may also have happened), when Alexander urged him to ask a favor of him — certainly a piece of good fortune. Diogenes demanded what very few men would have asked for — that Alexander should move out of his light. That then was what he regarded as lacking to his happiness at the moment. How would most men have interpreted their fortune at such a moment? But let us go further. Take the pleasure-seeking man, the man who throughout his life considers himself fortunate only when all the desires arising from his passions and instincts are satisfied — satisfied often by the most banal of pleasures. Is there anyone who would believe that what such a man calls good fortune could also be good fortune for the ascetic, for one who hopes for the perfecting of his being, and considers life worth living only when he is denying himself in every possible way, and even subjecting himself to pain and suffering that would not be inflicted upon him by ordinary fortune or misfortune? How different the conceptions of fortune and misfortune are in an ascetic and a sensualist! But we can go still further and show that any universally accepted conception of good fortune eludes us. We have only to think of how unhappy a man can be who, without reason, without any foundation of true reality, becomes fiercely jealous. Take a man who has no grounds for jealousy at all, but believes that he has every possible ground; he is unhappy in the deepest sense of the word, yet there is no occasion for it at all. The extent, the intensity, of the unhappiness depends not on any external reality but simply on the man's attitude to external reality — in this case, to a complete illusion.

That good luck as well as bad may be in the highest degree subjective, that at every turn it projects us, so to speak, from the outer world into the inner world, is shown by a charming story told by Jean Paul at the beginning of the first volume of his “Flegeljahre”. In this, a man who lived habitually in Central Germany pictures to himself how fortunate it would be for him to be a parson in Sweden. It is a most delightful passage where he imagines that he would sit in his parsonage and the day would come when by two o'clock in the afternoon it would be dark. Then people would go to church each carrying his own light, after which pictures of his childhood would rise before him — his brothers and sisters, each carrying a light. It is a charming description of his delight in the people going to church through the darkness each with his own lantern. Or he dreams himself into other situations, called up simply by the memory of certain natural scenes connected together in his mind; for instance, if he imagined himself in Italy he could almost see the orange trees, and so on. This would throw him into a mood of most wonderful happiness; but there was no reality in any of it, it was all only a dream.

Doubtless Jean Paul, with this dream of being a parson in Sweden, is pointing to a deep connection in questions of good or bad fortune by showing that the whole problem can be diverted from the outer world to man's inner being. Strangely enough, it would seem that since good or bad fortune may be entirely dependent upon the inner being of man, the idea of good fortune as a general idea disappears. Yet again, if we look at what a man generally calls good or bad fortune, we see that in countless cases he refers it, not to his inner being, but to something outside himself, We might even say: The characteristic quality of man's desire for good fortune is deeply rooted in his incessant urge not to be alone with his thoughts, his feelings, his whole inner being, but to be in harmony with all that works and weaves in his environment. In reality a man speaks of good fortune when he is unwilling that some result, some effect, should depend on himself alone; on the contrary, he attaches great importance to its depending, not on himself but on something else. We need only picture the luck of the gambler — here no doubt the small and the great have much in common. However paradoxical it may seem, we can quite well connect a gambler's luck with the satisfaction a man may have in acquiring an item of knowledge. For acquiring knowledge evokes in us the feeling that in our thinking, in our soul-life, we are in harmony with the world. We feel that what is without in picture-form is also within us in our apprehension of it; that we do not stand alone with the world staring us in the face like a riddle, but that the inner corresponds to the outer, that there is living contact between them, the outer mirrored in, and shining forth again from the inner. The satisfaction we have in acquiring knowledge is proof of this harmony. If we analyze the satisfaction of a successful gambler we can only say — even if he has no thought of whence his satisfaction arises — that it could not exist at all if he himself could bring about what happens without his cooperation. His satisfaction is based on the fact that something outside himself is involved, that the world has “taken him into consideration”, that it has contributed something for his benefit. This single shows that he does not stand outside the world, that he has definite contact, definite connection, with it. And the unhappiness a gambler feels when he loses is caused by the sensation of standing alone — bad luck gives him a feeling of being shut out from the world, as if the contact with it were broken.

In short, we see that it is by no means true that, by good or bad fortune, a man means only something that can be locked up within himself; on the contrary, when he speaks of good or bad fortune he means in the deepest sense what establishes contact between him and the world. Hence there is hardly anything about which the man of our enlightened age becomes so easily superstitious, so grotesquely superstitious, as about what is called luck, what he calls his expectation from certain forces or elements outside himself which come to his assistance. When this is in question, a man may become exceedingly superstitious. I once knew a very enlightened German poet. At the time of which I speak he was writing a play. This play would not be finished before the end of a certain month — he knew that beforehand. Yet he had a superstition that the drama could not be successful unless it were sent in to the manager of the theatre concerned before the first day of the next month; if it were later, according to his superstition it could have no success. One day, towards the end of the month, I happened to be walking in the street when I saw him bicycling in hot haste to the post office. Through my friendship with him I knew that his work was far from finished; so I waited for him to come out. “I have sent my play in to the theatre”, he said. “Is it finished then?” I asked; and he replied: “There is still some work to do on the last acts, but I have sent it in now because I believe it can only be successful if it goes in before the end of this month. I have written, though, that if the play is accepted, I should like it returned when I can finish it; but it had to be sent in at this time.” — Here we see how a man expects help from outside, how he expects that what is to happen will not be effected by him alone, by his efficiency or his own powers, but that the outer world will come to his aid, that it has some interest in him so that he does not stand alone by himself.

This only proves that when all is said the idea of fortune in general eludes us when we try to grasp it. It eludes us, too, when we look into any literature that has been written about it; for those who write about such things are usually men whose business it is to write. Now at the outset everyone knows that a man can, indeed, speak correctly only of something with which he has not merely a theoretical but a living relation. The philosophers or psychologists who write about fortune have a living relation to good or bad fortune only as they themselves have experienced it. Now there is one factor that weighs very heavily in the balance, namely, that cognition as such, as it meets us in the world of man outside, that knowledge when it is taken in a certain higher sense, signifies at the very outset a kind of good fortune. This will be admitted by everyone who has ever felt the inner delight that knowledge can give; and this is substantiated by the fact that the most eminent philosophers, from Aristotle down to our own times, have constantly characterized the possession of wisdom, of knowledge, as a piece of particularly good fortune. On the other hand, however, we must ask ourselves: What does such an answer to the question concerning fortune mean to one who works the whole week long with few exceptions in the darkness of the mines, or to one who is buried in a mine and perhaps remains alive for days together under the most horrible conditions? What has such a philosophical interpretation of fortune to do with what dwells in the soul of a man who has to perform some menial, perhaps repulsive, task in life? Life gives a strange answer to the question of fortune, and we have abundant experience to show that the philosophers' answers are often grotesquely remote, in this connection, from our experience in everyday life, provided we consider this life in its true character. Life, however, teaches us something else with regard to fortune. For life appears as a noteworthy contradiction to the commonly accepted conceptions of fortune. One case may serve as an example for many.

Let us suppose that a man with very high ideas, even with the gift of an exceptional imagination, should have to work in some humble position. He had perhaps to spend almost all his life as a common soldier. I am speaking of a case that is indeed no legend, but the life of an exceedingly remarkable man, Josef Emanuel Hilscher, who was born in Austria in 1804 and died in 1837. It was his fate to serve for the greater part of his life as a common soldier; in spite of his brilliant gifts he rose to nothing higher than quartermaster. This man left behind him a great number of poems, not only perfect in form but permeated by a deep life of soul. He left excellent translations into German of Byron's poems. He had a rich inner life. We can picture the complete contrast between what the day brought him in the way of fortune and his inner experiences. The poems are by no means steeped in pessimism; they are full of force and exuberance. They show us that this life — in spite of the many disappointments inherent in it — rose to a certain level of inner happiness. It is a pity that men so easily forget such phenomena. For when we set a figure of this kind before our eyes, we can see — because indeed things are only relatively different from one another — we can see that perhaps it is possible, even when the external life seems to be entirely forsaken by fortune, for a man to create happiness out of his inmost being.

Now anyone can inveigh against fortune, especially from the point of view of spiritual science — indeed, if he clings to misunderstood or primitive conceptions he may be fanatical in his protest against the idea of good fortune or equally fanatical in explaining life one-sidedly from the idea of reincarnation and karma. A man would be fanatical in his protest against fortune were he through misunderstanding the principles of spiritual science to say: All striving after good fortune and contentment is after all only egoism, and spiritual science makes every effort to lead men away from egoism. Even Aristotle considered it ridiculous to maintain that the virtuous man could in any way be content when he was experiencing unaccountable suffering. Good fortune need not be regarded merely as satisfied egoism, but even were this so in the first place it could still be of some value for the whole of mankind. For good fortune can also be regarded as bringing our soul-forces into a certain harmonious mood, thus allowing them to develop in every direction; whereas ill-fortune produces discordant moods in our soul-life, hindering us from making the most of our efficiency and powers. Thus, even if good luck is sought after in the first place only as a satisfaction of egoism, yet we can look upon it as the promoter of inward harmony in the soul-forces, and can hope that those whose soul-forces achieve inner harmony through good fortune may gradually overcome their egoism; whereas they would probably find it hard to do so were they constantly pursued by ill-fortune. On the other hand, it may be said: If a man strives after good fortune and receives it as the satisfaction of his egoism, he can — because his forces are harmonized — work for himself and for others in a beneficial way. So what may be called good fortune must not be assessed one-sidedly. — Again, many a man who thinks he has fathomed spiritual science when he has only perceived something of it from a distance falls into error by saying: Here is a fortunate man, and there one who is unfortunate; when I think of karma, of one life determining another, I can easily understand that an unfortunate man has prepared this bad fortune for himself in a former life, and that in a former life the fortunate man has prepared his own good fortune. Such an assertion has something insidious about it because to a certain extent it is correct. But karma — that is, the law of the determining of one earth-life by another — must not be accepted in the sense of a merely explanatory law; it must be regarded as something that penetrates our will, causing us to live in the sense of this law. And this law is only vindicated in life if it ennobles and enriches this life. As regards fortune, we have seen that a man's quest of happiness springs from a desire not to stand alone, but to be in some way related to the outer world so that it may take an interest in him. On the other hand, we have seen that good fortune may — in contradiction to external facts — be brought about solely by a man's conceptions, by what he experiences from external facts.

Where is there a solution of this apparent contradiction — depending, not on abstractions and theories but on reality itself?

We can find a solution if we turn our minds to what may be called the inmost core of man's being. In former lectures (see Note 1) we have shown how this works on the outer man, even shaping his body, and also establishing the man in the place he occupies in the world. If we follow up this conception of the inner core, and ask ourselves how it can be related to the man's good or bad fortune, we most easily find the answer if we consider that some stroke of good fortune may so affect a man that he is bound to say: I intended this, I willed it, I used my good sense, my wisdom, in such a way that it should come about, but now I see that the result far exceeds all that my wisdom planned, all that I determined or was able to see beforehand. — What man is there, in a responsible position in the world, who would not in countless cases say something of this kind — that he had indeed used his powers but that the success that had befallen him far out-weighed the powers exerted? If we comprehend the inner core of man not as what is there just for once but as something in the throes of a whole evolution, in the sense, that is, of spiritual science; if we comprehend it not simply as shaping one life but many, as something therefore that would shape the one life as it is in our immediate present, so that when this inner core of man's being goes through the gate of death and passes into a super-sensible world, returning when the time comes to be active in physical life in a fresh existence — what then can such a man, grasping his central being in this way, understanding himself within a world-conception of this kind — what attitude can he adopt towards a success that flows to him in the way we have pictured? Such a man can never say: This has been my good fortune and I am satisfied; with the powers I set in motion I expected something quite insignificant, but I am glad that my fortune has brought me something greater. — Such a man who seriously believes in karma and repeated earth-lives will never say that, but rather: The success is there but I have shown myself to be weak in face of such a success. I shall not be content with this success, I shall learn by it to enhance my powers; I shall sow seeds in the inmost core of my being which will lead it to higher and higher perfection. My unmerited success, my windfall, shows me where I am lacking; I must learn from it. — No other answer can be given by one to whom fortune has brought success, if he looks upon karma in the right way and believes in it. How will he deal with such a lucky chance? (The word chance is used here in the sense of something that comes upon one unexpectedly, it is not meant in the ordinary way). For him it will be considered not as an end but as a beginning — a beginning from which he will learn and which will cast its beams upon his future evolution.

Now, what is the opposite of the instance we have given? Let us place it clearly before us. Because a man who believes in repeated earth-lives and karma, or spiritual causation, receives a stroke of good fortune as a spur to his growing forces, he regards it as a beginning, as a cause of his further development. And the converse of this would be if, when we were struck by some misfortune, by some misadventure that might happen to us, we were to take it not simply as a blow, as the reverse of the success, but looking beyond the single earthly life, we were to see it as an end, as what comes last, as something the cause of which has to be sought in the past, just as the consequence when appearing as success has to seek its effects in the future — the future of our own evolution. We regard ill-fortune as an effect of our own evolution. How so?

This we can make clear by a comparison showing that we are not always good judges of what has occasioned the course of a life. Let us suppose someone has lived as an idler on his father's money up to his eighteenth year, enjoying from his own point of view a very happy life. Then when he is eighteen years old his father loses his property; and the son can no longer live in idleness but is obliged to train for a proper job. This will at first cause him all sorts of trouble and suffering. “Alas!” he will say, “a great misfortune has overtaken me.” It is a question, however, whether in this case he is the best judge of his destiny. If he learns something useful now, perhaps when he is fifty he will be able to say: Yes, at that time I looked upon it as a great misfortune that my father had lost his wealth; now I can only see it as a misfortune for my father and not for myself; for I might have remained a ne'er-do-well all my life had I not met with this misfortune. As it happens, however, I have become a useful member of society. I have grown into what I now am.

So let us ask ourselves: When was this man a correct judge of his destiny? In his eighteenth year when he met with misfortune, or at fifty when he looked back on this misfortune? Now suppose he thinks still further, and enquires concerning the cause of this misfortune. Then he might say: There was really no need for me to consider myself unfortunate at that time. Externally it seemed at first as if misfortune had befallen me because my father had lost his income. But suppose that from my earliest childhood I had been zealous in my desire for knowledge, suppose that I had already done great things without any external compulsion, so that the loss of my father's money would not have inconvenienced me, then the transition would have been quite a different matter, the misfortune would not have affected me. The cause of my misfortune appeared to lie outside myself, but in reality I can say that the deeper cause lay within me. For it was my nature that brought it upon me that my life at that time was unfortunate and beset with pain and suffering. I attracted the ill-fortune to myself.

When such a man says this, he has already begun to understand that in fact all that approaches us from outside is attracted from within, and that the attraction is caused through our own evolution. Every misfortune can be represented as the result of some imperfection in ourselves; it indicates that something within us is not as well developed as it should be. Here we have misfortune as opposed to success, misfortune regarded as an end, as an effect, of something occasioned by ourselves at an earlier stage of our evolution. Now if, instead of moaning over our ill-luck, and throwing the whole blame upon the outside world, we look at the core of our inner being and seriously believe in karma, that is, the causation working through one earth-life to another, then ill-luck becomes a challenge to regard life as a school in which we learn to make ourselves more and more perfect. If we look at the matter thus, karma and what we call the law of repeated earth- lives will become a force for all that makes life richer and increases its significance.

The question, however, may certainly arise: Can mere knowledge of the law of karma enhance life in a definite way, making it richer and more significant? Can it perhaps bring good fortune out of bad? — However strange it may seem to many people now-a-days, I should like to make a remark that may be significant for a full comprehension of good fortune from the point of view of spiritual science. Let us recall Hamerling's legend of the girl pursued by ill-fortune up to her death, and even beyond the grave since she was buried alive. No doubt anyone not deeply permeated by the forces knowledge can give, will find this strange. But let us suppose that this unfortunate girl had been placed in an environment where the outlook of spiritual science was accepted, where this outlook would prompt the individual to say: In me there dwells a central core of spiritual being transcending birth and death, showing to the outer world the effects of past lives, and preparing the forces for subsequent earth-lives. It is conceivable that this knowledge might become strength of soul in the girl, intensifying belief in such an inner core. It may perhaps be said: As the force issuing from spirit and soul may be consciously felt working into the bodily nature, it might well have worked into the girl's state of health; and the strength of this belief might have sustained her until the man returned after his father's death. This may appear odd to many who are not aware of the power of knowledge based on true reality — knowledge not abstract and merely theoretical but working as a growing force in the soul.

We see, however, that as regards the question of good fortune this belief may offer no consolation to those who are definitely fixed for their whole life in work that can never satisfy them, those whose claims upon life are permanently rejected. Yet we see that firm faith in the central core of man's being, and the knowledge that this single human life is one among many, can certainly give awakening strength. All that in the outer world at first appeared to me as my ill-fortune, as the evil destiny of my life, becomes explicable to my spiritual understanding through my relation to the universal cosmos in which I am placed. No commonplace consolation can help us to overcome what in our own conception is a real misfortune. We can only be helped by the possibility of regarding a direct blow as a link in the chain of destiny. Then we see that to consider the single life by itself, is to look upon the semblance and not the reality. An example of this is the youth who idled away his time until his eighteenth year and then, when misfortune befell him and he was obliged to work, regarded it as sheer ill- luck and not as the occasion of his later happiness. Thus, if we look more deeply into the matter we see clearly that study of a life from one point of view alone can give only an apparent result, and that what strikes us as good or bad fortune appears merely in its semblance if we study it in a circumscribed way. It will only show us its true nature and meaning if we study it in its proper place in the man's whole life. Even so, if we look at this whole human life as exhausted within the boundaries of birth and death, a life that can find no satisfaction in ordinary human relations and the usual work will never seem comprehensible to us. To become comprehensible — comprehensible according to the reality we have often expressed in those terms to which, however, where real human destiny is concerned, only spiritual science can give life-this can become comprehensible only when we know that what we find intelligible no longer has power over us. And to him for whose central being good fortune is only an incentive to higher development, ill-fortune is also a challenge to further evolution. Thus the apparent contradiction is solved for us when, in observing life, we see the conception of good or bad fortune approaching us merely from the outside, converted into the conception of how we transform the experiences within ourselves and what we make of them. If we have learnt from the law of karma not only to derive satisfaction from success but to take it as an incentive to further development, we also arrive at regarding failure and misfortune in the same way. Everything undergoes change in the human soul, and what is a semblance of good or bad fortune becomes reality there. This, however, implies much that is immensely important. For instance, let us think of a man who rejects outright the idea of repeated earth-lives. Suppose, then, that he sees a man suffering from jealousy founded on an entirely imaginary picture created by himself; or another pursuing a visionary happiness; or on the other hand he may see someone who develops a definite inner reality merely out of his imagination, develops something most real for the inner life — that is, out of mere semblance, not out of the world of real facts. Thus he might say to himself — Would it not be the most incredible incongruity as regards the connection of man's inner nature with the outer world, if the matter ended with this one fact occurring in the one earth-life? There is no doubt that, when a man passes through the gate of death, any illusion of fortune or of jealousy which he has looked on as a reality will be wiped out. But what he has united with his soul as pleasure and pain, the effect which has arisen in the stirrings of his feelings, becomes a power living its own life in his soul and connected with his further evolution in the universe. Thus we see, by means of the transformation described, that man is actually called upon to develop a reality out of the semblance.

With this, however, we have also arrived at an explanation of what was said at the beginning. It becomes clear to us now why it is impossible for a man to connect his fortune with his ego, with his individuality. Yet, even if he cannot directly connect it with his ego as external happenings that approach him and raise his existence, he can, nevertheless, so transform it within himself, that what was originally external semblance becomes inner reality. Thereby man becomes the transformer of outward semblance into being, into reality. But when we look around upon the world about us, we see how the crystals, the plants and animals are hindered by external circumstances so that they cannot live out fully the inner laws of their growth; we see how countless seeds must perish without coming into true existence. What is it that fails to happen? Why can we not speak here of good or bad fortune as we have stated it? — The reason is that these are not examples of an outer becoming an inner, so that in fact an outer is mirrored in the inner and a semblance transformed into real being. It is only because man has this central core of being within him that he can free himself from the immediate external reality and experience a new reality. This reality experienced within him lifts his ordinary existence above external life so that he can say: On the one hand, I live in the line of heredity, since I bear within me what I have inherited from my parents, grandparents, and so on; but I also live in what is only a spiritual line of causation, and yet can give me something besides the fortune that may come to me from the outside world. — Through this alone it is clear that man is indeed a member of two worlds, an outer and an inner. You may call it dualism, but the very way that man transforms semblance into reality shows us that this dualism is itself merely semblance, since in man outer semblance is continually being transformed into inner reality. And life shows us, too, that what we experience in imagination when we call an actual fact false becomes reality within us.

Thus we see that what may be called good and bad fortune is closely associated with what is within man. But we see, too, how closely associated it is with the conception of spiritual science, that man stands in a succession of repeated earth-lives. If we look at the matter in this way we may say: Do we not then base our inner happiness on an outer semblance and reckon with this happiness as something permanent in our evolution? All external good fortune that falls to our share is characterized in what, according to legend, Solon said to Croesus: Call no man happy till you know his end. — All good fortune that comes to us from outside may change; good fortune may turn into bad. But what is there in the realm of fortune that can never be taken from us? What we make of the fortune that falls to us whether it comes from success or failure. Fundamentally the following true and excellent folk-saying can be applied to the whole of a man's relation to his fortune: Everyone is the smith of his own fortune. — Simple country people have coined many beautiful and extraordinarily apposite sayings about fortune, and from these we can see what profound philosophy there is in the simplest man's outlook. In this respect those who call themselves the most enlightened could learn very much from them. To be sure these truths are often presented to us in a very crude form. There is even a proverb that says: Against a certain human quality the Gods themselves contend in vain. There is, however, also a noteworthy proverb that connects this particular human quality — against which the Gods are said to contend in vain — with good fortune, saying: Fools have the most luck. We need not conclude from this that the Gods seek to reward such men with good fortune to make up for their stupidity. Nevertheless, this proverb shows us a distinct consciousness of the inner depths and of the necessity for deepening what we must call the interdependence in the world of man and fortune. For as long as our wisdom is applicable to external matters alone, it will help us very little; it can help us only when it is changed into something within ourselves, that is, when it again acquires the quality, originally possessed by primitive man, of building on the strong central core that transcends birth and death, the central core that is explicable only in the light of repeated earth-lives. Thus what a man experiences as the mere semblance of fortune in the outer world is distinguished from what we may call the true essence of fortune. This comes into being the moment a man can make something of the external facts of his life, can transform them and assimilate them with the evolving core of his being which goes on from life to life. And when a sick man — Herder — in the most severe physical pain says to his son: “Give me a sublime and beautiful thought, and I will refresh myself with it”, we see clearly that in an afflicted life Herder awaits the illumination of a beautiful thought as refreshment — that is, as a stroke of good fortune.

Hence it is easy to say that man with his inner being must be the smith of his own fortune. But let us fix our minds on the powerful influence of that world-conception of spiritual science that we have been able to touch upon to-day, where it is not merely theoretical knowledge but knowledge that stirs the core of our souls, since it is filled with what transcends good or bad fortune. If we grasp this world-outlook thus, it will furnish us with more sublime thoughts than almost any other, thoughts that make it possible for a man — even at the moment when he must succumb to misfortune — to say: “But this is only a part of the whole of life.”

This question of fortune has been raised to-day to show how everyday existence is ennobled and enriched by the real thoughts concerning life's totality which spiritual science can give us, thoughts that do not merely touch upon life as theories but that bring with them the forces of life. And this is the essential. We must not only have external grounds of consolation for one who is to learn to bear misfortune through the awakening of those inner forces, rather must we be able to give him the real inner forces that lead beyond the sphere of misfortune to a sphere to which — although life seems to contradict this — he actually belongs. This, however, can only be given by a science which shows that human life extends beyond birth and death, and yet is linked with the whole beneficent foundation of our world-order. If we can count upon this in a world-conception, then we may say that this conception fulfills the hopes of even the best of men; we may say that with such a conviction a man can look at life as one who though his ship is tossed to and fro by surging waves yet finds courage to rely on nothing in the outer world, but on his own inner strength and character. And perhaps the observations of to-day may serve to set before men an ideal that Goethe in a certain way sketched for us, but that we may interpret beyond Goethe's hopes as an ideal for every man. True, it does not stand as something to be immediately achieved in the single human life, but as an ideal for man's life as a totality — if a man, tossed to and fro in his life between good and bad fortune, feels like a sailor buffeted by stormy waves, who can rely on his own inner power. This must lead to a point of view which, with a slight adaptation of Goethe's words, we may describe thus: —

Man stands with courage at the helm
By wind and waves the ship is driven —
The wind and waves do not affect him.
Controlling them he looks in the green depths
And trusts, no matter wrecked or safe in port,
The forces of his inner being.


Note 1:
The Hidden Depths of Soul Life. Berlin, 23rd November, 1911.




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