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Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies - Volume VI

Karmic Relationships, VI: Lecture III


Zurich, 28th January, 1924

(From an incomplete transcript)

When we contemplate the world around us we find as our environment on Earth the beings of the mineral, plant, animal and human kingdoms, and whatever belongs to and is produced from these kingdoms — mountains, rivers, clouds and so forth. We look up to the heavens and as we contemplate the stars and the planets we shall realise as the result of anthroposophical study that, like the Earth, these different celestial bodies have their inhabitants. But as man turns his gaze to his earthly environment and also to the heavens, he finds in this spatial environment Beings who are connected with one part only of himself. We know from Anthroposophy that man is a fourfold being, composed of physical body, etheric body, astral body and Ego, and that in sleep the Ego and astral body separate from the physical and etheric bodies. But the Universe we perceive through our senses is related to our physical body only, not to our astral body or Ego. The only exceptions are two celestial bodies: the Sun and the Moon. The Sun and the Moon are the abodes of spiritual Beings just as the Earth is the abode of man. The other celestial bodies are also peopled by spiritual Beings but during his life between birth and death man is related to them in an indirect way only. In this respect the Sun and Moon are exceptions. They are the two gates or portals through which, in physical life on Earth too, men are linked with the spiritual world. The Sun is connected with our Ego, the Moon with our astral body.

We shall begin to understand this if we turn to what has been said in the different books and lecture-courses.

You know that the Moon, now moving independently through cosmic space, was once united with the Earth; at a certain point of time it liberated itself and went out into the Universe where it now forms a kind of colony of the Earth. This applies not only to the physical Moon but also to the Beings who inhabit it. You know too that the Earth was once inhabited both by men and by certain higher Beings who were the first great Teachers of humanity. They were not incarnated in physical bodies as men are to-day but only in etheric bodies. Nevertheless intercourse between men and these Beings continued until the Atlantean epoch. In those primeval ages on Earth men were exhorted at certain times to maintain complete stillness and calm in their souls, to be oblivious of their physical environment. And then, in those primeval men — we ourselves, in fact, for we were all on Earth in previous lives — it was as if the Great Teachers spoke from within them and they felt this as Inspiration. These Beings did not communicate their messages and teachings to men as we communicate with one another to-day, but in the way I have indicated. Works giving expression to a wonderful, primordial wisdom were the fruits of this intercourse. Modern man is fundamentally arrogant, priding himself on being infinitely clever. And so indeed he is, in comparison with the men of those remote ages. But cleverness by itself leads neither to wisdom nor to real knowledge. Cleverness is due to the intellect and intellect is not the only instrument for acquiring knowledge. It was by deeper forces of the soul that men in primeval times were led to the knowledge which they did not express in intellectual phraseology or in terms of our pedantic grammar — for all grammar is pedantic — but in language that was half poetry. Beings at an advanced stage of evolution, the primeval sages who taught men through Inspiration, were the originators of works of supreme beauty, fragments of which have been preserved to this day. Only the dull-witted could fail to wonder at the Vedic literature, the Yoga and Vedanta philosophy of India, the lore of ancient Persia and Egypt. The more thoroughly we steep ourselves in these records, the more obvious it is that although we of the modern age are far cleverer than those ancient men, the knowledge they presented in a most beautiful, poetic form leads very deeply into world-mysteries. The scripts which fill us with such admiration and astonishment if our hearts are rightly attuned are only the last vestiges of the wonderful, primordial wisdom that once existed in humanity as oral tradition and that Spiritual Science alone is able to investigate. But men have outgrown this wisdom in its primal form. They would not have reached maturity nor achieved freedom in knowledge through their own efforts had they continued at the stage of that ancient wisdom.

The great Teachers, having fulfilled their task, left the Earth together with the Moon which as a physical planet had gone out into the Universe. Today the great Teachers form a kind of spiritual colony on the Moon and a seer who investigates the Moon with the help of Initiation-Science finds it peopled by those wise Beings who were once the companions of men. The wisdom of these Beings can even now be investigated through a higher development of the faculties described in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. These Beings have an important task to perform for humanity — a task which it is difficult to describe in earthly words.

The Moon Beings keep the “books,” the records, of the whole past of humanity and of every individual man. These books are not, of course, anything in the least like the volumes in our libraries but this designation is nevertheless justifiable. The “books” contain records of what every individual human being has experienced in his successive earthly lives. When we are descending from the Cosmos to the Earth from the existence stretching between death and a new birth, we come into inner contact with the records of our past in these great “books” kept by the Moon sages. Before we arrive on the Earth, this past is imprinted in the astral body we bring with us into earthly existence and in that astral body are the “entries” made by the Moon Beings.

In ordinary circumstances these entries do not reach the head. During earthly life the head is by no means an organ of outstanding importance, although it is, of course, essential for the concepts and ideas relating to outer, material existence. What is inscribed into man during the final stage of his descent from the Cosmos to the Earth is inscribed — believe it or not as you will — into the part of him we call the spiritual side of the metabolic-limb system. The inscriptions therefore lie deep down in the unconscious, but they are actually there and they pass over into the process of growth, into the health and above all they determine what I will call the “curability” (Heilbarkeit) of a human being when he is ill on Earth. It is obviously important to understand the nature of illness but even more important to understand how to heal. Supersensible knowledge itself is an essential help, for this reveals what has been inscribed from the Akasha Chronicle by the Moon Beings into the forces of the process of growth, into the forces of nourishment, into the forces of breathing, and so on. It is these inscriptions that determine whether a man puts up strong or only slight resistance to the healing of an illness. One individual will be easily healed, another only with difficulty. This is entirely dependent upon how the karma from previous earthly lives makes it possible for the inscriptions to take effect.

When we think about what the Moon, together with the Beings who inhabit it spiritually, means for us on the Earth, we are finally led to say that the Moon is intimately connected with our past, with our previous earthly lives. To understand what the Moon existence out yonder in cosmic space means on Earth is to have intuitive perception of man's past. Destiny is formed out of what we bring over from our previous earthly life, that is to say, from our past, and what we experience during the present life. And out of what can be experienced in the present life, together with our past, our future destiny takes shape.

In its cosmic aspect, therefore, the Moon with its Beings is revealed as the power which carves the pattern of our past in our destiny. You will realise from this how little is known to-day about the true functions of the celestial bodies. Information about the Moon such as we are accustomed to hear from the physical sciences to-day is not knowledge in the true sense. A modern physicist who purports to describe the Moon assumes that the mountain ranges depicted on lunar maps were always there. This is a very naive belief. The Moon Beings themselves were always there, the soul-and-spirit belonging to the Moon was always there, but not the physical substance. You will be able to understand this by thinking of man himself. In the course of a man's earthly life the physical substances in his body are perpetually changing. After a period of seven to eight years, all the substances originally within us have been replaced. What has remained is the soul-and-spirit, and the same applies to the heavenly bodies. The substance of the Moon, although of longer duration than the substance of the human body, has all changed in the course of the ages; spirit-and-soul alone has remained. With these things in mind, our view of the Universe is altogether different from that presented by the material knowledge of to-day. This knowledge is extremely astute, highly intellectual; above all it can calculate with deadly accuracy. The calculations are accurate — but they are not true. Suppose someone makes calculations about the structure of the heart. He scrutinises it to-day and again in a month's time. It has changed, very slightly. After another month the change is again slight, and then he works out to what extent the heart changes in a year. He need only multiply and he has the figure for ten years. He can calculate what the measurements of the heart were three hundred years ago, and what they will be three hundred years from now. The calculations will certainly be correct. Only — the heart did not exist three hundred years ago, nor will it exist three hundred years hence! The same procedure is adopted in other cases. The calculations are invariably correct but they do not tally with the reality! The same applies to the outer substantiality of the heavenly bodies. Their substance changes but the element of soul-and-spirit remains. And in the case of the Moon it is this element of soul-and-spirit that is woven into our destiny by the great Recorders of our past life and therefore constitutes part of the web of our destiny.

So the Moon is in truth one of the portals showing man the way into the spiritual world — the world out of which his destiny is woven by Beings who were once his wise companions of the Earth in times when men themselves wove their destiny instinctively. The weaving of destiny now takes place entirely in the subconscious.

Still another portal leads into the spiritual world: it is the portal of the Sun. When through Initiation-science we acquire knowledge of the Sun, the Beings we encounter are not connected with the Earth in the same way as the Moon Beings; in the Sun sphere we do not encounter Beings who once had their abode on the Earth. The Beings we encounter in the Sun are referred to in the book Occult Science as the Angeloi and the higher Beings of the Hierarchies. When I say “in the Sun,” you must of course picture such Beings in the whole Sun sphere, in the flood of light radiating from the Sun.

The Sun is the abode of the Angeloi, one of whom is always connected with an individual human being. We ourselves, in respect of our Ego are connected with these higher Beings through our Sun existence. The Angeloi are in a certain sense the cosmic prototypes of men, for in future times man will attain their rank. These Beings, with whose nature we ourselves have a certain relationship, have their abode in the Sun sphere. From this you will realise that just as our past is connected with the Moon existence, so is our future connected with the Sun existence. Moon and Sun represent our past and our future. When we know on the one side that the Moon Beings are the “bookkeepers,” the “recorders” of our past, that records of our past earthly lives are inscribed, as it were, on the leaves of their books, Initiation-Science makes it clear that we must turn to the Angeloi when we give any thought to our future. Just as what we have done in the past works on into our present life, the things we do in the present must work on into the future. But this is possible only through the Angeloi who direct their gaze to a man's present deeds and bring them to effect in the future.

It is good and right to take account of this function of the Angeloi. We do many things that ought to bear fruit in the future. Humanity of the present age has become sadly thoughtless about such matters. When a man has performed some deed he should think of his Angelos, saying inwardly: “May my Guardian Spirit receive this my deed as a root and from it bring forth fruit.” The more definite and vivid the imagery used when a man addresses his Angelos in connection with deeds which should subsequently bear fruit, the more abundant this fruit can be in the future.

And so the Moon Beings preserve our past destiny and the Sun Beings weave new destiny for the future. It is not outer, physical light alone that the Sun and Moon send down to the Earth. Being connected as it is with our astral body, the Moon provides the initial impulse whereby everything from our past is woven into our destiny. The Sun is connected with our Ego and through the Beings who are a prototype of our future cosmic existence, has to do with our future destiny. And so the heavenly mirror-pictures of our destiny are images of the relationship between Sun and Moon.

Initiation-Science explains and confirms these facts. When a man has achieved the necessary degree of development as I have described it in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, he then sees, when he contemplates the Full Moon, not only what normal consciousness sees. In the light of the Full Moon he perceives his past destiny, the content of his previous earthly life. And when with enhanced spiritual vision he focuses his gaze upon the place occupied by the dark, physically invisible New Moon, its dark shadow becomes for him the great Admonisher formed by his destiny, proclaiming to him what his attitude must be to actions in his previous earthly life in order that he may make compensation for them in the further course of his karma.

It is possible for a man to establish a similar relationship with the Sun. This enables him to have an inkling of future destinies — a general glimpse, at least, without specific details.

If we now turn from the cosmic aspect to man himself, we find that human destiny is woven in a wonderful way out of two kinds of circumstances. When two individuals meet each other, one of them, let us say, in his twenty-fifth year, the other in his thirtieth, it may be the case — not, of course, always — that when the one or the other looks back over his life up to this point he realises with absolute certainty that each of them has pursued his path of life as though they were deliberately seeking for one another. To ignore such things simply denotes lack of thought. The child had already set out upon the path that led inevitably to the other human being and the latter's path too led to the common meeting-point. All this took place in the subconscious realm — but what has been at work there? Think of the one individual as A and the other as B. Before entering into earthly life, A descended through the Moon sphere. The Moon Beings had inscribed in their records and also into his astral body, what he had experienced in common with B in the past earthly life, and these entries made by the Moon Beings in the Akasha Chronicle influenced the paths taken by both A and B. From the moment they meet, the subconscious is no longer all-important, for the two now come face to face and make a certain impression on one another. This is not a case of conservation of the past; it is the present that is now at work. The Angeloi intervene and lead the individuals concerned to further stages. The forces of Sun existence are now operating, so that within a man's inmost being, Sun and Moon together weave his destiny. This can be clearly visualised by thoughtful perception of the course of human life.

When two individuals meet, the impression they make upon each other may be intrinsically different. There are cases where one of the two takes the other right into the sphere of his will, of his feelings. The outer, personal impression has had little influence here. Intellectualists have no understanding of what is going on inwardly in such cases, for one of the most wonderful experiences imaginable is to see what kind of relationship is formed when two human beings come across each other for the first time. It may happen that A takes B into the sphere of his will by saying to himself: What B does I want to do myself; what pleases him, also pleases me. — Now B may be unsightly and unattractive and nobody can conceive that he could possibly be pleasing to A. — You see, the attraction in this case is not caused by the reasoning mind or by the sense-impressions, but by the deeper forces of the soul — by the will and what goes from the will into the heart. However unsightly the other may be, he has become so only in the present earthly life. The origin of the bond between the two lies in the experiences they shared in the previous life. Seen from outside it seems that the two cannot possibly live in harmony, but the fact is that what is present subconsciously in each of them leads their wills together. Even in childhood this often becomes evident. A child tries so hard to be like “him,” to have the same wishes as “he” has, to feel as “he” feels. A karmic connection is certainly present in such circumstances.

That is one kind of meeting between individuals and if they were alive to such happenings — as will inevitably be the case in a by no means distant future, when more attention will be paid to man's inner nature — the working of the will would indicate that past earthly lives have already been spent in company with such individuals; moreover subconscious soul-forces give hints of experiences shared with others in the past incarnation.

The other kind of meeting is this. — One individual comes across another but no relationship whatever is established between their wills; the aesthetic or mental impression is predominant. How often it happens that a man A makes the acquaintance of man B, but does not afterwards refer to him with the warmth or abhorrence with which he speaks of someone with whom he has a karmic connection from earlier times. One may praise an individual with whom there is no karmic tie, one may appreciate him, consider him a splendid fellow, but he makes no effect upon the will — he makes an effect only upon the mind, upon the aesthetic sense.

That is the second kind of meeting between individuals. If the effect made by the two upon each other reaches into the will, into the heart, into the inmost nature, then a karmic connection exists; the two individuals have been led to each other as the result of common experiences in the past earthly life. If an effect made by another person reaches only into the intellect, into the aesthetic sense, this is not an outcome of the Moon's activity, but a situation brought about by the Sun and one that will have its sequel only in the future. And so through a thoughtful, observant study of human life we can learn to perceive the signs of karmic connections.

What I have now told you is a fruit of knowledge attainable through Anthroposophy, and just as nobody need himself be an artist to see beauty in a picture, as little need a man himself be an Initiate to understand these things. They can be understood because the ideas harmonise. There are people who say: The spiritual world is no concern of ours; we shall understand it only when we are actually in it. — They say this because they are accustomed nowadays to accept as proof only what can be confirmed in a material, physical way. Such people are like dunderheads who say: Everything in the wide world must be supported — otherwise it falls down; the Earth, the Moon, the Sun — all have their places in cosmic space but they must have supports to prevent them from falling! Such people do not know that the cosmic bodies mutually support each other. Anthroposophy calls for this kind of understanding. Its ideas cannot be supported by external, physical proofs, but for all that they mutually support each other. When you read an anthroposophical book for the first time, you may lay it aside because you are accustomed to find everything proved up to the hilt and in this book there are no such proofs. But if you read on you will find that like the cosmic bodies the ideas support and sustain each other.

The teachings can be understood even when one is not an Initiate, but through Initiation-Science they become much more concretely real and are experienced differently. Therefore someone who is sufficiently advanced is able to speak in a different way about the web of human destiny that is woven out of the past, the present and the future. The experiences of a person who has reached a certain stage of Initiation become much more concrete. — Suppose that somebody is standing in front of you; he tells you something and you hear it clearly. An Initiate can hear the inner voice as well as the outer; he can hear the spiritual speech which is no less clear than ordinary human speech. A person with whom an Initiate was karmically connected in the past and whom he meets in the present life, speaks to him as clearly and unambiguously as people speak in the ordinary way. The Initiate hears an inner speech. You will say: then an Initiate must have around him a whole collection of people who speak to him with varying degrees of clarity. And that is actually the case. At the same time it is concrete proof of the way in which the previous earthly life has been spent. I have said that the Moon Beings, the great Recorders, register destiny; but immediately an Initiate encounters someone with whom he was karmically connected in the previous earthly life, the light of the Full Moon radiates to him the recorded ‘entries’ of the other individual.

What we think and do in the immediate present does not at once speak to us, but after a certain time, by no means very long, our deeds that have been registered by the Moon Beings become living and, in a sense, articulate. The Akashic pictures are living pictures; if you discover the content of a past earthly life you learn to know both yourself and the other human being concerned. Common experiences of the past incarnation rise up into consciousness; no wonder that we hear them speak both from within ourselves and from within the other individual. We are united inwardly with those with whom we were associated in the previous earthly life.

In the future men must develop a delicate feeling for the stirrings of the will when meeting another person. In about seven to nine thousand years all human beings on the Earth will be able to hear those with whom they are karmically connected, speaking from within.

Now if, after Initiation has been attained, a meeting takes place with someone with whom there is no karmic bond, who is encountered for the first time, again the experience is different. Naturally, an Initiate may also come across individuals with whom he is not karmically connected. In any case his experience will differ from that of others. He has a fine and delicate feeling for new facts revealed by the individual confronting him, in this case, as a cosmic being.

An individual encountered for the first time enables us to see more deeply into the Cosmos. It is a piece of good fortune to meet such a person and recognition that this meeting enlarges our knowledge of the world must develop into fine sensitivity. An Initiate has a certain obligation in connection with every individual with whom he has no karmic connection from the past, whom he encounters for the first time in the Cosmos (the spiritual world). He must link himself with the spiritual Being belonging to the realm of the Angeloi who is the Guardian Spirit of this individual. He must become acquainted not only with the individual himself but with his Guardian Angel as well. The Guardian Angel of this individual speaks unambiguously from within him. Hence when an Initiate encounters different human beings with whom he has no karmic bond, he hears a clear and definite speech. He hears what the Angeloi of these individuals are saying.

This gives a certain character to the intercourse between an Initiate and ordinary men. He takes into himself what the Angelos wishes to say to the person who has come into his ken; he transforms himself as it were into the Angelos of this person and what he can say to the latter is therefore more intimate than it is for ordinary consciousness. The Initiate is actually a different being in all his contacts with individuals whose first meeting with him is in the Cosmos, because he has identified himself with the Angelos of each individual concerned. This is the secret of the faculty of self-transformation possessed by those who with the power bestowed by Initiation come face to face with other men. People to-day have very little feeling for such things compared with the faculty of perception they possessed in centuries by no means very long ago. It might have happened then that a sage, confronting twenty other persons, would have been described quite differently by each of them. The commonplace verdict in such circumstances would be that as each of the twenty descriptions given was quite different from all the rest, none of the twenty writers actually saw the individual in question. But perhaps they all did! He changed in every case by establishing a link with the Angelos of each person concerned.

In this connection a veritable abyss lies between what is accepted usage today and what was taken for granted not so very long ago. A great deal of learning is available in our time but it is communicated in an entirely different way. In the higher training given in an epoch not far behind us, those who were called upon to be leaders of the people as priests or teachers were taught to develop the capacity to unite themselves with the Angelos of a human being. But even remembrance of this has vanished. Knowledge of the Angeloi was indispensable for those who aspired to be leaders of mankind, in order to develop the power of self-transformation.

And now something else. — It will strike you as extraordinary — I have spoken of it in the book Christianity as Mystical Fact — that there are great similarities in biographies of ancient Initiates. Study these biographies and you will find that very many features are alike, for the great Initiates underwent similar experiences in their souls. Biographies of ordinary human beings would never be alike. If those who encountered Zarathustra had all written about him, every characterisation would have been different, because Zarathustra changed every time an individual came before him. What the world was meant to know about the great Initiates was biography inspired by higher Spirits.

When the meeting between an Initiate and some individual takes place for the first time in the Cosmos, the Initiate has to establish contact with the Angelos of that individual. In doing so he acquires a great deal of knowledge about the outer spiritual world. In point of fact one cannot acquire deeper knowledge of other human beings through spiritual faculties without learning to know a host of Angeloi. A true knowledge of man is impossible without knowledge of the Angeloi. Just as human beings not karmically connected with each other acquire knowledge of the surrounding world through ordinary perception, the Initiate gains knowledge of the world of the Angeloi — which is then the bridge between himself and the higher Hierarchies.

There are also other indications of the existence of a karmic connection. We may meet an individual and then have a great deal to do with him, work with him and so on, but we never dream about him. The reason is that the karmic connection is not with our astral body, but only with our Ego.

We may come across someone of whom we have only a fleeting glance and yet he follows us into our very dreams — into our waking dreams too. Our picture of him is quite unconnected with his outward appearance and has arisen entirely in the inner life, because we have a karmic tie with him. Again we may meet someone with whom we are karmically connected and feel impelled to paint him. An artist may paint a portrait in which an uncultured person sees no likeness whatever, whereas an Initiate may recognise a previous incarnation of the individual whose portrait has been painted. We get to know someone with whom we have a karmic connection in the depths of his being although the knowledge may remain subconscious. Through individuals with whom we have had no previous karmic connection, whom we meet for the first time, we enlarge our knowledge of humanity in general.

When you go to a tea-party or some such function, just keep your ears open and listen to the conversation. — If someone has met another individual with whom he is karmically connected, he will say little about the others present, but about this particular individual he will say something of real significance, especially if he is unaware of what is behind it all. At the same kind of tea-party you may get into conversation with someone with whom you have no karmic connection at all. Your interest in him is very superficial and he seems to you to be typical of all the other guests. Such a gathering is very brief as a rule, and a great deal of talk goes on about world affairs, about noted politicians and the like. After listening to these few people we may judge the whole of society by this criterion. The judgement may be erroneous but nevertheless it is through individuals with whom we have no karmic connection that another aspect of the world is presented to us. There was once a traveller who happened to reach Konigsberg Station at midnight. He asked for a cup of coffee and was addressed in very coarse language by the red-headed waiter who had been dozing. The traveller wrote in his diary: “The people of Konigsberg have red hair, are sleepy and coarse.” He was judging all the people of Konigsberg by this night-waiter — someone with whom he had no karmic connection!

Through studies of this kind we learn not only how to assess life and its values, but we get nearer to other human beings and are connected with them in a different way. We learn not only to understand human life — which is the essential task of Anthroposophy — we also learn to know cosmic life. Sun and Moon cease to be the subject of abstract theories and become living realities in the Cosmos — the great counterparts in the Universe of the microcosmic destiny of men on the Earth.

Sun-activity combines with Moon-activity in our life. The light radiating to us from the Moon is connected with our cosmic past and the light of the Sun is connected with our cosmic future.

* * *

It was the aim of the Christmas Meeting, when the Anthroposophical Society was given a new foundation, to stress the importance of Anthroposophy for life itself. It was said that esotericism in the true sense of the word must be a living power among us. The Christmas Meeting was not intended merely to be a festive gathering of a number of Anthroposophists, but its efficacy and its impulses were meant to endure. One new plan is to issue a News Sheet — as a matter of fact the first three numbers have already appeared — containing reports of what is going on in the Anthroposophical Society. The Society must become a kind of living, spiritual organism. On my journeys I have constantly found Members in The Hague, for example, saying: “We have no idea what the Members in Vienna are doing, and yet we belong to an Anthroposophical Society!” — I wonder how many here in Zurich could tell me what is going on in the Groups of the Society in Leipzig or Hamburg? But this is what must be possible in future. Members of the New Zealand Group should have a real picture of what is going on in Vienna, and so on. It will be helpful if the Members will send to the editorial office of the News Sheet accounts of their experiences both in the Society and outside it. This material will then be edited, and Members will be able to read about whatever is going on in the Society. I propose in future to include in the News Sheet short, concentrated aphorisms for use in the Group Meetings or on other occasions.

All these measures should instil real life, pulsating life, into the Anthroposophical Society, and every Member should realise that this was the aim of the Christmas Meeting. Moreover it is only because this is how things ought to be, and indeed must be, if Anthroposophy itself is to do justice to its past and future, that I have undertaken the Presidency, associated with an Executive which I know will work fruitfully from the centre at the Goetheanum. I had for many years kept apart from all administrative matters, and had it not been an absolute necessity I should not have thought of starting anew and repeating in old age what one did as a young man. I want to appeal to every Member of the Anthroposophical Society to help in ensuring that through the Christmas Meeting the foundation stone of anthroposophical life shall be laid in the hearts of our Members and that it shall develop as a living seed, so that active life may constantly increase in the Society. If that happens, the Society will also be able to send its impulse out into the world.

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