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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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Reincarnation: Introduction



THE author of this book has been brought by destiny into connection with the doctrine of reincarnation. He was led by a happy fate to read a history of the world for the first time, while still a child of about nine years old. Amid surroundings in which quite different opinions were held, there arose in the youthful mind, which still knew little of the views of the age, the certainty that man is not in the world for the first time, that he has himself a connection through an earlier life with mankind's past. This impression rushing up from the depths of his being, returned to him again and again upon different occasions. It was chiefly concerned, not with personalities, but with periods, with whole complexes of feelings, mental gifts, moods. Such experiences, which psychoanalysis does not explain, continued until his twenty-first year, without arousing special vanity or excitement. Then with unexpected force, the consciousness came that he was actively connected with a definite period in the history of Christianity. Thus the idea of reincarnation must have already become a burning problem for him.

But from that point it fell completely into the background. The consciousness of the age demanded more and more of his mind, and filled him with views and thoughts in which the idea of reincarnation had no chance to live.

But it seems as if a subterranean approach to it had still remained. For in the year 1910, the author wrote a treatise on the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, in which he weighed the pros and cons, recognised much of value in it, but finally rejected it. Immediately after that he became acquainted with the doctrine of reincarnation in the form which it takes in Anthroposophical spiritual investigation; and now it appeared that no single one of his objections was apposite when brought against that form of doctrine. In these circumstances the author may be correct in recognising a dispensation of destiny, and also a duty which he owes to life.

The first conversation which he had with the refounder of the doctrine of reincarnation, Rudolf Steiner, turned immediately to this question. “No, reincarnation is not a doctrine of Christianity,” Rudolf Steiner admitted at once, “but it is a result of investigation with which Christianity must reckon.” In that direction went the rest of the conversation, which we shall not discuss in detail here.

So in this book, we dedicate the first section to a purely intellectual discussion of the idea of reincarnation. Those who have a knowledge of Anthroposophical views will naturally find in this part chiefly a presentation of that which is sufficiently known to them already. But the book is intended for those for whom the thought of reincarnation is still a problem with which they are struggling.

The discussion from the Christian point of view is almost entirely confined to the second section, so that all those who find that this method of discussion does not essentially predispose them to accept the thought, may draw near to the doctrine of reincarnation by other paths. The author feels this discussion to be so much the more a duty for him because he himself from youth up has known Christian circles and their views, and has dedicated his life to the advocacy of Christianity.

The third section is intended to prove from the problems of the life of our times, the necessity for paying the most serious attention to this question.

As it is possible to be convinced of reincarnation without being a Christian, so it is quite possible to be a Christian without holding the doctrine of reincarnation. The contact with Christ which is the cardinal point in Christianity has little or nothing to do with individual questions in one's view of the world, however important they may be. Thus in the Christian Community to whose public representatives the author belongs, a Christian life may freely unfold itself and be lived out without any reference to reincarnation. The sacramental rituals in which is expressed the spiritual activity that unites the Christian Community make no mention of reincarnation. This alone can be said, that the Christian Community is the first Christian fellowship within which the thought of reincarnation can be freely entertained, but always as a personal view and confession. in this sense, as a free upholding of a personal conviction, this book has been written.

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