|15th of October, 1944.
by Dr. Rudolf Steiner
Nuremberg, 12 November, 1910
published in “Anthroposophic News Sheet”, 15 October,
1944, Volume 12)
One of the most important lectures on the etheric appearance of
Christ was given at Nuremberg on the 13th of November 1910. The text
of this lecture containing many details was published in the News
Sheet in 1937 (page 105) under the title
“THE WISDOM CONTAINED IN ANCIENT DOCUMENTS AND IN THE GOSPELS.
THE EVENT OF THE CHRIST.”
The text of the lecture which preceded it was discovered on looking
through the notes of the lecture. This lecture of the 12th of
November contains many valuable details on the effects and influences
of Karma. And it should meet an objective and historical interest to
publish this brief resume of the lecture given on the 12th of
November in the News Sheet.
Today I must tell you a few things on morality and karma and tomorrow
I shall speak on the appearance of Christ and reveal a few facts
which have not yet been revealed.
Theosophy becomes really fruitful if we can observe its influence on
our own life and if it becomes living substance within us.
Theosophical principles can be looked upon as interesting doctrines,
but theoretically it is difficult to gain a real conviction of the
truth implied by the spiritual-scientific doctrines, in the real
meaning of the word. Of course, all theosophical facts discovered
along the path of genuine spiritual-scientific investigation can be
tested by the human intellect and recognized through logic; but if we
take in spiritual-scientific truths we are still a long way from
being able to test them. Among our audience many people prefer to
tread an easier path, which is to accept spiritual truths on the
authority of a teacher. This is far more comfortable. On the other
hand, however, there is hardly any other alternative for the great
majority of people, for the independent testing of
spiritual-scientific truths is a very difficult path; the other path,
of observing life in itself, is far easier. But if the laws of Karma
hold good, life itself must take on a form which shows us how Karma
works in the experiences of life and in the development of character.
Those who strive after spiritual truths will more easily gain a
conviction of these truths by observing facts supported by life
I shall take two widely-spread qualities as a starting point in this
lecture. Taken as moral qualities, there has always been a strong,
instinctive repugnance against them. ENVY and FALSEHOOD have always
been considered as a special moral failing. This special aversion may
be seen in the fact that in the case of no other human error is the
repugnance so strong and instinctive as in the case of envy and
falsehood. This feeling may be found in great men and in
insignificant people. Benvenuto Cellini, who was a great man, once
said that he felt himself capable of every kind of sin, but that he
could not remember any real lie which he had told. Also Goethe found
a certain relief in being able to say that he had never harboured any
feeling of envy. Consequently the souls of the simplest people and
the souls of highly developed men have an instinctive repugnance
against envy and falsehood and defend themselves against them.
Without taking into consideration the theosophical aspect it may be
said, first of all, that envy and falsehood are visibly an offence
against a fundamental element of social life: they are an offence
against the feeling of compassion. Compassion does not only imply
sharing another's grief and pain, but it also implies
experiencing his value. Compassion is a quality which is not greatly
developed among men. It still contains a great amount of egoism. Of
Herder it is said, for instance (he intended to study medicine) that
he fainted when he first entered an operating theatre where a corpse
was to be dissected; he fainted not through compassion, but through
weakness and egoism, because he could not bear that sight. Compassion
must become less selfish; we should be able to rejoice at another
person's success and rise; we should be able to look upon his
good qualities without any feeling of bitterness.
Compassion is a fundamental element in the soul life which we share
with others because all human soul experiences are connected with
each other. Envy and falsehood in particular offend against the
capacity of appraising another person's value. We damage our
fellow man through envy and falsehood.
Envy and falsehood bring us in opposition to the course of the
universe; by envy and falsehood we harm the laws which govern the
world's course of events. They can easily be recognized as
errors and people do not tolerate them.
As a rule both envy and falsehood have occult backgrounds. Certain
mysterious laws hold sway, which easily escape our observation, and
they work in such a way that both envy and falsehood can arise in the
same person in later years.
Envy does not always take on the form of conscious green envy. Of
course, if anyone is conscious of this feeling, he tries to get rid
of it. Envy as such is a quality rooted in the astral body of man. We
know that feelings, passions, etc. should be looked for in the astral
body. There is a certain law according to which qualities arising in
the astral body and which are so detestable that we wish to get rid
of them, gradually insinuate themselves into the etheric body. There
they take on delusive aspects and appear in the guise of certain
definite judgments which we pass on other people. No envy is
contained in these judgments, yet we criticize people and find
everything in them bad. This is a secret form of envy which creeps
into our etheric body. There it takes on the form of an opinion, of a
critical judgment. We say: This person has done this or that, and our
statement may seem perfectly correct; nevertheless it contains envy
in a masked form. What has taken place? A very significant process
has taken place.
We know that the human soul passes through many incarnations and that
there was a moment in the development of mankind when the tempters,
Lucifer and Ahriman, crept into the human soul. In what form do
Lucifer and Ahriman live within us today? This is not easy to
discover without the aid of clairvoyant investigation, and Goethe
expressed a deep truth when he said: “Folks do not notice the
Devil, even when he takes them by the scruff of the neck!” IN
fact, it is possible to ignore the devil; it is possible not to see
him. From the standpoint of modern natural science it is easy to say
that Mephistopheles does not exist; nevertheless, Lucifer and Ahriman
live in human nature. Ahriman lives in the etheric body and Lucifer
in the astral body of man.
Lucifer is a power that tempts the human soul by drawing it down
morally and by leading it away from its origin. He casts us into the
depths of earthly nature and we should beware of this. Lucifer is the
power that draws us down into the depths of passion.
Ahriman, on the other hand, is the spirit of falsehood and error and
he falsifies our judgments.
Both Lucifer and Ahriman are powers which are hostile to human
progress. Yet they get on very well with each other. Envy is a
quality in which the Luciferic power comes to expression. It is a
detestable quality and that is why people dislike it. They seek to
get rid of it, to overcome it and drive it away. When a person first
discovers that his soul is filled with envy, he begins to fight
against Lucifer, the source of envy. What does Lucifer do in that
case? He simply hands over the matter to Ahriman, and Ahriman darkens
the human judgment.
When we fight against Lucifer in the astral body, Ahriman can easily
insinuate himself into the etheric body, darkening our judgments on
other people. This is falsehood and falsehood is an Ahrimanic
People also feel a strong dislike for falsehood and they try to fight
against it. When we try to overcome falsehood, we can see that
Ahriman hands over the scepter to Lucifer, so that a quality creeps
into the astral body which appears in the form of an extremely
pronounced EGOISM. Egoism is restrained falsehood.
These two qualities, falsehood and envy, are a crass expression of
the way in which Lucifer and Ahriman work within the human soul.
It is possible to observe the influence of envy and falsehood even in
the course of a single incarnation. Let us now speak of facts which
prove the truth of theosophical teachings. Let us observe a certain
period in a person's life and let us suppose that this person
was strongly addicted to telling lies. The law of Karma would in that
case exercise its influence and we should wait until this becomes
manifest. It is, however, possible to observe in the present
incarnation the connection which exists between an earlier and a
later period of life. A study of human life may show us that a person
perhaps lost the habit of telling lies — for life itself is a
great school — but he will reveal instead a new, plainly marked
characteristic: a certain timidity. There are people who cannot look
us in the face and it is possible to observe a certain relationship
between a feeling of shyness in later life and hypocrisy at some
earlier period of life.
Another example: A person may be filled with the feeling of envy.
When this has disappeared, when it has been overcome, we can observe
that at some later period of life such a person is dependent on
others; he will lack independence in the way in which he faces life —
be a weak and swaying person.
These connections between falsehood and shyness, envy and lack of
independence, which can already be observed in one and the same
incarnation, are Karmic connections.
In reality, Karma works in such a way that a faint fulfillment of its
laws already comes to expression in one and the same incarnation,
though the decisive influence upon man's character only appears
in the next incarnation. Helplessness and lack of independence will
arise in old age, when envy appeared during youth. This is a faint
nuance of the influence of Karma; it remains after death, works
throughout kamaloka, etc., and it will be contained in the forces
which build up the next life; it will become interwoven with the
fundamental character which expresses itself in the three bodies: the
physical, etheric and astral bodies.
Goethe expressed this in a very fine way by saying: The desires of
our youth are fully realized in our old age. This applies, of course,
both to good and bad desires.
In the next life the character qualities build up the three bodies,
our character is then the architect of these three bodies. If envy
has been a fundamental quality during one incarnation, it will
exercise an influence upon the three bodies during the next
incarnation and produce, as a result, a weak physical constitution.
It works upon the human organism during the next incarnation.
When we see someone facing life in a helpless and dependent way, we
must say: “Envy must have been at work during his past
incarnation,” and we should behave towards him accordingly. If
the laws of Karma hold good, it will soon appear whether our attitude
is justified. When we see someone entering life with bad health and a
weak constitution, we may take for granted that envy played a certain
part in his life during his past incarnation.
When there is such a person in our environment, we must say that
Karma led us together with him for a definite purpose: perhaps we
were the object of his former envy. What can we now do for him? If
Karma is a fact which can be reasonably accepted, if it is a valid
truth, it should become manifest that by adopting the right attitude
towards such a physically weak person in our environment, a good
result can be achieved. What he needs is forgiveness; he needs to
encounter this forgiving attitude in the widest measure. Under the
condition that we have something to forgive him, we should envelop
him in an atmosphere of forgiveness. “You have to forgive him
something — therefore do it”; this is what we say to
ourselves, but not to HIM — we shall act accordingly and await
the result, and we shall see him gaining health and strength. Simply
try to do what is right and the result will not fail to appear. This
is how we may live in accordance with the laws of Karma and the whole
of Theosophy will then become living substance.
Now someone might come along and say: It is quite right that things
should have gone wrong with that person, for this is the retribution
for what he did during his past incarnation. It is very reasonable
that things should have taken this course, because his Karma demands
it. People who say this do not understand Karma, for to understand
Karma we must know that another person's Karma does not concern
us at all! The fulfillment of Karma will come of its own accord; our
only task is to help him! We must, however, draw in everything which
might bring about a favourable change in his Karma. To know and to
feel this forms part of a deep understanding of Karma and its laws.
It is another matter when someone is passing through an esoteric
development; in that case advice may be given as to the best way in
which he can live out his Karma.
Moral qualities in fact produce results; they bring about Karmic
effects. They may change during one incarnation. But in the next
incarnation they must descend right down into the physical organism.
We said that falsehood may change into timidity during one and the
same incarnation, so that a person withdraws into himself. All the
more will falsehood in one incarnation produce timidity in the next
incarnation. Such a person is born as a timid soul, full of fears. He
will not only be shy towards the people of his environment, but he
will also fall a prey to certain pathological conditions of fear. The
timidity which appeared in one incarnation as a slight karmic effect
of falsehood, will therefore appear in the next incarnation as a
fundamental organic quality also of the physical body.
What is the right attitude towards a person in whose case we must
assume that he told many lies during his past incarnation? We say to
ourselves — we do not say this to him — and this should
determine our actions: He will have told us many lies during a past
incarnation; he misled us. We must try to bring him fruitful and
valuable truths. Those who are led together with him by Karma must
try to penetrate into his soul with love and devotion. Falsehood must
be recompensed by truth; these are two extremes which bring about a
kind of compensation.
The secret of the whole matter is that a favourable influence cannot
be exercised upon him by anyone, but just by those who are karmically
connected with him. Those who adopt this attitude will see what good
results can be achieved if he brings him positive truths and has real
understanding for him.
Karma is a real law; its result will appear in a very peculiar way.
If we lovingly penetrate into the weaknesses of such people, our
influence upon them will be an immense relief to them and bring them
freedom and health. If we can immerse ourselves completely in them,
we shall have a rejuvenating influence upon such people.
Our attitude towards people may be an understanding one or a critical
one. What is the effect? We may help them or be unable to help them.
We may come towards a person with understanding; i.e., immerse
ourselves lovingly in his soul, with a real understanding for his
weaknesses, if Karma demands this from us, as a task. But we may also
criticize him and remain by this.
Let us observe life in both cases. What is the effect of criticism
and rebuke upon the object of such rebuke? One effect can be that the
reproaches helped him, but it may also be otherwise. People who
habitually criticize and rebuke others will also bring about a
certain result: a certain feeling of isolation will take hold of
them; they will feel themselves cut off from the others.
Let us compare this with the effects produced in one incarnation,
when we immerse ourselves with love and understanding in the other
person's soul, in spite of his failings. In this case, too, the
result may be a good one or a bad one, but the effect upon the soul
will undoubtedly be a favourable one.
This shows us that entirely different laws hold sway when we remain
standing, as it were, by criticism and rebuke, or when we progress as
far as real understanding. Rebuke recoils upon ourselves and forms
new Karma, but understanding gives rise to a store of wealth in the
other soul; it dissolves Karma, smoothens it and eliminates it.
This is a very significant fact in life. Let us now recapitulate the
result of our observations in a sentence which constitutes a deep
truth; namely, that we are in the position to be of very little help
to ourselves, and that we can, on the other hand, harm ourselves
greatly. We can, however, be of great help to others, whereas we
cannot cause them much harm by our own errors. Our good qualities can
therefore be of great help to others; our bad qualities cause us
great harm, but cannot cause much harm to others, at least not
This is a very peculiar law. It shows the effect of Karma in one and
the same incarnation: for one who helps another person by his good
qualities and by immersing himself lovingly in his soul, may be sure
of a favourable effect in his own life at some later period. Do not
say that this is egoism, that it is selfish to be good and noble. No,
goodness must be something quite natural, and its good effect at some
later time arises as a natural consequence.
If we do not go beyond our own interests, if we have no understanding
for other people and only criticize them, no good effects will arise.
The strange thing is that unless we are good towards others we cannot
progress; this is a condition for our own progress.
This is a fundamental law passing over from one incarnation to the
other, and appearing in a wonderful way. If in one incarnation we are
instinctively led to goodness, if a kind of life instinct draws us
towards a good life, this will appear in the next life as Theosophy,
which will already have exercised its influence. Let us for instance
imagine a person who was good to us at a time when we were not yet
able to guide ourselves. Here we see a great difference between the
different qualities of good — there are the good things in life
which we do not deserve (we speak of undeserved good) and we can see
that in one case its effect may be a favourable one, whereas in
another case it is useless.
The clairvoyant may now perceive something quite special: Another
person's good actions towards us, at a time in which we did not
deserve them, appear as goodness which we earned back from him. If
this is the case, their effect upon us will be a good one; if this is
not the case, they cannot have any good effect upon us. When we
observe the workings of Karma we should bear in mind that every
action has its effect, even though it may not immediately appear to
the physical eye.
The paths of Karma are very intricate paths, but if we study life we
may understand them, for life contains the proofs for the way in
which Karma works in the world. If we study Karma and act
accordingly, the success in life itself will show us that we went out
from a real law, which holds good.
There are three ways in which we can face Karma: We may not believe
in it at all; we may believe in it, and then we may apply the test by
observing life itself. This will enable us to recognize the truth of
its laws. Theosophy is not only a theoretical truth, but a search for
proofs which establish this truth in life itself.