Impulses from waves of reincarnating souls

From Anthroposophy

The topic page title is a metaphoric image for the principle through which the historical and cultural development of mankind is formed by various streams with impulses carried by waves of reincarnating souls.

In the Karmic Relationship (KR) lectures, Rudolf Steiner discusses a number of Individualities, and one may imagine these were choosen for good reason (and more than just their educational value). A hypothesis is that they are leads for further investigation to unveil further learnings. Also, Steiner on several occasions asks the question 'where are the initiates of old', of previous cultural ages? So one can imagine certain heavy-caliber Individualities to be impactful in the context of these 'waves of incarnating souls' (and for example, Steiner gives an example with Garibaldi KRID=10).

This principle can be used to interpret and decode what is happening in the world also today.


  • how the spiritual influences are the principle underlying the development and History of mankind (1924-09-10-GA238), as follows from fact-based Clairvoyant research of akashic records
  • spiritual influences, forces, impulses .. use the human being as an instrument (1910-12-29-GA126 quote A)
  • The image of the 'waves of incarnating souls carrying impulses' (1924-04-16-GA240, 1924-07-01-GA237)
    • sketches streams in history, like waves of underlying impulses, carried by and through incarnating individualities.
    • some Individualities can be identified as seed and/or core individualities lying at the root or spring of certain developments. Certain individualities weigh or radiate stronger and hence influence their surroundings, not physically but in terms of karmically connected souls, which then make part of similar impulses or streams.
      • examples:
        • two spiritual streams in conflict: the quasi-Arabian philosophers and the Dominican scholastics (1924-07-01-GA237, 1924-08-01-GA237)
          • the stream of Arabism and Mohammedanism. Haroun al Raschid (KRID=6) and his Counsellor (KRID=17) at the Court in Baghdad (1924-07-19-GA240, 1924-08-14-GA240), see link with impulse from the Academy of Gondishapur
          • the stream of work of Aristotle (KRID=36) and Alexander (KRID=37) (1924-09-10-GA238)
        • illustration of the principle: Voltaire (KRID=29) Marx (KRID=15) Darwin (KRID=7) in 1916-10-01-GA171
        • other example are the two substreams in the Michaelic stream (re Aristotelian and Platonic souls) (1924-07-08-GA237, 1924-07-13-GA237 and 1924-07-18-GA240
        • for more examples, see Discussion area below
    • influences of non-incarnated souls from the spiritual on the physical world: the influences of souls also work when not incarnated, individualities influence other souls not just during life on Earth, but also after they have passed through the gate of death.
      • examples
        • Goethe's influence (KRID=34) through Hermann Grimm (KRID=23) and the influence of Christian Morgenstern after his death (1914-10-07-GA156), see link with the Thirthy three years rhythm
  • Historically following streams of impulses over time and geography, linking time periods where certain souls or Individualities were incarnated in certain geographies, with the impulses they carry (1923-12-29-GA233)
  • One can connect the concept of 'a spiritual impulse' through what is explained in Schema FMC00.181 on Christ Module 7 - Cosmic dimension. Common soul influences of thinking, feeling, willing create a new center of gravity, examples are ideas and ideals. Like a magnet, or dune grass, this can be seen as an attractor or center of gravity for a large population of souls that are in the same state of mind and/or belief.

Inspirational quotes


.. in the things that are taking place outwardly at the surface of our life, we have after all scarcely anything else than the beating of the surface-waves from that which is still present in the depths of souls, a relic of the deeper and intenser inner life of earlier times


It is most important to point out, how the study of the historic life of Mankind is called to life when we show that .. it is the souls of men themselves, passing from age to age in their repeated lives on Earth, who carry over the results of one historic age into another.


Schema FMC00.059 positions history 'as we are told' to what can be read clairvoyantly as objective truth in the akashic records, and how true history is an emanation and expression of spiritual impulses that are carried by waves of reincarnating human souls.


Lecture coverage and references


quote A is about forces using the human being as an instrument

Certain things that have been said in giving a brief glimpse into the occult course of human evolution will have indicated to you that the succession of incarnations as determined by the individual character and development of human beings, is modified through the intervention of spiritual forces from the higher hierarchies.

Reincarnation is by no means such a simple process in the evolution of humanity as a certain easy-going way of thinking likes to assume.

  • It is, of course, a fact that man incarnates again and again, that the innermost core of his being appears over and over again in new incarnations;
  • it is also true that there is a causal connection between earlier and later lives.
  • Moreover there is the law of karma which gives expression to this causal connection.

But over and above all this there is something else which is essential for understanding the historical course of the evolution of mankind.

The course of human evolution would have been quite different if nothing except the causal connections between one incarnation and the next, or between the earlier and the later incarnations of the human being came into consideration.

  • Other forces of great significance intervene perpetually in human life, in every incarnation, to a greater or less extent, and use the human being as an instrument. This applies particularly in the case of leading personalities in history. Hence it follows that purely individual karma is modified through the successive incarnations, and this is what actually happens.

Limiting ourselves for the time being to the Postatlantean period, we can speak of a law according to which, in the ages up to the present time, the influences of other worlds are connected with Man's individual karma.


It is interesting to see that in the GA we find mention of Individualities mentioned in the KR in exactly this context.

Note Voltaire: KRID=29, Marx KRID=15, Darwin KRID=7

There arose in England, for example, the extraordinarily influential philosopher, Locke. Today, it is true that not many people know anything about him, but the influences of such men nevertheless go through thousands of cultural channels unknown to external life. Locke had an immense influence on Voltaire, who influenced European thinking greatly. This influence goes back to Locke. How much has directly come to pass under what we may call the Locke-Voltaire influence! How many thoughts would not have spread over Europe if this Locke-Voltaire influence had never existed. What a different part political and social life in Europe would have played if the European soul had not been fed such thoughts. In France, for instance, we see these same impulses live on in the immensely influential Montesquieu.

If we then look to wider intellectual influences on the continent, we see how through Hume, and later on through Darwin, human thinking is revolutionized. Again we see, as through Locke and Voltaire, so also through Hume and Darwin, that an immense influence is exercised.

And there is Karl Marx, the founder of modern socialism, whose influence cannot as yet be evaluated by the self-styled “cultivated” people because it exists so widely. When Marx began to study and to write his fundamental work, Capital, he went to England. To be sure, Hegelism lived in Marx, but a Hegelism colored by Darwinism. One who studies the constitutions of the different European countries in the nineteenth century and their constitutional conflicts, will realize how profound was the influence of the cultural impulses coming from England. All this can only be indicated here.

If, however, we now turn our minds to the outstanding personalities who give Europe a certain configuration, we find in all of them a specially developed, abstract rationalistic thinking that makes an excellent instrument for research in, and for learning to know and deal with, the physical world. In Locke and Voltaire, in Montesquieu and also in Hume and Darwin, in everything dependent on them, a faculty lives that is transmitted to European thinking and feeling, so that even those who know nothing of it are still deeply influenced by it. This faculty creates a kind of thinking that is peculiarly fitted to understand and deal with the materialistic relations of the world, and to create social orders that arise from materialistic connections.


Furthermore, descriptions of another kind link or fit into the image of streams or impulses. The below is a first example illustrating this

On the one hand we have always there a stream of wisdom that spreads far and wide, unobtrusively, among simple folk, the secret source of much of medieval thought and insight. Long ago, through the expeditions of Alexander, it had made its way into Asia, and now it came back again into Europe by diverse channels, through Arabia, for instance, and later on following the path of the returning Crusaders. We find it in every corner of Europe, inconspicuous, flowing silently in hidden places.

To these places came men like

  • Jacob Boehme [(1575–1624)],
  • Paracelsus [Theophrastus Paracelsus (1493–1541)]

and a number more, to receive that which had come thither by many a roundabout path and was preserved in these scattered primitive circles of European life. We have had amongst us in Europe far more folk-wisdom than is generally supposed. The stream continues even now. It has poured its flood of wisdom into reservoirs like:

  • Valentine Weigel [(1533–1588)] or Paracelsus or Jacob Boehme, and many more, whose names are less known. And sometimes it met there, as for example, in
  • Basil Valentine — new in-pourings that came over later into Europe.

In the Cloisters of the Middle Ages lived a true alchemistic wisdom, not an alchemy that demonstrates changes in matter merely, but an alchemy that demonstrates the inner nature of the changes in the human being himself in the universe.


It was the same wisdom that had come to new life in such men as Basil Valentine and those who came after him, and from which Jacob Boehme, Paracelsus and countless others had drawn. It was brought back to Europe also by yet another path, namely through the Crusaders. This Aristotelian wisdom lived on, scattered far and wide among the common people. In the later decades of the 19th century, one is thankful to say, the last echoes of the ancient Nature knowledge carried over into Asia by the expeditions of Alexander were still to be heard, even if sadly diminished and scarcely recognisable. In the old alchemy, in the old knowledge of the connections between the forces and substances of Nature that persisted so remarkably among simple country folk, we may discover again its last lingering echoes. To-day they have died away; to-day they are gone, they are no longer to be heard.

Similarly in these years one could still find isolated individuals who gave evidence of Aristotelian spiritual training; though today they too are gone. And thus what was carried east as well as what was carried west was preserved, — for that which was carried east came back again to the west. And it was possible in the seventies and eighties of the 19th century for one who could do so with new direct spiritual perception, to make contact with what was still living in these last and youngest children of the great events we have been describing.

Hereby a link is made between time periods where souls were incarnated in certain geographies, carrying a certain impulse.


sketches streams in history, like waves of underlying impulses, carried by and through incarnating individualities. Some of which can be identified as seed or core individualities lying at the root or spring of certain developments, such as Haroun Al Rashid or Christian Rosenkreutz. Additionally, an important element are the influences also working after death: individualities influence other souls not just during life on Earth, but also after they have passed through the gate of death. Furthermore, one feels that it is as if certain individualities weigh or radiate stronger and hence influence their surroundings, not physically but in terms of karmically connected souls, which then make part of similar impulses or streams.

Quote A

What is the historical evolution of humanity, when we consider what is revealed by the fact of repeated earthly lives?

When some personality appears as a leading figure in the evolution of humanity, we must say: This personality is the bearer of an Individuality of soul-and-spirit who was already present many times in earthly existence and who carries over into this earthly life the impulses from earlier incarnations. Only in the light of his earlier earthly lives can we really understand such a personality.

From this we see at once how what was working in earlier ages of world-history is carried over from those earlier ages by human beings themselves. The civilisation of today has developed out of the human beings who belong to the present in the wider sense. But they, after all, are the same souls who were there in earlier ages and assimilated what those earlier civilisations brought into being; they themselves have carried it over into the present. The same applies to ages other than the present. Only when we can discover what has been carried over by human souls from one age into the other can we understand this onflowing stream of the impulses working in civilisation. But then we have history in the concrete, not in the abstract.

People usually speak only about ideas working in world-history, about moral will or moral impulses in general which carry over the fruits of civilisation from one age into the others. But the bearers of these fruits of earlier civilisations are the human souls themselves, for they incarnate again and again. Moreover it is only in this way that an individual realises what he has himself become, how he has carried over that which forms the basis of his bodily destiny, his destiny in good and evil alike.

When, as a first step, we ponder how history has been carried from one age into another by the human beings themselves in their repeated earthly lives, then, and only then are the secrets, the great enigmas of historical evolution, unveiled.

Today I want to show by three examples how karma works through actual personalities. One of these examples leads us into the wide arena of history; the other two deal more with the reincarnations of particular individuals.


Quote B gives an example of such a soul concretely. The point is that these lectures also point out the influence these Individualities have when not incarnated, by influencing other souls in the spiritual world.

The personality of whom tradition says that he made magnificent provision for all the sciences at the Court of Haroun al Raschid was only one of the most eminent sages of his time, with a genius for organisation so outstanding that he was virtually the source of much that was achieved at the Court of Haroun al Raschid.

The spread of Arabism continued for many centuries, as we know from the wars waged by Europe in an attempt to keep it within bounds. But that was not the end of it: the souls who were once active in Arabism passed through the gate of death, developed onwards in the spiritual world and remained connected, in a sense, with their work. This was what happened in the case of the Individualities of Haroun al Raschid and of the wise Counsellor who lived at his Court.

To begin with, let us follow Haroun al Raschid. He passes through the gate of death and develops onwards in the spiritual world. In its external form, Arabism is repulsed; Christianity implants itself into Middle and Western Europe in the exoteric form it has gradually acquired. But although it is impossible to continue to be active in the old form of Mohammedanism, of Arabism, in Europe, it is very possible for the souls who once shared in this brilliant culture at the Court of Haroun al Raschid and there received the impulse for further achievements, to work on. And that is what they do.

We find that Haroun al Raschid himself reincarnates in the renowned personality of Francis Bacon, Lord Bacon — the distinguished Englishman whose influence has affected the whole of modern scientific thinking, and therewith much that is to be found in the minds of human beings today. Haroun al Raschid could not disseminate from London, from England, a form of culture strictly aligned with Arabism ... this soul was obliged to make use of the form of Arabism that was possible in the West. But the fundamental trend and tendency of what Bacon poured into European thinking is the old Arabism in the new form. And so Arabism lives in the scientific thinking of today, because Francis Bacon was the reincarnated Haroun al Raschid.


.. I cannot deal with this in detail but can only indicate how Arabism in its Western form and in its Oriental form issued from what arose in Middle Europe from the meeting of the two spiritual impulses connected with Bacon and Comenius.


Many aspects of the civilisation of Middle Europe can become intelligible to us only when we see how Arabism — in the form in which it could now be re-cast — was actually brought over from Asia by individuals who had once lived at the Court of Haroun al Raschid. This shows us how human Individuality is an active factor in the evolution of history. And then, by studying examples as striking as these, we can learn from them how karma works through the incarnations. As I have said on various occasions, what we learn from this study can be applied to our own incarnation. But to begin with we must have concrete examples.


quote A - translation by Brian Kelly (from rsarchive)

We have seen how the Mysteries provided human beings with a conscious connection to the world in such a way that this connection could be portrayed in the yearly cycle of festivals. In particular we have seen how Easter developed out of the principle of initiation. It should be obvious from all that has been said that the Mysteries played a highly significant role in humanity's development. Indeed, in ancient times essentially all of humanity's spiritual life and development originated within the Mysteries. To put it in modern terms, the Mysteries wielded great power in the overall guidance of spiritual life.

Human beings, however, were destined to achieve freedom, which meant that the Mysteries' powerful influence had to diminish and for a time leave human beings more or less to their own devices. Although today it can hardly be said that we have already achieved true inner freedom and are ready to proceed with the next evolutionary step, still a significant number of people have gone through incarnations in which the power of the Mysteries has been less palpable than it was in earlier times. The fruit of these incarnations, although not yet ripe, is alive in peoples' souls. And when an age finally dawns that is once again more spiritual, the current ignorance will be overcome. People will then freely greet with esteem and reverence the spiritual knowledge and experience that can be achieved through modern initiation. For without esteem and reverence, neither knowledge nor humanity's spiritual life would be possible.

One of the purposes of the festivals is to try to cultivate this reverence in ourselves by understanding how the spiritual has developed throughout human history. Through the festivals we can learn to look very intimately at how historical events pass spiritual contents on from one age to another. For even though human beings are the most fundamental link in the chain of historical development, in that they reincarnate and thereby carry experiences of earlier epochs into later ones, nevertheless each life is lived in a particular milieu, of which the Mysteries are of course a highly significant part. A most important factor for the progress of humanity is the carrying of the contents of Mystery experiences into later incarnations, where they are encountered again, either in new Mysteries, which in turn have their effect upon humanity as a whole, or in some other form of knowledge.

It is in some other form of knowledge that past Mystery wisdom must be experienced in our time, for the actual Mysteries have all but disappeared from outer life, and must rise again. I might say that if the impulse originating from the Christmas Conference that was held here at the Goetheanum truly takes hold within the Anthroposophical Society, then the Society, inasmuch as it leads to the Classes, which have already begun to be established, will become the basis for a renewal of the Mysteries. [The School for Spiritual Science, which was founded at the Christmas Conference in 1923, was divided into subject sections. In addition, the esoteric training was to progress through three classes, only the first of which had been established before Rudolf Steiner died in 1925. ] The Anthroposophical Society must consciously cultivate this renewal.

quote A - alternate translation


just a short quote where the 'wave' image appears again

This battle, after all, is smouldering still at the very foundations of European culture. It is there to this day; and in the things that are taking place outwardly at the surface of our life, we have after all scarcely anything else than the beating of the surface-waves from that which is still present in the depths of souls, — a relic of the deeper and intenser inner life of yonder time.


.. we understand only the very smallest part of human history and of our own life if we consider it in its external aspect, I mean in that aspect which we see from the limited view-point of our earthly life between birth and death. It is impossible to comprehend the inner motives of history and life unless we turn our gaze to that spiritual background which underlies the outer, physical happenings. Men do indeed describe as history the events that take place in the physical world, and they often say that this world-history represents causes and effects. Thus they will approach the events of the second decade of the 20th century, describing them as the effects of events in the first decade and so forth. Yet how is so great an illusion possible?

It is as though we saw a running stream of water throwing waves up on to the surface and tried to explain each successive wave as the result of the preceding one, whereas the forces bringing forth the waves are really penetrating upwards from below. So it is indeed. That which takes place at any point of historic evolution or of human life in general is moulded out of the spiritual world, and as to these events we can speak of causes and effects only to a very slight extent.

I will show you by a whole series of examples how we must include the spiritual events along with the external happenings in order to gain a true picture of what underlies the latter.


Note [1] - Examples of clusters of karmically related souls representing an impulse

The following historical images are related to the Michaelic stream.

Throughout his life and lectures, Steiner spoke regularly at great length about a number of historical figures, and of some of them quite recurrent. The thread connecting it all can be called the Michael and Johannine Christian streams (the latter being a part of the former).

This is important because it connects his full coverage of the Gospel of St-John (four years consecutively 1906-1909 see GAs 94, 100, 103 and 102), the revelation/apocalyps of St-John (GA104, 347) and many lectures on Christian Rosenkreutz (GA130), Goethe, Julian the Apostate, etc.

It is noteworthy to consider the following before reading these examples:

  • Steiner described how the same individuality was incarnated in the Novalis, Raphael, John the Baptist, the prophet Eliah, and .. Lazarus-John or the apostle John .. also incarnated in the middlle ages as Christian Rosenkreutz. See also The Mystery of John and The being of Elijah
  • it was Steiner's 'master' who referred him to study the work of Fichte [2]
  • Johannine Christians is the name for the followers of Christian Rosenkreutz

Example 1 - around 1610-20

See Jacob Boehme#Note .5B1.5D - Historical perspective - waves and counterwaves

  • Jacob Boehme (1575-1624)
  • Robert Fludd (1574-1637)
  • Johannes Valentinus Andreae's (1586-1654) inspired work 'Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz anno 1459' published in 1616 (now known as 'Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz in 1459')

Example 2 - Jena 1790's: German idealism

Illustration: see Schema FMC00.243 on Goethe

Somewhere in 1790s in Jena, Germany: Novalis goes to study rights and philosophy in Jena.

It is the city where Schiller lectures history, and Goethe is rector. He is inspired by Schiller's ideal of humanity. In 1791 he becomes friends with Friedrich Schlegel and his brother August Wilhelm and his wife Caroline (who, after they divorce, marries Schelling). They meet up regularly.

Novalis meets Goethe in 1798 and studies the work of oa Fichte (as well as Kant, Spinoza, Boehme).

After Novalis dies aged 29 in 1801, Schlegel will publish the work of Novalis from 1802 onwards.

This small group has a large impact and gave form to a new cultural phase of the German romantic.

Source: dutch article

The following is an excerpt from the diaries of Karl Koenig who studied Schelling in 18 and 20 August 1954 (see booklet by P. Selg):

Who was Schelling? He did not belong to the circle of the apostles, like Novalis and the two Schlegels and others, yet he must have been very close to them .. I begin to understand, or better, to sense how Herzeloid-Tycho inspired him.


Read .. the lecture by Rudolf Steiner where he speaks about Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, drawing a link between the loftiness of their idealistic imaginations and the spirituality of Krishna. And I have to consider that Krishna is the Nathan Jesus and therefore the spirit sun illuminates the three of them. Thus it would have been his individuality whoch reigned in the Michael School of the last century, and it was Tycho de Brahe who held up the mirror to receive the rays of this Sun, and thus inspired Schelling.

More on the individuality of Julian the Apostate — Herzeleide — Tycho Brahe in 1924-09-16-GA238

[2] - See Meyer and for eg lecture 1915-12-16-GA065 'The Spirit of Fichte Present in our Midst'

Also, excerpt from essay by David W. Wood on The Johannine Question

In a letter from Weimar dated 30 November 1890, the 29 year-old Rudolf Steiner quoted to his correspondent Richard Specht the following words by the philosopher J. G. Fichte:

life is love, and the entire form and force of life consists in love and arises from love. – What I have just said expresses one of the deepest principles of knowledge […].

This excerpt is from the opening pages of Fichte’s 'The Way to the Blessed Life' (1806). After citing this passage Steiner then briefly outlined his own philosophical conception of freedom, writing how he drew his inspiration not only from J. G. Fichte, but from J. W. von Goethe as well:

Whoever does not merely understand this [passage in The Way to the Blessed Life] with the dead intellect but is able to grasp it in a living manner, such a person lives a wholly independent life. And only he who is capable of doing this can understand the freedom that I would so dearly like to make into the pivotal and unified point of my entire philosophizing.

It is wholly remarkable to me how Fichte and Goethe work their way in from two sides and meet together at the summit in perfection.

I believe I understand my epoch very well when I say: the idealism of Fichte and Goethe must bear its final fruit in a kind of freedom philosophy. Because ‘freedom’ is the correlative of that concept for both of them.

Example 3 - Firenze around 1480-90

Consider the following souls who met in Italy in the 1480s in Firenze greater area.

In 1480-82 there is a center for Aristotelian study in Padua.

  • Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494)
    • influenced by Nicolas of Cusa (1401-1464)
    • studies Aristotle
    • teacher: Yohanan Alemanno (1435-1510)
    • connected to the de Medici
  • Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499)
    • translates Plato's works
    • studies Thomas Aquina, Augustinus
  • Savonarola (1452-1498)
    • studies Thomas Aquina, Augustinus
    • preaches John's Gospel and Revelation
    • hanged and burned by the church as one of three friars in 1498
  • Lorenzo de Medici (1463-1494) and his father Cosimo
    • sponsors Ficino and supports Pico, patron of Michelangelo
    • plays a key role, see the Platonic Academy and the lives of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo

Leonardo Da Vinci

Pico della Mirandola

The development of the mood of which I speak may be particularly well studied in the examples of two men.

One is Raimund of Sabunda, who lived in the fifteenth century, being born about 1430. Raimund of Sabunda is a remarkable man. If you study carefully what remains to us of his thought, then you will have the feeling: This is surely almost the very same revelation that was communicated in full consciousness about the year 1200 by the teacher who took his pupil to the mountain tops and to the chasms of the Earth! Only in Raimund of Sabunda of the fifteenth century, it is all given in a vague, impersonal style, philosophical in character, theological too and medical. The truth is that Raimund of Sabunda had also received his revelations by way of the genuine Rosicrucians, that is to say, by the path that had been opened by the great Initiate of the twelfth century, whose work and influence I described to you yesterday, and who continued to inspire men from out of the spiritual world, as I have been relating to you today. For the revelation that afterwards came through Rosicrucianism, as I have often described to you, came originally from this great Initiate and those who were with him in the spiritual world; the mood and feeling of the whole teaching was set by him. Anxiety, however, was at this time beginning to take hold of men. Now Raimund of Sabunda was a bold, brave spirit, he was one of those men who can value ideas, who understand how to live in ideas. And so, although we notice in him a certain vagueness due to the fact that the revelations have their source after all in the spiritual world, yet in him we find no trace of anxiety or fear in regard to knowledge.

All the more striking is another and very characteristic example of that spiritual stream: Pico della Mirandola, who also belongs to the fifteenth century.

The short-lived Pico della Mirandola is a very remarkable figure. If you study deeply the fruits of his thought and contemplation, you will see how the same initiative I have just described is everywhere active in them, due to the continuation of the wisdom of that old Initiate by way of the Rosicrucian stream. But in Pico della Mirandola you will observe a kind of shrinking back before this knowledge. Let me give you an instance. He established how everything that happens on Earth — stones and rock coming into being, plants living and growing and bearing fruit, animals living their life — how all this cannot be attributed to the forces of the Earth. If anyone were to think: There is the Earth, and the forces of the Earth produce that which is on the Earth, he would have quite a wrong notion of the matter. The true view, according to Pico della Mirandola, is that up there are the Stars and what happens in the Earth is dependent on the Stars. One must look up to the Heavens, if one wants to understand what happens on Earth. Speaking in the sense of Pico della Mirandola we should have to say: You give me your hand, my brother man, but it is not your feeling alone that is the cause why you give me your hand, it is the star standing over you that gives you the impulse to hold out your hand to me. Ultimately everything that is brought about has its source in the Heavens, in the Cosmos; what happens on Earth is but the reflection of what happens in the Heavens.

Pico della Mirandola gives expression to this as his firm conviction, and yet at the same time he says: But it is not for man to look up to these causes in the stars, he has only to take account of the immediate cause on Earth.

From this point of view Pico della Mirandola combats — and it is most characteristic that he does so — the Astrology that he finds prevalent. He knows well that the old, real, and genuine Astrology expresses itself in the destinies of men. He knows that; it is for him a truth. And yet he says: one should not pursue Astrology, one should look only for the immediate causes.

Note well what it is we have before us here. For the first time we are confronted with the idea of “boundaries” to knowledge. The idea shows itself in a significant manner, it is still, shall we say, human in character. Later, in Kant, in du Bois-Reymond, you will find expressed in them: “Man cannot cross the boundaries of knowledge.” The idea is said to rest on an inner necessity. That is not the case with Pico della Mirandola in the fifteenth century. He says: “What is on Earth has undoubtedly come about through cosmic causes. But man is called upon to forgo the attainment of a knowledge of these cosmic causes; he has to limit himself to the Earth.” Thus we have in the fifteenth century, in such a markedly characteristic person as Pico della Mirandola, voluntary renunciation of the highest knowledge.

My dear friends, we have here a spiritual event in the history of culture of the greatest imaginable importance. Men made the resolve: We will renounce knowledge!

And that which comes to pass externally in such a person as Pico della Mirandola has once more, in very deed and fact, its counterpart in the Spiritual.

Example 4 - the reformers

The reformers (humanism, protestant reform): just look at how strikingly they incarnate in the same period.

  • Erasmus (1466-1536)
  • Thomas More (1478-1535)
  • Luther (1483-1546)
  • Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540)

Example 5 - Florence 1505

A day in 1505 in Florence, three men walk the streets of Florence: Raphael, Michelangelo and Da Vinci.


... the year 1505, when Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael were at the same time in Florence ..

The three great souls:

  • Da Vinci (1452-1519)
  • Raphael (1483-1520)
  • Michelangelo (1575-1564)

Though Raphael and Michelangelo seem to have met, their lives and attitudes were so different they totally did not connect, on the contrary (see eg wikipedia). It shows that souls can have their impact totally independently, even those three names are often compared and named together as contemporaries and the greatest artists of their era.

Related pages

References and further reading