Location of incarnation

From Anthroposophy

This topic page covers the geographical location on Earth where a human being incarnations, and how this can change between incarnations.

Current science and history erroneously imagines that the population in a certain geography has evolved with the blood streams down through the generations and all that is transmitted through heredity, concluding that what lives in the present people can be traced back to ancestry and the earlier phases of development of this people based on their physically inheritable characteristics.

However the souls that dwell in individual human beings need not at all be related to these ancestors, as the soul has not co-experienced with them on Earth what has happened in the course of the many generations. Rather the soul experienced the spirit-soul world during life between death and a new birth. Whereas our current physical body has inherited from our line of ancestry (see Model for hereditary physical body), our spirit and soul has no link with this, as it recurrently goes through the process in the spiritual world between each death and a new birth.

Hence what happens is that the reincarnated souls unite with whatever appears as inherited characteristics in the various folks (and nationalities) where they incarnate.


  • many of the souls of Zarathustra's pupils are even now incarnated in these cultures of Central Asia, of Tibet or China (1912-04-11-GA158)
  • one needs to distinguish between soul development and race development: the souls reappear in the bodies belonging to higher races, the lower race bodies die out. (1912-05-29-GA155)
  • the opium war is described as a very concrete and specific case of how certain forces deliberately used narcotics on the physical plane (using economical trade and politics) to also effect a spiritual agenda, through an impact on the dynamics of incarnating souls, thereby influencing the normal development of cultures (and specifically Central European) (1916-12-30-GA173 and 1916-12-31-GA173, see Sixteen paths of perdition#Note .5B3.5D - The opium war)

Inspirational quotes


we can speak of soul-transmigration .. for the souls who inhabit [physical bodies in] one part of the Earth during a certain period, do not remain on the same spot on Earth in the next age, but are at a different place.


Schema FMC00.552 shows four categories or segments of the world population around the time of Rudolf Steiner in the beginning of the 20th century, and their previous incarnation.


Schema FMC00.552A illustrates four categories or segments of the world population around the time of Rudolf Steiner in the beginning of the 20th century, and their previous incarnation. More details on segments [1] to [4] on Schema FMC00.552.

This illustrates the difference between soul development and race development, and the concept of soul-transmigration: souls who inhabit physical bodies in one part of the Earth during a certain period, do not remain on the same spot on Earth in the next age, but are at a different place.

As Rudolf Steiner put it: "we may be sure that in our inmost being we shall receive the countless blessings of all races and all peoples since we ourselves are incarnated in different races at different times. (1910-06-11-GA121)


Schema FMC00.553 is a meta-schema that wants to make the association between, on the left, the evolution of humanity in races and epochs, sub-races and cultural ages; and on the right, the path of the spirit and soul in consecutive incarnations. Both show a clockwise or spiral sequence.

  • On the left, the typical sequence of consecutive periods in an epoch that follow each other in a clockwise direction. This clockwise sequence is also striking between the centers of the consecutive epochs, depicted in Schema FMC00.455. As below right on FMC00.211, combined this makes for a spiral movement or path.
  • On the right above: the four segments of the population described by Rudolf Steiner in two consecutive incarnations also follow such clockwise sequence. Below are statements from various lectures laying out the 'spiral path' of incarnations followed by the human spirit and soul. This second wave (of the Individuality) rides the first wave of the 'racial' development of humanity across epochs and ages.


Both perspectives can be linked to the evolutionary targets of the development of Man's bodily principles. In general, for the whole of humanity (so corresponding to the left pane below), see for example Schema FMC00.130 and Schema FMC00.047 for the Current Postatlantean epoch. However for each Individuality (so corresponding to the right pane below), this development depends completely on how each individual lives and works the opportunity of each life on Earth, and the laws of karma, for this see eg Schema FMC00.554.

Both relate to what is covered on Sixteen paths of perdition, as each human soul goes through the spiral movements of the wheel of births and the cycle of reincarnation across the ages in various 'races' and folks and/or geographical and cultural conditions.

See also Human races#Difference between soul development and race development


Lecture coverage and references


Rudolf Steiner Handbook quote

a high spiritual culture will penetrate Europe from China like a flood, and will impress the Europeans very much because of its high age, reaching back to Atlantis, it is far superior to present-day Christianity.


As men live on into the future they will have to realise that from the Atlantean epoch there has survived upon our Earth, an imprisoned spiritual wisdom and knowledge greater than anything revealed by the disclosures concerning the old Brahman and Zoroastrian civilisations; this wisdom will be unleashed when the spiritual life of China emerges from its concealment. Two things will have to be realised by those who turn their eyes towards the future.

From over yonder there will flow a mighty stream of spiritual life, containing, even in external details, most wonderful teachings ... although such teachings would in any case be available to those willing to penetrate into the spiritual life along the path revealed by spiritual science. If, however (to quote words used in a different connection by our friend M.B... . at our General Meeting) the great majority of human beings pull nightcaps over their eyes in regard to what spiritual science has to offer, then one day, in a form unsuited to Western mentality, spiritual treasures will pour from Chinese culture, and this portion of humanity, in their amazement, will realise that the products of such culture cannot be grasped by the pedantic thought common in the West, but only by deeper insight into the ancient Taoist culture which arose on the soil of the ancient Chinese civilisation.

Spiritual science often goes against the grain because, by its very nature, study of it will induce belief. Those who deliberately pull nightcaps over their eyes will be amazed, but on the other hand also rather relieved when, in spiritual science, they come across many things that have passed over into Chinese culture from Atlantean times. They will comfort themselves by saying: “There is no need to believe in that, for what history has preserved is studied simply because it is of interest!” This is the attitude of the philologists and archaeologists ... there is no need to believe in it; one can get hold of it by study and be exempt from having to “believe.”

But when the wisdom casts off its fetters over yonder, it will have another effect as well: its obvious and intrinsic greatness will shock and amaze. It will pour over what mankind has acquired in Christian culture in such a way that it will have to be seen in its true perspective, studied from the right point of view. The proper approach will be to say: This spirituality existed; in bygone ages it constituted the spiritual culture of our Earth. But every epoch has its own mission, and that of Western culture is to drink at the well-springs of the spiritual reality behind world-existence, so that this spiritual reality is perceived behind the material world, behind what eyes can see and hands can grasp — as a revelation from the spiritual world. Men will have to understand that their mission now belongs to a different age and that they must stand firm on the ground prepared by Christianity!


Rudolf Steiner Handbook gives this quote, erroneously linking it to 1912-03-19-GA133

if we consider the cultures of Central Asia, of Tibet or China, which will in the near future have a significance for the world that would seem inconceivable to people today, even though - if we develop an awareness of this situation and realise that many of the souls of Zarathustra's pupils are even now incarnated in these cultures - it will not be long before this happens, we will need to take these matters seriously .. We should, moreover, not deny the significance of the fact that, were Chinese culture to break its fetters and flood the Western world, it would bring with it a spirituality that in many respects is the unadulterated successor of ancient Atlantis

internet translation of extract in DE below

And if we look away from Brahmanism and look, for example, at the cultures of Central Asia, the Tibetan or Chinese cultures, which in the near future will gain importance for the world in a way that people today cannot dream of, even though only a short time separates us from this matter, if we look at all these things and become aware of how the souls of many disciples of Zarathustra are still embodied in these cultures, then we will be tempted to take these things very seriously.

We will also be able to understand that into that which Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was able to give, the Indian, the Tibetan, the Egyptian occultist could be tempted to lead out of their soul - their own wisdom, but that which belongs to a past in the process of becoming human. And we must recognize the past character of this oriental wisdom that is contained within Blavatsky's teachings.

We need not misjudge the value of such a thing, need not misjudge the fact that when Chinese spirituality, one might say, having burst its fetters, will now flood the Western worlds, then a spirituality will come with it which is the true successor, in many respects the still unclouded successor of the old Atlanteanism. It will work as if something were to spring up that is held together and can spread to the whole world; thus it will pour out - on a small scale the old Indianism poured out in this way at the first opportunity.

from lecture in DE

Und wenn wir absehen von dem Brahmanentum und sehen etwa in die Kulturen Mittelasiens, in die tibetanische oder chinesische Kultur, die in der nächsten Zeit in einer Weise werden für die Welt Bedeutung gewinnen, wovon sich die Menschen heute nichts träumen lassen, trotz­dem uns nur kurze Zeit von dieser Sache trennt, wenn wir auf alle diese Dinge sehen und gewahr werden, wie die Seelen vieler Zarathu­stra-Schüler in diesen Kulturen noch verkörpert sind, dann werden wir versucht werden, diese Dinge sehr ernst zu nehmen. Wir werden es auch begreifen können, daß in dasjenige, was Helena Petrowna Bla­vatsky zu geben verstand, der indische, der tibetanische, der ägyptische Okkultist versucht sein konnten, aus ihrer Seele heraus - ihr eigenes Weisheitsgut hineinzuleiten, jenes Eigene aber, das in dem Menschen­werdeprozeß einer Vergangenheit angehört. Und wir müssen den Ver­gangenheitscharakter dieser orientalischen Weisheitsgüter erkennen, die innerhalb der Blavatskyschen Lehren stecken. Wir brauchen ja den Wert einer solchen Sache nicht zu verkennen, brauchen nicht zu ver­kennen, daß wenn nun überfluten wird das, man möchte sagen, seine Fesseln gesprengt habende Chinesentum die westlichen Welten, dann eine Spiritualität damit kommt, die richtig die Nachfolge ist, in vieler Beziehung die noch ungetrübte Nachfolge ist des alten Atlantiertums. Sie wird wirken, wie wenn aufspringen würde etwas, was zusammen­gehalten wird, und was nach aller Welt sich verbreiten kann; so wird es sich ausgießen - in kleinem Maßstabe hat sich so bei der ersten Ge­legenheit ausgegossen das alte Indertum.


see full extract: Human races#1912-05-29-GA155

A human soul can develop in such a way that in one incarnation it embodies itself in a particular race. If in this race it gains certain qualities, it may re-embody itself in a later incarnation in an entirely different one; so that we may find incarnated in Europe at the present day souls which in a previous incarnation were embodied in India, Japan or China. The souls do not by any means remain in the same race, for soul development is quite different from race development, which goes its peaceful way forward. ... This is a definite process, which we must grasp. ... For this reason we must be careful to distinguish between soul development and race development. The souls reappear in the bodies belonging to higher races, the lower race bodies die out.


is a lecture called 'The Souls Progress through Repeated Earth Lives'

[introduction: Human being formed from two directions -> the threefold human being T-F-W]

For we must imagine that the human being, as he appears when he is born on earth, is really formed from two directions.

  • I have described to you just now how the astral body expands into the universe and how it returns again; this astral body, so to speak, now meets the I. Figuratively speaking, it approaches in the form of a hollow sphere, a sort of hollow sphere that grows ever smaller and smaller. Thus it approaches the I. It has kinship with the planetary system.
  • The I on its way between death and a new birth develops quite another kind of longing. Although it has a longing for the astral body, it develops an even greater longing for a certain spot on Earth, for a certain people, a certain family.
  • On the other hand there is a drawing together of what comes from without as the transformed astral body, and the I after having completed the period between death and a new birth with its strong inclination toward the earthly realm, toward a people, a family, and so forth.
  • If we look at the human being after birth with special reference to the outer surface of his body, we can see just what is subject to the forces of the metamorphosed astral body.
  • What is organized from without, from the skin inwards, including the sense organs, is built for us from out of the cosmos.
  • But what is brought forth organically through the I's feeling itself linked with the Earth, feeling itself drawn toward the Earth, creates the organization from within outwards, which is counter to the other organization; it creates rather the bone-muscle organization, and so forth, the part which radiates from within, so to speak, against what radiates inward from the skin and the senses.
  • So far as the outer periphery of our body is concerned, we are organized by the macrocosm, but what streams through our I, what grows from within outward against the skin-sense formation, is organized by the Earth.

Thus the human being is really born out of the universe.

And his sojourn in the maternal body provides only the opportunity for these two forces, one a macrocosmic and the other an Earthly force, to unite.

But Man is definitely a being who does not spring from one point alone, from the germ. He is rather the fusion of

  • the extra-earthly forces, which are held together by his metamorphosed astral body, and
  • that force which, bearing the influence of the earth, grows counter to these extra-earthly forces.

What we call our mental faculty, our intellect, our power of forming mental pictures, is deeply akin and intimately connected with what comes to us from the cosmos. Our power of forming mental pictures points in fact to our previous earth life. We acquire this power of forming mental pictures by virtue of the fact that what we have woven into our astral body in our previous earth life has expanded into the cosmos, has come back again, and now chooses our head, so to speak, as its chief organ, our head which has been formed from without as a skin-sense organ. The rest of the skin-sense organization is, so to speak, only an appendage of the head.

Our will organization, however, expresses itself in what is related to the earth forces, because the human I on approaching birth feels attracted to a particular spot on earth.

So we can say that when we are reborn,

  • we receive our mind from the heavens;
  • our will from the Earth.
  • Between the two lies feeling, which is given to us neither by heaven nor by earth, but is based on a kind of continuous swinging back and forth between earth and heaven, and which has its outward organ chiefly in the rhythmic system of Man, the breathing system, the blood circulation, and so forth. It stands in the middle between the head organization proper, which is essentially the product of the macrocosm acting upon the great circuit of the former astral body, and our will organization, which comes to us from the Earth. Between these two stands our rhythmic system, stands our feeling life, which can develop on the foundation of this rhythmic system and which, I might say, we also bring to outer visible expression between heaven and earth.

Once more:

  • Our head points more to our extra-earthly origin;
  • our will is intimately related to what is ours from the Earth.
  • Between the two stands our feeling life and, from a physical point of view, our circulation, our breathing life.

No thorough and comprehensive view of Man can be taken one-sidedly either from the soul aspect or from the physical aspect, for these two, the soul and the physical nature in such a total view, must interpenetrate one another.

Furthermore, because we are connected with the entire macrocosm, bearing within us just in our head organization something formed by the macrocosm, we can see that we are directed back to our past through our intellect; only, with our ordinary consciousness we do not discover how we are thus referred to our former earth lives.

In the ancient oriental striving for wisdom, the pupils of the initiates tried to establish a connection between their rhythmic life and their head life. For the epoch in which the ancient oriental wisdom flourished, it was natural to seek a higher stage of human development by making breathing a conscious process, and thereby also the process of circulation; breathing in accordance with definite rules raised the breathing process as well as the circulation to consciousness. The old Oriental could do that because his soul and spirit were not yet so intensely linked to the body as they are in the Man of today. If, applying a sort of anachronism, anyone were simply to practice this old oriental method today, without attaining to higher knowledge, he would, more or less, ruin his human body; for it would be interfering too much with the health of the physical body, now that the human being is so much more intimately connected with his body than was once the case, for instance, at the time when the ancient Indian sought after wisdom.

But what did a student acquire by going through these exercises in ancient India?

He made the breathing process into something conscious, that is, he inhaled consciously. Through these exercises he gradually acquired the possibility of following the process that takes place when the pressure of inhalation causes the brain fluid to oscillate toward the brain through the spinal canal, and to strike, as it were, against the brain. It is this impact of the brain fluid against the solid parts of the brain (this brain fluid, which rushes upward during inhalation, falling again during exhalation), it is this impact that causes mental pictures to arise. The production of mental pictures is something much more complicated than is imagined today, when everything is thought out materialistically. Today it is thought — or at least it was until recently, for today people are no longer interested in thinking in clear concepts — it is thought that some kind of evolution, some nerves underlie the forming of mental pictures. This is nonsense. The real fact is that there is actually a constant striking of the brain fluid against the nerve system taking place which starts off those processes underlying the forces of the nervous system. The ancient Indian student of wisdom raised this activity to consciousness.

What did he learn by following this whole process consciously?

He learned from it how the underlying processes which had formed his brain really point back to former Earth lives. Through his present rhythmic system he experienced, so to speak, his former earth life; this past earth life became a certainty to him. For such a student of wisdom it was simply self-evident that he had had a previous earth life. He could perceive it, you understand, by raising his breathing process to consciousness. Today this must be accomplished in another way. It cannot be brought about today by meditation that arises from a special way of shaping the breathing process; for this method must not be used by the modern human being. Quite the contrary, meditation today should proceed from a quiet dwelling on mental pictures: thus it starts out from the opposite side, and thereby takes into consideration the fact that modern man is much more closely united with his physical body. But by dwelling quietly on a mental picture, we learn to know this nuance of the rhythmic system from the other side, from the spirit-soul side. We come to know the process from the other side; in such a way, however, that we do not penetrate deeper into our body, as did the ancient Indian, — indeed we must not do so, because we have already penetrated into it deeply enough; but by freeing ourselves from the corporeal nature, we trace out the whole cosmos in the realm of spirit and soul, and the cosmos teaches us how the former earth life is connected with this life.

You can see, my dear friends, the statements made in anthroposophy are not abstract and fanatical, but are founded upon a penetrating knowledge of the human organization as seen from within; they are not based on an external examination of the organism as a corpse, — or, even if not as a corpse, still from without — but upon a knowledge of it coming from within, from intimate contact with both aspects, the reciprocal action between the rhythmic and nerve-sense systems on the one hand and on the other between the rhythmic and metabolic systems (for the rhythmic system also has an impact upon the metabolism). And by coming to know from the other side this interweaving of the rhythmic with the metabolic processes, we become certain that the germ of the next earth life lies buried within us, for the metabolism in its spiritual aspect contains the germ of the next earth life. Even though it is the lowest part of the human organism for this earth life, from the spiritual aspect it contains the germ of the next earth life. Thus we rise to a consideration of the human being as a whole.

You see, in this respect those people especially who are living within the realm of western civilization are often really like a blind man confronting color. Perhaps what I am about to say is far from the thoughts of many of you, but I should like to call your attention to the following: All that we conceive as mathematics, all that comes into play in linear or angular forms, in the vertical or the horizontal, as well as all that we measure, all that we conceive mathematically, we develop really out of our inner being; it is the foundation of our inner life. The moment we learn to perceive what underlies our inner being, we no longer speak in the Kantian fashion, simply pouring that which springs up within the inner being of man into some kind of unintelligible expression.

Mathematics is said to be “knowledge a priori.” A priori! Now, that is a word for you, is it not? It means “there from the very beginning,” a priori. But if one learns to see inwardly, then one knows whence this curious mathematical knowledge springs. The astral body has gone through the mathematics of the whole universe, and all this has condensed again. We simply let that rise out of the soul which we have experienced in a former incarnation, which has then passed through the whole cosmos, only to emerge once more in the purity of mathematical-geometrical lines. You thus see that in this a priori conception of the world is expressed analogous to the blind man's conception of color, Otherwise one would have to say that what is called in the Kantian sense “a priori” arises out of our former incarnations and appears in this incarnation in a metamorphosed form, after having gone through the entire macrocosm.

I have been speaking to you here, my dear friends, about the laws underlying the whole human being which reveal themselves when we consider life as it passes through repeated incarnations. Our modern age is very reluctant in giving heed to such things. That is why our present world conception remains external. I should like to make this clear to you by an illustration.

[Illustration: locality of people and the merger of Soul and Body (inheritance)]

Let us assume that we are now examining - according to the prevailing method - a people belonging to a certain locality on Earth.

Now what do we do today as historians?

We say: there lives the present generation; another preceded it; this generation was in turn preceded by one still further back. We thus go back to former centuries, back to the Middle Ages, and, I might say, we follow the blood streams down through the generations, follow all that is transmitted down through external heredity, and come to the conclusion that what lives in the present people can be traced back to the earlier phases of development of this people.

Thus is history regarded today. If a typical historian wishes to follow German, French, or English history as far back as possible, he does so by going back through the chain of ancestors according to their physically inheritable characteristics.

What a present-day generation of a certain people manifests in life is supposed to be understood from what former generations of this people have experienced, that is, from what can be inherited physically; this is the way people talk.

This is, however, nothing but materialistic thinking applied to history. For if you consider what anthroposophical spiritual science offers you, not as a mere theory, but as something to carry over into your view of life,

  • then you must not be content to speculate upon the repetition of Earth lives, to consider as something isolated the fact that your soul has gone through previous earth lives, and will go through others in the future,
  • but you must also consider with this in mind what takes place all over the Earth.

For if we look at one or another generation living today, we can certainly trace it back to former generations through the blood — through external, physically inheritable characteristics; these former generations may have lived in the same part of the earth or, if we consider the streams of migrations, they may be traced back to ancestors who at an earlier age lived in another part of the earth; but in doing all this we remain entirely in the realm of the physical-material.

There is, however, more to it. In this present age we have before us a generation of people who, in regard to what concerns its physical bodily nature, descends from its ancestors; but the souls that dwell in the individual human beings need not at all be related to these ancestors.

In fact the soul has not co-experienced with them on earth what has happened in the course of the many generations, and what outwardly represents the destiny of these ancestors; this the soul has experienced in the spirit-soul world during life between death and a new birth.

We look back upon our grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather. Well, we were then not yet born; our soul was still in the spiritual world. Our body has inherited from all of them, but our soul — nothing! It has lived in an entirely different world during all this time; in its own experiences it need have nothing to do with what our body has inherited from our forefathers.

[Spiritual research on this topic]

And if research into these things is made in the realm of the spirit, the results often appear paradoxical to outer observance. In general one must clearly realize that speculation or philosophizing on the true facts of life usually gives rise to absurdity. Spiritual perception alone reveals the truth. And a spiritual researcher is often himself astonished at his own results. Indeed he finds in the very surprise awakened by his results a sort of verification of them; for, if he found only what he had already anticipated in his thoughts, he might not feel so strong a confirmation. Just the fact that things are, for the most part, different from what one imagines, usually makes it possible to see that, by being devoted to true spiritual research, one is working not in a subjective, but in an objective realm.

From this source, you will see, something comes to light relating to the historical in humanity. I have pointed to it before, and what I have said will not in any sense be corrected here, but only amplified, for we are moving in a very complicated realm.

[ Two groups: [1] and [2] The majority of the European population, with [2] souls with previous life as American-Indian]

[1] We have said on an earlier occasion, and this is in a certain respect perfectly true, that we have for instance among the peoples of Europe numerous personalities who as souls previously lived in the south during the first Christian centuries, and now live more in the north - they are, to be sure, incarnated in Europe, but more in the north.

This is entirely true, but it does not apply to the majority of the population. In regard to this, we must seek elsewhere in order to learn the actual facts.

[2] In the case of the majority, chiefly of the present western, but also of the middle, European peoples, and even part of the Russian population, spiritual scientific research leads us back to those times at which the conquistadors subdued the aborigines of America.

These original Americans, these American Indians had strange inner soul qualities. As a rule we fail to do justice to such things, if we, egotistically boasting of our “higher culture,” regard all this as mere barbarism; we fail to do justice, if we do not take into account the entirely different characteristics of those people who were conquered and exterminated after the discovery of America; if we do not regard them as having special qualities of their own, but merely look down upon them from the bird's-eye view of a higher culture. These early inhabitants of America, the American Indians had, for instance, remarkable pantheistic feelings. They worshipped the “Great Spirit” who pervaded all being. Their souls were permeated by the belief in this all-pervading Great Spirit.

Through all that was bound up with this belief in the feeling-life of these people, these souls were predestined to go through a relatively short existence between death and a new birth.

But the relationship that had developed,

  • on the one hand, between them and their whole environment, their native land, and
  • on the other between them and the destiny they suffered in being exterminated

was decisive for their life between death and a new birth.

And from this it has happened that the majority — no matter how paradoxical it may sound, it is simply a fact — that the majority of the western, the middle, and even a part of the eastern Europeans (not all, but a great part of them) have souls that once dwelt in the bodies of the old American Indians, although they certainly descend from physical forbears in the Middle Ages as far as their blood is concerned. Although this may sound paradoxical, it is, nevertheless, true in regard to the majority of the European population.

This feeling, once experienced for the Great Spirit, reacted with that which admittedly lies in the external historical development of lineal descent, and which we take up with the first feelings of love in childhood, especially when we practice this out of our inner being through imitation. What we thus take up is to a great extent something absorbed from without. It enters into reciprocal activity with what arises in the soul from former incarnations. And European life is not understood rightly if it is considered only one-sidedly from a point of view lacking in reality, that is, according to inherited characteristics. It can be understood only when we know whence come the souls who have united themselves with these inherited characteristics in order to bring about a reciprocal activity.

And what has now become reality in European history was formed only as a result of this cooperation between what the souls are through their former earth lives and what they have received in this life through inheritance; also through education, but education in its broadest sense.

These peoples have been extensively intermingled with souls who lived in the south during the first centuries of Christianity and who then also reincarnated in this western and eastern Europe; but all that has taken place in social life, and especially what is taking place more and more now in these catastrophic days, hints at the fact that the reality of this European life is a complicated one. And the spiritual researcher finds that it is made especially complicated because the reincarnated American-Indian souls unite with what appears as inherited characteristics in the various nationalities.

[ Group [3] Another European population: barbarians coming from the south]

We must contrast this with another European population, which we find in the first Christian centuries, at the time of the migrations of peoples — speaking in terms of outer history. I refer to that European population of the past which as barbarians absorbed Christianity as it advanced from the south, transforming it into something entirely different from what in the first centuries had developed as Christianity in the Greek and Roman world. These souls who belonged to the time of the migrations of the peoples and also those of the following centuries were so constituted that, in addition to their original tendencies, they showed themselves deeply impressed by Christianity as it made its way northward from the south.

We must clearly realize that this population of Europe which absorbed Christianity at the time of the folk migrations brought to the surface very special qualities. There was in this people a notably strong tendency to form the physical organism in a way that made the I-consciousness appear with a special vigor. And the I-consciousness that thus manifested itself was united with the selflessness of Christianity. As a result the soul was shaped in a special manner. These then were souls who, so to speak, absorbed Christianity a few centuries after it had come into existence.

Although the souls who have incarnated in the majority of the European population of today have learned about Christianity in an external way through education, as well as through what can be inherited as feelings, they had not in their former lives in America, as Indians, absorbed anything of Christianity. We can easily understand the relation of the present day European population to Christianity once we have discovered that these souls for the most part have experienced nothing of Christianity in their former incarnations; that Christianity with them is merely a matter of education, of a tradition handed down through generations, — a tradition perpetuated by education.


But there is yet another aspect: those souls who came to know Christianity in Europe, that is, in its early development, incarnated, as the present times approached, more toward the east, more toward Asia. So that in fact those souls who were once somewhat permeated with Christianity now swing in the other direction, and absorb what has remained in the Orient of the old oriental traditions and which has fallen there into decadence. The Japanese, if studied in a spiritual-scientific way, are often typical reincarnations of souls who once lived in Europe at the time of the migrations.


Note: Rabindranath Tagore 1861-1941 (India) a Bengali polymath who reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nobel prize winner: music, paintings, theatre, novels, stories, poetry


What is more, we can develop an understanding for prominent personalities if we know such facts.

Try to understand the strange personality of Rabindranath Tagore from this point of view.‘ What was educated into him of Orientalism, especially of Indian tradition, comes to him through heredity. Thus what is given to him through heredity, through education, comes to him from outside. This is for the most part decadent, and for this reason has such an “artful” character. For in a certain way, what one hears from Rabindranath Tagore is formulated in an extremely “artful” fashion. But at the same time the European feels something in Tagore that glows warmly through all that is presented in such an artful manner. And that comes from the fact that this soul lived in a former incarnation among a people who had accepted Christianity.

You can see that it is no less abstract to observe the external world from a merely materialistic viewpoint than it is to develop some other unreal life conception.

What do we know of present day humanity if we know only about its blood relationship, about its blood descent, if we are not able to take into consideration what the souls have brought with them from a former incarnation?

This element, you can see, merges with the external elements of heredity and education into a single totality.

Those souls who dwelt in Middle Europe at the time of the folk migrations were predestined through the entire configuration of their souls, and, above all, through their inward permeation with Christianity, to remain longer than usual in the spirit world between death and a next birth, in order to experience this realm more intensely.

When the spiritual researcher investigates the present, he is led back to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, or shortly before or shortly after the event. In Asia, the population had absorbed nothing of this Mystery of Golgotha. Oriental wisdom, nevertheless, that wisdom which blossomed in the oriental character as a result of devotion, laid the foundation for whatever understanding was brought to Christianity in its earliest times. The Mystery of Golgotha stands there for us as a unique fact. When viewed from the various epochs, it can be understood in the most varied ways. The people of the first centuries of Greek and Roman development approached this Mystery by applying to it the wisdom coming to them from the Orient. From oriental wisdom they received the concepts through which they understood the incarnation of Christ in the man, Jesus of Nazareth.

[ Group [4] The souls of the current Americans]

The people, however, who lived in Asia before, at the time of, and even after the Mystery of Golgotha, were still endowed with a far more active creative force than can be found in the present-day Orient, although it had already at that time become somewhat tenuous. These people, who then dwelt in Asia, at least a large part of them, are incarnated today in the greater part of the American population. As a result of their specially developed oriental culture, just this part of humanity had to spend a long time in the life between death and a new birth; they are thus in reality old souls.

They are being born in America in bodies in which, if I may say so, they do not feel very comfortable, and which they, therefore, prefer to consider more from the outside than from the inside. That is why we find in America today a special predilection for an external view of life.

Thus the curious paradox reveals itself: those souls who lived in the Orient, who had not yet accepted Christianity, but who had a fine spiritual culture, live now in American bodies. A part of these, I should say, shows in an isolated phenomenon how these things really work. The Oriental had an inclination toward the spiritual in the world. As these souls appear again today in America, they develop a special predilection (=preference, bias) for the spiritual world, but this has now become abstract, has no more the inward, living quality. In times gone by, in previous incarnations, all experiences dealing with the spirit world were connected with a neglect of the physical world, with a disregard for things physical. Among the adherents of Christian Science this appears in a decadent form; the existence of matter is denied, they do not wish to look at matter. One feels that these people, in a certain way, continue to pay homage to the old, but once living spirituality, which has now become more deadened, more corpse-like, has now taken on a spiritually corpse-like form. But this applies only to a distinguishable few among the population.

In general, one can see in the American point of view how the souls do not sit quite solidly within their bodies, how they consequently try to apprehend the body from without, how even the science of psychology in America takes on a character in which there is no true concept of the I. Because the soul was once accustomed to feel itself in the super-earthly, this embodiment of the I, as it now takes place in the west, is not carried out as it should be. From this it comes about that one thought is not properly linked to another. This then is called the “psychology of association.” In it the human being becomes a sort of plaything, tossed about by the thoughts as they associate with one another.

And here, curiously enough, something crops up that could be expressed by a phrase often used disparagingly (=tending to belittle or bring reproach) by certain people in referring to our doctrine of repeated earth lives; they speak of the “transmigration of the soul.” But we must not use the phrase: “transmigration of the soul” when referring to repeated earth lives, unless we do, indeed, intend to speak disparagingly. For in speaking of repeated earth lives, we are dealing with an evolution, with a development of the soul, not with what we are accused of teaching, But in another sense we can speak of soul-transmigrations, for in fact the souls who inhabit one part of the Earth during a certain period, do not remain on the same spot on Earth in the next epoch, but are at a different place.


Hence we find

  • the souls who were incarnated in the south during the first Christian centuries now incarnated in western, middle, and eastern Europe, more toward the north;
  •  but this population is now interspersed with other souls who were incarnated in American Indian bodies.
  • Over in Asia we find the souls who lived in Europe at the time of the folk migrations, or even before and afterward;
  • and in America are to be found those souls who lived in Asia at the very time the Mystery of Golgotha took place.

We are now undoubtedly facing an era in which people will develop a longing to penetrate full reality. Today there still exists a strong opposition to this penetration of full reality, not only in the theoretical realm, but also in the realm of outer life. Only consider how I have had to characterize again and again from the most various angles this illness of intellectualism, which has appeared in the last years. Often even in public lectures I have had to point in sharp terms to this deception of a large part of humanity by intellectualism.


In this we also find something hinted at, but in an already quite abstract form, which has of course appeared gradually in social thinking as the outcome of materialism. Slowly in the course of the nineteenth century the principle of nationality arose, this emphasizing of the nationality, this wish to live only in the nationality. This represents the antithesis of the soul-spirit nature; for this soul-spirit nature does not trouble itself with nationality.

  • Many of the souls who today live in Europe were formerly incarnated in America.
  • The souls who today live chiefly in Japanese bodies should not point to their ancestors, as far as their souls are concerned, but to the time of the folk migrations in Europe.
  • Yes, indeed, the Americans should not pride themselves on their forebears, their European blood ancestry. Rather they should point to the fact that they once lived in Asia at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, and there went through a culture which was not yet permeated by Christianity; thus they are also those who accept Christianity through external tradition and external education.

There is still a strong opposition from this quarter to a soul-spiritual conception of the world.

It is not only in science that we find materialism, but throughout all external civilization. And what politicians want to make of Europe today, this new map of Europe, is entirely created out of materialistic feeling, out of materialistic impulses. Humanity will only awaken, when it adds to these nationalistic impulses — which are materialistic, based solely on an observation of the external continuity of the generations — the social-historical consideration of life in its true reality. We shall then see the souls, as well, who live in present day bodies. These souls have only as an outer sheath what is transmitted through successive generations by means of physical heredity or what is handed down to them through tradition as spiritual culture and merely accepted as such through education.


is a lecture called 'Past Incarnations of the Peoples of Today'

The urgent task before us at the present time is to apply the knowledge and impulses contained in Spiritual Science to life, but to apply them in a really effective way. Again and again it must be emphasized that in face of the burning needs of the age, theoretical knowledge of the truths underlying human life and cosmic existence is by no means sufficient. Everything depends upon understanding conditions as they actually are in practical life — in other words, to understand life itself in the light of the principles of Spiritual Science. For many centuries men have grown accustomed to look at only one fragment of reality. And the inevitable consequence of this was the attitude of mind which has culminated in the catastrophic events of the present time. Men are utterly lacking in that understanding of existence which is demanded of them at their present age of evolution.

As students of anthroposophical spiritual science it will certainly not be difficult for us to be convinced of the truth of repeated earthly lives nor of the fact that in spite of the full reality of freedom, the destiny of a human being has its origin in a previous earthly life. But when it is a question of coming to grips with the concrete realities of life, we slip into the kind of thought that has been customary during the last few centuries and which is utterly incapable of explaining the intricacies of human life. Although this kind of thinking can explain certain phenomena of nature, it is entirely at a loss when confronted with the intricate complexities of the life of man. As a matter of fact it is scientific thought that has remained farthest of all in the rear of the actual demands of life today, and yet science exercises a very powerful influence upon the thinking of the masses of the people. In speaking thus of the influence of scientific thought, I am not referring to those individuals who are working in or are in some other way connected with particular branches of science. I am thinking of the masses of the people who, when they are faced by the weightiest problems of life, swallow what is told them by men who appear by the force of outer circumstances to be qualified to judge of such things. And then people base their actions upon the opinions of the recognized authorities although they are utterly devoid of any real understanding of human life. The teachings of Spiritual Science must be applied in every branch of existence, above all in those branches of knowledge which form the basis for a true understanding of life.

When a man comes to spiritual science today he begins to understand the principles underlying the fact of repeated earthly lives. But suppose he wants to inform himself about things that are actually happening in the world. He may turn perhaps to history, or rather to the fragmentary history that forms part of popular education. But this is all written from the point of view of thought that is merely capable of explaining the things and phenomena of Nature, and nothing more. The spiritual aspect of history is ignored and when anyone nowadays tries to interpret certain facts and events of history, he is more or less obliged to fall back on what happened in the last generation, in the second and third generations back, and so on through the centuries. To take a concrete example: How does a German set about learning his history? He thinks of the men who have lived in Middle Europe, of whom he himself is one. He reads the story of what happened to them, what happened to their fathers, forefathers and so on, through the generations. He goes backwards in time, perhaps to the Middle Ages, and imagines that he is following the tracks of one continuous stream of human life which leads back then to the migrations of the peoples and so forth. And so he tries to explain what is happening to mankind at the present time by what happened in these earlier generations. He becomes familiar with the stream of history as it expresses itself in the consecutive generations, and the only idea that is really clear to him is that of heredity. Sons have inherited certain qualities and characteristics from their forefathers or are benefiting by what was instituted by their forefathers. It is only a matter of going back in time from the present to the preceding generations.

[Finding earlier incarnations of souls currently incarnated]

Yes, but if we look at the matter in the light of spiritual science, can this be said to be the whole reality? Why should souls living in bodies of the present generation necessarily have been incarnated in Middle Europe in their earlier lives? Is it not possible that they were incarnated somewhere quite different, under entirely different conditions?

The forces which these souls bring over with them from their earlier incarnations into the bodies of the present generation work no less effectively than the forces of the blood that has been transmitted by heredity through the generations. These forces are working as well as the inherited physical characteristics. We must not fall into the error of thinking that it will ever be possible to understand either the human beings or the events of the present age so long as we have eyes only for a fragment of the reality. We must say to ourselves that in the men of the present age souls are incarnated who in earlier incarnations lived in quite different regions of the earth. And when we try to follow up the destiny of these souls, we are not necessarily led back through the generations at all. In other words, we cannot understand what is happening on the earth if we do not apply in an absolutely concrete way the truth of repeated earthly lives.

It is not possible to be an honest believer in reincarnation on the one side and on the other to accept history as it is expounded nowadays, for to do that would be to make a sharp distinction between outer life with all its traditions, and what we regard as the essential reality. More and more we must realize how necessary it is to be able to find evidence in life itself of the things we have recognized as spiritually true. And it is for this reason, my dear friends, that I have no hesitation in speaking about certain results of investigation which may seem highly improbable to a great many people, but for all that must be made known today. It is right that they should be made known, because humanity is inwardly yearning to know the whole reality and because degeneration is bound to set in if men are afraid to face the whole reality.

It is, of course, quite true that most people fight shy of taking the truths of Spiritual Science in all seriousness. These truths seem so startling and so utterly remote from their accustomed lines of thought that they merely dabble in Spiritual Science and never reach the point of really coming to grips with it. They have not the courage to apply these truths neither in practical life nor even in their study of problems of practical life.

At this point, before we proceed any further, let me repeat something I have said on many previous occasions; namely, that those who want really to make any headway in spiritual research must be on their guard against ordinary associations or combinations of ideas, for what presents itself to the mind is usually the opposite of the truth, or at all events diverges very widely from the truth. It is precisely the deeper truths which seem at the outset strange and improbable, because they can only be discovered by real knowledge and real experience.

And so in all seriousness we will ask ourselves this question:

Why has civilization led human beings into the present catastrophic condition of life? What has spiritual science to say about this?

I must emphasize here that certain details which I have given on previous occasions are quite correct but for reasons which will be quite obvious to you, it is only possible to deal adequately with a vast subject by constantly adding other details.

I have said before that many souls living at the present time were incarnated in a previous life during the early centuries of Christendom, in regions more to the South of Europe. Many of these souls are now incarnated in Middle Europe. This is a perfectly correct statement but it applies only to a certain number of souls. What I propose to tell you today must be taken as referring to a considerable portion of the present population of the earth.

This brings us to the question — and the answer I shall give is the outcome of real and very strenuous spiritual research — this brings us to the question:

Where were the souls of the greater part of the population of Western Europe, of Middle Europe and far over towards Russia in their earlier life on earth?

[ Group [2] Exterminated American Indians .. now in Europe]

If we investigate this problem conscientiously with the methods of Spiritual Science, the fact emerges that we are here concerned with souls whose life in the spiritual world since their last death and their present birth has been of comparatively short duration. Our investigation leads us over to the West, to lands in which, after the discovery of America, large numbers of Europeans founded colonies and exterminated or at all events kept the original population in a state of subjection. We are led back to the centuries of the conquests of America and to souls incarnated at the time of these conquests in bodies of the American Indian race.

Now you will not be able to understand what I have to tell you unless you have a true picture in your minds of the nature of these Indian peoples who were gradually exterminated by the colonists from Europe. They were not, of course, cultured people in the sense in which we think of culture today. But there was a certain quality in these souls which expressed itself in a universal, pantheistic form of religion. Their hearts were turned in aspiration to a great Spiritual Being and their religion was thoroughly monotheistic. I am speaking here of the leading stock, not of the more degenerate branches. These people had a living and vivid experience of one great Spirit Universal behind the world of nature and the deeds of men. We must try to understand this mood of soul and altogether get rid of the preconceived notion that these Indian peoples were the half animal savages which they are generally supposed to have been.

Broadly speaking, the souls once living in those exterminated Indian peoples are incarnated today in the men of Western Europe, Middle Europe and on towards Russia. We shall never get to the truth if we cannot accept what seems so strange and improbable a statement. These were souls who had had no contact with Christianity in former incarnations and because of this it follows that the souls of a large proportion of Europeans today had not received the impulse of Christianity before their present birth. Christianity is something that has been acquired from outside, assimilated as it were with the sounds of language and speech. Before we can understand the way in which Christianity lives in the souls of Europeans today we must realize that, broadly speaking, it was not a Christian impulse at all which lived in these souls in an earlier incarnation, but a pantheistic impulse, connected with the worship of one great Universal Spirit.

[ Group [1] – Current European - prev. more southern Europe]

Here and there among these European peoples there are, of course, other souls, whose earlier incarnations during the first centuries of Christendom were in the more Southerly regions of Europe and in Northern Africa.

[ Groups [1] and [2] ]

And of these two categories of souls, the present population of Western and Central Europe and the lands well on towards Russia mainly consists.

The way to study these things is to observe how the souls of men express themselves in our present age, what their aspirations are and in what way they think. We shall never understand these European peoples until we realize that although the blood kinship runs back through the consecutive generations, say to the age of Charles the Great and even earlier, the souls now living in these European bodies were once incarnated in far-off America, in the bodies of a race which was conquered by colonists from Europe.

[ Group [3] – Current Asian/Japanese .. from Southern Europe before]

Another fact, too, emerges as the result of spiritual investigation. We can look back to the peoples who lived in the Southern regions of Europe and who received Christianity in a form altogether different from that of today. In those times Christianity was still imbued with elemental, deeply inward forces of soul. It worked as an imponderable force in the whole of life and was still entirely free from the abstract intellectualism of Theology. It was a force that worked upon the deepest and most fundamental feelings of the people. And these souls who lived in the Southern regions of Europe at that time and received Christianity in this form, are, speaking broadly, incarnated at the present time, in Asia.

The period spent by these souls in the spiritual world between death and rebirth was somewhat longer than in the case of the others, because the character of the impulse they received in their early Christian incarnation was such that it tended to prolong the period of life in the spiritual world between death and rebirth. Many of these souls who were permeated by the Christian Impulse at that time are incarnated now in Japanese bodies. We shall never be able to understand the curious culture of Japan — which presents so many enigmas today — unless we realize that a great many souls now incarnated in Asia were imbued in a very special way with the Christian impulse in their earlier incarnation. They have carried over these Christian sentiments into Eastern bodies and have been surrounded from childhood by the decadent forms of ancient Oriental culture which have remained in the language and other forms of civilized life in the East. Certain elements of the true Christian impulse have lived on in these souls, in spite of all that has been dinned into their ears and has presented itself to their minds and hearts from a degenerate Oriental culture. We can find evidence of this in the most highly developed and most highly educated Orientals, and, indeed, we can only understand them in the light of this knowledge.

Think, for example, of a personality like Rabindranath Tagore. We shall never understand what such a figure really signifies until we realize that in Rabindranath Tagore there lives a soul who in a previous earthly life imbibed from early European Christianity a certain warmth of feeling which pours out in all his utterances and deeds. This warmth of feeling is always there, but on the other hand the rather coquettish style of Tagore is the outcome of the influence of decadent Orientalism. There is a curious duality in the personality of Rabindranath Tagore. If our outlook is healthy and natural we shall invariably discern in his works an element of Eastern coquettishness and yet we shall be attracted by an irresistible warmth of soul.

It is quite useless today to dabble superficially in the idea of repeated earthly lives and merely take it as a theory. It must be applied to life in a concrete way, although this is still far from people’s liking. At the bottom of their hearts they are afraid to know and face their own being, and make no attempt to see in actual life any concrete expression of their abstract beliefs. They are embarrassed at the prospect of confronting their own true being. They do not want to show themselves to the world as they really are, and that is why they put up every obstacle they can to hinder investigation into reality. The widespread confusion, and innumerable problems with which modern life is fraught is explained to some extent when we take into consideration the things I have put before you here.

[ Group [4] – Asians .. now in America ]

And now let us think of peoples inhabiting another part of the earth. When a seer has made the investigations of which I have been telling you, another question forces itself upon him; namely:

What has become of the souls who were incarnated in Asia round about the time of the Mystery of Golgotha?

In spiritual research one always finds that some problem in actual life gives the impetus to investigation. Life itself indicates the line of investigation, and then the faculty of vision is kindled. One problem leads us to a particular region, another to a different region and it is finally quite obvious that there is meaning and purpose in it all. Having investigated the destiny of the souls once incarnated in the Indian peoples of America, one is led to enquire into the destiny of those souls who were living in Asia, in Asia Minor and in Africa about the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and in the earliest centuries of Christendom. I am not now referring to those who actually received the teachings concerning the Mystery of Golgotha, but to those who did not receive them; namely, souls through whom the ancient culture of the East lived on.

People have not, as a rule, any very correct idea of the character of this old Oriental culture at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. Today, of course, it has become altogether decadent, but at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha it was often of a lofty spiritual order. A great many men were able to form very clear and definite conceptions of certain facts and events of the spiritual worlds. Those faculties which can be awakened in one who has allowed the Christ Impulse to pour through the fibers of his being, were not, of course, possessed by the souls of whom I am now speaking, but for all that they had a deep understanding of the spiritual world which they envisaged in pictures. Their conception of the universe was of a lofty spiritual order and had the effect of making them think that the spiritual world was the only world worthy of their aspirations. Their inclination was to shun and flee away from the material world. They were men who indulged in a great deal of speculation, but their speculations were to some extent still nourished by forces of the old, instinctive clairvoyance. They spoke of how the world had come into being, passing through different stages of spiritual evolution in the remote past. They spoke of Aeons in successive ranks, entering into denser and denser states of matter, resulting finally in the structure of the outer physical world. In short, they were men who gazed deeply and reverently into the spiritual world.

This attitude of soul prepared them for a lengthy life in the spiritual world between death and a new birth, and it was a very long time before they brought themselves to descend again into new bodies. It was a very long time before the urge arose within them to come down again to the earth. These souls - a considerable number of them at all events - are incarnated today in the peoples of modern America. The whole constitution of the Americans today with all their astuteness in the practical and material sides of life, is due to the fact that in an earlier incarnation their souls were given up to spiritual contemplation of the universe, but that they then descended into very hard and dense material bodies. Fundamentally speaking what they are seeking to do now is to let their earlier experiences of the spiritual world live themselves out once again in a subtle and uncannily astute handling of affairs connected with the material world. We can understand why the American mind approaches everything connected with the material world in such an eminently practical and thoroughly scientific way, when we know that this characteristic is to be traced back to an age when the attention of these souls was turned towards the spiritual world. Material life has now taken the place of the spiritual world and although the people of America are quite unconscious of it, what they are really trying to do is to understand the spiritual in the garb of the material. Their attitude of mind now is the materialized counterpart of spiritual experiences through which their souls passed in an earlier incarnation.

You will soon realize how useful it is to try to understand the actions and behavior of men of the present generation in the light of such facts, for only so can you ever hope to grasp the whole reality. We live in a world of pure abstractions when we study merely the history of consecutive generations.

Be quite clear on one point, my dear friends. The vast majority of men at the present time do not want self-knowledge. They are not courageous enough to get out of the groove of physical, sense observation, whether it be in history or in anything else. Think of all that is inculcated into the minds of children in the instruction they are given at school. It is quite obvious that human beings today are being wrenched away from the realities of life just because they are taught only one small fraction of reality. When people are asked today to take the fact of repeated earthly lives in all seriousness and to look a little further than outward appearances, they draw back as if something were going to burn them. One comes across incredible statements made, for instance, by leading scientists. It is of course still too soon to speak in public lectures of matters such as I have been speaking of today, but even in public lectures one has to go pretty far.

We may as well realize at once that in most cases it is quite impossible to find a point of contact with modern modes of thinking. The modern mind is altogether perverted by the kind of thought that is current in our present age. But on the other hand it is urgently necessary that a sense for reality should find its way into life. Without this sense of reality we shall make no real progress. And for this reason those who are sincere students of the truths of anthroposophical spiritual science must not be afraid of applying to actual life, teachings like that of repeated earthly lives, which in the abstract they may understand quite well. All the same, it is absolutely right to refrain from uttering the bald, dogmatic form of a truth until the proper time has arrived. It is right, for example, that our Waldorf School shall be prevented from becoming a school for the promulgation of any specific view of the world. It is not essential for children to get hold of the abstract idea of repeated lives on earth, but without actually expounding this as an idea in the abstract, it is quite possible to throw light on history and, furthermore, to make history intelligible when one has this idea in the background. The minds of children who are taught history in this way — perhaps without ever having heard of the theory of reincarnation — will be quite different, simply because their teachers have been able to speak intelligibly of life as it is at the present time, knowing and understanding the way in which souls from remote regions of the earth enter into the stream of blood flowing through successive generations.

Our task today is not only to speak about the spirit, but to bring understanding of the spirit to a point where the working of the spirit can be seen in concrete, material existence. Our sciences are abstract even when they dabble in the most concrete phenomena of external life, for these material phenomena themselves are nothing but abstractions when their spiritual foundations are ignored.

Again we find people saying: The only thing to do is to believe in those who claim to have vision of the spiritual world, for initiation science is not so easily acquired as other kinds of knowledge. Initiation science is not for us. Such a point of view is fundamentally the same as that of a certain Professor who said: “After all, when it comes to things that do not directly concern me — the birth of Alexander the Great, for instance — I can accept them without having experienced them myself. But I must either have experienced personally or be able to experience things that directly concern me before I will acknowledge them as truth. Nothing will make me accept these things merely on the basis of the experiences of others.”

I should like to ask such people whether or not they have to accept the date of their own birth on the authority of others. The date of their birth is something that concerns them most intimately, but whether it can ever be a conscious experience — that is quite another matter! There is surely no alternative but to accept it on the authority of others!

That is one thing that may be said about the rejection of the principle of authority — as it is called.

If we would only try to open up the path which leads through healthy human intelligence to the understanding of the teachings of spiritual science and take these teachings really seriously, we should soon discover that healthy, free minds can, after all, find their way to truths such as those of which I have spoken to you today — strange and questionable as they may at first appear to be. Of course, if the faculty of healthy reason has to confront such obstacles as are erected when history is studied merely from the point of view either of inherited characteristics or of events occurring in a continuous, unbroken stream — if human intelligence is obstructed by prejudice in this way, then it will not be possible to get very near to reality. The moment we give healthy reason free play, and when we begin really to want to understand, we shall be able to perceive what is living in the souls now incarnated upon the earth. Understanding will not come from a study of heredity alone, nor from a study of the blood flowing through the generations. Everything depends upon our having the courage to approach these matters. But when once the courage is there we shall get beyond abstractions to a concrete understanding of the truths themselves.


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References and further reading