By Orna Ben Dor
Our lives are composed of events that happened to us as well as our interpretations of their meaning. At the beginning of the 21st century, our culture is still largely captivated by the thought paradigm of S. Freud’s classical psychology, created at the beginning of the 20th century, according to which a person is motivated by physical needs and mental processes that are derived from those physical processes. As such, psycho-analysis presents a picture that does not take into account the fact that a person is a spiritual being, a being that originates from the spiritual world that follows spiritual rules. The biographical thought process that relies on human knowledge as a whole, offers a different way of interpretation, an overarching perspective on our lives here on earth.
Searching for the source of the problem in childhood, parents, or environment, does not provide a full answer to the question: why do things happen to me? Why me? In such a search there is no hopeful outcome. The paradigm of the Anthroposophical spiritual science is based on a premise that a person chooses his parents and surroundings already before birth. His life experiences, even the most difficult ones, are not only tied to his destiny and his rectification – but also to his life’s purpose and karma. In spite of the fact that this insight is not simple, it provides meaning to one’s life, and thus an opening for change.
“..spiritual research… has to do with the needs of every human soul; with questions related to the inmost joys and sorrows of the soul; with knowledge that enables the human being to endure his destiny, and in such a way that he experiences inner contentment and bliss even if destiny brings him sorrow and suffering. If certain questions remain unanswered, men are left desolate and empty, and precisely they are the concern of Spiritual Science.”(2)
According to Steiner, after his death a person obtains a full picture of his life, including his good and bad deeds. He experiences the pain he inflicted onto others, as if it were his own pain. He understands the cosmic meaning of the deed, knowing that the deed stains the world, and that the deed reduces his value and his ability to develop toward being a whole being. A person’s wish to mend his way, to regain the lost value, leads him to choose the events and circumstances of his new life. Each experience we summon in the higher consciousness state that characterizes us while being in the spiritual worlds, before descending back to reincarnate, has a single purpose: to lead to our development as human beings and mend our faults and flaws, even if from an earthly point of view in our present life, it is experienced as insufferable and unwanted.
“… During the purification period we undergo after death, our souls experience how specific actions of ours in the previous life hinder our further development, and that while we are experiencing this, we develop an impulse to make up for the consequences of these actions. Let’s assume that we bring this impulse with us into a new life, and that it then shapes character traits that put us in a position to make up for what we have done. If we look at the sum total of such impulses, we then have a reason why we are born into certain surroundings as a matter of destiny.” (3)
The biographical paradigm does not consider either parents or the environment as the defining agents of our destiny. Its starting point is the decision taken before birth that leads a person to be born to specific parents and a specific environment. Moreover, not only does a person choose a family, nation, and environment into which to be born, already in the spiritual worlds he works on the molding of the hereditary characteristics of his forefathers – those specific traits with which he needs to be born with (this fact of course does not diminish our responsibility as parents).
Up until mid-life we are not really free to mold our destiny. It is determined by the past. Knowing this, puts past events in the right context and as such already provides consolation. Many people feel great sadness when they realize that they lived their lives only partially till then, relinquishing part of their whole being. The realization that during the first half of one’s life, a person is bound to a fate brought with him from the past, endows legitimacy and new meaning to fate events.
Starting from mid-life, a person may influence his fate, through conscious work on the ties between causes and results in his life. This consistency may be understood through the Jewish saying “All is foreseen, but freedom of choice is given” (Pirkei Avot). There are pre-birth matters that we bring with us which are “all is foreseen”. However, we have the right to mend what needs mending, to interpret our life differently, and thus provide it with intent and meaning.
We must state that in addition to past karma, there lies future karma. An event that occurs now may be the result of our past deeds, but may also be the starting point of a future event. Through biographical work we may discern between these two types of events.
“…an event is painful perhaps now because it appears to us merely as the result of what has happened previously, but it can also be looked upon as the starting point of what is to follow. Then we can foresee the blow of fate as the starting point and the cause of the results, and this places the matter in quite a different light. Thus the law of karma itself may be a source of consolation if we accustom ourselves to set an event not only at the end, but at the beginning of a series of events.” (6)
Biographical thought offers a new way of interpreting our life that leads to true change by accepting our fate and acknowledging it, and opening ourselves to the spiritual worlds, in order to obtain answers to our questions.
- Steiner R. (1909) “The Deed of Christ and the Opposing Spiritual Powers. The Deed of Christ and the Opposing Spiritual Powers. Lucifer, Ahriman, Asuras. Schmidt Number: S-1899.
- R. Steiner Metamorphoses of the Soul. Paths of Experience. Vol. 1. Lecture 1. Schmidt Number: S-2070
- R. Steiner, An Outline of Esoteric Science. p108
- See the Essay “Age 49 in the Biographical Mirror”.
- R. Steiner Manifestations of Karma. Lecture 1. Schmidt Number: S-2229