Explorations in Karmic Biography
The human spirit is no more created anew when it begins its earthly life than a man is newly created every morning.
Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy, Ch. 2.
Steiner had much to say about karma and how it is expressed in life. He gave numerous examples of soul capacities, patterns of being, friendships, and karmic meetings extending from one lifetime to the next. (See the chapter on reincarnation in Theosophy or the 8 volumes of Karmic Relationships, for examples.) Yet most anthroposophists seem to have very little idea of how to relate these examples to their own lives. How can we relate our biographies to an understanding of reincarnation and karma? Is there any way of understanding our karma by looking at our individual biographies? Can we gain a true experience of that being in us that passes through repeated earth lives and could lead to insight into the secrets of reincarnation and, perhaps, even of karma?
In general, people often misinterpret things connected with these questions. At first we try to think it through, to apply the intellect. We reflect on our biographies searching for proof only to find ourselves caught in abstraction, without any inner certainty that these abstractions are anything but illusion. Steiner is very clear that thoughts do not pass with us from one life to the next, although they may become soul capacities. But enthusiasm, perceptions and feelings, and the will called into being by our thoughts – these pass through the gate of death with us.
The Hotam School in Israel is doing this work of investigating how soul capacities, the feeling life and will impulses create an image of the being that has passed through repeated earth lives, incarnating in the present individual’s biography. I first encountered this work during the October, 2019 Practicing Karma Conference, offered by the Center for Biography and Social Art, and have continued by taking courses through Hotam online training. I find this karmic biography work to be rewarding and hope at a future time to share with you some of the fruits of this continuing study.
Wordsworth described this soul feeling beautifully in his deeply personal Prelude (Book II), in which he recounts his childhood experiences amid lovely natural surroundings:
Remembering how she felt, but what she felt
Remembering not, retains an obscure sense
Of possible sublimity, whereto
With growing faculties she doth aspire,
With faculties still growing, feeling still
That whatsoever point they gain, they yet
Have something to pursue