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Reincarnation and Destiny: Ch. 2 of Theosophy (Introductions to Anthroposophy Book 11)

by Rudolf Steiner

This excerpt is taken from the book Theosophy, which Rudolf Steiner published at the beginning of his theosophical career in 1904. Although Steiner himself did not make such a designation, Theosophy has come to be regarded as one of the four “basic books” of anthroposophy. This chapter however is quite exceptional within the book, and thus it deserves to stand alone. Unlike the rest of Theosophy, which consists of somewhat static revelations of spiritual facts, Chapter 2 is a closely-argued, logical argument. Indeed, it is quite gnomic in many places. The argument is hard to follow, but it is well worth the effort. The high point comes early in the essay, where Steiner sets up a beautifully symmetrical case for reincarnation and karma. He reminds us that memory transforms transitory experience into permanence. On the basis of remembered experience, we react differently when we next meet a similar stimulus. But in the same way, the world is permanently changed by our deeds, and the world remembers our actions the next time we encounter it. The world reacts to us differently as a result of our previous action. Seemingly chance events that “strike” us are anything but: rather, they are the karmic consequences of our deeds, and as much a part of an expanded notion of our self as is memory. There are several other beautiful arguments besides. A notable example is the claim that each human individual is a species unto themselves, and thus the talents that we bring into incarnation can only be inherited from ourselves, in an earlier life. Such arguments must inevitably remain “silhouette-like.” But Steiner assures us both that the trains of thought are shadows of spiritual realities, and that the labor of following them is a good preparation for spiritual seeing.

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