Destiny of Illness and Inner Human Development

(Original title: Krankheitsschicksal und innerer Entwicklungsweg des Menschen. Der Merkurstab 1996; 49:339-41. From a lecture given by Rudolf Steiner on 12 April 1914, in: Steiner, R.  Inner Nature of Man and tlie Life Between Death and Rebirth. Tr. D. Osmond, C. Davey. Revised A. R. Meuss. Bristol: Rudolf Steiner Press 1994.)

Let us assume we have had an illness in life which has caused pain. At some point, when we are in the world of the spirit, we will experience the opposite mood or state of mind, feeling ourselves to be in health. This mood of being in health will strengthen us to the same extent to which the illness weakened us before.

This may come as a shock to the intellect; it may also enter much more deeply into the emotional life and irritate the soul. We know that certain things which are of the spirit must always be grasped at this level. We need to consider the following: some kind of shadow lies over the connection between the physical illness and the health which gives us strength in the world of the spirit. The connection is a true one, but somehow we feel in our hearts that we cannot really accept this. This has to be admitted. If we really understand the connection, it has another effect, which may be described as follows.

For those who make a serious effort to absorb and study the science of the spirit, not just in theory, by merely taking in thoughts and ideas in the way other sciences are studied but as something like a spiritual life blood, awakening inner responses and feelings, for those who have the right ear for this science of the spirit, there is nothing in it which does not either uplift or allow them to look into the abysses of existence, in order that they may find their bearings. Those who truly understand the science of the spirit will always follow everything it has to say with their feelings. If we absorb this science, acquiring the habit of thought and formation of ideas, we actually transform our souls while still in the physical world. Serious study of Anthroposophy is one of the best and most effective exercises.

A strange thing happens when people gradually enter into the science of the spirit. If they are doing the exercises - or not even doing the exercises which will make them into spiritual investigators but make serious efforts to gain real understanding of the science - they will one day have clairvoyant vision. It may be a long time before they have clairvoyant vision, but they will have it. If you let the science of the spirit influence your soul, you will find that the instincts of life, the more unconscious mainsprings of life, change in the soul. You do not become active in the science of the spirit without it having an influence on the life of instincts, so that it will have different sympathies and antipathies, be filled with light, and feel more secure than it did before.

This may be noticed in every sphere of life. If you are clumsy with your hands, for instance, and become an anthroposophist, you will find that, without having done anything but receive the science of the spirit, you become more skillful, even in the way you use your hands. Do not say: I know some anthroposophists who are very clumsy; they are far from skillful.' Consider instead how far these individuals have not yet truly made the science of the spirit part of their inner lives, to the extent their karma requires. You may be a painter and have mastered the art of painting up to a point. When you become an anthroposophist, you will find that the influences of which I am speaking flow into the way you instinctively perform the art. You find it easier to mix your colors, and the ideas you seek come more readily. If you are an academic person and supposed to do some scientific work (many who are in this situation will know how much effort it takes to collect the literature), when you become an anthroposophist you no longer go to libraries and borrow many volumes; instead, you will immediately lay your hands on the book you want. Spiritual science has a direct influence on your life; it changes your instincts and gives new mainsprings that make you more skillful.

What I am going to say must, of course, always be seen in connection with human karma, for human beings are always subject to karma. However, even if we take this into account, the following is nevertheless true: someone who has entered into the science of the spirit contracts a particular disease and it lies in his karma that he can be cured. It may, of course, be his karma that the disease is incurable. If we are faced with an illness, karma never says in a fatalistic way that it has to take a particular course. The disease can be cured or it cannot be cured. Someone who has steeped himself in Anthroposophy acquires an inner instinct which helps him meet the disease and its accompanying weaknesses with something that will strengthen him and be right for the situation. What would otherwise be experienced as the consequences of the disease, in the world of the spirit will work back into the soul as an instinct while you are still in the physical body. You will either prevent the disease or inwardly find your way to the powers that heal.

Clairvoyant consciousness finds the right healing factors for an illness. The clairvoyant individual is able to have an image of the disease before him: here is the disease; it weakens the human being in this particular way. Having clairvoyant consciousness, the individual perceives the counter image, the mood of overcoming illness and the growing strength welling up from that mood. He sees the compensation which will come to the individual who had the illness in the physical world once he is in the world of the spirit. The clairvoyant is able to give advice based on this. You do not even have to be fully clairvoyant; the advice to be given may come instinctively from observing the signs of the disease. The process which brings to clairvoyant consciousness the compensation which will come in the world of the spirit belongs to the signs and symptoms of the disease just as much as the upward swing of the pendulum on one side belongs to its upward swing on the other side.

This example shows the connection between the physical plane and the world of the spirit and how fruitful knowledge of that world can be for the conduct of life on the physical plane.