Category Archives: Karma

Four times twelve human beings

In the poignant last address given by Rudolf Steiner, on September 28th 1924 (Michaelmas Eve), before he retired to the sick bed in his studio where he was to die six months later, he used a mysterious phrase which has often puzzled me:

“If, in the near future, in four times twelve human beings, the Michael Thought becomes fully alive — four times twelve human beings, that is, who are recognised not by themselves but by the Leadership of the Goetheanum in Dornach — if in four times twelve such human beings, leaders arise having the mood of soul that belongs to the Michael festival, then we can look up to the light that through the Michael stream and the Michael activity will be shed abroad in the future among mankind.”

Steiner was speaking here in the context of his message that sincere anthroposophists have the strange destiny “that they are not able to come to terms with the world: they cannot quite master it, and yet at the same time they have to approach the world and enter into it with full earnestness”; that their “karma will be to harder to experience than it is for other men” but that nevertheless, they “are to prepare the work that shall be accomplished at the end of the century, and that shall lead mankind past the great crisis in which it is involved.”

This also relates to Steiner’s message to anthroposophists given during the 3rd August 1924 lecture on the Entry of the Michael Forces:

“I have indicated how those individuals who are fully engaged in the anthroposophical movement will return at the end of the century, and that others will join them, because it will be decided at that time whether earth civilisation will be redeemed, or lost.”

So Steiner was telling his audience that they would be reincarnating much more quickly than usual and that when they did so they would be joining forces with others to counteract the crisis caused by the manifestations of ahrimanically-inspired materialism. But what did Steiner mean by the phrase “four times twelve human beings”? Does it imply that forty-eight special people would be needed? Or is it some kind of reference that can only be understood by those steeped in mystical numerology? As I say, I have puzzled over what this could possibly mean and now humbly offer a suggestion for others to consider.

The Four-fold Human Being

Steiner gives us a picture of the human being as consisting of four ‘bodies’ – a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body, and the ‘I’ or ego. Each of us knows that we have a physical body but the other three bodies may be unfamiliar concepts for some people. The etheric body is essentially an energy body that contains and forms the physical. It is this etheric body which maintains the physical body’s form until death. The astral body (Soul) provides us with awareness and self-awareness, our emotions and our feelings and intentions. The ‘I’, ego or Self is like our higher soul, the immortal and inalienable core of each individual human being, which goes with us from one incarnation to the next. There are another three bodies in potential – the spirit self, the life spirit and spirit man – which are to come to full development in later stages of human evolution. But at our present stage, we are four-fold beings functioning through our threefold constitution of body, soul and spirit, with the ‘I’ as a higher part of the soul component. (Yes, I too find this horribly confusing!)

The Twelve Senses

Most of us recognise that humans have five senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste), while others say that we have a sixth sense or intuitive faculty which can, for instance, come to our aid at times of danger.

Steiner, however, observed that the human organism is divided into three systems: nerve-sense, rhythmic and metabolic and that these groupings took in not five or six but twelve senses. These twelve senses are organised as follows:

  • the physical body: the senses of touch, of life, of movement, of balance
  • the external world: smell, taste, sight, temperature
  • the immaterial, spiritual world: hearing, speech, thought, ego

It is important for us to develop and use as many of our senses as possible because each sense reveals another aspect of our sensory reality. Sensory perception also forms the basis of our relationship to our self, our surroundings, and the people we meet. In order to observe well, we have to use our senses frequently and to the full. If we are able to do this, our health and vitality will benefit, which in turn enables us to make better observations. In other words, we will become fuller human beings.

It occurred to me that, by “four times twelve human beings”, Steiner may have simply meant that people can become whole, fully realised human beings through anthroposophy – four-fold human beings consciously in touch with their twelve senses. If anyone knows a different explanation, I’d be pleased to hear about it in the comments below this post.

I’m glad that Steiner, in the quotation above from his lecture of 3rd August 1924, also used the phrase: “…and that others will join them”, meaning that it won’t be anthroposophists on their own who will make the difference but that anthroposophists will become part of a much larger, looser and informal coalition of people of goodwill who can see what is really going on and who in their myriad different ways will peacefully resist the onslaught and hold on to true human values.

It is surely possible that, despite the many failures of the Anthroposophical Society since Steiner’s death in 1925, students of the Michaelic school whether they are in the Society or, more likely, outside of it, are today quietly getting on with their efforts, undaunted by the apparently overwhelming odds we are facing.

Some of these people may well have been anthroposophists at the time of Rudolf Steiner. In a lecture given on 16th September 1924, Steiner said this:

“(…) I would wish to kindle in your hearts something of the flames that we require, so that already now within the Anthroposophical Movement we may absorb the spiritual life strongly enough to appear again properly prepared. For in that great epoch after shortened life in spiritual worlds we shall work again on earth — in the epoch when for the salvation of the earth the spiritual Powers are reckoning on their most important members, in their most important features, on what Anthroposophists can do.”

“I think the vision of this perspective of the future may stir the hearts of Anthroposophists to call forth within themselves the feelings which will carry them in a right way, with energy and strength of action and with the beauty of enthusiasm, through the present earthly life; for then this earthly life will be a preparation for the work at the end of the century when Anthroposophy will be called upon to play its part.”

I have recently been reading a book called The Michael Prophecy and the Years 2012-2033, written by Steffen Hartmann and published by Temple Lodge. Among many interesting ideas, Hartmann quotes Anton Kimpfler who has suggested that the beginning of the present era should be dated from the Mystery of Golgotha – that is to say our present time should properly be considered as having begun in AD 33. Intriguingly, he points out that Steiner wrote on the cover of his Calendar of the Soul of 1912: “1879, after the birth of the ‘I’ “. (33 years earlier.) Kimpfler says that Rudolf Steiner believed that AD 33 should be the beginning of the new era. If that is the case, then our current year should not be considered as being 2021 but is really 1988 – so we have not yet reached the end of the 20th century. We therefore have another twelve years until the end of the century, which takes us to 2033 in our normal reckoning. 

It seems likely that these next twelve years will be decisive in resolving “whether earth civilisation will be redeemed or lost,” a battle in which each of us needs to play a part and the importance of which cannot be overstated. And while Steiner’s generation of anthroposophists may already all have reincarnated, there is still time for many more people to realise that they are four times twelve human beings and to accompany the further unfolding of the Christ power on earth.

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A personal credo

What is it that you yourself believe, I was asked. A challenging question, and one which has taken me some while to think about. The A J Balfour poem I quoted in my post of 6th April 2015 contains the following lines:

“Our highest truths are but half-truths;

Think not to settle down for ever in any truth.

Make use of it as a tent in which to pass a summer’s night,

But build no house of it, or it will be your tomb.”

Those are wise words and I quote them again here to indicate that what follows is a summary of what today I believe to be true but which I may modify at some future time, as my own insights and understanding unfold. I also think that, at our present stage of human development, any truth ought to be regarded not as a literal, objective truth but as a metaphor for a truth way beyond what we are currently capable of comprehending. But you have to start from where you are and this is where I am right now.

I believe in a Prime Cause or God, the creator of all universes, the origin of life itself, a being that is at present beyond human comprehension but who has created everything that exists, and indeed is everything that exists, including countless other realms of life and existence stretching forth into infinite eternity.

I believe that I am part of God and so are you and so is everybody and everything else; and that God lives through us and understands its own nature through the experience of the totality of creation.

I believe that at the deepest levels of our being there is in each of us a yearning to return to union with God.

I believe that we get hints or glimpses of the nature of God the unmanifest, in many different ways, but especially through our experience of loving and of being loved.

I believe that the sun is a physical symbol of the Cosmic Christ, the great spirit who came from the spiritual sun and who overlighted Jesus of Nazareth for the last three years of his life; and who is as close to my idea of God as I can currently encompass.

I believe that, just as the sun shines on all, so the Cosmic Christ overlights all human beings, irrespective of race, nation, belief or non-belief.

I believe that the Cosmic Christ is also present within the etheric body of the earth, thus every aspect of the earth is holy and should be treated with reverence.

I believe that the Cosmic Christ is that aspect of God which gives light and warmth to all life and also permeates all life, so that all of creation, including each human being, has a spark of the divine sun within itself.

I believe that we are spiritual beings currently having human experiences in physical bodies; and that we are subject to a constant cycle of birth, death and re-birth over many lifetimes.

I believe that the divine spark within each of us grows during our successive incarnations on earth; and that after many lifetimes this spark grows into a fire strong enough to transmute the physical particles of our body into light itself.

I believe that, when this stage is reached, the soul is freed from the necessity to reincarnate; but that some great souls voluntarily reincarnate so as to help the rest of struggling humanity to make progress.

I believe that the overall pattern of our present life has been set by how we lived our previous lives; and that the pattern of our next lifetime is being determined by how we live each day of this life.

I believe that the purpose of human life on earth is:

  • to unfold the divine plan for each one of us, to work out our karma and develop our consciousness in ways that can only occur in physical incarnation
  • to prepare for our return to God and our ultimate destiny of becoming co-creators with God, by learning how to use our creativity and free will with wisdom
  • to release the spirit that is encased in all matter and so transform the world through love that the earth eventually becomes the planet of love, thus fulfilling the evolutionary task of humankind.

I believe that free will is a privilege that has been given only to human beings.

I believe that life on earth is governed not only by physical laws such as gravity and action/reaction but also by a number of cosmic laws, including:

  • Reincarnation, the Law of Rebirth
  • Karma, the Law of Cause and Effect
  • The Law of Opportunity
  • The Law of Balance and Equilibrium
  • The Law of Correspondences*

I believe that the most powerful and all-pervading force in the world is Love.

I believe that Evil is also a reality in human evolution, the task of which is to divert human beings from their true goals and evolutionary opportunities.

I believe that there is no such thing as time but only one continuous moment and that consciousness is the only thing that exists.

I believe that there is nothing and no-one, however small or overlooked, that is insignificant or meaningless.

I believe that human beings are part of a world in which everything is intimately connected with everything else and “That Art Thou” is a statement of profound truth.

I believe in the existence of angels and archangels of many kinds; and that each one of us has a guardian angel.

I believe in elemental beings and the need to acknowledge their existence and work with them for the benefit of all life.

I believe that there are very many forms of non-physical life and intelligence not only on the earth but throughout the countless universes that God has created.

I believe that ‘death’ (meaning permanent extinction or non-consciousness) does not exist in any of the universes and is an illusion within the human mind.

* I have written in more detail about these cosmic laws in my posting of September 16th 2014: “Karma and the Steiner Waldorf teacher.”

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Karma, Personal Credo, What I believe

The Monstering of Glenn Hoddle

In an excellent talk given to the ASGB 2014 Summer Conference by Alan Swindell (principal of the Steiner Academy Exeter), he reminded us of what had happened to Glenn Hoddle when he expressed in an interview some thoughts on karma and reincarnation.

Those of you who are football fans (and even many who are not) will undoubtedly remember the sad fate of Glenn Hoddle. Hoddle had had a distinguished playing career at Tottenham, AS Monaco and as an England international and he followed this with considerable success as a manager at Swindon Town, as a player-manager at Chelsea and finally as the England manager from 1996 to 1999.

Glenn Hoddle with the faith healer Eileen Drewery. (Photo courtesy of The Sun.)

Glenn Hoddle with the faith healer Eileen Drewery. (Photo courtesy of The Sun.)

Hoddle, like all England managers, had his critics. One of the areas for criticism was his employment of a faith healer, Eileen Drewery, as part of the England coaching staff, something which led the tabloids to dub the England team “the Hod Squad”. On 30th January 1999, with England preparing for Euro 2000, Hoddle gave an interview to Matt Dickinson of The Times newspaper, in which he attempted to defend himself and his beliefs. He said:

 “My beliefs have evolved in the last eight or nine years, that the spirit has to come back again, that is nothing new, that has been around for thousands of years. You have to come back to learn and face some of the things you have done, good and bad. There are too many injustices around.”

“You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime. I have nothing to hide about that. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap.”

“You have to look at things that happened in your life and ask why. It comes around.”

This was of course a gift not only to rent-a-mouth politicians such as the sports minister Tony Banks, head of the Football Task Force David Mellor and prime minister Tony Blair, who immediately criticised his remarks but also to journalists who sensing an opportunity for a media witchhunt, called for Hoddle’s dismissal as England manager. The Football Association sacked Hoddle just three days later and this was welcomed by representatives of disabled groups, despite the work Hoddle had been doing on behalf of organisations helping disabled people. The BBC reported the sacking as ”More Bad Karma for Glenn Hoddle”.

So the lesson for anyone in public life was clear. The materialists have the monopoly on spiritual truth. It’s best not to have any beliefs other than atheism but if you must have, confine them to the conventional religions. Even with those, don’t embarrass yourself or others by speaking about them in public. And whatever you do, don’t mention karma or reincarnation – or your career will be over and you will face monstering by media.

In such a climate of opinion, those of us who think that anthroposophy has something to offer could be forgiven for keeping our heads below the parapet. Our views are seen as heretical in the prevailing orthodoxy.

However, I think that Glenn Hoddle was articulating something, however clumsily, that many people know instinctively and have a great need to express. At the same ASGB conference at which Alan Swindell spoke, I was leading a workshop on the theme: “Anthroposophy – Never An Ideology”, during the course of which I quoted from something Tarjei Straume had posted on his website:

 “Anthroposophy…is not really comparable to religious doctrines but more to scientific doctrines, say like the doctrine of heliocentrism that was introduced by Copernicus and Galileo in the 16th and 17th centuries – a theory that was officially prohibited by the Church in 1616 but is now so absorbed and widespread that anything that contradicts it is heresy. Thus it may be argued that the anthroposophical worldview is a relatively new heretical theory that may replace Copernicanism, Newtonianism, Darwinism and Einsteinism in the future.”

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