Karmic consequences

Rudolf Steiner had a lot to say about illness.

Illness has a cause and a purpose, according to one of his lectures; Manifestations of Karma


“If a man can fall ill, and can through karma even seek illness — this is due to a certain principle that has come already before us in our studies of Spiritual Science. We know that at a certain point in the Earth’s evolution there penetrated into the development of humanity the forces we call luciferic, which belong to beings who remained behind during the ancient Moon evolution, and who did not advance far enough to reach, as it were, the normal point of their development.”

He explains how in “kamaloka”( an “astral plane” where after death the earthly life is lived over again in backward order, three times as quickly) a person reflects on the life just lived, and makes decisions about how to improve in the next;

“Let us take pneumonia for example; it is a karmic effect which follows when during his life in kamaloca the person in question looks back to a character which had within it the tendency towards sexual excess, and a desire to live a sensual life… in the overcoming of pneumonia is given the opportunity to lay aside that which was a defect in the character in a previous incarnation. In this complaint we see unmistakably the war of man against the luciferic powers.”

Those who practice anthroposophy in schools and colleges sometimes say that not all Steiner’s “wisdom” is taken seriously or used in these institutions today. That is what they would like us to think. Unfortunately for them there are numerous examples of how ideas such as the one quoted above are taken extremely seriously and put to use.

Here is an example from Karma and Reincarnation for Teachers  By Dr. Robin Bacchus the Teachers Preparatory Course Coordinator for a college in New Zealand.

He provided a handy summary of some ways that karma supposedly affects our health. He says;

“A soul that in one lifetime is tempted by or permeated with the luciferic element needs to be corrected in the following lifetime. Experiencing a tendency to illness often brings this about”

Here is his list;

PreviousLife Next Life
Attentiveness and interest in the world Well-formed organs, strong physical body,   thick bushy  hair, choleric   temperament.
Lack of interest in the wider world (e.g.   being secluded in a nunnery) Poorly formed organs, rickets, bow legs,   baldness, melancholic temperament.
Ability to learn languages (mobile etheric   life body)  Ability to make unprejudiced judgements
Excessive acquisitiveness Tendency to infectious illnesses
Illusionary self image,  delusions Measles, scarlet fever
Uncharitableness Small pox
Lack of interest in music Asthma

According to Bacchus there is a lot teachers should do;

“It is the task of teacher in continuing and carrying out the work of the third Hierarchy to help remove the obstacles that lie in the children’s paths, by recognising the karmic implications of what they observe in the children standing before them and doing what they can to help.”

Ah yes – the third hierarchy…

Karma and its effects on children is clearly not one of the Steiner nuggets teachers should be consigning to the waste bin, according to this course coordinator.

In the lecture quoted above Steiner makes clear his rejection of modern science in the treatment of illness, and this is borne out in the way anthroposophical medicine is carried out today, even here in Stroud.

[St Lukes closed last year as an NHS practice, and now operates privately – added June 2016]

I have a feeling his followers would ideally like to be living in Steiner’s era. Everything would then seem much more straight – forward to them, and they wouldn’t have to deal with the complexities of modern scientific discoveries and their impact on our lives. They would be free to live according to their guru’s “indications” without the inconvenience of progress getting in the way.

In the Steiner Waldorf “bubble” perhaps this is partly being achieved.


  1. Helen

    The idea of reincarnation in anthropsophy ( and in other modern new age belief systems) is somewhat different from the Hindu or Buddhist version. In anthroposophy, no account is taken of the possibility of “coming back” as a non-human being.
    According to the Skeptics Dictionary, in Eastern religions “One may have been a Doberman in a past life, and one may be a mite or a carrot in a future life” Reincarnation is considered a bad thing, not a good thing, and achieving the state of nirvana is the ultimate goal.

    • Jim

      The concept of reincarnation in Buddhism, or at least the earliest Theravada school of Buddhism, also differs from that of Hinduism and has little in common with the anthroposophical form. Reincarnation implies the ‘incarnation’, ie the entering into a body, of something pre-existing, ie a ‘soul’ however that may be conceived. Buddhism however denies the existence of a soul or anything persisting from one moment to the next beyond a series of states linked by some form of causal link. Ie one thought begets the next, and the next and so on. So what can be reincarnated? Well, clearly nothing so western translators generally prefer the term ‘rebirth’ when talking of Buddhism though that doesn’t completely remove the paradox.
      Theravada Buddhism is in many ways quite sceptical. For example the gods may or may not exist but if they do their relation to us is like ours to ants. They may have the power to crush us or choose not to but they are subject to the same laws of nature as us, they did not create us and they too suffer and die.
      Quite a stern doctrine to live up to so not surprisingly all manner of superstition crept back in as Buddhism spread. People do seem to find superstition comforting.

  2. Helen

    Thanks, Jim, an interesting explanation.
    We were accosted in town a week ago by a monk wanting to share some information with us – I assumed he was a Buddhist monk – didn’t stop to find out. I thought he wanted to save our souls but that couldn’t have been it. Just wanted to spread the word, I expect.

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