karmic consequences (quick guide for teachers)

While browsing my documents I found a helpful little guide for teachers. It’s written by Robin Bacchus (PhD!). He is (or was) a program director at a Steiner teacher training program. The document is called ‘Karma and Reincarnation for Teachers’ and may still be available online but I couldn’t find it.

On page 9, there is this very handy little quick guide to karmic consequences. (They come from Steiner’s karma lectures, so nothing new.) I hope you enjoy it! Let’s speculate about which consequences I will suffer from in my next incarnation! And what will happen to some of our not so friendly friends in the waldorf fan club, one might ask? No, perhaps we’d better not delve deeper into that question…

33 thoughts on “karmic consequences (quick guide for teachers)

  1. I’m frustrated too, because I’m sure this was discussed on the critics list, but I can’t find it.

  2. I’ve sent the document to Ramon but if anyone else wants it too just tell me.

    I also have a feeling this has been discussed before — could it have been on Mumsnet or some other place where the discussions have ‘disappeared’ (not so) mysteriously?

    Re measles — exactly Ulf!

    And first you suffer from delusions in one life-time and in the next you cheat the measles with vaccination — one would need a third column describing the karmic consequences of this sequence of events…

  3. The karmic consequences are only sought out if the particular difficulty is not ameliorated in life.
    So for example, Dickens’s Scrooge suffers from excessive acquisitiveness. But he changes and becomes loving and generous. He will not need to seek out infectious diseases in another life.
    If you have small-pox in this life it will have an impact on your life, both negative and maybe also positive. Maybe you are more understanding of people, maybe you have more empathy for people who are scarred or marked in some way that is difficult for them to endure.
    In this way a certain compensation is made for the uncharitableness of a previous life. If you are changed by the experience of small-pox there are no more karmic consequences from the uncharitableness.
    If I had no sense for facts, then I may be born again with a tendency to lie. But I may overcome this, maybe with the help of a loving partner, friend or teacher. Then the sequence would end.
    But maybe I continue to lie. Then I may be born with defective organs. This may have a dramatic impact on my life, A certain reality is constantly borne in upon me. I can’t pretend it isn’t so. My heart , or my spleen, or my lungs don’t work. A hard reality is with me every moment of my life. But also maybe I am surrounded by people who love me and my very disability makes it possible that I experience the self-sacrificing love of others in a much more intense way than if I was well and fully functional.
    I remember reading about people with long term serious illnesses and disabilities living in the Cheshire homes. It was written by someone who had worked there. What she particularly remembered was the way in which some of the residents seemed to completely accept their situation. They accepted that this was the life they had been given and tried to live it without wishing that it was different.

    When Steiner produces a sequence like these karmic consequences he is making an illustration. Not something to be taken as a dogma. He is trying to show how imperfections in a human being can possibly lead to certain consequences. It is not like the laws of physics.. There is always the possibility for change and merciful intervention.

    The other thing to bear in mind is that Steiner taught that we CHOOSE these scenarios that look so grim in order to help us evolve.

    Finally the thing to remember is that looking at someone else and seeing their suffering as karma is NEVER an excuse for not helping them, not trying to relieve their suffering. In the story of the good Samaritan it is the one who stops to help who is the good guy. Not the mystical barmpot who thinks, ‘Ooh, grim karma going on there. Better not interfere.’

    Our loving compassion and intervention helps people so that their karma is transformed.

  4. Jenner was a bad person then.
    No wait, he was trying to transform our karma by intervening to help us.

    The origins of all this must be with the familiar ideas on ‘do- gooding’ from other religions.It’s like Jesus having to suffer on the cross so all humanity may be saved.

    The way the ‘faithful’ take charge of moral issues is unpalatable.

    Considering that the most horrific acts are carried out in the main by the religious, they have to keep working hard at their image for recruitment purposes.

    “When Steiner produces a sequence like these karmic consequences he is making an illustration. Not something to be taken as a dogma.”
    This reminds me of the clergy telling us the bible is not to be taken literally.

    I am grateful for the explanation but am feeling particularly uncharitable today.

  5. “The other thing to bear in mind is that Steiner taught that we CHOOSE these scenarios that look so grim in order to help us evolve.”

    Falk, there was a very anthroposophical man at the place where our children went to school who said that the child who had chosen his abusive parents for instance might have been a torturer or murderer or something in his previous life; the abuse they consequently suffered was their karmic lesson I suppose; (he was also quick to say this sort of thing shouldn’t be repeated.) So wrong, so appallingly wrong.

  6. Cathy, I believe that what Falk was saying is that
    a) the premise that a person would karmically choose a fate of a certain grimness…
    b)… DOESN’T relieve you of your moral duty to help.
    As per this quote, immediately below the section you quoted:
    “Finally the thing to remember is that looking at someone else and seeing their suffering as karma is NEVER an excuse for not helping them, not trying to relieve their suffering”

    Thus, the man you refer to wasn’t very “anthroposophical” at all, at least not by virtue of his decision not to help an abused child. I don’t think this philosophical question on moral obligations is particularly tied to a fatalistic belief in karma specifically. For instance, a person who doesn’t believe in karma could contemplate a scenario in which a woman “chooses” to live with an abusive husband. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t help her (and help her husband get help) despite her apparent consent – at least in my opinion.

    Even if Steiner was right in the suggestion that human spirits to some extent choose their karmic fates upon incarnation, one could still chastise him for telling the general public so charismatically and emphatically. After all, it doesn’t take a person with the ability to read the akashic chronicle to realize that misconceptions like the man in your real life example were bound to happen. To be fair though, Steiner never intended for his lectures to be released to the general public (though again, for someone claiming clairvoyance, this must be considered remarkably naive).

  7. Stefan, what does “karma” add to any moral assessment? If you won’t help someone because their misfortune is karma, then you’re an ass. If you would help them, wouldn’t you help them regardless of whatever you might believe about karma? In which case, who needs this information? It is useless, morally and practically.

    “Even if Steiner was right in the suggestion that human spirits to some extent choose their karmic fates upon incarnation, one could still chastise him for telling the general public so charismatically and emphatically. After all, it doesn’t take a person with the ability to read the akashic chronicle to realize that misconceptions like the man in your real life example were bound to happen. To be fair though, Steiner never intended for his lectures to be released to the general public (though again, for someone claiming clairvoyance, this must be considered remarkably naive).”

    Naive? It’s preposterous. Of course he intended his lectures to be widely distributed. Give us a break.

  8. “Stefan, what does “karma” add to any moral assessment?”

    Nothing I hope! That was why I took it upon myself to clarify this as best I could in my last post, since it appeared to me that Cathy thought Falk (or perhaps anthroposophy) suggested it did. I know of no instance where Steiner suggests that we should change our moral obligations for karmic reasons.

    “Naive? It’s preposterous. Of course he intended his lectures to be widely distributed. Give us a break.”

    Well, I wasn’t there so I wouldn’t presume to know for sure, but one can speculate of course. As far as I know though, Steiner was against his students even taking notes. The problem was, people were making notes here and there eventually anyway, and I believe it was his wife Marie who decided they should get a professional stenographer to type his lectures down so that – at least – the students wouldn’t make notational errors. He still didn’t want it published. The works he wanted published, i.e. the actual books, have a completely different approach and a lot more of “rigor” to them in efforts to preempt misunderstandings etc.

  9. Stefan, I’m rushing now, so may come back later. What you say is neither here nor there, this anthroposophist’s belief in Steiner’s idea of karma has nothing to do with whether he would help the child; it’s has everyrthing to do with the child’s decision to “choose” parents, it was the “child’s decision”.
    By the way, this man is most definitely an anthroposophist (he’s published).

  10. Cathy – OK, I assumed you thought the anthroposophist was in the wrong because his “karmic mindset” might have affected his actual actions, for example by being less inclined to intervene. But you’re saying that you have a problem with the simple fact that a person has an irrational belief in reincarnation, karma and the purported choosing of our fates, even if it DOESN’T affect that person’s behaviour/willingness to help? You have a problem with how he views the abused child in general – not the specific risk that this view might make him less inclined to help? Just checking here to make sure I understand where you’re coming from.

    And yes, I agree that this position (karma, reincarnation and the non-incarnated I choosing the circumstances for its next life) is part of the general anthroposofic (by proxy of the Hindu) mindset. I thought you were suggesting that a reduced need to intervene/help as a result of it was also part of the anthro doctrine, and that was what I objected against. Personally, I have no problem if people have irrational beliefs (I’m not the thought police after all), as long as they don’t affect their behavior in a harmful way.

  11. Steiner said that thoughts are “living realities”; it is not just that they affect how we act, they are actions IN THEMSELVES. In fact your thought affects something/someone MORE than an action would in itself. If you take Steiner seriously on his own terms, your judgments about someone’s karma not only should not but cannot be without an actual effect in the world.
    Whoops

  12. So it will not do to say, Yes, he taught this or that about karma, but it doesn’t affect how I act. If you walk down the street and you see a brick fall on a person’s head, you might think:

    1) What a terrible accident, this person just happened along here and something dreadful has happened to him on this spot; or

    2) this person timed things for himself exactly right so that as he was passing here, he could jump right under this brick that was about to fall, and position his head very carefully to be struck at a particular angle by the falling brick, because for some reason of his own, the pain and suffering and possibly death that would result is something he personally wants and needs.

    Those are rather different thoughts; Steiner said all our thoughts have lives of their own, in effect. I do not know if we can say the person who believes the latter is less likely to help. Probably that is not the case, because lots of factors determine our behavior, in addition to our religious beliefs, and I’ve seen anthroposophists change their minds about this crap pretty damn fast when their own child was hurt. Karma tends to happen to *other* people’s children, in my experience … But the effects of noxious beliefs on our actions can’t be ruled out, and anthroposophists who want to insist this one is neutral, rather than actively benign or malignant, are on shaky ground in terms of Steiner’s own philosophy, which says that our thoughts are never without effect, but are actually living beings themselves.

  13. Ah yes, right you are – I didn’t make provisions for the “effects” of thoughts apart from behavior, so allow me to rephrase: I have no problems if people have irrational beliefs as long as they don’t bring about harmful effects (whether through behavious, telekinesis or whatevery you wish). Personally though, I *do* think trains of thoughts such as the ones described here can have a tendency to affect people’s behaviour, so I’d be wary about indoctrinating the masses about how they choose their fates. Anyway, arguing from strange perspectives is getting a bit too much for me so I think I’m opting out of this discussion. Thanks for the chat, it was fun, and in case you thought it was some kind of contest, you can consider yourself a winner!

  14. Stefan wrote:

    ‘I know of no instance where Steiner suggests that we should change our moral obligations for karmic reasons.’

    I’m not sure what you mean, but as I interpret it, it seems wrong. He definitely thought our moral choices influenced our karma — to me that seems to me enough reasons to change (whatever necessary, including what we think we’re morally obligated to) for karmic reasons. For example, we should intervene to alleviate suffering — that’s a moral obligation, and it changes our own karma, thus giving us reason to act. But it seems I might be misunderstanding you here!

    ‘As far as I know though, Steiner was against his students even taking notes.’

    It was often his closest co-workers who wrote down his lectures. So, no… if he were against that, he would have stopped it, anything else is pretty silly. He may have had some feelings against it initially, but basically, in the end, must have felt it was ok. What you say might possibly apply to the first class lectures — but even there, he allowed the lectures to be written down, but he didn’t intend them to be circulated. Lectures were published already during his life-time.

    Cathy:

    ‘By the way, this man is most definitely an anthroposophist (he’s published).’

    Stefan?

    Diana:

    ‘But the effects of noxious beliefs on our actions can’t be ruled out, and anthroposophists who want to insist this one is neutral, rather than actively benign or malignant, are on shaky ground in terms of Steiner’s own philosophy, which says that our thoughts are never without effect, but are actually living beings themselves.’

    Well, yes, an important point. So, in effect, the mere speculation about someone’s karma and how it affects that person’s life could never be neutral in terms of having its own effect on things. Just the mere thought that the child brought the abuse upon himself because he needed it, for karmic reasons, would have some effect, no matter how you act. This is an intersting addition.

    I think, in reality, and people being lazy, karma provides a cop-out. You just conveniently forget that it might be your karma to help. This is nothing anthroposophical, it’s just human nature combined with a set of beliefs that ‘help’ if you pick and choose. So, even though the belief itself — the thought itself — were neutral… I do think there’s always a risk that (irrational) beliefs do affect behaviour, also, sometimes, in a harmful way. That does not mean we can — or should — be thought police, far from it… But it might be worth it to be wary of the risk.

  15. Stephan
    “Personally, I have no problem if people have irrational beliefs (I’m not the thought police after all), as long as they don’t affect their behavior in a harmful way.”

    Well, obviously; but this is about a specific article for teachers dealing with children.

    Diana
    “the effects of noxious beliefs on our actions can’t be ruled out, and anthroposophists who want to insist this one is neutral, rather than actively benign or malignant, are on shaky ground in terms of Steiner’s own philosophy, which says that our thoughts are never without effect, but are actually living beings themselves.”

    Alicia
    “the mere speculation about someone’s karma and how it affects that person’s life could never be neutral in terms of having its own effect on things. Just the mere thought that the child brought the abuse upon himself because he needed it, for karmic reasons, would have some effect, no matter how you act.”

    Diana and Alicia have answered perfectly; almost impossible imo to be detached if you were following Steiner’s rules of karma. And after all, this article is for teachers, not any old person’s beliefs; it is a definite guide using Steiner’s “indications’.

    In the same way Steiner’s belief about evolution, race and reincarnation, or a child’s head size etc are part of anthroposophy’s doctrine. These “truths’ of anthroposophy are studied by teachers, it’s bound to affect how they view and deal with people, in this case, children. Otherwise what’s the point of studying it?

    As usual, there needs to be openness, discussion, admission that there are some more than unpalatable areas of anthroposophy; round and round they go.

  16. Sorry if this is not quite what you are all interested in, but the idea of irrational beliefs affecting people’s behaviour (thought police) in a harmful way is of great intererest to me when applied to the issue of assisted dying.
    There may be other reasons why people do not agree with helping someone to die if the person wishes it in order to relieve their suffering, but the main one seems to be belief in some kind of after life, which includes reincarnation.
    This is harmful in the way it has an impact on what I would call progress in this area, as it prevents a rational viewpoint from prevailing.
    Steiner probably had nothing to say on this as it was not an issue back then, but I wonder how current interpretations of his teachings fit with this.

  17. Helen, I think it’s an interesting point which is related; another example lack of reasoned thought interfering with huge decisions in life.

    Anthroposophists believe in a sort of kamloka after death I think, they have a kind of ceremony for two or three days after someone has died when they are supposed to relive their life backwards; assisted dying would probably be on a par with suicide in Steiner’s view, and not a pleasant thing at all…
    http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GateSpiSci/19060824p01.html

  18. Stefan: “I’d be wary about indoctrinating the masses ”

    There’s another spot where anthroposophy might clean its own house a bit, regarding thoughts as “living realities.” Please, indoctrinate the masses. That at least would be honest and people could judge for themselves based on the merits of the ideas presented. This would be far less objectionable than indoctrinating children without their parents’ knowledge. To believe that you’ve personally got all the right thoughts, but the “masses” can’t handle them, and will screw up their repeated lifetimes even worse if you clue them in to the very fact of multiple lifetimes … well you don’t see a little problem there?

  19. Interesting point, Helen. Suicide (whether assisted, in the case of a terminal patient etc., or otherwise) is another very interesting point karmically. Another is abortion. Both of these seem to raise all sorts of thorny points in relation to karma. Belief in karma would seem to make abortion wrong, because the mother is not letting someone be born, hence interfering in their plans for their next incarnation – or maybe if a fetus “chooses” its parents, it chooses a mother who will have an abortion?!

    But it seems to me you could make a case for suicide, if you know your own karma and know it is simply your time to go, or your “tasks” in the current incarnation are complete, why would it be wrong to plan your own exit? Just some thoughts. You won’t find anthroposophists interested in these details. The realities of how it should all work are never as interesting to them as nifty mystical notions.

  20. Thank you both, Cathy and Diana.
    ‘Nifty’ yes, indeed.
    And the 2 or 3 days ceremony, no it would be too long for my liking. I wouldn’t want any repetitions, backwards or forwards.
    I have read too that the issue of contraception is also a difficult one for anthroposophists, again interfering with karma. I think that was in connection with the Camphill communities.

  21. I enjoyed this random throw-away remark in the Steiner lecture highlighted by Cathy.
    ‘A vivisectionist has a particularly terrible life in Kamaloka’.
    Anyway I think I will go and enjoy this sunny Sunday afternoon instead of pondering these topics now.

  22. Re/ Abortion the incarnating soul has a sort of preview of the possibilities they are choosing when they choose a particular parent/ situation – the things that potentially can happen. Among these may be abortion, miscarriage, infant ‘cot-death’ syndrome, physical problems…
    Karma is not a blue-print for how a life will unfold. It is a set of intentions. An incarnating soul will, with the help of the angelic hierarchies try to find the parents/situation which will allow those intentions to be fulfilled. But nevertheless circumstances may prevent those intentions being fulfilled – so they will have to await another life.
    When I lived in Sweden for 5 years, every time the summer was approaching I swore to myself I would go on the Inlandsbana (Inlandsbanan in Swedish), a slow train that takes several days to makes its way up the centre of Sweden from Kristinehamn in the south to Gällivare in the north . It only runs in the summer – and every single time circumstances prevented me from doing it. Every time we had to go back to England around the time I could have gone. It is still something I would love to do. And if I did who knows what special person I might encounter, – there in the far north?.
    But maybe I wont manage it in this life

    Re/ Suicide. There are many things to consider. What if the balance of the person’s mind is disturbed? (an expression we have in English law) Clearly this very different from someone who is not under any undue stress and in full consciousness. Love and mercy come into it.
    Steiner taught that karma is not an inflexible system of reward and retribution.
    There is always the possibility of mercy and love.

    The other issue is that WE as human beings cannot know what is a part of another person’s karma.
    In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the karma may not be associated with the wounded man lying by the side of the road, where there is obvious suffering. It may be in the life of every person who passed by. Each one was being offered the chance to do a charitable deed that was outside the conventional behaviour of the time. The man who stopped to help, stepped out of the conventions of his tribe. (There was hostility between Jews and Samaritans)

    It is also very difficult to know what exactly lies in one’s own Karma. We are free in a certain sense to either acknowledge something that happens to us as Karmic or not – to see it as just chance.

    If someone says to you ,’ It was karma that brought us together!’ . they are making a choice to see it that way, and that then may have very significant implications for the way things continue between you. It adds a dimension. Only the angel’s would know if it is really karmic. For the person making the assertion there is a moral dimension being added to something that could just look like a random chain of circumstances. The one being addressed may just think, ‘Rot!’, of course.

  23. Given the state of our Swedish railroads, Falk, I think you’d be well advised not to postpone going on the inlandsbana ’til next life ;-)

    Re indoctrination/teaching/preaching: perhaps one needs to separate subtle indoctrination (which they may excel at) from presenting anthroposophy openly (which they say they aren’t doing, but should rather be doing).

    Assisted dying: ‘The ethics of dying and the dignity of life – an attempt to examine assisted suicide from an anthroposophic perspective ‘ by Michaela Glöckler:
    http://bit.ly/H3KJ55

    That just happened to be one of the first hits when I googled. Haven’t read it yet. But it is an interesting question — death and dying is very interesting in anthroposophy — Steiner does speak of ‘unnatural’ death in other circumstances, Cathy linked to it, I think.

    And, speaking of karma, it was karma that brought mr Dog to me, no doubt. And mr Dog just sighs when I tell him.

  24. Contraception – I’ve tried to engage anthroposophists on this one. They just get mad. They can’t think straight about it. My opinion is that most likely anthros aren’t having abortions, using contraception, or committing suicide at rates that would differ in any way from population norms. In other words, they aren’t living these beliefs, and don’t like to examine them, with rare excptions (Falk, for instance). They just think karma sounds neat.

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