15. The mystery of birth
When men declare that great injustice lies in the unequal circumstances into which children are born, they do not know what they are saying!
One person tenaciously insists: “How, if justice exists, can it happen that a child is born burdened with a hereditary disease! The innocent child must be bearing the sins of its parents jointly with them.”
Another declares: “One child is born in rich circumstances, the other in misery and bitter poverty. How then can one believe in justice.”
Or again: “Assuming that the parents deserve punishment, it is not right that this should happen through the illness and death of a child. The child would be suffering innocently.”
These and similar assertions circulate among men by the thousand. Even serious seekers sometimes rack their brains over it.
The simple statement that “the inscrutable ways of God are all for the best” does not provide a satisfactory answer to the question of “why”. To find such an answer satisfactory requires either obtuse acquiescence or the immediate suppression of any questioning thought as being wrong.
That is not what is intended! Through questioning one finds the right way. Apathy or forced suppression are reminiscent only of slavery. God, however, does not want slaves! He does not want apathetic acquiescence, but a free, conscious looking upwards! His wonderful and wise arrangements do not require to be enveloped in mystic darkness. They gain in their sublime, inviolable greatness and perfection when they lie before us open and clear. Immutable and incorruptible, with even calm and certainty, they unceasingly carry on their eternal activity. They take no heed either of man’s grumbling or of his acknowledgement, nor do they consider his ignorance, but they return to each individual the ripened fruits of the seeds he has sown down to the finest nuances.
“The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine” is a common saying that so aptly describes this weaving of the inexorable reciprocal action in the whole Creation, the immutable laws of which bear and carry out Divine Justice. It trickles, flows, streams and pours over all mankind regardless of whether they wish it or not, whether they submit to it or rebel against it. They must accept it as just punishment and forgiveness or as a reward when they are uplifted.
If a grumbler or a doubter were to catch even a glimpse of the ethereal surging and weaving activity, borne and permeated by a firm Spirit, penetrating and encompassing the entire Creation in which it rests, and which itself is part of this Creation, alive as the eternally driving Divine loom, he would instantly fall silent and be stunned by the realization of the presumptuousness of his words. The calm sublimity and infallibility he perceives forces him into the dust begging for forgiveness. How small he imagined his God to be! And what sublime greatness he finds in His works. He will then realize that his highest earthly conceptions could be no more than an attempt to belittle God and depreciate the perfection of His great work, in his futile efforts to compress it into the narrow confines brought about by the over-cultivation of the intellect, which can never rise above time and space. Man must never forget that he stands in the work of God, that he himself is part of this work, and thus unconditionally subject to its laws.
The work, however, not only embraces things visible to the physical eye but also the ethereal World, in which the greatest part of man's actual existence and activity takes place. His respective lives on earth are only small sections of it, nevertheless they are always great turning points.
Birth on earth only forms the beginning of a special phase in a man’s entire existence, but not the beginning of man himself.
When man as such begins his journey in Creation, he stands free, unbound by any of the threads of fate which proceed into the ethereal world. On their way, these threads are continually strengthened; through the power of attraction of similar species they cross and interweave with others, and react upon their originator, with whom they had remained connected, thus bringing about fate, or karma. When certain threads return at the same time their effects intermingle, with the result that the originally sharp and distinct colors of the threads take on other shades and produce new image combinations. *(Lecture No. 6: Fate) Each thread serves as a channel for the reactions until the originator no longer provides an anchorage for similar species in his inner being, i.e., when he himself no longer maintains this channel in good condition. Then these threads can no longer retain a foothold, cannot attach themselves to him, and must wither and fall away, regardless of whether they are good or evil.
Thus every thread of fate is ethereally formed through the act of will in the decision to take an action. It travels forth, yet remains anchored in the originator, thus forming a definite path to homogeneous species, bringing them reinforcement while at the same time receiving from them added strength which flows back to the starting point. In this process lies the help which has been promised to those who strive towards the good, or it contains the condition that “evil must continue to give birth to evil”. *(Lecture No. 30: Man and his free will)
The retroactive effects of these existing threads, to which he adds new ones daily, constitute the fate every man has created for himself and to which he is subject. Any arbitrariness, and therefore any injustice, is thus precluded. A man’s karma which appears to be one-sided predestination is, in reality, the inevitable result of his past, in so far as it has not yet been redeemed through reciprocal action.
The actual beginning of man’s existence is always good and so also is the end for many; with the exception of those who have become lost of their own accord, when through their decisions they first extended their hands to evil, which then completely dragged them down into perdition. The vicissitudes in man’s existence occur only in the interim, in the period of inner growth and maturing.
Thus man always shapes his future life himself. He provides the threads and thereby decides the color and design of the garment which is woven for him in the loom of God through the Law of Reciprocal Action.
The causes working to determine the conditions as well as the period in time into which a soul is born into the physical world often lie far back, so that these conditions and the time may continually influence the earthly pilgrimage of this particular soul and achieve what it needs for releasing, polishing, casting off, and for further development.
This, though, does not happen in a one-sided manner for the child alone, rather the threads are woven automatically so that the reciprocal action is also felt in the earthly surroundings. The parents give the child just what it needs for its further development, just as vice versa the child gives to its parents, be it good or evil. For further development and advancement it is of course necessary in this connection to become free from an evil by personally experiencing it, whereby it will be recognized for what it is and will be cast off. It is the reciprocal action which always brings about the opportunity for this. Without the operation of this law man could never become really free from his past. Thus the Laws of Reciprocal Action hold as a great gift of mercy the road to freedom or ascent. Therefore there can be no question of any punishment. Punishment is a wrong expression, for in these laws lies the greatest love, the hand of the Creator stretched out for forgiveness and liberation.
The coming of man to earth comprises procreation, incarnation and birth. Incarnation is the actual entrance of the human being into earthly existence. *(Lecture No. 7: The creation of man)
A thousand-fold are the threads that co-operate to determine an incarnation. But in these happenings, as always in Creation, the most scrupulous and absolute justice prevails and contributes to the advancement of all concerned.
Therefore the birth of a child is far more sacred, far more important and valuable than is generally assumed. For its entrance into the physical world holds a new and special act of grace of the Creator, not only for the child but at the same time for its parents, even for its brothers and sisters if it has any, and for others who come in contact with it, in that they thereby all get a further opportunity to progress in some way. The parents may be offered an opportunity for spiritual advancement through the necessary nursing care during an illness, through heavy worries or grief, be it as a remedy, as the simple means to some end, the actual discharge of an old debt, or perhaps even the pre-redemption of some impending karma. It very often happens that with the onset of a good volition, a man’s own serious illness, which according to the law of reciprocal action was to have afflicted him as karma, will be mercifully pre-redeemed as a consequence of his good volition, and through his voluntary decision to devote himself to the nursing of his child or that of another. A real redemption can, of course, only ensue in the intuitive perception, in the full experience. Genuinely loving nursing care often brings an even deeper experience than that of one’s own illness. The experience of anxiety and pain is more intense during the illness of a child or of one who is truly considered a beloved fellow man; and equally intense is the joy at his recovery. The deep intensity of this experience alone firmly imprints its traces onto the intuitive sense, onto man’s spirit, it thus reshapes him and in this process cuts the threads of fate that would otherwise still have impacted him. Through their severance or falling away the threads spring back like stretched elastic to homogeneous ethereal centers, henceforth they are only pulled unilaterally by the power of attraction. Thereby all further influence on the reformed human being is impossible, because the connecting link is missing.
Thus, if a person will freely and willingly take upon himself some duty towards another out of love, or out of a compassion akin to love, there are thousands of ways of achieving redemption in this manner.
In His parables Jesus has given the best examples. In the Sermon on the Mount and in all His other sayings He also clearly pointed out the good results of such practices. In so doing He always spoke of “thy neighbor”, thus pointing out the best way towards redemption of karma and towards the simplest and most true-to-life form of ascent. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” He admonished, thus giving the key to the gate leading to all ascent. It need not always involve a case of illness. The necessary care and education of children offer in the most natural way so many opportunities that they embrace in themselves all possibilities for the redemption of karma. For this reason children are a blessing, no matter how they are born and developed!
What applies to parents applies equally to siblings and to all who have frequent contact with children. They also have opportunities to benefit through the new earth dweller, in that they bestir themselves, be it only by casting aside bad habits, by practicing patience and by providing diligent help in different ways.
The child itself, however, benefits no less. Each person, through birth, is given the possibility to advance a great step upwards! If this does not happen it is the fault of the individual himself. He did not want it. Therefore every birth should be regarded as a gracious and impartially distributed gift of God. Even those who, being childless, take in someone else’s child will be no less blessed, indeed the blessing will be all the greater on this account, provided it is done for the child's sake and not for personal satisfaction.
Now, in an ordinary incarnation the power of attraction of what is spiritually homogeneous plays a leading role together with and in the reciprocal action. Qualities regarded as inherited are not really inherited, but are merely an effect of this power of attraction. Nothing spiritual is inherited from mother or father, for the child is as distinct and complete a being as is each of the parents. It only has similar qualities through which it felt attracted to them.
However, it is not only this power of attraction of homogeneity that is decisive in an incarnation, but other existing threads of fate, to which the soul to be incarnated is bound, also play a part. Perhaps the threads are in some way connected with a member of the family into which the soul is led. All this plays a role, attracts and finally causes the soul to incarnate.
The case is different where a soul volunteers to undertake a mission, either to help some particular persons on earth or to engage in some benevolent work for all mankind. In this case the soul, of its own free will, accepts in advance all that will affect it on earth, so that in this case too there is no question of injustice. The soul must receive its reward as the result of reciprocal action if all is done in self-sacrificing love which does not ask for any reward. Into families with hereditary diseases souls will be incarnated which, through reciprocal action, need these diseases for redemption, for purification, or for advancement.
The guiding and supporting threads do not allow for a wrong i.e. an unjust incarnation to take place. They preclude the possibility of any error. It would be like trying to swim against a current which follows its orderly course with iron and inexorable power, eliminating all resistance from the start, so that even an attempt to swim against it is altogether out of the question. However, if its characteristics are precisely respected, it will bring nothing but blessing.
Everything is taken into account also in cases of voluntary incarnations where diseases are taken on voluntarily to attain a specific purpose. If perhaps the father or mother burdened themselves with a disease through some guilt, be it only by ignoring the laws of Nature which require absolute respect for the health of the body entrusted to their care, then the pain at seeing the same illness manifest in the child would already contain atonement and would lead to purification, if the pain is genuinely felt.
There would be little point in giving specific examples, since every single birth would present a new picture differing from the others because of the many intermingled threads of fate. Even every homogeneity must offer thousands of variations on account of the fine gradations of the manifold reciprocal actions.
Let us give just one simple example: A mother loves her son so dearly that she resorts to all manner of means to prevent him from marrying and leaving her. She continually chains him to herself. Such love is wrong, purely egotistical and selfish, even if the mother, in her opinion, does everything to make her son’s life on earth as pleasant as possible. With her selfish love she has wrongly interfered in the life of her son. Genuine love never thinks of itself, but always of the advantage of the beloved one, and acts accordingly, even if it involves self-sacrifice. The mother’s hour to be called away arrives, and the son is left on his own. Now, however, it is too late for him to arouse that joyful enthusiasm for the fulfillment of his wishes, which only youth has at its command. But, in spite of everything he has made some gain, for he redeems something through this imposed renunciation. Be it something of a homogeneous kind from a former life, whereby he avoids inner loneliness which he would have experienced in a marriage, or it might be something else. He can only benefit through such things. The mother, however, has taken her selfish love with her. Therefore the power of attraction of spiritual homogeneity draws her irresistibly to people of similar qualities, for in their vicinity she is able, through the intuitive life of such people, to experience a small part of her own passion when they practice their selfish love towards others. Therefore she remains earthbound. Should procreation take place with persons in whose vicinity she continually finds herself, she will incarnate there through the link of her spiritual enchainment. But then the tables will be turned. As a child she will now have to suffer from the same characteristic in her father or mother as she once caused her child to suffer from. In spite of her longing to leave the parental home, and the opportunities to do so, she cannot free herself. Her guilt will thus be atoned for, and she will be freed from it by recognizing through personal experience that such qualities are wrong.
Through his connection with the physical body, i.e. through his incarnation, a bandage is placed before the eyes of every human being, which prevents him from surveying his past existence. Like everything that happens in Creation, this is also for the benefit of the person concerned. This too contains the wisdom and love of the Creator. If everyone could precisely recall his previous existence he would merely stand aside and remain a calm onlooker in his new life on earth, in the consciousness that by so doing he was making progress or redeeming something, which also contains only progress. However, instead of helping him to advance, this would expose him to the great danger of sliding downwards. Life on earth must be really experienced if it is to have any purpose. Only that which has been inwardly lived through in all its heights and depths i.e. that which has been experienced intuitively, becomes truly one’s own. If a man always clearly knew from the very outset the exact course that would benefit him, there would be no weighing and decision making for him. He could therefore acquire neither the strength nor the independence that are absolutely necessary for him. As it is, he takes every situation of his earth-life with greater realism. Every genuine experience leaves a firm imprint upon his intuition, upon his immortal part which, newly fashioned by these impressions, man at his transition takes with him as his own, as a part of himself. But only that which he has really experienced, for all else is extinguished at physical death. That which has been experienced remains, however, as the clear extract of his earthly existence, as his gain! Not all that has been learned has been experienced; but only that which has been learned through experience becomes one’s own. All the remaining bulk of what has been learned, to which many a man sacrifices his whole life, remains behind as chaff. Therefore each moment of life can never be taken seriously enough, so that vital warmth will pulse through thoughts, words and deeds and will prevent them from deteriorating into meaningless habits.
Through the bandage placed before its eyes at the time of its incarnation the newly-born child seems to be completely ignorant, and is therefore often erroneously regarded as being innocent. Yet it often brings an enormous karma which offers opportunities to release former wrong paths by living them and fully experiencing them. In predestination, karma is merely the necessary consequence of past events. With a mission it is voluntary acceptance of the karma for the purpose of gaining earthly understanding and the maturity for the fulfillment of the mission, in so far as it is not part of the mission itself.
Therefore man should no longer grumble about inequity where births are concerned, but look up gratefully to the Creator, Who only grants new mercies with every single birth!