The body as a tool for spiritual development
The knowledge of the lawfulness anchored in Creation, which were explained in the preceding part of this series, helps us to understand why we ourselves are responsible for whatever lies ahead in the course of our lives. But what is the situation with matters that occurred at the very beginning of our lives, thus at a time when we were not yet able to make conscious decisions and to bear responsibility for them? Many people are born with a health-impaired body, which can lead to lifelong restrictions and burdens. Does it not mean that our options are spread out differently from the outset? And can such be reconciled with the concept of a just Creator?
There are quite different viewpoints about the meaning and purpose of an incarnation. Some attribute their existence to chance and do not see any particular meaning to their lives.
Others regard life on earth as a school, in which the spirit is given the opportunity to develop through a variety of experiences, until one day, matured and fully self-conscious, it can return to the spiritual realm – thus to its starting point.
Since everything in Creation is geared towards development, it can be assumed that the human being is also no exception here, that his life has a deeper meaning and a purpose. What then happens with the person who has reached the end of his life and dies before he has developed and improved sufficiently as to be able to return to his spiritual home? Have all his efforts been in vain? Or does he gain entry into Paradise in any case? What becomes of the fruits of his bad deeds, the harvest of which he did not yet reap up to the time of his departure? Is he exempt from these and his responsibility for them rescinded?
To say yes to these questions would contradict all the Creation Laws: the Law of Reciprocal Action, since seeds would remain without harvest; the Law of Balance, because the absolutely necessary offset would be missing; the Law of Motion, because the necessity for one’s personal effort would be denied; and also the Law of Attraction of Homogeneous Species, because it would mean that people at different stages of maturity could find admittance into the spiritual realm regardless of their level of development.
How does all this fit together?
There is a solution to what seems to be a contradiction: we only need to acknowledge one thing – the fact that the human spirit incarnates not just once but several times on earth. If it is possible that a non-material spirit can incarnate in a physical body, there is no reason why this should not also be possible a second, third and many more times.
Opponents of reincarnation conjecture that our spirit must be recognisable through the physical body. This would mean that at different epochs, genetically identical bodies would be formed exactly in each case, which is impossible.
In addition, this idea would mean that our spirit does not continually develop and therefore always retains the same ‘form’. Yet, as we have seen, the Law of Motion presses towards further development and thus change. Accordingly, the spirit changes with every incarnation, develops new qualities and, therefore, also requires on each occasion a physical body that takes into account these changes.
The fact that the physical body must adjust to the nature and state of development of the spirit is based on the Law of Attraction of Homogeneous Species. Only in this way can the spirit properly express its abilities. A lively and active spirit, for example, would not incarnate in a lumbering or weak body – they would not fit together and therefore not unite unless certain karmic repercussions make this necessary.
‘And their works do follow them’
In the school of life the person needs for each class – for each earthlife – a body that is adapted to the subject matter of this class. At every transition – the earthly death – we leave the body used hitherto behind. The physical body exists only for a short time; the spirit, however, continues to exist, either in the so-called ‘afterlife’ or ‘beyond’, or in another incarnation. The repercussions of our past deeds, which are still clinging to our souls, do not cease to exist with our death. They follow us into the beyond, even into our next earthlife. This is already pointed out in the Book of Revelation: ‘… and their works do follow them’ (Rev. 14, 13).
Thus it is possible that during an incarnation illnesses can appear that are rooted in a former life on earth. Of course, toxins that have accumulated in our body do not follow from one life to the next. However, we take along with us our inner disposition, attitude, our faults and habits, because they are qualities of our immortal soul. If, through misconduct or errors, we have organically weakened our earthly body and change nothing of our inner attitude, then it will be impossible for the new physical body provided for us at the next incarnation to be completely unencumbered. We are attracted by a foetus, which has characteristics suited to us. And if this body shows indications of a genetic disease, this does not imply an undeserved blow of blind fate or the result of some genetic lottery, but because this body, in its nature, exactly corresponds with the state of our soul. The biological parents only create the conditions so that the stranger of a spirit finding its way to them receives the body appropriate for it. This offers the new arrival on earth the opportunity to identify and do away with the weaknesses that he developed in a former earthlife. Such weaknesses can be the result of a lack of respect for their body, as well as stemming from excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, food craving or the like.
A child is therefore not a ‘blank slate’ just by virtue of being at the beginning of its present earthlife. Its past is not obliterated with every new birth. It is only a child in the physical sense, its core of being is an already – more or less – developed spirit. While it will grow into a fully responsible life in adolescence, it still carries along the responsibility for all its past deeds as long as the burden has not yet been discharged through the reciprocal actions or inner change.
This point of view will outrage some people, who will argue that the sick already have enough worries without being discouraged by such explanations. The desire not to blame anyone is a characteristic of our time. The absolute priority is not to make someone feel guilty and cause him uncertainty and increase the inner discomfort still further. The question, however, is: is the realisation of one’s own misconduct and the responsibility linked with it not something that can cause us to rethink and lead to a reorientation, to a renunciation of wrong habits – and thus be seen as a great help?
Does pain make sense?
Illness can make us become conscious of certain deficiencies which burden our soul. So can the emotional suffering we had intended for others strike us and, to be sure, both inwardly as well as our physical body. Illnesses are indeed only one of many possible forms of experience and they affect us exactly like any other experience.
Physical pain which ensues from a wrong lifestyle can evoke in affected individuals a feeling of despair, depression, inferiority, of being excluded and abandoned or one of rebellion. But physical pain can also be a repercussion for perceptions that we unleashed in the others by the way we treated them, whether in the family or the workplace. Experiencing these perceptions in ourselves may make us appreciate what we had intended for another person, and thereby more easily gain insight into our own misconduct.
The soul forms the body
The fact that emotional deficiencies can be expressed by way of physical illnesses is because the soul forms the body. The astral body, the densest of the coverings around our soul, is the model on which our physical body is formed. The genes alone are not capable of forming a body. They provide only the impetus for the duplication and differentiation of cells. The astral body determines the blueprint and thus the distribution of the different cell types in the body. Figuratively, the genes make up the dough of cells, while the astral body gives it form. Weaknesses of the astral body – which are caused by corresponding emotional weaknesses – are therefore also found inevitably on the physical plane.
Now, why is it that an emotional weakness in some cases manifests on the emotional and in other cases on the physical plane? In spite of all the individual differences, it can be assumed that a lapse with regard to the physical body – for example, comfort leading to neglect of the body – will be followed by reciprocal actions on the physical plane. If a fault, however, affects us mainly emotionally, the reciprocal action is more likely to follow on that plane. A lot also depends on the extent to which the spirit is receptive to the lessons of life. Reciprocal actions of a spiritual nature can be too fine to be clearly recognised as such. If they lead to no change in the attitude, they manifest in denser coverings, finally also in the physical body, where they can be experienced more directly. This opportunity to experience in the coarser, denser environment is a form of help, because as long as we human beings are incarnated in flesh and blood, we often only react to reciprocal actions when they affect us physically.
However, it is a mistaken assumption that physical illnesses are exclusively spiritual in origin and therefore all illnesses are rooted in emotional weaknesses or deficiencies. To turn the argument on its head, it would mean that a person who is never sick is a good person. Such a view is only possible with a one-sided appraisal of the causes of illness, of which there are basically two kinds: physical and psychic. People with serious character flaws do not necessarily fall ill. The reciprocal actions of their deeds manifest on another plane.
In parallel, there is a tendency to base every individual illness on certain psychic disturbances or defects. If, for example, someone is depressed as a result of an illness, it is said that the concerned individual is a person who depresses others. This may not correspond to the reality, because one must know that someone’s perceptions during a certain illness may be very different from one person to another. A certain illness may weigh down the one, yet drive the other to despair, making him aggressive or angry, releasing in him feelings of guilt or other reactions, which only the sick person perceives, because he is the one affected and must recognise what he can learn from it.
Does recognition automatically lead to recovery?
Spiritual causes of illnesses are often not consciously grasped by the one affected, but the situation he experiences urges him – if he does not resist the insight – to adopt a new behaviour, which becomes deeply rooted in him through the suffering he is compelled to endure. This positive behaviour takes the place of the previous misconduct. Now, once the cause of the illness has been eliminated, no more ill effects are to be expected. The recovery which ensues from it occurs either still in the same life or – if it concerns a disability or another permanent impairment – in a next life. If the physical ailments are irreversible, they may nevertheless abate in the case of an inner change and become more tolerable. But above all, the emotional suffering caused by the illness can disappear completely.
The fact that illnesses can also have a spiritual cause helps us to understand why some ailments never heal completely, even though very effective remedies may be available: In these cases the spiritual causes are not yet resolved.
Illness as opportunity?
Illness is the result of misbehaviour and the cause of a lot of suffering, yet it is not wholly without advantage – even on the contrary, in more ways than one it can certainly be regarded as somewhat beneficial. Physically, it is a sign that the organism is trying to rid the body environment of pollutants. Spiritually it helps us to be aware of the faults burdening us emotionally, so that we can get rid of them. Statements from many ill persons reveal how beneficial an illness can be in the end. For them the illness was – at least in retrospect – the great opportunity that helped them to give their lives a new and higher meaning. This makes one thing clear: Our body serves our spirit not only as an implement that the latter needs in order to be able to operate actively in the material world, but it is at the same time an indispensable tool for our spiritual development. Thus we have every reason to respect it much more than we have done so far, in order to provide for its well-being in the right way.