This text by Rudolf Steiner look at karma from a different view than normally, he looks at the underlying beings and processes behind or below karma:
“Human beings and animals differ from each other through the fact that they have their consciousness on different planes. Now there are also other beings besides minerals, plants, animals and human beings.
There are beings who have their consciousness on the physical plane and their body in the astral. Such a being is, as it were, an animal in reverse. Such beings actually exist; they are the elemental beings. In order to make their nature comprehensible let us be clear about what belongs to the physical plane.
Physical is: Firstly the solid earth, secondly water, thirdly air, fourthly ether (warmth ether, light ether, chemical ether, life ether). Let us keep to the four lower forms of our physical plane and separate the etheric world from them.
States of consciousness can lie in all four forms of the physical plane while the body of such a being lies in the astral.
We must think of the consciousness in the solid Earth, the body in the astral; or a being that has its consciousness in the water and its body in the astral; then such a being with its consciousness in the air and its body in the astral and one with its consciousness in fire and its body in the astral.
Present-day man knows but little of such beings; in our time it is only through poetry that they are known. Miners (of minerals) however know such beings very well. A gnome is only visible to someone who can see on the astral plane, but miners frequently possess such an astral vision; they know that gnomes are realities.
Thus, on our Earth there exist various forms of consciousness, and what the natural scientist today calls laws of nature are the thoughts of beings who think on the physical plane but have their bodies on the astral plane. [Like the electromagnetic bindings.]
When in physics we have to do with laws of nature we can say: these are the thoughts of a being who has its body on the astral plane. The forces of nature are creative beings and natural laws are their thoughts.
[We can say they live in our inner world and we live in their inner world!]
In the Middle Ages the alchemist tried to make use of these spirits. Goethe knew this very well; Faust wished to have fire air; this was to be produced by the salamanders which have their body on the astral plane.
Thus we have around us beings who actually have their consciousness in fire, to whom we cause pain when fire is kindled, for by so doing we actually cause a certain alteration in the body of the being in question on the astral plane.
When one kindles fire one alters this astral being. In the same way when one brings about alterations in other spheres of the elements and the forces of Nature one alters something in these astral beings.
When we do this or that we are continuously peopling the astral plane. If we think these thoughts through clearly, we have the meaning of church ritual: that is, not to make use of any kind of substances on the physical plane, except such as have meaning, whereby meaningful beings arise on the astral plane.
When for instance one kindles the smoke of incense one does something which has purpose; one burns a particular substance and creates beings of a particular kind. When one passes a sword through the air in four directions one creates a definite kind of being.
It is the same with the priest, when he makes definite movements with his hands, to accompany definite sounds o, i, u, intensified by repetition: Dominus vobiscum.
The sound is regular, the air is brought into definite vibrations intensified by definite movements of the hand, and a sylph is called into existence.
Sign, grip and word of the freemasons also bring about definite forms which manifest in accordance with definite laws in the physical world. Through a purposeful use of these words a link is formed from one person to another, one is enwrapped in an astral substance which is created through sign, grip and word.
Naturally man continually does all this in ordinary life, but he does it in an unsystematic way, creating contradictory beings.
Art consists in working harmoniously upwards from the physical to higher planes.
In rituals, through definite acts, the aim is to produce not contradictory but harmonious beings. At present man is not in a position to bring these things into harmony.
But for everything man creates in this way on the astral plane there are certain directing beings. So we have a world of elemental beings around us with a king.
- Among the Indians the king of the gnomes is called Kshiti, the highest of the gnomes;
- the highest being among the undines: Varuna;
- the highest being among the sylphs: Vayu,
- and everything having its consciousness in fire is directed by the king of fire: Agni.
In all activity connected with fire, water and so on we have to do with these particular Deva-beings. All the fire we have here on Earth is the substance that is woven out of the beings which belong to Agni.
Ceremonial magic is the lowest kind of sorcery and consists in making use of certain specially devised tricks on the physical plane in order to create definite forms and beings on the astral plane.
Schools exist today in which ceremonial magic is still exercised. Such usages cause great attraction towards the astral world and very frequently result in suicide, because then a person is almost exclusively active in the astral world and has become unaccustomed to using the physical world for its rightful purpose. He has developed a partiality for the other world and the physical body is often a hindrance.
Now you will also comprehend the connection with fire worship which has appeared in the history of religion. The followers of Zarathustra sought, through the sacrificial fire of the priests, actually to create definite forms on the astral plane.
On the Earth today everything takes place physically. But from what has been said, one can see that astral beings are continually created under the influence of our deeds. All deeds are accompanied by astral beings.
These are our Skandas which bring about our Karma. But also all physical deeds leave astral beings behind on the astral plane.
For instance Cologne cathedral corresponds to a definite being on the astral plane. Through everything that happens on the Earth, when all physical matter is worked over and the Earth has dissolved, through this the next astral Globe will arise of itself. It will simply be there as astral beings, as the effects of all the earlier physical processes. [The Earth as planet with mountains, lakes and oceans, is the result of the Angels life on the previous Earth incarnation, the old Moon. In the same way are we building the next incarnation of the Earth, the new Jupiter.]
This is why man must continually work with Karma. In his next life he must put right again the grotesque astral beings that he has bungled, otherwise they would produce meaningless creatures for the next Globe. This is Karma that he must rectify. [So handling karma is not just an ego project, it’s for the good of the karmic beings and for the whole of creation.]
What takes place on a large scale on the Earth, takes place in a small way in man. Let us think of a child. He is wrongly brought up, spoiled with sweets and so on. This not only brings about processes in the physical body but continually imparts them to the astral, so that in fact the astral body also is changed.
What one gives physically to the infant goes over into his astral body, it is present in the shape of definite forms.
What is thus worked in, is however gradually worked out again. In advanced age the sins against the child take their revenge. These sins remain throughout the whole life and have great importance particularly in the final years.
After the middle period a sort of reversal takes place; the astral then works into the physical plane.
In childhood the foundation of what man will have in old age is implanted into the astral.
When a person perceives how he has been sinned against and works upon himself with this in view, then he can eliminate the damage in the astral body, otherwise he will break down in old age under the weaknesses of his childhood.
Only what man works into it consciously has a balancing effect on the astral body. If later in life the opposite qualities are not called up consciously, one cannot rid oneself of the failings.
[In our childhood all our karma from earlier life is collected from our surroundings, if we don’t handle the karma up through life we will be confronted with it.
Old or new karma we become conscious about and handle will not become a problem, but karma we create unconsciously will be difficult to handle in the same life.
Late in life we are confronted with rest of the unhandled karma, in what’s called the Dark Night of the Soul. If we do well, we may handle it all, and ascend to the light again.]