Biography (Greek: βιογραφία biographia, from βίος bíos "life" and -graphy) is, from an external point of view, the description of a person's life, possibly in the form of a self-written autobiography (from Greek: αὐτός autós "self").
From the perspective of spiritual science, however, the biography is far more than a mere external description of a person's life. Rather, it is the trace of his imperishable individuality that becomes visible in his earthly life, his I, which develops in the course of reincarnation and whose destiny, on the one hand, is decisively determined by his deeds in earlier incarnations, but on the other hand, also creates fruitful germs for the future out of full freedom. Karma and freedom complement each other in order to enable man to develop his individuality in a self-responsible and self-determined way in the course of repeated earthly lives.
„As a physical human being, I am descended from other physical human beings, because I have the same form as the whole human species. The characteristics of the species could therefore be acquired within the species through heredity. As a spiritual human being, I have my own form, just as I have my own biography. I can therefore have this form from no one else but myself. And since I did not enter the world with indeterminate but with determinate mental endowments, since my path through life, as expressed in my biography, is determined by these endowments, my work on myself cannot have begun at my birth. I must have existed as a spiritual human being before my birth. I certainly did not exist in my ancestors, for they are different from me as spiritual human beings. My biography cannot be explained from theirs. Rather, as a spiritual being, I must be the repetition of one from whose biography mine can be explained. The other conceivable case would be that I owe the development of what is the content of my biography only to a spiritual life before birth (or conception). But one would only be justified in this idea if one wanted to assume that what affects the human soul from the physical environment is the same as what the soul has from a purely spiritual world. Such an assumption contradicts really exact observation. For what is determinative for the human soul from this physical environment is such that it acts like something experienced later in physical life on something experienced in the same way earlier. In order to observe these conditions correctly, one must acquire a view of how there are effective impressions in human life which affect the soul's dispositions in the same way as standing before a deed to be performed in relation to what one has already practised in physical life; only that such impressions do not meet with what has already been practised in this immediate life, but with soul dispositions which allow themselves to be impressed in the same way as the abilities acquired through practice. He who sees through these things comes to the idea of earth-lives which must have preceded the present one. He cannot stop thinking with purely spiritual experiences before this earth-life.“ (Lit.:GA 9, p. 72f)
Normally, however, with our daytime consciousness we oversleep the forces that play into our karma from previous earth lives. In deep sleep we actually go backwards in time to our previous incarnation, only we do not normally become aware of these experiences. This is only possible when we have acquired the ability of intuition through spiritual training (Lit.:GA 234, p. 107f).
„Karma is something which is directly effective in all human experience, but which is hidden behind the outer experiences in all that must be counted as the unconscious and subconscious of the human soul. When one reads a biography, if the reading is done with real inner involvement in what is being narrated, it should actually evoke very special feelings in the reader. If I were to describe what one can come to when reading a biography, it would be this: Anyone who follows a biography with real attention will have to say to himself: Again and again in a biography there are approaches to the representation of life events that are not actually founded in a continuing narrative development. When one has a biography before one, one actually has the life of a person before one only in a certain way. A person's life is not only influenced by those facts which he experiences while awake, i.e.: first day - now comes the night; second day - now comes the night; third day - now comes the night, and so on, but it is so that we can only feel externally what has happened on the days, if we do not write a spiritual-scientific biography, which under certain circumstances is actually a complete impossibility compared to today's civilisation. So we write into the biography what happened on the days during the waking state of the person about whom we are writing the biography.
But what actually forms life, what gives shape to life, what plants the fateful impulses in life, is not visible in the events of the day, but plays as impulses between the events of the day in the spiritual world, when the human being himself is in this spiritual world from falling asleep to waking up. In real life these impulses of sleep are certainly there; when we tell the biographies, they are not there. What does the telling of a biography mean?
It means nothing less to the life of man than, for example, if we take Raphael's Sistine Madonna, hang it on the wall, cover certain areas with white paper so that they cannot be seen and only certain areas remain. The person who looks at this must get the feeling: I have to see something else if this is to be a whole.
Everyone who reads a biography without bias should have this feeling. In the face of today's civilisation, it can only be hinted at in style, but that is what should happen. It should be implied in style. It should be hinted at that impulses are always playing into the life of man, impulses that come up, as it were, from the most impersonal of the soul-spiritual experience. Then, if at least this happens, my dear friends, one will already train oneself up to the feeling that karma must speak from a biography. It would of course be abstract to speak in such a way as to relate in a biography some scene from a man's life and then say: Well, that comes from a previous life on earth, it was like that then, and it is now taking shape in this way. - That would be abstract, of course. Most people would probably find that very sensational, but in truth it would not achieve a higher spirituality than is achieved by our philistine biographies, as they are written in the present age; for everything that is done in this field in the present age is philistine work.
Now, that which is to enter into the soul can be especially cultivated by gaining, I would say, a certain love for the diary-like records of men. Diary-like records may be written in a very philistine manner, but if they are not written or read thoughtlessly, he who is not himself a philistine will, in the diary-like record of even a philistine, have sensations in the transition from one day to the next which already approach the feeling of karma, of the fateful connections.“ (Lit.:GA 236, p. 255ff)
- Pietro Archiati: Kunstwerk Biografie. Eine Entdeckungsreise durch den Lebenslauf des Menschen, Archiati Vlg., München 2006, ISBN 3-937078-07-X
- Rudolf Steiner: Theosophie. Einführung in übersinnliche Welterkenntnis und Menschenbestimmung , GA 9 (2003), ISBN 3-7274-0090-0 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Esoterische Betrachtungen karmischer Zusammenhänge. Zweiter Band, GA 236 (1988), ISBN 3-7274-2360-9 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: email@example.com URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.