Inherited Tendency: Rudolph Steiner

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There is no phrase more frequently mentioned than ‘inherited tendency.’ No man is considered an educated man today who does not mention it at least two or three times a week! An educated man must at least make himself acquainted with what the learned, medical profession has ascertained as to ‘inherited tendencies.’ When a person does not know what to make of himself, most people say at once: ‘he is suffering from an inherited tendency.’ Anyone not saying that is regarded as badly educated, perhaps among other things an Anthroposophist!

Here Science begins not only to go astray in theory but also to be injurious to life. This is the boundary where theory encroaches on morality — where it is immoral to hold a wrong theory. Here, life’s strength and security really depend on correct knowledge. What will a man be able to do who, through the right spiritual conception in his soul, strengthens, fortifies himself by taking in the elixir of life? No matter what he may have inherited, these inheritances are only in the physical body or at most in the etheric body. Through his right conception of the world he will be able to make his own vital center stronger and stronger, and will be able to conquer his inherited tendencies; for the spiritual, if present in the right way, is able to equalize the body.

If, however, a man does not strengthen the spiritual core of his being, merely asserting that the spiritual is the fruit of the physical, he will have a weak inner nature, he will be the victim of his inherited tendencies; they will work harmfully in him. No wonder then, that so-called inherited tendencies have such dreadful results; for people are first of all talked into a belief of the powers of such tendencies and are deprived of what counteracts them. The belief in inherited tendencies is cultivated, and the spiritual conception of the world — the best weapon with which to fight them, — is taken away. First, the power of the inherited tendencies is discovered, and by this means they become active. Not only is this a wrong insight, which arouses a life-destroying activity and takes the weapons of defense out of the hands of the sufferer, but it is the beginning of a theory-based absolutely on a materialistic conception. Here a materialistic conception of the world begins to play a part which is in effect not only theoretically incorrect but immoral.

This cannot be got over, simply by saying that those who assert such things are mistaken. We need not be too severe in judging those who put forth these theories. We are not attacking individual scientists here; it is quite comprehensible that they are involved in a line of thought which must lead to such errors — we must admit this in all fairness. The one, perhaps, may not be able to free himself from scientific tradition; another perhaps considers it excusable, for, having a wife and children he would be in an awkward position if he were to break away from the ruling opinions.

But the whole thing must be considered as a phenomenon of the times, for Science is beginning not only to spread abroad false theories but to take away the life-promoting remedies, the spiritual conception of life, which is able to fortify and which is alone able to stand up against the physical, — the power which must otherwise overwhelm man. The physical can only possess overwhelming power as long as a man does not build up strength in his spiritual nature. If he does this, a warrior will grow up within him, a warrior who will defend him against the physical.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 116 – The Christ Impulse and the Development of the Ego-Consciousness: LECTURE 2. THE LAW OF KARMA WITH RESPECT TO THE DETAILS OF LIFE – Berlin, 22nd December 1909

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