This book has been carefully and thoroughly revised by me for each new edition. The substance of the first edition remains, it is true, unaltered; but in certain parts I have sought to bring the mode of expression more and more into accord with the content of spiritual vision. I have specially endeavoured to do this in the chapter on repeated earth-lives and destiny (Karma).
Descriptions of the supersensible world must be treated differently from descriptions of the sensible. They appeal to the reader in a different way. They demand more from him; he must work with the author, in thought, more intensely while he is reading. The author needs his co-operation to a far higher degree than does one who writes descriptions drawn from the regions of the sense world. Many critics will perhaps complain, because I have made special efforts to comply with this demand in my description of the spiritual world. The spiritual world, however, has not the defined outlines of the physical; and if anyone were to represent it so as to give the impression that this was the case, he would be describing something false. In describing the spiritual world of facts, the style must be in accordance with the mobile, flowing character of that world.
Inner truth, for descriptions of the spiritual world, belongs alone to what is expressed in flowing, mobile ideas; the peculiar character of the spiritual world must be carried over into the ideas. If the reader applies the standard to which he is accustomed from descriptions of the sense world, he will find it difficult to adapt himself to this other method of description.
It is by inner exertion of soul that man must reach the supersensible world. That world would indeed have no value if it lay spread out complete before his consciousness. It would then be in no way different from the sense world. Before it can be known, there must be the longing to find what lies more deeply hidden in existence than do the forces of the world perceived by the senses. This longing is one of the inner experiences that prepare the way for a knowledge of the supersensible world. Even as there can be no blossom without first the root, so supersensible knowledge has no true life without this longing.
It would however be a mistake to suppose that the ideas of the supersensible world arise, as an illusion, out of this longing. The lungs do not create the air for which they long, neither does the human soul create out of its longing the ideas of the supersensible world. But the soul has this longing because it is formed and built for the supersensible world, as are the lungs for the air.
There may be those who say that this supersensible world can only have significance for such as already have the power to perceive it. This is not so, however. There is no need to be a painter in order to feel the beauty of a picture. Yet only a painter can paint it. Just as little is it necessary to be an investigator in the supersensible in order to judge of the results of supersensible research. It is only necessary to be an investigator in order to discover them. This is right in principle; in the last chapter of this book, however — and in detail in others of my books — the methods are given whereby it is possible to become an investigator, and thus be in a position to test the results of investigation.