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Initiation and Its Results
GA 10

I. The Astral Centers

It is one of the essential principles of genuine occultism that he who devotes himself to a study of it should only do so with a complete understanding; should neither undertake nor practise anything of which he does not realize the results. An occult teacher giving a person either instruction or counsel will invariably begin with an explanation of those changes in body, in soul, and in spirit, which will occur to him who seeks for the higher knowledge.

We shall consider here some of these effects upon the soul of the occult student, for only he who is cognisant of what is now to be said can undertake with a full understanding the practises which will lead to a knowledge of the superphysical worlds. Indeed, one may say that it is only such who are genuine occult students. By true occultism all experimenting in the dark is very strongly discouraged. He who will not undergo with open eyes the period of schooling, may become a medium, but all such efforts cannot bring him to clairvoyance as it is understood by the occultist.

To those who, in the right way, have practised the methods (concerning the acquisition of superphysical knowledge) which were indicated in my book, entitled The Way of Initiation, 1The Way of Initiation, or How to Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. By Rudolf Steiner, Ph.D. With a foreword by Annie Besant, and some Biographical Notes of the Author by Edouard Schuré. certain changes occur in what is called “the astral body” (the organism of the soul). This organism is only perceptible to the clairvoyant. One may compare it to a more or less luminous cloud which is discerned in the midst of the physical body, and in this astral body the impulses, desires, passions, and ideas become visible. Sensual appetites, for example, are manifested as dark-red outpourings of a particular shape; a pure and noble thought is expressed in an outpouring of reddish-violet color; the clear-cut conception of a logical thinker will appear as a yellow figure with quite sharp outlines; while the confused thought of a cloudy brain is manifested as a figure with vague outlines. The thoughts of people with views that are one-sided and firmly fixed will appear sharp in their outlines, but immobile; while those of people who remain accessible to other points of view are seen to be in motion, with varying outlines.

The further the student now advances in his psychic development, the more will his astral body become regularly organized; in the case of a person whose psychic life is undeveloped, it remains ill-organized and confused. Yet in such an unorganized astral body the clairvoyant can perceive a form which stands out clearly from its environment. It extends from the interior of the head to the middle of the physical body. It appears as, in a certain sense, an independent body possessed of special organs. These organs, which are now to be considered, are seen to exist in the following parts of the physical body: the first between the eyes; the second at the larynx; the third in the region of the heart; the fourth in what is called the pit of the stomach; while the fifth and sixth are situated in the abdomen. Such forms are technically known as “wheels” (chakras) or “lotus-flowers.” They are so called an account of their likeness to wheels or flowers, but of course it should be clearly understood that such an expression is not to be applied more literally than when one calls the lobes of the lungs the “wings.” Just as everybody knows that here one is not really dealing with “wings,” so must it be remembered that in respect of the “wheels” one is merely speaking figuratively. These “lotus-flowers” are at present, in the undeveloped person, of dark colors and without movement — inert. In the clairvoyant, however, they are seen to be in motion and of luminous color. In the medium something similar happens, albeit in a different way; but that part of the subject cannot now, be pursued any further. As soon as the occult student begins his practises, the lotus-flowers first become lucent; later on they begin to revolve. It is when this occurs that the faculty of clairvoyance begins. For these “flowers” are the sense-organs of the soul, and their revolutions make manifest the fact that one is able to perceive in the superphysical world. No one can behold any superphysical thing until he has in this way developed his astral senses.

The sense-organ, which is situated in the vicinity of the larynx, allows one to perceive clairvoyantly the thoughts of another person, and also brings a deeper insight into the true laws of natural phenomena. The organ situated near the heart permits of a clairvoyant knowledge concerning the sentiments of another person. He who has developed it can also observe certain of the deeper powers in animals and plants. By means of the organ that lies in the pit of the stomach one acquires knowledge of the capacities and talents of a person: by this, too, one is enabled to see what parts in the household of nature are played by animals, plants, stones, metals, atmospheric phenomena, and so on.

The organ situated at the larynx has sixteen “petals”or “spokes”; that which is in the region of the heart has twelve; that which is in the pit of the stomach has ten. Now certain activities of the soul are connected with the development of these sense-organs, and he who practises them in a particular way contributes something to the development of the astral organs concerned. Eight of the sixteen petals of the “lotus” have been developed already during an earlier stage of human evolution, in a remote past. To this development the human being contributed nothing. He held them as a gift of Nature, when he was yet in a dreamy, dull state of consciousness. At that stage of human evolution they were already active. The manner of their activity, however, was only compatible with the dull state of consciousness already mentioned. As consciousness then grew brighter, the petals became obscure and withdrew their activity. The other eight can be developed by a person's conscious practise, and after that the entire lotus becomes both brilliant and active. The acquisition of certain capacities depends upon the development of every one of these petals. Yet, as already shown, one can only consciously develop eight of them; the other eight reappear spontaneously.

Their development is consummated in the following manner. One must apply oneself with care and attention to certain functions of the soul which one usually exercises in a careless manner and without attention. There are eight such functions. The first depends an the manner in which one receives ideas. People usually allow themselves to be led in this respect by chance alone. They hear this and that, they see one thing and another, upon which they base their ideas. While this is the case the sixteen petals of the lotus remain quite torpid. Only when one begins in this matter to take one's education into one's own hands do they really begin to be effective. All conceptions must be guarded with this end in view. Every idea should have some significance. One ought to see in it a certain message, a fragment of knowledge concerning the things of the outer world, and one must not be satisfied with conceptions that have no such significance. One should so govern one's mental life that it becomes a mirror of the outer world, and should direct one's energies to the expulsion of incorrect ideas.

The second of these functions is concerned, in a similar way, with the control of the resolutions. One should only make resolutions after a well-founded, full consideration of even the most insignificant points. All thoughtless deeds, all meaningless actions, should be put far away from the soul. For everything one must have well-considered grounds, and one ought never to do a thing for which there is no real need.

The third function relates to speech. The occult student should only utter what is sensible and purposeful. All talking for the sake of talking draws him away from his path. He must avoid the usual method of conversation, in which all manner of things, unselected and heterogeneous, are spoken of together. In accomplishing this, however, he must not preclude himself from intercourse with his fellows. Precisely in such intercourse ought his conversation to grow in significance. He answers everybody, but he does so thoughtfully and after careful consideration of the question. He never speaks without grounds for what he says. He seeks to use neither too many nor too few words.

The fourth function is the regulation of outward action. The student seeks to direct his actions in such a way that it fits in with the actions of his fellow-men and with the peculiarities of his environment. He rejects all actions that are disturbing to others or that are antagonistic to those which are customary around him. He tries so to act that his deeds may combine harmoniously with his environment, with his position in life, and so forth. Where he is caused to act by some external suggestion he considers carefully how he can best respond. Where he is his own master, he considers the effects of his methods of action with the utmost care.

The fifth activity here to be noticed lies in the management of the entire life. The occult student endeavors to live in conformity with both Nature and Spirit. Never over-hasty, he is also never idle. Indolence and superfluous activity lie equally far away from him. He looks upon life as a means for work and he lives accordingly. He arranges habits, and fosters health so that a harmonious life is the outcome.

The sixth is concerned with human endeavor. The student tests his capacities and his knowledge and conducts himself in the light of such self-knowledge. He tries to perform nothing that is beyond his powers; but also to omit nothing for which they inwardly seem adequate. On the other hand, he sets before himself aims that coincide with the ideal, with the high duty of a human being. He does not merely regard himself half thoughtlessly as a wheel in the vast machinery of mankind, but endeavors to comprehend its problems, to look out beyond the trivial and the daily. He thus endeavors to fulfil his obligations ever better and more perfectly.

The seventh change in the life of his soul deals with the effort to learn as much from life as possible. Nothing passes before the student without giving him occasion to accumulate experience which is of value to him for life. If he has done anything wrongly or imperfectly, it offers an opportunity later an to make it correspondingly either right or perfect. If he sees others act, he watches them with a similar intent. He tries to collect from experience a rich treasure, and ever to consult it attentively; nor, indeed, will he do anything without having looked back over experiences that can give him help in his decisions and actions.

Finally, the eighth is this: the student must from time to time look inward, sink back into himself, take careful counsel with himself, build up and test the foundations of his life, run over his store of knowledge, ponder upon his duties, consider the contents and aim of life, and so forth. All these matters have already been mentioned in The Way of Initiation (see page 7); here they are merely recapitulated in connection with the development of the sixteen-petalled lotus. By means of these exercises it will become ever more and more perfect, for upon such practices depends the development of clairvoyance. For instance, the more a person thinks and utters what harmonizes with the actual occurrences of the outer world, the more quickly will he develop this faculty. He who thinks or speaks anything that is untrue kills something in the bud of the sixteen-petalled lotus. Truthfulness, Uprightness, and Honesty are in this connection formative, but Falsehood, Simulation, and Dishonesty are destructive forces. The student must recognize that not merely “good intentions” are needed, but also actual deeds. If I think or say anything which does not harmonize with the truth, I kill something in my astral organs, even although I believed myself to speak or think from intentions ever so good. It is here as with the child who needs must burn itself if it falls into the fire, even although this may have occurred from ignorance. The regulation of the above-mentioned activities of the soul in the manner described, allows the sixteen-petalled lotus to ray forth in splendid hues and imparts to it a definite movement. Yet it must be remarked that the signs of clairvoyant faculty cannot appear before a certain stage of this development is reached. So long as it is a trouble to lead this kind of life the faculty remains unmanifested. So long as one has to give special thought to the matters already described, one is yet unripe. Only when one has carried them so far that one lives quite habitually in the specified manner can the preliminary traces of clairvoyance appear. These matters must therefore no longer seem troublesome, but must become the habitual way of life. There is no need to watch oneself continually, nor to force oneself an to such a life. Everything must become habitual. There are certain instructions by the fulfilment of which the lotus may be brought to blossom in another way. But such methods are rejected by true occultism, for they lead to the destruction of physical health and to the ruin of morality. They are easier to accomplish than those described, which are protracted and troublesome, but the latter lead to the true goal and cannot but strengthen morality. (The student will notice that the spiritual practises described above correspond to what is called in Buddhism “the eightfold path.” Here the connection between that path and the upbuilding of the astral organs must be explained.)

If to all that has been said there is added the observance of certain orders which the student may only receive orally from the teacher, there results an acceleration in the development of the sixteen-petalled lotus. But such instructions cannot be given outside the precincts of an occult school. Yet the regulation of life in the way described is also useful for those who will not, or cannot, attach themselves to a school. For the effect upon the astral body occurs in every case, even if it be but slowly. To the occult pupil the observance of these principles is indispensable. If he should try to train himself in occultism without observing them, he could only enter the higher world with defective mental eyes; and in place of knowing the truth he would then be merely subject to deception and illusion. In a certain direction he might become clairvoyant; but fundamentally nothing but a blindness completer than of old would beset him. For hitherto he stood at least firmly in the midst of the sense-world and had in it a certain support; but now he sees beyond that world and will fall into error concerning it before he is able to stand securely in a higher sphere. As a rule, indeed, he cannot distinguish error from truth, and he loses all direction in life. For this very reason is patience in such matters essential. It must always be remembered that the occult teacher may not proceed very far with his instructions unless an earnest desire for a regulated development of the lotus-flowers is already present. Only mere caricatures of these flowers could be evolved if they were brought to blossom before they had acquired, in a steady manner, their appropriate form. For the special instructions of the teacher bring about the blossoming of the lotuses, but form is imparted to them by the manner of life already outlined.

The irregular development of a lotus-flower has, for its result, not only illusion and fantastic conceptions where a certain kind of clairvoyance has occurred, but also errors and lack of balance in life itself. Through such development one may well become timid, envious, conceited, self-willed, stiff-necked, and so on, while hitherto one may have possessed none of these characteristics. It has already been said that eight petals of the lotus were developed long ago, in a very remote past, and that these in the course of occult education unfold again of themselves. In the instruction of the student, all care must now be given to the other eight. By erroneous teaching the former may easily appear alone, and the latter remain untended and inert. This would be the case particularly when too little logical, reasonable thinking is introduced into the instruction. It is of supreme importance that the student should be a sensible and clear-thinking person, and of equal importance that he should practise the greatest clarity of speech. People who begin to have some presentiment of superphysical things are apt to become talkative about such things. In that way they retard their development. The less one talks about these matters the better. Only he who has come to a certain stage of clearness ought to speak of them.

At the commencement of the instructions occult students are astonished, as a rule, to find how little curiosity the teacher exhibits concerning their experiences. It were best of all for them if they were to remain entirely uncommunicative about these experiences, and should say nothing further than how successful or how unsuccessful they had been in the performance of their exercises or in the observance of their instructions. The occult teacher has quite other means of estimating their progress than their own communications. The eight petals now under consideration always become a little hardened through such communication where they ought really to grow soft and supple. An illustration shall be given to explain this, not taken from the superphysical world, but, for the sake of clearness, from ordinary life. Suppose that I hear a piece of news and thereupon form at once an opinion. In a little while I receive some further news which does not harmonize with the previous information. I am constrained thereby to reverse my original judgment. The result of this is an unfavorable influence upon my sixteen-petalled lotus. It would have been quite otherwise if, in the first place, I had suspended my judgment; if concerning the whole affair I had remained, inwardly in thought and outwardly in words, entirely silent until I had acquired quite reliable grounds for the formation of my judgment. Caution in the formation and the pronouncement of opinions becomes, by degrees, the special characteristic of the occult student. Thereby he increases his sensibility to impressions and experiences, which he allows to pass over him silently in order to collect the largest possible number of facts from which to form his opinions. There exist in the lotus-flower bluish-red and rose-red shades of color which manifest themselves under the influence of such circumspection, while in the opposite case orange and dark red shades would appear.

The twelve-petalled lotus which lies in the region of the heart is formed in a similar way. Half its petals, likewise, were already existent and active in a remote stage of human evolution. These six petals do not require to be especially evolved in the occult school: they appear spontaneously and begin to revolve when we set to work an the other six. In the cultivation of these, as in the previous ease, one has to control and direct certain activities of the mind in a special way.

It must be clearly understood that the perceptions of each astral or soul-organ bear a peculiar character. The twelve-petalled lotus possesses perception of quite a different kind from that of the sixteen petals. The latter perceives forms. The thoughts of a person and the laws under which a natural phenomenon takes place appear to the sixteen-petalled lotus as forms — not, however, rigid, motionless forms, but active and filled with life. The clairvoyant, in whom this sense is well evolved, can discern a form wherewith every thought, every natural law, finds expression. A thought of vengeanee, for example, manifests as an arrow-like, pronged form, while a thought of goodwill frequently takes the shape of an opening flower. Clear-cut, meaningful thoughts are formed regularly and symmetrically, while hazy conceptions take an hazy outlines. By means of the twelve-petalled flower quite different perceptions are acquired. Approximately one can indicate the nature of these perceptions by likening them to the sense of cold and heat. A clairvoyant equipped with this faculty feels a mental warmth or chilliness raying out from the forms discerned by means of the sixteen-petalled flower. If a clairvoyant had evolved the sixteen-petalled lotus, but not the lotus of twelve petals, he would only observe a thought of goodwill as the shape already described, while another in whom both senses were developed would also discern that outraying of the thought which one can only call a mental warmth. It may be remarked in passing that in the occult school one sense is never evolved without the other, so that what has just been said should only be regarded as having been stated for the sake of clarity. By the cultivation of the twelve-petalled lotus the clairvoyant discovers in himself a deep comprehension of natural processes. Everything that is growing or evolving rays out warmth; everything that is decaying, perishing, or in ruins, will seem cold.

The development of this sense may be accelerated in the following manner. The first requirement is that the student should apply himself to the regulation of his thoughts. Just as the sixteen-petalled lotus achieves its evolution by means of earnest and significant thinking, so is the twelve-petalled flower cultivated by means of an inward control over the currents of thought. Errant thoughts which follow each other in no logical or reasonable sequence, but merely by pure chance, destroy the form of the lotus in question. The more one thought follows another, the more all disconnected thought is thrown aside, the more does this astral organ assume its appropriate form. If the student hears illogical thought expressed, he should silently set it straight within his own mind. He ought not, for the purpose of perfecting his own development, to withdraw himself uncharitably from what is perhaps an illogical mental environment. Neither should he allow himself to feel impelled to correct the illogical thinking around him. Rather should he quietly, in his own inner self, constrain this whirlpool of thoughts to a logical and reasonable course. And above all things ought he to strive after this regulation in the region of his own thoughts.

A second requirement is that he should control his actions in a similar way. All instability or disharmony of action produces a withering effect upon the lotus-flower which is here in consideration. If the student has done anything he should manage the succeeding act so that it forms a logical sequence to the first, for he who acts differently from day to day will never evolve this faculty or sense.

The third requirement is the cultivation of perseverance. The occult student never allows himself to be drawn by this or that influence aside from his goal so long as he continues to believe that it is the right one. Obstacles are for him like challenges to overcome them and never afford reasons for loitering an the way.

The fourth requirement is tolerance as regards all persons and circumstances. The student should seek to avoid all superfluous criticism of imperfections and vices, and should rather endeavor to comprehend everything that comes under his notice. Even as the sun does not refuse its light to the evil and the vicious, so he, too, should not refuse them an intelligent sympathy. If the student meets with some trouble, he should not waste his forte in criticism, but bow to necessity and seek how he may try to transmute the misfortune into good. He does not look at another's opinions from his own standpoint alone, but seeks to put himself into his companion's position.

The fifth requirement is impartiality in one's relation to the affairs of life. In this connection we speak of “trust” and “faith.” The occult student goes out to every person and every creature with this faith, and through it he acts. He never says to himself, when anything is told to him, “I do not believe that, since it is opposed to my present opinions.” Far rather is he ready at any moment to test and rearrange his opinions and ideas. He always remains impressionable to everything that confronts him. Likewise does he trust in the efficiency of what he undertakes. Timidity and skepticism are banished from his being. If he has any purpose in view, he has also faith in its power. A hundred failures cannot rob him of this confidence. It is indeed that “faith which can move mountains.”

The sixth requirement is the cultivation of a certain equanimity. The student strives to temper his moods, whether they come laden with sorrow or with joy. He must avoid the extremes of rising up to the sky in rapture or sinking down to the earth in despair, but should constantly control his mind and keep it evenly balanced. Sorrow and peril, joy and prosperity alike find him ready armed.

The reader of theosophical literature will find the qualities here described, under the name of the “six attributes” which must be striven after by him who would attain to initiation. Here their connection with the astral sense, which is called the twelve-petalled lotus, is to be explained. The teacher can impart specific instructions which cause the lotus to blossom; but here, as before, the development of its symmetrical form depends upon the attributes already mentioned. He who gives little or no heed to that development will only form this organ into a caricature of its proper shape. It is possible to cultivate a certain clairvoyance of this nature by directing these attributes to their evil side instead of to the good. A person may be intolerant, faint-hearted, and contentious toward his environment; may, for instance, perceive the sentiments of other people and either run away from them or hate them. This can be so accentuated that on account of the mental coldness which rays out to him from opinions which are contrary to his own, he cannot bear to listen to them, or else behaves in an objectionable manner.

The mental culture which is important for the development of the ten-petalled lotus is of a peculiarly delicate kind, for here it is a question of learning to dominate, in a particular manner, the very sense-impressions themselves. It is of especial importance to the clairvoyant at the outset, for only by this faculty can he avoid a source of countless illusions and mental mirages. Usually, a person is not at all clear as to what things have dominion over his memories and fancies. Let us take the following case. Someone travels on the railway, and busies himself with a thought. Suddenly his thoughts take quite another direction. He then recollects an experience which he had some years ago, and interweaves it with his immediate thought. But he did not notice that his eyes have been turned toward the window, and were caught by the glance of a person who bears a likeness to someone else who was intimately concerned with the recollected experience. He remains unconscious of what he has seen and is only conscious of the results, and he therefore believes that the whole affair arose spontaneously. How much in life occurs in such a way! We play over things in our lives which we have read or experienced without bringing the connection into our consciousness. Some one, for instance, cannot bear a particular color, but he does not realize that this is due to the fact that the schoolteacher of whom he was afraid, many years ago, used to wear a coat of that color. Innumerable illusions are based upon such associations. Many things penetrate to the soul without becoming embodied in the consciousness. The following case is a possible example. Some one reads in the paper about the death of a well-known person, and straightway is convinced that yesterday he had a presentiment about it, although he neither saw nor heard of anything that could have given rise to such a thought. It is quite true, the thought that this particular person would die, emerged yesterday “by itself,” only he has failed to notice one thing. Two or three hours before this thought occurred to him yesterday he went to visit an acquaintance. A newspaper lay on the table, but he did not read it. Yet unconsciously his eyes fell upon an account of the dangerous illness in which the person concerned was lying. He was not conscious of the impression, but the effects of it were, in reality, the whole substance of the “presentiment.”

If one reflects upon such matters, one can measure how deep a source of illusion and fantasy they supply. It is this that he who desires to foster the ten-petalled lotus must dam up, for by means of the latter one can perceive characteristics deeply embedded in human and other beings. But the truth can only be extracted from these perceptions if one has entirely freed oneself from the delusions here described. For this purpose it is necessary that one should become master of that which is carried in to one from the external world. One must extend this mastery so far that veritably one does not receive those influences which one does not desire to receive, and this can only be achieved gradually by living a very powerful inward life. This must be so thoroughly done that one only allows those things to impress one on which one voluntarily directs the attention, and that one really prevents those impressions which might otherwise be unconsciously registered. What is seen must be voluntarily seen, and that to which no attention is given must actually no longer exist for oneself. The more vitally and energetically the soul does its inward work, the more will it acquire this power. The occult student must avoid all vague wanderings of sight or hearing. For him only those things to which he turns his eye or his ear must exist. He must practise the power of hearing nothing even in the loudest disturbance when he wishes to hear nothing: he must render his eyes unimpressionable to things which he does not especially desire to notice. He must be shielded as by a mental armor from all unconscious impressions. But in the region of his thoughts particularly must he apply himself in this respect. He puts a thought before him and only seeks to think such thoughts as, in full consciousness and freedom, he can relate to it. Fancy he rejects. If he finds himself anxious to connect one thought with another, he feels round carefully to discover how this latter thought occurred to him. He goes yet further. If, for instance, he has a particular antipathy for anything, he will wrestle with it and endeavor to find out some conscious connection between the antipathy and its object. In this way the unconscious elements in his soul become ever fewer and fewer. Only by such severe self-searching can the ten-petalled lotus attain the form which it ought to possess. The mental life of the occult student must be an attentive life, and he must know how to ignore completely everything which he does not wish, or ought not, to observe.

If such introspection is followed by a meditation, which is prescribed by the instructions of the teacher, the lotus-flower in the region of the pit of the stomach blossoms in the correct way, and that which had appeared (to the astral senses already described) as form and heat acquires also the characteristics of light and color. Through this are revealed, for instance, the talents and capacities of people, the powers and the hidden attributes of Nature. The colored aura of the living creature then becomes visible; all that is around us then manifests its spiritual attributes. It will be obvious that the very greatest care is necessary in the development of this province, for the play of unconscious memories is here exceedingly active. If this were not the case, many people would possess the sense now under consideration, for it appears almost immediately if a person has really got the impressions of his senses so completely under his power that they depend an nothing but his attention or inattention. Only so long as the dominion of the senses holds the soul in subjection and dullness, does it remain inactive.

Of greater difficulty than the development of this lotus is that of the six-petalled flower which is situated in the center of the body. For to cultivate this it is necessary to strive after a complete mastery of the whole personality by means of self-consciousness, so that body, soul, and spirit make but one harmony. The functions of the body, the inclinations and passions of the soul, the thoughts and ideas of the spirit must be brought into complete union with each other. The body must be so refined and purified that its organs assimilate nothing which may not be of service to the soul and spirit. The soul must assimilate nothing through the body, whether of passion or desire, which is antagonistic to pure and noble thoughts. The spirit must not dominate the soul with laws and obligations like a slave-owner, but rather must the soul learn to follow by inclination and free choice these laws and duties. The duties of an occult student must not rule him as by a power to which he unwillingly submits, but rather as by something which he fulfils because he likes it. He must evolve a free soul which has attained an equilibrium between sense and spirit. He must carry this so far that he can abandon himself to the sense because it has been so ennobled that it has lost the power to drag him down. He must no longer require to curb his passions, inasmuch as they follow the good by themselves. As long as a person has to chastise himself he cannot arrive at a certain stage of occult education, for a virtue to which one has to constrain oneself is then valueless. As long as one retains a desire, even although one struggles not to comply therewith, it upsets one's development, nor does it matter whether this appetite be of the soul or of the body. For example, if some one avoids a particular stimulant for the purpose of purifying himself by refining his pleasures, it can only benefit him if his body suffers nothing by this deprivation. If this be not the case it is an indication that the body requires the stimulant, and the renunciation is then worthless. In this case it may even be true that the person in question must first of all forego the desirable goal and wait until favorable conditions — perhaps only in another life — shall surround him. A tempered renunciation is, under certain circumstances, a much greater acquisition than the struggle for something which in given conditions remains unattainable. Indeed, such a tempered renunciation contributes more than such struggle to one's development.

He who has evolved the six-petalled lotus can communicate with beings who are native to the higher worlds, though even then only if their presence is manifested in the astral or soul-world. In an occult school, however, no instructions concerning the development of this lotus-flower would be imparted before the student had trodden far enough an the upward path to permit of his spirit mounting into a yet higher world. The formation of these lotus-flowers must always be accompanied by entrance into this really spiritual sphere. Otherwise the student would fall into error and uncertainty. He would undoubtedly be able to see, but he would remain incapable of estimating rightly the phenomena there seen. Now there already exists in him who has learned to evolve the six-petalled lotus, a security from error and giddiness, for no one who has acquired complete equilibrium of sense (or body) , passion (or soul), and thought (or spirit) will be easily led into mistakes. Nothing is more essential than this security when, by the development of the six-petalled lotus, beings possessed of life and independence, and belonging to a world so completely hidden from his physical senses, are revealed before the spirit of the student. In order to ensure the necessary safety in this world, it is not enough to have cultivated the lotus-flowers, since he must have yet higher organs at his disposal.


The Constitution of the Etheric Body

The cultivation of the astral body, as it has been described in the foregoing chapter, permits of a person perceiving supersensual phenomena, but he who would really find his way about the astral world must not tarry at this stage of evolution. The mere motion of the lotus-flowers does not really suffice. The student should be able to regulate and control the movement of his astral organs independently, and with complete consciousness. Otherwise, he would become, as it were, a plaything for external forces and powers. If he does not wish to become such, he must acquire the faculty of hearing what is known as “the inner word,” and to effect this it is needful to evolve not merely the astral but also the etheric body. This is the fine body which to the eyes of the clairvoyant appears as a kind of wraith of the physical body. It is to some extent a medium between the physical and the astral bodies. If one is equipped with clairvoyant powers, one can quite consciously suggest away the physical body of a person. On that higher plane it is no more than what is ordinarily an exercise of one's attention. Just as a person can withdraw his attention from anything that is before him so that it does not exist for him, so can the clairvoyant blot out a physical body from his observation so that it becomes, for him, physically transparent. If he applies this power to a human being who stands in front of him, nothing remains in his soul-sight except the etheric body and the astral body, which is greater than either of the other two and interpenetrates them both. The etheric body has approximately the size and form of the physical body, so that it practically fills the same space. It is an extremely delicate and finely-organized vehicle. 1I would request the physicist not to resent the expression “etheric body.” The use of the word “ether” is merely an attempt to suggest the fineness of the phenomenon under consideration. It has practically no connection at all with the hypothetical ether of the physicist. Its principal color is different from the seven contained in the rainbow. He who is able to observe it is introduced to a color which is not observable by the sense-perceptions. It can be compared to the color of a young peach-blossom as accurately as to any. If one desires to contemplate the etheric body alone, one has to extinguish one's observation of the astral body by an exercise of attention similar to that already suggested. If one omits to do so, one's view of the etheric body is confused by the complete interpenetration of the astral body.

Now the particles of this etheric body are in continual motion. Countless currents pass through it in every direction. By these currents life itself is supported and regulated. Every body that has life, including the animals and plants, possesses such an etheric double. Even in minerals there are traces of it perceptible to the attentive observer. These currents and movements are almost entirely independent of the human will and consciousness, just as the action of the heart or stomach in the physical body is independent of our will. As long as a person does not take his development (in the sense of acquiring supersensual faculties) in-to his own hands, this independence remains. For his development at a certain stage consists precisely in adding to the unconscious independent outrayings and movements of the etheric body that by which the individual is enabled to influence them in a conscious manner by himself.

When his occult education has progressed so far that the lotus-flowers described in the foregoing chapters begin to bestir themselves, then the student is given certain directions which lead to the evocation of particular currents and movements within his etheric body. The object of these directions is to fashion in the region of the physical heart a kind of center from which these outrayings and movements, with their manifold forms and colors, may go forth. The center is, in reality, not merely a given point, but a most complicated structure, a really wonderful organ. It glows and shimmers with all kinds of color and displays forms of the greatest symmetry-forms which are capable of transformation with astonishing speed. Other forms and outrayings of color proceed from this organ to the other parts of the body, as also to those of the astral body, which they entirely pervade and illumine. The most important of these rays move, however, toward the lotus-flowers. They pervade each petal and regulate its revolutions; then, streaming out at the points of the petals, they lose themselves in the surrounding space. The more evolved a person may be, the greater becomes the circumference to which these rays extend.

The twelve-petalled lotus-flower has a peculiarly close connection with the center already described. The rays move directly into it, and from it proceed, on the one side, toward the sixteen-petalled and the two-petalled lotuses, and, on the other, the lower side, to the lotuses of eight, of six, and of four petals. This is the reason why the very greatest care must be given to the development of the twelve-petalled lotus. If any imperfection be there allowed, the entire formation of the whole structure must remain disorderly. From what has been been said, one may imagine how delicate and intimate is this occult education, and how strictly one has to conduct oneself if everything is to be developed in the proper way. It will now be quite evident that instruction concerning the development of supersensual faculties can only be given by one who has already experienced everything which he desires to awaken in another, and who is unquestionably in a position to know whether his instructions will be rewarded with success.

If the student follows out what is prescribed for him in these instructions, he introduces into his etheric body outrayings and vibrations which are in harmony with the laws and the evolution of the world to which he belongs. Consequently, these instructions are reflections of the great laws which govern the development of the world. They consist of special exercises in meditation and in concentration, which, if appropriately practised, produce the results described. The content of these instructions may only be imparted to the individual during his occult education. At certain periods these instructions must entirely pervade his soul with their content, so that he is inwardly, as it were, filled with it. He starts quite simply with what is necessary above all things, a deepening and an interiorization of the reasonable and sensible thought of the head. This thought is thus made free and independent of all sense-impressions or experiences. It is in a certain manner concentrated into a point which is entirely in the power of the individual. By doing this a preliminary center for the rays of the etheric body is formed. This center is not yet in the region of the heart, but in that of the head, and it appears to the clairvoyant as the outgoing point of the vibrations. Only that occult educational course is successful which creates this center first. If this center were from the outset transferred to the region of the heart, the clairvoyant could doubtless obtain glimpses of the higher worlds; but he would yet lack any true insight into the connection between these higher worlds and that of our senses, and this for the individual at a certain stage of the world's evolution is an unconditional necessity. The clairvoyant must not become a mere enthusiast; he must retain his footing upon firm earth.

The center in the head, when it has become duly settled, is then transferred further down, that is to say, to the region of the larynx. This change is again induced by a particular exercise of concentration. Then the characteristic vibrations of the etheric body stream forth from this point, and illuminate the astral space that surrounds the individual.

A further exercise enables the student to determine for himself the position of his etheric body. Hitherto this position depended upon the forces which came from without or proceeded from the physical body. By means of such development the individual is able to direct the etheric body to all sides. This faculty is effected by outrayings which move approximately along both hands and are centered in the two-petalled lotus that is situated in the region of the eyes. As a result of all this, the rays which flow forth from the larynx are shaped into round forms of which a quantity proceed to the two-petalled lotus, and from there take their way as undulating currents along the hands.

One finds as a further development that these currents branch out, ramify in a delicate manner, and become in a certain sense like wicker-work, so that the entire etheric body is enmeshed in a network. Since hitherto the etheric body has had no closure to externals, so that the life-currents of the great ocean of life flowed freely in and out, it now becomes necessary that impacts from outside should pass through this cuticle. Thus the individual becomes sensitive to these external streams: they become perceptible to him. The time has now come to give the complete system of rays and vibrations a center in the heart. That, again, is accomplished by means of a meditative and concentrative exercise, and simultaneously the student attains the point at which he can hear the “inner word.” All things now acquire for him a new significance. They become audible, as it were, in their innermost nature; they speak to him from their true being. The currents already described place him in touch with the interior of the world to which they appertain. He begins to mingle his life with the life of his environment, and can let it reverberate in the vibrations of his lotus-flowers. Thus the individual enters the spiritual world. If he has come so far, he acquires a new understanding of all that the great teachers of humanity have uttered. The sayings of the Buddha, for instance, now produce a new effect upon him. They pervade him with a beatitude of which he had never dreamed before. For the sound of the words now follows the movements and rhythms which he has formed within himself. He is now able to know directly how a person like the Buddha did not proclaim his own individual revelations, but those which flowed into him from the inmost being of all things. A fact must here be explained which could only be comprehended in the light of what has already been said. The many repetitions in the sayings of the Buddha are not rightly understood by the people of our present evolutionary stage. For the occult student they are like something upon which he may gladly let his inner senses rest, for they correspond to certain rhythmic movements in the etheric body. Devotional musing on these, with complete inward peace, creates a harmony with these movements, and because they themselves are echoes of certain universal rhythms which also at particular points repeat themselves and make regular returns to their former modes, the individual, listening to the wisdom of the Buddha, puts himself into harmony with the secrets of the universe.

In the theosophical handbooks we meet with four attributes which must be developed by the student on what is called the probationary path, in order that he may attain the higher knowledge. The first is the faculty for discriminating between the eternal and the temporal, the true and the false, the truth and mere opinion. The second is a right estimate of the eternal and true as opposed to the perishable and illusory. The third faculty is that of practising the six qualities already mentioned in the foregoing chapters: thought-control, control of action, perseverance, tolerance, good faith, and equanimity. The fourth attribute necessary is the longing for freedom. A mere intellectual comprehension of what is included in these attributes is utterly worthless. They must become so incorporated into the soul that they endure as inner habits. Let us take, for instance, the first of these attributes — the discrimination between the eternal and the temporal. One must so educate oneself that quite naturally one discriminates in everything that confronts one between its impermanent characteristics and those that will endure. This can only be accomplished if in one's observation of the external world one continues again and again to make this attempt. At last the gaze in quite a natural way discerns what endures, just as hitherto it had satisfied itself with the impermanent. “All that is impermanent is only a parable”— that is a truth which becomes an obvious conviction for the soul. And so, too, must it be with the others of the four attributes an the path of probation.

Now under the influence of these four spiritual habits the etheric body actually transforms itself. By the first — the discrimination between the true and the false — the center already described is formed in the head and that in the larynx is prepared. The exercises of concentration, before mentioned, are above all things essential to any true formation. It is they that create, while the four spiritual habits bring to fruition. If the center in the larynx has been prepared, the free control of the etheric body, as above explained, will follow, and its separation, its network covering, be produced by the correct estimating of the eternal as opposed to the impermanent. If the student acquires this power of estimation, the facts of the higher worlds will gradually become perceptible. Only it must not be thought that one has merely to perform those actions which appear to be important when measured by the intellect alone. The smallest action, every little thing accomplished, has something of importance in the vast household of the world, and it is only necessary that one should become conscious of this importance. It is not a question of underestimating the daily affairs of life, but of rightly estimating them. Enough has been said in the previous chapter of the six virtues of which the third attribute is composed. They are connected with the development of the twelve-petalled lotus in the region of the heart, and this, as already indicated, is associated with the life-current of the etheric body. The fourth attribute, which is the longing for freedom, serves to bring to fruition the etheric organ situated in the heart. If these attributes have become real spiritual habits, the individual frees himself from everything which only depends upon the capacities of his personal nature. He ceases to contemplate things from his own separate standpoint. The limits of his narrow self, which fetter him to this outlook, disappear. The secrets of the spiritual world reveal themselves to his inner self. This is liberation. For all fetters constrain the individual to regard things and beings as if they corresponded to his personal limitations. From this personal manner of regarding things the occult student must become independent and free.

From this it will be clear that the writings which have proceeded from the mighty sages can become effective in the innermost deeps of human nature. The sayings concerning the four attributes are just such emanations of “primeval wisdom.” They can be found under one form or another in all the great religions. The founders of the great religions did not give mankind these teachings from vague feeling. They based them an much firmer foundations, because they were mighty Initiates. Out of their knowledge did they shape their moral teachings. They were aware how these would react upon the finer nature of men, and desired that the culture of these qualities should gradually lead to the organization of that finer nature. To live according to these great religions is to work out one's own spiritual perfection, and only in so doing can one really serve the world. Self-perfection is in no wise selfish, for the imperfect man is also an imperfect servant of humanity and of the world. The more perfect one becomes the more does one serve the world. “If the rose adorns herself she adorns the garden.”

The founders of religions are therefore the great magicians. That which comes from them flows into the souls of men and women, and thus with humanity the whole world moves forward. The founders of religions have consciously worked with this evolutionary process of humanity. One only understands the true meaning of religious instructions when one realizes that they are the result of actual knowledge concerning the innermost depths of human nature.

The leaders of religion were mighty sages, and it is out of their knowledge that the ideals of humanity have sprang. Yet the individual comes nearer to these leaders when he uplifts himself in his own evolution to their heights.

If a person has evolved his etheric body in the manner just described, an entirely new life is opened up before him, and at the proper period in the course of his training he now receives that enlightenment which adapts him to this new existence. For example, he sees (by means of the sixteen-petalled lotus) the shapes of a higher world. He must then realize how different are these forms when caused by this or that object or being. In the first place, he should notice that he is able, in a certain manner, to influence some of these forms very powerfully by means of his thoughts and feelings, but others not at all, or only to a limited extent. One species of these figures will be altered immediately if the observer thinks to himself when they appear, “that is beautiful,” and then in the course of his contemplation changes his thought and thinks “that is useful.” It is particularly characteristic of the forms which come from minerals or from objects artistically made, that they possess the peculiarity of changing under every thought or feeling which is directed upon them by the observer. In a lesser degree this is also true of the forms that proceed from plants, and to a still smaller extent of those that are connected with animals. These forms are full of life and motion, but this motion only pertains to that part which is under the influence of human thought or feeling, and in the other parts it is effected by forces upon which a person can exercise no influence. Now there appears within this whole world a species of forms which are almost entirely unaffected by activities an the part of human beings. The student can convince himself that these forms proceed either from minerals or artificial shapes, and not from animals or plants. In order to make these things quite clear, he must now observe those forms which he can realize to have proceeded from the feelings, impulses, and passions of human beings. Yet he may find that upon these forms his own thoughts and feelings still hold some influence, even although it be comparatively small. There always remains a residuum of forms in this world upon which all such influences are less and less effective. Indeed, this residuum comprises a very large proportion of those forms which are usually discerned by the student at the outset of his career. He can only enlighten himself concerning the nature of this species by observing himself. He then learns that they were produced by himself, that what he does or wishes or wills finds expression in these forms. An impulse that dwells in him, a desire that he possesses, a purpose that he harbors, and so forth, are all manifested in these forms; indeed, his whole character displays itself in this world of shapes. By means of his thoughts and feelings a person can exercise an influence upon all the forms which do not come from himself; but upon those which are sent into the higher world from his own being he possesses no power when once he has created them.

Now it follows from what has been said that from this higher aspect of human inner nature one's own world of impulses, desires, and conceptions is seen to express itself in outward shapes, just like all other beings or objects. To the higher knowledge the inner world appears as a part of the outer world. Just as anyone in the physical world who should be surrounded with mirrors could look at his physical form in that way, so, too, in a higher world does the spiritual self of man appear to him as an image reflected in a mirror.

At this stage of development the student has arrived at the point when he overcomes the “illusion of the personal self,” as it has been expressed in theosophical books. He can now regard that inner personality as something external to himself, just as previously he recognized as external the things which affected his senses. Thus he learns by gradual experience to master himself as hitherto he mastered the beings around him.

If any one obtains a view into this higher world before his nature has been sufficiently prepared, he stands before the character-picture of his own soul as before an enigma. There his own impulses and passions confront him in the shapes of animals or, more seldom, of human beings. It is true that the animal forms of this world have never quite the appearance of those in the physical world, but still, they possess a remote resemblance. By the inexpert observer they may easily be taken for the same. When one enters this world, one must adopt an entirely new method of forming one's judgments. For, seeing that those things which properly pertain to the inner nature appear as external to oneself, they are only discerned as the mirrored reflections of what they really are. When, for instance, one perceives a number, one must reverse it as one would read what is seen in a mirror. 265 would mean in reality 562. One sees a sphere as if one were in the center of it. One has therefore at first to translate correctly these inner perceptions. The attributes of the soul appear likewise as if in a mirror. A wish that is directed toward something outside appears as a form which moves toward the person who wished it. Passions that have their habitation in the lower part of human nature take an the forms of animals or of similar shapes that let themselves loose upon the individual. In reality these passions are struggling outward; it is in the external world that they seek for satisfaction, but this outward striving appears in the mirrored reflection as an attack upon the impassioned person.

If the student, before attaining the higher vision, has learned by quiet, sincere examination of himself to realize his own attributes, he will then, at the moment when his inner self appears to him as a mirrored reflection outside, find courage and power to conduct himself in the right way. People who have not practised such introspection sufficiently to enable them to know their own inner natures will not recognize themselves in these mirrored pictures and will mistake them for something foreign. Or they may become alarmed at the vision and say to themselves, because they cannot endure the sight, that the whole thing is nothing but an illusion which cannot lead them anywhere. In either case the Person, by his unseasonable arrival at a certain stage in the development of his higher organization, would stand disastrously in his own way.

It is absolutely necessary that the student should pass through this experience of spiritually seeing his own soul if he is to press onward to higher things. For in his own self he then possesses that spirituality by which he can best judge. If he has already acquired a fair realization of his own personality in the physical world, and when the picture of that personality first appears to him in the higher world, he is then able to compare the one with the other. He can refer to the higher as to a thing known to him, and in this way can advance on firm ground. If, on the contrary, he were confronted by numbers of other spiritual beings, he would be able to gain hardly any information concerning their nature and attributes. He would very soon feel the ground slipping away from his feet. It cannot too often be repeated that a safe entrance into the higher worlds can only follow a solid knowledge and estimate of one's own nature.

It is pictures, then, that the student meets on his way up to the higher worlds, for the realities which are expressed by these pictures are really in himself. He must soon become sufficiently mature to prevent himself from desiring, at this first stage, veritable realities, but to allow of his regarding these pictures as appropriate. But inwardly he soon learns something completely new from his observation of this picture-world. His lower self only exists for him as mirrored pictures, yet in the midst of these reflections appears the true reality that is his higher self. Out of the pictures of the lower personality the form of the spiritual ego becomes visible. Then from the latter threads are spun to other and higher spiritual realities.

This is the moment when the two-petalled lotus in the region of the eyes is required. If this now begins to stir, the individual attains the power of setting his higher ego in connection with spiritual, superhuman entities. The currents which flow from this lotus move so toward these higher entities that the movements here spoken of are fully apparent to the individual. Just as the light makes physical objects visible to the eyes, these currents reveal the spiritual things of the higher worlds. Through sinking himself into certain ideas which the teacher imparts to the pupil in personal intercourse, the latter learns to set in motion, and then to direct the currents proceeding from this lotus-flower of the eyes.

At this stage of development especially, what is meant by a really sound capacity for judgment and a clear, logical training is manifested. One has only to consider that here the higher self, which had hitherto slumbered unconscious and like a seed, is born into conscious existence. One is here concerned not with a figurative, but with a veritable birth in the spiritual world, and the being now born, the higher self, if it is to be capable of life, must enter that world with all the necessary organs and conditions. Just as nature takes precautions that a child shall come into the world with well-formed ears and eyes, one must take precautions in the self-development of an individual, so that his higher self shall enter existence with the necessary attributes. These laws which have to do with the development of the higher organs of the spirit are no other than the sound, rational, and moral laws of the physical world. The spiritual ego matures in the physical self, as the child in the mother's womb. The health of the child depends upon the normal working of natural laws in the womb of the mother. The health of the spiritual self is similarly conditioned by the laws of common intelligence and reason that work in the physical life. No one who does not live and think healthily in the physical world can give birth to a sound spiritual self Natural and rational life is the basis of all true spiritual evolution. Just as the child, when still in the womb of the mother, lives according to natural forces which after its birth it uses with its organs of sense, so the higher self in a human being lives according to the laws of the spiritual world even during its physical incarceration; and even as the child out of a vague sensational life acquires the powers above mentioned, so can a human being also acquire the powers of the spiritual world before his own higher self is born. Indeed, he must do this if the latter is to enter its world as a completely developed being. It would be quite wrong for anyone to say, “I cannot follow the teachings of the mystic and theosophist until I can see them for myself,” for if he should adopt this view, he could certainly never attain to genuine higher knowledge.

He would be in the same position as a child in the mother's womb who should reject the powers that would come to him through the mother, and should intend to wait until he could create them for himself. Even as the embryo of the child learns in its dim life to accept as right and good what is offered to it, so should it be with the person who is still blindfolded in relation to the truths declared in the teachings of mystic or theosophist. There is an insight, based upon intuition of the truth and a clear, sound, all-round critical reason, concerning these teachings, that exists before one can yet see spiritual things for oneself. First, one must learn the mystical wisdom, and by this very study prepare oneself to see. A person who should learn to see before he has prepared himself in this way would resemble a child who was born with eyes and ears but without a brain. The entire world of sound and color would widen out before him, but he could make no use of it.

That which before appealed to the student through his sense of truth, his reason, and his intelligence, becomes, at the stage of occult education already described, his own experience. He now has a direct realization of his higher self, and he learns how this higher self is connected with spiritual entities of a loftier nature and how it forms a union with them. He sees how the lower self descends from a higher world, and it is revealed to him how his higher nature outlasts the lower. Now he can distinguish between what is permanent in himself and what is perishable, and this is nothing less than the power to understand from his own Observation the teachings concerning the incarnation of the higher self in the lower. It will now become plain to him that he stands in a lofty spiritual relation thereto, that his attributes and his destiny are originated by this very relation. He learns to know the law of his life, his Karma. He perceives that his lower self, as it at present shapes his destiny, is only one of the forms which can be adopted by his higher nature. He discerns the possibility stretching before his higher self, of working upon his own nature so that he may become ever more and more perfect. Now, too, he can penetrate into the great differences between human beings in regard to their comparative perfection. He will recognize that there are before him people who have already traversed the stages that still lie in front of him. He discerns that the teachings and deeds of such people proceed from the inspiration of a higher world. All this he owes to his first glimpse into this higher world. Those who have been called “the masters of wisdom,” “the great Initiates of humanity,” will now begin to appear as veritable facts.

These are the treasures which the student at this stage owes to his development: insight into his higher self; into the doctrine of the incarnation of this higher self in a lower; into the laws by which life in the physical world is regulated according to its spiritual connections — in short, the law of Karma; and, finally, insight into the nature of the great Initiates.

Of the student who has arrived at this stage it is said that doubt has entirely vanished away. If he has already acquired a faith which is based upon reason and sound thought, there now appears in its place full knowledge and an insight which nothing whatsoever can make dim.

Religions have presented in their ceremonies, their sacraments, and their rites, external visible pictures of the higher spiritual beings and events. None but those who have not penetrated into the depths of the great religions can fail to notice this; but he who has seen for himself these spiritual realities will understand the great significance of each outward and visible ad. Then for him the religious service itself becomes a representation of his own communion with the spiritual, superhuman world. One often finds it said in theosophical literature, even if not quite so plainly expressed, that the occult student at this stage becomes “free from superstition.” Superstition in its essence is nothing but dependence upon outward and visible acts, without insight into the spiritual facts of which they are the expression.

It has been shown how the student, by arriving at this stage, becomes veritably a new person. Little by little he can now mature himself by means of the currents that come from the etheric body, until he can control the still higher vital element, that which is called “the fire of Kundalini,” and by so doing can attain a completer liberty from the bondage of his physical body.