During deep sleep the human soul does not register impressions through the medium of the physical senses. In that state the perceptions of the external world do not touch it. It is, in truth, outside the coarser part of human nature, the physical body, and is only connected with the finer bodies — known as the astral and etheric — which escape the observation of the physical senses. The activity of these finer bodies does not cease in sleep. Even as the physical body stands in a certain relation to the things and beings of its own world, even as it is affected by these and affects them, so is it also with the soul in a higher world, but in this latter case, experience continues during sleep. The soul is then veritably in full activity, but we cannot know of these personal activities as long as we have no higher senses, by means of which we may observe, during sleep, what happens around us and what we do ourselves, just as well as we can use our ordinary senses in daily life for the observation of our physical environment. Occult training consists (as has been shown in the foregoing chapters) in the upbuilding of just such higher senses.
By means of examples like that which follows one can readily conceive how the soul with its finer vehicles may continue its activity during the intervals when the physical body is at rest. It is no mere nursery tale which will here be told, but a real case from life, which was observed with all the means possessed by the clairvoyant investigator and with all the care which it is incumbent upon him to exercise; nor is it related as a “proof,” but merely as an illustration. 1It has been necessary to make this preamble, since the superstitious followers of materialism, as soon as they hear of any such story, immediately respond by declaring that these cases prove nothing They whittle away everything of the kind as the result of delusion and inaccurate observation. To them it should be remarked, by way of reply, that the clairvoyant investigator does not require such indirect proofs; he attains to a direct knowledge by means of the higher sight. Nevertheless, facts of the kind related above serve to illustrate what is meant. To establish their truth other means exist than those which materialistic learning will use in the unimpeachable exposition of a matter of ordinary fact.
A young man stood confronted by an examination which would probably decide his entire future life. For a long time previously, he had worked for it assiduously, and consequently, on the evening before the examination, was exceedingly tired. He was to appear before the examiners punctually at eight in the morning of the following day. He wanted to have a night's restful sleep before the trial, but he feared lest, on account of his exhaustion, he might not be able to wake himself at the right hour. He therefore took the precaution to arrange that a Person living in the next room should wake him at six o'clock by knocking at his door. Thus he was able to abandon himself to sleep with an easy mind. On the following day he awoke, not at the call of his neighbor, but out of a dream. He heard six sharp rifle-reports, and with the sixth he was awake. His watch — equipped with no alarm — stood at six o'clock. He dressed himself, and after half an hour his neighbor awoke him. In reality, it was only just then six o'clock, for his watch, by some accident, had gained half an hour in the night. The dream which awakened him had timed itself to the erroneous watch. What was it, then, which happened here? The soul of the young man had remained active even during his sleep. Because he had previously formed a connection between this activity of soul and the watch at his side, there had remained a connection between the two for the whole of the night, so that on the next day the soul came, as it were, to the hour of six simultaneously with the watch. This activity had impressed itself on the young man's consciousness through the pictorial dream already described, which had awakened him One cannot explain it away by reference to the increasing light of day or anything similar, for the soul acted not in accordance with the real time of day, but with the erroneous watch. The soul was active like a veritable watchman while the physical person slept. It is not the activity of the soul which is lacking in sleep, but rather a consciousness of that activity.
If, by occult training, the sleep-life of a person is cultivated, in the way already set forth in the previous chapter, he can then follow consciously everything which passes before him while in this particular state; he can voluntarily put himself en rapport with his environment, just as with his experiences, known through the physical senses, during the continuance of the waking consciousness. Had the young man in the above example been a clairvoyant, he would have been able to watch the time for himself during sleep, and in consequence to have awakened himself. It is necessary to state here that the perception of the ordinary phenomenal environment presupposes one of the higher stages of clairvoyance. At the beginning of his development at this stage, the student only perceives things which pertain to another world, without being able to discern their relation to the objects of his workaday surroundings.
That which is illustrated in such typical examples of dream — or sleep — life is repeatedly experienced by people. The soul lives an unintermittently in the higher worlds and is active within them. Out of those higher worlds it continually draws the suggestions upon which it works when again in the physical body, while the ordinary man remains unconscious of this higher life. It is the work of the occult student to make it conscious, and by so doing his life becomes transformed. So long as the soul has not the higher sight, it is guided by foreign agencies, and just as the life of a blind man to whom sight is given by an operation becomes quite different from what it was before, so that he can henceforth dispense with a guide, thus also does the life of a person change im-der the influence of occult training. He, too, is now abandoned by his guide and must henceforward guide himself. As soon as this occurs he is, of course, liable to errors of which his waking consciousness had no conception. He now deals with a world in which, hitherto and unknown to himself, he had been influenced by higher powers. These higher powers are regulated by the great universal harmony. It is from this harmony that the student emerges. He has now to accomplish for himself things which were hitherto done for him without his co-operation.
Because this is the case there will be much said in the treatises which deal with such things concerning the dangers which are connected with an ascent into the higher worlds. The descriptions of these dangers which have sometimes been given are very apt to make timid souls regard this higher life only with horror. It should here be said that these experiences only occur if the necessary rules of prudence are neglected. On the other hand, if everything which a genuine occult education imparts as counsel were here given as a warning, it would be manifest that the ascent is through experiences which in magnitude, as in form, surpass everything that has been painted by the boldest fancy of an ordinary person; yet it is not reasonable to talk of possible injury to health or life. The student learns to recognize horrible threatening forms that haunt every corner and cranny of life. It is even possible for him to make use of such powers and beings who are withdrawn from the perceptions of sense, and the temptation to use these powers in the service of some forbidden interest of his own is very great. There is also the possibility of employing these forces in erroneous ways, owing to an inadequate knowledge concerning the higher worlds. Some of these especially important events (as, for example, the meeting with “the Guardian of the Threshold”) will be described further on in this treatise. Yet one must realize that these hostile powers are around us even when we do not know anything about them. It is true that in this case their relation to man is determined by higher powers, and that this relationship only changes when he consciously enters the world which was hitherto unknown to him. At the same time, this will enhance his existence and enlarge the circle of his life to an enormous extent. There is danger only if the student, whether from impatience or arrogance, assumes too early an independence in his attitude toward the experiences of the higher world — if he cannot wait until he acquires a really mature insight into superphysical laws. In this sphere the words “humility” and “modesty” are still less empty than in ordinary life. If these, in the very best sense, are the attributes of the student, he may be sure that his ascent into the higher life may be achieved without any danger to what one usually means by health and life. Above all things it is needful that there should be no disharmony between these higher experiences and the events and demands of every-day life. The student's task throughout is to search on earth, and he who tries to withdraw from the sacred tasks of this earth and to escape into another world may be sure that he never reaches his goal. Yet what the senses behold is only a part of the world, and in spiritual regions lie the causes of what are facts in the phenomenal world. One should participate in the thins of the spirit in order to carry one's revelations into the world of the senses. Man transforms the earth, by implanting in it that which he has discovered in the spiritual world, and that is his task. Yet, because the earth is dependent upon the spiritual world — because we can only be truly effective on earth if we have part in those worlds wherein lie concealed the creative forces — we ought to be willing to ascend into those regions. If a person enters on a course of occult training with this sentiment, and if he never deviates for a moment from the directions already given, he has not even the most insignificant of dangers to fear. No one ought to hold back from occult education on account of the dangers that confront him; rather should the very prospect form a powerful inducement toward the acquisition of those qualities which must be possessed by the genuine occult student.
After these preliminaries, which ought certainly to dispel all forebodings, let us now describe one of these “dangers.” It is true that very considerable changes are undergone by the finer bodies of the occult student. These changes are connected with certain evolutionary events which happen within the three fundamental forces of the soul — the will, the feelings, and the thoughts. As regards the occult training of a person these three forces stand in a definite relation, regulated by the laws of the higher world. He does not will, nor think, nor feel, in an arbitrary manner. If, for example, a particular idea arises in his mind, then, in accordance with natural laws, a certain feeling is attached to it, or else it is followed by a resolution of the will that is likewise connected with it according to law. You enter a room, find it to be stuffy, and open the window. You hear your name called, and follow the call. You are questioned and you answer. You perceive an ill-smelling object and you experience a feeling of disgust. These are simple connections between thought, feeling, and will. If, however, the student surveys human life, he will observe that everything in it is built up on such connections. Indeed, we only call the life of a person “normal” if we detect in it just that interrelation of thought, feeling, and will which is founded on the laws of human nature. We deem it contrary to these laws if a person, for instance, takes pleasure in an ill-smelling object, or if, on being questioned, he does not answer. The success which we expect from a right education or a fitting instruction consists in our presupposition that we can thereby impart to our pupil an interrelation of thought, feeling, and will that corresponds to human nature. When we present to a pupil any particular ideas, we do so on the supposition that they will assimilate, in an orderly association, with his feelings and volitions. All this arises from the fact that in the finer soul-vehicles of man the central points of the three powers, feeling, thinking, and willing, are connected with each other in a definite way. This connection in the finer soul-vehicles has also its analogy in the coarse physical body. There, too, the organs of volition stand in a certain orderly relation to those of thinking and feeling. A definite thought regularly evokes a feeling or a volition. In the course of a person's higher development the threads which connect these three principles with each other are severed. At first this rupture occurs only in regard to the finer organism of the soul; but at a still higher stage the separation extends also to the physical body. In the higher spiritual evolution of a person his brain actually divides into three separated parts. The separation, indeed, is of such a nature that it is not perceptible to ordinary sense-observation, nor could it be detected by the keenest physical instruments. Yet it occurs, and the clairvoyant has means of observing it. The brain of the higher clairvoyant divides into three independent active entities: the thought-brain, the feeling-brain, and the willing-brain.
The organs of thinking, feeling, and willing remain, then, quite free in themselves, and their connection is no longer maintained by a law innate in them, but must now be tended by the growing higher consciousness of the individual. This, then, is the change which the occult student observes coming over himself — that there is no longer a connection between a thought and a feeling, or a feeling and a volition, except when he creates the connection himself. No impulse drives him from thought to action if he does not voluntarily harbor it. He can now stand completely without feeling before an object which, before his training, would have filled him with glowing love or violent hatred; he can likewise remain actionless before a thought which heretofore would have spurred him an to action as if by itself. He can execute deeds by an effort of will where not the remotest cause would be visible to a person who had not been through the occult school. The greatest acquisition which the occult student inherits is the attainment of complete lordship over the connecting threads of the three powers of the soul; yet simultaneously these connections are placed entirely at his own responsibility.
Only through such alterations in his nature can a person come into conscious touch with certain superphysical powers and entities. For between his own soul and certain fundamental forces of the world there are correspondences or links. The power, for instance, which lies in the will can act upon, and perceive, particular things and entities of the higher world, but it can only do so when dissociated from the threads that link it with the feelings and thoughts of the soul. As soon as this separation is effected the activities of the will can be manifested, and so is it likewise with the forces of thought and feeling. If a person sends out a feeling of hatred, it is visible to the clairvoyant as a thin cloud of light of a special hue, and the clairvoyant can ward off such a feeling, just as an ordinary person wards off a physical blow that is aimed at him. Hate is a perceptible phenomenon in the superphysical world, but the clairvoyant is only able to perceive it in so far as he can send out the force which resides in his feelings, just as an ordinary person can direct outwards the receptive faculty of his eyes. What is here applied to hatred applies also to far more important facts in the phenomenal world. The individual can come into conscious communion with them by this very liberation of the elemental forces in the soul.
On account of this division of the thinking, feeling, and willing forces it is now possible that a threefold error may overtake the development of a person who has been disregardful of his occult instructions. Such an error might occur if the connecting threads were severed before the student had acquired so much knowledge of the higher consciousness as would enable him to hold the reins by which to guide well, such as a free, harmonious co-operation of the separate forces would supply. For, as a rule, the three human principles at any given period of life are not symmetrically developed. In one the power of thought is advanced beyond those of feeling and will; in a second, another power has the upper hand over its companions. So long as the connection between these forces — a connection produced by the laws of the higher world — remains intact, no injurious irregularity, in the higher sense, can result from the predominance of one force or another. In a person of will-power, for instance, thought and feeling work by those laws to equalize all and to prevent the over-weighty will from falling into a kind of degeneration. If such a person, however, should take up an occult training, the law-given influence of thought and feeling upon the monstrous, unchecked, oppressive will would entirely cease. If, then, the individual has not carried his control of the higher consciousness so far that he can call up the desirable harmony for himself, the will continues an its own unbridled way and repeatedly overpowers its possessor. Thought and feeling lapse into complete debility; and the individual is whipped like a slave by his own overmastering will. A violent nature which rushes from one uncurbed action to another is the result.
A second deviation ensues if feeling shakes off its appropriate bridle in the same extreme manner. A person who bows in adoration before another may easily give himself over to an unlimited dependence, until his own thought and will are ruined. In place of the higher knowledge a pitiful vacuity and feebleness would become the lot of such a person. Again, in a case where feeling largely preponderates, a nature too much given over to piety and religious aspiration may lapse into religious extravagance that carries him away.
The third evil is found where thought is too prominent, for then there may result a contemplative nature inimical to life and shut within itself. To such persons the world only appears to have any significance so far as it offers them objects for the satisfaction of their limitless thirst for wisdom. They are never impelled by a thought either to a feeling or to a deed. They are seen at once to be cold, unfeeling folk. They fly away from every contact with the things of ordinary life as from something that stings them to aversion, or that at least has lost all meaning for them.
These are the three ways of error against which the occult student should be counselled: over-action, excess of feeling, and a cold, unloving struggle after wisdom. Viewed from without — as also from the materialistic medical standpoint — the picture of an occult student upon one of these byways does not greatly differ (especially in degree) from that of a madman, or at least of a person suffering from severe nervous illness. From all this it will be clear how important it is to occult education that the three principles of the soul should throughout be symmetrically developed, before their innate connection is severed and the awakened higher consciousness enthroned in its place; for if a mistake once occurs, if one of these principles falls into lawlessness, the higher soul appears as a thing misborn. The unbridled force then pervades the individual's entire personality; and one cannot expect the balance to be restored for a long time. That which seems but a harmless characteristic so long as its possessor is without occult training,— especially if he belongs to the willing, thinking, or feeling type,— is so increased in the occult student that the more homely virtues, so necessary for everyday life, are apt to be obscured.
A really serious danger is at hand when the student has acquired the faculty of calling up before him in waking consciousness those things that he can experience in the state of sleep. As long as it is only a matter of illuminating the intervals of sleep, the sense-life, regulated according to common universal laws, always works during the waking hours towards restoring the disturbed equilibrium of the soul. That is why it is so essential that the waking life of an occult student should in every respect be healthy and systematic. The more he fulfils the demand which is made by the external world upon a sound and powerful type of body, soul, and spirit, the better it is for him. On the other hand, it may be very bad for him if his ordinary waking life acts so as to excite or irritate him; if any disturbing or hindering influence from the external life occurs during the great changes that are undergone by his inner nature. He should seek for everything which corresponds to his powers and faculties, everything that puts him in an undisturbed harmonious connection with his environment. He should avoid everything which upsets this harmony, everything that brings unrest and fever into his life. Regarding this, it is not so much a matter of removing this unrest or fever in an external sense, as of taking care that the moods, purposes, thoughts, and bodily health do not thereby undergo a continual fluctuation. During his occult training all this is not so easy for a person to accomplish as it was before, since the higher experiences, which are now interwoven with his life, react uninterruptedly upon his entire existence. If something in these higher experiences is not in its place, the irregularity lurks perpetually and is liable to throw him off the right path at every turn. For this reason the student should omit nothing which will secure for him a lasting control over his entire nature, nor should presence of mind, and a peaceful survey of all possible situations in life ever be allowed to desert him. A genuine occult training, indeed, itself engenders all these attributes, and in the course of such training one only learns to know these dangers at the precise moment when one acquires the full power to rout them from the field.