It has already been shown how important for the individual is the meeting with the so-called Lesser Guardian of the Threshold, because he then becomes aware of a superphysical being which he has himself created. The Body of this being is constructed out of the results — hitherto imperceptible to him — of his actions, feelings, and thoughts. It is these invisible forces that have become the cause of his destiny and his character. It is then clear to the individual that in the past he himself laid the ground-plans for the present. His nature now stands revealed, to a certain extent, before him. For instance, it comprises particular inclinations and habits. He can now understand why he has them. He has met with certain blows of fate ; he now knows whence they came. He perceives why he loves one and hates another; why he is made happy by this and unhappy by that. By means of the invisible causes the visible life is made comprehensible. The essential facts of life, too, such as illness and health, death and birth, unveil themselves before his gaze. He observes how he had woven before his birth the causes which necessitated his return to life. From thenceforth he knows that being within himself which is constructed in the visible world after an imperfect manner, and which can only be brought to perfection in the same visible world; for in no other world is there the opportunity of working at the upbuilding of that being. Further than this, he sees how death cannot sever him lastingly from this world. For he should say to himself “Once I came for the first time to this world because I was a being that needed the life here lived in order to evolve those attributes which could not be developed in any other world. Here must I remain until I have evolved in myself whatever can here be attained. I shall only become, at some far-off time, a fit worker in another world if I have developed in the phenomenal world all the qualities which pertain to it.”
Among the most important experiences of the Initiate is that which occurs when he first learns to know and to cherish the visible world at its true value; and this knowledge comes to him by his very insight into the superphysical world. He who cannot see there and who consequently imagines that the superphysical worlds are infinitely the more valuable, is likely to under-estimate the worth of the phenomenal world. He, however, who has had that insight into the superphysical worlds wen knows that without his experiences in the visible he would be totally powerless in the invisible. If he would really live in the latter he must possess the faculties and instruments for that life, and these he can only acquire in the visible world. He must attain spiritual vision if the invisible world is to become perceptible to him; but this power of vision in a “higher” world is gradually developed through the experiences of the “lower.” One can no more be born into a spiritual world with spiritual eyes, if one has not prepared them in the world of sense, than a child could be born with physical eyes if they had not already been formed in the mother's womb.
From this standpoint it will also be obvious why the “threshold” to the superphysical world is watched by a “Guardian.” In no case may a true vision of that sphere be granted to a person who has not yet acquired the necessary faculties. For this reason, at each death a veil is drawn over the realities of the other world when a person enters it while still incapable of working within it. He should only behold them when he is ripe for it.
When the occult student enters the superphysical world, life assumes quite a new meaning to him, for in the world of sense he discerns the seed-ground of a higher world; so that in a certain sense this “higher” will seem very defective without the “lower.” Two outlooks are opened before him: the first into the Past; the second into the Future.
He looks into a past when this visible world was not. Long ago had he outgrown the fancy that the superphysical world had developed itself out of the sense-world. He well knows that the superphysical was the first, and that out of it everything phenomenal has been evolved. He sees how he himself, before he came for the first time to this phenomenal world, belonged to a world superior to the senses. Yet this, the pristine superphysical world, needed to pass through the physical. Without such a passage its further evolution would not have been possible. Only when the beings of the phenomenal world have developed within themselves the faculties that correspond to that world can the supersensual beings again move onward. These beings are no other than men and women. They have arisen, as they now live, from an imperfect stage of spiritual existence, and must in their own inner nature bring about its completion, whereby they will then be fit for further work in the higher world. Thus begins the outlook into the future. It points to a higher stage in the supersensual world. In this will appear the fruits which have been matured in the world of sense. The latter, as such, will be superseded, but its experiences will be incorporated into a higher sphere.
Thus is revealed the raison d’être of illness and death in the world of sense. Death is nothing else than a sign that the former superphysical world had arrived at a point from which it could not make any further progress by itself. It would necessarily have had to undergo a universal death if it had not received a new life-impulse, and the new life has thus come down to battle with universal death. Out of the remnants of a world decaying and chilly, blossoms the seed of a new world. That is why we have death and life in the world. Slowly things pass over into each other. The decaying portion of the old world still adheres to the seeds of the new life, which indeed arose out of it. The fullest expression of this may be found among human beings. Man bears as a covering that which he has gathered about him in the old world, and within this covering is formed the germ of that being which in the future will have life. He is therefore of a double nature, mortal and immortal. In his ending state he is mortal; in his beginning state immortal; but it is only within this twofold world, which finds its expression in the physical, that he can acquire those faculties which will conduct him to the undying world. Indeed, his task is precisely to draw out of the mortal the fruits of the immortal. If he glances at his own nature, which he himself has formed in the past, he cannot but say: “I have in me the elements of a decaying world. They are at work in me, and only little by little can I break their power by means of the newly created immortal elements.” Thus man goes on his way from death to life. He applies to life what he learns through death. If in full consciousness he could speak to himself in his death-hour, he might say: “Death is my teacher. The fact that I am dying is a result of the entire past wherein I am enmeshed. Yet the soil of death has matured in me the seed of what is deathless. This it is that I take with me into another world. If it had been a matter merely of the past, I should not then have been born. At birth the life of the past is closed. Life in the sense-world is rescued from an all-consuming death by the new life-germ within. The time between birth and death is only an expression for as much as the new life was able to rescue from the decaying past; and illness is nothing else than the effect of that portion of the past which is declining.”
In all that has here been said we find an answer to the question, “Why is it that only little by little and through error and imperfection may man work his way up to the good and true?” At first his actions, feelings, and thoughts are under the dominion of the fading and the mortal. From this are shaped his physical organs, and therefore these Organs, and the forces which act on them, are consecrated to the perishable. The instincts, impulses, and passions, or the organs which belong to them, do not themselves manifest the imperishable, but rather will that which emerges from the work of these organs become imperishable. Only when man has worked out of the perishable everything that is to be worked out, will he rid himself of these principles from which he has grown and which find their expression in the physically perceptible world.
Thus, then, the first Guardian of the Threshold stands as the replica of the individual in his double nature, wherein are mingled the perishable and the imperishable; and it is then made clear to him how much he lacks before he can attain the sublime form of light which may once more inhabit the pure spiritual world.
The degree in which he is enmeshed in the physical sense-nature will be shown to the student by the Guardian of the Threshold. This entanglement is expressed by the existence of instincts, impulses, appetites, egotistical desires, all forms of selfishness, and so forth. It is also expressed in the connection with a race, a nation, and so on; for nations and races are only so many different evolutionary stages up to the pure humanity. A race or a nation stands so much the higher, the more completely it gives expression to its kinship with the type of pure and ideal humanity, the more it has worked through the physical and perishable to the superphysical and imperishable. The evolution of the individual by means of reincarnation in ever higher national and racial forms is therefore a process of liberation. Ultimately the individual will appear in his harmonious perfection. In a similar way the pilgrimage through ever purer moral and religious conceptions is a perfecting process. Every moral stage, for instance, still retains, beside the idealistic germ of the future, a passion for the perishable.
Now in the Guardian of the Threshold, above described, only the result of time that has passed away is manifested, and in the germ of the future is only that which has been interwoven with it in this bygone time. Yet it is for the individual to bring into the superphysical world of the future everything that he can draw forth from the world of the senses. If he should only bring that which, coming from the past, is commingled with his counterpart, he would only partially have fulfilled his earthly task. Therefore, after some time the Greater Guardian of the Threshold is joined to the lesser. The meeting with the second Guardian shall again be described in narrative form.
When the individual has recognized all those qualities from which he has to free himself, his way is stopped by a sublime and luminous form, whose beauty it is quite impossible to describe in human language. This meeting occurs when the organs of thinking, feeling, and willing have so far loosened themselves, even in their physical connections, that the regulation of their reciprocal relations is no longer managed by themselves, but by the higher consciousness, which has now entirely separated itself from physical conditions. The organs of thought, feeling, and will have then become instruments in the power of the human soul, who exercises his controlling power over them from superphysical regions. The soul, thus liberated from all the bondage of sense, is now met by the second Guardian of the Threshold, who addresses him as follows
“You have freed yourself from the world of sense. You have won the right to settle in the superphysical world. From this you can now work. For your own part you no longer require your physical embodiment. If you should wish to acquire the faculties by which to dwell in this higher world, you no longer need to go back to the world of sense. Now gaze at me! Lo! how immeasurably sublime I stand, above all that you have at present evolved out of yourself! You have arrived at the present stage of your progress towards perfection through the faculties which you were able to develop in the sense-world while you were still confined to it. Now, however, must a period begin in which your liberated powers may act yet further upon the world of sense. Hitherto you have but freed yourself, but now can you go forth as a liberator of all your fellows. As an individual have you striven until to-day, but now shall you associate yourself with the whole, so that you may bring not yourself alone into the superphysical world, but all things else that exist in the world of phenomena. It shall be open for you to unite yourself with my form, but I cannot be blessed where yet there is any one unredeemed! As a separate freed-man you would like to enter at once into the kingdom of the superphysical, but then would you have perforce to look down an the still unliberated creatures in the world of sense, and you would have separated your destiny from theirs. Yet you and they are all linked with each other. It is necessary that all of you should descend into the world of sense in order that you may draw out of it the powers that are needed for a higher world. If you should separate yourself from your fellows, you will have misused the powers which you have only been able to develop in common with them. Had they not descended, the descent had been impossible for you; without them you had lacked the powers that make up your superphysical existence. These powers for which you have striven together with your fellows, you must now in like manner share with them. So long as you fail to apply every one of your acquired powers to the liberation of your companions, I shall obstruct your entrance into the highest regions of the superphysical world. With those powers you have already won, you can stay in the lower regions of that world; but before the gates of the higher regions I stand as one of the cherubim with fiery sword in front of Paradise, to hinder your entrance as long as you have powers that remain unapplied to the world of sense. If you refuse to apply your powers in this way, others will come who will do so; and then will a lofty superphysical world receive all the fruits of the sense-world, but to you will be denied the very soil in which you were rooted. The world ennobled will develop itself beyond you, and you will be shut out therefrom. Then would your path be the black path, while those from whom you had severed yourself go forward on the white way.”
So speaks the Greater Guardian of the Threshold soon after the meeting with the first watcher has taken place. The Initiate, however, knows exactly what lies before him if he should follow the allurements of a premature abode in the superphysical world. An indescribable splendor proceeds from the second Guardian of the Threshold; union with him appears as a remote ideal to the gazing soul, yet simultaneously comes the certitude that this union will only be possible if the Initiate has applied, to the task of redeeming and liberating this world, every power which has come to him therefrom. If he resolves to fulfil the demands of that luminous form, he becomes one of those who lead humanity to freedom. He brings his gifts to the altar of mankind. But if he prefers his own premature elevation into the superphysical world, then will he be submerged in the stream of human evolution. After his liberation from the world of sense he can win no new powers. If he places his work at the disposal of the world, he must renounce the prospect of acquiring anything further for himself.
One cannot say that the individual would naturally choose the white path, when so called upon to make his decision. This depends entirely upon whether at the time of making the decision he is so exalted that no touch of selfishness would make the allurement of such beatitude appear desirable. For these allurements are the strongest possible; while, on the other side, no specific allurements exist. Nothing there evokes his egotism. That which he obtains in the higher regions of the superphysical is nothing that comes to him, but solely something which proceeds from him — that is to say, the love of his fellows. Nothing that egotism desires is denied upon the black path. On the contrary, the fruits of this way consist precisely in the complete gratification of egotism, and therefore if any one merely desires bliss for himself, he would certainly travel down that way, since it is the appropriate path for him. No one, therefore, should expect the occultist of the white path to give him instruction concerning the development of his egotistical self The occultist has not the smallest interest in the beatification of the individual. Each can attain that for himself. It is not the task of the white occultist to accelerate it. He is only concerned with the evolution and liberation of all those beings who are human or akin to the human. Therefore they give instructions only as to how one may use one's powers in co-operation with that work. Consequently, they place before all other attributes those of selfless devotion and self-sacrifice. They do not actually refuse any one, for even the most egotistical can ennoble themselves; but he who merely seeks something for himself, so long as he continues to do so will gain nothing from the occultist. Indeed, even if the latter did not refuse him help, he would deprive himself of the natural effects of that assistance. He who really follows out the instructions of the good occult teachers will understand the demands of the Greater Guardian after he has crossed the threshold; but he who does not follow these instructions cannot hope ever to reach the threshold. Their instructions lead to the good, or else they are without effect at all; for to guide us to egotistical beatitude and a mere existence in the superphysical world is outside the circle of their task. It is part of their duty to hold back the student from the celestial world until he can enter it with a will devoted entirely to selfless labor.