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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Stages of Higher Knowledge
GA 12


by Marie Steiner

The magazine Lucifer, edited by Rudolf Steiner in the service of spiritual science, was enlarged in 1904 through the merger with the Austrian magazine, Gnosis. Thenceforth it bore the double name, Lucifer-Gnosis. In it were published Rudolf Steiner's articles that later appeared as the book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, which, with the books, Theosophy and Occult Science, an Outline, belongs to the basic works of the anthroposophically oriented science of the spirit.

A continuation of these articles appeared under the title, The Stages of Higher Knowledge. They were intended, later on, to be formed into a second volume in continuation of Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. But an overabundance of work and the heavy demands that lecturing made upon his time gradually prevented Rudolf Steiner from devoting the necessary attention to the magazine, although there was a steady increase in the number of its readers. As a result, its publication had to cease, and the further appearance of the articles on The Stages of Higher Knowledge had to be interrupted.

We have often been asked to make them available again through a new edition. The present books complies with this wish. Since the text suddenly breaks off, the book cannot claim the value of completeness. It was, therefore, justifiable to question the advisability of a new edition. The views presented here, but not brought to a conclusion, have been published many times in other written works of Rudolf Steiner in a different form and under different titles. But for the searcher of the spirit the fact remains that the conquest of spiritual reality is possible only by returning again and again to the spiritual contents once worked over but never sufficiently assimilated, and by experiencing ever anew the path that once has shown the direction into the realm of the spirit. The soul life of the person working meditatively must be kept so mobile that the view afforded him by one path makes him all the more receptive to views from other aspects.

The articles published here are of historical value. They indicate the starting-point of Rudolf Steiner's esoteric instructions; they show us how he has become the pioneer in this very domain in which, through his indications, man for the first time has been allowed freedom. With a world encompassing outlook, and a high sense of responsibility he had to build a basis and create a spiritual attitude through which man—by finding within himself the solid moral support—might still in this freedom avoid falling prey to temptation and aberration. In order to accomplish such a deed at a decisive turning-point in history, in the midst of opposing forces, relying solely upon one's own self, there was needed the tremendous ethical power that permeates Rudolf Steiner's entire life-work, its goals the welfare of mankind, the rescue of the Western world from the threatening collapse. He laid the foundations for his work in a way that corresponded with the demands of the age. To achieve this required the synthesis of all knowledge.

If one takes up these articles, written at the beginning of an astonishing life work that continued until March 30, 1925, and that, in the first years of this century, had received an impulse willed by destiny through its connection with theosophical groups fed from oriental sources—the question arises: How is it to be understood that Rudolf Steiner, who pointed the way to freedom also in esoteric life, to full self-reliance, and who let the pupil pledge to his own higher ego the obedience he must otherwise pledge to the teacher—how is it to be understood that Rudolf Steiner still urges in these articles the necessity of a strict reliance of the student upon the teacher, making the student as it were dependent upon the teacher?

In truth, Rudolf Steiner is only describing the pupil teacher relationship as one of trust. From the very beginning he has avoided and rejected the authoritative element. In ancient times, the initiating priests took full responsibility for initiation of the neophyte into the mysteries of spiritual existence and exerted their will upon him. Thus the pupil was at the same time protected and guided, and was able to escape the dangers that otherwise would have overpowered him. His ego still hovered above his physical sheaths; his consciousness of self had not yet awakened. To awaken it more and more was the task of the progressing mystery training.

By drawing attention to the Cosmic Teacher, Christian initiation lessened the dependency upon the personal teacher, without wholly eliminating it. In the Rosicrucian training this dependency gradually loses its personal character and transforms itself into a relationship of trust. The teacher assists the student, shows him the way he seeks but cannot find unaided. The teacher gives him moral support, points out the dangers of vanity and the trickery of deceptive images that he must learn to distinguish from true spiritual reality. Thus the teacher is a helper ready to withdraw when trust is lacking.

At the turning-point of history at which we stand, the teacher working for the present had to point to the past, present, and future of human spiritual striving and, beginning with the education of the individual, had to erect his work so that it constituted a deed for mankind: a newly gained element of life for posterity. Thus, Rudolf Steiner created a science of initiation in which henceforth every serious, morally striving human being can find the fundament that carries him; he will be able to take hold of the elements that sharpen his power of discrimination while new worlds open up to him. He need not grope uncertainly, having received enough instruction to guide him until he finds the leader in the lands of spirit.

This was not the case before Rudolf Steiner began his spiritual work. His deed is the science of initiation. Through it is revealed what lay hidden in the Mysteries of the ancient temples: namely, alongside the knowledge of cosmic evolution, the knowledge of the imminent descent of Christ, and what was sealed up in the Church: the redeeming deed of the liberation of mankind through the Christ and the gradual permeation of the ego of the individual with His power. Instead of personal guidance, the requirement now is that the human being find the way to the Ego of Mankind, to the Christ, through the forces of the time spirit. The consciousness of the individual human being is made mature for the acceptance of the higher ego force; self-consciousness is raised to spirit self.

It is the work of the future. But only by standing on the ground of the past and preparing the future can man work fruitfully for the present. By any other course he strives in the void. Here, too, the laws of metamorphosis govern. The future is created through transformation of the present that is rooted in the past. New elements appear, just as the new spring follows the winter. The power of the sun glows through the earth; all that decays, undergoing transformation, is kindled to new life through grace descending from above.

Also in the esoteric realm happenings unfold in historical continuity, in accordance with the law of ascending evolution and the flood tide and ebb tide of diminishing and flourishing life until the seemingly sudden moment when the rays of grace break forth, like the miracle of the radiant blossom in the green plant world. Yet without this transformation from form to form carried out by wise powers, and the constant enhancement in all domains of life, the new values, the gifts of the spirit, the fiery tongues of the Word would not descend upon us. Without knowledge of such happenings, the recipients of these gifts would not be in a position to grasp what it is that wants to take place among them. The great new power could not become effective, the future could not be saved.

The souls striving for spiritual knowledge who approached Rudolf Steiner were the human material willed by destiny and led to him by the age with whom Rudolf Steiner had to work. Out of their needs and requirements he had to form the science of initiation, based on cognition. It was his task to tear men away from the indolence of the age in regard to the spirit, so that they could become a bridge for the demands of the future.

Most difficult was the awakening of a sense for inner freedom, self-reliance, fully answerable to itself. With scrupulous regard for this goal, Rudolf Steiner desired no other role among men than that of instructor and, when so requested, advisor, awakener to spiritual goals of mankind. He was able to present spiritual facts because his thinking and beholding were permeated with life and unfolded, step by step, with the power of an organism of nature. His spiritual work stands before us—the restored unity of science, art and religion.