V. Cognition of the Higher Worlds — Initiation
Between birth and death man, at his present evolutionary stage, lives in ordinary life through three soul states: waking, sleeping, and the state between them, dreaming. Dreaming will be briefly considered later on in this book. Here let us first consider life in its two chief alternating states — waking and sleeping. Man acquires a knowledge of higher worlds if he develops a third soul state besides sleep and waking. During its waking state the soul surrenders itself to sense-impressions and thoughts that are aroused by these impressions. During sleep the sense-impressions cease, but the soul also loses its consciousness. The experiences of the day sink into the sea of unconsciousness. Let us now imagine that the soul might be able during sleep to become conscious despite the exclusion of all sense-impressions as is the case in deep sleep, and even though the memories of the day's experiences were lacking. Would the soul, in that case, find itself in a state of nothingness? Would it be unable to have any experiences? An answer to these questions is only possible if a similar state of consciousness can actually be induced, if the soul is able to experience something even though no sense-activities and no memory of them are present in it. The soul, in regard to the ordinary outer world, would then find itself in a state similar to sleep, and yet it would not be asleep, but, as in the waking state, it would confront a real world. Such a state of consciousness can be induced if the human being can bring about the soul experiences made possible by spiritual science; and everything that this science describes concerning the worlds that lie beyond the senses is the result of research in just such a state of consciousness. — In the preceding descriptions some information has been given about higher worlds. In this chapter — as far as it is possible in this book — we shall deal with the means through which the state of consciousness necessary for this method of research is developed.
This state of consciousness resembles sleep only in a certain respect, namely, through the fact that all outer sense-activities cease with its appearance; also all thoughts are stilled that have been aroused through these sense-activities. Whereas in sleep the soul has no power to experience anything consciously, it is to receive this power from the indicated state of consciousness. Through it a perceptive faculty is awakened in the soul that in ordinary life is only aroused by the activities of the senses. The soul's awakening to such a higher state of consciousness may be called initiation.
The means of initiation lead from the ordinary state of waking consciousness into a soul activity, through which spiritual organs of observation are employed. These organs are present in the soul in a germinal state; they must be developed. — It may happen that a human being at a certain moment in the course of his life, without special preparation, makes the discovery in his soul that such higher organs have developed in him. This has come about as a sort of involuntary self-awakening. Such a human being will find that through it his entire nature is transformed. A boundless enrichment of his soul experiences occurs. He will find that there is no knowledge of the sense world that gives him such bliss, such soul satisfaction, and such inner warmth as he now experiences through the revelation of knowledge inaccessible to the physical eye. Strength and certainty of life will pour into his will from a spiritual world. — There are such cases of self-initiation. They should, however, not tempt us to believe that this is the one and only way and that we should wait for such self-initiation, doing nothing to bring about initiation through proper training. Nothing need be said here about self-initiation, for it can appear without observing any kind of rules. How the human being may develop through training the organs of perception that lie embryonically in the soul will be described here. People who do not feel the least trace of an especial impulse to do something for the development of themselves may easily say, “Human life is directed by spiritual powers with whose guidance no one should attempt to interfere; we should wait patiently for the moment when such powers consider it proper to open another world to the soul.” It may indeed be felt by such human beings as a sort of insolence or as an unjustified desire to interfere with the wisdom of spiritual guidance. Individuals who think thus will only arrive at a different point of view when a certain thought makes a sufficiently strong impression upon them. When they say to themselves, “Wise spiritual guidance has given me certain faculties; it did not bestow them upon me to be left unused, but to be employed. The wisdom of this guidance consists in the fact that it has placed in me the germinal elements of a higher state of consciousness. I shall understand this guidance only when I feel it obligatory that everything be revealed to the human being that can be revealed through his spiritual powers.” If such a thought has made a sufficiently strong impression on the soul, the above doubts about training for a higher state of consciousness will disappear.
Other doubts, however, can still arise about such training. We may say, “The development of inner soul capacities penetrates into the most concealed holy of holies of the human being. It involves a certain transformation of his entire nature. The means for such a transformation cannot, by its very nature, be thought out by ourselves. For the way of reaching higher worlds can only be known to him who knows the way into these worlds through his own experience. If we turn to such a personality, we permit him to have an influence over the soul's most concealed holy of holies.” — Whoever thinks thus would not be especially reassured even though the means of bringing about a higher state of consciousness were presented to him in a book. For the point of the matter is not whether we receive this information verbally or whether someone having the knowledge of this means presents it in a book that we then read. There are persons, however, who possess the knowledge of the rules for the development of the spiritual organs of perception and who are of the opinion that these rules ought not to be entrusted to a book. Such people usually do not consider it permissible to publish certain truths relating to the spiritual world. This view, however — considering the present stage of human evolution — must, in a certain sense, be declared outmoded. It is correct, in regard to the publication of the rules in question, that we may do so only to a certain point. Yet the information given leads far enough for those who employ it for soul training to reach a point in the development of their knowledge from which they can then continue on the path. One can only visualize the further direction of this path correctly by what one has experienced previously on it. From all these facts, doubts may arise about the spiritual path of knowledge. These doubts disappear if one holds in mind the nature of the course of development that is indicated by the training appropriate to our age. We shall speak here about this path. Other methods of training will only be briefly touched upon.
The training to be described here places in the hands of the person who has the will for his higher development the means for undertaking the transformation of his soul. Any dangerous interference with the inner nature of the disciple would only occur were the teacher to undertake this transformation by means that elude the consciousness of the pupil. No proper instruction for spiritual development in our age employs such means. A proper instruction does not make the pupil a blind instrument. It gives him the rules of conduct, and he then carries them out. There is no need to withhold the reason why this or that rule of conduct is given. The acceptance of the rules and their employment by a person who seeks spiritual development need not be a matter of blind faith. Blind faith should be completely excluded from this domain. Whoever considers the nature of the human soul, as far as it is possible through ordinary self-examination without spiritual training, may ask himself after encountering the rules recommended for spiritual training, “How can these rules be effective in the life of the soul?” It is possible to answer this question satisfactorily prior to any training by the unprejudiced employment of common sense. We are able to understand correctly the way of working of these rules prior to their practice. But it can be experienced only during training. The experience, however, will always be accompanied by understanding if we accompany each step with sound judgment, and at the present time a true spiritual science will only indicate rules for training upon which sound judgment may be brought to bear. Anyone who is willing to surrender himself to such training only, and who does not permit himself to be driven to blind faith by prejudice of any kind, will find that all doubts disappear. Objections to a proper training for a higher state of consciousness will not disturb him.
Even for a person whose inner maturity can lead him sooner or later to self-awakening of the spiritual organs of perception such training is not superfluous, but on the contrary it is quite especially suited to him. For there are but few cases in which such a person, prior to self-initiation, is not compelled to pass through the most varied, crooked and useless byways. Training spares him these deviations. It leads straight forward. If self-initiation takes place for such a soul, it is caused by its having acquired the necessary maturity in the course of previous lives. It may easily happen, however, that just such a soul has a certain dim presentiment of its maturity and through this presentiment is inclined to reject the proper training. This presentiment may produce a certain pride that hinders faith in a true spiritual training. It is possible that a certain stage of soul development may remain concealed up to a certain age in human life and only then appear, but training may be just the right means of bringing forth this stage. If the individual pays no heed to such training, it may happen that his ability remains concealed during his present life and will only reappear in some subsequent life.
In regard to the training for supersensible knowledge described here, it is important to avoid certain obvious misunderstandings. One of these may arise through thinking that training would transform man into a different being in regard to his entire life-conduct. It cannot, however, be a question of giving man general instructions for his conduct of life, but of telling him about soul-exercises which, properly performed, will give him the possibility of observing the supersensible. These exercises have no direct influence upon the part of his life-functions that lies outside the observation of the supersensible. In addition to these life-functions the human being acquires the gift of supersensible observation. The function of this observation is as much separated from the ordinary functions of life as the state of waking is from that of sleeping. The one cannot disturb the other in the least. Whoever, for example, wishes to permeate the ordinary course of life with impressions of supersensible perception resembles an invalid whose sleep would be continually interrupted by injurious awakenings. It must be possible for the free will of the trained person to induce the state in which supersensible reality is observed. Training, to be sure, is indirectly connected with certain instructions concerning conduct in as far as, without an ethically determined conduct of life, an insight into the supersensible is impossible or injurious. Consequently, much of what leads to the perception of the supersensible is at the same time a means of ennobling the conduct of life. On the other hand, as a result of insight into the supersensible world, higher moral impulses are recognized that are also valid for the sensory-physical world. Certain moral necessities are only recognized from out this world. — A second misunderstanding would arise were it believed that any soul function leading to supersensible knowledge might produce changes in the physical organism. Such functions have nothing whatsoever to do with anything in the realm of physiology or other branches of natural science. They are pure soul-spirit processes, entirely devoid of anything physical, like sound thinking and perception. Nothing happens in the soul through such a function — considering its character — that is different from what takes place when it thinks or judges in a healthy fashion. Just as much or as little as sound thinking has to do with the body, so do the processes of true training for supersensible cognition have to do with the body. Anything that has a different relationship to man is not true spiritual training, but its distortion. What follows is to be taken in the sense of what has been said here. Only because supersensible knowledge is something that proceeds from the entire soul of man will it appear as if things were required for this training that would transform man into something else. In truth it is a question of instruction about functions enabling the soul to bring into its life moments in which the supersensible may be observed.
The attainment of a supersensible state of consciousness can only proceed from everyday waking consciousness. In this consciousness the soul lives before its elevation. Through the training the soul acquires a means of lifting itself out of everyday consciousness. The training that is under consideration here offers among the first means those that still may be designated as functions of everyday consciousness. The most important means are just those that consist of quiet activities of the soul. They involve the opening of the soul to quite definite thoughts. These thoughts exercise, by their very nature, an awakening power upon certain hidden faculties of the human soul. They are to be distinguished from the visualizations of everyday waking life, which have the task of depicting outer things. The more truly they do this, the truer they are, and it is part of their nature to be true in this sense. The visualizations, however, to which the soul must open itself for the purpose of spiritual training have no such task. They are so constructed that they do not depict anything external but have in themselves the peculiarity of effecting an awakening in the soul. The best visualizations for this purpose are emblematic or symbolical. Nevertheless, other visualizations may also be employed, for it is not a question of what they contain, but solely a question of the soul's directing its powers in such a way that it has nothing else in mind but the visualized image under consideration. While the powers of everyday soul-life are distributed in many directions — the visualized mental representations changing very rapidly — in spiritual training everything depends upon the concentration of the entire soul-life upon one visualization. This visualization must, by means of free will, be placed at the center of consciousness. Symbolic visualized images are, therefore, better than those that represent outer objects or processes, for the latter have a point of attachment to the outer world, making the soul less dependent upon itself than when it employs symbolic visualizations that are formed through the soul's own energy. The essential is not what is visualized; what is essential is the fact that the visualization, through the way it is visualized, liberates the soul from dependence on the physical.
We understand what it means to immerse ourselves in a visualized image if we consider, first of all, the concept of memory. If, for instance, we look at a tree and then away from it so that we can no longer see it, we are then able to re-awaken the visualization of the tree in the soul by recollecting it. This visualization of the tree, which we have when the eye no longer beholds the latter, is a memory of the tree. Now let us imagine that we preserve this memory in the soul; we permit the soul, as it were, to rest upon the visualized memory picture; and at the same time we endeavor to exclude all other visualizations. Then the soul is immersed in the visualized memory picture of the tree. We then have to do with the soul's immersion in a visualized picture or image; yet this visualization is the image of an object perceived by the senses. But if we undertake this with a visualized image formed in the consciousness by an act of independent will, we shall then be able by degrees to attain the effect upon which everything depends.
We shall now endeavor to describe an example of inner immersion in a symbolic visualization. Such a visualization must first be fashioned in the soul. This may happen in the following way. We visualize a plant as it roots in the earth, as leaf by leaf sprouts forth, as its blossom unfolds, and now we think of a human being beside this plant. We make the thought alive in the soul of how he has characteristics and faculties which, when compared with those of the plant, may be considered more perfect than the latter. We contemplate how, according to his feelings and his will, he is able to move about hither and thither, while the plant is chained to the earth. Furthermore we say that the human being is indeed more perfect than the plant, but he also shows peculiarities that are not to be found in the plant. Just because of their nonexistence in the plant the latter may appear to me in a certain sense more perfect than the human being who is filled with desire and passion and follows them in his conduct. I may speak of his being led astray by his desires and passions. I see that the plant follows the pure laws of growth from leaf to leaf, that it opens its blossom passionlessly to the chaste rays of the sun. Furthermore, I may say to myself that the human being has a greater perfection than the plant, but he has purchased this perfection at the price of permitting instincts, desires, and passions to enter into his nature besides the forces of the plant, which appear pure to us. I now visualize how the green sap flows through the plant and that it is an expression of the pure, passionless laws of growth. I then visualize how the red blood flows through the human veins and how it is the expression of the instincts, desires, and passions. All this I permit to arise in my soul as vivid thought. Then I visualize further how the human being is capable of evolution; how he may purify and cleanse his instincts and passions through his higher soul powers. I visualize how, as a result of this, something base in these instincts and desires is destroyed and how the latter are reborn upon a higher plane. Then the blood may be conceived of as the expression of the purified and cleansed instincts and passions. In my thoughts I look now, for example, upon the rose and say, In the red rose petal I see the color of the green plant sap transformed into red, and the red rose, like the green leaf, follows the pure, passionless laws of growth. The red of the rose may now become the symbol of a blood that is the expression of purified instincts and passions that have stripped off all that is base, and in their purity resemble the forces active in the red rose. I now seek not merely to imbue my intellect with such thoughts but to bring them to life in my feelings. I may have a feeling of bliss when I think of the purity and passionlessness of the growing plant; I can produce within myself the feeling of how certain higher perfections must be purchased through the acquirement of instincts and desires. This can then transform the feeling of bliss, which I have felt previously, into a grave feeling; and then a feeling of liberating joy may stir in me when I surrender myself to the thought of the red blood which, like the red sap of the rose, may become the bearer of inwardly pure experiences. It is of importance that we do not without feeling confront the thoughts that serve to construct such a symbolic visualization. After we have pondered on such thoughts and feelings for a time, we are to transform them into the following symbolic visualization. We visualize a black cross. Let this be the symbol of the destroyed base elements of instincts and passions, and at the center, where the arms of the cross intersect, let us visualize seven red, radiant roses arranged in a circle. Let these roses be the symbol of a blood that is the expression of purified, cleansed passions and instincts.1The point is not whether this or that idea of natural science finds the above thoughts justified or not. For it is a question of the development of such thoughts by means of plant and man that may be gained, without any theory, through simple, direct perception. Such thoughts have indeed their importance also, besides the theoretical ideas about the things of the outer world, which in other connections are of no less importance. Here thoughts do not have the purpose of representing a fact scientifically, but of constructing a symbol that proves itself effective in the soul, notwithstanding the objections that may occur to this or that individual in fashioning this symbol. Such a symbolic visualization should be called forth in the soul in the way illustrated above through a visualized memory image. Such a visualization has a soul-awakening power if we surrender ourselves to it in inward meditation. We must seek to exclude all other thoughts during meditation. Only the characterized symbol is to hover in spirit before the soul as intensely as possible. — It is not without significance that this symbol is not simply given here as an awakening visualized picture, but that it has first been constructed by means of certain thoughts about plant and man. For the effect of such a symbol depends upon the fact of its having been constructed in the way described before it is employed in inner meditation. If we visualize the symbol without first having fashioned it in our own souls, it remains cold and much less effective than when it has received, through preparation, its soul-illuminating power. During meditation, however, we should not call forth in the soul all the preparatory thoughts, but merely let the visualized picture hover vividly before our inner eye, at the same time letting the feeling hold sway that has appeared as a result of the preparatory thoughts. Thus the symbol becomes a token alongside the feeling-experience, and its effectiveness lies in the dwelling of the soul in this inner experience. The longer we are able to dwell in it without the intervention of other, disturbing, thoughts, the more effective is the entire process. It is well, nevertheless, for us, outside the period dedicated to the actual meditation itself, to repeat the construction of the symbol by means of thoughts and feelings of the above described kind, so that the experience may not fade away. The more patience we exercise in this renewal, the more significant is the symbol for the soul. (In my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, other examples of means for inner meditation are given. Especially effective are the meditations characterized there about the growth and decay of the plant, about the slumbering creative forces in the plant seed, about the forms of crystals, and so forth. In the present book, the nature of meditation was to be described by a single example.)
Such a symbol, as is described here, portrays no outer thing or being that is brought forth by nature. But just because of this it has an awakening power for certain purely soul faculties. To be sure, someone might raise an objection. He might say, It is true, the symbol as a whole is certainly not produced by nature, but all its details are, nevertheless, borrowed from nature — the black color, the red roses, and the other details. All this is perceived by the senses. Anyone who may be disturbed by such an objection should consider that it is not the pictures of sense-perceptions that lead to the awakening of the higher soul faculties, but that this effect is produced only by the manner of combining these details, and this combination does not picture anything that is present in the sense world.
The process of effective meditation was illustrated here by a symbol, as an example. In spiritual training the most manifold pictures of this kind can be employed and they can be constructed in the most varied manner. Also certain sentences, formulae, even single words, upon which to meditate may be given. In every case these means to inner meditation have the objective of liberating the soul from sense-perception and of arousing it to an activity in which the impression upon the physical senses is meaningless and the development of the inner slumbering soul faculties becomes the essential. It may also be a matter of meditation upon mere feelings and sensations. This shows itself to be especially effective. Let us take, for example, the feeling of joy. In the normal course of life the soul may experience joy if an outer stimulus for it is present. If a soul with normal feelings perceives how a human being performs an action that is inspired by kindness of heart, this soul will feel pleased and happy about it. But this soul may then meditate on an action of this sort. It may say to itself, an action performed through goodness of heart is one in which the performer does not follow his own interest, but the interest of his fellow-man, and such an action may be designated morally good. The contemplating soul, however, may now free itself from the mental picture of the special case in the outer world that has given it joy or pleasure, and it may form the comprehensive idea of kindness of heart. It may perhaps think how kindness of heart arises by the one soul absorbing, so to speak, the interests of the other soul and making them its own, and it may now feel joy about this moral idea of kindness of heart. This is not the joy in this or that process in the sense world, but the joy in an idea as such. If we attempt to keep alive such joy in the soul for a certain length of time, then this is meditation on inner feeling, on inner sensation. The idea is not then the awakening factor of the inner soul faculties, but the holding sway, for a certain length of time, of the feeling within the soul that is not aroused through a mere single external impression. — Since supersensible knowledge is able to penetrate more deeply into the nature of things than ordinary thinking, it is able through its experiences to indicate feelings that act in a still higher degree upon the unfolding of the soul faculties, when they are employed in inner meditation. Although this is necessary for higher degrees of training, we should remember the fact that energetic meditation on such feelings and sensations, as for example have been characterized in the observation of kindness of heart, is able to lead very far. — Since human beings are varied in character, so are the effective means of training varied for the individual man. — In regard to the duration of meditation we have to consider that the effect is all the stronger, the more tranquilly and deliberately this meditation is carried out. But any excess in this direction should be avoided. A certain inner discretion that results through the exercises themselves may teach the pupil to keep within due bounds.
Such exercises in inner meditation will in general have to be carried on for a long time before the student himself is able to perceive any results. What belongs unconditionally to spiritual training is patience and perseverance. Whoever does not call up both of these within his soul and does not, in all tranquility, continuously carry out his exercises, so that patience and perseverance form the fundamental mood of the soul, cannot achieve much.
It will have become evident from the preceding exposition that meditation is a means of acquiring knowledge about higher worlds, but it will also have become evident that not just any content of thought will lead to it, but only a content that has been evolved in the manner described.
The path that has been indicated here leads, in the first place, to what may be called imaginative cognition. It is the first stage of higher cognition. Knowledge that rests upon sense-perception and upon the working over of the sense-perceptions through the intellect bound to the senses may be called, in the sense of spiritual science, “objective cognition.” Beyond this lie the higher stages of knowledge, the first of which is imaginative cognition. The expression “imaginative” may call forth doubts in those who think “imagination” stands only for unreal imaginings, that is, a visualization of something that has no corresponding reality. In spiritual science, however, “imaginative” cognition is to be conceived as something coming into existence through a supersensible state of consciousness of the soul. What is perceived in this state are spiritual facts and beings to which the senses have no access. Because this state is awakened in the soul by meditating on symbols or “imaginations,” the world of this higher state of consciousness may be named the “imaginative” world, and the knowledge corresponding to it “imaginative” cognition. “Imaginative,” therefore, means something which is “real” in a different sense from the facts and beings of physical sense-perception. The content of the visualizations that fill imaginative experience is of no importance, but of utmost importance is the soul faculty which is developed through this experience.
An obvious objection to the employment of the characterized symbolic visualizations is that their fashioning corresponds to a dreamlike thinking and to arbitrary imagining and therefore can bring forth only doubtful results. In regard to the symbols that lie at the foundation of true spiritual training, doubts of this character are unjustified. For the symbols are chosen in such a way that their connection with outer sense reality may be entirely disregarded and their value sought merely in the force with which they affect the soul when the latter withdraws all attention from the outer world, when it suppresses all impressions of the senses, and shuts out all thoughts that it may cherish as a result of outer stimuli. The process of meditation is best illustrated by a comparison with the state of sleep. On the one hand it resembles the latter, on the other it is the complete opposite. It is a sleep that represents, in regard to everyday consciousness, a higher waking state. The important point is that through concentration upon the visualization or picture in question the soul is compelled to draw forth much stronger powers from its own depths than it employs in everyday life or in everyday cognition. Its inner activity is thereby enhanced. It liberates itself from the bodily nature just as it does during sleep, but it does not, as in the latter case, pass over into unconsciousness, but becomes conscious of a world that it has not previously experienced. Although this soul state may be compared with sleep in regard to the liberation from the body, yet it may be described as an enhanced waking state when compared with everyday waking consciousness. Through this the soul experiences itself in its true inner, independent nature, while in the everyday waking state it becomes conscious of itself only through the help of the body because of the weaker unfolding of its forces in that state, and does not, therefore, experience itself, but is only aware of the picture that, like a reflection, the body (or properly speaking its processes) sketches for it.
The symbols that are constructed in the above described manner do, by their very nature, not yet relate to anything real in the spiritual world. They serve the purpose of detaching the human soul from sense-perception and from the brain instrument to which the intellect is bound at the outset. This detachment cannot occur in man prior to his feeling the following: I now visualize something by means of forces in connection with which my senses and my brain do not serve me as instruments. The first thing that the human being experiences on this path is such a liberation from the physical organs. He may then say to himself, “My consciousness is not extinguished when I disregard the sense-perceptions and ordinary intellectual thinking; I can lift myself out of them and then feel myself as a being alongside the one I was previously.” This is the first purely spiritual experience: the observation of a soul-spirit ego being. This, as a new self, has lifted itself out of the self that is only bound to the physical senses and the physical intellect. If without meditation the pupil had released himself from the world of the senses and intellect, he would have sunk into the “nothingness” of unconsciousness. The soul-spirit being, naturally, existed before meditation had taken place, but it did not yet have any organs of observing the spiritual world. It was somewhat similar to a physical body without eyes to see, or ears to hear. The force that was employed in meditation first has fashioned the soul-spirit organs out of the previously unorganized soul-spirit nature. The individual beholds first, therefore, what he has created. Thus, the first experience is, in a certain sense, self-perception. It belongs to the essence of spiritual training that the soul, through the practice of self-education, is at this point of its development fully conscious of the fact that at first it perceives itself in the world of pictures — imaginations — which appear as a result of the exercises described. Although these pictures appear as living in a new world, the soul must recognize that they are, at the outset, nothing but the reflection of its own being, strengthened through the exercises, and it must not only recognize this with proper discretion, but it must also have developed such a power of will that it can extinguish, can eliminate these pictures from consciousness at any time. The soul must be able to act within these pictures completely free and fully aware. This belongs to true spiritual training at this stage. If the soul were not able to do this it would be in the same circumstances, in the sphere of spiritual experience, in which a soul would find itself in the physical world, were its eyes fettered to the object upon which they gaze, powerless to withdraw them. Only one group of inner imaginative experiences constitutes an exception to this possibility of extinction. These experiences are not to be extinguished at this stage of spiritual training. They correspond to the kernel of the soul's own being, and the student of the spiritual recognizes in these pictures what, in himself, passes through repeated earth lives as his fundamental being. At this point the sensing of repeated earth lives becomes a real experience. In regard to everything else the independence of the experiences mentioned must rule, and only after having acquired the ability to bring about this extinction does the student approach the true external spiritual world. In place of what has been extinguished, something else appears that is recognized as spiritual reality. The student feels how he grows in his soul from the undefined into the defined. From the self-perception he then must proceed to an observation of an outer world of soul and spirit. This takes place when the student arranges his inner experiences in the sense that will be further indicated here.
In the beginning the soul of the student of the spiritual is weak in regard to everything that is to be perceived in the spiritual world. He will have to employ great inner energy in order to hold fast in meditation to the symbols or other visualizations that he has fashioned from the stimuli of the world of the senses. If, however, he wishes besides this to attain real observation in a higher world, he must be able not only to hold fast to these visualizations, but he must also, after he has done this, be able to sojourn in a state in which no stimuli of the sensory world act upon the soul, but in which also the visualized imaginations themselves, characterized above, are extirpated from consciousness. What has been formed through meditation can only then appear in consciousness. It is important now that sufficient inner soul power be present in order really to perceive spiritually what has been formed through meditation, so that it may not elude the attention. This is, however, always the case with but weakly developed inner energy. What is thus constructed in the beginning as a soul-spirit organism and what is to be taken hold of by the student in self-perception is delicate and fleeting, and the disturbances of the outer world of the senses and its after-effects of memory are great, however much we may endeavor to hold them back. Not only the disturbances that we observe come into question here, but much more, indeed, those of which we are not conscious at all in everyday life. — The very nature of the human being, however, makes possible a state of transition in this regard. What the soul at the beginning cannot achieve in the waking state on account of the disturbances of the physical world, is possible in the state of sleep. Whoever surrenders to meditation will, by proper attention, become aware of something in sleep. He will feel that during sleep he does not “fall into a complete slumber,” but that at times his soul is active in a certain way while sleeping. In such states the natural processes hold back the influences of the outer world that the waking soul is not yet able to prevent by means of its own power. If, however, the exercises of meditation have already been effective, the soul frees itself during sleep from unconsciousness and feels the world of soul and spirit. This may happen in a twofold way. It may be clear to the human being during sleep that now he is in another world; or he may have the memory on awaking that he has been in another world. To the first belongs, indeed, greater inner energy than to the second. Therefore the latter will be more frequent for the beginner in spiritual training. By degrees this may go so far that the pupil feels on waking that he has been in another world during the whole sleep period, from which he has emerged on waking, and his memory of the beings and facts of this other world will become ever more definite. Something has taken place for the student of the spiritual in one form or another that may be called the continuity of consciousness. (The continuity of consciousness during sleep.) It is not at all meant by this, however, that man is always conscious during sleep. Much, however, has already been gained in the continuity of consciousness if the human being, who otherwise sleeps like ordinary man, has at certain times during sleep intervals in which he can consciously behold a world of soul and spirit, or if, after waking, he can look back again in memory upon such brief states of consciousness. It should not be forgotten, however, that what is described here may be only understood as a transitional state. It is good to pass through this state in the course of training, but one should certainly not believe that a conclusive perception in regard to the world of soul and spirit should be derived from it. The soul is uncertain in this state and cannot yet depend upon what it perceives. But through such experiences it gathers more and more power in order to succeed, also while awake, in warding off the disturbing influences of the physical outer and inner worlds, and thus to acquire the faculty of soul-spirit observation when impressions no longer come through the senses, when the intellect bound to the physical brain is silent, and when consciousness is freed even from the visualizations of meditation by means of which we have only prepared ourselves for spiritual perception. — Whatever is revealed by spiritual science in this or that form should never originate from any other soul-spirit observation than from one that has been made during the state of complete wakefulness.
Two soul experiences are important in the process of spiritual training. Through the one, man may say to himself, “Although I now disregard all the impressions the outer physical world may offer, nevertheless, I do not look into myself as though at a being in whom all activity is extinguished, but I look at one who is conscious of himself in a world of which I know nothing as long as I only permit myself to be stimulated by sense impressions and the ordinary impressions of the intellect.” At this moment the soul has the feeling that it has given birth, in the manner described above, to a new being in itself as the kernel of its soul nature, and this being possesses characteristics quite different from those that previously existed in the soul. The other experience consists in now having the old being like a second alongside the new. What, up to the present, the student knew as enclosing him becomes something that now confronts him, in a certain sense. He feels himself at times outside of what he had otherwise called his own being, his ego. It is as though he now lived in full consciousness in two egos. One of these is the being he has known up to the present. The other stands, like a being newly born, above it. The student feels how the first ego attains a certain independence of the second, just as the body of the human being has a certain independence of the first ego. — This experience is of great significance. For through it the human being knows what it means to live in the world that he strives to reach through training.
The second, the new-born ego, may now be trained to perceive within the spiritual world. There may be developed in this ego what, for the spiritual world, has the same significance the sense organs possess for the sensory-physical world. If this development has advanced to the necessary stage, then the human being will not only feel himself as a new-born ego, but he will now perceive spiritual facts and spiritual beings in his environment, just as he perceives the physical world through the physical senses. This is a third significant experience. In order completely to find his way about at this stage of spiritual training the human being must realize that, with the strengthening of soul powers, self-love and egotism will appear to a degree quite unknown to everyday soul-life. It would be a misunderstanding if someone were to believe that at this point only ordinary self-love is meant. This self-love increases at this stage of development to such a degree that it assumes the appearance of a nature force within the human soul, and in order to vanquish this strong egotism a rigorous strengthening of the will is necessary. This egotism is not produced by spiritual training; it is always present; it only comes to consciousness through spiritual experience. The training of the will must go hand in hand with the other spiritual training. A strong inclination exists to feel enraptured in the world that we have created for ourselves, and we must, in the manner described above, be able to extinguish, as it were, what we have striven to create with such great effort. In the imaginative world that has thus been reached the student must extinguish himself. Against this however, the strongest impulses of egotism wage war. — The belief may easily arise that the exercises of spiritual training are something external, disregarding the moral evolution of the soul. It must be said concerning this that the moral force that is necessary for the indicated victory over egotism cannot be attained unless the moral condition of the soul is brought to a corresponding level. Progress in spiritual training is not thinkable without a corresponding moral progress. Without moral force the described victory over egotism is not possible. All talk about true spiritual training not being at the same time moral training does not conform to facts. Only the person who does not know such an experience can make the following objection by asking, “How are we to know that we are dealing with realities and not with mere visions, hallucinations, and so forth, when we believe we have spiritual perceptions?” — The facts are such, however, that the student who has reached the characterized stage by proper training is just as able to distinguish his own visualization from spiritual reality as a man with a healthy mind is able to distinguish the thought of a hot piece of iron from an actual one that he touches with his hand. Healthy experience, and nothing else, shows the difference. In the spiritual world also, life itself is the touchstone. Just as we know that in the sense world the mental picture of a piece of iron, be it thought ever so hot, will not burn the fingers, the trained spiritual student knows whether or not he experiences a spiritual fact only in his imaginings or whether real facts or beings make an impression upon his awakened spiritual organs of perception. The general rules that we must observe during spiritual training in order not to fall victim to illusions in this regard will be described later.
It is of greatest importance that the student of the spiritual has acquired a quite definite soul state when he becomes conscious of a new-born ego. For through his ego the human being attains to control of his sensations, feelings, thoughts, instincts, passions, and desires. Perception and thought cannot be left to themselves in the soul. They must be regulated through attentive thinking. It is the ego that employs these laws of thinking and through them brings order into the life of visualization and thought. It is similar with desires, instincts, inclinations, and passions. The ethical principles become guides of these soul powers. Through moral judgment the ego becomes the guide of the soul in this realm. If the human being now draws a higher ego out of his ordinary ego, the latter becomes independent in a certain sense. From this ego just as much of living force is withdrawn as is bestowed upon the higher ego. Let us suppose, however, the case in which the human being has not yet developed a sufficient ability and firmness in the laws of thought and in his power of judgment, and he wishes to give birth to his higher ego at this stage of development. He will be able to leave behind for his everyday ego only so much thought power as he has previously developed. If the measure of regulated thinking is too small, then there will appear a disordered, confused, fantastic thinking and judgment in the ordinary ego that has become independent. Because the new-born ego can only be weak in such a personality, the disturbed lower ego will gain domination over supersensible perception, and man will not show equilibrium in his power of judgment in observing the supersensible world. If he had developed sufficient ability in logical thinking, he would be able, without fear, to permit the ordinary ego to have its independence. — This is also true in the domain of the ethical. If the human being has not attained firmness in moral judgment, if he has not gained sufficient control over his inclinations, instincts, and passions, then he will make his ordinary ego independent in a state in which these soul powers act. It may happen that the human being in describing the knowledge he has experienced in the supersensible is not governed by the same high sense of truth that guides him in what he brings to his consciousness in the physical outer world. With such a demoralized sense of truth, he might believe anything to be spiritual reality that in truth is only his own fantastic imagining. Into this sense of truth there must act firmness of ethical judgment, certainty of character, keenness of conscience, which are developed in the lower, first ego, before the higher, second ego becomes active for the purpose of supersensible cognition. — What is said here must not discourage training, but it must be taken very seriously.
Anyone who has the strong will to do what brings the first ego to inner certainty in the exercise of its functions need not recoil from the liberation of his second ego, brought about through spiritual training for the sake of supersensible cognition. But he must keep in mind that self-deception has great power over the human being when it is a question of his feeling himself “mature” enough for some step. In the spiritual training described here, man attains such a development of his thought life that it is impossible for him to encounter the dangers of going astray, often presumed to be inevitable. This development of thought acts in such a way that all necessary inner experiences appear, but that they occur in the soul without being accompanied by damaging aberrations of fantasy. Without corresponding thought development the experiences may call forth a profound uncertainty in the soul. The method stressed here causes the experiences to appear in such a way that the student becomes completely familiar with them, just as he becomes familiar with the perceptions of the physical world in a healthy soul state. Through the development of thought life he becomes, as it were, an observer of what he experiences in himself, while, without this thought life, he stands heedless within the experience.
In a factual training certain qualities are mentioned that the student who wishes to find his way into the higher worlds should acquire through practice. These are, above all, control of the soul over its train of thought, over its will, and its feelings. The way in which this control is to be acquired through practice has a twofold purpose. On the one hand, the soul is to be imbued with firmness, certainty, and equilibrium to such a degree that it preserves these qualities, although from its being a second ego is born. On the other hand, this second ego is to be furnished with strength and inner consistency of character.
What is necessary for the thinking of man in spiritual training is, above all, objectivity. In the physical-sensory world, life is the human ego's great teacher of objectivity. Were the soul to let thoughts wander about aimlessly, it would be immediately compelled to let itself be corrected by life if it did not wish to come into conflict with it. The soul must think according to the course of the facts of life. If now the human being turns his attention away from the physical-sensory world, he lacks the compulsory correction of the latter. If his thinking is then unable to be its own corrective, it must become irrational. Therefore the thinking of the student of the spiritual must be trained in such a manner that it is able to give to itself direction and goal. Thinking must be its own instructor in inner firmness and the capacity to hold the attention strictly to one object. For this reason, suitable “thought exercises” are not to be undertaken with unfamiliar and complicated objects, but with those that are simple and familiar. Anyone who is able for months at a time to concentrate his thoughts daily at least for five minutes upon an ordinary object (for example a needle, a pencil, or any other simple object), and during this time to exclude all thoughts that have no bearing on the subject, has achieved a great deal in this regard. (We may contemplate a new object daily, or the same one for several days.) Also, the one who considers himself a thinker as a result of scientific training should not disdain to prepare himself for spiritual training in this manner. For if for a certain length of time we fasten our thoughts upon an object that is well known to us, we can be sure that we think in conformity with facts. If we ask ourselves what a pencil is composed of, how its materials are prepared, how they are brought together afterward, when pencils were invented, and so forth, we then conform our thoughts more to reality than if we reflect upon the origin of man, or upon the nature of life. Through simple thought exercises we acquire greater ability for factual thinking concerning the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions than through complicated and learned ideas. For in the first place it is not at all a question of thinking about this or that, but of thinking factually by means of inner force. If we have schooled ourselves in regard to factuality by a physical-sensory process, easily surveyed, then thought becomes accustomed to function in accordance with facts even though it does not feel itself controlled by the physical world of the senses and its laws, and we rid ourselves of the habit of letting our thoughts wander without relation to facts.
The soul must become a ruler in the sphere of the will as it must be in the world of thought. In the physical-sensory world, it is life itself that appears as the ruler. It emphasizes this or that need of the human being, and the will feels itself impelled to satisfy these needs. In higher training man must become accustomed to obey his own commands strictly. He who becomes accustomed to this will be less and less inclined to desire the non-essential. Dissatisfaction and instability in the life of will rest upon the desire for things the realization of which we cannot conceive clearly. Such dissatisfaction may bring the entire mental life into disorder when a higher ego is about to emerge from the soul. It is a good practice if one gives oneself for months, at a certain time of the day, the following command: Today, at this definite time, I shall perform this or that action. One then gradually becomes able to determine the time for this action and the nature of the thing to be done so as to permit its being carried out with great exactness. Thus one lifts oneself above the damaging attitude of mind found in, “I should like this, I want that,” in which we do not at all consider the possibility of its accomplishment. A great personality — Goethe — lets a seeress say, “Him I love who desires the impossible.” 2Goethe: Faust 11. And Goethe himself says, “To live in the idea means to treat the impossible as though it were possible.” 3Goethe: Verses in Prose. Such expressions must not be used as objections to what is presented here. For the demand of Goethe and his seeress, Manto, can only be fulfilled by someone who has trained himself to desire what is possible, in order then to be able, through his strong will, to treat the “impossible” so that it is transformed through his will into the possible.
In regard to the world of feeling the soul should attain for spiritual training a certain degree of calmness. It is necessary for that purpose that the soul become ruler over expressions of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain. It is just in regard to the acquiring of this ability that much prejudice may result. One might imagine that one would become dull and without sympathy in regard to one's fellowmen if one should not feel joy with the joyful and with the painful, pain. Yet this is not the point in question. With the joyful the soul should rejoice, with sadness it should feel pain. But it should acquire the ability to control the expression of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain. If one endeavors to do this, one will soon notice that one does not become less sensitive, but on the contrary more receptive to all that is joyous and sorrowful in one's environment than one was previously. To be sure, if one wishes to acquire the ability with which we are concerned here, one must strictly observe oneself for a long period of time. One must see to it that one is able fully to sympathize with joy and sorrow without losing one's self-control so that one gives way to an involuntary expression of one's feelings. It is not the justified pain that one should suppress, but involuntary weeping; not the horror of an evil action, but the blind rage of anger; not attention to danger, but fruitless fear, and so forth. — Only through such practice does the student of the spiritual attain the tranquility of mind that is necessary to prevent the soul at the birth of the higher ego, and, above all, during its activity, from leading a second, abnormal life like a sort of Doppelganger — soul double — along side this higher ego. It is just in regard to these things that one should not surrender oneself to any sort of self-deception. It may appear to many a one that he already possesses a certain equanimity in ordinary life and therefore does not need this exercise. It is just such a person who doubly needs it. It may be quite possible to be calm when confronting the things of ordinary life, but when one ascends into a higher world, the lack of equilibrium that heretofore was only suppressed may assert itself all the more. It must be grasped that for spiritual training what one already appeared to possess previously is of less importance than the need to practice, according to exact rules, what one lacks. Although this sentence appears contradictory, it is, nevertheless, correct. Even though life has taught us this or that, the abilities we have acquired by ourselves serve the cause of spiritual training. If life has brought us excitability, we should break ourselves of the habit; if life has brought us complacency, then we should through self-education arouse ourselves to such a degree that the expression of the soul corresponds to the impression received. Anyone who never laughs about anything has just as little control of his life as someone who, without any control whatever, is continually given to laughter.
For the control of thought and feeling there is a further means of education in the acquirement of the faculty that we may call positiveness. There is a beautiful legend that tells of how the Christ Jesus, accompanied by some other persons, passed by a dead dog lying on the roadside. While the others turned aside from the hideous spectacle, the Christ Jesus spoke admiringly of the animal's beautiful teeth. One can school oneself in order to attain the attitude of soul toward the world shown by this legend. The erroneous, the bad, the ugly should not prevent the soul from finding the true, the good, and the beautiful wherever it is present. This positiveness should not be confused with non-criticism, with the arbitrary closing of the eyes to the bad, the false, and the inferior. If you admire the “beautiful teeth” of a dead animal, you also see the decaying corpse. But this corpse does not prevent your seeing the beautiful teeth. One cannot consider the bad good and the false true, but it is possible to attain the ability not to be deterred by evil from seeing good, and by error from seeing truth.
Thought linked with will undergoes a certain maturing if we permit ourselves never to be robbed by previous experiences of the unbiased receptivity for new experiences. For the student of the spiritual the following thought should entirely lose its meaning, “I have never heard that, I do not believe that.” It should be his aim, during specific periods of time, to learn something new on every occasion from everything and everybody. From every breath of air, from every leaf, from the babbling of children one can learn something if one is prepared to bring to one's aid a certain point of view that one has not made use of up to the present. It will, however, be easily possible in regard to such an ability to go wide of the mark. One should not in any way disregard, at any particular stage of life, one's previous experiences. One should judge what one experiences in the present by one's experiences of the past. This is placed upon one scale of the balance; upon the other, however, must be placed the inclination of the student continually to experience the new. Above all, there must be faith in the possibility that new experiences may contradict the old.
Thus we have named five capacities of the soul that the student must make his own by correct training: Control of the direction of thought; control of the impulses of will; calmness in joy and sorrow; positiveness in judging the world; impartiality in our attitude toward life. Anyone who has employed certain consecutive periods of time for the purpose of acquiring these capacities will still be subject to the necessity of bringing them into harmonious concord in his soul. He will be under the necessity of practicing them simultaneously, in pairs, or three and one, and so forth, in order to bring about harmony.
The exercises just characterized are indicated by the methods of spiritual training because by being conscientiously carried out they not only effect in the student what has been designated above as a direct result, but indirectly much else follows, which is needed on the path to the spiritual worlds. Whoever carries out these exercises to a sufficient degree will encounter in the process many short comings and defects in his soul-life, and he will find precisely the means required by him for strengthening and safeguarding his intellectual life, his life of feeling, and his character. He will certainly have need of many other exercises, according to his abilities, his temperament, and character; such exercises will follow, however, when those named are sufficiently carried out. The student will indeed notice that the exercises described yield, indirectly and by degrees, what did not in the first place appear to be in them. If, for example, someone has too little self-confidence, he will be able to notice after a certain time that through the exercises the necessary self-confidence has developed. It is the same in regard to other soul characteristics. (Special and more detailed exercises may be found in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment.) — It is significant that the student of the spiritual be able to increase the indicated abilities to ever higher degrees. He must bring the control of thought and feeling to such a stage that the soul acquires the power of establishing periods of complete inner tranquility, during which the student holds back from his spirit and heart all that everyday outer life brings of joy and sorrow, of satisfaction and affliction, indeed, of duties and demands. During such periods only those things should enter the soul that the soul itself permits to enter during the state of meditation. In regard to this, a prejudice may easily arise. The opinion might develop that the student might become estranged from life and its duties if he withdraws from it in heart and spirit during certain periods of the day. In reality, however, this is not at all the case. Anyone who surrenders himself, in the manner described, to periods of inner tranquility and peace will, during these periods, engender so many and such strong forces for the duties of outer life that as a result he will not, indeed, perform his duties more poorly, but, certainly, in a better fashion. — It is of great benefit if in such periods the student detaches himself completely from the thoughts of his personal affairs, if he is able to elevate himself to what concerns not only himself but mankind in general. If he is able to fill his soul with the communications from the higher spiritual world and if they are able to arouse his interest to just as high a degree as is the case with personal troubles or affairs, then his soul will gather from it fruit of special value. — Whoever, in this way, endeavors to regulate his soul-life will also attain the possibility of self-observation through which he observes his own affairs with the same tranquility as if they were those of others. The ability to behold one's own experiences, one's own joys and sorrows as though they were the joys and sorrows of others is a good preparation for spiritual training. One gradually attains the necessary degree of this quality if, after one has finished one's daily tasks, one permits the panorama of one's daily experiences to pass before the eyes of the spirit. One must see oneself in a picture within one's experiences; that is, one must observe oneself in one's daily life as though from outside. One attains a certain ability in such self-observation if one begins with the visualization of detached portions of this daily life. One then becomes increasingly clever and skillful in such retrospect, so that, after a longer period of practice, one will be able to form a complete picture within a brief span of time. This looking at one's experiences backward has a special value for spiritual training for the reason that it brings the soul to a point where it is able to release itself in thinking from the previous habit of merely following in thought the course of everyday events. In thought-retrospect one visualizes correctly, but one is not held to the sensory course of events. One needs this exercise to familiarize oneself with the spiritual world. Thought strengthens itself in this way in a healthy manner. It is therefore also good not only to review in retrospect one's daily life, but to retrace in reverse order, for instance, the course of a drama, a narrative, or a melody. — More and more it will become the ideal for the student to relate himself to the life events he encounters in such a way that, with inner certainty and soul tranquility, he allows them to approach him and does not judge them according to his soul condition, but according to their inner significance and their inner value. It is just by looking upon this ideal that he will create for himself the soul basis for the surrender of himself to the above described meditations on symbolic and other thoughts and feelings.
The conditions described here must be fulfilled, because supersensible experience is built upon the foundation on which one stands in everyday soul life before one enters the supersensible world. In a twofold manner all supersensible experience is dependent upon the starting point at which the soul stands before it enters into this world. Anyone who, from the beginning, does not consider making a healthy judgment the foundation of his spiritual training will develop in himself supersensible faculties with which he perceives the spiritual world inexactly and incorrectly. His spiritual organs of perception will, so to speak, unfold incorrectly. Just as one cannot see correctly in the sense world with eyes that are faulty and diseased, one cannot perceive correctly with spiritual organs that have not been constructed upon the foundation of a healthy capacity for judgment. — Whoever makes the start with an immoral soul condition elevates himself to the spiritual world in a way by which his spiritual perception becomes stupefied and clouded. He stands confronting the supersensible worlds like someone observing the sensory world in a stupor. Such a person will, to be sure, make no important statements. The spiritual observer in his state of stupor is, however, more awake than a human being in everyday consciousness. His assertions, therefore, will become errors in regard to the spiritual world.
The inner excellence of the stage of imaginative cognition is attained through the fact that the soul meditations described are supported by what we may call familiarizing oneself with sense-free thinking. If one forms a thought based upon observation in the physical sense world, this thought is not sense-free. It is, however, not a fact that man is able to form only such thoughts. Human thought does not need to become empty and without content when it refuses to be filled with the results of sense-observations. The safest and most evident way for the student of the spiritual to acquire such sense-free thinking is to make his own, in thinking, the facts of the higher world that are communicated to him by spiritual science. It is not possible to observe these facts by means of the physical senses. Nevertheless, the student will notice that they can be grasped mentally if he has sufficient patience and persistence. We are not able to carry on research in the higher worlds without training, nor can we make observations in that world; yet without higher training we are able to understand the descriptions of spiritual researchers, and if someone asks, “How can I accept in good faith what these researchers say since I am unable to perceive the spiritual world myself?” then this is completely unfounded. For it is entirely possible merely by reflecting on what is given, to attain the certain conviction that what is communicated is true, and if anyone is unable to form this conviction through reflection, it is not because it is impossible to believe something one cannot see, but solely because his reflection has not been sufficiently thorough, comprehensive and unprejudiced. In order to gain clarity in regard to this point we must realize that human thinking, when it arouses itself with inner energy, is able to comprehend more than is usually presumed. For in thought itself an inner entity is already present that is connected with the supersensible world. The soul is usually not conscious of this connection because it is accustomed to developing the thought faculty only by employing it in the sense world. It therefore regards communications from the super-sensible world as something incomprehensible. These communications, however, are not only comprehensible to a mode of thinking taught through spiritual training, but for every sort of thinking that is fully conscious of its own power and that wishes to employ it. — By making what spiritual research offers increasingly one's own, one accustoms oneself to a mode of thinking that does not derive its content from sense-observations. We learn to recognize how, in the inner reaches of the soul, thought weaves into thought, how thought seeks thought, although the thought associations are not effected by the power of sense-observation. The essential in this is the fact that one becomes aware of how the thought world has an inner life, of how one, by really thinking, finds oneself already in the region of a living supersensible world. One says to oneself, “There is something in me that fashions a thought organism; I am, nevertheless, at one with this something.” By surrendering oneself to sense-free thinking one becomes conscious of the existence of something essential flowing into our inner life, just as the characteristics of sense objects flow into us through the medium of our physical organs when we observe by means of our senses. The observer of the sense world says to himself, “Outside in space there is a rose; it is not strange to me, for it makes itself known to me through its color and fragrance.” One needs now only to be sufficiently unprejudiced in order to say to oneself when sense-free thinking acts in one, “Something real proclaims its presence in me that binds thought to thought, fashioning a thought organism.” But the sensations experienced by observing the objects of the outer sense world are different from the sensations experienced when spiritual reality manifests itself in sense-free thinking. The observer of sense objects experiences the rose as something external to himself. The observer who has surrendered himself to sense-free thought feels the spiritual reality announcing itself as though it existed within him, he feels himself one with it. Whoever, more or less consciously, only admits as real what confronts him like an external object, will naturally not be able to have the feeling, “Whatever has the nature of being in itself may also announce itself to me by my being united with it as though I were one with it.” In order in this regard to see correctly, one must be able to have the following inner experience. One must learn to distinguish between the thought associations one creates arbitrarily and those one experiences in oneself when one silences this arbitrary volition. In the latter case one may then say, “I remain quite silent within myself; I produce no thought associations; I surrender myself to what ‘thinks in me.’ ” Then one is fully justified in saying, “Something possessing the nature of being acts within me,” just as one is justified in saying, “A rose acts upon me when I see its red color, when I smell its fragrance.” — In this connection, there lies no contradiction in the fact that the content of one's thoughts is derived from the communications of the spiritual researcher. The thoughts are, indeed, already present when one surrenders to them; but one cannot think them if one does not, in every case, re-create them anew within the soul. What is important is the fact that the spiritual researcher calls up thoughts in his listeners and readers that they must first draw forth out of themselves, while the one who describes sense reality points to something that may be observed by listeners and readers in the sense world.
(The path is absolutely safe upon which the communications of spiritual science lead us to sense-free thinking. There is, however, still another path that is safer and above all more exact, but it is also more difficult for many human beings. This path is presented in my books, A Theory of Knowledge Based on Goethe's World Conception, and Philosophy of Freedom. These writings offer what human thought can acquire if thinking does not give itself up to the impressions of the physical-sensory world, but only to itself. It is then pure thought, which acts in the human being like a living entity, and not thought that merely indulges in memories of the sensory. In the writings mentioned above nothing is inserted from the communications of spiritual science itself. Yet it is shown that pure thinking, merely active within itself, may throw light on the problems of world, life, and man. These writings stand at an important point intermediate between cognition of the sense world and that of the spiritual world. They offer what thinking can gain when it elevates itself above sense-observation, while still avoiding entering upon spiritual research. Whoever permits these writings to act upon his entire soul nature, stands already within the spiritual world; it presents itself to him, however, as a world of thought. He who feels himself in the position to permit such an intermediate stage to act upon him, travels a safe path, and through it he is able to gain a feeling toward the higher world that will bear for him the most beautiful fruit throughout all future time.)
The object of meditation on the previously characterized symbolic mental images and feelings is, correctly speaking, the development of the higher organs of perception within the human astral body. They are created from the substance of this astral body. These new organs of observation open up a new world, and in this new world man becomes acquainted with himself as a new ego. The new organs of observation are to be distinguished from the organs of the physical sense world through the fact of their being active organs. Whereas eyes and ears remain passive, permitting light and sound to act upon them, the soul-spirit organs of perception are continually active while perceiving and they seize upon their objects and facts, as it were, in full consciousness. This results in the feeling that soul-spirit cognition is the act of uniting with the corresponding facts, is really a “living within them.” — The soul-spirit organs that are being individually developed may, by way of comparison, be called “lotus flowers,” according to the forms which they present imaginatively to supersensible consciousness. (Granted, it must be clear that such a designation has nothing more to do with the case than the expression “chamber” has to do with the case when we speak of the “chamber of the heart.”) Through quite definite methods of inner meditation the astral body is affected in such a way that one or another of the soul-spirit organs, one or another of the “lotus flowers,” is formed. After all that has been described in this book it ought to be superfluous to accentuate the fact that these “organs of observation” are not to be imagined as something that, in the mental representation of its sense-image, is a picture of its reality. These “organs” are supersensible and consist of a definitely formed soul activity; they exist only as far and as long as this soul activity is practiced. The existence of these organs in the human being produces nothing of a sensory character any more than human thinking produces some sort of a physical “vapor.” Whoever insists on visualizing the supersensory as something sensory becomes involved in misunderstandings. In spite of the superfluity of this remark, it is made here because again and again there are those who accept the supersensory as a fact, but who, in their thoughts, desire only what is sensory, and because again and again there appear opponents of supersensory cognition who believe that the spiritual researcher speaks of “lotus flowers” as though they were delicate, physical structures. Every correct meditation that is made in regard to imaginative cognition has its effect upon one or another organ. (In my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, certain methods of meditation, and exercises that affect one or another of the organs, are outlined.) Proper training sets up the several exercises of the student of the spiritual and arranges them to follow one another so that the organs are able to develop correspondingly, either singly, in groups, or consecutively. In connection with this development the spiritual student must have great patience and endurance. Anyone having only the measure of patience possessed, as a rule, by most human beings through the ordinary relationships of life will find that this does not suffice. For it takes a long time, often a very long time, before the organs are sufficiently developed to permit their employment by the spiritual student in perceiving the spiritual world. This is the moment when something occurs for him that may be called illumination, in contrast to the preparation or purification consisting of the exercises that develop the organs. (We speak of purification, because the corresponding exercises purify the student in a certain sphere of his inner life of all that springs only from the sensory world of observation.) It may happen that the student, even before his actual illumination occurs, may experience repeatedly “flashes of light” coming from a higher world. He should accept such experiences gratefully. Through them he can already become a witness for the spiritual world. But he should not waver if this does not occur during this period of preparation, which may perhaps seem to him altogether too long. If he exhibits any impatience whatever “because he does not yet see anything,” he has not yet gained the right attitude toward a higher world. This attitude can only be grasped by someone for whom the exercises performed in his training can be, as it were, an end in themselves. These exercises are, in truth, work performed on the soul-spirit nature, that is to say, on the student's own astral body, and although he “sees nothing,” he may “feel” that he is working on his soul-spirit nature. If, however, one forms a definite opinion right at the beginning of what one actually expects to “see,” one will not have this feeling. Then one will consider as nothing what in truth is of immeasurable significance. But one should be subtly observant of everything one experiences during the exercises and that is so fundamentally different from all experiences in the sense world. One will then certainly notice that one's astral body, upon which one is working, is not a neutral substance, but that in it there lives a totally different world of which one knows nothing in one's life of the senses. Higher beings are working upon the astral body, just as the outer physical-sensory world works upon the physical body, and one encounters this higher life in one's own astral body if one does not close oneself to it. If someone repeatedly says to himself, “I perceive nothing!” then, in most cases, he has imagined that spiritual perception must take place in this or that manner, and because he does not perceive what he imagines he should see, he says, “I see nothing!”
If the student has acquired the right attitude toward the exercises of spiritual training, they will constitute something for him that he loves more and more for its own sake. He then knows that through the practice itself he stands in a world of soul and spirit, and with patience and serenity he awaits what will result. This attitude may arise in the consciousness of the student most favorably in the following words, “I will do everything that is proper in the way of exercises, and I know that just as much will come to me at the proper time as is important for me. I do not demand it impatiently, but I am ever ready to receive it.”
It is not valid to object that “the spiritual student must thus grope about in the dark, perhaps for an immeasurably long time; for he can only know clearly that he is on the right path in his exercises when the results appear.” It is untrue that only results can bring knowledge of the correctness of the exercises. If the student takes the right attitude toward them, he finds that the satisfaction he draws from the practice gives him the assurance that what he is doing is right; he does not have to wait for the results. Correct practice in the sphere of spiritual training calls forth satisfaction that is not mere satisfaction, but knowledge that is to say, the knowledge that he is doing something which convinces him that he is making progress in the right direction. Every spiritual student may have this knowledge at every moment, provided he is subtly attentive to his experiences. If he does not employ this attention then the experiences escape him, as is the case with a pedestrian who, lost in thought, does not see the trees on both sides of the road, although he would see them were he to direct his attention to them. — It is not at all desirable that a result be hastened different from the one that must always occur from correct practice. For this result might easily be only the smallest part of what should actually appear. In regard to spiritual development a partial success is often the reason for a strong retardation of the complete success. The movement among such forms of spiritual life that correspond to the partial success dulls the sensitivity in regard to the influences of the forces that lead to higher stages of evolution, and what we may have gained by having “peered” into the spirit world is only an illusion, for this “peering” cannot furnish the truth, but only a mirage.
The psycho-spiritual organs, the lotus flowers, are fashioned so as to appear to supersensible consciousness, in the student undergoing training, as though located in the neighborhood of certain organs of the physical body. From among these soul organs the following will be mentioned here. First, the one that is felt between the eyebrows — the so-called two-petalled lotus flower; the one in the neighborhood of the larynx — the sixteen-petalled lotus flower; a third in the heart region — the twelve-petalled lotus flower; a fourth in the region of the solar plexus. Other similar organs appear in the neighborhood of other parts of the physical body. (The names “two-petalled” or “sixteen-petalled” may be used because the corresponding organs may be likened to flowers of a corresponding number of petals.)
One becomes conscious of the lotus flowers through the astral body. The moment one has developed one or another of these organs, one is aware of its existence. One feels that one can employ it and through its use really enter into a higher world. The impressions that one receives from that world still resemble in many ways those of the physical-sensory world. He who possesses imaginative cognition will be able to speak of the new, higher world in such a way that he designates the impressions as sensations of heat or cold, as perceptions of tones and words, as effects of light and color, for he experiences them as such. But he is aware that these perceptions in the imaginative world express something quite different from sense reality. He recognizes that behind them stand not physical material, but soul-spirit causes. If he experiences something like an impression of heat, he does not, for instance, ascribe it to a piece of hot iron, but he considers it the outflow of a soul process that, up to the present, he has only known in his inner soul-life. He knows that behind imaginative perceptions stand soul and spiritual things and processes just as behind physical perceptions stand material physical beings and facts. — Beside this similarity of the imaginative with the physical world there is, however, a significant difference. Certain phenomena in the physical world appear quite different in the imaginative world. In the former can be observed a continual growth and decay of things, an alternation of birth and death. In the imaginative world a continual transformation of one thing into another takes the place of these phenomena. One sees, for example, the decay of a plant in the physical world. In the imaginative world, in proportion to the withering of the plant the growth of another formation makes its appearance that is not perceptible physically and into which the decaying plant is gradually transformed. When the plant has disappeared, this formation stands completely developed in its place. Birth and death are ideas that lose their significance in the imaginative world. In their place appears the concept of transformation of one thing into another. — Because this is so, the truths about the being of man become accessible to imaginative cognition, truths that have been described in Chapter 2 of this book, entitled “The Essential Nature of Mankind.” To physical-sensory perception only the processes of the physical body are perceptible. They occur in the “region of birth and death.” The other members of human nature — life body, sentient body, and ego — come under the law of transformation, and perception of them is acquired through imaginative cognition. Whoever has advanced to this point perceives the releasing itself from the physical body of what at death continues to live on in another state of existence.
Development, however, does not stop with the imaginative world. The human being who might wish to stop in this world would perceive the beings undergoing transformation, but he would be unable to explain the processes of transformation; he would be unable to orientate himself in the newly attained world. The imaginative world is an unstable region. In it there exist everywhere constant motion and transformation; nowhere are there points of rest. Such points of rest are attained by man only when he has developed himself beyond the stage of imaginative cognition to the stage that may be called “cognition through inspiration.” — It is not necessary that a person who seeks cognition of the supersensible world develop himself in such a way that he advance first to the possession of a full degree of imaginative cognition, and then only advance to “Inspiration.” His exercises may be so arranged that what may lead to imagination and to inspiration proceeds hand in hand. He will then, after a certain time, enter a higher world in which he not only perceives, but in which he is able to orientate himself, and which he can interpret. To be sure, this progress will, as a rule, be of such a character that first of all some of the phenomena of the imaginative world manifest themselves to him; then after a time he will experience the feeling, “Now I am beginning to orientate myself.” — The world of inspiration is, nevertheless, something quite new in comparison with the world of mere imagination. Through the latter one perceives the transformation of one process into another; through the former one learns to know the inner qualities of beings who transform themselves. Through imagination one learns to know the soul-expression of beings; through inspiration one penetrates into their inner spiritual nature. One recognizes above all a host of spiritual beings and discerns a great number of relationships between one being and another. One has to deal with a multitude of individual beings also in the physical-sensory world; in the world of inspiration, however, this multitude is of a different character. There each being has a quite definite relationship to others, not as in the physical world through external influences, but through its inner constitution. If we perceive a being in the world of inspiration, there is no evidence of an outer influence upon another being, which might be compared with the effect of one physical being upon another, but a relationship exists between two beings through their inner constitution. Let us compare this relationship with a relationship in the physical world, by selecting for comparison the relationship between the separate sounds or letters of a word. Take, for instance, the word “man.” It is produced through the concordance of the sounds m-a-n. There is no impulse or other external influence passing over from the m to the a; both sounds act together within the whole through their inner constitution. Therefore observation in the world of inspiration may only be compared with reading, — and the beings in the world of inspiration act upon the observer like the letters of an alphabet, which he must learn to know and the interrelationships of which must unfold themselves to him like a supersensible script. Spiritual science, therefore, may call cognition through inspiration — speaking figuratively — the reading of secret or occult script.
How we may read by means of this occult script, and how we may communicate what is read, will now be made clear by means of the preceding chapters of this book itself. How the human being takes shape out of various members was described at the very outset. It was then shown how the cosmic being, within which the human being develops, passes through the various states of Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth. The perceptions through which one can, on the one hand, cognize the members of the human being and, on the other, the consecutive states of the Earth and its preceding transformations, disclose themselves to imaginative knowledge. It is, however, also necessary that it be known what relationships exist between the Saturn state and the human physical body, the Sun state and the ether body, and so forth. It must be shown that the germinal human physical body has come already into existence during the Saturn state, and that it has evolved further to its present form during the Sun, Moon, and Earth states. It was necessary to show also, for example, what transformations have taken place within the human being as a result of the separation of the sun from the Earth, and similarly through the separation of the moon. It was necessary also to describe the powers and beings who co-operated in order that such transformations could occur in humanity as are expressed in the transformations during the Atlantean period and also during the successive periods of the ancient Indian, the ancient Persian, the Egyptian cultures, and the subsequent periods of culture. The description of these relationships does not result from imaginative perception, but from cognition through inspiration, by reading the occult script. For this sort of “reading” the perceptions of imagination are like letter symbols or sounds. This “reading,” however, is not only necessary for the purpose of explaining what has just been described, but it would be impossible to understand the life course of the whole human being were it only perceived through imaginative cognition. One would perceive, indeed, how the soul-spiritual members are released at death from what remains in the physical world, but one would not understand the relationships between what happens to the human being after death and the preceding and succeeding states, were one unable to orientate oneself within the imaginatively perceived.. Without cognition through inspiration the imaginative world would remain like writing at which we stare but which we cannot read.
When the student of the spiritual advances from imagination to inspiration he soon sees how incorrect it would be to relinquish the understanding of the macrocosmic phenomena and to limit himself only to facts that, so to say, touch upon immediate human interests. Someone who is not initiated into these things might well say the following. “It appears to me only necessary to learn about the fate of the human soul after death; if I am told something about that, it will suffice; why does spiritual science wish to demonstrate such distant things as the Saturn or Sun state, and the sun and moon separation, and so forth?” Anyone properly informed about these things learns that real knowledge of what he wishes to know is never acquired without an understanding of what seems to him so unnecessary. A description of the human states after death remains completely unintelligible and worthless if man is unable to connect them with concepts that are derived from such remote matters. Even the simplest observation of the scientist of the supersensible makes his acquaintance with such things necessary. If, for example, a plant makes the transition from blossom to fruit, the human observer of the supersensible sees a transformation taking place in an astral being that during the period of flowering has overshadowed the plant from above and enclosed it like a cloud. Had the fructification not occurred, then this astral being would have made a transition into quite a different shape from the one it has assumed in consequence of fructification. Now one understands the entire process perceived by supersensible observation, if one has learned to understand its nature through the macrocosmic process through which the Earth and all its inhabitants have passed at the time of the sun separation. Before fructification, the plant is in a position similar to the entire Earth prior to the sun separation. After fructification, the plant blossom shows itself in a condition similar to the Earth after the sun had severed itself and the moon forces were still present in it. If one has made one's own the concepts that may be gained by studying the sun separation, one then understands adequately the meaning of the process of plant fructification. One will say that the plant is in a sun state before fructification, in a moon state after it. For it is a fact that even the smallest process in the world may be grasped only if we recognize that it constitutes a copy of macrocosmic processes. Otherwise its very nature remains unintelligible, just as Raphael's Madonna would remain unintelligible if nothing were to be seen but a small blue speck when the rest of the picture were covered up. Everything that occurs in the human being is a copy of macrocosmic processes that have to do with his existence. If one wishes to understand the observations of supersensible consciousness concerning the phenomena occurring between birth and death, and again between death and rebirth, one can do this if one has acquired the faculty of deciphering the imaginative observations through the concepts acquired by the study of the macrocosmic processes. — This study gives us the key to the comprehension of human life. Therefore, in the sense of spiritual science, observation of Saturn, Sun, and Moon is at the same time observation of man.
Through inspiration one acquires the knowledge of the relationships between the beings of the higher world. It is possible through a higher stage of cognition to understand the inner nature of these beings themselves. This stage of cognition may be designated intuitive cognition. (Intuition is a word misused in everyday life for an obscure, uncertain insight into a fact, that is, for a certain idea which at times agrees with truth but the justification of which is at the time not provable. What is meant here has naturally nothing to do with this sort of intuition. Intuition denotes here a cognition of the highest, most illuminating clarity, and, if one has it, one is conscious in the fullest sense of its justification.) — To have knowledge of a sense-being means to stand outside it and to judge it according to the external impression. To have knowledge of a spiritual being through intuition means to have become completely one with it, to have become united with its inner nature. Step by step the student of the spiritual ascends to such knowledge. Imagination leads him to sense the perceptions no longer as outer characteristics of beings, but to recognize in them the outpouring of something psycho-spiritual; inspiration leads him further into the inner nature of beings. He learns through it to understand what these beings are to each other; with intuition he penetrates into the beings themselves. — The significance of intuition also may be shown by the descriptions given in this book. In the preceding chapters, not only the course of Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions was described, but it was told that beings participate in this development in the most varied ways. Thrones or Spirits of Will, Spirits of Wisdom, of Motion, and others were mentioned. In the Earth evolution mention was made of the spirits Lucifer and Ahriman. The construction of the cosmos was traced back to the beings who participate in it. What may be learned about these beings is won through intuitive cognition. This faculty is also necessary if one wishes to have a knowledge of the course of human life. What is released after death from the human bodily nature goes through various states in the subsequent period. The states directly after death might be described in some measure through imaginative cognition.
What, however, takes place when man advances further into the period between death and rebirth would have to remain quite unintelligible to imaginative cognition, if inspiration did not come to the rescue. Only inspiration is able to discover what may be said about the life of man in the land of spirits after purification. Then something appears for which inspiration no longer suffices, where it reaches, so to say, the limits of understanding. There is a period in human evolution between death and rebirth when the being of man is accessible only to intuition. This part of the being of man, however, is always present in him; and if we wish to understand it according to its true inner nature, we must investigate it by means of intuition also in the period between birth and death. Whoever wished to fathom the nature of man by means of imagination and inspiration alone, would miss the innermost processes of his being that take place from incarnation to incarnation. Only intuitive cognition, therefore, makes possible an adequate research into repeated earth lives and into karma. The truth communicated about these processes must originate from research by means of intuitive cognition. — If man himself wishes to have a knowledge of his own inner being, he can only acquire this through intuition. By means of it he perceives what progresses in him from earth life to earth life.
Man is able to attain knowledge by means of inspiration and intuition only through soul-spirit exercises. They resemble those that have been described as meditation for the attainment of imagination. While, however, those exercises that lead to imagination are linked to the impressions of the sensory-physical world, this link must disappear more and more in the exercises for inspiration. In order to make clear to himself what has to happen there, let a person consider again the symbol of the rose cross. If he ponders upon this symbol he has an image before him, the parts of which have been taken from the impressions of the sense world: the black color of the cross, the roses, and so forth. The combining of these parts into a rose cross has not been taken from the physical sense world. If now the student of the spirit attempts to let the black cross and also the red roses as pictures of sense realities disappear entirely from his consciousness and only to retain in his soul the spiritual activity that has combined these parts, then he has a means for meditation that leads him by degrees to inspiration. One may place the following question before one's soul. What have I done inwardly in order to combine cross and rose into a symbol? What I have done — my own soul process — I wish to hold fast to; I let the picture itself, however, disappear from my consciousness. Then I wish to feel within me all that my soul has done in order to bring the image into existence, but I do not wish to hold the image itself; I wish to live quite inwardly within my own activity, which has created the image. Thus, I do not intend to meditate on an image, but to dwell in my own image-creating soul activity. Such meditation must be carried out in regard to many symbols. This then leads to cognition through inspiration. Another example would be the following. One meditates on the thought of a growing and decaying plant. One allows to arise in the soul the image of a slowly growing plant as it shoots up out of the seed, as it unfolds leaf on leaf, until it develops flower and fruit. Then again, one meditates on how it begins to fade until its complete dissolution. One acquires gradually by meditating on such an image a feeling of growth and decay for which the plant remains a mere symbol. From this feeling, if this exercise is continued with perseverance, there may arise the imagination of the transformation that underlies physical growth and decay. If one wishes, however, to attain the corresponding state of inspiration, one has to carry out the exercise differently. The student must recall his own soul activity that has gained the visualization of growth and decay from the image of the plant. He must now let the plant disappear completely from consciousness and only meditate upon what he has himself done inwardly. Only through such exercises is it possible to ascend to inspiration. In the beginning it will not be entirely easy for the student of the spirit to comprehend completely how he should go about such an exercise. The reason for this is that the human being who is accustomed to have his inner life determined by outer impressions immediately finds himself uncertain and wavering when he has to unfold a soul-life that has discarded all connection with outer impressions. In a still higher degree than in the acquiring of imagination the student must be clear, in regard to these exercises that lead to inspiration, that he ought only to carry them out when he accompanies them with all those precautionary measures that can lead to safeguarding and strengthening of his power of discrimination, his life of feeling, and his character. If he takes these precautions, then he will have a twofold result. In the first place, he will not, through these exercises, lose the equilibrium of his personality during supersensible perception; secondly, he will at the same time gain the faculty of being able actually to carry out what is required in these exercises. He will maintain in regard to them that they are difficult only so long as he has not yet acquired a quite definite soul condition, quite definite feelings and sensations. He will soon gain understanding and also ability for the exercises, if in patience and perseverance he fosters in his soul such inner faculties as favor the unfolding of supersensible knowledge. If he grows accustomed to withdrawing into himself frequently in such a way that he is less concerned with brooding on himself than with quietly arranging and working over his life-experiences, he will gain much. He will see that his thoughts and feelings are enriched if he brings one life-experience into relationship with another. He will become aware to what a high degree he experiences something new not only by having new impressions and new experiences, but also by permitting the old to work in him. If he sets to work in such a way that he lets his experiences, indeed, even his acquired opinions, play back and forth as though he were not at all involved in them with his sympathies and antipathies, with his personal interests and feelings, he will prepare an especially good soil for the forces of supersensible cognition. He will develop, in truth, what may be called a rich inner life. The question of chief importance here, however, is equanimity and equilibrium of the soul qualities. Man is only too easily inclined, if he surrenders himself to a certain soul activity, to fall into one-sidedness. For example, if he becomes aware of the advantage of inner meditation and of dwelling in his own thought world, he may develop such an inclination toward it that he begins to shut himself off from the impressions of the outer world. This, however, leads to the withering and devastation of the inner life. Those go the farthest who preserve, alongside the ability to withdraw inwardly, an open receptivity to all impressions of the outer world. One need not think here merely of the so-called important impressions of life, but every man in every situation — even in the poorest surroundings — may have sufficient experiences if he only keeps his mind sufficiently receptive. One need not seek the experiences; they are present everywhere. — Of special importance also is the way experiences are transformed in the human soul. For example, somebody may discover that a person revered by him or others has this or that quality that may be viewed as a fault of character. Such an experience may cause the human being to meditate in a twofold manner. He may simply say to himself, “Now, that I have recognized this fault, I can no longer revere this person in the same way as formerly.” Or he may pose the following question to himself, “How does it happen that this revered person is afflicted with this fault? Should I not consider that this fault is not merely a fault, but something due to the circumstances of this person's life, perhaps even to his great capacities?” A human being posing this question to himself will perhaps arrive at the result that his reverence is not in the least to be decreased by the discovery of such a fault. He will have learned something every time he goes through such an experience; he will have added something to his understanding of life. It would, however, certainly be disastrous to the human being were he to let himself be misled by the merit of such a view of life to excuse everything he possibly can in people and things for whom he has a preference, or even to form the habit of disregarding all faults because it brings him advantage for his inner development. This will not be the case if he has the subjective impulse not merely to censure faults but to understand them; it will occur when this attitude is demanded by the case in question, regardless of the gain or loss to him who judges. It is entirely correct that one cannot learn through condemning faults, but only through understanding them. If, however, because of understanding, one should entirely exclude disapproval, one would not get very far either. Here also it is not a question of one-sidedness in either direction, but of equanimity and equilibrium of the soul powers. — It is especially so with a soul quality that is of great significance for the development of the human being; this is what is called the feeling of reverence or devotion. Those who have developed this feeling in themselves or possess it from the outset through a fortunate gift of nature have an excellent basis for the forces of supersensible knowledge. The person who in childhood or youth has been able to look up with self-surrendering admiration to personalities as though to high ideals, possesses something at the foundation of his soul in which supersensible cognition thrives especially well. And whoever with mature judgment in later life looks upon the starry heavens and feels with wonder in complete surrender the revelation of exalted powers makes himself thus mature for knowledge of supersensible worlds. Something similar is the case with those who are able to admire the forces ruling in human life, and it is not of little importance if we, even as mature human beings, can have reverence to the highest degree for other men whose worth we divine or believe we know. Only where such reverence is present can the view into the higher world open up. The person who is unable to revere will in no way advance very far in his knowledge. Whoever does not wish to acknowledge anything in the world will find that the essential nature of things is closed to him. — The person, however, who permits himself to be misled, through an unrestrained feeling of reverence and surrender, to deaden in himself a healthy consciousness of self and self-confidence sins against the law of equanimity and equilibrium. The student will continually work on himself in order to make himself more and more mature; he is then justified in having confidence in his own personality and in having faith that its powers will continually increase. If he achieves correct feelings in this direction he may say to himself, “In me there lie hidden forces and I can draw them forth from my inner being. Therefore, when I see something that I must revere because it stands above me, I need not only revere it, but I may hope to develop myself to such a degree that I become similar to what I revere.”
The greater the capacity of a human being to direct his attention to certain processes of life with which his personal judgment is not, at the outset, familiar, the greater the possibility for him to lay the foundation for a development into the spiritual worlds. An example may make this clear. A man is in a certain situation in life where he may perform a certain deed or leave it undone. His judgment suggests to him: Do this! But there may be a certain inexplicable something in his feelings that holds him back from the deed. Now it may be that he does not pay any attention to this inexplicable something that seeks to restrain him, but simply performs the deed, according to his capacity to judge. Or he may surrender to the urge of this inexplicable something and leave the deed undone. If he then follows up the matter further it may become evident that evil would have been the result had he followed his judgment, but that by non-performance of the deed, a blessing has ensued. Such an experience may lead man's thoughts into a quite definite direction. He may say to himself, “Something lives in me that is a better guide than my present capacity of judgment. I must hold my mind open to this ,something in me that cannot at all be reached by the present degree of my capacity of judgment.” The soul is benefited to the highest degree when it directs its attention toward such occurrences in life. It then becomes aware, as though in a state of healthy premonition, that something exists in man that transcends his present ability to judge. Through such attention the human being directs his efforts toward an extension of soul-life, but here also it is possible that one-sidedness may result that is dangerous. Whoever were to form the habit of disregarding his judgment because his “premonitions” impel him to this or that, would become the plaything of all sorts of uncertain impulses, and from such a habit it is not a great distance to complete lack of judgment and superstition. — Any sort of superstition is fatal to the student of the spiritual. He acquires the possibility of penetrating in a true way into the regions of spiritual life only by guarding himself carefully against superstition, fantastic ideas, and day-dreaming. No one can enter the spirit world in the right way who is happy in experiencing something that “cannot be grasped by the human mind.” A preference for the “inexplicable” certainly makes no one a student of the spirit. He must completely abandon the notion that “a mystic is someone who presumes wherever it suits him something inexplicable and unfathomable in the world.” The student shows the proper feeling by acknowledging this existence of hidden forces and beings everywhere, but also by assuming that the uninvestigated may be investigated if the necessary powers are present.
There is a certain attitude of soul that is important for the student of the spirit at every stage of his development. This consists in not directing his desire for knowledge in a one-sided way by asking, “How may this or that question be answered?” but by asking, “How do I develop this or that ability in myself?” If then by inner patient work in himself this or that faculty is developed, the answer to certain questions is received. Students of the spirit will always foster this attitude of soul. Through this they are led to work on themselves, to make themselves more and more mature, and to renounce the desire to force answers to certain questions. They will wait until such answers come to them. — If, however, they become one-sided here also, they will not advance properly. The student may also have the feeling at a certain point of his development that he, with the degree of his ability, can himself answer the most sublime questions. Here also equanimity and equilibrium play an important role in the attitude of soul.
Many more soul faculties could be described, the fostering and development of which are beneficial when the student strives by means of exercises to attain inspiration. In all of them, we should have to emphasize that equanimity and equilibrium are the soul faculties upon which everything depends. They prepare the understanding and the ability to carry out the exercises outlined for the purpose of acquiring inspiration.
The exercises for the attainment of intuition demand that the student cause not only the images, to which he has surrendered himself in acquiring imagination, to disappear from his consciousness, but also the life within his own soul activity into which he has immersed himself for the acquirement of inspiration. He should then literally retain nothing in his soul of previously known outer or inner experiences. Were there to be, however, nothing left in his consciousness after this discarding of outer and inner experiences, that is to say, were his consciousness then entirely to disappear and he to sink down into unconsciousness, this would then make it clear to him that he had not yet made himself mature enough to undertake exercises for intuition; he would then have to continue the exercises for imagination and inspiration. A time will surely come when the consciousness is not empty after the soul has discarded all inner and outer experiences, but when, after this discarding, something remains in consciousness as an effect, to which we then may surrender in meditation just as we had previously surrendered to what owes its existence to outer or inner impressions. This something is of a quite special character. It is, in contrast to all preceding experiences, something entirely new. When one experiences it one knows, “This I have not known before. It is a perception just as the real tone, heard by the ear, is a perception, but this something can only enter my consciousness through intuition, just as the tone can only enter my consciousness through the ear.” Through intuition man's impressions are stripped of the last trace of the sensory-physical; the spiritual world now begins to open itself to cognition in a form that no longer has anything in common with the qualities of the physical world of the senses.
Imaginative consciousness is attained through the development of the lotus flowers in the astral body. Through the exercises that are undertaken for acquiring inspiration and intuition, certain definite motions, forms, and currents appear in the human ether or life body that were not present previously. They are in fact the organs through which man adds to the scope of his faculties the “reading of the occult script,” and what lies beyond it. The changes in the ether body of a human being who has attained inspiration and intuition present themselves to supersensible cognition in the following manner. Somewhere in the neighborhood of the physical heart a new center becomes conscious in the ether body, which develops into an etheric organ. From this organ, movements and currents flow to the various members of the human body in the most manifold way. The most important of these currents flow to the lotus flowers, permeating them and their various petals, then proceeding outward, pouring themselves like radiations into external space. The more the human being is developed, the greater the sphere around him within which these radiations are perceptible. The center in the region of the heart does not, however, develop immediately at the start of correct training. It is first prepared. There appears, to begin with, a temporary center in the head; this then moves down into the neighborhood of the larynx and finally settles in the region of the physical heart. Were its development irregular, then the organ of which we have been speaking might immediately be formed in the neighborhood of the heart. In that case there would be danger that the student, instead of attaining quiet and factual supersensible perception, would become a visionary and fantast. As he develops further, the student acquires the ability to free the currents and structures of his ether body from his physical body and to use them independently. In doing this, the lotus flowers serve him as organs through which he brings the ether body into motion. Before this occurs, however, special currents and radiations must have formed in the sphere of the ether body, enclosing it like a fine network and making it into a self-contained being. If that has happened, the movements and currents taking place in the ether body are able to come into unhindered contact with the outer world of soul and spirit and to unite with it, so that outer occurrences in the realm of soul and spirit and inner events in the human ether body flow into one another. If that happens, the moment has arrived when man perceives the world of inspiration consciously. This cognition occurs in a different way from cognition in the sensory-physical world. In the latter we gain perceptions through the senses and form from them mental images and concepts. This is not the case with the knowledge derived from inspiration. What one knows is immediately present in the act; there is no reflection after perception. What sensory-physical cognition gains only afterwards in concepts is, in inspiration, given simultaneously with perception. Man would therefore merge with the environment of soul and spirit and would not be able to distinguish himself from it had he not developed the above characterized network in the ether body.
If the exercises leading to intuition are carried out, their effect extends not only to the ether body, but right down into the supersensible forces of the physical body. One should not, however, think that in this way effects take place in the physical body that are accessible to everyday sensory observation. These are effects that only supersensory cognition can judge. They have nothing whatever to do with external cognition. They are the results of the maturity of consciousness, when the latter is able to have experiences in intuition, in spite of the fact that it has excluded all previously known outer and inner experiences. — The experiences of intuition are delicate, intimate, and subtle, and the human physical body is, at the present stage of its evolution, coarse in comparison. It offers therefore a strong hindrance to the success of intuition exercises. If these are continued with energy and persistence and with the requisite inner tranquility, the powerful hindrances of the physical body are finally overcome. The student notices this by the fact that gradually certain expressions of the physical body that formerly took place unconsciously now come under his control. He notices it also by the fact that for a short time he feels the need, for example, so to control the breath that it comes into a sort of concord or harmony with what the soul performs in the exercises or otherwise in inner meditation. The ideal of the development is that no exercises be made at all by means of the physical body itself, also no breathing exercises, but that everything that occurs in the physical body in this way should only come about as a consequence of pure intuition exercises.
If the student of the spirit ascends upon the path into the higher worlds of knowledge, he notices at a certain stage that the cohesion of the forces of his personality assumes a different form from the one in the physical-sensory world, where the ego effects a uniform co-operation of the soul forces, of thinking, feeling, and willing. These three soul forces stand always in a certain relationship to each other in the conditions of ordinary human life. One sees, for example, a certain object in the outer world. It pleases or displeases the soul. That is to say, of necessity the visualizing of a thing will be followed by a feeling of pleasure or displeasure. One may, perhaps, desire the object or have the impulse to alter it in one way or another. That is, the power of desire and will associate with visualizing and feeling. That this co-ordination takes place is caused by the ego uniting visualizing (thinking), feeling, and willing and in this way bringing order into the forces of the personality. This healthy order would be interrupted if the ego were to prove powerless in this regard; if, for example, desire should elect to go a different way from feeling or thinking. A human being would not be in a healthy soul condition who might think that this or that is right, but who might want something of which he is convinced that it is not right. The case would be similar if someone did not want what pleases him, but rather what displeases him. The human being now notices that on the path to higher knowledge thinking, feeling, and willing do indeed separate and each assumes a certain independence. For example, a certain thought has no longer an inward urge toward a certain feeling and willing. The matter is as follows. In thinking something may be perceived correctly, but in order to have any feeling or to come to a resolution of the will, we need again an independent impulse from ourselves. During supersensible perception thinking, feeling, and willing do not remain three forces that radiate from the common egocenter of the personality, but they become three independent entities, three personalities, as it were; one must now make one's own ego all the stronger, for it is not merely a matter of its bringing three forces into order, but of leading and directing three entities. This separation, however, must only exist during supersensible perception. Here again it becomes clear how important it is that the exercises for higher training be accompanied by those that give certainty and firmness to the power of judgment, and to the life of feeling and willing. For the person who does not bring these qualities with him into the higher world will soon see how the ego proves weak and unable to act as an orderly guide for thinking, feeling, and willing. If this weakness were present, the soul would be as though torn by three personalities in as many directions and its inner unity would cease. If, however, the development of the student proceeds in the right way the described transformation of forces signifies true progress; the ego remains master of the independent entities that now form its soul. — In the further course of this evolution the development continues. Thinking that has become independent stimulates the emergence of a special fourth soul-spirit being that may be described as a direct influx of currents into man, similar to thoughts. The entire cosmos then appears as a thought-structure confronting man as does the plant or animal world in the realm of the physical senses. Likewise, feeling and willing that have become independent stimulate two forces in the soul that act in it like independent beings. Still another seventh power and being appears that is similar to one's own ego itself.
This entire experience is connected with yet another. Before his entrance into the supersensible world, man knew thinking, feeling, and willing only as inner soul experiences. As soon as he enters the supersensible world he perceives objects that do not express the physical-sensory, but the psycho-spiritual. Behind the characteristics of the new world now perceived by him stand soul-spirit beings. These now stand before him as an outer world, just as in the physical realm stones, plants, and animals stood before his senses. The student of the spiritual can now perceive an important difference between the world of soul and spirit that reveals itself to him, and the world that he was accustomed to perceiving through his physical senses. A plant in the world of the senses remains just as it is, whatever the human soul may feel or think about it. With the images of the world of soul and spirit this is, at the outset, not the case. They alter according to what the human being feels or thinks. In this way he gives them form that depends upon his own nature. Let us imagine that a certain picture appears before man in the world of imagination. If, at first, he remains indifferent to it in his soul, it then shows itself in a certain form. At the moment, however, when pleasure or displeasure is felt in regard to the picture, it changes its form. The pictures therefore, in the first instance, express not only what they are, independent of man, but they reflect what man is himself. They are permeated through and through by his own nature. The latter spreads like a veil over the supersensible beings. Although real beings confront him, he does not see them, but instead, his own creation. Thus he may have something true before him and, nevertheless, see something false. Indeed, this is not only the case in regard to what man notices in himself as his own essential nature, but everything that is in him affects this world. He may have, for example, hidden inclinations that do not come into evidence in life because of his education and character; they affect the world of the soul and spirit, which takes on a peculiar coloring through the whole being of man, no matter whether he himself knows much about this being or not. — In order to be able to advance further from this stage of development it is necessary that man learn to distinguish between himself and the outer spiritual world. It is necessary that he learn to eliminate all the effects of himself upon his soul-spirit environment. This cannot be done otherwise than by acquiring a knowledge of what he himself carries into the new world. It is therefore important that he first possess true, thoroughly developed self-knowledge, in order to be able to have a clear perception of the surrounding world of soul and spirit. Now, certain facts of human development demand that such self-knowledge must take place quite naturally at the time of the entrance into the higher world. Man develops his ego, his self-consciousness in the everyday physical-sensory world. This ego now acts as a center of attraction for everything belonging to man. All his inclinations, sympathies, antipathies, passions, and opinions group themselves, as it were, around his ego, and this ego is also the point of attraction for what may be designated as the karma of man. If this ego were to be seen unconcealed it would show that certain forms of destiny must still be encountered by it in this and in subsequent incarnations, according to the way it has lived in the preceding incarnations and has made this or that its own. Invested with all this, the ego must appear as the first image before the human soul when the latter ascends into the world of soul and spirit. This Doppelganger (double or twin likeness) of man must, according to a law of the spiritual world, emerge prior to everything else as his first impression in that world. One may easily make the law underlying this fact understandable if one considers the following. In the life of the physical senses man only perceives himself in so far as he experiences himself inwardly in his thinking, feeling, and willing. This, however, is an inner perception; it does not present itself to the human being like stones, plants, and animals. Also, man learns to know himself only partially through inner perception. He has something in himself that prevents his having more profound self-knowledge. This is an impulse to transform immediately a trait of character if he, as a result of self-knowledge, must admit to it and does not wish to deceive himself about himself.
If he does not follow this impulse, if he simply turns his attention away from himself, remaining what he is, then he, naturally, also deprives himself of the possibility of self-knowledge in the point in question. If man, however, penetrates into himself and confronts himself without deception with this or that trait, then he will either be in the position to improve the trait, or he will be incapable of doing so under the present circumstances of his life. In the latter case a feeling will creep over his soul that must be described as a feeling of shame. This is indeed the reaction of healthy human nature: it feels through self-knowledge various kinds of shame. This feeling has even in ordinary life a quite definite effect. The normally thinking human being will take care that what fills him, through himself, with this feeling does not become evident outwardly in effects, does not manifest in outer deeds. Shame is thus a force that impels man to conceal something in his inner being and not allow it to become outwardly perceptible. If we give this due consideration, we shall find it comprehensible that spiritual research ascribes much farther reaching effects to an inner soul experience that is closely related to the feeling of shame. This research finds that there is, concealed in the depths of the soul, a sort of hidden shame of which the human being is not conscious in physical-sensory life. This concealed feeling, however, acts in a similar manner to the feeling of shame in everyday life; it prevents the innermost nature of the human being from appearing before him in a perceptible picture. If this feeling were not present, the human being would perceive before him what he is in truth; his thoughts, feelings, and will would not only be experienced inwardly, but would be perceived outwardly just as stones, animals, and plants are perceived. This feeling is thus the concealer of man from himself, and at the same time it is the concealer of the entire world of soul and spirit. Owing to the fact that his inner nature is concealed from him, he is also not able to perceive that by means of which he should develop inner organs in order to cognize the world of soul and spirit; he is unable so to transform his nature that it may unfold spiritual organs of perception. — If, however, through correct training man strives to acquire these organs of perception, what he himself is appears to him as first impression. He perceives his Doppelganger, his double. This self-perception is not at all to be separated from the perception of the rest of the world of soul and spirit. In everyday life of the physical-sensory world, the feeling characterized acts so as constantly to close the door of the world of soul and spirit to the human being. Even the mere attempt to penetrate into this world causes the feeling of shame — which arises immediately, but of which we do not become conscious — to conceal the part of the world of soul and spirit that strives to appear. The exercises characterized open the door to this world. It is a fact, however, that this concealed feeling acts like a great benefactor of man. For all that man acquires of power of judgment, feeling-life, and character without spiritual-scientific training does not enable him to bear without further preparation the perception of his own being in its true form. He would lose through this perception all self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-consciousness. That this may not happen, we must take the necessary precautions which we do undertake, alongside the exercises for higher knowledge, in the fostering of a healthy power of judgment, feeling-life, and character. Through this regular training man learns to know so much of spiritual science — as though without intention — and, moreover, so many means for the attainment of self-knowledge and self-observation become clear to him as are necessary in order to encounter his Doppelganger bravely. The student then only sees in another form, as a picture of the imaginative world, what he has already learned in the physical world. If he has first comprehended the law of karma properly in the physical world through his intellect, he will not be especially shaken when he now sees the beginnings of his destiny engraved in the image of his Doppelganger. If man has made himself acquainted through his power of judgment with the evolution of the cosmos and mankind and knows how, at a certain point of time of this evolution, the forces of Lucifer have penetrated into the human soul, he will bear it without difficulty when he becomes aware that the Luciferic beings with all their effects are contained within the image of his own nature. — We see from this how necessary it is that man does not demand entrance into the spiritual world before he has understood, through his ordinary power of judgment developed in the physical-sensory world, certain truths about the spiritual world. The knowledge given in this book prior to the discussion about “Cognition of the Higher Worlds” should have been acquired by the student of spiritual science by means of his ordinary power of thought in the regular course of development, before he has the desire himself to enter into supersensible worlds.
In a training in which no attention is paid to the certainty and firmness of the power of judgment, of the life of feeling and character, it may happen that the student encounters the higher world before he possesses the necessary inner faculties. In that case the encounter with his Doppelganger would depress him and lead to error. If, however, the encounter were entirely avoided — something that might indeed be possible — and man nevertheless were led into the supersensible world, he would then be just as little in the position to recognize that world in its true shape. For it would be quite impossible for him to distinguish between what he carries over as projections of himself into things and what they are in reality. This distinction is only possible if one perceives one's own being as an image in itself, and if, as a result of this distinction, everything that flows from one's own inner nature becomes detached from the environment. — For man's life in the physical-sensory world, the Doppelganger's effect is such that he becomes immediately invisible through the feeling of shame characterized when man approaches the world of soul and spirit. As a result of this, he conceals the entire latter world also. Like a “guardian” he stands there before that world, in order to deny entrance to those who are not truly capable of entering. He may therefore be called the “guardian of the threshold that lies before the world of soul and spirit.” — Besides the described encounter with the guardian at the entrance into the supersensible world, man also encounters him when passing through physical death, and in the course of life between death and a new birth the guardian discloses himself by degrees in the evolution of soul and spirit. There, however, the encounter cannot depress the human being, because he then has knowledge of worlds quite different from those he knows in the life between birth and death. If, without encountering the “guardian of the threshold,” man were to enter the world of soul and spirit, he might fall prey to deception after deception. For he would never be able to distinguish between what he himself has carried over into that world and what in reality belongs to it. A proper training must lead the student of spiritual science into the realm of truth only, not into the realm of illusion. This training will of itself be of such a nature that the encounter must of necessity take place sometime. For it is one of the precautionary measures, indispensable for the observation of supersensible worlds, against the possibility of falling prey to deception and the fantastic. — It belongs to the most indispensable measures that every student of spiritual science must take, to work carefully on himself in order not to become a fantast, a human being who might succumb to possible deception and self-delusion. Where the advice for spiritual training is correctly followed, the sources that may bring deception are at the same time destroyed. Naturally, we cannot speak at length here of all the numerous details that have to be considered in regard to such precautionary measures. The important points can only be indicated. Deceptions that have to be considered here are derived from two sources. They originate in part from the coloring of reality through one's own soul nature. In ordinary life of the physical-sensory world there is comparatively little danger from this source of deception; for here the outer world continually impresses its own form sharply upon our observation, no matter how the observer wants to color it according to his own wishes and interests. As soon, however, as man enters the imaginative world, its pictures are transformed through such wishes and interests, and he has before him, like a reality, what he himself has formed, or at least has helped in forming. This source of deception is removed by the student's having learned to recognize, through his encounter with the “guardian of the threshold,” his own inner nature, which he might thus carry into the world of soul and spirit. The preparation that the student of spiritual science undergoes before his entrance into the world of soul and spirit acts in such a way that he becomes accustomed to disregarding himself even when observing the physical-sensory world and to permitting the objects and processes to speak to him purely out of their own nature. If the student has thus prepared himself sufficiently, he can calmly await the encounter with the “guardian of the threshold.” This encounter will be the final test to determine whether he feels himself really in a position to disregard his own nature also when he confronts the world of soul and spirit.
Besides this source of delusion, there is still another. This comes into evidence when one misinterprets an impression made on one. A simple example of this sort of delusion in the physical sense-life is the delusion that arises when a man sits in a railway coach moving in a certain direction and believes the trees and other objects of perception are moving in the opposite direction, while actually it is he himself who is moving with the train. Although there are numerous cases where such delusions In the physical sense-world are more difficult to correct than the simple one quoted, still, it is easy to see that within this world one also finds the means of disposing of such delusions when, with sound judgment, one takes into consideration all that may possibly contribute to an adequate factual explanation. The matter is different, however, as soon as one penetrates into the realms of the supersensible. In the world of the senses facts are not altered as a result of human delusion; therefore it is possible, by means of unprejudiced observation, to rectify the delusion by means of the facts. In the supersensible world this is not immediately possible. If one wants to observe a supersensible process and approaches it with false judgment, one carries this judgment over into the process and it becomes so interwoven with the fact that it is impossible to distinguish the judgment from the fact. The error is then not within the human being and the correct fact outside him, but the error itself is made a component of the outer fact. It cannot, therefore, be rectified simply by an unbiased observation of the fact. We are here pointing to what may be a superabundant source of delusion and the fantastic for those who approach the supersensible world without proper preparation. — The student of the spiritual, besides acquiring the ability to exclude the delusions that arise through the coloring of supersensible world-phenomena with his own nature, must also acquire the ability to make the second indicated source of delusion ineffective. He can exclude what comes from himself if he has first recognized the image of his own Doppelganger. He will be able to exclude the second source of delusion if he acquires the ability to recognize, from the inner quality of a supersensible fact, whether it is reality or delusion. If the delusion were to appear exactly like the actual facts, then a distinction would not be possible. This, however, is not the case. Delusions of the supersensible world have qualities in themselves by which they are to be distinguished from realities, and it is important that the student of the spiritual know by which qualities he can recognize realities. Nothing is more self-evident than the fact that anyone ignorant of spiritual training may ask, “How is it at all possible to protect myself against delusion, when its sources are so numerous?” And he may continue to ask, “Is there any proof for the student of the spiritual against the fact that all his professed higher knowledge is not something based on mere delusion and autosuggestion?” Anyone who asks such questions does not realize that in true spiritual training, through the very manner of its occurrence, the sources of delusion are stopped up. In the first place, in preparing himself the true spiritual science student will acquire sufficient knowledge about what may cause delusion and autosuggestion, and thus be in a position to protect himself from them. He has, in this regard, more opportunity than any other human being to make himself prudent and capable in judgment on the path of life. Everything that he experiences causes him to disregard indefinite premonitions and suggestions. This training makes him as careful as possible.
Besides this, all correct training leads first to concepts about great cosmic events, and thus to things that make necessary the exertion of sound judgment, which becomes, at the same time, more refined and acute. Only someone who might refuse to go into such distant realms and preferred to abide with “revelations” of a world near at hand might lose the strengthening of that sound judgment that gives him certainty in distinguishing between delusion and reality. All of this, however, is not yet the most important. That lies in the exercises themselves that are used in a correct spiritual training. These must be so arranged that the student is always consciously aware of what takes place in the soul during inner meditation. In order to bring about imagination, a symbol is first formed. In this symbol are still contained mental images of outer perceptions. The human being is not alone responsible for the content of these mental images; he does not make it himself. Thus he may delude himself in regard to its origin; he may interpret its origin incorrectly. But the student of spiritual science removes this content from his consciousness when he advances to the exercises of inspiration. Here he contemplates his own soul activity only, which has formed the symbol. Here also error is still possible. Through education, learning, and through other means man has acquired the character of his soul activity. He cannot know everything about its origin. The student of spiritual science now removes even his own soul activity from his consciousness. If now anything remains in his consciousness, nothing is attached to it that cannot be surveyed. Nothing can intermingle with it that is not to be judged in regard to its whole content. In intuition, the student of spiritual science has thus a criterion enabling him to recognize how a clear reality of the world of soul and spirit is constituted. If he now applies the signs of soul and spirit-reality thus recognized to everything that comes under his observation, he is able to distinguish between illusion and reality. He may be certain that by employing this law he will remain protected from illusion in the supersensible world just as it cannot happen to him in the physical-sensory world to mistake an imaginary piece of hot iron for one that really burns. It is taken for granted that one only takes this attitude toward the knowledge one regards as one's own experiences in the supersensible worlds, and not toward what one receives as communications from other persons and that one comprehends with one's physical intellect and sound feeling for truth. The student of the spiritual will take pains to draw an exact line between what he has acquired in the one way and what he has acquired in the other. He will receive willingly, on the one hand, the communications about the higher worlds and seek to understand them by means of his capacity to judge. If on the other hand he states something as his own experience, his own observation, he will have tested whether this has confronted him with precisely the qualities he has learned to perceive by means of unerring intuition.
After the student of the spiritual has encountered the “guardian of the threshold,” further experiences await him as he ascends into supersensible worlds. First he will notice that an inner relationship exists between this “guardian of the threshold” and the soul-power that, in the above description, has resulted as the seventh, and has shaped itself into an independent principle. Indeed, this seventh principle is in a certain regard nothing else but the Doppelganger, the “guardian of the threshold” himself, and this principle sets the student of the spiritual a special task. He has to direct and lead with his newborn self what he is in his ordinary self and which appears to him in an image. A sort of battle against the Doppelganger will result. The latter will constantly strive for supremacy. To establish the right relationship to this Doppelganger and not permit him to do anything that is not under the influence of the newborn ego strengthens and fortifies man's powers. — In the higher world, self-knowledge is different, in a certain respect, from self-knowledge in the physical-sensory world. Whereas in the physical-sensory world self-knowledge appears only as an inner experience, the newborn self presents itself at once as an outer soul phenomenon. Man beholds his newborn self as another being standing before him, but he cannot perceive it completely. For whatever stage he may have reached upon the way into the supersensible worlds, there are always still higher stages. At these stages he will perceive ever more and more of his “higher self.” This “higher self” can thus only partially reveal itself to the student of the spiritual at any of these stages. The temptation is extremely great which overtakes the human being when he first becomes aware of some aspect of his “higher self,” to observe this “higher self,” so to speak, from the standpoint he has gained in the physical-sensory world. This temptation is even good and it must appear, if development is to proceed in the right way. We must observe what appears in the Doppelganger, the “guardian of the threshold,” and place it before the “higher self” in order to note the contrast between what we are and what we are to become. Through this observation the “guardian of the threshold” begins to take on quite a different form. He presents himself as an image of all the hindrances that the development of the higher self must encounter. The student will perceive what a load he must drag in the form of his ordinary self, and if he is not strong enough through his preparations to say, “I will not remain stationary here, but unceasingly strive to reach my higher self,” he will slacken his efforts and shrink back before what is in store for him. He has plunged into the world of soul and spirit, but now gives up his efforts. He becomes a prisoner of the form that, through the “guardian of the threshold,” now stands before the soul. What is important here is the fact that in this experience he does not have the feeling of being a prisoner. On the contrary, he believes he experiences something quite different. The form that the “guardian of the threshold” calls forth can be of such a nature that it causes the impression in the soul of the observer of having before him, in the pictures that appear at this evolutionary stage, the entire compass of all imaginable worlds, of having attained the pinnacle of knowledge, with no need of striving further. Instead of feeling to be a prisoner he may feel himself as the immeasurably rich possessor of all the world mysteries. The fact that one can have such an experience that depicts the very opposite of the actual facts will, however, not astonish a person who keeps in mind the fact that, when he experiences this, he stands already in the world of soul and spirit and that it is a peculiarity of this world that events may present themselves in reverse order. This fact was pointed out earlier in this book when life after death was discussed.
The figure that one perceives at this stage of development shows the student of the spiritual something in addition to what appeared to him in the first instance as the “guardian of the threshold.” In this Doppelganger all the peculiarities were perceived that the ordinary self of man has in consequence of the influence of the forces of Lucifer. Now, however, in the course of human evolution another power has entered the human soul through the influence of Lucifer. This is the power that was designated in an earlier section of this book as the power of Ahriman. It is the power that prevents the human being during physical sense-existence from perceiving the soul-spirit beings of the outer world lying behind the veil of the sensory. The form the human soul has assumed under the influence of this power is shown in a picture by the shape that emerges in the experience described. — The person who is adequately prepared for this experience will be able to interpret it correctly; very soon thereafter another form will appear that we may call the “greater guardian of the threshold” in contrast to the already described “lesser guardian.” This greater guardian tells the student of the spiritual that he must not remain stationary at this stage but must energetically work on. He calls forth in the observer the consciousness that the world that is conquered becomes truth, and is not transformed into illusion, only if the work is continued in an adequate manner. — If, because of incorrect spiritual training, a person were to enter upon this experience unprepared, then, in the encounter with the “greater guardian of the threshold,” something would pour into his soul that only can be compared to the “feeling of immeasurable horror,” of “boundless fear.”
Just as the student of the spiritual in his encounter with the “lesser guardian of the threshold” is afforded the possibility of testing whether or not he is protected against delusions arising from the intermingling of his own being with the supersensible world, so can he also test himself by the experiences that finally lead to the “greater guardian of the threshold” whether he is capable of mastering the delusions described above as coming from the second source. If he is able to withstand the gigantic illusion that has been conjured up before him — that the picture world he has gained is a rich possession, while in reality he is only a prisoner — if he is able to resist this delusion, he is then, during the progressing course of his development, guarded from mistaking illusion for reality.
The “guardian of the threshold” will assume, to a certain degree, an individual shape for each human being. The encounter with him corresponds indeed to the experience by which the personal character of the supersensible observations is overcome and through which the possibility is given of entering a region of experience that is free from personal coloring and applies to every human being.
If the student of the spiritual has had the above described experiences he is capable of distinguishing, within the surrounding world of soul and spirit, between himself and what lies outside him. He will then recognize that it is necessary to comprehend the cosmic process described in this book, in order to understand man and his life. Indeed, we understand the physical body only when we recognize how it has been fashioned during the Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth evolutions. We understand the ether body when we follow its formations through the Sun, Moon, and Earth evolutions. Moreover, we understand what at present is connected with the Earth evolution when we know how everything has unfolded itself step by step. Through spiritual training the student is placed in the position to recognize the relationship of everything that exists in the human being to corresponding facts and beings of the world outside him. For it is a fact that every member of the human organism stands in a relationship to the whole world surrounding it. In this book it has only been possible to indicate the facts in a sketchy outline. We must, however, consider that the human physical body, for example, was present during the Saturn evolution only in its rudimentary beginnings. Its organs — the heart, the lungs, the brain — developed later out of these beginnings during the Sun, Moon, and Earth evolutions. The heart, lungs, and the other organs are thus related to the Sun, Moon, and Earth evolutions. It is quite the same with the members of the ether and soul body, the sentient soul, and the other principles. Man is fashioned from the entire surrounding world, and every part of him corresponds to a process or being of the outer world. At the corresponding stage of his development the student becomes acquainted with this relationship between his own being and the great world. We may designate this stage of cognition as the becoming aware of the correspondence between the lesser world, the microcosm, which is the human being himself, and the greater world, the macrocosm. If the student has struggled through to such a stage of knowledge, a new experience may occur for him. He begins to feel as though he were intergrown with the entire cosmic structure, in spite of the fact that he feels himself in his complete independence. This feeling is a merging with the entire cosmos, a becoming one with it, but without losing one's own essential being. This stage of development may be designated as the “becoming one with the macrocosm.” It is significant that this becoming one, this union, is not to be thought of as though through it the individual consciousness were to cease and the human being were to flow out into the universe, merging with it. Such a thought would be merely the expression of an opinion springing from the untrained power of judgment. — The stages of higher knowledge, in the sense of the process of initiation that has been described in this book, may now be enumerated as follows:
- Study of spiritual science, in which one employs one's power of judgment gained in the physical-sensory world.
- Acquiring imaginative knowledge.
- Reading the occult script-corresponding to inspiration.
- Living into the spiritual environment — corresponding to intuition.
- Knowledge of the relationships between microcosm and macrocosm.
- Union with the macrocosm.
- Total experience of all previous experiences as a fundamental mood of the soul.
These stages need not be thought of as successive experiences. On the contrary, the training may proceed in such a way that, in accordance with the individuality of the student of the spiritual, he may have reached only a certain degree of perfection in a preceding stage when he begins exercises that correspond to a subsequent stage. It may well happen, for example, that the student has only gained a few imaginations with certainty, yet he already performs exercises leading to inspiration, intuition, or the cognition of the relationship between microcosm and macrocosm.
If the student of the spiritual has experienced intuition, he not only knows the images of the psycho-spiritual world, he cannot merely read their connections in the “occult script,” but he attains to knowledge of the spiritual beings themselves through whose co-operation the world, to which the human being belongs, comes into existence. In this way he learns to know himself in the form he possesses as a spiritual being in the world of soul and spirit. He has struggled through to a perception of his higher ego, and he has become aware of how he has to continue his efforts in order to control his Doppelganger, the “guardian of the threshold.” He has, however, also encountered the “greater guardian of the threshold,” who stands before him as an ever present exhorter to further effort. This “greater guardian” becomes the ideal toward which he strives. If this feeling emerges in the student of the spiritual, he has then acquired the possibility of recognizing who it is that stands there before him as the “greater guardian of the threshold.” To the perception of the student of the spiritual this guardian now transforms himself into the form of the Christ, whose Being and participation in Earth evolution has been made clear in the previous chapters of this book. The student is now initiated into the exalted mystery that is linked with the name of the Christ. The Christ shows Himself to the student as the “great ideal of man on earth.” — If thus through intuition the Christ is recognized in the spiritual world, what occurred historically on earth in the fourth post-Atlantean evolutionary epoch — the Greco-Latin epoch — also becomes comprehensible. The way in which, at that time, the exalted Sun Being, the Christ, has intervened in the Earth evolution and how he continues to work within this evolution becomes the personally experienced knowledge of the student of the spiritual. It is thus a revelation of the meaning and significance of Earth evolution that the student receives through intuition. The way to knowledge of the supersensible worlds, which is described here, is one that every human being can follow, no matter what the situation in which he may find himself within the present-day conditions of life. When describing such a path we must consider that the goal of knowledge and truth is the same in all ages of Earth evolution, but that the starting points of man have been different in different ages. If the human being wishes to tread the path to the spiritual world he cannot at present begin at the same starting point as, for example, the would-be initiate of ancient Egypt. Therefore, the exercises that were imposed upon the student of the spiritual of ancient Egypt cannot be carried out by the modern man without modification. Since that time, human souls have passed through various incarnations, and this advance from incarnation to incarnation is not without meaning and significance. The faculties and qualities of souls alter from incarnation to incarnation. Whoever considers human historical life, be it only superficially, is able to notice that since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries A.D. all life-conditions have changed when compared with previous centuries; that opinions, feelings, and also abilities of human beings have become different from what they were previously. The path to higher knowledge described here is eminently fit for souls who incarnate in the immediate present. It is one that places the point of departure for spiritual development just where the human being now stands in any situation presented by modern life. — Progressive evolution leads mankind in regard to the path to higher knowledge from period to period to ever changing forms, just as outer life changes its forms, and at all times a perfect harmony must prevail between outer life and initiation.