COGNITION OF THE
HIGHER WORLDS. INITIATION.
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.1 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.” [Goethe: Faust 11.]And Goethe himself says, “To live in the idea means to treat the impossible as though it were possible.” [Goethe: 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.