The trustworthiness of the Imaginative stage of cognition can be assured if the pupil will lend support to his meditation by acquiring the habit of what may be called sense-free thinking. When we form a thought, basing it on something we have observed in the physical world, the thought is dependent on the physical senses. This is, however, not the only kind of thought we are able to entertain. There is no need for our thinking to be empty of content when it is no longer being filled with the data of sense-observation. The surest way to attain sense-free thinking, the way too that lies nearest at hand for the pupil, is to let his thinking lay hold of the facts of the higher world, communicated in spiritual science. These facts cannot be observed with the physical senses. Yet the pupil will find that with sufficient patience and perseverance he can grasp them. It is impossible to undertake research in the higher world, impossible to observe there for oneself, without spiritual training; one can however without higher training understand what is communicated by those who have carried out such research. If someone asks: But how can I take on trust what spiritual researchers say, when I cannot see it for myself? the question is in reality unjustified. For it is perfectly possible, by simple reflection, to arrive at the sure conviction that the communications are true. If anyone finds himself unable to do so, it is not because it is impossible to believe something one does not see; it is due to the fact that the thought he has given to it has not been sufficiently free from prejudice, not comprehensive or deep enough. To be quite clear on this point, we must be ready to recognize that man's thinking can, if he applies it with energy and determination, grasp more than is generally supposed. For this thinking has within it an inner reality of being which has connection with the supersensible world. Man is, as a rule, unconscious of the connection, since he is accustomed to apply his thinking faculty to the sense-world alone; hence, when he hears of communications from the supersensible world, he sets them down as incomprehensible. They are however thoroughly comprehensible and not alone to those whose thinking has been educated through spiritual training, but to every thinking person who is conscious of the full power of his thinking and ready to apply it.
By continuously apprising ourselves of what spiritual science tells, we grow accustomed to a thinking that does not take its start from outer observation by the senses. We learn now within our mind thought weaves on thought, thought seeks out thought, even when the connections have not been suggested by sensory observation. We make the significant discovery that the world of thought is inherently alive, and that when we are really and truly thinking we are already in the realm of a supersensible and living world. We say to ourselves: There is something in me that is developing a living organism of thought; moreover I myself am at one with it. As we continue to devote ourselves to sense-free thinking, we actually come to feel that there is something of real being real inner substance flowing into our inner life, even as when we observe with the senses there flow into us by way of our physical organs the properties of the things of sense.
Out there in space, says the observer of the sense-world, is a rose. I do not feel it in any way strange or remote, for it makes itself known to me by means of its color and its scent. We need only be sufficiently free from preconceived ideas to be able also to say, when sense-free thinking is at work in us: Something quite real is making itself known to me, uniting thought with thought, forming within me a living body of thought. Yet there is an essential difference between the feeling we have towards the things we see in the external world of sense and on the other hand towards the reality of being that communicates itself to us in sense-free thinking. The observer of the external world of the senses will feel that he himself is outside the rose he is seeing with his eyes, while one who is devoting himself to sense-free thinking will feel within him the reality that is making itself known to him. He feels himself at one with it. And anyone who (whether quite consciously or less so) is only prepared to attribute reality to what confronts him as an external object, will naturally not entertain the idea that something inherently real can also become known to him through his being inwardly united and at one with it. There is an inner experience we need, to see the matter rightly. We have to learn to distinguish between the associations of thought which we ourselves produce more or less arbitrarily, and those we experience within us when we have silenced our own arbitrary will. In the latter instance we can say: I remain perfectly still, I myself bring about no association of thought with thought; I give myself up to that which thinks in me. We are then perfectly justified in saying: Something real is at work in me no less justified than when on seeing the rose color and perceiving its scent, we say: A rose is there making an impression on me.
The fact that we receive the content of the thoughts from communications made by the researcher in the Spirit does not contradict this. True, the thoughts are already there; but it is not possible for us to think them without creating them anew every time in our soul. That is really the whole point. The researcher in the Spirit awakens in his hearers and readers thoughts that they have to evoke out of themselves, whereas one who is describing a real object real in the world of the senses is calling attention to what his hearers and readers can observe in the external world.
(The path that leads to sense-free thinking by way of the communications of spiritual science is thoroughly reliable and sure. There is however another that is even more sure, and above all more exact; at the same time, it is for many people also more difficult. The path in question is set forth in my books The Theory of Knowledge implicit in Goethe's World-Conception and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. These books tell of what man's thinking can achieve when directed, not to impressions that come from the outer world of the physical senses, but solely upon itself. When this is so, we have within us no longer the kind of thinking that concerns itself merely with memories of the things of sense; we have instead pure thinking which is like a being that has life within itself. In the above-mentioned books you will find nothing at all that is derived from communications of spiritual science. They testify to the fact that pure thinking, working within itself alone, can throw light on the great questions of life questions concerning the universe and man. The books thus occupy a significant intermediate position between knowledge of the sense world and knowledge of the spiritual world. What they offer is what thinking can attain, when it rises above sense-observation, yet still holds back from entering upon spiritual, supersensible research. One who wholeheartedly pursues the train of thought indicated in these books is already in the spiritual world; only it makes itself known to him as a thought-world. Whoever feels ready to enter upon this intermediate path of development will be taking a safe and sure road, and it will leave him a feeling in regard to the higher world that will bear rich fruit through all time to come.)