Our bookstore now ships internationally. Free domestic shipping $50+ →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Occult Science - An Outline
GA 13

V. Knowledge of the Higher Worlds—Concerning Initiation

At the present stage of evolution there are three possible conditions of soul in which man ordinarily lives his life between birth and death: waking, sleeping and, between the two, dreaming. The last-mentioned will be briefly dealt with in a later part of this book; for the moment we shall consider life simply as it alternates between its two main conditions—waking and sleeping. Before he can “know” for himself in higher worlds, man has to add to these two a third condition of soul.

During waking life he is given up to the impressions of the senses, and to the thoughts and pictures that these evoke in him. During sleep the senses cease to make any impression, and the soul loses consciousness. The whole of the day's experience sinks down into the sea of unconsciousness. Let us now consider how it would be if man were able to become conscious during sleep, notwithstanding that all impressions of the senses were completely obliterated, as they are in deep sleep. Now would any memory remain to him of what had happened while he was awake. Would he find himself in an empty nothingness? Would he now be unable to have any experience at all? An answer to this question is only possible if a condition resembling the description can actually be brought about in man, where his senses remain completely inactive and he has no memory of their activity in his waking hours, and is yet not asleep but awake to another world, a world of reality, even while in relation to the external world around him he is just as he is in sleep.

As a matter of fact, such a state of consciousness can be induced in man if he is prepared to evoke within him the kind of inner experience that spiritual science enables him to develop. And all that is here related about the worlds that lie beyond the world of the senses has been investigated in such a condition of consciousness. In the preceding chapters some information has been given concerning these higher worlds. The present chapter will tell—in so far as lies within the scope of this book—of the means whereby man may achieve the state of consciousness required for such research.

It is in this one aspect alone that the higher state of consciousness resembles sleep: the sense receive no impressions from without, and the thoughts too which have been evoked by sense-impressions are obliterated. Whereas however in sleep man if bereft of the power to have conscious experience, in this new state of consciousness he retains the power. A capacity for conscious experience is aroused in him, which in ordinary life requires to be stimulated by sense-impressions. The awakening of the soul to this higher state of consciousness may be termed Initiation.

The path that leads to Initiation takes man out of ordinary day-time consciousness and brings him into a new activity of soul whereas he makes use of spiritual organs of perception. These organs are present in man all the time, in a germinal condition; they require only to be developed.

Now it can happen that at some particular time in his life, without making any special preparation for it, a person discovers that higher organs of this nature have been developing within him. This will mean that a kind of involuntary self-awakening has taken place. He will find that he has through this become a completely changed man. His whole inner experience is no vastly enriched. And he will be fully persuaded that no knowledge of the physical world could ever afford him such bliss, such serene satisfaction, such inner warmth, as can the knowledge that opens up before him now that he has a faculty of cognition that is independent of physical impressions. Strength and confidence will stream into his will from a spiritual world.

Such instances of self-initiation do occur. They should however not lead one to imagine that the right thing to do is simply to wait for it and make no effort towards obtaining Initiation by means of a properly ordered training. We have no need to speak here any further of self-initiation, since it can come about without the person's following any rules or precepts. What we are concerned with is how the organs of perception that are latent in man's soul may be developed by spiritual training. If people do not feel any particular urge to take steps for their own inner development, it is easy for them to think that since the life of man goes forward under the guidance of spiritual Powers, he ought not to interfere in their leadership but should wait quietly for the moment when these Powers shall deem it right to open to him another world. They will feel that any desire to intermeddle in this way with the wisdom of spiritual guidance is quite unjustified, and bespeaks a kind of presumption. One who takes this view will only be persuaded to modify it when a certain line of thought begins to make a strong impression on him—namely when he is ready to say: “The wise guidance of spiritual Powers has given me certain faculties. It has not bestowed these faculties on me for me to leave them unemployed, but rather that I may put them to use. The wisdom of the guidance is to be seen in the fact that seeds have been planted in me of a higher state of consciousness; and I fail to understand the guidance aright if I do not regard it as a duty to set before me the high ideal: that whatever can become manifest to man through the development of his spiritual powers shall become so manifest.” When such a thought has taken strong enough hold, then the mistrust that was felt of any training for the attainment of a higher state of consciousness shall disappear.

Misgiving can however arise on another account. The development of inner faculties of the soul, someone might feel, implies an intrusion into man's most hidden holy of holies. It involves a change in his whole nature and character, and the method by which the change is to be wrought can obviously not be thought out by the person concerned. Only one who knows the path from actual experience can tell him how he is to reach a higher world; and in applying to such a person for help, he is permitting that person to exercise an influence over the innermost holy of holies of his soul. Nor will this scruple be met if the means whereby the higher state of consciousness is to be attained are set forth in a book. For it makes little difference whether one receives instruction by word of mouth or whether someone who has knowledge of these means has written them in a book and one reads them there. There are moreover among those who possess the requisite knowledge some who think it inadmissible ever to entrust the knowledge to a book. These persons will generally also regard with disapproval all communications to others of truths concerning the spiritual world. To hold such a view in the present epoch of mankind's evolution must, however, be described as out of date. Only up to appoint, it is true, can the means to be employed for higher development be communicated. But if the pupil will apply himself diligently to what is given, he will be able to reach a stage in development whence he can find the way for himself. From all that he has gone through so far, he will obtain a right idea of his further path—and indeed he can do so in no other way.

On all these various grounds misgivings may arise in relation to the path of spiritual knowledge. They disappear, however, when one begins to grasp the true nature of the path of development which is set forth in the school of spiritual training appropriate to our age. Of this path we will now proceed to tell, hinting only briefly, as occasion arises, at other methods.

The training in question provides one who has the will to seek higher development with instructions that he can follow and so bring about the necessary changes in his soul. Anything like an unwarranted intrusion into the individuality of the pupil could only come into question if the teacher were himself to effect the change by methods of which the pupil was quite unconscious. But a training for spiritual development that is rightly adapted for our times will never employ such methods, turning the pupil into a blind instrument for his own development. It offers him instructions, and the pupil carries them out. As and when there is occasion to do so, it explains to him why this or that instruction is given. The acceptance of the instructions, and their observance, have no need to rest on blind faith. Blind faith should indeed be altogether excluded. If we have studied the nature of the human soul, in so far as it shows itself to ordinary self-observation unassisted by spiritual training, then on learning of the measures recommended we can ask ourselves: What effect will these have on the life of the soul? Before any training is begun, this question, if approached with a healthy and unbiased mind, can receive adequate answer. For it is perfectly possible, before setting out to follow the recommendations, to form a clear and true conception of how they work. Naturally, we cannot have actual experience of their working until we have embarked on the training. But here too we shall find we can accompany the experience all the time with understanding, provided only we are free from preconceived ideas and bring healthy good sense to bear on each step we take. And a genuine spiritual science will in these days recommend for development only such means as will stand that test. Whoever is prepared to enter upon such a training and will not allow himself to be led away by any mistaken prepossession into an attitude of mere blind credulity, will soon find that all misgivings disappear. Objections he may hear others raise against a systematic training for the attainment of a higher state of consciousness will not disturb him in the least.

Even for those who are endowed with the inner ripeness of soul which can lead them sooner or later to a self-awakening of the organs of spiritual perception—even for such, training is not superfluous; on the contrary, they have particular need for it. For there are few instances where such a person does not have to go down many a dubious by-path before he arrives at self-initiation. The training will spare him this. It will lead him straight forward on the right path. Where self-initiation occurs, it is due to the fact that the soul reached the necessary maturity in former lives. It may easily happen that the person has a dim feeling of his own ripeness, and this makes him disinclined to submit to training. The feeling may give rise to a kind of unconscious pride which hinders him from putting his trust even in a properly ordered school for spiritual training. Or it may be that the more advanced stage of soul may remain hidden in him until a certain age of life and only then begin to manifest. A training could in such an instance be the very means of bringing the ripeness to manifestation, and were the person to debar himself altogether from such training, it might well be that at the time when it should manifest, the faculty he possesses would still remain hidden and emerge again only in one of his later incarnations.

In this matter of spiritual training, it is important not to let certain fairly obvious misunderstandings gain ground. People may, for instance, have the idea that the training is going to make a great difference to a person's whole conduct and behavior. But there is no question of giving the pupil general precepts on how to lead his life; he will be told of things he can do, inwardly in his soul, which, if he carries them out, will give him the possibility of beholding the supersensible. As for his other activities in life—activities that have nothing to do with observation of the supersensible—these are not directly influenced at all by what he undertakes in the course of training. What happens is simply that the pupil acquires, in addition to them, the gift of supersensible perception. This new activity is as different from the ordinary avocations of life as waking is from sleeping. The one cannot be allowed to disturb the other in the very least. Should anyone be inclined, for instance, to intersperse the ordinary course of his life with impressions that reached him from the supersensible, he would be like a sick person whose sleep was continually being interrupted by unwholesome periods of wakefulness. The trained observer will have it in his own control to evoke at will the state of consciousness wherein he can behold supersensible reality. Indirectly, the training is of course not unrelated to the general conduct and habit of life, inasmuch as anyone lacking in ethical stability and good feeling will either be unable to see into the supersensible, or if he can, it will do him harm. Very much therefore of the instruction that is given to lead the pupil to vision of the supersensible, contributes at the same time to the ennobling of his daily life. And besides this, through being able to see into the supersensible world, the pupil learns to recognize higher moral impulses that hold good also for the physical world. For there are ethical laws that can only be learned in higher worlds.

Another misunderstanding is possible. It might be imagined that some activity of the soul, intended to lead to supersensible cognition, were in some way connected with changes in the physical organism. As a matter of fact, such activities have nothing whatever to do with anything in man that belongs to the province of physiology, or to other aspects of natural science. They are processes purely of soul and spirit, as far removed from the physical as are ordinary healthy thinking and perceiving. The way in which they take place in the soul is no different from the way in which we think our thoughts or come to our decisions. As much or as little as healthy thinking has to do with the body, just so much and so little have the activities of a genuine training for supersensible knowledge. Any kind of training that affects man in a different way is no true spiritual training, but a caricature of it.

It may be assumed that the training now to be described fulfills the conditions we have seen to be necessary. It is only because supersensible knowledge is something that engages all man's faculties of soul that it might seem to demand overwhelming changes in him. Yet in reality it simply amounts to this: instructions are given which, if followed, will enable the pupil to have moments in his life when he can behold the supersensible.

The ascent to a supersensible state of consciousness has necessarily to take its start from ordinary waking consciousness. The pupil is living in this consciousness before he sets out on the ascent, and the school of spiritual training holds out to him means whereby he may be led forth from it. Among the first of the means put forward in the school which concerns us here, are activities that are already familiar to the pupil in his everyday consciousness. The most significant of them are in fact those that consist in still and silent activities of the soul. The pupil has to give himself up entirely to certain thought-pictures. These are of such a kind as to have in them an awakening power; they awaken hidden faculties of the soul. They differ therefore from the thought-pictures that belong to everyday life, whose purpose it is to portray some external object. Indeed the more faithfully these do so, the truer they are; it belongs to their very nature to be true in this sense. The thought-pictures to which the soul has to devote itself for the purpose of spiritual training have no such part to play. Their function is not to depict an external object; they are formed in such a way as to have in themselves the property of awakening the soul. The best for the purpose are symbolic pictures. Others, however, can also be used. For the actual content is, in fact, of little importance, the main point being that the pupil shall direct the whole power of his soul upon the thought-picture and have nothing else whatever in his consciousness. Whereas in everyday life the soul's powers are distributed among many things, and thought-pictures are continually coming and going, in spiritual training everything depends on the entire concentration of the soul upon one idea of thought-picture, placed, by an act of will, in the very center of consciousness. It is for this reason that symbolic thought-pictures do better than those that depict external objects or activities; for the latter have their point of support in the external world, so that the soul is not driven to rely upon itself alone, as is the case with the symbolic thought-pictures which have been built up by the soul's own exertions. The essential thing is, not what the picture represents, but that it is formed and imagined in such a way as to set the soul entirely free from dependence on the physical.

It will help us to form a clear conception of what this absorption in a thought-picture implies, if we call up before us the concept of memory. Say we have been looking at a tree and have then turned away so that we no longer see it. We can call up before our mind's eye the thought -picture or mental image of the tree. This thought-picture that we have when the tree is not in view is a memory of the tree. Suppose we hold on to this memory; we let our soul, as it were, come to rest in the memory-picture and try to shut out every other thought. Our soul is now immersed in the memory-picture of the tree. There you have an instance of absorption in a thought-picture—one that reproduces an outer object perceived by the senses. If we now do the same with a thought-picture we ourselves have placed into the field of consciousness, entirely of our will, we shall in time become able to achieve the desired end.

In order to make this quite clear, let us take an example of absorption of the soul in a symbolic thought-picture. The first thing to be done is to build it up, and this we may do in the following way. We think of a plant, how it has its roots in the soil, how it sends out leaves one after another, and blossoms at length into flower. Now we imagine a man standing beside the plant. The thought lights up in our mind that the man has characteristics and capabilities which can truthfully be called more perfect than are those of the plant. He can move about at will, he can go this way or that way as he feels inclined; whereas the plant is rooted to the spot where it is growing. We may, however, then go on to think to ourselves: Yes, that is so, the human being is more perfect than the plant; but I also find qualities in him, the absence of which in the plant makes it appear to me more perfect in other respects than the human being. For he is filled with desires and passions, and these he sometimes follows in his behavior, with the result that he goes astray, falls into error. When I look at the plant, I see how it follows the pure laws of growth from leaf to leaf, how it opens its blossom, calmly and tranquilly, to the chaste rays of the sun. I perceive therefore that while man is in some respects more perfect than the plant, he buys this comparative perfection at the price of letting impulses and desires and passions have their seat within him, instead of what appear to be the pure forces at work in the plant. Then we can go on to picture to ourselves how the green sap flows right through the plant, and how this green sap is the expression of the pure, unimpassioned laws of growth. And if we then think of the red blood as it flows through the veins and arteries of man, we find in this red blood the expression of impulses and desires and passions.

We then let this whole thought live in our soul. Carrying it a little farther, we call to mind how man is after all capable of development; he possesses higher faculties of soul, by means of which he can refine and purify his impulses and passions. We recognize that thereby the baser element in them is purged away, and they are re-born on a higher level. The blood can then be thought of as the expression of these purified and chastened impulses and passions. And now we turn our thought, let us say, to a rose. We look in spirit at the rose and say to ourselves: In the red sap of the rose, I see the green color of the plant-sap changed to red; and the red rose follows still, no less than the green leaf, the pure, unimpassioned laws of growth. I can let the red of the rose be for me a symbol of a blood that is the expression of chastened impulses and passions which have thrown off their baser part and resemble in their purity the forces that are at work in the rose. And then we try, not merely to go on turning such thoughts over and over in our mind, but to let them come to life in our heart and feeling. A sensation of bliss can come over us as we contemplate the pure and dispassionate nature of the growing plant; and we feel obliged to admit that certain higher perfections have to be purchased by the acquisition at the same time of impulses and desires. This thought can change the bliss that we experienced before into a solemn feeling; and then a sense of liberation can come over us, a feeling of true happiness when we give ourselves up to the thought of the red blood that can become the bearer--even as the red sap in the rose—of experiences that are inwardly pure. In pursuing thus a train of thought that serves to build up such a symbolic picture, it is important to accompany the thought all the time with feeling. Then, having entered right into the experience of the thoughts and feelings, we can re-cast them in the following symbolic picture.

Imagine you see before you a black cross. Let this black cross be for you a symbol for the baser elements that have been case out of man's impulses and passions; and at the point where the beams of the cross meet, picture to yourself seven resplendent bright red roses arranged in a circle. Let these roses symbolize for you a blood that is the expression of passions and impulses that have undergone purification.1It is of no consequence how far the above thoughts can be justified from the side of Natural Science, the whole point being to evolve thoughts in regard to plant and man, which can be arrived at without reference to any theory, by simple and direct observation. Thoughts of this kind concerning objects in the world around us have their significance, alongside of the theoretical ideas of science which are, in their right place, no less significant. Here we are not putting forward thoughts for the purpose of presenting facts in scientific terms; what we ant to do is to create a symbolic picture that shall prove capable of influencing the soul, irrespective of any criticisms that could be leveled at the composition of the picture. Some such symbolic thought-picture shall the pupil of spiritual training call up before his soul, and he can do this in the same way as was explained above for a memory-picture. Devoting himself to it in deep, inner contemplation, he will find that the picture has power to call his soul awake. He must try to banish for the time being everything else from his mind. The symbol in question, and that alone, should now hover before him in spirit, as livingly as ever possible.

There is meaning in the fact that the symbolic picture has not simply been put forward as a picture that has in itself as an awakening power, but that it was first built up by a sequence of thoughts concerning plant and man. What such a picture can do for the pupil depends, before he uses it as an object of meditation. Were he to picture it without having gone through the construction of it in his own soul, it would remain cold and would have far less effect, for it is the preparation that endows it with power to enlighten the soul. The pupil should however not be recalling the preparatory steps while engaged in the meditation, but have then merely the symbolic picture hovering before him in spirit, quick with life—letting only the feelings that were aroused by the preparatory chain of thought echo on within him. In this way does the symbolic picture come to be a sign, appropriate to and accompanying the inner experience.

The efficacy if the experience depends upon how long the pupil is able to continue in it . The longer he can do so, without allowing any other idea to disturb the meditation, the greater its value for him. It is, however, also good if, apart from the times that he devotes to the meditation as such, he will frequently build up the picture all over again, letting the thoughts and feelings rise up in him in the way we have described, that the mood of the experience may not pale. The more ready the pupil is patiently to continue renewing the picture in this way, the greater significance will it have for his soul. (In my book Knowledge in the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, other subjects are suggested for meditations on the coming-into-being and passing-away of a plant, on the forces of growth that lie dormant in the seed, on the forms of crystals, etc. In the present book, the intention has been merely to illustrate, by means of an example, the nature of meditation.)

A symbolic picture such as we have here described does not represent some external object that Nature has produced; and to this very fact it owes its power to awaken capabilities that belong entirely to the soul. Some persons may beg to differ! They may, for instance, say: Agreed, the symbolic picture as a whole is not to be found in Nature, but all its details are borrowed from Nature—the black color, the roses, and so forth; these have every one of them been first perceived by the senses. If any reader be disturbed in his mind by such an objection, let him reflect that these component parts of the picture, which are undoubtedly derived from sense-perception, do not in themselves lead to the awakening of higher faculties in the soul; the awakening is brought about solely by the way in which the single details have been put together to form the picture. For that, no prototype is to be found in the outer world.

The endeavor has here been made, taking a particular symbolic picture as an example, to give a clear account of how meditation can take its course. For the purpose of spiritual training, a great variety of pictures of this kind can be used, and they can be built up in many different ways. Sentences, formulae, even single words, may also be given as subjects for meditation. In every instance the aim will be to wrest the soul free from sense-perception and rouse it to an activity for which the outer impressions of the physical senses are without significance, the whole import and aim of the activity being to unfold dormant faculties of the soul. Meditations that are directed wholly to certain feelings or emotions are also possible; they are indeed particularly valuable for the soul. Take the feeling of joy. In the ordinary course of life we can rejoice over something we see taking place. Suppose a man who has a healthily developed life of feeling observes someone performing an action that is inspired by real goodness of heart. He will be pleased, he will rejoice in the kind deed. And it may be, he will then to on to ponder over a deed of this nature in somewhat the following way. A deed that proceeded from kindness of heart, he may think to himself, is one in which the doer follows, not his own interests, but the interests of his fellow-man; I may therefore call it a “good” deed. But now he can go further. He can turn right away form the particular action that he observed and that gave him such pleasure, and create for himself the comprehensive idea of loving-kindness, “goodness of heart.” He can picture to himself how it arises in the soul, namely through the person's absorbing, as it were, the interest of his fellow, making them his own. And he can rejoice in this moral conception of kindness. The joy that he now has is no longer over this or that event in the physical world, it is joy in an idea as such. If we try to let joy of this kind live on in our soul for a considerable time we shall actually be practicing meditation upon a feeling. It is not the mere idea that will awaken the inner faculties, but he prolonged surrender of the soul to a feeling that is not just due to a particular external impression.

Supersensible cognition being able to penetrate more deeply into the real nature of things, feelings evoked by spiritual knowledge can be imparted and used for meditation. These will be all the more efficacious in unfolding the inner faculties of the soul. Necessary as this enhanced development will be for the higher stages of the pupil's training, he should nevertheless understand that meditations upon simple feelings and emotions such as the one concerning goodness of heart, if diligently carried out, can take him very far. Since people differ in nature and character, the means that prove most useful for individual pupils will naturally vary. As to the length of time that should be given to meditation, the thing of prime importance is that while engaged in it, the pupil shall remain calm and collected; its efficacy indeed depends on this. In the matter of time he should also be careful not to overshoot the mark. The exercises themselves will help him to acquire a certain inner tact which will teach him how far he may rightly go in this respect.

The pupil will as a rule have to carry out such exercises for quite a long while before he himself is able to notice any result. Patience and perseverance are absolute essentials in spiritual training. Unless the pupil evokes these qualities within him, going through his exercises so quietly and so regularly that patience and perseverance may be said to constitute the fundamental mood of his soul, he will make little progress.

It will be clear, from what has been said so far, that deep inner contemplation—meditation—is a means for the attainment of knowledge of higher worlds, and moreover that not just any thought-picture can be taken for meditation, but only one that has been built up in the way described.

The path that has been indicated leads in the fist place to what may be called “Imaginative cognition”—the first stage, that is, of higher cognition. The cognition that depends upon sense-perception and upon the elaboration of sense-perceptions by an intellect that is bound to the senses—“objective cognition.” Above it are the various stages of higher cognition, the Imaginative being the first. The word Imagination may well raise distrust in the minds of those who take it to mean some idea that is engendered by mere fancy—some “imaginary” idea or mental picture unrelated to reality. In spiritual science however, Imaginative cognition is to be understood as a cognition that results from the soul's having attained to a supersensible state of consciousness. What is perceived in this condition of consciousness are spiritual facts and spiritual beings whereto the senses have no access. Since this first supersensible consciousness is awakened in the pupil by his giving himself up in meditation to symbolic pictures or “imaginations,” it may be termed “Imaginative consciousness” and the cognition connected with it “Imaginative cognition”—meaning by this a cognition that is able to have knowledge of what is real in another sense than are the facts and objects perceived with the physical senses. The content of the thought-picture in the imaginative meditation is not the important thing; what is important is the faculty of soul that is thereby developed.

Another very understandable objection may be put forward to the employment of symbolic mental pictures. The building up of such pictures, it may be alleged, is carried out by a dreamlike thinking that makes use of arbitrary fancy, and the result can only be of questionable value. There is, however, no occasion to harbor any such misgiving in regard to the thought-pictures which form the basis of a right and sound spiritual training. Such thought-pictures are expressly chosen with this end in view—namely, that the relation they may have to external reality can be disregarded and their value sought purely in the power with which they work upon the soul when attention has been withdrawn from the outer world, when all sense-impressions and even all the thoughts the mind can entertain in response to sense-impressions have been eliminated.

If we want to form a clear and true picture of the process of meditation, we shall find it helpful to comp[are it with sleep. On the one hand it resembles sleep, while on the other hand it is the very opposite. For it is a sleep which in comparison with ordinary day-consciousness gives signs of a higher awakeness. The truth of the matter is that, having to concentrate upon one particular symbolic or other thought-picture, the soul is obliged to summon up from its depths much stronger forces than it is accustomed to employ in ordinary life or for the ordinary process of cognition. Its inner activity is enhanced thereby. The soul liberates itself from the body, even as it does in sleep. Only, instead of going over into unconsciousness, it now has living experience of a world it did not know before. Thus, the soul is in a condition which, although in its liberation from the body it may be likened to sleep, has nevertheless to be described as an enhanced awakeness in comparison with ordinary consciousness. The soul comes in this way to a living experience of itself in its inmost, true and independent being, whereas in ordinary waking life, when its forces are less strongly developed, it is only with the help of the body that the soul attains consciousness at all. It does not under these conditions have any conscious experience of itself, becoming conscious only in the picture which, like a reflection from a mirror, the body—or, one should rather say, the bodily processes conjure up before it.

The symbolic pictures that are built upon in the way described cannot of course be said to have relation as yet to anything real in the spiritual world. Their purpose is to detach the soul from sense-perception, and from the instrument of the brain with which in ordinary life the intellect is bound up. This detachment cannot be effected until man feels; Now I am forming a thought-picture by the use of forces that need not assistance from the senses or from the brain. The very first experience that befalls the pupil on his path is this liberation from the physical organs. He can then say to himself, My consciousness is not extinguished when I abandon sense-perceptions and abandon also my ordinary intellectual thinking; I can lift myself right out of this thinking, and I then feel myself a living spiritual being, side by side with what I was before. Here then we have the first purely spiritual experience: the pupil becomes aware of himself as an I, an Ego, purely in the soul and spirit. A new self has arisen out of the self that is bound up with the physical senses and the physical intellect. Had the pupil freed himself from the world of the senses and the intellect without deep inner meditation, he would have fallen into the void of unconsciousness. Naturally, he already had in him this being of pure soul and spirit before he practiced meditation, but it had then no instruments whereby it could observe in the spiritual world. It was not unlike a physical body that has no eyes to see with, no ears to hear with. The force that has been expended in achieving meditation has created organs of soul and spirit, has called them forth out of what was hitherto unorganized soul-and-spirit being.

What the pupil has in this way himself created, is also what he first perceives. Therefore his first experience is a kind of self-perception. It is in accord with the whole nature of spiritual training that, thanks to the self-education that he is undergoing, man is at this stage fully conscious that he is perceiving himself in the picture-worlds (Imaginations) which appear as a result of the exercises. These pictures seem to the pupil to be alive, and in a new world; yet he must recognize that, to begin with, they are nothing else than the reflection of his own being, strengthened as this now is by reason of the exercises he has carried out. Moreover not only has the pupil to come to a right conclusion on this point; he must in addition develop such a strong will that he is able at any moment to wipe out the pictures, to dismiss them altogether from consciousness. He must have it in his power to exercise authority over them in perfect freedom and confidence. And he will be able to do this, provided the training has been on sound lines. Otherwise, the pupil would be in the same plight in the realm of spiritual experience, as a man would be in the physical world if, when he turned to look at some object, his eye were to remain fettered to that object so that he was quite unable to look away from it. There is however one exception. One group of inner picture-experiences must not be blotted out at this stage of spiritual training. It is a group that relates to the heart and kernel of the pupil's own being; in the Imaginations of this group he is made acquainted with the very ground of his being, with that within him which passes through repeated earth lives. At this moment in his development he begins to feel—as a direct experience—the reality of repeated earth lives. In respect of everything else that he experiences in this realm there must be the freedom of which we spoke.

Only after the pupil has acquired the faculty of wiping out the Imaginations, does he approach the real external world of the spirit. In place of the pictures that have been wiped out, something else appears, and in this the pupil begins to attain knowledge of spiritual reality. His feeling of himself, from being dim and vague, reaches a clarity and definition hitherto unknown. And he has now to go further; he has to advance from this perception of himself to observation of the world of soul and spirit that surrounds him. This he will be able to do when he directs his inner experience in a way that will now be indicated.

To begin with, the soul is weak over against all that offers itself for perception in the world of soul and spirit. The pupil will already have had to expend considerable energy of soul in order to hold fast in meditation the symbolic or other pictures which he built up out of the data of the world of sense. But if he wants in addition to attain to actual observation in a higher world, he will have to do more than this. He must be able to abide in a condition wherein not only the stimuli of the external world no longer influence his soul, but even the Imaginative thought-pictures are completely obliterated from his consciousness. For the moment has now arrived when that which has been formed and fashioned within him by dint of deep inner concentration of soul can come to view. Everything now depends upon the pupil's having sufficient inner energy of soul to allow it to be actually seen by him spiritually; it must not escape his notice, as invariably happens when the forces of the soul are too little developed. The soul-and-spirit organism that has come to development within him and that the pupil has now to apprehend in self-perception is frail and evanescent. Many and serious are the disturbances that come from the outer world of sense and from memories of the same, and that persist in the mind even when the pupil does his utmost to shut them out. Nor is it only the disturbances of which we can be aware that come into question; still more serious are those of which we are totally unaware in ordinary life.

The very conditions however under which the life of man takes its course make possible here a transition stage. What the soul is unable to achieve when awake on account of these disturbances from the physical world, it can achieve in sleep. One who devotes himself to meditation will, if sufficiently attentive, begin to notice something new about his sleep. He will be aware that he is not always fully asleep the whole time, but that there are moments when his soul, although he is asleep, is nevertheless active in some way. At such times, the natural processes of sleep keep away the influences of the external world which he is not yet strong enough to keep away by his own efforts while awake. And now that the exercises in concentration and meditation have begun to take effect, the soul is released from complete unconsciousness during sleep and is able to eel the world of soul and spirit. This can come home to the pupil in either of two ways. He may be well aware during his sleep: “I am now in another world,” or he may have the memory when he wakes up: “I have been in another world.” A greater inner energy is of course required for the first way than for the second, which will accordingly for a beginner be the more frequent of the two. And it may be that gradually the point is reached when the pupil, on awakening, has the impression: During the whole time that I have been asleep I have been in another world; I emerged from it only when I awoke. Moreover his memory of the beings and facts of this outer world will grow more and more definite. This will mean that the pupil has attained in one or another form what may be called “continuity of consciousness” (the persistence of consciousness during sleep.) There is no implication that he will always retain consciousness during sleep. He will have made good progress in this direction if, while in general he sleeps as others do, there are times when during sleep he can be consciously giving into a world of soul and spirit; or again if, when awake, he can look back upon short periods of such consciousness.

It must not be forgotten that this is only a transition state. It is good for his spiritual training that the pupil should go through this stage, but he must not imagine that it can afford him conclusive evidence in regard to the world of soul and spirit. He is, in this condition, still uncertain and cannot yet rely on his perceptions. Thanks however to experiences of this nature he does gradually gather power to attain the like result also in waking life—that is, to hold off the disturbing influences of the physical world upon his senses and upon his inner life, and so attain that “observing” in soul and spirit where no impressions enter by way of the senses, where the brain-bound intellect is silent, and where even those thought-pictures are banished from consciousness, upon which he had been meditating in preparing for seeing in the spirit. (Things published in the name of spiritual science should invariably be the outcome of spiritual observations made in a fully wide-awake condition.)

There are two inner experiences, important in the course of spiritual training. The one enables the pupil to say to himself: If I now turn aside from every impression that can reach me from the surrounding physical world, I do not, when I look within, behold there a being that is totally inactive, but a being that is conscious of itself in a world of which I can know nothing as long as I only lay myself open to impressions that come to me through sense-perception and through everyday thinking. At this moment, the pupil can have the feeling that he has himself given birth to a new being that is there within him as the very heart and kernel of his soul, a being possessed moreover of entirely different qualities from those that have been his up to now.

The second experience is as follows. The pupil discovers that he can now have beside him the self he has been hitherto, as if it were another and distinct self. He is in a sense confronted by the being within which he has until now been confined. He feels he is temporarily outside what he has hitherto been accustomed to call his very own self, his I. It is as if he were living, with perfect calm and composure, in two selves. The first of them he knew before; the second self now confronts the first as a new-born entity. Moreover he feels the first becoming in a way self-subsistent, independent of the second, rather as man's body has an independent existence of its own apart from this first self. This is an experience of very great moment; for the pupil knows now what it means to live in that higher world which, with the help of his training, he has been endeavoring to reach.

The second, the new-born self, can now be brought to perceive in the spiritual world. Within it there can unfold for the spiritual world what the sense-organs are for the physical. When this development has reached the required stage, the pupil will be able to do more than feel himself as a new-born I. Just as he perceives the physical world by means of his senses, so will he now begin to perceive around him spiritual facts and spiritual beings. Here we have then a third significant experience. In order to pass through this stage successfully, the pupil will have to reckon with the fact that along with the strengthening of the soul's forces, self-love and self-conceit begin to assume proportions that are quite unknown in ordinary life. It would argue a complete lack of understanding, were we to imagine that this was no more than the ordinary kind of selfishness and self-love. Self-love grows so strong at this stage of the pupil's development, that it can actually seem to him like a force of Nature working within him, and a strenuous disciple of the will is required to et the better of this prodigious self-conceit. The latter does not come as a result of spiritual training. This self-conceit is always there in man, but only when the pupil comes to have real experience of the Spirit is it raised up into consciousness. Hand in hand therefore with spiritual training must always go the training of the will. The pupil is conscious of a tremendous urge to feel blissfully happy in the world which he has created within him. What he must now be able to do is to wipe out, as described above, the very thing he has taken such pains to achieve. Having reached the Imaginative world, he must there contrive to extinguish self. In opposition to this self-effacement are ranged within him the excessively strong impulses of self-opinion and self-conceit. It might easily be imagined that exercises for spiritual training were something quite apart and had nothing whatever to do with moral development. To this one can only reply that the moral force needed to overcome this self-conceit cannot possibly be acquired unless the whole ethical tone and disposition of the pupil be raised to a proportionate level. Progress in spiritual training is out of the question, unless progress be made at the same time in the ethical sphere. Lack of moral strength makes conquest of self-conceit impossible . The allegation that genuine spiritual training is not ipso facto moral training is entirely mistaken

Only one who has no personal knowledge of such experience could here interpose the question: How are we to know, when we think we have spiritual perceptions, that we are facing realities and not the mere creations of our fancy—visions, hallucinations and the like? As a matter of ace, a pupil who has reached the above stage in proper spiritual training can distinguish between the figments of his own fancy and spiritual reality, just as a person of normal intelligence is able to distinguish between the mental picture of a hot iron and a real one he touches with his hand; he knows the difference by virtue of a sound and healthy experience of life. So too in the spiritual world, life itself provides the touchstone. In the world of the senses, we know that if we imagine a hot iron, then however hot we picture it, it will not burn our fingers; so does the pupil of Spirit know whether he is only imagining that he confronts a spiritual fact or whether real facts and real beings are making their impressions on the organs of spiritual perception that have been awakened in him. The instructions he will need to follow during his training to save him from falling a victim to illusion in this regard will be set forth in the following pages.

It is of the utmost importance that by the time the pupil becomes conscious of a new-born self within him, his whole character and morale shall have reached a high level. For it is like this. It belongs to man's I or Ego, to control his sensations and feelings and ideas, also his impulses, desires and passions. Perceptions, mental pictures and ideas cannot be simply let loose in the soul; they must e regulated by the exercise of a thoughtful discretion. The I, the self, administers the laws of thought, thereby bringing order into man's thinking and ideation. It is the same with his desires and impulses, his inclinations and passions. These are guided and controlled by his moral principles. Thus the self, by the exercise of ethically sound judgment and discretion, becomes man's guide in this domain. When now we have succeeded in drawing out of our ordinary self a higher self, the former will become to some extent independent. But it will at the same time be deprived of the energies now devoted to the higher self. Let us see what will happen if a pupil wants to give birth to his higher self, when he has not yet developed adequate ability or certainty in his application of the laws of thought nor in his power of judgment and discretion. He cannot leave to his ordinary self any more ability in the field of thought than he has hitherto developed. Should this not suffice, then his everyday self, continuing on its own, will exhibit a thinking that is disordered, confused and fantastic. Since for such a person the new-born self can only be weak, the lower self, confused as it is, will gain control over his beholding in the supersensible, and he will fail to show discrimination in regard to what he observes there. Had he developed sufficiently his faculty for logical thinking, there would have been no difficulty in allowing his everyday self to assume independence.

The same applies in the realm of ethics. If a pupil has not acquired firmness in moral judgment, if he is not sufficiently master of his inclinations, his impulses and passions, he will be conferring independence on his everyday self when it is still in a condition of relative subjection to them. It can happen that such a person will not recognize in reference to his supersensible experience the same need to conform to a high standard of truth as he does in respect of what the outer physical world presents to his consciousness. Should he thus have a lax regard or truth, he could easily take for spiritual reality all manner of things that are nothing but figments of his own fancy. What is needed is that, before the higher self begins to be active in its quest for knowledge of the supersensible, the pupil's sense of truth be infused with a firmness of moral judgment and with a stability of character and of conscience, that have been developed in the self now left behind. This is not by any means said with intention to frighten people away from spiritual training; it is nevertheless a consideration that needs to be taken very seriously.

If the pupil is firmly resolved to leave nothing undone that will help to make his first self reliable in the strict performance of its functions, then he has no need to be afraid of this event that comes as a result of spiritual training—the liberation, that is, of a second self for attainment of knowledge in the supersensible. He must however not forget that self-deception is apt to be particularly strong when one is deeming oneself “ripe” for some new step. In the school of spiritual training we have here described, the pupil's life of thought undergoes a development which precludes the danger, so very often alleged, of being led astray. Thanks to the development of the life of thought, the pupil is able to undergo all necessary experiences of the inner life in such a way that there is no fear of their being accompanied by delusive and mischievous creations of the fancy. Where adequate development of the life of thought has been lacking, the experiences can well evoke serious uncertainty in the soul of the pupil. If the pupil is prepared in the way here recommended, he will acquire knowledge of the new experiences in much the same way as a man of healthy mind gets to know the objects he perceives in the physical world. Development of the life of thought tends rather to make him an observer of what he himself is experiencing, whereas without it he is absorbed in the experience—as it were, unreflective and unheeding.

In a proper school of spiritual training certain qualities are set forth that require to be cultivated by one who desires to find the path to the higher worlds. First and foremost, the pupil must have control over his thoughts (in their course and sequence.) over his will, and over his feelings. The control has to be acquired by means of exercises , and these are planned with two ends in view. On the one hand, the soul has to become so firm, so secure and balanced that it will retain these qualities when a second self is born. And on the other hand, the pupil has to endow this second self, from the start, with strength and steadfastness.

The quality that thinking needs above all is objectivity. In the world of the physical senses life itself is our great teacher in this respect. Let a man fling his thoughts hither and thither in a purely arbitrary manner, he will find himself obliged to suffer life to correct him if he does not want to come into conflict with it. He must of necessity bring his thinking into correspondence with the facts. But when he turns his attention away from the physical world, this compulsory correction fails him; and if his thinking has not then the ability to be its own corrector, it will inevitably follow will-o'-the-wisps. The pupil of the spirit must therefore undertake exercises in thinking in order that his thinking may be able to mark out its own path and goal. Stability, and the capacity to adhere firmly to a once chosen subject, are what the pupil's thinking has to acquire. There is therefore no occasion for the exercises to deal with remote or complicated objects, much rather should they have reference to simple objects that are ready to hand. Whoever succeeds in directing his thought, for at least five minutes daily, and for months on end, to some quite commonplace object—say, for example, a needle or a pencil—and in shutting out during those five minutes all thoughts that have no connection with the object, will have made very good progress in this direction. (A fresh object may be chosen each day, or one may be continued for several days.) Even a person who considers himself a trained intellectual thinker should not be too proud to qualify for spiritual training by an exercise of this simple nature. For when we are riveting our thought for a considerable time upon something that is entirely familiar, we may be quite sure that our thinking is in accord with reality. If we ask ourselves: what is a lead pencil made of? How are the different materials prepared? How are they put together? When were lead pencils invented? And so on, we can be more sure of our thoughts being consistent with reality than if we were to ponder the question of the descent of man—or, let us say, of the meaning of life. Simple exercises in thinking are a far better preparation for forming commensurate conceptions of Saturn, Sun and Moon evolution than are complicated and learned ideas. As to our thinking, what is important at this stage is not the object or event to which it is directed, but that it should be strong and vigorous and to the point. If it has been educated to be so in reference so simple physical realities that lie open to view, it will acquire the tendency to be so even when it finds itself no longer under the control of the physical world and its laws. The pupil will find he gets rid in this way of any tendency he had before to loose and extravagant thinking.

As if in the world of thought, so also in the sphere of the will, the self has to become master. Here too, as long as we remain in the world of the physical senses, life itself may be said to be our master. Some vital need asserts itself and the will feels impelled to satisfy the need. But one who undergoes a higher training has to acquire the habit of strict obedience to what he tells himself to do on his own initiative. In learning this he will be less and less inclined to cherish pointless desires. Dissatisfaction and instability in the life of will come from setting one's heart on some aim, of the realization of which one has formed no clear notion. Dissatisfaction of this kind can bring the whole inner life into disorder at the moment when a higher self is ready to come forth from the soul. A good exercise for the will is, every day for months on end, to give oneself the command: Today you are to do this, at this particular hour. One will gradually manage to fix the hour and the nature of the task so as to render the command perfectly possible to carry out. In this way we rise above that deplorable state of mind which finds expression in words such as: I would like to do this, I wish I could do that—when all the time there is no real expectation of fulfillment. A great poet made a prophetess say: “Him I love who craves for the impossible”2Goethe, Faust, Part II, Act II. And the same poet says in his own name: “To live in the Idea is to treat the impossible as thought it were possible.”3Goethe: Proverbs in Prose. Such words should however not be quoted as refuting the above recommendation. For the demand that Goethe and his prophetess (Manto) are making can only be met by one who has first educated himself in the achievement of desires that are possible of fulfillment—in order then, by dint of his strengthened will, to be able to treat the “impossible” in such a way as to change it by his will into the possible.

Passing on now to the world of feeling, the pupil must succeed in reaching a certain equanimity of soul. For this he will need to have under his control all outward expression of pleasure or pain, of joy or sorrow. Such advice will be certain to meet with prejudice. Surely, if he is not to rejoice over what is joyful, not to sorrow over what is sorrowful, the pupil will become utterly indifferent to the life that is going on around him! But this is not at all what is meant. The pupil shall by all means rejoice over what if joyful and sorrow over what is sorrowful. It is the outward expression of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain that he must learn to control. If he honestly tries to attain this, he will soon discover that he does not grow less, but actually more sensitive than before to everything in his environment that can arouse emotions of joy or of pain. If the pupil is really to succeed in cultivating this control it will undoubtedly involve keeping close watch upon himself for a long time. He must not be slow to enter with fullness of feeling into pleasure and pain, but must be able to do so without losing self-control and giving involuntary expression to it. What he has to suppress is not the pain—that is justified—but the involuntary weeping; not the horror at a base action, but the outburst of blind fury; not the caution in face of danger, but the giving way to panic—which does no good whatever.

Only by the practice of an exercise of this kind can the pupil attain the inner poise and quiet that he will have need of when the time comes for the higher self to be born in the soul, and more especially when this higher self becomes active there. Otherwise the soul may lead an unhealthy lie of its own alongside the higher self—like a kind of double. It is important not to fall a victim to self-deception in this manner. It may seem to many a pupil that he already possesses a good measure of equanimity in ordinary life and will not therefore need this exercise. In point of fact, such a one is doubly in need of it. A man may remain perfectly calm and composed in relation to the exigencies of everyday life, and then, when he rises into a higher world, exhibit a sad lack of poise—all the more so indeed, since the tendency to let himself go was there all the time, only suppressed. It must be clearly understood that what a pupil appears to have already of some attribute of the soul is a little account for spiritual training; what is far more important is that he should practice regularly and systematically the exercises he needs. Contradictory as such a statement may sound, it is true nevertheless. Say that life has endowed us with this or that virtue; for spiritual training it is the virtues we ourselves have cultivated that are of value. Are we by nature easily excitable, it is for us to rid ourselves of this excitability; are we by nature calm and imperturbable, we must bestir ourselves to bring it about through our own self-education that the impressions we receive from without awake in us the right response. A man who cannot laugh has just ad little control over his life as a man who without self-control is perpetually giving way to laughter.

It will be a further help to the education of his thinking and feeling, if the pupil acquire a virtue that I will call positiveness. A lovely legend is related of Christ Jesus. It tells how He is walking with a few other persons, and they pass by a dead dog. The other turn away from the revolting sight. Christ Jesus speaks admiringly of the beautiful teeth of the animal. One can train oneself to meet the world with the disposition of soul that this legend displays. The spurious, the bad and the ugly should not hinder us from finding, wherever they are present, the true, the good and the beautiful. Positiveness must not be confused lack of discrimination, or with an arbitrary shutting of one's eyes to what is bad, or false, or “good for nothing.” He who admires the “beautiful teeth” of a dead animal sees also the decaying body. The unsightly corpse does not, however, prevent him from seeing the beautiful teeth. We cannot deem a bad thing good or an error true; but we can take care not to be put off by the bad from seeing the good, nor by the false from seeing the true.

The thinking, and together with it the willing, reaches a certain maturity if one tries never to let past experiences rob one of open-minded receptivity for new ones. To declare in the face of some new experience: “I never heard of such a thing, I don't believe it!” should make no sense at all to a pupil of the Spirit. Rather let him make the deliberate resolve, during a certain period of time to let every thing or being he encounters tell him something new. A breath of wind, a leaf falling from a tree, the prattle of a little child, can all teach us something, are we but ready to adopt a point of view to which we have perhaps not hitherto been accustomed. One can, it is true, carry this too far. We must not, at whatever age we have reached, put right out of our minds everything we have experienced hitherto. We have most decidedly to base our judgment of what confronts us now upon past experience. That is on the one side of the balance, but on the other there is the need for the pupil of the Spirit to be ready all the time for entirely new experiences; above all, to admit to himself the possibility that the new may contradict the old.

These then are five qualities of soul the pupil has to acquire n the coursed of a right and proper training: control over the direction of his thoughts, control of his impulses of will, equanimity in the face of pleasure and pain, positiveness in his attitude to the world around him, readiness to meet life with an open mind. Lastly, when he has spent consecutive periods of time in training himself for the acquisition of these five qualities, the pupil will need to bring them into harmony in his soul. He will have to practice them in manifold combinations—two by two, three and one at a time, and so on, in order to establish harmony among them.2Goethe, Faust, Part II, Act II.

These exercises have been assigned a place in spiritual training, because when thoroughly and effectually carried out they have not only their more immediate result in the cultivation of the desired qualities, but indirectly a great deal more will follow from them that is of no less importance for the pupil on his path to the spiritual worlds. Whoever gives sufficient time and care to their practice will, while he is doing them, come up against many blemishes and shortcomings in his soul, and will moreover find in the exercises themselves the means of strengthening and stabilizing his thought life, as well as his life of feeling and indeed his whole character. He will undoubtedly need many more exercises, adapted to his own individual faculties, to his particular character and temperament. These will emerge when the above have been practiced in all thoroughness. One will indeed discover, as time goes on, that these six exercises give one indirectly more than at first appears to be contained in them. Suppose the pupil is lacking in self-confidence. He will after a time begin to notice that, thanks to the exercises, he is gaining the self-confidence of which he stands in need. And it will be the same with other qualities of soul wherein he may be deficient. (Several exercises, described in more detail, will be found in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment.)

It is important that the pupil shall find it possible to go on developing the said six qualities in ever increasing measure. His control over this thoughts and sensations must become great enough to enable him to set aside times of complete inner quiet, when all the joys and sorrows, all the satisfactions and anxieties of everyday life—nay more, even all its tasks and demands are banished from mind and heart. In such times that alone which he himself wills to admit shall be allowed entry to his soul. Here again it is possible that some reader may feel misgiving. Will not the pupil become estranged from daily life and its tasks, if he withdraws from it in this way, banishing it from mind and heart for certain stated times during the day? In reality, however, this is far from being so. One who devotes himself in this way to periods of inner quiet, will find that he grows stronger in many respects for the tasks of daily life, and fulfils them, not only no less well, but decidedly better than before.

Such periods will have special value for the pupil if during them he refrains entirely from thinking of his own personal affairs and rises to the contemplation of the concerns of mankind at large. Should he be able at such times to fill his soul with communications that come from higher spiritual worlds, letting these take no less firm hold upon his interest than do his personal cares and concerns in ordinary life, he will be richly rewarded.

One who makes serious endeavor to gain this mastery over his life of soul will also find his way to a self-observation by means of which he will be able to regard his own concerns as coolly and quietly as if they had no connection with himself. To be able to look upon all experiences that come to one in life, all joys and sorrows, in the very same way as one looks upon those of others is a good preparation for spiritual training. The pupil will find he can gradually attain the necessary ability in this direction, if every evening when the day's work is done, he lets pass before his mind's eye pictures of the day's experiences, watching himself go through them. This will mean that he is looking at himself as he is in daily life—from without. To begin with, let him take small sections of the day. That will give him practice; and he will find that he grows more and more skilful in this “looking backward” until at last he is able to picture the whole day through in quite a short span of time. This beholding of our experiences in backward direction has a special value for spiritual training: it helps us disengage our thinking from its accustomed habit of holding on to the outer, material and sense-perceptible events. When we think backwards, we picture the events correctly, but we are no longer sustained by the obvious external sequence. The pupil needs this liberation if he is to make his way into the supersensible world. He will find too that by this freedom his thinking and ideation are strengthened, and in a thoroughly healthy manner. It is accordingly good also to review other things in backward order—a play, for example, a story, a melody, and so on.

A pupil of the Spirit will have it increasingly as his ideal to meet the events of life with inner quiet and confidence, forming his judgment on them, not as to how they accord with his own particular disposition but on the basis of their inherent meaning and inner value. By holding this ideal ever before him, he will be laying in his soul the foundation for that deep inner contemplation—of symbolic and other thoughts and also of feelings—of which we have been hearing.

It is essential for the pupil to fulfill the above conditions, for supersensible experience has to be built upon the ground on which he stands in ordinary life before he enters the supersensible world. His experience there is dependent in two ways on the point he reached before setting out. If he has not taken special care to see that an ability for sound judgment is at the very foundation of his spiritual training, he will develop supersensible faculties which perceive the spiritual world inaccurately and falsely. His organs of spiritual perception will evolve in a wrong way. As in the world of the senses we cannot see correctly with imperfect or diseased eyes, so in the spiritual world we cannot perceive correctly with organs lacking the foundation of sound judgment and discrimination.

Should it happen that a pupil sets out on the path with an immoral character, his power of vision, when he mounts up into the spiritual worlds, will be dim and clouded. He will be like a man in the world of the senses who gazes at it in a condition of stupor. With this difference, however: whereas the latter will have little of any consequence to tell, the observer in the spiritual world—even in his stupor—is more awake than man is in ordinary consciousness, and will accordingly give information of what he sees there. The information will however be erroneous.

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.)

The end in view for which the pupil engages in meditation upon symbolic thought-pictures or upon certain feelings, is neither more nor less than the development, within the astral body, of higher organs of perception. These organs are created out of the substance of the astral body itself; they bring the pupil into contact with a new world, and in this new world he learns to know himself as a new I or Ego. They differ from the organs with which we observe the world of the physical senses in that they are active. Eye and ear remain passive, allowing light and sound to act upon them; of the organs of perception that belong to the soul and spirit it can truly be said that while they are perceiving they are in continual activity, and furthermore that they comprehend, quite consciously, the objects and facts that they perceive. This gives us the feeling that when we “know” with our soul and spirit, the very knowing is at the same time a blending with the facts we come to know; we feel we are living within them.

The several organs of soul and spirit that develop in this manner may be called, by way of comparison, lotus-flowers; the name accords with the form in which supersensible consciousness has to picture them—picture them, that is Imaginatively. (It need hardly be said that such a designation has no more direct relation to reality than has the expression “Flügel” or “wing” in the word “Lungenflügel” meaning “Lobe of the lung.”) Specific kinds of meditation work upon the astral body in such a way as to lead to the development of one or other of these “lotus flowers.” After all that has been given in this book, it should be quite unnecessary to stress the fact that we have not to think of these organs of perception as though the symbolic picture of them which the name suggests were a direct imprint of their real nature. They are supersensible and consist in a definite activity of the soul; indeed they only exist in so far and for so long s the activity continues. We could as little speak, in connection with them, of anything observable by the senses, as we could of seeing a mist or cloud around a man when he is thinking! Those who insist on picturing the supersensible in sensual terms will inevitably be involved in misunderstandings. Superfluous as this remark should be, I let it stand, since one is constantly meeting with people who believe in the supersensible and yet want to picture it in far too sensual a way; also there are opponents of supersensible knowledge who imagine that when the scientist of the Spirit speaks of “lotus flowers” he thinks of them as tangible objects howsoever refined—objects perceptible to the outer senses.

Every meditation undertaken for the attainment of Imaginative cognition has its influence, if rightly carried out, upon one or other of these organs. (In my book Knowledge of the Higher Words and its Attainment meditations and exercises are given that take effect on this or that particular organ.) A proper spiritual training will arrange the several exercises in such order as to enable these organs of the soul to develop singly, together, or in due succession, as the case may be. This development asks for great patience and perseverance on the part of the pupil. The degree of patience a man gains in the ordinary course of life will not suffice. For it will be a long time—in many instances a very long time indeed—before the organs are so far developed that the pupil can make use of them for perceiving in the higher world. The moment he does become able to do this, he enters upon the stage of Enlightenment, so-called in contradistinction to the stage of Preparation, Probation or Purification, where the pupil is engaged upon the exercises that are given for the development of the organs. (The word “Purification” is used, because by means of the exercises he undergoes, the pupil “cleanses” a certain region of his inner life, casting out from it everything that has its source in the external world of the senses.) It may well happen that even before he reaches the stage of Enlightenment, a man will frequently experience sudden flashes that come from a higher world. These he should receive with thankfulness. The fact that he has them enables him already to bear witness to the spiritual world. He must however not weaken in his resolve if no such moments come during the time of Preparation—which may perhaps seem to him to be lasting all too long. Anyone who allows himself to grow impatient because he can still “see nothing” has not yet succeeded in finding his right relation to a higher world. He alone has done so who can look upon the exercises he undertakes in his training as an end in themselves. With these he is in very truth doing work upon something in him that is of the nature of soul and spirit, namely, upon his astral body. And even when as yet he “sees nothing,” he can feel: I am really working and functioning in soul and spirit. If however he has made up his mind beforehand as to what he is going to “see,” he will not have this feeling. He will in that case be disregarding what is in truth of incalculable significance. He should on the contrary be paying careful attention to all that he experiences while doing the exercises. For this is radically different from anything he meets with in the world of sense. Already at this stage he will remark that in working upon his astral body he is not working into some indifferent substance, but that in his astral body lives a world of quite another kind—a world of which his life amid the outer senses tells him nothing. Even as the external world of the senses works upon the physical body, so are the higher Beings working upon the astral body. The pupil will “impinge” upon the higher life in his own astral body, provided he himself does not stand in the way. If he is continually saying to himself: “I can perceive nothing at all,” it will generally mean that he has formed his own idea of what the spiritual percept has to look like, and since he does not see it in the form he has imagined, he says: “I see nothing at all.”

The pupil who has the right attitude to his exercises will find increasingly that the very doing of them is something he can love for its own sake. He knows moreover that the doing of them places him already in a world of soul and spirit, and he waits with patience and above all with devotion for what is to come. This mood in the pupil can be best lifted into consciousness in the following words: “I am resolved to carry out whatever exercises are right for me, and I know that I shall meantime be receiving as much as is important for me to receive. I do not demand it, I am not impatient; I simply hold myself ready all the time to receive it.” It is quite wrong to contend: “So then the pupil is to grope his way on in the dark, perhaps for an incredibly long time, with no means of knowing that he is on the right path until success prove it to him!” For it is simply not true that the pupil has to wait for the exercises to achieve their end before he can be assured of their validity. If he undertakes them in the right spirit he need not wait for their eventual outcome; the satisfaction that he has in doing them will of itself make it clear to him that he is on the true path. Proper practice of exercises belonging to a path of spiritual training brings with it a sense of satisfaction that is no mere satisfaction but certain knowledge. The pupil knows: I am engaging in an activity which I can see is taking me forward in the right direction. Every pupil of the Spirit can have this certainty at every moment, if only he observes his experiences with sensitive discernment. If he is crudely inattentive, he is letting them go past him like a person out walking who is so deeply absorbed in his own reflections that he does not see the trees on either side of his path—although he could quite well be seeing them if he would only turn his eyes in their direction.

It is indeed undesirable that any other result than this one, which always attends the doing of the exercises, should be induced before the time is due. For it may well be that a seemingly successful result is no more than the smallest fraction of what should ensue in right and proper course. In spiritual development a partial success will often lead to a prolonged postponement of complete success. Moving familiarly among such forms of spiritual life as disclose themselves at an imperfect stage renders one insusceptible to influences that lead to higher levels of development. The seeming boon—namely the fact that one has after all had sight of the spiritual world—is not really a boon at all; this kind of “beholding” cannot impart objective truth but only delusive pictures.

The organs of soul and spirit, the lotus flowers, that are in course of development in one who is undergoing training, reveal themselves to supersensible consciousness in the neighborhood, as it were, of particular bodily organs. From among the number of these organs of the soul, mention will here be made of the following. There is, first, the organ that is perceived as though about midway between the eyebrows (the so-called two-petalled lotus-flower;) then, the organ in the region of the larynx (the sixteen-petalled lotus-flower;) thirdly, the organ in the region of the heart (the twelve-petalled lotus-flower;) and then a fourth in the neighborhood of the pit of the stomach. Others come to view near other parts of the physical body. (The appellation two-or sixteen-petalled is not inappropriate, for the organs in question are in appearance comparable to flowers with these numbers of petals.)

The lotus-flowers become manifest to the consciousness of the pupil in his astral body. As soon as he has developed one or other of them, he knows that he has it. He feels he can make use of it and that in doing so he does actually enter a higher world. The impressions he receives there still resemble in many respects those of the physical world. One who has attained Imaginative cognition will thus be able, in speaking of this new higher world, to describe his impressions by reference to sensations, for example, of warmth or of cold; or he may compare them to hearing music or speech, or to the effect upon him of light or color. For this is the kind of feeling he has of them. He is however conscious that perceptions acquired in the Imaginative world tell of something altogether different from those acquired in the world of sense. He knows that what gives rise to them is not physical or material, but of the nature of soul and spirit. Suppose he receives an impression resembling the sensation of warmth. He will not ascribe it, for example, to a piece of hot iron, but will consider it as emanating from some soul situation or event of a kind that he has hitherto been aware of only in his inner life of soul. He knows that his Imaginative perceptions are due to things and happenings of the nature of pure soul and spirit, even as his physical perceptions are due to facts and entities of a material, physical nature.

Along with this resemblance of the Imaginative to the physical world there is at the same time a significant difference between them. One ever-present feature of the physical world shows itself in the Imaginative world in a totally different way. In the physical world we can observe a continual coming into being and passing away again, a constant alternation of birth with death. In the Imaginative world we find instead perpetual transformation taking place—one thing changing into another. For instance, in the physical world we see a plant droop and die. In the Imaginative world, as the plant fades away, another form—invisible to the physical senses—is all the time seen to be arising, into which the dying plant gradually changes. When the plant has quite disappeared, before us in its place is this new form, fully developed. Birth and death are conceptions which lose their meaning in the Imaginative world. In their place we have the concept of transformation or metamorphosis—one thing changing into another.

This is how it is that the truths concerning the being of man which have been communicated in the chapters on “the Nature of Humanity” become accessible to Imaginative cognition. With the physical senses, only the processes of the physical body can be perceived, and these take place in the “realm of birth and death.” The other members of man's nature—the life-body, the sentient body and the I—are subject to the law of transformation; Imaginative cognition is therefore able to perceive them. One who has progressed to this stage can see how at death something as it were releases itself from the physical body and lives on further in a different kind of existence.

But spiritual development does not come to an end in the Imaginative world. If we wanted to remain in that world and go no farther, we would be unable to give any explanation for the changes that were taking place; we could not find our bearings in the world to which we had gained access. The Imaginative world is a restless place. Everywhere in it there is movement, nothing but movement and change; nowhere does it come to rest. Only when we develop beyond the stage of Imaginative cognition and reach what may be called “cognition through Inspiration” do we find a resting-place.

It is not essential that one who sets out to attain knowledge of the supersensible world shall first acquire Imaginative knowledge in full measure and only then proceed to Inspiration. A pupil's training may be so regulated that exercises leading to Imagination are continued side by side with exercises for the development of Inspiration. He will then, in due time, come into a higher world where he does not merely perceive but can also orientate himself—a world in which he can begin to see meaning. In point of fact, it will indeed generally happen that as the pupil progresses, glimpses of the Imaginative world are first of all vouchsafed him, and that then, after a time, he has the feeling: Now I am beginning also to find my bearings.

Yet it must also be realized that the world if Inspiration is something different and new, compared to that of Imagination. With Imaginative cognition we perceive events and processes in mutual transformation. With Inspiration we come to know the inner qualities of the beings who are undergoing transformation. With Imagination we see the manifestation of these beings in the realm of soul. With Inspiration we penetrate to their inner spiritual nature; above all, we come to know a multiplicity of beings and learn of the connections between them. In the physical world we also have to do with a multiplicity of beings or entities of various kinds, but in the world of Inspiration this multiplicity is of quite another character. There each single being has its distinctive connections with other beings, connections that are determined, not as in the physical world by some outward impressions that the beings make upon one another, but by their inner character and spiritual nature. When we perceive a being in the world of Inspiration, we are not looking at some external influence that the being is exerting upon another being, comparable with the influence exerted by one physical being upon another; what confronts us there is a relationship between two beings that comes about solely through the inner character both of the one and of the other. There is in the physical world one kind of relationship to which this may bear comparison—such a relationship as obtains between the several sounds or letters of a word. Say we have before us the word “bold.” The word comes about through the sounding together of the sounds b-o-l-d. The sounds b and o, for example, do not collide or react on one another in some external way; they act together and each fulfils it part within the whole by virtue of its inner character. The activity of “observing” in the world of Inspiration can therefore be compared with reading. The beings in that world present themselves to the observer like letters that he must first learn and that will then be revealed to him in their several relationships, forming as it were a spiritual script or supersensible writing. Spiritual science may therefore avail itself of this comparison and call the knowledge acquired through Inspiration: the Reading of the Hidden Script.

How the Reading of the Hidden Script is done, and how what is read may be communicated shall now be explained with reference to the earlier chapters of the present book. A description was given in the first place of the being of man, telling of how it is built up of several members. Then it was shown how the world in which man is evolving has itself passed through various stages of evolution—the Saturn condition, then the Sun, the Moon and now the Earth condition. Imaginative cognition brings within our reach perceptions that make us acquainted, on the one hand with the members of man's being, on the other hand with the successive conditions of our Earth and the changes it has undergone up to the present time. We then had to go further and learn of the relationship that exists between the Saturn condition of our Earth and the physical body of man, between the Sun condition and his ether-body and so on. We were shown how the seed for the physical body came into being as long ago as the Saturn condition, and has continued developing throughout Sun, Moon and Earth conditions right up to its present form. It became necessary also to show, for example, what changes came about in the being of man owing to the separation of the Sun from the Earth, and again what further changes were wrought in him by the parallel event in respect of the Moon; and then what kind of co-operation was needed to bring about those still later changes in mankind that found expression during the Atlantean time and the epochs that followed it—the Indian, Persian, Egyptian and so on. The picture that was given of these connections was derived not from Imaginative perception, but from knowledge attained through Inspiration, from Reading in the Hidden Script. In relation to this “reading” the perceptions of Imagination are like the individual letters or sounds. Nor is it only explanations of this kind for which the reading is required. The course of man's life could not be understood if we were to study it with the help of Imaginative knowledge alone. We would, it is true, perceive how at death the soul-and-spirit members disengage themselves from what remains behind in the physical world; but we would not understand how the events that happen to man after death are related to past and future conditions, unless we already know our way about the world we perceived Imaginatively. Without the knowledge acquired through Inspiration, the Imaginative world is like a script at which we merely stare, without being able to read it.

When the pupil of the Spirit goes forward from Imagination to Inspiration, he very quickly realizes what a mistake it would be to neglect to cultivate an understanding for the great events and phenomena of the Universe and to want to restrict his attention to the facts that bear upon his more immediate human interests. It can easily happen that one who has not been initiated into these matters will say: “The one thing of importance for me is to learn about the destiny of the soul of man after death. If I can receive information upon that, then I am satisfied. Why does spiritual science set before me such remote matters as the Saturn and Sun conditions of our Earth, the separation of the Sun—and later of the Moon—from the Earth, and so on? Whoever has been introduced in the right way to the whole subject of higher knowledge will come to see that he cannot attain authentic information about man's destiny after death, until he has first learned about those greater themes that might have seemed unnecessary. A picture of the condition into which man is brought after death will remain for him quite unintelligible and therefore worthless, if he cannot bring it together with conceptions that have grown out of these more remote themes. The very simplest observation that can be made by means of supersensible cognition requires him to be acquainted with them. When, for instance, a plant passes from the flowering stage and begins to bear fruit, then if we are watching it with supersensible powers of observation, we see a change taking place in an astral entity which in the flowering time has been enveloping the plant from above like a cloud. But for the “fertilization” as it is called (leading from flower to fruit,) this astral entity would have passed on into an altogether different form from the one it has assumed in consequence of fertilization. And we can only comprehend the whole process when seen with supersensible perception if we have prepared our understanding by studying the great cosmic event which the Earth and all her inhabitants experienced at the time of the separation of the Sun. Before fertilization the plant it is in a similar condition to that of the whole Earth before the Sun went out from her. After fertilization, the flower of the plant is like the Earth was when the Sun had left and the Moon forces were still within her. If we have mastered the conceptions that can be acquired by studying the separation of the Sun from the Earth, then the significance of the “fertilization” of a flowering plant will present itself to us in a way we can express by saying that before it the plant is in a Sun-like, and after it in a Moon-like condition. It is not too much to say that the smallest event in the world can only be rightly comprehended when we recognize in it an image of the great cosmic events. Without this recognition we are as far from understanding its real nature as we would be from understanding a Raphael Madonna that was all covered over except for one little patch of blue.

Everything that happens to man is in this way an image, having its prototype amid those great events of cosmic evolution with which his existence is bound up. If we would understand what supersensible consciousness perceives in human life—whether in the life between birth and death, or in the life between death and a new birth—we shall find we are able to do so if we take to our help the sublime conceptions that can be gained from dwelling on the great events of cosmic evolution. These will furnish us with the key to an understanding of the life of man. From the point of view of spiritual science, study of Saturn, Sun and Moon evolution is thus at the same time study of man.

Through Inspiration we learn how the Beings of the higher world are related to one another. A still further stage of knowledge opens up the possibility of coming to know these Beings in their innermost nature. This stage may be given the name of Intuitive cognition. (the words “intuitive” and “intuition” are sometimes used for a kind of vague insight or sudden notion that may or may not quite accord with truth. What is here meant by “Intuition” is altogether different. It means a kind of cognition that is of the utmost light-filled clarity, a cognition that carries with it absolute assurance of its validity.) To have knowledge of an object perceived by the senses is to be outside the object and judge it in accordance with the impression it makes upon us from without. To know a Spirit-Being through Intuition is to become one with that Being, to be inwardly united with him. Stage by stage the pupil of the Spirit rises to a knowledge of this kind. With Imagination, he is already beyond feeling that his perceptions reveal the mere external characteristics of the Beings he perceives. Imagination leads him to recognize, in his perceptions, emanations of a living reality of soul and spirit. Inspiration takes him a step further into the inner essence of the spiritual Beings: he learns to understand what they are to one another. In Intuition, he penetrates right into their inner being.

Once again we can refer to the account of evolution that has been given in this book, in order to demonstrate the significance of Intuition. The foregoing chapters do not only relate how Saturn, Sun and Moon evolution took their course, they also tell of Beings who took part in this progress in many different ways. Allusion was made to the Thrones or Spirits of Will, to the Spirits of Wisdom, Spirits of Movement and so forth. And in connection with Earth evolution itself, the Spirits of Lucifer and of Ahriman were mentioned. The whole edifice of the Universe was traced back to Beings who all had their share in bringing it into existence. What can be learned concerning these Beings is acquired by Intuitive cognition. And the Intuitive cognition is likewise needed if we want to understand the course of human life. What is released from the physical body after death passes through various stages, as time goes on. The situation in which man finds himself immediately after death is, up to a point, capable of description by the exercise of Imaginative cognition. What happens later, however, when man is further on in the time between death and a new birth, would have to remain totally incomprehensible if Inspiration did not supervene. Inspiration is required to discover what can be said about the life of man in Spirit-land when the time of purification is over. Then comes a state where even Inspiration no longer suffices, where it loses the way and fails to understand. In the course of man's development between death and a new birth, he enters upon a time where Intuition alone can follow him. The part of man that undergoes this experience is however always in him, and if we would understand it in its true inwardness, then we must look for it also—again by means of Intuition—during the time between birth and death. Whoever is content with a knowledge of man acquired by Imagination and Inspiration will find himself without means of access to what goes on in man's very innermost being from one incarnation to the next. It is therefore only with Intuitive cognition that adequate research can be made into repeated lives on Earth and into the workings of Karma. Everything that claims to be true information concerning these must be derived from research that is made by means of Intuitive cognition. And if man desires knowledge of himself in his inmost being, this too he can attain only through Intuition. By means of Intuition he perceives that within him which goes forward from one Earth-life to another.

The faculties of cognition that belong to Inspiration and Intuition—these too can only be attained by means of exercises in the realm of soul and spirit. The exercises are akin to those given for the attainment of Imagination, described above ads deep inner contemplation (meditation.) Whereas however the exercises leading to Imagination are still associated with sense-impressions, in those that lead to Inspiration all such association must be increasingly eliminated. In order to make quite clear what has now to happen, let us return once more to the symbol of the Rose Cross. When we meditate upon the Rose Cross we have before us a picture, the component parts of which are derived from the sense-world—the black color of the cross, the roses, and so forth. But the assembling of the parts to form the Rose Cross is a deed the origin of which is no longer in the sense-world. If now the pupil of the Spirit will try to let the black cross and also the red roses—pictures, both of them, of objects real in the world of the senses—disappear completely from his consciousness, retaining there nothing but the spiritual activity which brought the parts together, in this activity he has the substance of the kind of meditation that can lead him, in course of time, to Inspiration. He should look into his own soul and ask himself: What was I doing when I brought cross and roses together to form a symbolic picture? What I was doing—the process I was bringing about in my soul—that will I now hold fast; the picture itself I will let disappear from consciousness. And now, without letting the picture rise up before me, I will feel what my soul was doing to produce the picture. I will for the time being live a completely inward life, living solely in my own activity that created the picture. I will enter, that is, into deep contemplation, not of any picture, but of my own picture-creating activity.

Meditation of this kind has to be undertaken by the pupil in connection with many different thought-pictures. It will in time lead him to knowledge through Inspiration. To take another example. We meditate the thought-picture of a sprouting, and then again of a dying plant. First, we let the picture rise up in our mind of a plant that is gradually coming into being; we see it sprouting from the seed, we see how it unfolds leaf after leaf and finally brings forth blossom and fruit. Then we see it begin gradually to wither, until at last it died right away. Meditating upon such a picture, we begin to acquire a feeling of the process as such—the process of coming-into-being and dying-away. If we want to go further and reach the corresponding Inspiration, we shall have to do the exercise in another way. We shall have to concentrate our attention on the activity of soul that we ourselves engaged in, in order for the picture of the plant to arrive at the idea of the coming-into-being and dying-away. The plant has now to disappear entirely from consciousness, and we then left meditating upon what we have been doing in our own soul. Only by means of such exercises is the ascent to Inspiration possible.

To begin with, the pupil will not find it altogether easy to be quite clear in his mind as to how he is to set about an exercise of this nature. If he has been accustomed to let his inner life be determined by external impressions, then, when he wants to develop in his soul an inner life that has broken loose from all connection with external impressions, then, when he wants to develop in his soul an inner life that has broken loose from all connection with external impressions, then, he will be at a loss how to proceed. Hence on the path to Inspiration it will be still more essential than before to accompany the given exercises with all those precautionary measures that were recommended to him when setting out to attain Imagination—measures for ensuring stability and confidence, alike in his powers of discrimination, in his life of feeling and in his conduct and character. If he succeeds with these, the pupil will find they have a twofold effect upon him. He will not run the risk of losing his balance when he attains to vision of the supersensible; and he will also become capable of fulfilling quite exactly and faithfully the demands made upon him by the new exercises. The pupil will need to develop here a specific mood and disposition of soul, with the feelings that rightly belong to it; till he has done so, he may well find the exercises difficult. If however he will patiently and perseveringly cultivate within him the qualities of soul that are favorable to the birth of supersensible cognition, it will not be long before he finds himself able to understand the exercises and also to carry them out. Let him make a habit of communing often with his own soul—but not with a view to musing upon himself! Rather should he set out before his mind's eye the successive experiences he has met with in life and consider them quietly. The effort will be well rewarded. He will find that his thought and ideas, and also his feelings, are enriched by bringing these experiences into relation with one another. He will come to realize how true it is that we gain new experience not only by having new impressions or undergoing new events in life; but also by letting the old work on within us. The pupil who really succeeds in letting his experiences—yes, and even the opinions he had gained—play upon one another, as though he himself, with his sympathies and antipathies, his personal interests and feelings, were in no way concerned, will be preparing within him particularly good ground for the growth of the faculty of supersensible cognition. He will in very truth develop what one may call a rich inner life.

What is throughout of the very first importance is that balance and harmony should reign among the various qualities and inclinations of the soul. When man devotes himself to some particular activity of soul, he tends all too easily to become one-sided. Having realized how beneficial is the habit of inner reflection, of sojourning now and again in the world of one's own thoughts, he may grow so fond of doing this that he tends increasingly to shut himself off from the impressions of the world around him. Such a habit could only lead to a bare and arid inner lie. He will advance farthest who retains, along with the ability to withdraw into his own soul, an open-minded receptiveness for all that the external world offers for his perception. And here we should not have in mind merely such objects and events as are commonly considered important; everyone—be his situation in life never so mean and never so circumscribed—can find experience enough within its walls, provided he foster in mind and heart a sensitiveness to all that goes on around him. He has no occasion to go out in search of experiences; they are around him on every hand.

Emphasis has also to be laid on the way in which we receive and reflect upon our experiences. You may, for instance, happen to discover one day that a person whom you revere has some feature in his character which you cannot but regard as a blemish. As you think it over, the discovery may affect you in either of two ways. You may simply say to yourself: Knowing what I now know, I can no longer revere him as I did. Or, you may ask yourself the question: How can it have come about that this person, for whom I have such veneration, has to labor under a defect of this kind? Ought I not perhaps to look upon the fault, not just as a fault, but as a result of the life he has led, perhaps even consequent upon his qualities of greatness? Having seriously faced this question, you may perhaps find that your reverence for him is, after all, undiminished by the discover of a flaw in his character. Every such experience will have taught you something: your understanding of lie will be the truer for it. You would of course be making a bad mistake if you let your appreciation of this way of meeting life mislead you into excusing anything and everything in people or in things to whom or to which you are partial; or if you allowed yourself to drift into a habit of shutting your eyes to whatever is blameworthy, imagining that you were thereby furthering your own inner development. For this you will certainly not be doing, if it is to satisfy your own inclinations that you refrain from blaming faults and try instead to understand and condone them. It will e helpful only if this attitude is called for by the nature of the case, irrespective of whether you yourself are to gain or lose by its adoption. It is undoubtedly true that one can never learn by passing judgment on a fault but only by coming to understand it. Anyone however who in his desire to understand the fault proceeds to banish from his mind all sense of displeasure at it, will be making little headway in his development. So here we have again an instance where what is required is not one-sidedness in one or other direction, but balance and harmony between the several virtues of the soul.

This is true in quite a special degree of on property of the soul that is of outstanding significance for higher development—I mean, the feeling of reverent devotion. One who cultivates this feeling or who has always possessed it as a kind of gift of Nature, has a good foundation upon which to build the faculties of supersensible cognition. Has he been able in childhood to look up with devotion and admiration to persons who stood for him as lofty ideals, then his soul will provide good ground whereon new powers of cognition can grow and flourish. And whoever in later life, in years of riper judgment, gazes up at the starry heavens, filled with wonder and boundless devotion at the revelation he there divines of sublime spiritual powers, will be well on the way to grow ripe for knowledge of supersensible worlds. The same holds true of one who is able to feel wonder and admiration at the powers that are active in the life of man. And of no less significance is also that reverence which a person of maturer years may continue to cherish in full measure for other human beings whose worth he divines or recognizes. Indeed only where such reverence is present, is it possible to come within sight of the higher worlds. A man who is incapable of reverence will not progress very far on the path of knowledge. To one for whom there is nothing in all the world that he deems worthy of his esteem, the real nature of things will ever remain a closed book.

Should anyone on the other hand allow himself to be misled by feelings of reverence and devotion to the complete annulment of his own healthy self-assertion and self-confidence, he too will be sinning against the law of harmony and balance. The pupil of the Spirit will work continuously at his development, that he may grow ever more and more mature; and if he is doing this, then it is only right that he should have confidence in himself and feel assured that his powers are growing all the time. Would he see the whole matter in its true light, let him say to himself: Hidden within me are spiritual powers, and I can call them forth out of my inner life. Hence when I see something that commands my respect because is higher than I, not only should I feel reverence for it, but I may be confident that I myself shall in time come to the stage of development where I am like it.

The more a man is able to be attentive to happenings or situations in his life which in the ordinary course are unfamiliar to him and would elude his judgment, the greater ability will he have to lay the foundation for right development on the path into the spiritual worlds. An example can help make this clear. A person comes into a situation where it is open to him to carry out some particular action—or to leave it undone. His judgment says to him: Do it! But he has in his soul an unaccountable feeling that draws him back. It may happen that he pays no heed to this feeling but simply goes ahead in accordance with the verdict of his judgment. Or again, it may happen that he yields to this inexplicable urge within him, and refrains. If then he follows up the matter to see what happens later, it may turn out that had he obeyed his judgment, harm would have come of it, but that good has resulted from his leaving the action undone. Such an experience can set going in the pupil a train of thought that may run as follows. Within me, he may say to himself, lives something which guides me better than can my faculty of judgment at its present stage of development. I must keep an open mind for this “something” which is on a much higher level than I can reach with my present powers. If we pay careful heed to situations of this kind as we meet them in life, we shall receive considerable benefit from doing so. We shall begin to sense (and this itself is already a sign of health in our inner life) that there is more in man than comes within the range of his ordinary judgment. The very recognition of such a fact widens the soul. Here again, however, we might be led into highly questionable byways. Should we acquire the habit of constantly shutting down our faculty of judgment because some dim feeling impels us to take another course, we might well become the plaything of all manner of undefined motives. And from such a habit the way leads all too quickly into weak-mindedness and superstition.

Fatal for the pupil of the Spirit is superstition of every sort. He can only hope ever to find the right and true path to the realm of Spirit-life by carefully guarding himself from superstition, from flights of fancy, and from all day-dreaming. A person who feels glad when he is brought up against something in life which is “beyond human understanding” will not be the one to enter the spiritual world in the right way. Fondness for the “inexplicable” is emphatically not a qualification for discipleship of the Spirit. Indeed the pupil should utterly discard the notion that a true mystic is one who is always ready to surmise the presence of what cannot be explained or explored. The right way is to be prepared to recognize on all hands hidden forces and hidden beings, yet at the same time to assume that what is “unexplored” today will be able to be explored when the requisite ability has been developed.

There is a certain mood of soul which it is important for the pupil to maintain at every stage of his development. He should not let his urge for higher knowledge lead him to keep on aiming to get answers to particular questions. Rather should he continually be asking: How am I to develop the needed faculties within myself? For when by dint of patient inner work some faculty develops in him, he will receive the answer to some of his questions. Genuine pupils of the Spirit will always take pains to cultivate this attitude of soul. They will thereby be encouraged to work upon themselves, that they may become ever more and more mature in spirit, and they will abjure the desire to extort answers to particular questions. They will wait until such time as the answers come.

Here again, however, there is the possibility of a one-sidedness, which may prevent the pupil from going forward in the way he should. For at some moment he may quite rightly feel that—according to the measure of his powers—he can answer for himself even questions of the highest order. Thus at every turn moderation and balance play an essential part in the life of the soul.

Many more qualities of soul could be cited that may with advantage be fostered and developed, if the pupil is seriously wanting to work through a training for Inspiration; and in connection with every one of them we should find that emphasis is laid on the supreme importance of moderation and balance. These attributes of soul help the pupil to understand the exercises that are given for the attainment of Inspiration, and also make him capable of carrying them out.

The exercises for Intuition demand from the pupil that he let disappear from consciousness not only the pictures to which he gave himself up in contemplation in order to arrive at Imaginative cognition, but also that meditating upon his own activity of soul, which he practiced for the attainment of Inspiration. This means that he is now to have in his soul literally nothing of what he has experienced hitherto, whether outwardly or inwardly. If, after discarding all outward and inward experience, nothing whatever is left in his consciousness—that is to say, if consciousness simply slips away from him and he sinks into unconsciousness—then that will tell him that he is not yet ripe to undertake the exercises for Intuition and must continue working with those for Imagination and Inspiration. A time will come however when, after all experiences, inner and outer, have been banished from it, consciousness is not left empty, but something remains in it to which the pupil can now give himself up in deep contemplation even as he formerly gave himself up to what came to him from outer or inner impressions. This “something” is of a very special nature. In relation to all that the pupil has hitherto experienced and learned it is entirely new. When he feels it there in his consciousness, he knows: This is something of which up to now I have had no knowledge at all. It is a clear perception and I perceive it, just as I should perceive a note of music that my ear was hearing; yet it can only enter my consciousness through Intuition, even as the music can only enter there by way of the ear. In Intuition the impressions man receives are stripped bare of the last remnant of connection with the physical senses. The spiritual world now begins to lie open for his cognition in a form that has nothing in common with the properties of the sense-world.

Imaginative cognition is attained when the lotus-flowers unfold from the astral body. As a result of the exercises undertaken for the attainment of Inspiration and Intuition, movements and currents make their appearance of man's ether- or life-body, which were not there before. These movements are the organs that enable man to add to his faculties the “Reading of the Hidden Script” and yet further powers that lie beyond. The changes that are wrought in his ether-body when a pupil has attained Inspiration and Intuition, reveal themselves to supersensible cognition in the following way. Somewhere as if in the neighborhood of the physical heart one becomes conscious of a new center in the ether-body, which forms itself into an etheric organ. From this center all manner of movings and streamings run out to the various parts of the physical body. The most important of these go to the lotus-flowers, flow right through them and through their several petals, then turn outwards and pour themselves into outer space like rays of light. The more highly developed a pupil is, the larger is the circle around him in which these currents are perceptible. Under a properly regulated training this center in the neighborhood of the heart does not however develop right at the beginning. Preparation has to be made for it. A preliminary center appears first in the head, is then transplanted into the region of the larynx and finally comes to rest in the neighborhood of the physical heart. If development is irregular, it may be that this organ is formed in the region of the heart form the outset. There will then be a danger that instead of attaining calm and objective supersensible perception, the pupil might develop into a fantastic dreamer.

As he progresses further, the pupil comes to the point where he can release these currents and memberings of his ether-body from dependence on the physical body, and make use of them directly, without reference to the physical body. The lotus-flowers serve him then as instruments by means of which he moves his ether-body. Before this can happen, certain special streams and rays must have been forming in the whole circumference of the ether-body, enclosing it as though with a fine network, rendering it a distinct, self-contained entity. Then there is nothing to hinder the movements and streamings that are going on in the ether-body from making contact with the external world of soul and spirit and from uniting with it, so that what is happening without and what is happening within—that is to say, within the human ether-body—are able to come when the human being can perceive consciously the world of Inspiration. This kind of cognition shows itself from the first to be of quite a different character from the cognition that relates to the physical world. Here, we receive impressions through our senses and then proceed to entertain ideas and concepts about these impressions. The acquisition of knowledge by means of Inspiration is not like that. The “knowing” is achieved in one single act; there is no thought-process following the perception. What in the act of cognition by means of the physical senses is acquired only subsequently in the concept, is in the Inspirational cognition given simultaneously with the percept. This being so, the pupil would flow right into the surrounding world of soul and spirit, would merge with it and be unable to distinguish himself from it, had he not formed before in his ether-body the network that has just been described.

The exercises that are given for Intuition influence not only the ether-body; they also leave their mark on the supersensible forces that are at work in the physical body. This must not be taken to mean that changes are effected there, perceptible to ordinary sense-observations. Supersensible cognition alone can form any true idea of them; they are right outside the scope of a cognition that is concerned with externals. The changes come about as a result of the pupil's consciousness being so far matured that, notwithstanding his having banished from it all that he has experienced in the past, whether outwardly or inwardly, he is nevertheless able to have conscious experience in Intuition.

Yet the experiences that come with Intuition are intimate, are tender and delicate. Man's physical body, at its present stage, is quite coarse in comparison; consequently, it offers stubborn resistance to these results of the exercises for Intuition. If however the exercises are preserved in with energy and patience, and with the necessary inner quiet, they will at length overcome the formidable hindrances that the physical body presents. The pupil will begin to notice that he is gradually bringing under his control certain activities of his physical body that formerly took their course without his being in the least conscious of them. He will become aware also of a change of another kind. He may observe that for a short while he feels a need so to order his breathing—or some other bodily process—as to bring it into harmony with what his soul is doing in the exercises or whatever else he is undertaking in inner, meditative life. The ultimate ideal is that no exercises of any kind should be done with the physical body as such, not even breathing exercises; so that whatever happens in the physical will occur simply and solely as an outcome of the exercises for Intuition.

When the pupil is making his way upwards on the path that leads to higher worlds, he will remark at a certain stage that the interconnection of the activities of his personality is beginning to assume a new form. In the world of the physical senses the I sees to it that the various faculties of the soul co-operate in an orderly manner. In the affairs of everyday life these faculties—we refer here especially to Thinking, Feeling and Willing—always stand in a certain recognized relation to one another. Let us say we are looking at some object. It pleases us, or perhaps we dislike it. That is to say, a feeling associates itself, almost inevitably, with our mental picture, our idea of the object. Very possibly we may also wish we could possess it or we may feel impelled to alter it in this or that particular. That is to say, desire and will unite themselves with the thought and the feeling. That this association comes about is due to the fact that the I unites ideation (thinking,) feeling and willing into a harmonious whole, thus bringing order into the forces of our personality. This healthy harmony would be broken if the I were to show itself powerless in the matter—if desire, for example, were to branch off in another direction than feeling or thinking. If someone thought that a particular course was right, and yet his will were set on following another course—one that did not comment itself to him—his soul would certainly not be in a healthy condition. The same could be said of a person who was bent on having, not what he liked, but rather what he disliked.

The pupil will, however, find that on the way to the attainment of higher powers of cognition, thinking, feeling and willing do definitely separate one from another, each of them assuming a kind of independent existence. A thought, for instance, will not now of its own accord stir up a particular feeling and evoke a particular volition. The situation will be that while in our thinking we can perceive a thing objectively and truly, yet before we can have any feeling about it or come to any resolve in the matter, we shall need to develop within us a distinct and independent impulse. While engaged in supersensible observation, our thinking, feeling and willing do not continue to simply three powers of the soul raying out, as if were, from the I, as a single center of our personality; they become independent beings. It is as though they were three separate personalities. The implication is that our I or Ego needs to be made all the stronger, for it has no longer merely to ensure that order reigns among three faculties of soul; it has to guide and lead three beings. This partition into three distinct beings must, however, only be allowed to subsist during the time of supersensible observation. Here again we see how important it is to include among the exercises for more advanced training those that give stability and firmness to the faculty of thoughtful judgment, to the feeling life and to the life of will. For if we fail to bring with us into the higher world the necessary stability and firmness of soul, then we shall very soon find how weak the I will prove itself to be—not fit guide for the thinking, feeling and willing! Should such weakness manifest in the I, it will be as though the soul were being pulled in different ways by distinct personalities; its inner integrity will inevitably be destroyed. If, however, development has taken its right course, the change will signify a genuine advance. The Ego does not lose control but remains in command even of the independent beings that now constitute the soul.

As development proceeds, a further step is taken. The thinking that has become independent evokes a fourth being of soul and spirit, a being that may be described as a direct inpouring of spiritual streams that are of the nature of Thought. The whole Universe now confronts the human being as a mighty edifice of Thought even as the plant or animal world confronts him in the realm of the physical senses; he beholds it before him like a mighty edifice built of thought. The Feeling too and the Will, that have become independent, evoke powers in the soul which become active there as independent beings. And there appears in addition yet a seventh power, a seventh entity which bears resemblance to one's own I—to the I as such.

With this whole experience another is united. Before reaching the supersensible world man wads familiar with thinking, feeling and willing purely as inner experiences of the soul. No sooner has he entered the supersensible world than he begins to perceive things that are the expression, not of anything physical, but of soul and spirit. Underlying what he is able to perceive in the new world are beings of soul and spirit. These beings present themselves to him as an external spiritual world, just as stones and plants and animals present themselves to the senses in the physical world. The pupil can however perceive a significant difference between the world of soul and spirit that is now unfolding before him and the world he has been accustomed to observe with the help of the physical senses. A plant in the latter remains as it is, whatever man may feel or think about it. It is not so with the pictures of the soul-and-spirit world. These change according as man has this or that thought or feeling towards them. Man himself stamps them in this way with a character that is derived from his own being. Suppose a certain picture appears before him in the Imaginative world. To begin with, he may perhaps be quite indifferent to it; in that case, it will manifest in a certain form. But the moment he begins to feel pleased with it or to take a dislike to it, it will change its form. This is what is so striking about the pictures of the supersensible world: they are not only the expression of something outside of man and independent of him, they also reflect what the man is himself. They are, in fact, thoroughly permeated with his being. His being overlays them as with a veil. And what man sees when he is faced with a real spiritual being, is not that being at all, but something he himself has produced. He may thus have before him something true in itself, yet what he sees may still be false. Nor is it only what he is ware of in himself that works in this way; there is nothing in him that does not leave its mark on the Imaginative world. Someone may, for instance, have deeply hidden inclinations, held in check by dint of education or force of character; they will nevertheless be making their impression on the world of soul and spirit. That world receives its coloring according to the entire being of the man, irrespective of how much or how little he himself may know of his own nature and character.

If the pupil is to be capable of going forward from this stage of development, he must learn to make a clear distinction between himself and the surrounding spiritual world. To this end he has to learn to put a stop to any kind of influence that he himself might exert upon the world of soul and spirit that is around him. The only way to ensure this is to be fully cognizant of what it is that he is taking with him into the new world. In other words, it is a matter of acquiring, first and foremost, genuine and searching self-knowledge. Once he has that, he will be able to see with clear, unclouded vision that world of soul and spirit by which he is surrounded. Now thanks to certain facts in the whole development of man, self-knowledge of this kind cannot but arise—as it were, quite naturally—when a man enter the higher world. In the everyday physical world man develops, as we know, his I or Ego, his consciousness of self; and this his I acts as a center of attraction for his whole personality. All his inclinations, his sympathies and antipathies, his passions and propensities, his views and opinions group themselves around his Ego. A man's Ego too is the center of attraction for what we call his Karma. If we were able to see this our Ego naked and undisguised, we would at the same time be perceiving that we have yet to undergo such and such strokes of destiny in our present and future incarnations, owing to the way we lived and the tendencies we acquired in past incarnations. Therefore this Ego, with all its encumbrances, must necessarily be the first picture that confronts the human soul on ascending into the world of soul and spirit. According to a certain law of the spiritual world, this—the man's “Double”—is bound to be the very first impression man receives on entering the spiritual world.

We can well understand the law when we reflect how in his life on the physical plane man perceives himself only in so far as he experiences himself in thinking, feeling and willing. In other words, he perceives himself only from within; his “self” does not confront him from without, as do the stones and plants and animals. Moreover, the knowledge he thus gains of himself is very partial and incomplete.

For there is that in human nature which hinders him from attaining deeper self-knowledge. It is the urge, wherever dawning self-knowledge compels him to admit some imperfection in his character, and he does not want to deceive himself about it—the urge to set to work to alter the unpleasant trait.

If he is not obedient to the urge, but turns his attention away from himself and remains as he is, then it need hardly be said that he robs himself of the possibility of attaining self-knowledge in that direction. If on the other hand he examines himself intently and, refusing to give way to self-deception, boldly faces the trait he has observed in his own character, then either he will find he can improve it, or it may be that—such as he is at present—he is unable to do so. In the latter instance, a feeling will steal over him that one can only call a kind of shame. This is, in fact, how healthy human nature works: self-knowledge gives rise to a sense of shame—a feeling that may show itself in many ways. Now as we know, in everyday life the sense of shame has a particular effect upon us. A man of healthy feeling will take care that those aspects of his character which make him eel ashamed shall not take effect in the world at large—shall not find expression in his deeds. Shame is thus a power that impels man to shut something up inside him and not allow it to be seen.

Thinking this over carefully, we shall have little difficulty in understanding that spiritual science ascribes even more far-reaching effects to an experience of the soul that is very nearly akin to the familiar one of a sense of shame. Spiritual research discovers in the depths of the human soul a kind of hidden sense of shame of which in physical life man is unconscious. This hidden feeling is none the less active in the soul. It works there in much the same way as does the sense of shame of which a man is normally conscious. It prevents his having before him in a clearly perceptible picture his real and inmost being. If this feeling were not there, man would see displayed before him what he is in very truth. He would no longer experience his thoughts and ideas, his feelings and his will in a merely inward way, but would perceive them even as he perceives the stones and animals and plants. Thus does a hidden sense of shame conceal man from himself. Nor is that all; it hides from him at the same time the entire soul-and-spirit world. For since his own inner being is hidden from him, he cannot get sight of that domain within him where he should now be endeavoring to develop the organs that will enable him to attain knowledge of the world of soul and spirit. He misses the opportunity of so transforming his inner being that it may acquire organs of spiritual perception.

When however in the pursuit of a right spiritual training man labors to promote the development within him of these organs of perception, the very first impression that confronts him is his own self. He perceives what he truly is, he perceives his Double. This perception of oneself is inseparable from perception of the world of soul and spirit. In ordinary life in the physical world, the hidden sense of shame is continually shutting for man the door into the world of soul and spirit. Is he about to take one step into that world, at once an unconscious sense of shame comes in the way and hides from him that corner of the soul-and-spirit world which was on the point of coming into view. The exercises, however, that have been described open the way to yonder world. In effect, the sense of shame which he bears hidden within him is a great benefactor to man. For the measure of intelligent discrimination and of right feeling and strength of character we can acquire in ordinary lie without special training will not suffice us when we have to face our very inmost being in its true form. We would not be able to endure it; we would lose our self-confidence, we would even lose all consciousness of self. That this may not happen, we have yet again to have recourse to those precautionary measures that need to be taken alongside of the exercises for the attainment of higher powers of cognition—namely the special exercises for the cultivation of sound judgment, good feeling and strength of character. In the course of a right and healthy spiritual training, the pupil learns incidentally enough of the truths of spiritual science and also of the measure he requires to take in order to attain self-knowledge and self-observation, for him to be able to face his own Double with courage and with strength. What it will mean for him then is simply that he sees in another form, as a picture belonging to the world of Imagination, what he has already made acquaintance with here in the physical world. If in the physical world we have grasped the law of Karma with our understanding, we shall have no occasion to be horror-struck when we behold the seeds of our future destiny visibly before us in the picture of our Double. If we have made an intelligent study of the evolution of the world and of man, and have learned how at a particular moment in this evolution the forces of Lucifer penetrated into the human soul, we shall not be unduly disturbed when we become conscious of the presence, in the picture of our own being, of the Luciferic beings and their activities.

We can however see from this how necessary it is that man should not demand entry into the spiritual world until he has learned and understood certain essential truths of that world by the simple exercise of his everyday intelligence, developed in the physical world. If spiritual development follows the right and normal path, then before he aspires to enter the supersensible world the pupil will already have mastered with his ordinary intelligence the whole of the earlier contents of this book.

In a training where care is not taken to develop in the pupil certainty and stability in his powers of judgment and discrimination as well as in his emotions and his moral character, it may happen that the higher world presents itself to him before he has the inner faculties with which to fact it. The encounter with his Double, will in that event cause him great distress and lead him astray. If on the other hand—as would also be possible—he were completely to elude the meeting with the Double, he would still be just as incapable of coming to any true knowledge of the higher world. For he would then be unable to distinguish between what the things around him really are and what he himself is seeing into them. To be able to do this, he must first have seen the distinct picture of his own being; then he can separate and distinguish from his environment whatever has flowed over into it from his own inner life.

As far as his life in the physical world is concerned, the moment man begins to draw near to the world of soul and spirit, the Double immediately makes himself invisible and therewith also conceals from him the whole soul-and-spirit world. The Double stands in front of it like a Guardian, forbidding entrance to those who are not yet competent to enter. He may therefore rightly be called “The Guardian of the Threshold of the World of Soul and Spirit.”

Besides meeting with him when approaching the supersensible world by the method that has been described, man also meets this Guardian of the Threshold when he passes through physical death. And in the course of the time between death and a new birth, while man's soul and spirit are undergoing development, the Guardian progressively reveals himself to him. There, however, the encounter cannot disquiet man unduly, since he now has knowledge of the higher worlds which between birth and death were not within his ken.

Were man to enter the world of soul and spirit without encountering the Guardian of the Threshold, he would be liable to succumb to one delusion after another. For he would never be able to distinguish between what he himself brings into that world and what rightly belongs to it. A sound and proper training, however should lead the pupil only into the realm of truth, never into the realm of illusion. The training itself should ensure that the meeting with the Guardian will follow as a necessary consequence. For this meeting with his Double is one of the testing experiences that are indispensable to the pupil aspiring to conscious perception in supersensible worlds, and that protect him from the possibility of illusion or false fantasy.

It is of urgent importance that every pupil of the Spirit should take himself in hand and see to it that he does not become a visionary and a dreamer, for then he would all too easily fall a victim to delusion and self-deception (suggestion and auto-suggestion.) Where the instructions for training are faithfully carried out, the very sources of delusion are destroyed in the process. It is naturally not possible to enter here in detail into all the steps that have to be taken by the pupil in this connection. We can only indicate wherein their main import lies.

There are two chief sources for delusions of this kind. They may, in the first place, be due to the fact that reality receives a coloring from the nature an disposition of the pupil himself. In ordinary life in the physical world there is comparatively little danger of delusion arising from such a source; the external world impresses its true form upon the observer in all distinctness, however, much he would like to color it in conformity with his own wishes and interests. No sooner, however, does he enter the world of Imagination that its pictures change under the influence of these desires and interests of his, and he has then before him, giving every appearance of reality, what are in effect merely his own creations, or forms that he has at least helped to create. But in meeting the Guardian of the Threshold the pupil learns to know what he has within him; thus he knows well what he may be bringing with him into the world of soul and spirit, and so this first source of delusion is eliminated. Thanks to the preparation he undergoes before entering the world of soul and spirit, the pupil has already grown accustomed to eliminate self in his observation of the physical world and to let its objects and events speak to him purely by virtue of their own inherent nature. If the preparation has been sufficiently thorough, he can await unperturbed the meeting with the Guardian. This meeting will put him to the final test as to whether, when he confronts the world of soul and spirit, he will be able there too to eliminate himself.

Besides this, there is another source of delusion. It shows itself when we interpret incorrectly some impression we receive. A simple example of this in everyday life is the illusion we fall into when we are sitting in a train and think that the trees are moving in the opposite direction to that of the train, whereas it is really we ourselves who are moving with the train. There are of course countless instances where an illusion of this nature is more difficult to dispel than in the simple example of the moving train; nevertheless it will easily be seen that in the physical world ways and means can always be found of correcting such illusion, if with sound judgment we avail ourselves of every circumstance that can serve to make the matter clear. No sooner, however, have we penetrated into supersensible realms than we find a different state of affairs. In the world of the senses the facts are not altered by our misconception of them; thus the way is left open for unprejudiced observation to correct the delusion by reference to the facts. In the supersensible world this cannot so easily be done. Suppose we are wanting to observe some supersensible fact, and as we approach it we come to a wrong conclusion about its nature. The correct conception we have formed, this we now carry into the fact itself, and it becomes so closely interwoven with the latter that the one cannot readily be distinguished from the other. What we then have is not the mistake within ourselves, and the true fact in the object observed; the mistake has been incorporated in the outer fact—has become part of it. It is therefore no longer possible simply to correct the illusion by looking at the fact again with open mind.

We have here been describing an all too frequent source of deception and false fantasy for one who approaches the supersensible world without due preparation.

Yet even as the pupil becomes able to rid himself of delusions that arise form the phenomena of the supersensible world being colored by his own character and inclinations, so must he now also find the way to render powerless this second source of delusion. He is able to obliterate what comes from himself if he has first made acquaintance with his own Double; he will be able to get rid of this second source of delusion when he has learned to recognize from its very nature and character whether a fact of the supersensible world is reality or mere delusion. If delusions looked exactly like realities, there would naturally be no possibility of distinguishing them. But it is not so. In the supersensible world delusions have properties peculiar to themselves by which they can be distinguished from realities. And it is important for the pupil to know what are the properties by which he may recognize realities. One who is unacquainted with spiritual training will very naturally doubt the possibility of ever being safe from delusion, when the sources of it are so numerous. How, he will say, is any pupil of the Spirit ever to be sure that all the higher knowledge he imagines himself to have gained does not rest on delusion and self-delusion? The one who argues in this way has failed to observe that in every genuine spiritual training the sources of delusion are dispelled—dried up as it were, through the whole way the training proceeds.

In the first place, the genuine pupil of the Spirit will in the course of his preparation have learned a great deal about all the things that can give rise to illusion and self-deception, and will thus be one his guard against them. In this respect he has far more opportunity than his fellow-men of learning to lead his life with calm detachment and sound judgment. All that he learns and experiences is calculated to save him from having anything to do with vague premonitions and uncontrolled fancies. His training makes him very careful. Moreover, every right and true training introduces the pupil from the start to grand and sublime conceptions, teaching him of events in the great Universe; he has to put forth his best powers of discernment to grasp the great cosmic facts, and will find these his powers growing ever finer and keener in the process. Only one who shrinks from venturing into realms so remote, preferring to cling to “revelations” that are nearer home, will be in danger of missing that sharpening of his mental faculties which can ensure for him the ability to distinguish clearly between deception and reality.

With all this, however, we have not yet touched on the most important factor of all—namely, what is latent in the exercises themselves. The exercises that belong to a right and proper spiritual training have necessarily to be so regulated and arranged that the pupil, while engaged in meditation, is fully conscious of all that is taking place in his soul. As he sets out on the road to Imagination, he forms, to begin with, a symbolic picture. In this picture are still contained mental images that owe their origin to what he has perceived in the outer world. He is not the sole creator of the picture; something besides himself has shared in the creation of its content. This means that he may still be under an illusion as to how the content of the picture has come about; he may ascribe it to a mistaken source. When the pupil progresses further and embarks on exercises for Inspiration, he banishes this content from consciousness and gives himself up entirely to the contemplation of his own activity of soul, which formed the picture. Here again, error may still creep in. For the particular character of his soul's activity he is indebted to his education—in the widest sense of the word. It is impossible for him to be fully informed of its origin. But now there comes the time when even the pupil's own activity of soul has to be expelled from consciousness. If there is still anything left, this remaining content is fully exposed to view. Nothing can intrude here that cannot be perceived and appraised in all its parts and aspects. The pupil has in his Intuition something that reveals to him the essential character of pure reality in the world of soul and spirit. From now onward, in everything that enters his field of observation he can look for what he has learned to recognize as the characteristic marks of soul-and spirit reality, and will thus be able to discern between what is real and what is only apparent. And he can be assured that in applying this test he will be just as safe from the risk of delusion in the supersensible world as in the physical world—where it would be quite impossible for him to mistake an imaginary bar of hot iron for one that could really burn him.

It will of course be understood that the pupil can have this relation only to facts of the supersensible worlds that he has seen for himself—that have thus become for him a matter of actual experience—and not to those communicated by others, which he comprehends with his ordinary powers of understanding, aided by a natural and healthy feeling for the truth. He will indeed be at pains to draw a sharp dividing line between the spiritual knowledge he has acquired in the one and in the other way. He will be ready and willing to receive communications about the higher worlds and will summon up his beset powers of judgment to comprehend them. On the other hand, when he describes something as the fruit of his own experience and spiritual observation, he will always first have tested whether it showed itself to him with the qualities he has learned to recognize in a genuine Intuition.

The pupil of the Spirit having now undergone the meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold, further experiences await him as he ascends into supersensible worlds. In the first place, he will notice that there is an inner connection between this Guardian of the Threshold and what was described above as a seventh power in the soul, which took on the form of an independent being. In truth, this seventh being is, from a certain point of view, none other than the Double, than the Guardian himself, whose presence sets the pupil a specific task. He has to place what he is in his ordinary self—which he has now before him in picture—under the leadership and guidance of his new-born Self. A kind of struggle will ensue, the Double striving continually to gain the upper hand. If the pupil can succeed in establishing a right relation to the Double, not allowing him to do anything that is not inspired by the new-born I, he will find that his true human powers gain in strength and in stability.

In the matter of self-knowledge the situation is somewhat different in the higher world from what it is in the physical. In the physical world self-knowledge is a purely inward experience, whereas in the higher world from the very outset the new-born Self manifests as an external phenomenon of Soul. The pupil sees it there before him as a distinct being. He is not however able to have a complete perception of this new-born Self. For no matter how many stages he may have reached on the path into supersensible worlds, there are always higher stages ahead; and at every one of them the pupil will perceive more of his Higher Self. At any particular stage, it can be only partially revealed to him. When the pupil first begins to be aware of the Higher Self, he is strongly tempted, as it were, to regard it from the vantage-point he has gained in the physical world. Indeed it is good that he should feel thus tempted; it is even necessary if his development is to proceed in the right way. For he has to contemplate what appears to him as his Double, the “Guardian of the Threshold,” he has to see all this in face of the Higher Self, and so perceive the vast disparity between what he is now and what he is meant to become. Once the pupil enters upon this comparison, the Guardian of the Threshold begins to assume another form, presenting himself as a picture of all the hindrances that stand in the way of the development of the Higher Self. The pupil now sees what a burden he is dragging about with him all the time in the ordinary self. And should the preparation he has undergone have failed to give him the strength to say at this point: I am not going to stand still, but shall make ceaseless effort to carry my development ever on and on in the direction of the Higher Self—should he not be strong enough to say this, he will falter and shrink from what is yet in store for him. He will indeed have entered into the world of soul and spirit, but as one who has relinquished all idea of making further efforts for his development. He then becomes a prisoner of the form that stands before him in the Guardian of the Threshold. The significant thing, however, is that he does not eel himself a prisoner; he imagines he is passing through an entirely different experience. The form that is evoked by the Guardian of the Threshold may even give rise in his soul to the impression that in the pictures he beholds at this stage of his development he already has a complete survey of the possible Worlds; that he has arrived at the very summit of knowledge and has no need to exert himself any further. Far indeed from seeing himself as a prisoner, he feels he is now the possessor of inexhaustible riches, even of all the secrets of the Universe. That such an experience—the complete reversal of the true state of affairs—should be possible will not astonish us, when we remember that the man undergoing it is in the world of soul and spirit, a world where thing are apt to show themselves in their opposites. Attention was called to this characteristic of the soul-and-spirit world in an earlier chapter, when studying the life after death.

In the figure that the pupil is perceiving at this stage of this development, there is more than in the form in which the Guardian of the Threshold first presented himself to him. At that time he could perceive in the Double all the qualities that the ordinary self possesses in consequence of the influence of the Luciferic powers. In the course of evolution, however, owing to the influence of Lucifer, another power has found its way into the human soul; we called it in earlier sections of this book the power of Ahriman. This s the power that hinders man, so long as he is living in physical existence, from having sight of the soul-and-spirit Being who underlie what the senses perceive at the surface of the outer world. What the soul has become under the influence of this power, the pupil now beholds—as in a picture—in the figure that confronts him in the experience we are now describing. If he is duly prepared for this experience, he will assign to it its true meaning; and then, quite soon, yet another figure will be revealed to him. It is the “Greater Guardian of the Threshold,” so called to distinguish Him from the “Lesser Guardian,” hitherto described. The Greater Guardian tells the pupil that he must not remain at this stage but must press forward with untiring energy. He calls upon him to realized that the world into which he has won his way can only become truth for him if he perseveres in his efforts. Otherwise it will change for him into illusion. Were a pupil to submit himself to a wrong kind of training and come to this experience unprepared, he would, on approaching the “Greater Guardian of the Threshold,” find himself completely overwhelmed—overwhelmed with a feeling that can only be compared with boundless fear and terror.

The meeting with the Lesser Guardian of the Threshold afforded the pupil the opportunity of testing whether he is proof against the delusions that may arise through carrying his own being into the supersensible world; and the experiences that lead him at long last to the Greater Guardian of the Threshold will now enable him to discover whether he can stand up to the delusions that spring from the second source above mentioned. If he is proof against the captivating delusion which makes the picture-world he has attained seem to him like a rich possession—when all the time he is but a prisoner thereof—he will be protected from taking appearance for reality in the further course of his spiritual evolution.

The “Guardian of the Threshold” will to some extent assume an individual and different form for every single person. For the meeting with him is the very experience by means of which the personal character of supersensible perceptions is eventually overcome and the way opened into a region of experience that is free from all personal coloring—a region universally valid, to which every human being has equal access.

Having come thus far in his experience, the aspirant is now able to make distinction in the surrounding world of soul and spirit between what is himself and what is outside him. He will now be in a position to appreciate how necessary it was to study the evolution of the world as described in this book, in order to arrive at a true understanding of man and of his life. For we can only understand man's physical body if we know how it has been built up right through the Saturn, Sun, Moon and Earth evolutions. So too for the other members of man's being. To understand the ether-body, we need to follow its development through Sun, Moon and Earth evolutions. And if we are to understand all that has to do with the Earth's own evolution at the present time, we shall need to know how it has gradually unfolded, stage by stage. One who has undergone spiritual training will be in a position to recognize the relationship between what is contained in man and the corresponding facts and beings of the world around him. For it is so indeed: there is no member or part of man that does not stand in some relation to the rest of the world—the world in its entirety. In this book it has hardly been possible to do more than give indications in barest outline of this universal correspondence. But we must not forget that the physical body, for example, was, during Saturn evolution, only in its very first beginnings. Its organs—heart, lung, brain and so on—developed out of these first beginnings, during the Sun, Moon and Earth periods. They therefore are connected with Sun, Moon and Earth evolution. The like must be said of man's other members—the ether-body, the sentient body, the sentient soul and so on. The whole of the immediately surrounding world has gone to the forming of man; no single part or feature of him that has not its corresponding process or being in the world without. And when he has reached the above-described stage in his development, the pupil of the Spirit learns to recognize this relationship of his own being to the great world. Such is the characteristic experience at this stage: he becomes conscious of the correspondence that exists between the “little world,” the Microcosm—the world, that is, of man himself—and the “great world,” the Macrocosm.

When the pupil has worked his way through to this perception, a new experience awaits him. He begins to feel as though he has grown together with the whole vast structure of the Universe, retaining, however, at the same time the consciousness of himself as a fully independent being. A feeling nevertheless comes over him, as if he were being merged into the whole vast Universe, were becoming one with it—yet without losing his individuality. This stage of development may be described as the “becoming one with the Macrocosm.” It is essential not to think of it as though implying that separate consciousness should cease and the human individuality be poured out into the All. Such an idea could arise only from an inexact and untrained way of thinking.

We may now set down in order the stages on the way to higher powers of cognition, attained in the training for Initiation that has here been described:

  1. Study of spiritual science. To begin with, the pupil applies himself to this study with the powers of thought and sound judgment acquired in the physical world.
  2. Attainment of Imaginative Cognition.
  3. Reading of the Hidden Script. (This stage is equivalent to Inspiration.)
  4. Living one's way into the Spiritual World that is around one (equivalent to Intuition.)
  5. Knowledge of the relationships between Microcosm and Macrocosm.
  6. Becoming one with the Macrocosm.
  7. A fundamental mood of soul determined by the simultaneous and integral experience of the foregoing stages.

The reader is not however to imagine that the seven stages necessarily follow one another in precise order. Much will depend on the individual character of the pupil. If can be that an earlier stage has only partially been reached when a pupil begins to undertake exercises belonging to the next. For example, it may be perfectly right, when he has had but a few genuine Imaginations, for him already to be doing exercises designed to bring Inspiration or Intuition, or even knowledge of the relationship of Microcosm to Macrocosm, within the reach of his own personal experience.

When the pupil has got so far as to have an experience of Intuition, then in addition to having knowledge of the pictures that belong to the world of soul and spirit, and being able to read from the Hidden Script how these pictures are interrelated, he also comes to know the Beings through whose co-operation the world to which man belongs has been called into existence. Then too he learns to know himself in his own archetypal form as a soul-and-spirit being in the world of soul and spirit. He has wrestled his way through to a perception of his Higher Self, and now sees clearly what he has still to achieve in order to gain control over his Double, the “Guardian of the Threshold” who stands there before him, continually calling upon him to work on further at his development. This “Greater Guardian of the Threshold” now becomes for him the Ideal, the Example that he will do his utmost to follow. Having once come to this resolve, the pupil will be enabled to recognize who it is that is there before him as the “Greater Guardian of the Threshold.” For now this Greater Guardian changes for the eyes of the pupil into the figure of Christ, whose nature and whose part in the evolution of Earth have been explained in the earlier chapters of this book. Through this experience the pupil is initiated into the sublime Mystery that is connected with the name of Christ. Christ shows himself to him as the great human Prototype and Example, united with the Earth's true evolution.

Having thus come through Intuition to a knowledge of Christ in the spiritual world, the aspirant will find that he is able also to understand what took place historically on Earth in the fourth post-Atlantean period—the time of the Greek and Roman civilization. How the great Sun Being, even the Christ, intervened in Earth evolution, and how He is still working in it now and on into the future, the pupil of the Spirit knows henceforth from his own experience. This then is what he attains through Intuition: the very meaning and significance of Earth evolution are communicated to him.

The path to knowledge of the supersensible worlds that has here been described is one that everyone can tread, no matter what his situation or circumstances in life. When speaking of such a path, we must not forget that the goal of knowledge and truth has been and is the same throughout all epochs of Earth evolution, but that the starting-point has been different in different epochs. Man cannot set out today from the same starting-point as did, for example, the candidate for Initiation in ancient Egypt. Neither can the exercises that were given to a pupil in ancient Egypt be simply taken over by a man of the present age. Since that epoch men's souls have been through sundry incarnations, and this moving on from incarnation to incarnation is not without meaning and purpose. The capabilities and qualities of the soul change from one incarnation to the next. Even a superficial study of history will convince us that since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of our era the conditions of life have been very different from what they were before; men's opinions and feelings, even their capacities, have quite altered from what they were in earlier times. The path to higher knowledge that has here been described is one that is adopted for souls who are incarnated in the immediate present. It takes for its starting-point the situation of a human being of today, living under any of the typical conditions of the present age. As evolution progresses, the outer forms of man's life on Earth undergo change; so too in the paths of higher development every succeeding epoch calls for new ways and new methods. It is of vital importance that at every stage harmony should reign between man's life in the world at large and the Way of Initiation.