The Path of Knowledge
Today a picture of the path of knowledge will be given, and the fruits of this path will also be shown. You already know some of the major points of view which thereby come into consideration. However, for those of you who have already heard lectures pertaining to the path of knowledge or who have read the periodical, Lucifer, particularly the thirty-second issue, something new will be offered if we discuss the path of knowledge as can occur only in intimate circles of students of spiritual science. The main matter at hand is to discuss this path of knowledge in so far as it is traced through the Rosicrucian, Western spiritual stream, which has guided European culture spiritually by invisible threads since the fourteenth century.
The Rosicrucian movement worked in complete concealment up until the last third of the nineteenth century. What was true Rosicrucianism could not be found in books and was also forbidden to be spoken of publicly. Only in the last thirty years have a few of the Rosicrucian teachings been made known to the outer world through the theosophical movement, after having been taught earlier only in the most strictly closed circles. The most elementary teachings of the Rosicrucian's are included in what is called theosophy today — but only the most elementary. It is only possible bit by bit to allow mankind to look more deeply into this wisdom which has been fostered in these Rosicrucian schools in Europe since the end of the fourteenth century.
To begin with, we would like to make clear that there is not just one kind of path of knowledge, but three paths to consider. Yet this should not be understood as if there were three truths. There is only one truth, just as the view revealed from the peak of a mountain is the same for all who stand there. There are, however, various ways by which the peak of the mountain can be reached. During the ascent, one has at every point a different view. Only if one is at the top — and one can ascend to the peak from various sides — can one have a free and full view from one's own perspective. So it is also with the three paths of knowledge. One is the Oriental path of Yoga, the second is the Christian-Gnostic path, and the third is the Christian-Rosicrucian path. These three paths lead to the single truth.
There are three different paths because human nature is different around our earth. One has to distinguish three types of human nature. Just as it would not be right for someone trying to reach a mountaintop to select a remote path rather than the one next to him, so it would also be wrong if a man wanted to take another spiritual path than the one appropriate to him. Many muddled ideas about this prevail today in the theosophical movement, which must still develop upwards from its initial stage. It is often supposed that there is only a single path to knowledge, by which is meant the Yoga path. The Oriental Yoga path is not the only path to knowledge, however, and is in fact not a propitious path for those who live within European civilization. He who considers this matter only from outside certainly can have scarcely any insight into what we are concerned with here, because one could easily come to the conclusion that human nature actually appears to differ little in various lands. If one with occult powers observes the great differences in human types, it becomes clear that what is good for the Orientals, and perhaps also for some other men in our culture, is by no means the proper path for everyone. There are people, but only a few within European circumstances, who could follow the Oriental path of Yoga. But for most Europeans, this is impracticable. It brings with it illusions and also the destruction of soul-forces. The Eastern and Western natures, although they do not appear so different to today's scientists, are totally different. An Eastern brain, an Eastern imagination, and an Eastern heart work completely differently from the organs of Westerners. What can be expected of someone who has grown up within Eastern circumstances should never be expected of a Westerner. Only one who believes that climate, religion, and social environment have no influence on the human spirit might also think that the external circumstances under which a spiritual training is undergone are also a matter of indifference. But one who knows the deeply spiritual influences exerted upon human nature by all these outer circumstances understands that the Yoga path is impossible for those who remain within European culture, and can only be tread by those few Europeans who radically and fundamentally detach themselves from European circumstances.
Those persons who today are still inwardly upright and honest Christians, those who are permeated with certain principle themes of Christianity, may choose the Christian-Gnostic path, which differs little from the Cabbalistic path. For Europeans in general, however, the Rosicrucian path is the only right path. This European Rosicrucian path will be spoken of today, and indeed the different practices this path prescribes for people and also the fruits it holds for those who follow it will be described. No one should believe that this path is only for scientifically trained men or for scholars. The simplest person can tread it. If one takes this path, however, one will quickly be in the position to encounter every objection which can be made against occultism by European science. This was one of the main tasks of the Rosicrucian Masters: to arm those who take this path so that they could travel this path and defend occult knowledge in the world. The simple man who holds only a few popular ideas about modern science, or even none at all, but who has an honest craving for truth, can tread the Rosicrucian path alongside trained men and scholars.
Among the three paths of knowledge exist great distinctions. The first important distinction is in the relationship of the pupil to the occult teacher, who gradually becomes the guru or who mediates the relationship to the guru. A characteristic of the Oriental Yoga schools is that this relationship is the strictest imaginable. The guru is an unconditional authority for the pupil. If that were not the case, this training could not have the right outcome. An Oriental Yoga training without a strong submission to the authority of the guru is totally impossible. The Christian-Gnostic or Cabbalistic path allows a somewhat looser relationship to the guru on the physical plane. The guru leads his pupil to Christ Jesus; he is the mediator. With the Rosicrucian path, the guru becomes always more a friend whose authority rests on inner agreement. Here it is not possible to have any relationship but one of strong personal trust. Should but the slightest mistrust arise between teacher and pupil, then the essential bond which must remain between them would be ruptured, and any forces which play between teacher and pupil would no longer work. It is easy for the pupil to form false ideas about the role of his teacher. It might seem to the pupil that he needs to speak to his teacher now and then, or that his teacher must often be physically near him. Certainly it is sometimes an urgent necessity for the teacher to approach the pupil physically, but this is not so often the case as the pupil may believe. The effect that the teacher exercises on his pupil cannot be judged in the right way at the beginning of their relationship. The teacher has means which only gradually reveal themselves to the pupil. Many words which the pupil believes to have been spoken by chance are actually of great importance. They may work unconsciously in the pupil's soul, as a force of right, leading and guiding him. If the teacher exercises these occult influences correctly, then the real bond is also there between him and his pupil. In addition, there are the forces of loving participation working at a distance, forces that are always at the teacher's disposal and which later are ever more revealed to the pupil if he fords the entrance to the higher worlds. But absolute trust is an unconditional necessity; otherwise it is better to dissolve the bond between the teacher and the pupil.
Now the various precepts which play a certain role in the Rosicrucian training should be mentioned briefly. These things need not meet him in the exact sequence in which they are enumerated here. According to the individuality, the occupation, and the age of the pupil, the teacher will have to extract this or that from the different spheres, and rearrange them. Only an overview of the information shall be given here.
What is highly essential for the Rosicrucian training is not sufficiently attended to in all occult trainings. This is the cultivation of clear and logical thinking, or at least the striving for it! All confused and prejudiced thinking must first be eliminated. A man must accustom himself to viewing the relationships in the world broadly and unselfishly. The best exercise for one wishing to undergo this Rosicrucian path unpretentiously is the study of the elementary teachings of spiritual science. It is unjustified to object: What good does it do me to learn about the higher worlds, the different races and cultures, or to study reincarnation and karma when I can't see and verify it all for myself? This is not a valid objection because occupying one's thoughts with these truths purifies the thinking and disciplines it so that people become ripe for the other measures that lead to the occult path. For the most part, people think in ordinary life without bringing order into their thoughts. The guiding principles and epochs of human development and planetary evolution, the great viewpoints which have been opened by the Initiates, bring thought into ordered forms. All of this is a part of Rosicrucian training. It is called the Study. The teacher will therefore suggest that the pupil think deeply into the elementary teachings about reincarnation and karma, the three worlds, the Akashic-Chronicle, and the evolution of the earth and the human races. The range of elementary spiritual science as it is diffused in modern times is the best preparation for the simple man.
For those, however, who wish to cultivate even sharper faculties of thinking and to undertake a still more rigorous molding of the soul life, the study of books written expressly for bringing thinking into disciplined paths is recommended. Two books written for this purpose — in which there is no mention of the word “theosophy” — are my two books, Truth and Science, and The Philosophy of Freedom. One writes such a book in order to fulfill a purpose. Those who have a foundation in an intensive training in logical thinking and who wish to arrive at a wider study would do well to submit their spirits once to the “gymnastics for soul and spirit” which these books require. That gives them the foundation upon which Rosicrucian study is erected. When one observes the physical plane, one perceives certain sense impressions: colors and light, warmth and cold, smells and tastes, and impressions from the senses of hearing and touch. One connects all of these with one's activity of thought and intellect. Intellect and thought belong still to the physical plane. You can perceive all of that on the physical plane. Perceptions on the astral plane are completely different in appearance. Perceptions are again entirely different on the Devachanic plane, not to mention in even higher spirit regions. The person who has not yet acquired a glimpse into the higher worlds can still try to picture them to himself. I am also seeking to give a view of these worlds through pictures in my current manner of representation. He who ascends to the higher regions sees for himself how they work on him. On every plane a man has new experiences. But there is one which remains the same through all worlds up to Devachan itself, one which never changes: that is logical, trained thinking. Once on the Buddhi-plane, this thinking no longer has the same value as on the physical plane. There, another form of thinking must enter. But for the three worlds below the Buddhi-plane, for the physical, astral, and Devachanic planes, the same form of thinking is valid. One who therefore schools himself in orderly thinking through this study in the physical plane will find in this thinking a good guide in the higher worlds. He will not falter as easily as one who seeks to enter the spirit realms with confused thinking. Therefore, the Rosicrucian training advises a person to discipline his thinking in order to move freely in the higher worlds. He who reaches up into these worlds learns new methods of perception, which were not there on the physical plane, but he can master these with his thinking.
The second thing which the pupil must learn on the Rosicrucian path of knowledge is Imagination. The pupil prepares for this in that he gradually learns to immerse himself in pictorial concepts which represent the higher worlds in the sense of Goethe's words, “All that is transitory is but a likeness.” As man ordinarily goes through the physical world, he takes things up as they appear to his senses, but not that which lies behind. He is pulled down in the physical world as if by a dead weight. Man only becomes independent of this physical world when he learns to consider the objects around him as symbols. He must, for this reason, seek to acquire a moral relationship to them. The teacher can give him much guidance in learning to regard outward appearances as symbols of the spirit, but the pupil can also do a great deal for himself. He can, for example, look closely at a meadow saffron and a violet. If I see the meadow saffron as a symbol for a melancholy disposition, then I have regarded it not only as it outwardly comes to meet me, but also as a symbol of a certain quality. In the violet, one can behold a symbol for a calm, innocent disposition. So you can go from object to object, from plant to plant, from animal to animal and regard them as symbols for the spiritual. In this way, you make your imaginative capacities fluid and release them from the sharp contours of sense perception. One comes then to behold the symbol for a characteristic quality in every species of animal. One perceives one animal as a symbol for strength, another as a symbol for slyness. We must try to pursue such things, not fleetingly, but earnestly and step by step.
Fundamentally, all of human language is spoken in symbols. Language is nothing but a speaking in symbols. Every word is a symbol. Even science, which claims to view every object objectively, must make use of language, in that its words work symbolically. If you speak of the wings of the lungs, you know that there are actually no wings, yet you nevertheless cherish this designation. He who wishes to remain on the physical plane would do well not to lose himself too strongly in these symbols, but the advanced occult pupil will not lose himself in them. If one investigates, one will perceive the primordial depths in which human language is founded. Such deep natures as Paracelsus and Jacob Boehme owed much of their development to the opportunities they had — which they did not shun — for studying the imaginative significance of language through conversations with vagrants and farmers. There the words “nature,” “soul,” and “spirit” worked completely differently. There they worked more strongly. When out in the country, the farmer's wife plucks a goose's feathers, she actually calls the interior of the feather “the soul.” The pupil must find for himself such symbols in language. In this way he loosens himself from the physical world and learns to raise himself to the realm of Imagination. If the world is thus viewed as a likeness of man, it has a strong effect. If the pupil practices this for a long time, he will notice corresponding effects. In observing a flower, for example, something gradually loosens from the flower. The color, which once clung to the surface of the blossom, ascends like a small flame, and hovers freely in space. Imaginative cognition forms itself out of these things. Then it is as if the surfaces of all objects loosen. The whole space fills with colors, the flames hovering in space. In this way, the whole world of light seems to detach itself from physical reality. When such a color picture detaches itself and hovers freely in space, it soon begins to adhere to something. It presses towards something. It does not just stand still arbitrarily; it encloses a being, which now itself appears in the color as spiritual being. The color which the pupil has detached from the objects of the physical world clothes the spiritual beings of astral space.
Here is the point where the occult teacher's counsel must intervene, as the pupil could very easily lose his bearings. This could happen for two reasons. The first is that each pupil must go through a definite experience. The images which are peeled off from the physical objects — they are not only colors, but also aural and olfactory sensations — may present themselves as strange, hideous, or perhaps beautiful shapes, as animal heads, plant forms, or even hideous human faces. This first experience represents a mirror-image of the pupil's own soul. The particular passions and desires, the evils that still lie within the soul, appear before the advancing pupil as in a mirror in astral space. Here he requires counsel of the occult teacher, who can tell him that it is not an objective reality that he has seen, but a mirror-image of his own inner being.
You will understand just how dependent the pupil is on his teacher's advice when you hear more about the manner in which these pictures appear. It is often emphasized that everything is reversed in astral space, that everything appears as a mirror-image. The pupil can, for this reason, easily be misled through illusions, especially with respect to a mirroring of his own being. The mirror-image of a passion does not only appear as an approaching animal — that would still be quite manageable — but it is something quite different with which one must reckon. Let us suppose that a man has a hidden evil passion. The reflection of such a desire or lust often appears in an alluring form, whereas a good characteristic may not appear at all alluring. Here again we are discussing something which has been wonderfully portrayed in an ancient saga. You find a picture of this in the legend of Hercules. As Hercules goes on his way, good and evil characteristics stand before him. Vices are clothed in the enticing form of beauty, but virtues are in modest garb.
Still other hindrances can stand in the pupil's way. Even when he is already in a position to see things objectively, there is still the other possibility of his inner will directing and influencing these phenomena as an outer force. He must bring himself to the point where he can see through this and understand the strong influence that the wish has on the astral plane. All things which have a directing force here in the physical world cease to exist when one arrives in the imaginative world. If on the physical plane you imagine yourself to have done something you actually have not done, you will soon be persuaded by the facts of the physical world that this is not so. This is not the case in astral space. There, pictures of your own wishes deceive you, and you must have knowing guidance which will piece together how these imaginative pictures work in order to perceive their true significance.
The third task in the Rosicrucian training is to learn the occult script. What is this occult script? There are certain pictures, symbols, which are formed by simple lines or the joining of colors. Such symbols constitute a definite occult sign-language. Let us take the following as an example. There is a certain process in the higher worlds which also operates in the physical world: the whirling of a vortex. You can observe this whirling of a vortex when you look at a star cluster, as in the constellation of Orion, for example. There you see a spiral, only it is on the physical plane. But you can view this also on all planes. It can present itself in the form of one vortex entwining itself into another. This is a figure to be found on the astral plane in all possible forms. When you understand this figure, you can grasp through it how one race transforms itself into another. At the time of formation of the first sub-race of our present main race, the sun stood directly in the sign of Cancer. At that time, one race entwined itself in the other; for this reason, one has this occult sign for Cancer. All of the signs of the Zodiac are occult signs. One must only come to know and understand their meaning.
The pentagram is also such a sign. The pupil learns to connect certain sensations and feelings with it. These are the counterpart of astral processes. This sign-language, which is learned as occult script, is nothing other than a reproduction of the laws of the higher worlds. The pentagram is a sign which expresses various meanings. As the letter B is used in many different words, so can a symbol in the occult script have diverse meanings. The pentagram, hexagram, angle, and other figures can be combined into an occult script which acts as a signpost in the higher worlds. The pentagram is the sign for the fivefold organization of man, for secrecy, and also for that which underlies the species-soul of the rose. When you connect the petals of the rose's image, you get a pentagram. Just as the letter B signifies something different in the words build and bond, so do the signs in the occult script also signify various things. One must learn to order them in the right way. They are the signposts on the astral plane. One who has learned to read the occult script bears the same relationship to one who only sees these symbols as a literate man does to an illiterate one in the physical world. Our symbols for writing on the physical plane are for the most part arbitrary. Originally, however, they were likenesses of the astral sign-language. Take an ancient astral symbol, Mercury's staff with the snake. That has become the letter E in our system of writing. Or take the letter W which depicts the wave-movements of water. It is the soul-sign of man and at the same time a sign for the Word. The letter M is nothing other than an imitation of the upper lip. In the course of evolution, it has all become more and more arbitrary. On the occult plane, by contrast, necessity prevails. There one can live these things.
The fourth step is the so-called “Rhythm of Life.” People know such a life-rhythm only very slightly in everyday life. They live carelessly and egotistically. At most, for the children in school, the lesson plan still bears a certain life-rhythm in that the sequence of daily lessons is repeated from week to week. But who does that in normal life? Nonetheless, one can ascend to a higher development only by bringing rhythm and repetition into one's life. Rhythm holds sway in all nature. In the revolutions of the planets around the sun, in the yearly appearance and withering of the plants, in the animal kingdom, and in the sexual life of the animals, everything is ruled rhythmically. Only man is permitted to live without rhythm in order that he can become free. However, he must of his own accord bring rhythm again into the chaos. A good rhythm is established by undertaking occult exercises every day at a definite time. The pupil must carry out his meditations and concentration exercises daily, at the same hour, just as the sun sends its forces down to earth at the same time each spring. This is a way of bringing rhythm into life. Another is one in which the occult teacher brings the proper rhythm into the pupil's breathing. Inhaling, holding the breath, and exhaling must be brought into the rhythm for a short period daily, as determined by the experience of the teacher. Thus through man a new rhythm is put in place of the old one. Making life rhythmic in such a way is a prerequisite for ascent into the higher worlds. But no one can do this without the guidance of a teacher. It should be brought to awareness here only as a principle.
The fifth step is that in which one learns the correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm. This consists of the teacher instructing the pupil on how to concentrate his thoughts on certain parts of the body. Those of you who heard the lecture about the relationship of the senses to the higher worlds will recall that the whole cosmos took part in the formation of the human physical body. The eye was created by light, by the spirits who work in light. Every point of the physical body stands in connection with a particular force in the cosmos. Let us examine the point at the root of the nose. There was a time when the etheric head protruded way beyond the physical body. Even in Atlantean times, the forehead was a point where the etheric head stood far out beyond the physical head, as is still the case today with the horses and other animals. With horses the etheric head today still protrudes beyond the physical. In modern man this point in the etheric head has been brought under protection of the physical head and this gives him the capacity to develop those parts of the physical brain which enable him to call himself “I.” This organ, which enables man to call himself “I,” is connected with a definite process which took place during the Atlantean development of the earth. The occult teacher now instructs his pupil thus: direct your thoughts and concentrate them on this point! Then he gives him a mantra. In this way, a certain force in this part of the head is aroused which corresponds to a certain process in the macrocosm. In such a way a correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm is evoked. Through a similar concentration on the eye, the pupil acquires knowledge of the sun. One finds the entire spiritual organization of the macrocosm spiritually within one's own organs.
When the pupil has practiced this long enough, he may go on to immerse himself in the things he has thus discovered. He may, for instance, seek out in the AkashicChronicle that point during the Atlantean epoch in which the root of the nose reached the condition upon which he had concentrated. Or he finds the sun in concentrating on the eye. This sixth step, this immersion in the macrocosm, is called Contemplation. This gives the pupil cosmic knowledge, and through it he expands his self-knowledge beyond the personality. This is something different from the beloved chatter about self-knowledge. One finds the self not when one looks within, but rather when looking without. This is the same self which produced the eye brought forth by the sun. When you wish to seek that part of the self which corresponds to the eye, then you must seek it in the sun. You must learn to perceive as your self that which lies outside of you. Looking only within oneself leads to a hardening in oneself, to a higher egotism. When people say, “I need only let my self speak,” they have no idea of the danger that lies therein. Self-knowledge may only be practiced when the pupil of the white path has bound himself to self-renunciation. When he has learned to say to each thing, “That am I,” then he is ripe for self-knowledge, as Goethe expresses in the words of Faust:
Thou leadest past mine eyes the long array
Of living things, mak'st known to me my brethren
Within the silent copse, the air, the water.
All around us are parts of our self. This is represented, for example, in the myth of Dionysos. It is for this reason that the Rosicrucian training places such a great value upon an objective and quiet contemplation of the external world: If you wish to know yourself, behold yourself in the mirror of the outer world and its beings! What is in your soul shall speak to you far more clearly from the eyes of companions than if you harden yourself and sink into your own soul. That is an important and essential truth which no one who wishes to walk on the white path may ignore. There are many people today who have transformed their ordinary egotism into a more refined egotism. They call it theosophical development, when they have allowed their ordinary, everyday selves to rise as high as possible. They wish to bring out the personal element. The true occult knowledge, by contrast, shows man how his inner nature is elucidated when he learns to perceive his higher self in the world.
When a man has developed himself through the contemplation of these convictions, when his self flows out over all things, when he feels the blossom that grows before him as he feels his finger moving, when he knows that the whole earth and the whole world is his body, then he learns to know his higher self. Then he speaks to the flower as to a member of his own body: You belong to me, you are a part of myself. Gradually he experiences what is called the seventh step of the Rosicrucian path: Godliness. This represents the element of feeling which is necessary to lead man up into the higher worlds, where he may not merely think about the higher worlds, but learn to feel in them. Then the fruits of his striving to learn, under the constant guidance of his teacher, will be shown to him, and he need not fear that his occult path might lead him into an abyss. All things which have been described as dangers of occult development do not come into question if one has been guided in the right way. When this has happened, the occult seeker becomes a true helper of humanity.
During Imagination, the possibility arises for the individual to go through a certain portion of the night in a conscious condition. His physical body sleeps as usual, but a part of his sleep-condition becomes animated by significant dreams. These are the first heralds of his entrance into the higher worlds. Gradually, he leads his experiences over into his ordinary consciousness. He then sees astral beings in his entire environment, even here in the room between the chairs, or out in the woods and meadows.
Man reaches three stages during Imaginative knowledge. On the first stage, he perceives the beings which stand behind physical sense-impressions. Behind the color red or blue stands a being, behind each rose; behind each animal stands a species- or group-soul. He becomes day-clairvoyant. If he now waits for a while and practices Imagination quietly, and steeps himself in the occult script, he also becomes day-clairaudient. On the third level, he becomes acquainted with all the things one finds in the astral world which draw man down and lead him into evil, but which actually are intended to lead him upwards. He learns to know Kamaloca.
Through that which forms the fourth, fifth, and sixth parts of Rosicrucian training, that is, the life-rhythm, the relation of microcosm to macrocosm, and contemplation of the macrocosm, the pupil reaches three further stages. In the first, he attains knowledge of the conditions of life between death and a new birth. This confronts him in Devachan. The next is the ability to see how forms change from one state to another, transmutation, the metamorphosis of form. Man did not always have the lungs he has today, for example; he acquired them first in Lemurian times. During the preceding Hyperborean epoch they had another form; before that, another form, because he found himself in an astral condition; and before that, yet another form, because he was M Devachan. One could also say: at this stage, man becomes acquainted with the relationships between the different globes, which is to say that he experiences how one globe or condition of form passes over into another. As a last step, before he passes over into still higher worlds, he beholds the metamorphosis of the conditions of life. He perceives how the different beings pass through different kingdoms, or rounds, and how one kingdom passes over into another. Then he must ascend to still higher stages, which cannot, however, be discussed further today.
What has been pursued here will give you enough material to ponder over for the present. Those things must be really pondered over; that is the first step to ascend to the heights. Therefore, it is a good thing to have the path sketched once in an orderly way. It may be possible to take a journey on the physical plane without a map of the country. On the astral plane, however, to be given such a map is necessary. Regard these communications as a kind of map, and they will be useful to you not only in this life, but also when you step through the portal into the higher worlds. Whoever takes up these things through spiritual science will be served well by this map after death. The occultist knows how wretched it often is for those who arrive on the other side and have no idea where they really are and what they are experiencing. One who has lived with the teachings of spiritual science knows his way about and can characterize these things to himself. If man would not shrink from treading the path of knowledge, this would bring him great benefit in the other world.