I. Esoteric Development
7 December 1905, Berlin
Translated by Gertrude Teutsch
The concepts concerning the super-sensible world and its relationship with the world of the senses have been discussed here in a long series of lectures. It is only natural that, again and again, the question should arise, “What is the origin of knowledge concerning the super-sensible world?” With this question or, in other words, with the question of the inner development of man, we wish to occupy ourselves today.
The phrase “inner development of man” here refers to the ascent of the human being to capacities which must be acquired if he wishes to make super-sensible insights his own. Now do not misunderstand the intent of this lecture. This lecture will by no means postulate rules or laws concerning general human morality, nor will it challenge the general religion of the age. I must stress this because when occultism is discussed the misunderstanding often arises that some sort of general demands or fundamental moral laws, valid without variation, are being established. This is not the case. This point requires particular clarification in our age of standardization, when differences between human beings are not at all acknowledged. Neither should today's lecture be mistaken for a lecture concerning the general fundamentals of the anthroposophic movement. Occultism is not the same as anthroposophy. The Anthroposophical Society is not alone in cultivating occultism, nor is this its only task. It could even be possible for a person to join the Anthroposophical Society and to avoid occultism altogether.
Among the inquiries which are pursued within the Anthroposophical Society, in addition to the field of general ethics, is also this field of occultism, which includes those laws of existence which are hidden from the usual sense observation in everyday human experience. By no means, however, are these laws unrelated to everyday experience. “Occult” means “hidden,” or “mysterious.” But it must be stressed over and over that occultism is a matter in which certain preconditions are truly necessary. Just as higher mathematics would be incomprehensible to the simple peasant who had never before encountered it, so is occultism incomprehensible to many people today. Occultism ceases to be “occult,” however, when one has mastered it. In this way, I have strictly defined the boundaries of today's lecture. Therefore, no one can object — this must be stressed in the light of the most manifold endeavors and of the experience of millennia — that the demands of occultism cannot be fulfilled, and that they contradict the general culture. No one is expected to fulfill these demands. But if someone requests that he be given convictions provided by occultism and yet refuses to occupy himself with it, he is like a schoolboy who wishes to create electricity in a glass rod, yet refuses to rub it. Without friction, it will not become charged. This is similar to the objection raised against the practice of occultism.
No one is exhorted to become an occultist; one must come to occultism of one's own volition. Whoever says that we do not need occultism will not need to occupy himself with it. At this time, occultism does not appeal to mankind in general. In fact, it is extremely difficult in the present culture to submit to those rules of conduct which will open the spiritual world.
Two prerequisites are totally lacking in our culture. One is isolation, what spiritual science calls “higher human solitude.” The other is overcoming the egotism which, though largely unconscious, has become a dominant characteristic of our time.
The absence of these two prerequisites renders the path of inner development simply unattainable. Isolation, or spiritual solitude, is very difficult to achieve because life conditions tend to distract and disperse, in brief to demand sense-involvement in the external. There has been no previous culture in which people have lived with such an involvement in the external. I beg you not to take what I am saying as criticism, but simply as an objective characterization.
Of course, he who speaks as I do knows that this situation cannot be different, and that it forms the basis for the greatest advantages and greatest achievements of our time. But this is the reason that our time is so devoid of super-sensible insight and that our culture is so devoid of super-sensible influence. In other cultures — and they do exist — the human being is in a position to cultivate the inner life more and to withdraw from the influences of external life. Such cultures offer a soil where inner life in the higher sense can thrive. In the Oriental culture there exists what is called Yoga. Those who live according to the rules of this teaching are called yogis. A yogi is one who strives for higher spiritual knowledge, but only after he has sought for himself a master of the super-sensible. No one is able to proceed without the guidance of a master, or guru. When the yogi has found such a guru, he must spend a considerable part of the day, regularly, not irregularly, living totally within his soul. All the forces that the yogi needs to develop are already within his soul. They exist there as truly as electricity exists in the glass rod before it is brought forth through friction. In order to call forth the forces of the soul, methods of spiritual science must be used which are the results of observations made over millennia. This is very difficult in our time, which demands a certain splintering of each individual struggling for existence. One cannot arrive at a total inward composure; one cannot even arrive at the concept of such composure. People are not sufficiently aware of the deep solitude the yogi must seek. One must repeat the same matter rhythmically with immense regularity, if only for a brief time each day, in total separation from all usual concerns. It is indispensable that all life usually surrounding the yogi cease to exist and that his senses become unreceptive to all impressions of the world around him. He must be able to make himself deaf and dumb to his surroundings during the time which he prescribes for himself. He must be able to concentrate to such a degree — and he must acquire practice in this concentration — that a cannon could be fired next to him without disturbing his attention to his inner life. He must also become free of all memory impressions, particularly those of everyday life.
Just think how exceedingly difficult it is to bring about these conditions in our culture, how even the concept of such isolation is lacking. This spiritual solitude must be reached in such a way that the harmony, the total equilibrium with the surrounding world, is never lost. But this harmony can be lost exceedingly easily during such deep immersion in one's inner life. Whoever goes more and more deeply inward must at the same time be able to establish harmony with the external world all the more clearly.
No hint of estrangement, of distancing from external practical life, may arise in him lest he stray from the right course. To a degree, then, it might be impossible to distinguish his higher life from insanity. It truly is a kind of insanity when the inner life loses its proper relationship to the outer. Just imagine, for example, that you were knowledgeable concerning our conditions on earth and that you had all the experience and wisdom which may be gathered here. You fall asleep in the evening, and in the morning you do not wake up on Earth but on Mars. The conditions on Mars are totally different from those on Earth; the knowledge that you have gathered on Earth is of no use to you whatsoever. There is no longer harmony between life within you and external life. You probably would find yourself in a Martian insane asylum within an hour. A similar situation might easily arise if the development of the internal life severs one's connection with the external world. One must take strict care that this does not happen. These are great difficulties in our culture.
Egotism in relation to inward soul properties is the first obstacle. Present humanity usually takes no account of this. This egotism is closely connected with the spiritual development of man. An important prerequisite for spiritual development is not to seek it out of egotism. Whoever is motivated by egotism cannot get very far. But egotism in our time reaches deep into the innermost soul. Again and again the objection is heard, “What use are all the teachings of occultism, if I cannot experience them myself?” Whoever starts from this presumption and cannot change has little chance of arriving at higher development. One aspect of higher development is a most intimate awareness of human community, so that it is immaterial whether it is I or someone else having the experience. Hence I must meet one who has a higher development than I with unlimited love and trust. First, I must acquire this consciousness, the consciousness of infinite trust toward my fellow man when he says that he has experienced one thing or the other. Such trust is a precondition for working together. Wherever occult capacities are strongly brought into play, there exists unlimited trust; there exists the awareness that a human being is a personality in which a higher individuality lives. The first basis, therefore, is trust and faith, because we do not seek the higher self only in ourselves but also in our fellow men. Everyone living around one exists in undivided unity in the inner kernel of one's being.
On the basis of my lower self I am separated from other humans. But as far as my higher self is concerned — and that alone can ascend to the spiritual world — I am no longer separated from my fellow men; I am united with my fellow men; the one speaking to me out of higher truths is actually my own self. I must get away completely from the notion of difference between him and me. I must overcome totally the feeling that he has an advantage over me. Try to live your way into this feeling until it penetrates the most intimate fiber of your soul and causes every vestige of egotism to disappear. Do this so that the one further along the path than you truly stands before you like your own self; then you have attained one of the prerequisites for awakening higher spiritual life.
In situations where one receives guidance for the occult life, sometimes quite erroneously and confusedly, one may often hear that the higher self lives in the human being, that he need only allow his inner man to speak and the highest truth will thereby become manifest. Nothing is more correct and, at the same time, less productive than this assertion. Just try to let your inner self speak, and you will see that, as a rule, no matter how much you fancy that your higher self is making an appearance, it is the lower self that speaks. The higher self is not found within us for the time being. We must seek it outside of ourselves. We can learn a good deal from the person who is further along than we are, since there the higher self is visible. One's higher self can gain nothing from one's own egotistic “I.” There where he now stands who is further along than I am, there will I stand sometime in the future. I am truly constituted to carry within myself the seed for what he already is. But the paths to Olympus must first be illuminated before one can follow them.
A feeling which may seem unbelievable is the fundamental condition for all occult development. It is mentioned in the various religions, and every practical occultist with experience will confirm it. The Christian religion describes it with the well-known sentence, , which an occultist must understand completely, “Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” This sentence can be understood only by he who has learned to revere in the highest sense. Suppose that in your earliest youth you had heard about a venerable person, an individual of whom you held the highest opinion, and now you are offered the opportunity to meet this person. A sense of awe prevails in you when the moment approaches that you will see this person for the first time. There, standing at the gateway of this personality, you might feel hesitant to touch the door handle and open it. When you look up in this way to such a venerable personality, then you have begun to grasp the feeling that Christianity intends by the statement that one should become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Whether or not the subject of this veneration is truly worthy of it is not really important. What matters is the capacity to look up to something with a veneration that comes from the innermost heart.
This feeling of veneration is the elevating force, raising us to higher spheres of super-sensible life. Everyone seeking the higher life must write into his soul with golden letters this law of the occult world. Development must start from this basic soul-mood; without this feeling, nothing can be achieved. Next, a person seeking inner development must understand clearly that he is doing something of immense importance to the human being. What he seeks is no more nor less than a new birth, and that needs to be taken in a literal sense. The higher soul of man is to be born. Just as man in his first birth was born out of the deep inner foundations of existence, and as he emerged into the light of the sun, so does he who seeks inner development step forth from the physical light of the sun into a higher spiritual light. Something is being born in him which rests as deeply in most human beings as the unborn child rests in the mother.
Without being aware of the full significance of this fact, one cannot understand what occult development means. The higher soul, resting deep within human nature and interwoven with it, is brought forth. As man stands before us in everyday life, his higher and lower natures are intermingled, and that is fortunate for everyday life. Many persons among us would exhibit evil, negative qualities except that there lives along with the lower nature a higher one which exerts a balancing influence. This intermingling can be compared with mixing a yellow with a blue liquid in a glass. The result is a green liquid in which blue and yellow can no longer be distinguished. So also is the lower nature in man mingled with the higher, and the two cannot be distinguished. Just as you might extract the blue liquid from the green by a chemical process, so that only the yellow remains and the unified green is separated into a complete duality, so the lower and higher natures separate in occult development. One draws the lower nature out of the body like a sword from the scabbard, which then remains alone. The lower nature comes forth appearing almost gruesome. When it was still mingled with the higher nature, nothing was noticeable. But once separated, all evil, negative properties come into view. People who previously appeared benevolent often become argumentative and jealous. This characteristic had existed earlier in the lower nature, but was guided by the higher. You can observe this in many who have been guided along an abnormal path. A person may readily become a liar when he is introduced into the spiritual world, because the capacity to distinguish between the true and the false is lost especially easily. Therefore, strictest training of the personal character is a necessary parallel to occult training. What history tells us about the saints and their temptations is not legend but literal truth.
He who wants to develop towards the higher world on any path is readily prone to such temptations unless he can subdue everything that meets him with a powerful strength of character and the highest morality. Not only do lust and passions grow — that is not even the case so much — but opportunities also increase. This seems miraculous. As through a miracle, the person ascending into the higher worlds finds previously hidden opportunities for evil lurking around him. In every aspect of life a demon lies in wait for him, ready to lead him astray. He now sees what he has not seen before. As through a spell, the division within his own being charms forth such opportunities from the hidden areas of life. Therefore, a very determined shaping of the character is an indispensable foundation for the so-called white magic, the school of occult development which leads man into the higher worlds in a good, true, and genuine way. Every practical occultist will tell you that no one should dare to step through the narrow portal, as the entrance to occult development is called, without practicing these properties again and again. They build the necessary foundation for occult life.
First man must develop the ability to distinguish in every situation throughout his life what is unimportant from what is important, that is, what is perishable from the imperishable. This requirement is easy to indicate but difficult to carry out. As Goethe says, it is easy, but what is easy is hard. Look, for instance, at a plant or an object. You will learn to understand that everything has an important and an unimportant side, and that man usually takes interest in the unimportant, in the relationship of the matter to himself, or in some other subordinate aspect. He who wishes to become an occultist must gradually develop the habit of seeing and seeking in each thing its essence. For instance, when he sees a clock he must have an interest in its laws. He must be able to take it apart into its smallest detail and to develop a feeling for the laws of the clock. A mineralogist will arrive at considerable knowledge about a quartz-crystal simply by looking at it. The occultist, however, must be able to take the stone in his hand and to feel in a living way something akin to the following monologue: “In a certain sense you, the crystal, are beneath humanity, but in a certain sense you are far above humanity. You are beneath humanity because you cannot make for yourself a picture of man by means of concepts, and because you do not feel. You cannot explain or think, you do not live, but you have an advantage over mankind. You are pure within yourself, have no desire, no wishes, no lust. Every human, every living being has wishes, desires, lusts. You do not have them. You are complete and without wishes, satisfied with what has come to you, an example for man, with which he will have to unite his other qualities.”
If the occultist can feel this in all its depth, then he has grasped what the stone can tell him. In this way man can draw out of everything something full of meaning. When this has become a habit for him, when he separates the important from the unimportant, he has acquired another feeling essential to the occultist. Then he must connect his own life with that which is important. In this people err particularly easily in our time. They believe that their place in life is not proper for them. How often people are inclined to say, “My lot has put me in the wrong place. I am,” let us say, “a postal clerk. If I were put in a different place, I could give people high ideas, great teaching,” and so on. The mistake which these people make is that they do not enter into the significant aspect of their occupation. If you see in me something of importance because I can talk to the people here, then you do not see the importance of your own life and work. If the mail-carriers did not carry the mail, the whole postal traffic would stop, and much work already achieved by others would be in vain.
Hence everyone in his place is of exceeding importance for the whole, and none is higher than the other. Christ has attempted to demonstrate this most beautifully in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, with the words, “The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” These words were spoken after the Master had washed the feet of the Apostles. He wanted to say, “What would I be without my Apostles? They must be there so that I can be there in the world, and I must pay them tribute by lowering myself before them and washing their feet.” This is one of the most significant allusions to the feeling that the occultist must have for what is important. What is important in the inward sense must not be confused with the externally important. This must be strictly observed.
In addition, we must develop a series of qualities. 1For another description of these exercises, see Occult Science, an Outline (Anthroposophic Press, Spring Valley, New York, 1972) Chapter 5, p. 283. To begin with, we must become masters over our thoughts, and particularly our train of thought. This is called control of thoughts. Just think how thoughts whirl about in the soul of man, how they flit about like will-o'-the wisps. Here one impression arises, there another, and each one changes one's thoughts. It is not true that we govern our thoughts; rather our thoughts govern us totally. We must advance to the ability of steeping ourselves in one specific thought at a certain time of the day and not allow any other thought to enter and disturb our soul. In this way we ourselves hold the reins of thought life for a time.
The second quality is to find a similar relationship to our actions, that is, to exercise control over our actions. Here it is necessary to undertake actions, at least occasionally, which are not initiated by anything external. That which is initiated by our station in life, our profession, or our situation does not lead us more deeply into higher life. Higher life depends on personal matters, such as resolving to do something springing totally from one's own initiative even if it is an absolutely insignificant matter. All other actions contribute nothing to the higher life.
The third quality to be striven for is even-temperedness. People fluctuate back and forth between joy and sorrow. One moment they are beside themselves with joy, the next they are unbearably sad. Thus, people allow themselves to be rocked on the waves of life, on joy or sorrow. But they must reach equanimity and steadiness. Neither the greatest sorrow nor the greatest joy must unsettle their composure. They must become steadfast and even-tempered.
Fourth is the understanding for every being. Nothing expresses more beautifully what it means to understand every being than the legend which is handed down to us, not by the Gospel, but by a Persian story. Jesus was walking across a field with his disciples, and on the way they found a decaying dog. The animal looked horrible. Jesus stopped and cast an admiring look upon it, saying, “What beautiful teeth the animal has!” Jesus found within the ugly the one beautiful aspect. Strive at all times to approach what is wonderful in every object of outer reality, and you will see that everything contains an aspect that can be affirmed. Do as Christ did when he admired the beautiful teeth on the dead dog. This course will lead you to the great ability to tolerate, and to an understanding of every thing and of every being.
The fifth quality is complete openness towards everything new that meets us. Most people judge new things which meet them by the old which they already know. If anyone comes to tell them something new, they immediately respond with an opposing opinion. But we must not confront a new communication immediately with our own opinion. We must rather be on the alert for possibilities of learning something new. And learn we can, even from a small child. Even if one were the wisest person, one must be willing to hold back one's own judgment, and to listen to others. We must develop this ability to listen, for it will enable us to meet matters with the greatest possible openness. In occultism, this is called faith. It is the power not to weaken through opposition the impression made by the new.
The sixth quality is that which everyone receives once he has developed the first five. It is inner harmony. The person who has the other qualities also has inner harmony. In addition, it is necessary for a person seeking occult development to develop his feeling for freedom to the highest degree. That feeling for freedom enables him to seek within himself the center of his own being, to stand on his own two feet, so that he will not have to ask everyone what he should do and so that he can stand upright and act freely. This also is a quality which one needs to acquire.
If man has developed these qualities within himself, then he stands above all the dangers arising from the division within his nature. Then the properties of his lower nature can no longer affect him; he can no longer stray from the path. Therefore, these qualities must be formed with the greatest precision. Then comes the occult life, whose expression depends on a steady rhythm being carried into life.
The phrase “carrying rhythm into life” expresses the unfolding of this faculty. If you observe nature, you will find in it a certain rhythm. You will, of course, expect that the violet blooms every year at the same time in spring, that the crops in the field and the grapes on the vine will ripen at the same time each year. This rhythmical sequence of phenomena exists everywhere in nature. Everywhere there is rhythm, everywhere repetition in regular sequence. As you ascend from the plant to beings with higher development, you see the rhythmic sequence decreasing. Yet even in the higher stages of animal development one sees how all functions are ordered rhythmically. At a certain time of the year, animals acquire certain functions and capabilities. The higher a being evolves, the more life is given over into the hands of the being itself, and the more these rhythms cease. You must know that the human body is only one member of man's being. There is also the etheric body, then the astral body, and, finally, the higher members which form the basis for the others.
The physical body is highly subject to the same rhythm that governs outer nature. Just as plant and animal life, in its external form, takes its course rhythmically, so does the life of the physical body. The heart beats rhythmically, the lungs breathe rhythmically, and so forth. All this proceeds so rhythmically because it is set in order by higher powers, by the wisdom of the world, by that which the scriptures call the Holy Spirit. The higher bodies, particularly the astral body, have been, I would like to say, abandoned by these higher spiritual forces, and have lost their rhythm. Can you deny that your activity relating to wishes, desires, and passions is irregular, that it can in no way compare with the regularity ruling the physical body? He who learns to know the rhythm inherent in physical nature increasingly finds in it an example for spirituality. If you consider the heart, this wonderful organ with the regular beat and innate wisdom, and you compare it with the desires and passions of the astral body which unleash all sorts of actions against the heart, you will recognize how its regular course is influenced detrimentally by passion. However, the functions of the astral body must become as rhythmical as those of the physical body.
I want to mention something here which will seem grotesque to most people. This is the matter of fasting. Awareness of the significance of fasting has been totally lost. Fasting is enormously significant, however, for creating rhythm in our astral body. What does it mean to fast? It means to restrain the desire to eat and to block the astral body in relation to this desire. He who fasts blocks the astral body and develops no desire to eat. This is like blocking a force in a machine. The astral body becomes inactive then, and the whole rhythm of the physical body with its innate wisdom works upward into the astral body to rhythmicize it. Like the imprint of a seal, the harmony of the physical body impresses itself upon the astral body. It would transfer much more permanently if the astral body were not continuously being made irregular by desires, passions, and wishes, including spiritual desires and wishes.
It is more necessary for the man of today to carry rhythm into all spheres of higher life than it was in earlier times. Just as rhythm is implanted in the physical body by God, so man must make his astral body rhythmical. Man must order his day for himself. He must arrange it for his astral body as the spirit of nature arranges it for the lower realms. In the morning, at a definite time, one must undertake one spiritual action; a different one must be undertaken at another time, again to be adhered to regularly, and yet another one in the evening. These spiritual exercises must not be chosen arbitrarily, but must be suitable for the development of the higher life. This is one method for taking life in hand and for keeping it in hand. So set a time for yourself in the morning when you concentrate. You must adhere to this hour. You must establish a kind of calm so that the occult master in you may awaken. You must meditate about a great thought content that has nothing to do with the external world, and let this thought content come to life completely. A short time is enough, perhaps a quarter of an hour. Even five minutes are sufficient if more time is not available. But it is worthless to do these exercises irregularly. Do them regularly so that the activity of the astral body becomes as regular as a clock. Only then do they have value. The astral body will appear completely different if you do these exercises regularly. Sit down in the morning and do these exercises, and the forces I described will develop. But, as I said, it must be done regularly, for the astral body expects that the same process will take place at the same time each day, and it falls into disorder if this does not happen. At least the intent towards order must exist. If you rhythmicize your life in this manner, you will see success in not too long a time; that is, the spiritual life hidden from man for the time being will become manifest to a certain degree.
As a rule, human life alternates among four states. The first state is the perception of the external world. You look around with your senses and perceive the external world. The second is what we may call imagination or the life of mental images which is related to, or even part of, dream life. There man does not have his roots in his surroundings, but is separated from them. There he has no realities within himself, but at the most reminiscences. The third state is dreamless sleep, in which man has no consciousness of his ego at all. In the fourth state he lives in memory. This is different from perception. It is already something remote, spiritual. If man had no memory, he could uphold no spiritual development.
The inner life begins to develop by means of inner contemplation and meditation. Thus, the human being sooner or later perceives that he no longer dreams in a chaotic manner; he begins to dream in the most significant way, and remarkable things reveal themselves in his dreams, which he gradually begins to recognize as manifestations of spiritual beings. Naturally the trivial objection might easily be raised that this is nothing but a dream and therefore of no consequence. However, should someone discover the dirigible in his dream and then proceed to build it, the dream would simply have shown the truth. Thus an idea can be grasped in an other-than-usual manner. Its truthfulness must then be judged by the fact that it can be realized. We must become convinced of its inner truth from outside.
The next step in spiritual life is to comprehend truth by means of our own qualities and of guiding our dreams consciously. When we begin to guide our dreams in a regular manner, then we are at the stage where truth becomes transparent for us. The first stage is called “material cognition.” For this, the object must lie before us. The next stage is “imaginative cognition.” It is developed through meditation, that is through shaping life rhythmically. Achieving this is laborious. But once it is achieved, the time arrives when there is no longer a difference between perception in the usual life and perception in the super-sensible. When we are among the things of our usual life, that is, in the sense world, and we change our spiritual state, then we experience continuously the spiritual, the super-sensible world, but only if we have sufficiently trained ourselves. This happens as soon as we are able to be deaf and dumb to the sense world, to remember nothing of the everyday world, and still to retain a spiritual life within us. Then our dream-life begins to take on a conscious form. If we are able to pour some of this into our everyday life, then the next capacity arises, rendering the soul-qualities of the beings around us perceptible. Then we see not only the external aspect of things, but also the inner, hidden essential kernel of things, of plants, of animals, and of man. I know that most people will say that these are actually different things. True, these are always different things from those a person sees who does not have such senses. The third stage is that in which a consciousness, which is as a rule completely empty, begins to be enlivened by continuity of consciousness. The continuity appears on its own. The person is then no longer unconscious during sleep. During the time in which he used to sleep, he now experiences the spiritual world.
Of what does sleep usually consist? The physical body lies in bed, and the astral body lives in the super-sensible world. In this super-sensible world, you are taking a walk. As a rule, a person with the type of disposition which is typical today cannot withdraw very far from his body. If one applies the rules of spiritual science, organs can be developed in the astral body as it wanders during sleep — just as the physical body has organs — which allow one to become conscious during sleep. The physical body would be blind and deaf if it had no eyes or ears, and the astral body walking at night is blind and deaf for the same reason, because it does not yet have eyes and ears. But these organs are developed through meditation which provides the means for training these organs. This meditation must then be guided in a regular way. It is being led so that the human body is the mother and the spirit of man is the father. The physical human body, as we see it before us, is a mystery in every one of its parts and, in fact, each member is related in a definite but mysterious way to a part of the astral body. These are matters which the occultist knows. For instance, the point in the physical body lying between the eyebrows belongs to a certain organ in the astral organism. When the occultist indicates how one must direct thoughts, feelings, and sensations to this point between the eyebrows through connecting something formed in the physical body with the corresponding part of the astral body, the result will be a certain sensation in the astral body. But this must be practiced regularly, and one must know how to do it. Then the astral body begins to form its members. From a lump, it grows to be an organism in which organs are formed. I have described the astral sense organs in the periodical, Lucifer Gnosis. They are also called Lotus flowers. By means of special word sequences, these Lotus flowers are cultivated. Once this has occurred, the human being is able to perceive the spiritual world. This is the same world he enters when passing through the portal of death, a final contradiction to Hamlet's “The undiscover'd country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”
So it is possible to go, or rather to slip, from the sense world into the super-sensible world and to live there as well as here. That does not mean life in never-never land, but life in a realm that clarifies and explains life in our realm. Just as the usual person who has not studied electricity would not understand all the wonderful workings in a factory powered by electricity, so the average person does not understand the occurrences in the spiritual world. The visitor at the factory will lack understanding as long as he remains ignorant of the laws of electricity. So also will man lack understanding in the realm of the spirit as long as he does not know the laws of the spiritual. There is nothing in our world that is not dependent on the spiritual world at every moment. Everything surrounding us is the external expression of the spiritual world. There is no materiality. Everything material is condensed spirit. For the person looking into the spiritual world, the whole material, sense-perceptible world, the world in general, becomes spiritualized. As ice melts into water through the effect of the sun, so everything sense-perceptible melts into something spiritual within the soul which looks into the spiritual world. Thus, the fundament of the world gradually manifests before the spiritual eye and the spiritual ear.
The life that man learns to know in this manner is actually the spiritual life he carries within himself all along. But he knows nothing of it because he does not know himself before developing organs for the higher world. Imagine possessing the characteristics you have at this time, yet being without sense-organs. You would know nothing of the world around you, would have no understanding of the physical body, and yet you would belong to the physical world. So the soul of man belongs to the spiritual world, but does not know it because it does not hear or see. Just as our body is drawn out of the forces and materials of the physical world, so is our soul drawn out of the forces and materials of the spiritual world. We do not recognize ourselves within ourselves, but only within our surroundings. As we cannot perceive a heart or a brain — even by means of X-ray — without seeing it in other people through our sense organs (it is only the eyes that can see the heart), so we truly cannot see or hear our own soul without perceiving it with spiritual organs in the surrounding world. You can recognize yourself only by means of your surroundings. In truth there exists no inner knowledge, no self-examination; there is only one knowledge, one revelation of the life around us through the organs of the physical as well as the spiritual. We are a part of the worlds around us, of the physical, the soul, and the spiritual worlds. We learn from the physical if we have physical organs, from the spiritual world and from all souls if we have spiritual and soul organs. There is no knowledge but knowledge of the world.
It is vain and empty idleness for man to “brood” within himself, believing that it is possible to progress simply by looking into himself. Man will find the God in himself if he awakens the divine organs within himself and finds his higher divine self in his surroundings, just as he finds his lower self solely by means of using his eyes and ears. We perceive ourselves clearly as physical beings by means of intercourse with the sense world, and we perceive ourselves clearly in relation to the spiritual world by developing spiritual senses. Development of the inner man means opening oneself to the divine life around us.
Now you will understand that it is essential that he who ascends to the higher world undergoes, to begin with, an immense strengthening of his character. Man can experience on his own the characteristics of the sense world because his senses are already opened. This is possible because a benevolent divine spirit, who has seen and heard in the physical world, stood by man in the most ancient times, before man could see and hear, and opened man's eyes and ears. It is from just such beings that man must learn at this time to see spiritually, from beings already able to do what he still has to learn. We must have a guru who can tell us how we should develop our organs, who will tell us what he has done in order to develop these organs. He who wishes to guide must have acquired one fundamental quality. This is unconditional truthfulness. This same quality is also a main requirement for the student. No one may train to become an occultist unless this fundamental quality of unconditional truthfulness has been previously cultivated.
When facing sense experience, one can test what is being said. When I tell you something about the spiritual world, however, you must have trust because you are not far enough to be able to confirm the information. He who wishes to be a guru must have become so truthful that it is impossible for him to take lightly such statements concerning the spiritual world or the spiritual life. The sense world corrects errors immediately by its own nature, but in the spiritual world we must have these guidelines within ourselves. We must be strictly trained, so that we are not forced to use the outer world for controls, but only our inner self. We are only able to gain this control by acquiring already in this world the strictest truthfulness. Therefore, when the Anthroposophical Society began to present some of the basic teachings of occultism to the world, it had to adopt the principle: there is no law higher than truth. Very few people understand this principle. Most are satisfied if they can say they have the conviction that something is true, and then if it is wrong, they will simply say that they were mistaken. The occultist cannot rely on his subjective honesty. There he is on the wrong track. He must always be in consonance with the facts of the external world, and any experience that contradicts these facts must be seen as an error or a mistake. The question of who is at fault for the error ceases to be important to the occultist. He must be in absolute harmony with the facts in life. He must begin to feel responsible in the strictest sense for every one of his assertions. Thus he trains himself in the unconditional certainty that he must have for himself and for others if he wishes to be a spiritual guide.
So you see that I needed to indicate to you today a series of qualities and methods. We will have to speak about these again in order to add the higher concepts. It may seem to you that these things are too intimate to discuss with others, that each soul has to come to grips with them on its own terms, and that they are possibly unsuitable for reaching the great destination which should be reached, namely the entrance into the spiritual world. This entrance will definitely be achieved by those who tread the path I have characterized.
When? One of the most outstanding participants in the theosophical movement, Subba Row, who died some time ago, has spoken fittingly about this. Replying to the question of how long it would take, he said, “Seven years, perhaps also seven times seven years, perhaps even seven incarnations, perhaps only seven hours.” It all depends on what the human being brings with himself into life. We may meet a person who seems to be very stupid, but who has brought with himself a concealed higher life that needs only to be brought out. Most human beings these days are much further than it seems, and more people would know about this if the materialism of our conditions and of our time would not drive them back into the inner life of the soul. A large percentage of today's human beings was previously much further advanced. Whether that which is within them will come forth depends on many factors. But it is possible to give some help. Suppose you have before you a person who was highly developed in his earlier incarnation, but now has an undeveloped brain. An undeveloped brain may at times conceal great spiritual faculties. But if he can be taught the usual everyday abilities, it may happen that the inner spirituality also comes forth.
Another important factor is the environment in which a person lives. The human being is a mirror-image of his surroundings in a most significant way. Suppose that a person is a highly developed personality, but lives in surroundings that awaken and develop certain prejudices with such a strong effect that the higher talents cannot come forth. Unless such a person finds someone who can draw out these abilities, they will remain hidden.
I have been able to give only a few indications to you about this matter. After Christmas, however, we will speak again about further and deeper things. I especially wanted to awaken in you this one understanding, that the higher life is not schooled in a tumultuous way, but rather quite intimately, in the deepest soul, and that the great day when the soul awakens and enters into the higher life actually arrives like the thief in the night. The development towards the higher life leads man into a new world, and when he has entered this new world, then he sees the other side of existence, so to speak; then what has previously been hidden for him reveals itself. Maybe not everyone can do this; maybe only a few can do it, one might say to oneself. But that must not keep one from at least starting on the way that is open to everyone, namely to hear about the higher worlds. The human being is called to live in community, and he who secludes himself cannot arrive at a spiritual life. But it is a seclusion in a stronger sense if he says, “I do not believe this, this does not relate to me; this may be valid for the after-life.” For the occultist this has no validity. It is an important principle for the occultist to consider other human beings as true manifestations of his own higher self, because he knows then that he must find the others in himself. There is a delicate distinction between these two sentences: “To find the others in oneself,” and “To find oneself in the others.” In the higher sense it means, “This is you.” And in the highest sense it means to recognize oneself in the world and to understand that saying of the poet which I cited some weeks ago in a different connection: “One was successful. He lifted the veil of the goddess at Sais. But what did he see? Miracle of miracles! He saw himself.” To find oneself — not in egotistical inwardness, but selflessly in the world without — that is true recognition of the self.