Truths and Errors of Spiritual Research
III. How Does One Defend Spiritual Science?
25 March 1911, Prague
The previous talk should provide the basic mood for the today's explanations. In that talk, I wanted to show in particular that in the basic mood of the theosophist nothing of fanaticism should be contained. It has maybe arisen from the whole tone of the last talk that one should not consider the reasons against theosophy, as if one should disprove them bit by bit in this talk. One should rather consider them in such a way that they show a part of those thoughts, sensations, and feelings that arise to someone who approaches theosophy from the today's consciousness. Putting it another way, one should not consider the arguments against theosophy as unjustified but as highly entitled arguments in the sense of modern consciousness, as those which arise as real and not only as putative difficulties. However, from it I feel justified to speak in this talk in such a way that everything that I argue for theosophy today is considered in the same light as the refutations of theosophy I gave “tentatively” as it were in the previous talk.
I have there characterised the contents of theosophy briefly with few words, and I have said how one has to think about the origins of theosophy, about the real origins of that knowledge. These origins do not arise to the usual normal consciousness, but they arise only if the human being submits himself to certain inner exercises that reach beyond the normal experience, and cause that condition which happens, otherwise, while falling asleep — but in completely different way — that all the outer impressions are quiet and also all thoughts and sensations which evoke them. Unless then by the processes of the soul life the unconsciousness of sleep occurs, but such strong inner forces are unfolded that the consciousness remains, and if forces are brought up from the soul which slumber, otherwise, under the surface of the consciousness, then a higher intuitive faculty appears in the soul. Then such a soul is on a higher level in the same situation as a blind-born who is successfully operated and sees the world of light and colours spread out. In the same sense, all things and beings of the spiritual world are around us of which theosophy or spiritual science speaks. However, they can dawn on us if the spiritual eyes, the spiritual ears are woken from slumbering as it were by inner mental-spiritual energy. Then a new world appears before us.
I have said that the outer science must take offence at such a thing just because it strives seriously and conscientiously for making the contents of knowledge independent from the human subject. Since one argues rightly that that which the human being experiences in his inside is nothing but something subjective that everybody experiences different which can have an individual subjective validity only. If the human being may get from his subjective soul experiences to convictions about another world different from the physical world — an opponent of theosophy may say —, he may sort that out for himself. For one cannot prove this in the same way as those things which we get as knowledge with experiments, scientific observation or historical research. — Hence, some people will probably accept these things and say, indeed, the outer research has its limits; it cannot lead us into the areas that are maybe the most valuable ones to us; but everybody has to sort out for himself what exceeds the outer research, because everybody must have an individually coloured picture of that which exceeds sense perception.
However, if this were right, one could not maintain theosophy, then everything would be only something that every single human being would have for himself as his subjective conviction, and theosophy could not at all claim any objective validity. However, this is not in such a way. The human being can only find out this if he does the soul exercises to get to such origins of the supersensible knowledge.
In such an orienting talk, I can indicate only sketchily, what it concerns. From the comparison of the waking state with the sleeping one arises that the forces of our soul can grow weak with falling asleep and do no longer bring up cognitive forces from the depths. Hence, the darkness of unconsciousness spreads out while falling asleep. Therefore, that who wants to go through this state consciously has artificially to cause such moments of seclusion from the outside world in which he still has an inner experience. He has to evoke strong inner forces. You attain them by meditation and concentration of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Unless we consider that only which the outer world gives us as a mediator of knowledge or as impulses of our action, but if we start delving into important, strong impressions of the outside world at first, while we solve these strong impressions from the outside world using them not directly, but taking them in our souls — separated from the outside, then we gradually develop forces slumbering in the soul. I would like to show that at an example.
We can see how one human being helps the other. This can cause such a strong impulse of compassion in our souls that this impulse moves us to tears. We may be minded in such a way that we get such an impulse of compassion every time when we see such an action. This can be increased in us in such a way that we ourselves act benevolently if we see the hardship of a fellow man that we can have empathy with him and are stimulated to an action of compassion from the impression of the outside world. Perhaps we can advance so far that we unfold the same feeling that expresses itself in the tears even if we have faced a picture of such an action only. There are numerous people who, for example, if they read a novel get to a passage where only the picture of human misery and human compassion is conjured up before their souls, and then tears appear. They are touched by that which is only a picture of outer reality so that in their souls a similar impulse is released as it can be released, otherwise, only by an outer impression of physical reality.
However, if we assume now that we think in the usual consciousness simply about such an action, then we will already notice that this impulse is endlessly weaker that we are not able to increase it in such a way that it moves us to tears.
If we are able by soul exercises to think a thought which is associated with compassion, with helpfulness, with empathy without being induced from the outside world anyhow,
If we let such a thought emerge freely and can delve into it in such a way that we completely identify with it,
If we let this picture become strong so that it shakes our soul in such a way as it can happen, otherwise, only by an outer impression,
We have made a start with a “feeling meditation.”
If you let such a feeling meditation be active in yourself not once, not fifty times, but over and over again, you notice that such a meditation conjures up forces into such feelings from our soul which develop it internally. To someone who does such exercises these pictures appear which are still vivid in another way than possibly pictures of usual imagination are. If you delve into such meditations repeatedly, you experience yourself really in such a way, as if you were full of inner life as you only feel, otherwise, if you have impressed the inwardness into your outer body. — Yes, while the soul is stressed and penetrated with that which the meditation emits and immediately enters our consciousness, you experience something so that you say to yourself, I live now with everything with which I have secluded myself, otherwise, in sleep from my physical body. I live in it so strongly and vividly as I only can live if I am in my physical body and my eyes and ears and the other senses carry the outer impressions to me.
What I characterise here one cannot prove anyhow theoretically but only experience. After one has experienced it, it is available in our consciousness as an immediate feeling: Now you are free of your outer body; now, however, you do not live in nothing, but in a spiritual-mental essentiality that is as real as the experiences of the physical body. — Such a consciousness has to exist before doing research in the spiritual world. Someone who has attained such a consciousness is possibly as far as somebody who has prepared everything for an outer experiment, so that he only needs to set all things in motion to recognise a physical principle by this experiment. Then he is so far that he can penetrate into the origins of the spiritual world that are always around us.
However, I have to stress repeatedly that such soul exercises are only necessary to do research to experience in the spiritual world; however, they are not necessary to understand what the spiritual researcher gets down from the spiritual worlds and tells as results. Since the messages of theosophy can be understood with the natural feeling of truth and with healthy logic. The spiritual researcher can only investigate the facts and beings of the spiritual world, however, every unprejudiced person can understand them with natural feeling of truth and healthy logic.
Thus, we have to say, the origins of this worldview that we call theosophy are gained only by developing the soul. If now anybody wants to argue, everything that the human being produces this way as knowledge that is not controlled by the outer reality is the opposite of scientificity in modern sense because it is something individual and, besides, every human being must get to something different. On the other side, one has to stress that it is, indeed, completely right which is said this way but only for certain preparatory levels of soul development. The human being has to survive some serious fights and many a thing that only is significant for himself if he wants to advance to such knowledge. He probably gets to know how difficult it is to separate himself from the world to which we belong anyway with these subjective soul experiences. Immense difficulties thereby arise. There many things happen in us that apply only to us.
Then, however, you reach a point of soul development where you know immediately: now I am way beyond the subjective; now I experience truth, which is free of everything subjective. Now one has the immediate feeling, one has penetrated into the world of spiritual-mental realities. A simple consideration shows that there is also within our usual sciences a particularly prominent one with which knowledge is gained in such a way, as I have just characterised: mathematics. Already with the simplest mathematical operations, you can convince yourself that truth is gained with entire isolation of the soul. He who has found, however, such a truth knows that everybody who carries out the same operations must get most certainly to the same results. Nobody can recognise the theorem of Pythagoras — even if one visualises the operations of thought on the board — other than that one experiences the suitable relations internally. Someone who has worked once internally on the theorem of Pythagoras knows that everybody must get to the same result. Thus, it is with the mathematical cognition. Now we can say that the method of spiritual research takes place after the same principle as in mathematics that one considers as the surest science. Millions of people may think different about a mathematical theorem, somebody who has experienced it in his inside once knows that it is true. That also applies to the knowledge that you attain in the spiritual world.
Somebody who wants to do epistemological objections could say, one attains the mathematical truths in the deepest inside of the soul, but one cannot directly apply them to existence. Indeed, we can figure relations out in reality with the mathematical knowledge — somebody may say —, but no mathematics can decide on whether beings really exist who carry these mathematical principles in themselves; one has to experience reality in other ways than with mathematical judgements.
This objection is completely justified. It belongs even to those, which one holds to the theosophist, so that he cannot easily defend theosophy. However, with this objection, one has to consider that the human being does not experience with mathematical judgements what he experiences if he rises to a supersensible world. No mathematical judgement can give the view of the own ego as an object of the own ego, as if we leave our personality and look at ourselves. We cannot find our ego as an object with mathematical judgements. The view of the own ego is essential. With the mathematical judgements, we remain within our personality, with them we cannot penetrate into the outer reality. At the moment when we face ourselves, we have withdrawn from our body with a part of our being and have entered into objectivity. We feel in the things, we are inside of reality. This is the difference, the fact that mathematics gets, indeed, to inner certainty, but does not reach reality. Against it, the supersensible knowledge reaches reality. Hence, someone who advances on the way of spiritual research also gets to a new concept, a new idea of reality. Now with this new concept of reality that is at the same time a visual conception the human being can approach the consideration of human life. We want to bring that home to ourselves with the help of an example.
For the sensory view, the human being enters existence at birth and he finishes it at death. For the time before birth or conception and for the time after death the outer sense perception cannot recognise anything of man's objective nature. However, if the human being faces himself and has learnt to look from without at the human being in the just characterised way, her realises at the same time that this outer nature, which the senses can perceive, is based on something supersensible that is the real creator of this sensory organism. He realises that from the moment of birth on the mysterious human development begins. There we can realise how from a deep subsoil of human existence in the still uncertain features of the child certain trains gradually impress themselves, how his gestures and abilities develop more and more certain from within outwardly. The brain, the tool of our thinking, develops after birth still long; it is still transformed and organised. Now, however, the brain is the tool of our mental experience. If we look at this human life spiritual-scientifically, we have to ask ourselves, when does the moment take place in the human life where the mental-spiritual is completely able to use its tool, the brain? This is not yet the case in the first childhood years. Since, otherwise, the child did not need to attain many things by the impressions of the outside world and by imitation, and we did not need to educate the child. Only in the course of the first years, we can gradually use the tool of the brain. We can express this spiritual-scientifically in such a way: our brain becomes able first in the course of our life to become the tool of the ego.
When we are somewhat older — twenty years or more —, we have completely learnt to use our brain, to go back to former life epochs, then the spiritual-scientific observation shows that the brain has been only worked out during the early childhood. It becomes obvious to the spiritual researcher that that which is later in the human being to use the brain is the same as that which has worked on the development of the brain from forces that no sensory eye can see. Someone who approaches these matters with reason can say, so you state that you behold a childish spiritual atmosphere around the child head and that from this childish atmosphere, from a kind of head aura spiritual forces are emitted which work on the brain of the child, so that it can later become the tool of the ego. Then, you state, this head aura, which like an astral form surrounds the child head, slips into the inside to use this as tool from within on which it itself has worked in childhood. Thus, you state that that which uses the brain is a spiritual thing in childhood. It moves from without inwards, is active in the human organism first, then it enters into its inside and considers and understands as ego the world with the tool which has come about with its own power. No tool can be put into the service of the intelligent human culture that the human intelligence itself has not produced.
If you have attained such a spiritual view that you behold the spiritual-mental of the human being working on the configuration of your figure as it develops in life, then you can almost say to yourself: therefore, it is the spiritual-mental that is involved in that which is its physical. — You may still say to yourself, so we have to acknowledge the mental-spiritual in such a way that it exists before the physical-bodily because the physical-bodily has to be developed only. — However, you have to advance with observing and have to ask yourself then, is that spiritual-mental which has formed the brain the same for all human beings that works before birth on the human being? Alternatively, is it anything individual for every human being?
Of course, a real observation of life cannot help admitting that every human being is built individually that he has, hence, individual abilities that depend on the use of his outer instruments, on his outer forces, and, hence, he cannot be built up by a general human nature but by a human individuality.
That is, if we ascend to the creator of the human figure that appears to the clairvoyant in the aura of the child, we have to say, it is created completely individually. If we look as an expert educator at the adolescent human being, we can see how certain abilities appear, with one human being this way and with the other that way. About these abilities, we have to say, they search for that which is available just in a certain cultural region, for example, one child has an artistic talent, the other has a manual talent, a third an intellectual one, and so on.
Where from does that originate which appears in our present life? What urges the adolescent child to such performances that are given in our culture? That has developed beyond the child for which it strives. The child has this or that ability, this or that particular talent. If, however, we want to recognise this coherence, we have to go back in our culture to former states. If such a child were not related to that which happens on earth, it could be, indeed, inclined to something general, but not to something particular that originated from our cultural life. Hence, it is comprehensible that the child must have acquired certain relationships with that which it searches within the culture for its ability. Hence, we cannot think different, the souls which embody themselves and show this or that ability were already on earth once and have prepared themselves at that time to that for which they develop such affinity.
However, in the normal consciousness we can only think this. Then, however, we realise that spiritual science can ascend from this mere possibility of thinking to the view of the facts. Now one can ask, where can one observe the childish aura outwardly, which immerses itself in the inside to use the brain as its tool?
Yes, this moment appears very clear. Every human being who tries to remember his former living conditions gets to a certain point only — then memory breaks off, and at most still the parents or those who were around him can tell him what was before. However, every human being has to suppose that his ego also existed in the times that he cannot remember. To the precise observer this time coincides with the time when the human being learns as a child to say “I" to himself; that is when the ego-consciousness appears. Up to this time, the memory of a human being also goes back. What exists before the awakening of the ego-consciousness escapes from memory. Here we have the time: the child that has said: “John is there”, “Mary is there”, says now: “I am there.” At the time when the human being starts feeling as an ego, the clairvoyant consciousness beholds the childish aura moving into him.
From this fact, we may conclude that our memory is determinative in no way of the existence of our ego. We are also allowed to stress that beyond doubt there is a time in our life where the ego exists and still the human being cannot find this ego in his memory. However, someone who would like to believe that the ego awakes only then or would be impressed into the human being when the child learns to say "I", would believe something absurd. If our ego extends more backward than our memory reaches, we also are not surprised if spiritual science states that it is possible to expand the ego even more — behind birth to former lives. However, one just gets gradually to the view of the ego in these stadia of development which are not accessible to the normal consciousness, with particular soul exercises, meditations et cetera. I would like to describe the most elementary of such soul exercises here.
The human being has to develop a particular mood in himself that one may call “calmness” if he wants to behold into the future. If he can behold with calmness into the future, he has reached a lot to attain the higher beholding. One can describe this mood possibly in such a way: the human being says to himself, the world may praise us, it may condemn us, this or that may be imposed to us in future, dreadful or nice things — I shall stand upright and accept everything that may come with equanimity and face future intrepidly.
You can describe this very easily — but you can attain it only with long soul practise of meditative kind. If the human being develops this mood in himself, he learns to push the gate open at first that separates the usual consciousness from the experiences of the first childhood; then he learns to look into the first childhood years and then even further. Briefly, he makes the retrospect of former lives on earth accessible to himself. We bring in as a special method of it the achievement of an intrepid mood for the future. With absolute calmness toward the future, we acquire the possibility to pursue the course of our ego up to the point where the ego-consciousness appears in life. Then, however, the spiritual researcher does not want to stop, but he can extend his consciousness beyond the usual measure, and the repeated lives on earth can become reality to him.
One can still argue a lot against that which I have indicated today. However, I wanted only to give the ways on which you can find the methods to defend theosophy. I could only break the first ground, but the pursuit of this way can gradually lead to defending theosophy against such attacks that are completely justified, seen from the other side.
It is similar if these attacks concern the moral area. There we had to say that those have a certain authorisation who say, your teaching of reincarnation almost supports egoism. Since people may say to themselves, we have to do the good; since if we do the bad, we have to harvest the fruits of the bad in the future life. However, if we do the good, we harvest the fruits of the good. It is subtle egoism only which arises from it. One can expand this also to the work of karma. If we dwell on this idea, we may possibly say the following, we consider a human being, for example, who says to himself, I want to do the good, because the good brings me good fruits, and it is not advantageous to do the bad, because I have to carry the fruits of the bad, so I abstain from it. — We compare such a human being with another who thinks in a upright way about the things with which he is concerned, we assume, for example, parents who have the principle of educating their children to competent human beings. If we could ask these parents, why they do this, we would maybe get the answer, when we have grown old once, we have children who are able to cope with life who can support us then. — There we have a case that shows us that the good is done because of the fruits, which are to be expected once, because such an education is carried out certainly also from a selfish viewpoint.
Where to may such a viewpoint still lead, even if it is selfish? Since the fact that people have the viewpoint to educate their children to capable persons, so that they have support in old age, this is at first — quite objectively considered — a thing that one cannot manage with moral declamations. It is rather something that shows that the proposition of the philosopher is true: preaching morality is easy, founding morality is hard. — However, that is not to say that one should not educate his children from such a viewpoint, but that one recognises how the human beings have become under such an influence. If the parents use any care to educate their children to capable human beings, and then the children become capable in life, they do not only help their parents, but they are also useful members of the human society. However, we can notice an additional effect. If the parents start educating their children in such a way — even if their viewpoint was selfish at first —, then something unselfish awakes soon with such an education. That is reached which could not be reached by mere preaching moral: life itself educates us from egoism to altruism.
Just as with education, it is with the principle that we may have if we do the good and omit the bad, so that we have the fruits of the present life in the next life. This is selfish at first, but we know that the human nature has such an egoism. However, it does not concern that that is in such a way, but it concerns the question: how does life overcome egoism?
There we can realise that a human being can accept the teaching of karma in such a way that he says to himself, I abstain from the bad because it brings me bad fruits, and I will do the good because I have the good fruits. However, then under the influence of this principle the selfish attitude changes gradually into an unselfish one.
Hence, we have to say, if any ethics puts up ever so nice principles, nevertheless, it resembles — if it only preaches the good — a person who stands before an oven and says, dear oven, you know that it is your nature to warm up the room. — There you may preach long; it does not become warm. However, if we spare our sermon and give coal and wood as fuel into the oven, it makes the room warm, and then we found its oven morality without preaching. That also applies to the human beings. The expert of psychology is clear in his mind how little is done in life by mere preaching morality. Morality has to flow as a force into the human nature. If we give the soul the karma doctrine as fuel material, then it is maybe accepted at first because of egoism, but the soul forces are thereby stoked up, so that then from egoism the unselfish action can arise.
Thus, theosophy as doctrine does not only concern ethics, but we understand it as a sum of ideas that work in the soul and change us into other human beings. Nobody understands the karma doctrine in such a way that he says, I still have many lives before myself; I still have time up to the next life to become a decent human being. — Nobody can think this way. Someone who penetrates himself with the karma doctrine knows: you experience the fruits of your current life in the next life; now you lay the foundation for a decent, human being you can be in the next life. However, if you do not create the causes for a decent human being now, you cannot become one in the next life.
If you understand the karma doctrine correctly, you cannot carry egoism too far. Ssince it will persuade us any time to transform not only egoism into altruism, but also to realise that we do not fatalistically build on that which destiny imposes to us. We recognise that we ourselves have caused what works then in our karma.
Now I would still like to come on that which could be argued from the religious view against theosophy. There one may say, the theosophist acknowledges that in the human being something highest lives, as a drop is from the sea of the divine. There that which the human being can gain to himself is put, so to speak, like a divine force into the human soul, and then with such an attitude one cannot develop that devotion to that Being that interweaves the world. The mood — anybody may say — which the really religious human being feels in the most unselfish devotion to God who penetrates the universe would be impaired by the theosophical mood which transfers a spark of the divine into the human being as his “higher ego” which gradually struggles through to the viewpoint of Paul: not I — but Christ in me. One has to say, everything that the human being can recognise is got out from that which interweaves the universe.
Is not anything else possible? If one understands that which I have represented in the best sense, you may say to yourself, so a part of God's power lives in you. You are given not only to yourself, but you stand there with a part of God's power. If you have proceeded for a while — in this or in the next life — then consider what was your duty there. It was your duty to develop the seeds of God's power, which are laid in you — in other words, to make yourself more and more similar to that which this power demands from you. Gradual development, gradual perfection becomes the duty, so that God's power can arise in you more and more active. Theosophy does not demand such a religious feeling that consists only of the mere devotion to the divine, but such one that says to itself, I have to work on my perfection. If I do not do this, I let God's seeds in myself undeveloped, and then I do not become a picture, but a caricature of the divine. However, this must not happen. I have the duty to perfect myself.
That is active devotion to the divine. That is a religious mood that calls on the human being to do more and more for his knowledge, to care more and more for his moral, to be keener and keener to develop those forces that have been put as divine forces into his soul. Thus, we live with a religious mood in the future that does not provide a passive devotion to the divinity, but a mood that demands from us to make our egos more and more divine. Toward the divine that interweaves and lives in the universe, it would be the biggest breach of duty if we left our egos imperfect. We are not allowed to leave the talent unused that we have received; we have to make the most of our talents. One has to take this active mood into consideration if one speaks about the religious element that can come from theosophy.
Thus, you can realise that there are many things, which one brings in as elements to show that theosophy can strengthen life on one side, can change egoism into altruism, and cause a religious mood which can unfold an active piety for the future. We considered the other side of the question last time. We may say, the objections and refutations are entitled which one may argue against theosophy, but then we can position ourselves against these objections in such a way as I have stated now. Then we can ask our whole human being, not only our mind and our reason unilaterally, and we can say to ourselves, nevertheless, maybe it is true that there are things that begin where reason stops. Then we must set our whole human being in motion, and he has to decide. However, every single soul can decide this. Hence, theosophy is the spiritual element that speaks most intensely to the human individuality, while it calls upon the human individuality to the highest decision even compared with reason.
If the human being feels to be put into such living and holy impulses, he gradually finds the way which reveals him: you stand here on this earth; you belong as a physical-sensory human being to the physical-sensory world, and you belong with your soul and mind to a spiritual world.
You receive your mission from the spiritual world, and you have to impress into the whole earth development what you have brought down from the spiritual world. You have the mission to be a mediator between the earth process and the spiritual that forces its way to the earth, which wants to flow into the earth existence. If you learn to recognise by theosophical meditation that it is in such a way, and you can change the theosophical deepening into a disposition which gives you that infinitely blissful fulfilment of your mind, of your heart which can express itself in the consciousness of the connection with the temporal, the transient as well as with the everlasting, then you can say to yourself that you are rooted with your being in the everlasting that you are bound, indeed, as a sensory human being to the earth, but only to realise the everlasting in earthly form with your mission.
Theosophy can become such an attitude, if it changes in the human being with a basic mood that one can artistically express with the words:
The things of cosmic space
Speak to the human senses,
They change in the course of time.
The human soul lives recognising,
Spatially unlimited and not
Confused by the course of time,
In the realm of the eternal spirit.