Secrets of the Threshold
30 August 1913, Munich
We have talked during these lectures about the way the clairvoyant consciousness ascends into super-sensible worlds, where the true being of man, which is native there, can be thoroughly fathomed. And we have tried in these last few days to show how the human soul, crossing the threshold in its ascent, first passes through the elemental realm and then enters the spiritual world. We showed, too, how the soul meets with what we may call the other self of man.
The ascent could be described in the following way. At first we have a human being living in the physical body in the physical-sense world. When he sheds this physical organism, he goes on living in the etheric body, with the elemental world as his environment. (I have promised for tomorrow to clarify things for those troubled by a sense of possible confusion between the terms used here and in my book Theosophy.) When a person has shed his etheric body also, he ascends to the spirit world itself and this then forms his environment during the time he is living in his astral body, where he experiences his other self. We have emphasized that we experience this other self, which continues from incarnation to incarnation, in such a way that we feel almost as though we — as a third entity — were confronting two other entities. As a point-like being, we confront what we might call our past, brought into the spirit world in the form of memory and transformed into something spiritual by being brought there. And this past of ours begins a conversation in the region where living thought-beings converse. A spiritual conversation of this kind begins when the soul, as though newborn, has to listen to its own past conversing with the spiritual environment, thereby ripening and growing as a living thought-being itself.
Now a great many things can be observed in the process of growing into these spiritual worlds. Let us take the case, for a better understanding, of an ideally normal ascent into the spiritual world, in other words, the ascent of a soul in a completely undisturbed condition. Of course, hardly any such soul exists. That is exactly the reason why I tried to describe the spiritual path as I did, not just in general terms but dramatically as happens with every soul that starts out from its own particular departure point, making an ideally normal ascent out of the question.
Every soul has its own individual spiritual path. 17See Three Lectures on the Mystery Dramas (note 13). This can naturally be demonstrated only by showing how the individual ascent takes place, as, for example, in the case of Maria, Johannes Thomasius, Capesius, and Strader. But we can leave this for the moment. Let's picture instead how it would be if a soul's ascent were the ideal one, an example in which all the most ideal conditions for crossing the threshold and entering the spiritual world were met. Such a soul, on encountering its other self in the spiritual world, would not experience this encounter as though it were looking at a photograph of itself. Instead, what is subjective in the physical-sense and elemental worlds and what lives in our souls as abstract subjectivity, namely, the soul forces of thinking, feeling, and will, which we say are inside us, are now no longer within us. The thinking, feeling, and will we have in the physical world confront us objectively as a trinity on meeting our other self in the spiritual world. Encountering this trinity, we have to realize that these three are the self. I tried to represent them in the figures of Philia, Astrid, Luna; they are very real figures. There are as many of them in the world as there are human souls; once you know one, you know them all; it's like knowing all oat grains when you have seen one. But we should be clear that what is usually only a pale, shadowy presence in the human soul, becomes on meeting the other self a living trinity, experienced as three distinct entities. We ourselves are Philia, Astrid and Luna, but they are nevertheless thoroughly independent living thought-beings.
What a sufficiently strengthened soul must be aware of is that it is itself the unity of these three beings. And one must be further aware that what is called thinking, feeling and will is maya, the shadow cast into the soul by these three. Soul sickness would consist either in not recognizing oneself as these three beings in the spiritual world, seeing them as entities with whom one has nothing to do, or in an incapacity to keep them unified, perceiving instead one part of the soul as Luna, another as Astrid and a third as Philia. But it takes an ideal soul development, hardly to be found in human beings, to see this other self in its complete threefoldness.
We have to say, if we want to see things as they are, that the beings called Lucifer and Ahriman send their impulses into the physical-sense world. We have noted their influence there in a great many areas. But human souls that have taken the path of clairvoyant consciousness come into far more intensive touch with them on leaving the physical world and attempting to enter higher realms. Then Ahriman and Lucifer come at such souls and do their best to influence them in various directions.
Let us use the following to illustrate some of their actions. The human soul is pretty complicated and has many conflicting tendencies which it cannot control. These live deep down within it, beyond the reach of our ordinary consciousness. As I have already mentioned, the experience of entering the elemental world can be likened to the grotesque act of sticking one's head into an ant hill. As we stick our consciousness into the elemental realm, every thought becomes an individual living thought-being and begins to lead an independent life, in which our consciousness is immersed.
Now the clairvoyant has the following experience. All human beings have elements in their souls beyond their full control, elements to which they are emotionally attached. Ahriman becomes particularly active towards these especially intense attachments. The soul contains portions that can be pried loose from its entirety, and because we do not fully control these components, Ahriman pounces on them. Through Ahriman's unjustified activity, overstepping his proper domain, a tendency arises for those parts of man's etheric and astral being that are inclined to separate from the rest of the soul's life and become independent to be formed by Ahriman and even given human shape.
As a matter of fact, there are all sorts of thoughts sitting in us that are capable of taking on human form. When Ahriman has the chance to make these parts of the soul independent and give them human shape, they confront us in the elemental world as our Doppelgänger, or double. We have to be aware that everything changes as soon as we leave our physical body and enter the elemental world. One can't encounter oneself while in the physical body, but we can be in an etheric body on entering the elemental world and still see this etheric body from outside as one sees the double.
In terms of its substance, the double is a large part of the etheric body. We retain part of that body, but another part of it separates off and becomes objective. We look at it and see that it is part of ourselves, to which Ahriman has given our own shape. Ahriman tries to squeeze everything to make it conform to physical laws. The physical world is ruled by the Spirits of Form, who share this rulership with Ahriman. Therefore Ahriman can shape part of the human being into the double.
This encounter with the double is in the nature of an elemental phenomenon. It can happen as a result of subconscious soul impressions and impulses even to a person who is not clairvoyant. The following can occur: Somebody or other may be an intrigant and thereby have done harm to other people. He may have gone out and set another intrigue in motion. On returning home, he may enter his study, where papers are lying on his desk, papers that may contain things he made use of in his intrigues. Now what may happen, despite the cynical cast of his ordinary consciousness, is that his subconscious may be seized by these impulses to make intrigues. He comes in, looks at his desk — and what does he see? He sees himself sitting there!
It's an uncomfortable encounter, to enter one's own room and see oneself sitting at the desk. But such things belong to the realm of the possible; they happen often and most easily to those given to intrigue. What one encounters is indeed the double. The double is one among many tasks I have set myself to tackle in the two plays, The Guardian of the Threshold and The Souls' Awakening. We know that the double is experienced by Johannes Thomasius. It is due to his peculiar development and to the strange experiences he has lived through that he has these encounters with the double in the scenes shown; 18See The Probation of the Soul, Scene 5. Ahriman can form a part of his soul in such a way at this soul fragment — essentially a part of his etheric body — is filled with self-seeking soul elements. This sort of thing occurs only when the preconditions are such as those in Johannes Thomasius's case. You can get quite an idea of Johannes's particular soul in the course of the four dramas. A certain stage in his soul development is also indicated at the end of The Guardian of the Threshold. 19See The Guardian of the Threshold, Scenes 9 and 10. Such a stage is reached by many seekers on the spiritual path.
Let us summarize how things stand with this Johannes Thomasius. Looking back to the Portal, we find him, as it were, experiencing the higher world. But how does he experience it? We might say that if we observe him only in this early part of the dramas, The Portal of Initiation, he hasn't advanced very far — not beyond what might be called “imaginative soul experiences,” with all the imbalance and mistakes attendant on them. All the experiences presented there are subjective, except for the scenes that are not part of the action, the Prelude and the Interlude preceding Scene Eight. All the other action is the subjective imaginative experience of Johannes Thomasius; he doesn't get beyond this stage in the Portal. Everything we see on the stage should be conceived as happening in Johannes's soul as imaginative insight. This is very clear from the stage directions, which — except for the two scenes mentioned — require Johannes to be on stage throughout; this is very tiring for the actor. Even though in the Temple scene at the end of the drama, Johannes Thomasius says all sorts of things that theoretically have objective validity, we might agree that people say a lot of things in various temples that do not reflect maturity, for which a longer growth period is needed. But words are not what matter here; we see from the whole presentation that we are dealing with the subjective imaginations of Johannes Thomasius.
New developments come about in The Probation of the Soul. A higher ascent is brought about by Johannes's achieving impressions of earlier earth lives. This does not remain in the realm of imagination but extends into the objective world where spiritual facts are encountered, which exist independently of his soul. We move away from his subjectivity into the objective world. In the course of these first two plays, Johannes gradually frees himself from his subjective state and enters the objective spiritual world. That was why it happened so naturally — since in The Probation of the Soul Johannes was achieving the first stage of actual initiation — that Lucifer gains the seductive influence shown at the end of the play. 20The Probation of the Soul, Scene 12. Thus conditions are met that allow the further development of a soul like that of Johannes Thomasius, as portrayed in The Guardian of the Threshold.
In this play Johannes Thomasius is brought into the objective spiritual world. His work impels him at first to a more subjective encounter with Ahriman there; as a result of this meeting, Johannes develops an egotism counter to the divine world order. But now begin his objective experiences and these are Lucifer's domain. Here we are definitely no longer dealing with the merely subjective but with a picturing of the spiritual world apart from man. The spiritual world is a spiritual experience just as the physical world is a physical one.
Johannes Thomasius now enters the objective spiritual world for the first time. This means that he is able to bring in with him all the possibilities of erring of which the soul is capable, especially his strange relationship to Theodora. Johannes enters the higher world, burdened with all the slag of his lower self, but even so, confronting the higher world. If I may use a shallow term for it, I would have to say that Johannes Thomasius falls occultly in love with Theodora. Certain physical impulses intrude into the higher world in this relationship. As he goes through all this, Johannes Thomasius reaches the point described at the end of The Guardian of the Threshold. Here he experiences his ordinary self, belonging to the physical and elemental worlds, as well as the other self he met upon entering the spiritual world. In Scene Nine, the Morning Walk, as well as in Scene Eleven, the Temple, in the presence of Hilary, Johannes reaches what one might describe as his inner sensing of both these two selves. But it is clear that he has not yet created any balance in the relationship between the ordinary and the other self; he wavers back and forth between the two. Considering that at the end of the Guardian and thus at the beginning of The Souls' Awakening, Johannes Thomasius stands before us as a soul who feels the separate yet parallel activity of these two selves, we can understand that much exists in his soul-being that can be dug out, so to speak. At first Ahriman digs out the double. But there is more in Johannes's soul to be extracted.
Let me emphasize that I am not describing all this as a commentary on the dramas 21After his introductory words, Rudolf Steiner added, Because of so many requests each year I've taken up my pen and made not only a beginning but have something worked out as a kind of explanation of our four mystery dramas. But each time I've laid the thing aside for the same reason I indicated in the “Remarks” introducing The Souls' Awakening: ‘I am averse to adding material of this kind to a portrayal intended to speak for itself.’ It is disagreeable to me to make an intellectual commentary on something that truly had no theoretical or intellectual origin but stands complete in all its scenes like an inspiration from the spiritual world. I could really say nothing more about it intellectually than anyone else would do who went into the matter. When things are given in this way, there is a definite need to let them speak for themselves, and not to suck them dry with clear theoretical thinking. However, we may be able to address several points in this lecture cycle. but in order to make use of what they portray to illustrate actual spiritual conditions and spiritual reality. If we consider human karma, the lawful order of human destiny, we must say that there is a great deal of fulfilled karma in the human soul but also much that is unfulfilled. We have gone through a great deal in a former earth life that requires harmonizing; for the moment it may be lying unresolved in the depths of the soul. Every soul has unresolved karma of this kind.
Johannes Thomasius has to become conscious of an especially large amount of unresolved karma, when his inner being separates into his ordinary and his other self. When this happens, much of his unresolved karma is separated from him. Those elements are detached that are readily felt by every soul gradually developing clairvoyance to be detaching themselves. Such souls are born into physical existence possessing the game qualities all young people have. Even clairvoyants start out in life as ordinary children do, to their own benefit; we do not always find them ready to become, the sort of person Krishnamurti was made into. 22Krishnamurti: in 1911 Mrs. Besant had named this young Hindu boy as the newly appeared Christ; later as a young man, Krishnamurti repudiated this attribution. Then a moment comes — a karmically determined moment — when the spiritual world lights up. But it often happens — and this is important — that a clairvoyant soul experiences the sight of its own youth as though it were an objective being, 23Rudolf Steiner, Mysterienstaetten des Mittelalters (GA 233a), (Jan. 5, 1924), (Dornach Switzerland, Rudolf Steiner Verlag). Not available in English. when the soul is in an extremely elegiac or tragic mood. We behold our outgrown youth and ask ourselves, what would have become of this now almost alien youth, if we had not found our way into a spiritual clairvoyance? A real splitting apart takes place. One experiences a kind of rebirth and looks back to one's own youth as to something alien. We have to say of a great deal of the karma of our youthful years that it cannot be resolved in this incarnation. Much of this karma lies buried and will have to be resolved later, or else one has to make an effort to start working it out now. Johannes's soul is burdened by much unresolved karma.
Unresolved karma of this kind and the looking back at one's younger self as though at someone else are both inwardly experienced. Lucifer finds entry here; he can take away a substantial part of the etheric body and, as it were, ensoul it with the unresolved karma. It becomes a shadow-being under Lucifer's influence, a being like that portrayed in the Spirit of Johannes's Youth. A shadow-being of this kind is an actual being. It is there, separate from Johannes Thomasius, but involved in gruesome concerns, running as it does counter to the world order. This shadow-being outside Johannes Thomasius ought really to be within him; the fact that it is not has caused what we feel to be the tragic fate of this being, which lives outside as a part of his etheric body in the elemental and spiritual worlds.
A person who has this important, meaningful experience gathers from it the insight that his unresolved karma has loaded a burden of cosmic debt upon himself and has created a being that rightly belongs not outside but within him. The Other Philia makes Johannes Thomasius aware in The Souls' Awakening that he has given birth to a soul-child, who suffers a sort of illegitimate existence off by itself. The remarkable thing about growing up into the spiritual world is that one encounters one's own being but can encounter it in multiple, spiritually objective copies. In Johannes Thomasius's case we are dealing with manifold duplication. One part of his being comes to meet him as his double, and then another part — for karma belongs to the essential nature of a human being — comes as the Spirit of his Youth.
And now a third element enters the picture, for Johannes is not yet ready to undergo what Maria has gone through. She has had a relatively normal development. In Scene Nine, Astrid and Luna appear to her — not in the company of the real Philia — just these two soul forces. This is still a comparatively normal development. It would have been completely normal for Maria to have experienced the presence of all three, with thinking, feeling, and will so objectified that Maria felt them to be a unity. But such a normal development scarcely exists. Let me emphasize that the soul forces I tried to characterize here are real figures, so that the situation described is fully possible. Maria's consciousness soul and intellectual soul are more evenly developed than her sentient soul; she therefore meets Astrid and Luna but not Philia. A soul like hers still has a highly normal development.
However, Johannes Thomasius's development deviates considerably from the normal. First of all, his double appears. As he nears his other self, the double and then the Spirit of his Youth appear. All this accompanies his approach to the other self, because the latter brings these inner conditions to light. If Johannes Thomasius were to get really close to the other self, he would be confronted by all three soul forces. But he has to undergo a great deal that looms up on the way to his other self. Since Johannes does not at once attain to the other self, he is met by the Other Philia, who is more closely related to his subjectivity. The Other Philia is, in a sense, the other self. But the other self, which is still resting in the soul's depth and has not fully separated from it, is still connected with what in the physical world is most similar to the spiritual realm. This soul force is also linked with an all-prevailing love and because of this, it can guide us into higher worlds. And so the Other Philia, the third figure, is encountered by Johannes Thomasius on the way to his other self. If a soul were to meet all three soul forces, it wouldn't have to contend with any obstacles. As it is, however, the whole being of man can take objective form and appears in the outside world in its entirety. That is the case when we see the Other Philia at the end of Scene Two of The Souls' Awakening.
Now I explained to you that as a man grows into the elemental world and even into the spiritual world, he must acquire the capacity to transform himself, because everything in those worlds is always in a state of transformation; nothing there remains in static or finished form. Finished form exists only in the physical realm, whereas in the elemental world everything is mobile and capable of change.
But since everything is constantly changing, mixups can occur. If one is not alert enough, one can mistake one being for another. That is what happens to Johannes Thomasius: first the Other Philia appears and later on he mistakes the double for her. Mistakes of this kind can happen very easily. We must realize that we have to work our way very gradually to an exact beholding of higher worlds and that because of the constant change there, mixups can well occur. And the way these mistakes come to light is extraordinarily significant for the course of a soul's development.
Johannes has had an experience three times over, 24The Souls' Awakening, Scenes 2, 4, 10. as you will remember; the nature of this experience is due to the particular way he has developed. The first is with the Other Philia, the second with the double, the third again with the Other Philia — a triad of experiences. Everything in the world comes in threes! If we don't find them, we should look for them. The fact that Johannes Thomasius encounters the Other Philia twice and the double only once, and on one occasion mistakes one for the other, is due to the stage of development he has achieved. His perceiving of his soul-child, the Spirit of his Youth, goes back to the same fact. Of course, Lucifer helped create this child, which now exists as an independent being. It is one of the most shattering experiences the clairvoyant can have to find the spiritual world peopled by shadowy beings created by Lucifer from parts of unresolved Karma. We can find many such shadow-beings, which we ourselves, prompted by Lucifer, have placed in the spiritual world through our unresolved karma. These experiences with shadow-beings correspond to the point our soul development has reached.
Let us assume that Johannes Thomasius's case had been different. He would have made two mistakes, would have been wrong twice and once right, have seen the double twice and the Other Philia once. But the actual fact was that he was too caught up in subjectivity. Maria, in contrast, has gone so far in the direction of objectivity as to be confronted by two soul forces. But Johannes has to strengthen his soul to a point where what still remains rather subjective can confront him objectively: “enchanted weaving of one's own being.” These words strengthen his soul. And as this enchanted weaving of his own being becomes more evident and brings him closer to his other self, Johannes confronts himself in his double, in the Spirit of his Youth and in the Other Philia.
Johannes Thomasius would have to have a different make-up to experience this triad differently — making two mistakes, let's say, and seeing the double twice. He would not have seen just one Spirit of his Youth as The Souls' Awakening has it; he would instead have seen many of his soul-children in the realm of shadows. Here great secrets of soul life make themselves felt.
You can see from all I've been saying that the clairvoyant path to man's true being is complicated, for the soul itself is complex. To approach it means to ascend step by step into spiritual realms. It means also that you become a being of memory, a being of the past, for you become aware that you are not in the present nor for the moment have you any future. You are what you have been and carry your past into the present. Your further spiritual growth is then such that what you have thus carried into realms of the spirit, what you experience spiritually, starts a spiritual conversation with the surrounding spirit world. You grow as you listen to this conversation of your own past with the living thought beings of the spiritual world. But when you feel yourself thus transposed into the spirit world wherein you come upon your other self, you will also have a feeling that can be described like this: “You are now indeed in the spiritual world. You can find your other self as a spiritual being, due to the fact that you are living in the realm of the spirit clothed in the astral body. But as yet you cannot find your ultimate true being in this world. In spite of ascending into spiritual realms, you cannot yet find the being whose shadow is your ego in the physical world.” One learns little by little what a significant experience one must still undergo in order to penetrate to the true ego, the true inner being, enveloped in the other self.
Man's being is indeed complex and lives far down in the soul's depths. And actually to reach the real ego requires living through a variety of experiences. It has been emphasized how one can penetrate into the spiritual world with memory, how no new impressions are received, how what one has been must be allowed to speak, and how one, now a point-like being, must listen to the spiritual conversation between one's past and one's spiritual environment. We retain this memory. It also stays with us between death and rebirth.
The memory of real sensory existence between birth and death stays firmly present in the soul between death and rebirth. But if one penetrates to the true ego after having become clairvoyant, one comes to realize that a decision, a spiritual deed is necessary. And it can be said of it: This must be a strong, determined decision of the will, to root out, to forget the memory of what we have been, in all its detail. With this we come to something that was also dimly apparent in earlier clairvoyant and cognitive stages of experience. In Scene Three of The Souls' Awakening where Strader stands at the abyss of his existence, there is a foreshadowing of this experience that one has in spiritual realms. But one stands in the fullest sense of the word at the abyss of existence when one makes the decision in true freedom and energy of will, to blot out and forget oneself.
All these things are completely true of all human beings; nevertheless people are unaware of them. Every night we are required to blot ourselves out, without being conscious of it. But it is an entirely different matter fully consciously to give over to destruction and to forget one's remembering ego — to stand in the spiritual world as a nothing on the edge of the abyss of nothingness. This is the most shattering experience one can have; one must approach it with great confidence that the true ego will he brought to us out of the cosmos. And this is indeed the case.
We know, after we have achieved forgetfulness on the edge of the abyss, that everything we have ever experienced is blotted out, and this we did ourselves. But out of an as yet unknown world — a world I might call super-spiritual — our real ego, whose only remaining concealment has been the other self, comes toward us. Only now do we meet our true ego, whose shadow or maya as it exists in the physical world is the lower ego. For man's true ego belongs to the super-spiritual world. All this is inner experience: the ascent to the super-spiritual realm, the perceiving of a completely new world at the edge of the abyss, the receiving of the true ego from this world.
I wanted this description to serve as a bridge to tomorrow's lecture. You should mull it over. We will continue tomorrow, linking up with what I have said today in regard to the encounter that takes place at the edge of the abyss.