Esoteric Lessons III
It has often been emphasized that one must distinguish between progress in esoteric development and noticing the progress. Every esoteric gets ahead if he does his esoteric exercises faithfully and regularly, even if he's dissatisfied with the success of the same. Honest endeavour is the important thing. We actually become different men through these exercises. This definitely happens even if we don't notice it. For the forces that loosen the etheric body and pull it out of the physical body are in all of these exercises, whether they're given orally or in books. But it's another matter to also notice these changes. A soul may actually have organs already, but it makes a difference whether it's sleeping or waking in its spiritual surroundings. It requires a strong force and preparation to wake up and become conscious. That's why descriptions are given in these lectures of what a soul experiences on waking up in the spiritual world. Many make it difficult for themselves to become conscious because they keep on thinking that the spirit land is like a second physical world, only finer and more diffuse. This is a big hindrance, because then they don't notice the fine symptoms of awaking. Such prejudices must be eliminated. One who still has them is like a man who goes up in a balloon and thinks that he can get out up there at any time and rest on a mountain top. But one who takes in esoteric explanations rightly can understand how the spiritual world is experienced when the soul awakens. To get to this point one has to ask oneself the question: What is thinking really? What thinks in me? A materialist who denies the existence of the spiritual world says: The body, the brain thinks. But one should ask him: Have you ever perceived thinking with your senses? Of course he hasn't. No one has ever heard or seen or felt thinking as warmth or the like. Therefore it's not corporeal. For what belongs to the body is sense perceptible. And so thinking is super-sensible. So the materialist would either have to accept the spiritual world or he should give up thinking because it's an absurdity — which might even be good. So we're always in the super-sensible world with our thinking, but in such a way that we don't experience it. With man's thinking it's as if someone went out to sea but didn't see himself and his boat. We don't experience it directly, for the thoughts we experience are reflections of thinking in the body. Just as someone facing a mirror sees his reflection, so a thinking soul sees the mirror image of its thinking. The brain is a mirror.
Through esoteric training a man is supposed to experience thinking and not just thoughts. Just as someone standing before a mirror sees the mirror's reflecting surface when he steps to one side, so the soul must learn to look upon the body as a reflecting apparatus. Then the man knows how thoughts come into being, and he experiences himself in the world from which thinking projects into the sense world as thought. All of this can be understood by every healthy intellect. And it's important for a theosophist to make it quite clear to himself to be armed against the objection that theosophy is based on belief, that one must believe in the existence of the super-sensible world. That's not true. Everyone can understand this existence if he uses his thinking properly. One who can't understand it is foolish, even if he's a philosopher. But it's still a big step from this possibility of experiencing thinking and the super-sensible world to a knowing of the latter. This can only be attained if the soul works on itself for a long time, but it is attained.
The first sign of an awakening in the spiritual world is a feeling of expansion, as if one were spreading and flowing out. In the sense world I'm here, the object is over there and it makes an impression on me. Consciousness comes about when we bump into objects through the organs of touching, hearing, seeing. However in the spiritual world the condition of being closed off in oneself ceases. One feels as if one were spread out in other beings. In the physical world we experience everything inside our skin, as for instance the prick of a needle. Not so in the spiritual world. There thinking and feeling flow out. One experiences pleasure and pain in others. For instance if one runs into a deceased person who's in pain, one has to experience the pain with him as long as one is in spiritual contact with him. One's relation to the sense world also becomes quite different through this change. The way in which we ordinarily experience the physical world is conditioned by the fact that the body through which we experience things is sensorial. If we hit our head against a hard object we feel it because the head doesn't yield, that is, because it's hard or similar to the object. But no impression is made if one confronts the sense world with super-sensible experience. Spiritual organs are too soft and flexible, as it were. That's why all physical things seem like empty spaces. A comparison can give one a perception of this. The water in a glass is invisible. The gas pearls in soda water are visible even though the bubbles are much more rarefied than water; they're nothing in comparison with the denser fluid. So the nothing is visible and the something is invisible. For a spiritual gaze that's the way things really are with the physical world. Like these pearls in water, all atoms are holes or empty bubbles in the spiritual world. All physical things are composed of countless numbers of such holes. When we touch things we bump into these holes, this nothing. That's the way things are with man's body also. Seen spiritually, for instance, the brain is a spiritual form. There are countless empty pearls or holes in it, and they make up what a scientist investigates with his instruments. Another thing is that a man feels that all the good, right and true things that he thinks stream out from him. He feels as if they're growing into the future, that they're germ-forming for the future. But the wrong, bad, ugly things that he thinks and feels also grow out like this. He really feels them streaming out of him, and he knows that the bad thoughts streaming from him will later serve as food for the good ones. So they're also necessary. Then he begins to understand why so many bad, wrong and ugly thoughts and feelings assail him during meditation. When he knows that they're necessary forces and food for the future he'll also assess them correctly. He won't have to complain about them if he's strong enough to not let them flow into his willing and action. There is a big secret connected with this. The same forces that underlie our bad thoughts were rayed out by hierarchical beings on old Moon, from angels up to Spirits of Form. Thereby they brought about Moon existence. But Lucifer and Ahriman remained behind and are only raying out these forces now. They now work into physical things that have condensed further, right into man's physical blood, and that's how evil arises. They're not evil in themselves; an esoteric must let them work on him but not let them become physically condensed. Then they remain of value for future good thoughts.
The following formulas are given to promote an experience of these first steps into the spiritual world. Budding esoterics should do the first one in the AM, the second after the day's retrospect and the third once every few days. More advanced esoterics should only do them occasionally, the first and second together and the third maybe only on Sundays.
The 7-line form of the verses arose by itself, that is, the spiritual material reveals itself in such a way that it presses into this form. (The verse in the lesson from March 5th 1914 in Stuttgart, is included here for reference.)
things I turn myself
(I must attain this: it's the taking of a position towards the new, outer world.)
light warm me
(That's a questioning and experiencing in the new existence within.)
I and luminous soul (- oneself -)
(In anticipation of truth. It's a guessing, a feeling of the new self.)
When elaborated each of these strophes contains the same thing that's successively compressed in our rosicrucian verse in the ten words: Ex Deo nascimur, In Christo morimur, Per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus
Lines one and two of the third formula give one much to think about. They were revealed like that, although it seems to be grammatically incorrect, since it says floats instead of float. Later it became clear that this is intended. “Shining I and luminous soul” should be thought of as a single entity. Likewise “what was thought, what was known” are treated as one. Thinking and knowing are not one in the physical world, but in the spiritual one they flow together. Something that's thought is either wrong — then it destroys itself — or it's right — then it's also something that's revealed: knowledge.
Formulas like these or the ones in Occult Science, for instance, are not made up or fabricated. The intellect isn't involved in this at all to begin with. A seer gets things revealed to him. They stand there. Only then does he elaborate them with his intellect. The first formula describes the experience where physical things seem to consist of nothing, like bubbles in water. The soul sees that ordinary sensory existence is an illusion, and it tries to gain knowledge of what is truly real.
The second formula describes the experience of the raying out of good and bad thoughts.
The third formula should be used as a test of the progress one has made. When one meditates it one must speak the words inwardly so that everything resounds meaningfully. With these lines one tries to see how far one has gotten; whether for instance one already experiences something from:
What was thought, what was known
Now becomes dense spirit existence.
Of course this must be continued patiently and without flagging week after week. One can also look upon these formulas as a different form of what's always said at the end of these classes. The first one describes how sensorial things become non-existent when one grows into the spiritual world, and spiritual reality is seen to be what we come from: Ex Deo nascimur.
The second formula describes the experience of good and bad thoughts as forces that'll work in the future. This is only possible if the soul is embraced and illumined by spiritual light — Christ — after it has released itself from the physical world: In Christo morimur.
And the third formula describes how real knowledge becomes revealed to the soul that's waking up in the spirit: Per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus.