True and False Paths in Spiritual Investigation
4. The Secret of Investigation into Other Realms through the Metamorphosis of Consciousness
Torquay, 14 August, 1924
I have spoken about the form, substantiality and metallity of the mineral kingdom in so far as they are related to the different levels of consciousness in man. Before extending my observations to include certain metallic substances, I must make my position perfectly clear.
From what I have said it might readily be inferred that I was recommending the ingestion of these substances in the form of nutriments as a means of inducing states of consciousness that differ from the normal. When discussing methods of achieving spiritual insight through inner training and discipline, one often hears the remark: I would be only too glad to know something of other worlds and other states of consciousness, but it is too difficult to carry out the exercises which are recommended; they take up so much time.
A little later, perhaps, these people make a start. Then, after a time, the immediate demands of life intervene and they find they are unwilling to sacrifice their ingrained habits. By degrees they lose enthusiasm and the exercises are quietly dropped. Not surprisingly these people achieve nothing; they find the need to practise spiritual exercises excessively irksome.
When they hear, for example, that the qualities of certain metals are associated with other levels of consciousness, they feel more reassured. If a small dosage of copper is all that is required in order to preserve a spiritual link with another after death, then why not take it, they conclude, if it enables one to develop a higher level of consciousness.
The idea becomes all the more attractive when they hear that the practice adopted in the ancient Mysteries was not so very dissimilar, though in those days, of course, it was only carried out under the continuous and closest supervision of the Initiates. And when people are told of this, they wonder why these old practices are not revived. But they overlook the fact that in ancient times the whole physical organization of man was differently constituted. In those days, and even as late as the Chaldean epoch, he lacked our present intellectuality. Thoughts were not self-generated as today, but came to him through inspiration. Just as we realize today that we do not create the red of the rose, but receive the impression of the rose from without, so the men of ancient times were aware that thoughts were transmitted via external objects, they were “in-spired,” breathed into them. The reason for this was to be found in the different constitution of the physical organism, including even the composition of the blood. Therefore it was possible to administer highly potentized doses of those metals I have spoken of — homoeopathic doses as we call them today — in order to assist people in carrying out their spiritual exercises.
A man of the Chaldean epoch, we will suppose, has been prescribed highly potentized doses of copper. Before taking it — this was the general practice of the time — he was directed to perform certain specific spiritual exercises. In such cases, years rather than days of training were demanded of him before the highly potentized copper could be administered. And because his physical constitution was different from ours, he learned, through his training, to retrace the reactions upon the upper part of the body, of this finely distributed, highly potentized copper that was circ41ating in his blood stream. When copper was administered after this careful training, he felt inwardly that his words took on added warmth, because he himself had generated warmth in his larynx and in the nerves leading from the larynx to the brain.
Now because his physical make-up was different, he was able to react with such extreme sensitivity to what was taking place within him. If one were to administer highly potentized copper in similar circumstances today, it would of course take effect, but it would provoke a laryngeal condition and nothing further.
It is important, therefore, to understand the difference between the physical constitution of man in those times and that of today. Then one will no longer be tempted to induce other states of consciousness by administering medicaments, which was the normal practice in ancient times and was still frequently practised in the Middle Ages.
At the present time the only valid method is for man to have an inner perception of the nature, the essential being of copper as I indicated yesterday and thus develop a sensitive response to the colour of burnished copper, to the behaviour of copper in copper sulphate solution. By concentrating and meditating upon this response, he will ensure that he reacts in the right way.
But, you will object, in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, there is no indication of what preparatory steps should be undertaken in order to develop this response to copper. That is so. But in principle the directives are given in my book, though copper is not specifically mentioned. A description is given of how one should enter into the being of crystals, plants, etc. and the preparatory exercises are indicated. But of course no information is given of how to meditate on the nature of copper; a whole library (rather than a book) would be needed for that. Nor was it necessary, since directives have already been given — exercises to promote self-confidence, for example, and exercises in concentration upon some specific theme or object. Such exercises, in effect, are already covered by what I have just said about the nature of copper. There is no specific statement to the effect that one should meditate upon the nature of copper. It is suggested that some simple subject or theme should be selected for purposes of meditation morning and evening. That is tantamount to meditating upon the nature of copper. Only that is given as a subject for meditation which could refer to its metallic nature.
A meditation upon some specific theme such as “wisdom radiates in the light” has a decisive influence upon the inner life, if carried out in earnest. The effect would be the same as if someone were to explore the nature of copper from all angles and to concentrate on its physical aspect. In the first instance, our approach is from the moral standpoint, in the second, from the physical and chemical standpoint. It is far better for the non-chemist to enter the spiritual world from the moral standpoint.
It is necessary, therefore, to see things in their proper relationship, because it would be a mistake for the man of today to follow uncritically the methods of the ancient Mysteries in order to gain insight into the spiritual world. The right course for today is to replace the external, physical approach by a more moral and spiritual approach. With the development of his physical organism man's whole relationship to nature has been transformed. Composition of the blood, tissue fluid and the whole physical constitution are different today from those of the ancient Chaldeans. This cannot be proved by anatomical analysis. In the first place, the anatomist spends most of his time dissecting corpses. Recently a scientific congress raised a cry of alarm and clamoured for more corpses. Anatomists found there was a shortage of corpses for investigating the hidden secrets of life. But it would not be easy to procure Chaldean corpses in order to pursue these investigations! In the second place, with his crude technique, the anatomist would find no answer to the hidden secrets of life; these must be explored by spiritual means.
Since our physical body is differently constituted from that of the ancients, one point must be clearly established. It is still possible today to dispense highly potentized substances, metal potencies, for example. What is the reason for this? The explanation is that we have a deeper insight into the real being of nature. If we really understand the nature of the human body, we know that its functioning is modified by the metals I have mentioned — tin, copper, lead, and so forth. And I have shown how they modify, in the first instance, the conditions of consciousness.
Today, however, we are aware that changes take place in the body, even in normal life, if I may use such a mundane expression. Let us assume, for example, that we experience a change in that region of the body which radiates the activity of copper as I pointed out yesterday. Any such change is reflected in disturbances of the digestive organs, in the metabolic-limb system — in disturbances of the organs predominantly associated with metabolism, digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Every such disturbance in the human organization which we call dis-ease is also associated with the evocation of a different state of consciousness. The full implication of this must be borne in mind.
Now what is the significance of organic disease? I said yesterday that for the man of today his normal condition of waking consciousness lies in the heart centre. Other states of consciousness are associated with other organs, but they always remain in the subconscious. The region of the larynx, including the area extending from the larynx to the brain, lives continuously in a state of consciousness sequential to the normal state which I described yesterday. The region in the neighbourhood of the digestive organs shares the same time-scale as the dead after death. Man always participates in this state of consciousness. Everyone shares the after-death experiences of those he knew personally in life. But he experiences them below the heart, not in the heart. Therefore he knows nothing of this experience; it remains in the subconscious, below the threshold of consciousness. When some disturbance occurs, such as dyspepsia, for example, in that region where man is spiritually in touch with the dead, the consciousness below the heart centre is modified; it begins to operate too actively.
What then is the explanation of a certain kind of gastric disorder? From the physical angle it is simply a label for the practitioner's diagnosis. Now the point of view presented here is in no way directed against a purely physical approach to medicine. I recognize and appreciate its value. As Anthroposophists we do not adopt the attitude of the dilettante, the amateur or the charlatan who disparage or criticize orthodox medicine. We fully accept its findings. When a person suffers from a gastric disorder, the symptoms can be diagnosed physically; but as a result of his gastric condition he is more able to share in the life of the dead immediately after their death. Of course a physical diagnosis is made before therapeutic treatment can begin. From the spiritual standpoint we would say that such a person feels impelled to preserve, after their death, his spiritual link with the souls he has known on Earth. But he is unable to enter into the consciousness that lies below the heart. He is unaware that he is in communion with the dead.
That is the spiritual aspect of such a complaint. Gastric disorders arise because one is too much attached to the dead. Under such conditions one is dominated by the dead. We are strongly influenced by that world which, as I indicated yesterday, is so much more real than the physical world.
Let us imagine we have a balance in front of us. If the pointer is deflected, the zero reading is restored by loading the other scale-pan. The state of disbalance in a person who has developed such abnormal sensitivity in this consciousness below the heart that he is too attached to the dead — and he is quite unconscious of this — is analogous to the scale-pan that is loaded on the one side. Equilibrium is restored by adding an equivalent load to the other side.
Thus, if the consciousness below the heart is too active, the consciousness in the region of the larynx must be diminished; the heart lies between, it acts as a regulator and it is the knife edge on which the beam of the balance oscillates. Equilibrium is restored by administering copper. I have already pointed out that man's body today is constituted in such a way that the larynx reacts to copper.
The metabolic and laryngeal systems are as closely related as the two sides of the balance. One may be adjusted by means of the other. If suitable doses of copper are administered, the patient is inclined to withdraw somewhat from the realm of the dead and thereby benefits in health, whereas otherwise he is increasingly identified with it. That is the spiritual aspect of healing.
Today we know, therefore, that all substances have both a physical and moral aspect. The old Initiates could make use of the physical aspect for the benefit of their pupils but only after their pupils had undergone extensive training. It should no longer be used in the same way today. Today the moral attributes are the province of psychic development, the physical attributes that of the doctor. It is important that the man who is familiar with the physical side of substances and has occasion to make a detailed study of this aspect should also supplement his information by a knowledge of the moral side. This must be strictly adhered to for present day perception and for practical perception in the field of spiritual methods. The human organism has changed radically with the passage of time and the close relationship that used to exist between the knowledge of the moral and physical aspect of substances has been lost and must be restored again. I shall have more to say presently about the loss of this relationship.
The relationship between medical science with its predominantly physical outlook and spiritual science must none the less be different today from that of the remote past. In both cases this relationship must continue, but it will assume a different form today. It is upon the knowledge of such things that our ability to distinguish between the true and false paths in spiritual investigation depends.
A brief review of man's whole attitude to knowledge over the centuries may help to throw further light upon what I have already discussed.
Let us look at the evolution of mankind in retrospect, when the interpretation of knowledge and research was so very different. The enormous advances made in recent times in the knowledge of thermo- and electro-dynamics and of living organisms are c1assffied today under nature, natural history, natural science and, in England, natural philosophy. The way nature is presented in schools today is highly abstract. Nature is seen as a sum of “natural laws” — that is the expression used — which children are expected to memorize. And the abstract character of this study is carried over into life.
Consider how cold and abstract even the most enthusiastic student finds natural science today. In botany he is obliged to learn by heart lists of botanical terms for plants and plant species, in zoology, the names and classifications of animals and animal species. He soon forgets them and has to go over the ground again and again for examination purposes. And after the examination he often forgets them completely; should he need them again, he looks them up in a book of reference. It could hardly be said that a student of today has the same relationship to botany and zoology as he has to some personality to whom he is devoted. That is out of the question.
Nature today has become something vague and nebulous, a catalogue of laws of gravitation, heat, light, electricity, magnetism — the laws of mechanics. Natural science and natural history deal with the study of stones and plants. But natural science includes in addition the life and inner constitution of the organs of plants, animals and man of which we are admittedly ignorant. In brief, natural science and natural philosophy today include much that we claim to know and much of which we are totally ignorant.
Now this is a state of affairs that hardly inspires confidence; everything is so nebulous and confused, the thinking so superficial and abstract. Nowadays we strive manfully to master this abstraction we call “nature” and many, it must be admitted, have grown somewhat indifferent to this abstract approach. And if we do not belong to the younger generation which is in active revolt against what is being taught in our schools as natural science, we adopt an attitude of benevolent neutrality. This was not always the case. I should like now to characterize briefly the attitude to knowledge a few centuries ago.
When we look back to the ninth, tenth, eleventh and even to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries we come across men — though they were considerably fewer at that time — whom we should describe today as savants, men adjudged to be the outstanding scholars of their day, who taught in the famous School of Chartres in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, such as Bernardus Silvestris, Bernard of Chartres, Alanus ab Insulis. These personalities were still fortunate enough at that time to be associated with Initiates, men who had profound insight into the mysteries of existence, such as the famous medieval Initiate Joachim of Fiore or that other illustrious personality known to the world as John of Hanville. [or Hauteville; in Latin, Altavilla. His work Architrenius (1184) is mentioned in one of Rudolf Steiner's notebooks. The work is a long epic describing the allegorical journey of a young man seeking the help and counsel of the Goddess Natura.]
I mention these names, to which many others could be added, in order to evoke the spirit of the age, in order to characterize the attitude towards knowledge that was prevalent at the time.
When we enter into the spiritual outlook of such personalities, we find that their conception of nature is wholly different from our own. In the case of the typical botanist, pathologist or histologist of today, the expression on his face belies any deep interest in the mysteries of pathology or anatomy; it reflects rather the memories of the dance he had attended the night before. We learn more about the festive occasion than about the mysteries of nature!
It was a very different matter to look into the eyes of a Joachim of Fiore, an Alanus ab Insulis or a Bernardus Silvestris. Tragedy was written on their countenances. They felt they were living in an epoch which had suffered irreparable loss. And the growing realization of this loss filled their hearts with tragic sorrow.
Or again, if we had looked at their fingers, fingers which the modern decadent world would describe as ‘nervous,’ sensitive fingers, which bore living witness to their desire to probe into those ancient mysteries, the loss of which was written on their faces, we should have perceived a yearning to revive the ancient wisdom of the past.
There were brief moments when they were able to conjure up pictures of those ancient times for their pupils; but they were only phantom images.
Now what I am about to depict to you is no poetic fantasy, but a reality. We can visualize Alanus ab Insulis of the School of Chartres, where the magnificent Cathedral still stands today, speaking to his pupils about nature and saying: Nature is a Being who eludes us when we draw near to her. Man now directs his energies to other ends; he no longer shares that intuitive understanding of nature which the sages of former times once possessed. Nature, in their eyes, was a majestic Being endowed with spirit, operating everywhere — where rock formations were created, where plants sprang out of the Earth, and jewelled stars sparkled in the heavens. Everywhere a Being of infinite grandeur was at work, who revealed herself in the wondrous form of a woman weaving nature's web. The ancients experienced this intuitively. From their descriptions we can still picture how nature appeared in their eyes, weaving and working in all around, in the manifestations of warmth, light, colour and life. They realized that the Goddess Natura was a divine-spiritual Being whose real essence could be known only through direct perception.
A personality such as Alanus ab Insulis was still able to present such conceptions to his pupils in the School of Chartres. But because the Initiates saw this old conception of the Goddess Natura gradually fade and die, saw replete with life and vitality the nature that we today regard as dead and abstract because we have lost touch with her, sorrow and tragedy were written on their faces.
Then, again, we hear of such men as Brunetto Latini, Dante's famous teacher. During his travels, through some strange karmic incident, he suffered a heat-stroke which produced a change of consciousness. This event was far more important for his development than the sufferings he endured when the last of the Guelphs were expelled from his native city. Because of this transformation of consciousness he was still able to perceive this Goddess Natura and described her in his book Tesoretto. He gives a graphic description, imaginatively inspired, of how, on his homeward journey to his native Florence, he came upon a hill in the midst of a desolate forest and on this hill he saw the Goddess Natura weaving at her loom. She revealed to him the significance of thinking, feeling and willing for the human soul the intrinsic nature of the four temperaments and the function of the five senses.
And the eyes of his spirit and soul were opened. This experience on his homeward journey from Spain to his native Florence under the influence of a depressed, pathological condition was a spiritual reality. As a result of this inward transformation, he saw the weaving life of the four Elements, fire, earth, water and air, the flux and movement of the planets and the soul emerging from the body into the Cosmos. All this he experienced under the influence of a spiritual teaching at the hands of the Goddess Natura.
These experiences were described by the men of that epoch with a clarity and concreteness that could scarcely be bettered today. At the same time, they felt that the ancients had experienced this knowledge in a different way and that in the course of time it had gradually been lost. In order to revive the knowledge of these mysteries it was necessary to induce a pathological condition. And they felt an irresistible urge to keep alive the real image of Natura.
And when in retrospect we review man's whole attitude to nature knowledge, we feel that our approach to nature is abstract, that nature is a catalogue of laws. We are proud if we can see these laws even to some extent as a related whole. If we look back a few centuries we see that a living relationship existed between man and a divine Being who was living, weaving and working in natural phenomena — in the rising and setting of the Sun, in the transmission of warmth to the stones and plants, a warmth that is actively operating within all this life, growth and proliferation. How different was a science that took into account the activities of the Goddess Natura. The mood in which the students of the School of Chartres — the majority were of the Cistercian Order — came out of their lectures was vastly different from the mood of students leaving their lecture-rooms today! Their response was vitally alive and a deeper expression of their inner being. And the same living reality is reflected in the descriptions of such men as Brunetto Latini, the celebrated teacher of Dante. The vigorous, creative spirit of the time can readily be imagined, for the characters and splendid pictorial descriptions of Dante's Commedia are inspired by the graphic descriptions of his teacher Brunetto Latini who owed his Initiation to a karmic incident. And the School of Chartres and other Schools were indebted to Initiates such as Joachim of Fiore and others for much of the instruction given at the time.
The term Natura was not used in our abstract sense; it implied something operating creatively in external sensible phenomena, but which remained veiled and escaped one's gaze.
Another factor must also be taken into consideration. Let us assume — and again I am describing a fundamental reality, not some poetic fantasy — that, as an elderly student, you had attended a course of lectures given by Alanus ab Insulis and had taken part in the discussions; the students had been dismissed and you were walking alone with Alanus ab Insulis discussing the problems at issue.
The conversation might have turned upon some particular point. You might have spoken of the Goddess Natura who manifests herself in the phenomenal world, but who is veiled from you. Then Alanus ab Insulis who had warmed to the discussion would have said: If we still shared in our life of sleep the condition formerly possessed by the ancients, we would be in touch with the hidden side of nature. Our sleep leads to oblivion; but it was precisely in the unconscious that the ancients were in contact with the hidden side of nature. Could we but experience again the clairvoyant sleep of the ancients, we should know the Goddess Natura.
And if, in a similar situation, you had been engaged in intimate conversation with Joachim of Fiore, he would have replied: our sleep is devoid of content, our consciousness is obliterated. It would be difficult therefore to know the Goddess Natura weaving and working in all created things. The ancients were aware of her hidden and her visible aspects. They never used the term Natura. They never maintained that the Being whose presence we vaguely sense, but do not know, was the Goddess Natura. They gave her another name — Proserpina, or Persephone.
This was common knowledge in those days. What I have just described has been transformed into our abstract conception of nature. And what lived in the souls of such men as Bernardus Silvestris, Alanus ab Insulis, John of Hanville, and above all in Brunetto Latini, was a transformation of the Goddess whom the ancients saw as Proserpina, the daughter of Demeter — the entire universe; Proserpina (the modern term sounds commonplace) — nature, nature who can live only half of her life in the upper world, who reveals only her physical and sensuous aspect to mankind, whilst the other half of her life is spent in those realms where man dwells in sleep, realms which man can no longer inhabit today because his sleep is emptied of true reality.
Our knowledge of nature, though we are unable to realize it owing to our present abstract conception, is an echo of what once lived in the old Greek myth of Persephone.
The fact that the men of sorrowful countenance were aware of this and that it could still be known in their day, shows how much the paths of knowledge have changed with the passage of time. As I said in the earlier part of my lecture, we can only develop the right feeling for, and sense the subtle distinctions in these things, when we review in retrospect the nature of the knowledge that once existed. I have quoted these examples, not with the idea of reviving ancient forms of knowledge, but in order to call attention to the kind of knowledge that was prevalent in former times.
If we can hold fast to the words which might have been spoken perhaps by Joachim of Fiore or John of Hanville: “What we regard as nature today, or whatsoever is veiled from us because we cannot apprehend it spiritually, this was once known as Proserpina,” and if this myth of Proserpina (for it has survived only as a myth) is renewed within us, then the images evoked by this myth awaken images of still earlier relationships. They are images from the time when man knew neither the abstract nor the tragic aspect of the Goddess Natura, when he saw Proserpina-Persephoneia herself, in her aspect of radiant beauty and tragic gloom.
And in what aspect did she appear in those far-off days of her prime? These were not the days of Plato's philosophy, nor of Socrates' dialogues, but much earlier times, when knowledge was far more vitally alive than at the height of Greek culture.
Let us try to envisage the different forms knowledge has taken in the course of human evolution so that we may see in the right perspective what we have already discussed from the standpoint of the present and which will be discussed in further detail in the course of these lectures.
Though of necessity our account will be brief and imperfect, let us try to envisage the nature of the Mysteries into which the Greek philosopher Heraklites was initiated, the ‘dark’ and ‘gloomy’ Heraklites as he was called, because, in later years, a psychic darkness had descended upon all that he had received at the hands of the Mysteries. Let us picture that period in the development of the Mysteries when the Greeks drew upon them for their imaginative vision and the creation of their myths. And let us picture to ourselves the Mysteries of Ephesus into which Heraklites had been initiated.
Knowledge from primeval times was still extant in Ephesus and persisted into Homer's time and even into the time of Heraklites' Initiation, though in an emasculated form. These ancient Mysteries were still actively flourishing. A strong and powerful spiritual atmosphere was present in that temple which was adorned on the Eastern side with the statue of the Goddess Diana, the Goddess of Fertility, who symbolizes the superabundant fertility of nature everywhere. When conversations were held, momentous secrets of existence, profound spiritual secrets were imparted to the pupils through the spoken word immediately after they had taken part in the Mysteries and had received the mighty impulses of the Mysteries from the ceremonies in the Temple of Ephesus. And these profound conversations were continued after the participants in the ceremonies had left the Temple. At the twilight hour, when nature invites to contemplation, they would follow the pathway leading from the Temple doorway into a grove with arboured walks, planted with dark-green trees in which paths fanning out from the Temple of Ephesus were gradually lost to view in the distance. I should like to offer you a somewhat inadequate picture of conversations of this kind.
It was not unknown for someone who had received a partial Initiation into the Mysteries of those times to enter into conversation with a pupil of either sex. Now you must realize that in those days equality of rights between the sexes, though forfeited immediately afterwards, was very much more a living reality than it is today. We can speak, therefore, both of male and female pupils at Ephesus. And in these conversations there was a lively interest in the spiritual aspect of the myth of Persephone. But how was such a conversation conducted? First, there was the teacher, the Priest-Initiate, who, from the spiritual impulses he had received, was empowered to speak of the contingencies in the world of forms, of the inter-relationships of entities in that world. Speaking from his Initiate knowledge he would say something like the following to his pupil. — It is now twilight, and sleep which reveals the spiritual world will soon overtake us. Look upon your human form in its totality. Beneath our feet are the plants and around us are the lengthening shadows of twilight and the dim green light of the temple grove. The first stars are beginning to shine in the heavens. Behold the majesty and grandeur of life's inexhaustible vitality in the Heavens above and the Earth beneath. Then behold yourself and remember that a whole universe lives and stirs within you, that all organic activity, all the changes and chances of your inner life bear witness every moment of the day to a plenitude of facts and to endless transformations of your being. Realize that you are a microcosm which, though spatially delimited, is richer in mystery and wonder than the macrocosm which you apprehend visually and intellectually. Learn then to feel and know this world within you. Realize that you are now looking out from your microcosmic world into the larger world that reaches from the Earth to the stars. Then sleep will overtake you; you will no longer be a prisoner of your own body, of your own world, but will inhabit that other world you now behold, a world that embraces the Earth and the stars. Your soul and spirit will have relinquished the physical body and you will be sharing the radiance of the stars and the exhalations of the Earth. You will ride the winds and think with star-radiance. You will now be living in the spiritual world and will look back upon your microcosmic self.
In ancient times it was possible for the teacher to speak to his pupil after this fashion, because the perception of the external world was not so sharply defined as now, and the life of sleep had not yet become a total blank. It was still crowded with experiences. When referring to this state of sleep, the teacher spoke of realities, saying: You are now in the presence of Proserpina, Persephone or Cora. Cora lives in the stars, in the rays of sunshine, in the moonbeams and the growing plants. Everywhere can be seen the activities of Persephone, for she has woven the garment of the universe. And behind it all is Demeter, her mother, for whom Persephone has woven this garment which you see as the external world. — The teacher did not use the term ‘nature;’ he preferred to speak of Persephone or Cora.
And continuing the dialogue with his pupil, the teacher went on: If someone were to remain awake for a longer period than yourself, then, whilst you were asleep, he would perceive the plants, mountains, clouds and stars — external manifestations of Persephone — exactly as you do now. Illusion lies in the manner of our seeing. It is not Persephone, not her creative activities in mountains, plants, clouds and stars that are illusory, but how you see them. And now the moment has come for sleep. Through your eyes, the organ of life's mysteries, Cora-Persephone will enter into you. —
These things were described so vividly because they had been so vividly experienced; so that, whilst falling asleep, the sleeper not only felt that sight, hearing and perception were being extinguished, but he was aware of Persephone sinking down through the eyes into the physical and etheric bodies from which his soul and spirit had withdrawn whilst he slept.
In waking life we live in the upper world, in sleep we live in the lower world. Persephone entered through the eyes of the sleeper into the physical and etheric bodies. She dwelt with Pluto, the Lord of sleep within the physical and etheric bodies. The sleeping neophyte experienced the activity of Pluto and Persephone. Through the instruction he had received he became aware of the entry of Cora through the gateway of the eyes. This became a living reality to him, and now he experienced the deeds of Pluto and Persephone during sleep. And whilst the neophyte experienced this, his teacher had corresponding experiences that were related to the world of forms.
Then, when teacher and pupil met together again, each had experience of his own particular insights. And when they discussed plants and trees, the teacher would describe how the forms arose, for they had been revealed to him in sleep. Then he would discuss in detail the configuration of the leaves and stems, of the whole nature-kingdom and the formative forces which work down into the Earth from above. And though the pupil had perhaps experienced different insights, he could probably follow his teacher when he spoke of the mysteries of chlorophyll and osmosis. Thus the conversations supplemented each other: in this vivid picture of the Goddess Persephone in the underworld, revealing her other aspect to man whilst he slept, these secrets were revealed to the human soul and entered into it.
Thus, in those far-off times, the pupil learned from the teacher and the teacher from the pupil. On the one hand, the teachings were of the spirit and soul, on the other hand, of soul and spirit. From this interchange of pooled experience they touched the highest flights of knowledge. When they shared these deepest insights, when next they saw the approach of dawn and the morning star shining in the East, sending shafts of light into the dark green grove whose avenues of majestic trees were gradually lost to view in the distant vista, their hearts were gladdened. They had dwelt for a brief hour in that realm we now call the realm of nature. And when they had talked of these things amongst themselves, they knew for certain they had held converse with Persephone. And they knew also that all that was later incorporated into the myth of Persephone was, in reality, the hidden source of man's knowledge of nature.
I can only indicate imperfectly the fascination of these conversations that were related to the Mysteries of Ephesus and were imbued with a vital, living knowledge of Persephone. But in the course of time this knowledge was toned down to the abstraction we know as nature today and men such as Joachim of Fiore were saddened by this tragic loss.
We can only understand the path leading to an understanding of the spiritual nature of man and the Cosmos when we draw attention to, and characterize, not only the separate states of consciousness within man's reach, but also show how these states have been transformed in the course of the evolution of mankind; when we realize how very different from our own was the knowledge ,that informed the conversations of those who had participated in the Mysteries in the Temple of Ephesus, and how different was the nature of the converse held with such personalities as Joachim of Fiore and Alanus ab Insulis; and how different today is the knowledge that we must strive to attain once more, in order through spiritual training to seek forms of knowledge which lead back from the Outer to the Inner, from the Above to the Below and then from the Inner to the Outer and the Below to the Above.