Esoteric development must be different in different ages, otherwise successive incarnations would be meaningless. But certain things remain the same throughout the ages. For instance, we find that Egyptian esoterics speak of: Arriving at the threshold of death, a walk into the nether world, an experience of the four elements, seeing the sun at midnight, and meeting spiritual beings face to face.
We can't explain all that's meant by this now, but some of the simple things will be mentioned.
One feeling that esoteric life can give rise to is that waking life seems to be just a sleeping life. This is not a mood that we could continually arouse in us, and it should never be our intention to let certain momentary esoteric moods spread out over our whole life. If we did that we wouldn't be fit to do our duties in the outer world. To be sure, as an esoteric sees nature's kingdoms around him, he should occasionally experience a mood of longing to press through to what lies behind them, to true reality, to what we're striving for, and compared with which all ordinary sense impressions have no more value than those from sleep. One who wanted to live in such esoteric moods all the time would have to withdraw into a kind of a monk's life. But that is not the kind of esotericism for which Rosicrucianism strives. One who would like to withdraw like that would have to be aware that he acquires certain privileges with respect to his fellow men, so that he can thereby prepare himself for several lives in the outer world, but that if all men wanted to live like him, no progress in human evolution would be possible.
Our exercises are designed to bring us into the spiritual world, but through inattentiveness we often don't notice the progress that we make thereby. One can arrive at the feeling that we make very poor use of the forces of thinking, feeling and willing that are poured out in us, but that in our present condition it would be impossible for us to lie in that thinking, feeling and willing — it would shatter and destroy us. Ancients called the feeling of standing before an experience that wants to overpower us: The arrival at the threshold of death. For there one felt: what I'm experiencing now I can't master with my thinking, my feeling or my willing; now I know what it feels like to have died. Most of you have probably gone through this many times. It's due to inattentiveness that one isn't aware of this. During meditation one will have often had the feeling that one was absent for a moment, and then when one come back to oneself, one thinks: I was sleeping. If one took the trouble to find out what one went through in such moments, one would sense that maybe they were the most tremendous experiences that one ever lived through.
Another experience is this one. It doesn't have to come after the first one. One can get the impression that the second experience is the first because one slept through the first one. One has the feeling that one is sitting in one's body, that one is carrying it with one. Just as one can distinguish a weight that's attached to one's arm from the arm muscles, so one learns to feel that one's arms are weights that one drags with one. Then one can have the feeling that one is sitting fettered in a nether world — not corporeally, but psychically all the more. This is what they called going into the nether world. In one's exercises one then feels as if one was paralyzed and then as if lukewarm water was being poured over one.
One can also have the feeling that the bad thoughts that we have are not just thoughts but are something real. If we thought something bad about a person we see this like a shooting arrow that can inure the person's soul more than a physically shot arrow could hurt his body. As soon as we see what we do, thereby, we notice that the arrow flies back at us an burns us like fire, as if we were in the netherworld's flames. This is the so-called going through the elements. It doesn't have to be seen as a vision, one can feel it on oneself as if one had burn wounds all over one. When we feel like this, we, as it were, send forces out of our etheric body which however can only go to the boundary of our aura. There they meet the cosmos' forces working everywhere in this surroundings that make these forces turn around and direct them to certain centers where they bring out super-sensible organs. It's as with physical eyes that were formed out of indifferent organs by light. As long as light worked on them, one couldn't see yet. This only became possible when they were finished. Likewise we can only use our higher organs after we've built them up in the described way.