What every esoteric is heartily interested in is success for his meditative efforts. Everyone is successful, even if he doesn't notice it. Budding esoterics often complain about pains. These pains are disorders that arise in the body because the physical and etheric bodies aren't in the right contact with each other. These pains were already there before, except that the man hadn't felt them since he was coarser and more robust. He feels them now as an esoteric since he's finer and more sensitive. An esoteric must learn to bear such pains. Of course one has to know whether or not the disease should be treated.
Why is it that one knows one's physical body so little? Because one lives in it and only perceives it with one's feelings. One sees with one's eyes and so one can't observe them. Once an esoteric gets to the point where he withdraws from the physical with his soul and spirit he'll be able to observe his physical body. We're helped to do this if we concentrate our thoughts on a point as much as possible and then immerse our self in this point and live in it for awhile. A strengthening of thought power occurs through such concentration and thereby one can gradually get to the point of observing one's physical body.
Then we must become familiar with our etheric body. This is more difficult, for the etheric body does not have a skin like the physical body — it's a fine tissue that sends out its streams everywhere into the outer world and it's imprinted by everything that goes on in the outer world, often without the man's knowledge. One learns to feel the etheric body by doing the second auxiliary exercise. It's outer impressions that ordinarily drive a man to act. He sees a flower on a meadow, and he stretches out a hand to pick it because it pleases him. But as esoterics we must get to the point of doing this or that out of an impulse that we give ourselves. Then one will see that it's the etheric body that induces the hand to move. One feels that one's etheric body awakens in this way. Through this awakening etheric body one gradually learns to experience oneself in an etheric world. Every time I grab something or bump into it this is really an attack on the outer world. A non-esoteric has no inkling of this for the Guardian of the Threshold protects him from this knowledge, but an esoteric makes his etheric body increasingly independent so that it experiences itself in the etheric world. His organs get finer and he gets the feeling that spaces aren't only filled with physical objects but by countless elemental beings who make themselves noticed through bumping, pricking and burning. One must make room for oneself everywhere in this elemental, etheric world by stretching out, withdrawing, pushing, striding forwards, etc., and such movements must occur with the full consciousness that one wants to make them out of one's own being. That's the second thing: initiative actions. One without an initiative will who can't make room for himself in the etheric world can do just as little there as one who wants to dance on a stage that has chairs standing all over it. The chairs must be removed first. That's what one learns in the spiritual realm through the second exercise. We must do just the opposite to become aware of our astral body. We must hold back desires that are living in the astral body, we must develop equanimity with respect to them. We must create absolute calm in us. Only then do we feel the outer astral world bumping into our inner astral world. Just as we bump into the etheric world by reaching into it by ourselves in our will, so we feel the outer astral world by remaining quiet in ourselves, by quieting all wishes and desires. Before the astral body gets to this point it stuns itself with a cry. We know that pain arises when the physical and etheric bodies aren't in the right contact with each other. The astral body feels this as pain. A small child cries when he feels pain. He tries to drown out the pain by crying. An adult might say “ouch.” If a man could let his pain stream completely into the sound's vibrations changes would arise in the etheric body's formation through sound oscillations so that he would become unconscious and feel no pain. But the good Gods made men weaker, and that's good, otherwise there would be no pain and also no articulated speech. An esoteric must get to the point where he can bear pain and everything else that's stimulated in him from outside with equanimity. Then he won't attack the outer world, but it'll attack him. Since he has developed complete calm the attacks only touch his physical and etheric bodies, and the astral body remains untouched. It becomes free and one can observe it. So I get to know my astral body through the equanimity exercise. Finally I must also get to know my ego. I can't feel my ego, because I'm living in it. That's why we must pour it out into the world. I become familiar with my ego through what we call positivity. If we look at a rotting dog's beautiful teeth like Christ Jesus did then we don't see the ugliness, but we dive down so far into everything that we arrive at the good. Thereby we get away from our ego and can observe it. The ego is love and will. Through the developed will we get to know the substance of all things that originate in the divine world. Through love we learn to experience the essence of things. Thus through will and love we press forward to cognition that's free of the personal ego. As a spiritual ego we learn to dive down into the being and substance of all things that come from the spiritual Father ground; that includes our own ego. Our ego looks at us from all created things. The pupil attains the swan stage when he can experience that. At the fifth stage we develop spirit self or manas. There we mustn't cling to what we previously saw, heard and learned. We must learn to ignore all of that, to receive what approaches us as if we were completely emptied of previous things. Manas can only be developed if one learns to feel that everything that we acquired through our own thinking is of little value in comparison with what we can acquire when we open ourselves to the thoughts that stream in out of the cosmos that was woven by the Gods. Everything that surrounds us arose from these thoughts of the Gods. We hadn't been able to find them through our previous thinking. The things concealed them for us. Now we get an inkling of the divine that's behind everything like a hidden riddle. We begin to see how few of these riddles we had fathomed. And we find that we really have to remove everything that we've learned so far from our soul, that we must approach everything quite open-mindedly, like a child — that the divine riddles that surround us are only given to the open-mindedness of the soul. The soul must become childlike to be able to press into the kingdoms of heaven. Then hidden wisdom or manas streams towards the childlike soul like a gift of grace from the spiritual world.
A man doesn't have to go further, since he makes contact with the spiritual world through these five stages. Through continual repetition of these five exercises a harmony of interaction between the various capacities that are to be attained through them must now be produced. This is brought about by the sixth exercise.
These exercises are of the very greatest importance. A soul can find its way into spiritual worlds through them. You'll find references to these five exercises everywhere in the books and lectures. And no esoteric class would have to take place if everyone read them attentively and awakened the forces of these exercises to life in his soul. They serve as a support for the specially given exercises.
An esoteric must be very attentive even to the smallest things. He must observe everything conscientiously in a quite different way than it's done in the physical world, as soon as he approaches spiritual worlds. For things in the spiritual realm are much more subtle and fine than in the physical one. That's why an esoteric must keep on doing these exercises and repeatedly rouse himself to new efforts and observations, for otherwise he can't get insights into the spiritual world. And an esoteric must especially be patient. Many people think that after they've exercised for a short time they should then get into the spiritual world, that all portals to it will be open to them. But just consider that a significant impulse or idea takes 19 years to be inwardly well grasped and understood. If an esoteric thinks that after some exercising he'll soon be mature enough for entry into spiritual worlds, then it's as if a child who'd just learned to speak would say: It's boring to have to wait for years until I become a man. I want to be a man right away.
Another thing that one has to learn in esoteric life is truthfulness. One who hasn't already learned it in physical life will have a lot of trouble in his ascent into the spiritual world since he must leave his logical thinking and everything that's connected with the intellect behind, and he's not corrected by facts in the spiritual world as he is here in the physical world. The good Gods wanted to educate man to be truthful when they placed him in the physical world, where every lie — that is, everything that doesn't correspond to the facts — is corrected by facts. The inclination for truthfulness can only be acquired in the physical world and not in the spiritual one. Finally an esoteric must try to habitually acquire a good memory. The etheric body is the preserver of memory, but without the physical body it wouldn't be able to preserve it very well. The nerves get an impression and this must be written into the physical body. The latter is as it were the recording apparatus for what a man wants to retain. And when he wants to remember something he penetrates the physical body with the etheric body to the place where what's supposed to be remembered is inscribed, the memory picture becomes alive and the man reads it from the physical body. Students repeat something they have to memorize until it has been inscribed. Then it may happen that when they for instance learn: “There stood a castle so high and grand” ... they press it forcibly into the physical body with the help of the sounds.
Such inscribing and reading must become habitual in the sense that it becomes an inner habit to permeate all of one's deeds with attentiveness and reflection.
One can't use the physical body as a memory organ for spiritual experiences; habitual activities must replace it. We must summon the nuance of feeling that belongs to this before our soul.
The content of what flows to a meditator when he makes himself empty after a meditation — also of the meditation's influence — is a matter of merit. A meditation will never be the same twice. What flows to us will depend upon our morality, love of truth, and on how we've lived since the last meditation. If we didn't remain entirely truthful or if we've let anger or aggravation arise in us, then nothing from the spiritual world can stream into us. We get what we deserve. If we trace these things attentively we'll always find the reason why we weren't graced with the spirit in some untruth, in some surging up of anger, or the like.