Our bookstore now ships internationally. Free domestic shipping $50+ →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Esoteric Development
GA 245

VI. Further Rules in Continuation of General Demands

Further Rules in Continuation
of the General Demands

The following rules should be understood so that every esoteric pupil arranges his life in such a way that he continuously observes and directs himself, especially as to whether he follows these demands in his inner life. All esoteric training, particularly if it ascends to higher regions, can lead the pupil only to disaster and confusion if such rules are not observed. On the other hand, no one need be afraid of such training who strives to live in the sense of these rules. And he need not despair when he has to say to himself, “I am following the demands in a very inadequate way.” If only he has honestly strived inwardly for his whole life not to lose sight of these rules, this will be sufficient. Yet this honesty must be above all an honesty before oneself. In this respect many a man may be deceived. He says to himself, I will strive in a pure sense. But if he would test this he would observe that much hidden egotism and many cunning feelings of self-seeking lie in the background. It is particularly such feelings which very often bear the mask of selfless striving and often mislead the pupil. One cannot test too often and too seriously by inner self-observation, whether such feelings are hidden in one's inmost soul. One becomes ever more free of such feelings through the energetic pursuit of the rules discussed here. These rules are:

First:mNo unproven concept shall enter my consciousness.

Observe how many concepts, feelings, and will impulses live in the soul of man which are acquired through his position in life, profession, family connections, national connections, conditions of the time, and so on. One should not assume that for everyone eradication of these contents of soul would be a moral deed. For man, after all, receives his firmness and security in life because he is carried by his nation, the condition of his time, his family, education, etc. He would soon find himself standing in life without support were he to throw away these things carelessly. Especially for a weak personality it is undesirable to go too far in this direction. The esoteric pupil should be particularly clear that the observance of this first rule must be accompanied by the acquisition of understanding for all the deeds, thoughts, and feelings of other beings. It should never happen that following this rule leads to impetuosity, or, for instance, to someone saying, “I will break with all things into which I have been born and into which my life has placed me.” On the contrary, the more one tests, the more one will see the justification of what lives in one's environment. It is not a matter of fighting against or of arrogant rejection of these things, but rather of gaining the inner freedom from them through careful testing of all that stands in relation to one's own soul. Then, through the power of one's own soul, a light will be shed over one's whole thinking and behavior; consciousness will correspondingly enlarge and one will really acquire more and more, and allow to speak, the spiritual laws which reveal themselves to the soul, and one will stand no longer as blind follower of the surrounding world. Obviously, one can assert regarding this rule, “If man has to verify everything, he will especially want to test the occult and esoteric teachings given by his esoteric teacher.” But this testing has to be understood in the right sense. One cannot always test a thing directly, but often one has to undertake this testing indirectly. For instance, nobody today is in a position to prove whether Frederick the Great lived or not. One can only prove whether the way through which the accounts of Frederick the Great have been transmitted is a trustworthy one. Investigation must be begun in the right place. One should hold all faith in so-called authority in the same way. If one is told something which one cannot directly comprehend then above all one must check on the basis of available material whether he is a trustworthy authority, whether he says things which call forth the presentiment and perception that they are true. From this example one can see the importance of beginning investigation at the right level.

A second rule is: There shall stand before my soul the living obligation continually to increase the number of my concepts.

There is nothing worse for the esoteric pupil than to wish to remain with a certain number of concepts which he already has, and to want to understand everything with their help. It is immensely important to acquire ever new concepts. If this does not happen the pupil, when he encounters super-sensible insights, has no sufficiently prepared concept with which to meet them. He will then be overwhelmed by these insights either to his disadvantage or at least to his dissatisfaction, the latter because, under such circumstances, he might already be surrounded by higher experiences without being at all aware of them. The number is by no means small of pupils who might already be surrounded by higher experiences but without being aware of this because, through the poverty of their concepts, they have had totally different expectations of these experiences than is accurate. Many people in their outer life do not at all incline to indolence, yet in their conceptual life they are little disposed to enrich themselves by forming new concepts.

A third rule is this: Knowledge will come to me only about such things, the yes or no of which I regard without sympathy or antipathy.

An initiate of old impressed again and again upon his pupils: “You will only know about immortality of the soul when you can just as gladly accept that the soul may perish in death, or may live eternally. As long as you wish to live eternally, you will gain no concept of the condition after death.” As it is in this important case, so it is with all truths. As long as man has even the slightest wish that anything might be this way or that, the pure light of truth cannot enlighten him. For example, for a man who, in his own review of himself, has even the most secret wish that his good qualities might prevail, this wish becomes an illusion and will not allow him true self-knowledge.

A fourth rule is this: I must overcome my aversion to the so-called abstract.

As long as the esoteric pupil depends on concepts whose material is derived from the sense world, he cannot reach truth about the higher worlds. He must attempt to acquire sense-free concepts. Of all four rules this is the most difficult, especially under the conditions of life in our age. Materialistic thinking has deprived man to a high degree of the ability to think in sense-free concepts. One has to try often to think concepts which in outer sense reality never exist in perfection but only in approximation, for example, the concept of the circle. A perfect circle does not exist—it can only be thought. But this conceptual circle is the underlying law of all circular forms. Or one can think a high moral ideal; this also cannot be totally realized by any human being in its perfection—yet it is the underlying law of many human deeds. Nobody will advance esoterically who does not recognize the full importance for life of this so-called abstract, and who will not enrich his soul with corresponding concepts.

(These four rules were added by Rudolf Steiner to the so-called Six Subsidiary Exercises, which carry the subtitle: Demands Which Every Aspirant for Occult Development Must Put to Himself.)