28 March 1910 a.m., Vienna
Yesterday we tried to acquire a certain insight into what is called the path out into the Macrocosm, into the Great World, in contrast to what has been said in the previous lectures about the mystical path, the path into the Microcosm.
The ascent into the Macrocosm leads the candidate for Initiation first of all into what has been called in Spiritual Science the Elementary World; then he rises into the World of Spirit, then into the World of Reason and finally into a still higher world which we will call the World of Archetypal Images (or Archetypes). 1See Notes on terminology at the end of the lectures. It was said that there are no longer any really adequate expressions for these worlds, for modern language has none and the earlier German word Vernunft (reason) is now used in a more trivial sense for something that has significance in the world of the senses only. Hence the old expression “Reason” used for the world above the so-called “World of Spirit” might easily be misunderstood.
Whatever was said in the last lecture could be no more than a sketch; it would of course be possible to speak of these worlds not merely for hours but for many months, whereas all that is possible here is to clarify our ideas of them as best we may. One other point shall now be mentioned, namely, that when a man rises in the way indicated yesterday into the Elementary World where he has a true perception of what are usually called the “Elements” — earth, water, air and fire — he also becomes aware that his own corporeality — including the higher members — is built out of this Elementary World. He also acquires knowledge of something else, namely, that the outer and inner aspects of the Elementary World differ somewhat from each other. Studying our own being with ordinary, normal human consciousness and not with clairvoyance, we find certain qualities which belong partly to our soul and partly to our outer constitution; these are the qualities of our temperament. We classify them as the melancholic, the phlegmatic, the sanguine and the choleric.
It was said yesterday that when a man passes into the Macrocosm he does not feel as if he were confronting objects as in physical existence but as if he were within every object in the Elementary World; he feels united with it. When we look at a physical object, we say: “The object is there; we are here.” And we remain sane and reasonable beings in the physical world as long as we can distinguish ourselves with our Egohood quite clearly from objects and other beings. But as soon as we penetrate into the Elementary World this distinction becomes essentially more difficult because, to begin with, we merge into the facts and objects and beings of that world. This was referred to yesterday in connection especially with the element of fire. We said that the fire of the Elementary World is not physical fire but something that can be compared with inner warmth of soul, inner fire of soul, although it is not quite the same. When we become aware of fire in the Elementary World it blends with us, we feel at one with it, within it. This feeling of oneness may also arise in the case of the other elements; the element “earth” is in a certain respect an exception. In the Elementary World what is called “earth” is something we cannot approach, something that repels us.
Now strangely enough, there exists in the Elementary World a mysterious relationship between the aforesaid four elements and the four temperaments, between the melancholic temperament and the element of “earth”, between the phlegmatic temperament and the element of “water”, between the sanguine temperament and the element of “air”, and between the choleric temperament and the element of “fire”. This relationship is expressed in the fact that the choleric man has a stronger inclination to merge with beings living in the “fire” of the Elementary World than with the others; the sanguine man is more inclined to merge with the beings living in the element of “air”; the phlegmatic man with the beings living in the element of “water”; and the melancholic man with the beings living in the element of “earth”. Thus different factors play a part in the experiences of the Elementary World. This helps us to realise that different people may give entirely different accounts of the Elementary World, and none of them need be quite wrong if he is relating his own experiences.
Anyone versed in these matters will know that when a man with a melancholic temperament describes the Elementary World in his own particular way, saying that there is so much that repels him, this is quite natural; for his temperament has a hidden kinship with everything earthy in the Elementary World and he overlooks all the rest. The choleric man will speak of how fiery everything appears, for to him it all glows in the elemental fire. You need not therefore feel any surprise if there is considerable variation in accounts of the Elementary World given by people possessed of a lower form of clairvoyance, for very exact self-knowledge is necessary before it is possible to describe that world as it really is. If a man knows to what degree his temperament is choleric or melancholic, he knows why the Elementary World reveals itself in the form it does, and then this self-knowledge impels him to divert his attention from the things with which, because of his natural make-up, he has the greatest kinship.
It is now possible for him to acquire concepts of what is called in Spiritual Science, true self-knowledge. This self-knowledge presupposes that we are able as it were to slip out of ourselves and look at our own being as though it were a complete Stranger, and that is by no means easy. It is relatively easy to acquire knowledge of soul-qualities which we have made our own, but to gain clear insight into the temperaments which work right down into the bodily nature, is difficult. Most people in life always consider themselves in the right. It is a very general egoistic attitude and need not be criticised too severely, for it is a perfectly natural tendency in human beings. How far would a man get in ordinary life if he had not this quality of firm self-confidence? But all the qualities that belong to his temperament go to form it.
To be detached from a particular temperament is extremely difficult, and we need much self-training if we are to learn to confront ourselves objectively. Every genuine spiritual investigator will say that no particular degree of maturity is any help in penetrating into the spiritual world if a man is incapable of accepting the fundamental principle that he can reach the truth only by ignoring his own opinion. He must be able to regard his own opinion as something of which he may possibly say: ‘I will ask myself at what period of life I formed this or that definite opinion’ — let us suppose, for example, that it had a particular political trend. Before such a man can penetrate into the higher world he must be able to put this question to himself quite objectively: ‘What is it in life that has given my thought this particular trend? Would my thinking have been different if karma had assigned me to some other situation in life?’
If we can put this question to ourselves over and over again while trying to picture how our present personality has been produced, it becomes possible for us to take the first step towards emerging from the self. Otherwise we remain permanently enclosed within ourselves. But in the Macrocosm it is not as easy to be outside things as it is in the physical world. In the physical world we stand outside a rose-bush, for example, because of its natural make-up; but in the Elementary World we grow right into the things there, identify ourselves with them. If we are incapable of distinguishing ourselves from the things while we are actually within them, we can never understand conditions in that world. Our choleric temperament, for example, becomes merged in the element of fire. And we can no longer distinguish between what is flowing from us into a being of the Elementary World or from that being into us unless we have learned how to do so. We must therefore first learn how to be within a being and yet to distinguish our own identity from it.
There is only one being who can help us here, namely, our own. If we gradually succeed in judging ourselves as in ordinary life we judge another person, then we are on the right path. Now what is it that distinguishes a judgment about oneself from a judgment about another? We usually think that we ourselves are in the right and that the other person, if he holds a contrary opinion, is wrong. This is what happens in the ordinary way. But there is nothing more useful than to begin to train ourselves by saying: ‘I have this opinion, the other person has a different one. I will adopt the standpoint that his opinion is just as sound and valuable as my own.’ — This is the kind of self-training that makes it possible for us to carry into the Elementary World the habit that enables us to distinguish ourselves from the things there, although we are within them.
Certain subtleties in our experiences are necessary if we are to ascend consciously into the higher worlds. This example too shows what justification there was for saying in the lecture yesterday that when a man ascends into the Macrocosm he always faces the danger of losing his Ego. In ordinary life the Ego is nothing but the aggregate of opinions and feelings connected with our personality and most people will find that it is exceedingly difficult to think, to feel or to will anything, once they have taken leave of what life has made of them. It is accordingly very important before attempting an ascent into the higher worlds to be acquainted with what spiritual investigation has already brought to light. It is therefore emphasised over and over again that nobody who has had experience in this domain will ever help to lead another into the higher worlds until the latter has grasped through his reason, through his ordinary, healthy faculty of judgment, that what Spiritual Science states is not nonsense. It is quite possible to form a sound judgment about the findings of spiritual investigation. Although it is not possible to investigate personally in the spiritual worlds without the vision of the seer, a healthy judgment can be formed as to the correctness or incorrectness of what is communicated by those who are able to see. On this basis we can study life and observe whether the statements made by the spiritual investigator make it more intelligible. If they do, then they can be assumed to be correct.
Such judgments will always have one peculiarity, namely, that we shall always, by holding them, transcend ordinary human ways of thinking in a certain respect. If we speak with unprejudiced minds our ordinary sympathies and antipathies are discarded and we shall find ourselves able to be in harmony even with people who hold the most contrary opinions. In this way we transcend the ordinary way of forming human opinions. Thus in Spiritual Science we gain something which we retain even when we have relinquished our ordinary opinions and which ensures that our Ego is not immediately lost when we enter the higher world for the first time. For the Ego is not lost when it is able to be active, when it can think and feel; it is only when thinking, feeling and perception cease that we have lost our bearings altogether. Thus a certain store of spiritual-scientific knowledge protects us from losing our Ego.
The loss of the Ego on entering the spiritual world would, however, have other consequences in many cases. We come here to something that must be briefly mentioned. These consequences often show themselves in ordinary life. It is important to know about them when describing the paths that can lead into the spiritual worlds.
The spiritual investigator must not be in any sense a dreamer, a visionary. He must move with inner assurance and vigour in the spiritual world as an intelligent man does in the physical world. Any nebulosity or lack of clarity would be dangerous on entering the higher worlds. It is therefore so very essential to acquire a sound judgment about the things of normal, everyday life. At the present time especially there are factors in everyday life which could be highly obstructive on entering the spiritual world if no heed were paid to them. If we reflect about our life and about influences that have affected us from birth onwards, we shall recall many things even by a superficial retrospect, but we shall also have to admit that very much has sunk into oblivion. We shall have to admit too that we have no clear or definite consciousness of influences that had a share in forming our character and educating us.
Would anyone refuse to admit that many influences have been forgotten? We shall not deny having had some experience just because it is not now present in our consciousness. Why do we forget such influences upon our lives? It is because with each new day, life brings something new into our path, and if we were obliged to retain every experience we should finally be quite unable to cope with life and its demands. I have shown you how even in the normal course of life our experiences finally coalesce into faculties. Whatever would it be like if every time we took up a pen we were obliged to relive the experiences we had when learning to write! These past experiences have rightly fallen into oblivion and it is well for us that this has been so.
‘Forgetting’ is therefore something that plays an important part in human life. There are experiences which it is desirable for us to have undergone but which then fade away from our consciousness. Innumerable impressions-particularly those of early childhood-sink into oblivion, are no longer in our consciousness because life has caused us to forget them. Life has obliterated them because otherwise we should be unable to cope with its demands. It is good that we are not obliged to drag everything along with us. But in spite of being forgotten, these impressions may still be working in us. There may be impressions which, although they have vanished from our memory and we know nothing of them, are nevertheless driving forces in our life of soul. They may influence our soul-life so unfavourably that it is shattered and has a detrimental effect even on the body. Many pathological states, nervous conditions, hysteria and so forth, can be understood when it is known that the range of the conscious life does not represent the full extent of the soul's life. Anyone with a knowledge of human nature may often be able to call the attention of a person who tells him of innumerable things that make life difficult, to something that he has entirely forgotten but is nevertheless affecting his life of soul. There are ‘islands’ in the life of soul, unlike those we come across in the sea, where we have solid ground beneath us. But when in his life of soul a man comes across such an island which originates from unconsciousness influences, he may be exposed to all sorts of dangers. In ordinary life these islands can most easily be avoided when a man endeavours from a later point in his life to realise what has been affecting him, so that he is able to form a judgment of the experiences in question. It has a very strong healing effect if he can be given a world-outlook enabling him to understand these islands in the soul and to cope with them. If a human soul were led unprepared to these islands it would be thrown into utter confusion; but if a person is helped to understand his own being, it is easier for him to deal with them. The more understanding we can introduce into our conscious life, the better it is for our everyday existence.
Not only these unconscious islands in the soul, but many things of the kind confront one who enters into the Macrocosm. As we have heard, man enters into the Macrocosm every night when he goes to sleep but complete oblivion envelops whatever he might experience there. Among the many experiences he might have if he were to enter the Macrocosm consciously, would be the experience of himself. He himself would be there within the Macrocosm. He has around him spiritual beings and spiritual facts and he also has an objective view of himself. He can compare himself with the macrocosmic world and become aware of his own shortcomings, his own immaturity. This experience affords abundant opportunity for him to lose his self-assurance, his self-confidence. His best safeguard against such loss of self-assurance is for entry into the higher world to have been preceded by inner preparation, leading towards a mature realisation that imperfect as he now is, there is always the possibility of acquiring faculties that will enable him to grow into the higher world. He must train himself to realise his imperfections and he must also be able to sustain the vision of what he may become after overcoming these imperfections and acquiring the qualities he now lacks. This is a feeling which must come to the human soul when the threshold leading into the Macrocosm is crossed consciously. A man must learn to see himself as an imperfect being, to endure the realisation: When I look back over my present life and into my previous incarnations, I see that it is these which have made me what I am. — But he must also be able to perceive not only this figure of himself but also another figure which says to him: If you now work at yourself, if you do your utmost to develop the germinal qualities lying in your deeper nature, then you can become a being such as the one standing beside you as an ideal at which you can look without being overcome by awe or discouragement.
This realisation is possible only if we have trained ourselves to overcome life's difficulties. But if, before entering into the Macrocosm, we have taken care to acquire in the physical world the strength to overcome obstacles, to welcome pain for the sake of gaining strength, then we have steeled ourselves to get the better of hindrances and from that moment we can say to ourselves: Whatever may happen to you, whatever may confront you in this spiritual world you will come through, for you will develop ever more strongly the qualities you have already acquired for the conquest of obstacles.
Anyone who has prepared himself in such a way has a very definite experience when he enters the Elementary World. We shall understand this experience if we remind ourselves again that the choleric temperament is akin to the element of fire, the sanguine to the element of air, the phlegmatic to the element of water and the melancholic to the element of earth. When a man passes into the Elementary World, the beings of that world confront him in the form that corresponds with his own temperament. Thus choleric qualities confront him as if aglow in the element of fire, and so on. Because of his training it will then become evident that the strength of soul he has already developed triumphs over all obstacles and is also akin to a power in the World of Spirit. This power is related to that figure which, gathered together from all the four elements, confronts him in the World of Spirit in such a way that he beholds himself calmly and quietly as an objective being. The outcome of the resolve in his soul to overcome all imperfections is that this imperfect “double” stands before him but that the sight does not have the disturbing or shattering effect it would otherwise have upon him. In everyday life we are protected from this, for every night on going to sleep we should be confronted by this imperfect being and be overwhelmed by the sight if consciousness did not cease. But there would also be before us that other great figure who shows us what we can become and what we ought to be. For this reason consciousness is extinguished when we go to sleep. But if we acquire the maturity to say to ourselves: You will overcome all obstacles — then the veil that falls over the soul on going to sleep, is lifted. The veil becomes thinner and thinner and finally there stands before us — in such a way that we can now endure it — the form that is a likeness of ourselves as we are, and by its side we become aware of the other figure who shows us what we can become by working at our development. This figure reveals itself in all its strength, splendour and glory. At this moment we know that the reason why this figure has such a shattering effect is that we are not, but ought to be, like it, and that we can acquire the right attitude only when we can endure this spectacle. To have this experience means to pass the “Greater Guardian of the Threshold.” It is this Greater Guardian of the Threshold who effaces consciousness when we go to sleep in the ordinary way. He shows us what is lacking in us when we try to enter into the Macrocosm, and what we must make of ourselves in order to be able, little by little, to grow into that world.
It is so necessary for the men of our time to form a clear idea of these things, yet they resist it. In this respect our present age is involved in a process of transition. In theory, many people will acknowledge that they are imperfect beings, but usually they do not get beyond the theory.
In the spiritual life of today, if you examine for yourselves, you will everywhere find evidence of an attitude that is entirely opposed to the one of which we have spoken. Everywhere you will hear this or that opinion expressed about things in the world. Again and again you will be able to read and hear it said: “One” can know this, “one” cannot know that. — How often we encounter this little word “one” in modern writings! In this word man has set a limit to his knowledge which he believes he is unable to overstep. Whenever a person uses this little word “one” in such a way, it shows that he is incapable of grasping the concept of true human knowledge. At no moment of life should it be said that “one” can or cannot know such-and-such a thing, but rather that “we” can know only as much as is consonant with our faculties and present state of development; and that when we have reached a higher level we shall know more. Anyone who speaks about limits of knowledge shows himself to be a person who is incapable of grasping even the conception of self-knowledge, for otherwise he would understand that all of us are beings capable of development and so are able to acquire knowledge corresponding to the measure of our faculties at that particular time.
The spiritual investigator will accustom himself, in reading modern literature, to substitute “he” for “one”. For it is the writer in question who is saying this or that. Thereby the writer betrays how much he knows; but it begins to become doubtful when the writer goes further and actually puts into practice what he writes. Theories are dangerous only when put into practice. For example, if such a writer says: I know what it is possible for a man to apprehend and grasp so I need do nothing in order to make progress ... then he is simply putting obstacles along the path, is blocking his own development. There are, in fact, very many such people today. It belongs to the whole mode of feeling of human beings today that they actually like to make the veil constantly darker over the world which cannot be entered in the right way without passing that mighty figure, the Greater Guardian of the Threshold. This mighty Guardian denies us entrance unless we take this sacred vow: Knowing well how imperfect we are, we will never cease striving to become more and more perfect. — Only with this impulse is it permissible for anyone to pass into the Macrocosm. Whoever has not sufficient strength of will to continue working at himself must set about acquiring it.
That is the necessary counterpart to self-knowledge. We must acquire self-knowledge, but it would remain a sterile achievement unless it were linked with the will for self-perfecting. Through the ages there resounds the ancient Apollonian saying: “Know thyself!” That is true and right, but something more must be added to it. As was said yesterday, really erroneous ideas are not absolutely catastrophic because life itself corrects them; but one-sided truths, half-truths, present much greater hindrances. The call for self-knowledge must also be a call for constant self-perfecting. If we take this vow to our higher self we can confidently and without danger venture into the Macrocosm, for then we shall gradually learn to find our bearings in the labyrinth that inevitably confronts us.
We have now heard how our own nature is related to the Elementary World — we have also found that our temperaments are related to what confronts us in that world. But there is still something else in the Elementary World to which qualities of soul other than the temperaments are related. Within us there is that which is also outside us, for we have been formed out of the world that surrounds us.
From what can be perceived in the physical world (temperament) we must move forward to the Elementary or Elemental World, and then ascend to the World of Spirit. Again we can pass from there into a still higher world and of this we will speak briefly. As human beings we pass from incarnation to incarnation. If in this present incarnation we are melancholic, we can say to ourselves that in another incarnation — either in the past or in the future — we may have had or shall have a sanguine temperament. The one-sidedness of each temperament will be balanced in the different incarnations. Here we have arrived at the idea that we, as beings, are after all something more than appears, that even though now we may be melancholic, we are something else as well. As the same being we may have been choleric in an earlier life and may become sanguine in a following one. Our whole being is not contained in particular temperamental traits. There is something else as well. When a clairvoyant, observing someone in the Elementary World, sees him as a melancholic, he must say to himself: that is a transitory manifestation, it is merely the manifestation of one incarnation. The person who now, as a melancholic type, represents the element of earth, will in another incarnation represent, as a sanguine type, the element of air, or, as a choleric, the element of fire. Melancholics, with their tendency to introspective brooding, repel us when viewed from the vantage-point of the Elementary World; cholerics appear as if they were spreading flames of fire — as an elemental force, of course, not physical fire.
To avoid misunderstanding I must here mention that in manuals on Theosophy, the Elementary World is usually called the Astral World; what we call the World of Spirit in there called the lower sphere of Devachan-Lower Devachan. What is there called the higher sphere of Devachan — Arupa-Devachan — is here called the World of Reason.
When we pass from the World of Spirit into the World of Reason we meet with something similar to what has already been experienced if we are revealed to ourselves as beings who are mastering our temperaments and developing balance from one life to another. Thus do we approach the boundary of the World of Spirit. When we reach it we find spiritual facts and Beings expressed as if in a cosmic clock through the movements of the planets. The Beings are expressed in the constellations of the Zodiac, the facts in the planets. But these analogies do not take us very far; we must pass on to the Beings themselves — the Hierarchies.
Now we should be unable to form any conception of the still higher worlds unless with clairvoyant consciousness we were to pass on to the Beings themselves-the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, and so on.-In one incarnation a man may have a melancholic temperament, in another a sanguine temperament. His real being is more than either. His real being breaks through such classifications. If we are now clear in our minds that the Beings we designate as Seraphim, Cherubim, Spirits of Will, Thrones, and so forth, and who express themselves in physical space in the constellations of the Zodiac — if we are clear that these Beings are more than their names designate, then we are beginning to form a true concept of this upper boundary of the Macrocosm. A Being who confronts us in some particular clairvoyant experience, let us say as a Spirit of Wisdom, does not always remain at the same stage and therefore cannot always be denoted by the same name. For just as man develops, so do these Beings develop through different stages; hence they must be called now by one name, now by another. The Beings develop from stage to stage. The names may roughly be thought of as designations of offices. If we speak of Spirits of Will or of Spirits of Wisdom, it is rather as if here on Earth we were speaking of a councilor, privy councilor, or the like; the man may have been that to begin with and then something else. In the spiritual Hierarchies the same Being might at one time have been a Spirit of Wisdom, at another time a Spirit of Will, and so on, because the Beings develop through stages, through various ranks. As long as we remain in the World of Spirit they reveal themselves as Seraphim or Cherubim or of whatever rank it may be. But from the moment we become acquainted with the developing Being, from the moment we proceed beyond the title of office to a conception of the actual Being himself, we have ascended into a still higher realm, into the World of Reason (Vernunftreich). The forces of this world are the builders of man's organ of intelligence.
To reach a certain stage of knowledge it is always necessary to distinguish between the developing Beings themselves and their nature at a particular stage of their evolution. This must be done both in the case of Beings at an advanced stage of development who appear on Earth and of those who are only to be seen by clairvoyance in the World of Spirit.
We will take the example of Buddha, who lived, as you know, in the sixth century BC. Anyone who is versed in this subject must learn to distinguish between the Being who was called “Buddha” at that time and the designation of the office of Buddha. Previously, in his earlier incarnations, this Being was a Bodhisattva and only then, in his incarnation in the sixth century BC., did he rise to the rank of Buddhahood. Yet in the earlier periods of time he was the same Being who later became Gautama Buddha. But this Being evolved to further stages in such a way that for certain reasons it was no longer necessary for him to incarnate as a man of flesh. He lived on in another form. As a Bodhisattva he was associated for many millennia with Earth-evolution, then he became Buddha, and in that incarnation reached a stage from which he no longer needed to descend into incarnation in a body of flesh. 2See Dr. Steiner's Lecture-Course on the Gospel of St. Luke, notably lectures 3 to 7; also, Man in the Light of Occultism, Philosophy and Theosophy, notably lecture 9 lecture 10. He is now a sublime Being visible only in the spiritual world to the eyes of a seer. This shows the distinction that must be made between the designation, “Buddha” and the Being who held the office of Buddha. Similarly, distinction must be made between the names we given to the Hierarchies and the Beings themselves, for they too ascend in rank — let us say from the rank of Thrones to the ranks of Cherubim and Seraphim.
Thus at the boundary of the World of Spirit, certain Beings touch this boundary from above and assume certain qualities; certain functions must be attributed to them. But when we ascend to a still higher world these Beings are revealed to us now in process of living development. It is similar to what happens to man in the physical world in the course of his incarnations. Just as we only really come to know a man by following him from one incarnation to another instead of taking account merely of his present incarnation, so do we only come to know the lofty spiritual Beings if we are able to look beyond what their deeds express, to the Beings themselves. To associate with spiritual Beings and to witness their evolution means to live in the World of Reason.
As was indicated yesterday, above the World of Reason there is a yet higher world, whence come the forces which enable us actually to pass from normal consciousness into clairvoyant consciousness that is equipped with eyes and ears of spirit. Why, then, should it be surprising to say that these qualities and faculties originate in worlds higher than the World of Spirit or even than the World of Reason? When clairvoyant consciousness awakens in a man, he becomes in actual fact a participator in the higher worlds. No wonder, then, that the forces for awakening this clairvoyant consciousness come from a world whence certain higher spiritual Beings themselves derive their forces. We derive our forces from the Elementary World, the World of Spirit, the World of Reason. If these worlds are to be transcended the forces for the ascent must be derived from even higher spheres.
It will now be our task to speak of the first world revealed to man when clairvoyant consciousness awakens in him. It is the world of Imagination. We shall show that the forces which form the organs in man for Imaginative consciousness come from the World of Archetypal Images, just as the forces from the World of Reason are those which enable man on the physical plane to be capable of intelligent judgment. Our next task will be to explain the connection between the first stage of higher knowledge and the spiritual World of Archetypal Images. Then we shall proceed to describe the worlds of Inspiration and Intuition and to show how in line with our modern culture, man can grow into the higher worlds, how he can become a citizen of those worlds in which he is the lowest being just as he is the highest being in the kingdoms surrounding him here on the physical plane. Here he looks downwards to plants, animals, minerals; in yonder worlds he can look upwards to Beings above him. As he pursues his path into the Macrocosm with newly awakened faculties, new Beings and realities enter perpetually into his ken.