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The Effect of Occult Development Upon the Self and the Sheaths of Man
GA 145

Lecture VIII

27 March 1913, The Hague

As we approach the processes in the astral body and in the Self of man as experienced in occult development, it becomes more and more difficult to describe them. For the experience in these parts of human nature is far removed from the experience of everyday life. In the ordinary life of the soul we usually experience life in the astral body as the flowing and ebbing of desires, emotions, impulses, passions, etc.; and we also feel as our inward life that which is expressed collectively in the ego. But what is thus experienced is really nothing but the reflection, the mirroring of the self and the astral body in the etheric body and the physical body; it is no conscious experience of the astral body and the self. We cannot through what we experience in the ordinary life of the soul obtain a true idea of the actual experience in the higher worlds in our astral body and self; therefore, when we describe these things, we must have recourse to a kind of representation suited to these higher worlds, we must have recourse to imaginations: and these imaginations are really actually experienced. But one must not imagine that the beholding of the clairvoyant imaginations is the only thing that we experience; in a sense it is not even the principal thing; the principal thing is what we then experience inwardly through it; the processes and inward tests which the soul goes through when it confronts these imaginations.

And this is particularly the case with such an important and powerful imagination as that which has been described as the Paradise-Imagination. One who really experiences this Paradise-Imagination, who can have it before him as a conquest in higher experience, feels himself standing in the middle of an inner surging of the soul, he feels himself laid hold of by an inner soul-wave, and he feels that he himself might err in the two different directions described in the last lecture; he feels himself attracted, vividly attracted by all the passions and emotions which continue to work from the personal life he had previously led on the physical plane; for the personal interests which we have gradually acquired on the physical plane work with ever-increasing strength as numberless magnetic forces of attraction. But, on the other hand, he feels something else. The nearer he comes, the more clearly he sees this Paradise-Imagination, the more power have these forces which draw him down to personal interests. What they bring about in him is that they blot out the Paradise-Imagination more and more, or perhaps it would be better to say that they prevent it from appearing properly; he is as though benumbed: the personal interests, emotions, feelings, sensations, etc., which we drag about with us, are so many hundreds and hundreds of magnetic forces which are so many causes of stupefaction. When the student tries to progress so far in his self-training that he observes his astral body more and more truthfully (for the Paradise-Imagination is experienced outside the physical body and etheric body, that is, in the astral body and Ego), when he has grasped the true nature and character of the astral body, he knows that it is the Egotist. And he alone is in the right position at this point, which he has reached through self-training, if he does not allow his egotistical interests to become personal to his nature and to draw him with numberless forces, but can make the interests of the whole of humanity and the world more and more his own. At this stage of occult development a counter-balance against the egotism of the astral body is felt, something which is the more evident, the more the egotistic forces bestir themselves in the now liberated astral body. There is an ever-increasing feeling of solitude, icy solitude. This icy solitude is also part of what is experienced in the inward surging of the soul. It is this icy solitude which cures one of allowing egotism to have the upper hand, and the student has trained himself correctly if at this point in his occult development he can feel the impulse to be everything through himself and for himself, and can at the same time also feel the frosty solitude approaching him.

It is just as important to have this feeling as to approach gradually to the Paradise-Imagination. And when these two forces, that of the egotism which expands to world-interests and the frosty solitude, work together, the student then draws nearer and nearer to the Paradise-Imagination. And when this latter appears in all its vividness, when it is actually there, the time has also arrived for experiencing the meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold in the entirely right way. It is difficult to give a single description of the Guardian of the Threshold—I have done so on different occasions in our theosophical considerations. It is not so much our task to-day to describe the Guardian of the Threshold as to describe the inward experiences in the sheaths of man and in the human self. If the student draws closer to the Paradise-Imagination; that is to say, if it becomes more and more vivid, and he meets the Guardian of the Threshold, he then feels the full force of the magnetic forces just described, and as he confronts the Guardian of the Threshold he feels—and this is a dreadful sensation—he feels as though chained or rooted to the spot. For all the magnetic forces which draw him down to what is personal now exercise their strongest influence; and only if he progressed to the point at which the frosty solitude has become so instructive that he is really able to make the world's interests his own, does he pass the Guardian of the Threshold; and then only does he feel himself united with the Paradise-Imagination, and become one with it. He then feels himself within it. The experience is like a coming into a right relationship with the world-interests, so that he can confess: ‘Now only may I allow my own interests to assert themselves, for they have become the interests of the world.’

But if he does not pass, if he has not yet acquired sufficient universal interests, his personal interests then draw him back and there comes about what in Occultism is described as: not passing the Guardian of the Threshold. These personal interests obscure the Paradise-Imagination; he may obtain separate parts of it, as it were, indistinct impressions, but not perfect ones, and one is dragged back, as it were, into the personal life. It may then happen that he has thereby received the power to have a certain degree of clairvoyant experience; but these are then really maya-experiences; they may be quite misleading, for they are entirely permeated and clouded by personal interests.

Only through such an experience is the student able fully to comprehend—for it now becomes a serious matter to him, as it were—that personal interests must pass into world-interests if he really wishes to see accurately in the Spiritual world. It is actually the case that before attaining this stage he cannot thoroughly believe this, for the personal interests are against it; but now having reached this point he sees it.

We have now reached a very hazardous place in the description of occult conditions; yet the endeavour shall be made to describe the next steps also, as they appear from the experience of occultists, and in the way in which they must be given, reckoning with the fact that our hearers are trying, in a sense, to make these things a possession of their own souls, and to work upon them further; for things such as these cannot be expressed in dry abstract ideas; we must try to portray what appears to clairvoyant vision. Now, this clairvoyant vision should by no means be understood as something that can be rigidly and diagrammatically depicted; but what I shall describe is again a typical experience, like that of the Paradise-experience, and we must really have this experience in order to recognise afterwards what knowledge and occult vision really are. Until this experience comes we can have no real idea, I mean no experienced idea, of occult vision; but still, when such a thing is described, we can understand it, if we bring sound human understanding to bear upon it. It must now be described, as far as is possible, from vision itself.

I will suppose that the student has passed the Guardian of the Threshold and the union with the Paradise-Imagination is accomplished; that he feels within it, as if this Paradise-Imagination had now become his own greater astral sheath. He still distinctly feels his own astral body about him, and knows that it is connected with his Self, but at the same time he knows that this astral body extends its interests to all that concerns the objects and beings of the Paradise-Imagination. When the student knows his union with the Paradise-Imagination is accomplished, he may then have somewhat the following impression: he will perceive his own astral body as belonging to him, and when he has felt sufficiently what has just been described as icy solitude, this feeling becomes a power within him, and it will preserve him from gazing at nothing but himself after his accomplishment of his union with the Paradise-Imagination. He will thereby create for himself, as it were, the organ by which he may behold other beings. His occult vision will first fall on another being, a being who will make a special impression upon him, because it will appear just like himself. He himself feels that he is in his Self and astral body; the other being also at first appears to him with a Self and an astral body. This is because the qualities and powers which the pupil brings with him to such a moment enables him to see just such a being, which presents itself as if in a self and an astral body. The student will now have the following experience—produced by the frosty solitude which he has learned to bear.

The forces of his astral body will be seen endeavouring to flow outwards. If I were to represent this in diagram, I should have to draw it in this manner; but, as I have said, it is only very diagrammatically expressed. I draw the Self something like the nucleus of a comet, and the astral body like the comet's tail spreading out above.

But that is only a diagram; for the student really sees a being, he sees himself as a being, and this vision is much more complex than the vision of one's own being as physical man. He also sees within his own self the other being to which he looks across. As already said, this is a typical experience. His vision simply falls upon such a being, but he feels that this being is not in such a sphere of frosty solitude as he is himself, and therefore its astral body is seen as though directed downwards. It is extremely important to experience this, to feel oneself as if in an astral body which opens upwards, develops its rays of force upwards, wishes to stream upwards, and yet to see the other being as a Self whose astral body develops its forces downwards.

With this typical experience there now comes into the self-consciousness something like the following: ‘I am of lower degree, of less value than this other being. What is valuable in the other being is that it can open its astral body downwards, it can, as it were, pour its forces downwards.’ And the student's impression is that of having left the physical world. The forces which proceed downwards from the astral body of the other go to the physical world, and work there as forces of blessing; in short, he has the impression that he is confronting a being that may send down to the earth, as a Spiritual rain of blessing, that which it has acquired in the Spiritual world; whereas he himself cannot direct his astral body downwards, it insists on going upwards. He has a feeling that he is of less value, because he cannot direct his astral body downwards. Further, he has a feeling that this consciousness arising thus within him must lead to a Spiritual act. A Spiritual decision matures. This Spiritual decision is to take his loneliness to this second being and warm his coldness with his warmth; he unites himself with this other being. Now, for a moment he has the impression that his own consciousness is being blotted out, as though he had brought about a sort of killing of his own being, a sort of consuming of his own being as though by fire. Then flashes into the self-consciousness, which had previously felt itself blotted out, something which he now first learns to know: Inspiration. He feels himself inspired. It is like a conversation, a typical conversation, now held with a being whom he has only learned to know because it allows him to share in its inspiration. If a student is really capable of understanding what this being sends in as his inspiring voice, he might translate what it says in somewhat the following words: ‘Because thou hast found the way to the other and hast united thyself with his beneficial rain of sacrifice, thou may'st return to the earth with him, within him, and I will make thee his guardian on the earth.’ And the student has the feeling that something of infinite importance has been taken into his soul through being able to hear these words of inspiration. In the Spiritual there is a being that is more precious than oneself, and that is .allowed to pour its astral being downwards in blessing. Through the impression of being able to unite with this being, and being its guardian when he descends, the student first learns to understand how, as physical human beings who tread the earth, we are really related through our physical and etheric coverings to that which is impregnated as higher powers in the Self and the astral body. In our physical and etheric coverings we are guardians of that which is to develop further and further to higher spheres. Only in this inner experience, when he feels his external being as the guardian of the inner being, does a man really have a true understanding of the relation of the external being to the inner being of man.

Now, when the student has passed the Guardian of the Threshold, the experience which I have just described does not stand alone, but is followed by another. I have described the purely clairvoyant and inspired experience the student may have when, outside the physical body and etheric body, he arrives at union with the Paradise-Imagination, and then obtains the inspiration which first gives an idea of the inter-relationship between the sheaths. But when he has passed the Guardian of the Threshold a second impression is added to the first one; the vision opens past the Guardian of the Threshold down into the physical world. I draw a line to represent the boundary between the higher Spiritual worlds and the physical world; above it is the realm of the Spiritual worlds and below that of the physical.

He now sees down into the physical world, as it were, and there appears another picture, a picture of himself standing below as man. The student observes his own astral body; but this astral body which now appears as a reflection is directed downwards, it does not try to develop the force to stream towards the Spiritual world; it clings closely, as it were, to the physical plane, it does not raise itself to the heights. He also sees the reflection of the other being, whose astral body streams upwards. He has the feeling that this astral body is streaming into the Spiritual world. He sees himself and he sees the other, and he has the feeling: ‘Thou standest there below once more; in the place of the other being there stands there below a quite different man; he is a better man than thou; his astral body strives upward, it rises upward like smoke. Thy astral body strives towards the earth, it goes like smoke downward.’ He has a feeling of the Self which dwells within him as he thus looks down, and the following dreadful impression comes to him: Within thee a resolve is being formed, a dreadful resolve, the resolution to kill the other whom thou feelest to be better than thou. The student knows that this decision does not come entirely from the Self, for his Self is there above. It is another being that speaks out of the one there below; but this being suggests the decision to kill the other. And he again hears the voice which previously inspired him, but now it sounds as a dreadful, avenging voice: ‘Where is thy brother?’ And from this self bursts forth a voice hostile to the former. Previously the inspiration was as follows: ‘Through having united thyself with the beneficent powers of the other being, thou desirest to pour thyself downwards with them, and I will make thee the guardian of the other being.’ There now bursts forth from this being that one recognises as oneself the words: ‘I will not be my brother's keeper.’ First comes the resolve to kill the other, then the protest against the inspiring voice which said: ‘Because thou hast wished to unite thy coldness with that warmth I appoint thee to be the guardian of that other;’ the protest: ‘I will not be his guardian.’

When we have had this imaginative experience, we then know all of which the human soul is capable, and above all we know one thing: that, if perverted, the noblest things in the Spiritual world may become the most dreadful things in the physical world. We know that in the depths of the human soul, through the perversion of the noblest readiness to sacrifice, may arise the wish to kill our companion. From this moment we know what is meant in the Bible by the story of Cain and Abel—but only from this moment—for the story of Cain and Abel is none other than the reproduction of an occult experience, which has just been described. If the writer of the story of Cain and Abel had been able to describe what took place with man before the time of the story of Paradise from other reasons than those displayed in the course of the development of humanity, he would have described the first experience, the upper one (on the diagram). Thus he begins with the story of Paradise, and describes its reflection; for Cain felt in this manner towards Abel before that period in the development of the earth indicated by the story of Paradise, he felt towards him as it has been shown here above. And after the temptation, and after the loss of the vision which is regained in occult vision through the Paradise-Imagination, Cain's readiness to sacrifice had passed into what appears here below; his readiness to sacrifice had really changed into the wish to kill the other. The cry we read of in the Bible: ‘Am I to be my brother's keeper?’ is the reverse reflection of the other inspiration: ‘I will make thee the guardian of the other here below on the earth.’ From this you will be able to see that these typical experiences are certainly important; for they bring about a certain union between what we may be to-day and the interests common to all humanity. But at the same time they show us very clearly by what we experience in them in our pulsing soul-life, that the principal thing is to feel the colossal leap the development of humanity has made from what I described to you as the first, the pre-earthly imagination, as it were, to that which is presented in the story of Cain and Abel as an event in humanity after the expulsion from Paradise, after the expulsion through which the Guardian of the Threshold has become invisible for man. The knowledge of this leap in the development of humanity really first shows us what this earthly man is; for when we really feel through and through what has just been described, we gradually experience that this earthly man, as he now is here upon the earth, is the perversion of what he once was. And we then know with great certainty what we should have become if nothing else had intervened. If we had simply developed in this earthly evolution without anything further, we should have become aware of what this is the reflection on the earth. We were not to know this to begin with. It is really only in our present age that man is allowed to know of what the story of Cain and Abel is the reflection, that it is the reflection of a lofty sacrifice. All that was above, everything before Paradise was concealed, for the Guardian himself hid it from us, when, in other words, man was driven out of Paradise. This could only come about through the physical body and etheric body of man being now so permeated with forces that he does not carry out what appears as the reflection—for he certainly would carry it out if he were to feel all that is in the astral body. The physical body and etheric body so stupefy the human being that his wish to kill his fellow is not actualised. Consider what is said in this simple sentence: In that the good, progressive, divine Spiritual Powers gave man a physical and an etheric body, so that he cannot look back, something like a sort of stupefaction was at the same time poured over the wish for the war of each against all. The desire for this is not roused in the soul, because the physical body and etheric body of man were prepared in such a way that this desire is benumbed. A person cannot see his astral body; therefore this wish, too, remains unknown to him; he does not carry it out.

If we wish really to describe the interaction of the astral body and the self, we must describe things which not only actually remain hidden to human nature, but which must so remain. But what has been brought about through the stunning of this and similar wishes—wishes connected with the annihilation and destruction of human and other communal life on the physical plane? They have become debilitated; the human soul only perceives them in a weakened form; it only feels them to a slight extent. And the dim feeling of those wishes that would be something so terrible if man were to allow them free expression, as they really are—this is really our human earthly knowledge.

I am now giving you for the first time a definition of the nature of human earthly knowledge. It consists of the dim and dulled impulses of destruction. Shiva in his most terrible form, so far stupefied that he cannot freely find expression but is, as it were, made threadbare, compressed into the human world of ideas—this is the maya of the human being, this is the knowledge of man. Thus knowledge had to be so weakened—that is to say, the impulses and inner forces had to be so weakened—that the original terrible impulse—ruled by Ahriman, that Ahriman's power (for originally it is Ahriman who gives rise to this wish) should be so far weakened that he could not express himself through man, who would have thereby made himself permanently a servant of Shiva. The sum total of these forces had to be so weakened that its expression in man only enables him to transpose himself into the being of another with his conceptions and ideas. When we try to force an idea of our own into the being of another, when we try to imbue another with a conception of our own, this conception impressed into the nature of the other is the blunted weapon of Cain which was thrust into Abel. And because this weapon was thus blunted it was made possible for that which was at a bound reversed into its opposite, to pass over into evolution. And thus by a slower evolution, through ever-increasing strengthening of his knowledge, man reaches at last the experience of something he was not permitted to express in the physical world because it there became a destructive impulse; stage by stage he develops first ordinary knowledge, then imaginative knowledge, which enters more into the being of another, then inspirational knowledge, which penetrates still more into the being of another, till in intuitive knowledge he enters it entirely and lives on spiritually in the other being.

Thus we gradually struggle up to the comprehension of what this self really is. As to its innermost nature, the astral body is seen to be the great egotist; the self is more than that—it not only lives for itself, but wishes to pass over into others as well. And knowledge, such as is acquired on earth, is this dulled passion to enter into another, not merely to expand oneself and all that one is, but further to pass beyond oneself into another. It is egotism intensified and extended beyond itself.

If you bear in mind what the origin of knowledge is, you will then understand that there is always the possibility of misusing it, for if this is a true knowledge in the Self, the moment it goes astray it is misused. Only by progressing, and making this penetration into another more and more spiritual, and the renunciation by the astral body which has expanded to world-interests, of this penetration into another's being, only by leaving his constitution quite untouched and placing his interests higher than our own, can we make ourselves ready for higher knowledge. Moreover, we cannot recognise a being of the hierarchy of the angels, for instance, if we have not reached the stage when the inner being of the angels interests us more than does our own. As long as we have more interest in our own being than in the being of the angels, we cannot recognise them. Thus we must first educate ourselves up to world-interests, and then to interests that go even further, so that another can be more important and of more consequence than oneself. The moment we try to develop further in occult experiences, while yet remaining more precious to ourselves than the other beings we wish to know, that same moment we go astray. At this point, if you follow out this train of thought, you really come to a true conception of black magic; for black magic begins where occult activity is carried into the world without our first being in the position to expand our own interests into world-interests, without being able to value other interests more than our own.

Such things can really only be touched upon, so as to arouse conceptions concerning them; they are too important for more than this. I wished to show how we may gradually come to recognise in its true form, not in its maya, that which dwells within us as astral body and self; for what a man experiences inwardly as his astral body is not the true astral body, but merely the reflection of that in the etheric body. And what a man calls his self is not the true Ego, but a reflection of the Ego in his physical body. A man only experiences reflections of his inner being. If he were to experience the forms of his own inner astral body and Ego before he was sufficiently mature, impulses of destruction would be enkindled within him; he would become an aggressive being; the desire to injure would arise within him. And such things underlie all black magic. Although the paths followed by black magic are many, the effect they aim at is always something like a covenant with Ahriman or Shiva. We can only learn to recognise the astral body and Ego in their true form if at the same time we acknowledge the necessity of developing them and making them worthy of being what they ought to be. The innermost nature of the astral body is egotism; but it should become our ideal to be permitted to be an egotist because the interests of the world have become our own. It must be our ideal to be allowed to enter into another being because we do not intend to seek our own interests, but we find the other being more important than ourselves. Self-education must go so far that we feel this upper picture in all its occult-moral significance; that we so gradually transform this picture which is our self, that we can no longer be warmed by our own emotions, impulses, desires and passions, but that with living our life in the astral body we enter the frosty solitude; we then thereby open ourselves to the warmth, to the warm interest which streams forth from the other worlds, and wish to unite ourselves with the beneficent forces proceeding from this other being. This is at the same time the starting-point for a gradual raising of our self to the higher Hierarchies in their true form. We do not attain to the Beings of the higher Hierarchies if we are not in a position worthily to confront the Imagination and Inspiration which has been described, and to bear seeing its opposite picture; that is, the possibilities in the depths of human nature when it was cast down from the Spiritual into the physical world. If we refuse to look upon the twofold picture of Cain and Abel below—our own self, and the representative of our Higher Self—the mediator between our self and the higher Hierarchies—we cannot ascend. But when we are able to cultivate within our self the feeling indicated here, we then experience our Self, and this provides the entrance to the higher orders of the Hierarchies.