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Occult Reading and Occult Hearing
GA 156

3. Inner Experiences and ‘Moods’ of Soul as the Vowels and Consonants of the Spiritual World

5 October 1914, Dornach

From what was said yesterday and the day before, you will have realised that occult reading and occult hearing consist in experiences of the soul. I used various comparisons to show how man must become one, firstly with the signs which reveal themselves to the seer in Imagination, and then, needless to say, with what these signs signify of spiritual realities.

I should like to begin to-day by giving you a more precise idea—as far as is possible in the few lectures that can be given, and even although it can only be an approximately precise idea—of what is necessary in order to advance from disordered clairvoyance to the genuine clairvoyance that may be called occult reading and occult hearing.

The first thing of which I will speak may be called the ‘vowels’ of the spiritual world. The way in which man learns to hear and read the ‘vowels’ of the spiritual world is, of course, a far, far more deeply inward process than any process of ordinary life. Many roundabout descriptions are necessary before we can even begin to approach what may be called the experiencing of the vowels, of the intrinsic sounds of the Cosmos. From what I indicated yesterday you will have realised that we can speak of seven such vowels—a symbolic parallelism with the planetary system.

Let us go back once again to the example I gave yesterday: the search for someone who is dead. I took that as a starting-point and tried to describe the kind of experiences through which we gradually grow into the knowledge of the spiritual world. We heard that through the different forms of preparation which the seer has to undergo, he sees, first of all, a series of pictures, and he faces them just as he faces the things of the external world. We face a dream picture, too, just as we face the things of the external world. Only gradually do we learn to identify ourselves with the pictures, to consume them, as it were, to become one with these pictures, to live entirely in them.

But it must be clearly borne in mind that when these pictures finally lead us to find the dead or some other event or being in the spiritual world, they are signs of spiritual realities. As pictures they are realities in themselves; they express spiritual realities.

They are there, these pictures. And now the question must arise: Are these pictures only there when the seer has prepared himself in the right way and is actually able to behold them?

These pictures are not only there under such conditions. And it is very important to keep this in mind. Let us assume that you are sitting or standing somewhere and are sufficiently prepared to be able to see something. A series of fluctuating pictures appears before you. Now suppose that, instead of a seer there is an ordinary person who has no gift of clairvoyance and sees nothing of such pictures but only the pictures of the physical world. Are the pictures not there at all?—They are always there.

Let me put it as I did the day before yesterday. In reality, we are within the bunch of flowers in front of us; our perception of it depends upon its being reflected through our own organism. The moment the trained seer has a spiritual Imagination, he too is within it. In the subsequent procedure—of identifying himself with the pictures—he is simply enacting a process of consciousness; actually, he is within the pictures. Nor does this apply only to a seer; even when a man confronts an object with ordinary physical eyes and ordinary mental activity, not only is he within the physical object—which, as we have seen, is in itself merely an illusion—but he is within the Spiritual. He is always within the spiritual Beings who are not physically incarnate. He is really all the time within those spiritual pictures of which the clairvoyant sees a part. They are always in the environment and we are always within them. They remain imperceptible, invisible, because man's faculty of perception is too dull, too coarse to perceive these delicately weaving beings and formations with the ordinary senses.

But this is speaking in the abstract. We could also ask: All that weaves spiritually around the world—in which we ourselves are—why is it that we do not become aware of it? Why is this?

We begin for the first time to understand why this is so when we have identified ourselves with Imagination, when we actually carry out the process I described yesterday. We really understand, then, why the human being cannot be conscious in the spiritual world that is round about him. What is this experience?

Let us repeat once again.—A series of pictures is arrayed before the soul; we try to identify ourselves with these pictures. We know, then, through the experiences of our own soul, that we consume these pictures, as it were; we are united with these pictures. We now know that this is so.

But at this moment, too, we can answer the question as to why we have to be outside the body, why we have to go out of the body and identify ourselves with the pictures if we are to perceive them. They can only be reflected back from our own etheric body. When this has become an actual experience, we know why it is necessary.

Through our experiences in connection with these pictures with which we have identified ourselves, we know the following.—If, having completely identified ourselves with the pictures, we were to pass back again into the physical body, if we did not remain outside the body and wait until the etheric body reflected the pictures back, then we should take back into the physical body everything with which we had become one—we should take it back into the space that is enclosed by the skin, and we should immediately destroy the physical body to the point of death. The germ of death would be in the physical body. We may not carry into the physical body that with which we have identified ourselves. This can happen only when death comes in reality. When death does really come in earthly existence, the soul has reached the point where it can identify itself with what lives in the external world as Imagination in the natural course of life. But that is death.

So you see, my dear friends, we may take in deep, deep earnestness the great motto which runs through all occult studies. It is the utterance made by all those who have become occultists in the true sense of the world.—The moment genuine clairvoyance is attained, the experience is that of facing death. We reach the Gate of Death.

I have often emphasised this from another side. We learn to know how it is with a human being when he passes through the Gate of Death. Clairvoyance cannot be attained without passing through this most solemn moment which is described by occultists as ‘Standing before the Gate of Death.’

But we must learn something else as well. I have spoken of this from another angle in a lecture-course given at Munich. [The title of the lecture-course was: On Initiation, Eternity and the Passing Moment. (English translation available in typescript.)]

We learn in deepest earnestness to put a question that is a vital question of Spiritual Science. We ask: What is the truth of our existence as human beings, living as we do within the fluctuating web of spiritual Beings which we dare not carry into our physical body because that would always mean the germ of death? Outside, Imaginations are always around us, we are within a sphere of Imaginations ... and they must not pass into us. What comes from these Imaginations into us? Shadow-pictures, reflections, mirror-images—these come as our thoughts, our mental images. Outside, they are the real, full-blooded Imaginations. They reflect themselves in us and we experience them in the weakened, shadowy form of our thoughts and mental images. If we carried them in their full reality into ourselves and not merely had them as reflections, we should at each moment stand before the danger of death.

What does this mean? It means that the cosmic world-order guards us from experiencing, in their full reality, these spiritual Beings and happenings, which are always around us; we are protected, inasmuch as in our everyday consciousness we contact only the shadow-pictures of these spiritual Beings. And yet, a whole number of these Imaginations belong to us, belong to the forces which are creatively active in us. The creative forces that are within us live in this world of Imaginations. We may not experience them in their primal form, but only in the shadowy form in which they are within us as thoughts. This can only happen through someone taking away from us the experiencing of the Imaginations which belong to our thoughts.

They have, nevertheless, to be experienced! But we cannot experience them. They have to be experienced by Beings stronger than we are, by Beings who can endure them in their organisation of spirit-and-soul without coming to the danger of death. Whenever we are thinking, whenever we are active in our life of soul, a spiritual Being must hold sway over us all the time, depriving us of the experience of the Imaginations underlying our thoughts and mental pictures. If you have any thought, any experience in your life of soul, this experience corresponds to a world of Imaginations. And a Being must rule over you, guard and protect you, taking away from you what you yourself cannot accomplish.

Here we have reached a point where we can speak in a more real sense than hitherto, of the Beings of the next higher Hierarchy, of the Angeloi. They are now spiritually comprehensible. We see them there, we see how they must watch and guard what we ourselves are not capable of accomplishing.

But it can and must happen to the seer that he becomes aware with far greater distinctness of what I have just told you. And that is the case when he goes one stage further in his seership.

We spoke yesterday of what leads to identification with the series of pictures which appears before us. The Imaginations are consumed, sucked in. Thereby they disappear as pictures outside us—but we experience them within us, we have become one with them.

But the thing can go still further. I will start by describing the subjective experience. I told you yesterday something which I have repeatedly described. When one is sunk in meditation and concentration, something approaches which one is seeking—a series of pictures arises with which one can identify oneself. I said that something else can happen. When meditation and concentration have called forth these pictures and we have tried to get right into them, the occult reading and hearing, the real perception of the spiritual being of the dead does not necessarily arise. The whole process may break off just like a process in a dream and the consequences may appear only later.

But if we go further, if we have the necessary patience and endurance to make progress in occult development through meditation and concentration, then we experience the process in still another way.

It can be experienced in the following way.—We set ourself the task of observing some being or process in the spiritual world. We sink into meditation or concentration. Thereby we draw ourselves out of the physical world and pass into the condition where the meditation, that is to say, the content of the soul we ourselves have evoked, flows by and we can feel the transition. There seems to be greater darkness ... that which the soul has evoked flows away from the pictures, and they come up again, far, far more vividly than in a dream.

Now we confront them consciously and again dive down into them. Again, there may come a moment when we know: ‘You have now identified yourself with the pictures, you have become one with them, you are within them.’ But we no longer feel our own existence; we feel as though we have sunk into the Cosmos—nevertheless as if we were in universal nullity.

Thus, we have identified ourself with the pictures, have extinguished them—and have got nothing in their place. But now, through the practice of meditation, we have succeeded in not being brought to despair by the belief that we are losing ourselves in Nothingness. We have not the feeling of being utterly forsaken that might easily arise. In short, we plunge, as though swimming in an ocean of nullity, into the Cosmos. And then it is like waking up, but not out of a sleep, out of something with much stronger reality. At the moment of waking, we know: This was not sleep! We have not passed through the emptiness of sleep. Something has happened in the interval, something at which we were present, and now we have wakened again! We have in our consciousness the happenings which we could not experience at the time with full consciousness. But afterwards we know quite definitely that we have experienced them. It is like a memory! We remember something we have gone through not with the ordinary self, but with what transcends the ordinary self. Now it enters our consciousness and we experience that at which we aimed, the task we set ourselves. And now, when we meditate on what has happened, we know: ‘You have gone through something as a thinking being (only “thinking” here has a much higher significance than in the physical world). You have gone through this as a thinking being. But however highly developed you are as a human being, you cannot experience what you have now gone through.’ It is something that the human being himself cannot experience. Therefore, in the time that has transpired between the diving down and the re-emergence, another Being had to take over the function of thinking for you and think in you. You cannot yourself do the thinking. You can only remember afterwards what this Being thought in you. It was an Angelos who was thinking! And we know that in that intervening period we were interwoven with our Angelos. The Angelos experienced it for us and because the Angelos experienced it, our own consciousness was suppressed. Now we waken and remember with the ordinary life of thought what the Angelos experienced in us.

That is the process. This is the way in which, as a rule, spiritual experiences are attained. We attain them in such a way that we know: We must first pass into a condition where a Being of the next higher Hierarchy enters into us, identifies himself with us. What we cannot do in our own weakness, we can do through a Being of the next higher Hierarchy who is within us—but our consciousness is suppressed. We cannot have the experience in its immediate reality, but we have it afterwards, in memory and in full Ego-consciousness.

And so, it is that the spiritual experiences vouchsafed to us are experienced at one time, but we become conscious of them at another.

I spoke of an experience I had concerning our dear friend Christian Morgenstern—a real experience, needless to say. But we become conscious of such an experience afterwards, because a Being of the next higher Hierarchy must take over the function of knowledge during the actual experience.

Again, you will understand why this must be. If we were to bring into our own organism what a Being of the higher Hierarchies experiences in us we should not only kill our organism, but we should burst it, as through an explosion, into its very atoms. If we carried down these experiences into our own organism we should not only bring about its death, but simultaneously, its cremation.

Now you see again that seership brings us into connection with what we call the Gate of Death. We can really only know what death signifies by raising ourselves to that life of soul which can come from the experiences described. [See the lecture-course entitled, The inner Nature of Man and Life between Death and a new Birth. (Obtainable from Rudolf Steiner Press.)]

Only thereby can we understand the human individuality when it is outside the physical body. But then we also know how it has to be received into the higher Hierarchies—in order that it shall not work as a destroying, death-bringing force to a being of the physical plane, our own being, to begin with. The feeling of the human soul resting in the bosom of a Being of the higher Hierarchies becomes real, infinitely real. Now for the first time we get to know how things appear on yonder side of death. We know: Here in our earthly life we are surrounded by minerals, plants, the animal and the human kingdoms. On yonder side of death we enter the realm of the higher Hierarchies, to whose environment we belong just as here we belong to the environment of the physical beings around us. A feeling of kinship with the Beings of the higher Hierarchies comes into our soul. Then we learn to know that true entrance into the spiritual world is simply not possible without bringing in its train feelings of piety, feelings of being given up to the higher, spiritual world. But these feelings have the nuances I have described.

This is able to evoke a necessary ‘mood’ of soul. I can only express it by calling it that mood of soul in which we feel ourselves resting in the spiritual worlds. We need this mood of soul for any real experience of the spiritual worlds, just as here, in the physical world, in order that we may be able to understand our fellow-man, we have to use the larynx and other organs of speech, to utter the sound EE. What makes it possible in ordinary human speech to utter the sound EE, produces, in the higher worlds, the experience that flows from devotion. This kind of devotion is one of the vowels of the higher worlds. We can perceive nothing, read nothing, hear nothing in the higher worlds unless we can hold this mood of soul—and then wait for what the Beings of the higher worlds have to impart to us because we bring to them this mood of soul.

It is out of these moods of soul, out of this attitude to the higher worlds that the vowels of the Cosmos are composed.

If there is this feeling: Around you is a world but you cannot live in it with your feeble human powers. What surrounds you while you live in your physical body can be perceived only in the shadow-pictures of your thoughts and concepts, or rather is reflected by them. You may not experience these Imaginations directly. Your Guardian Angel must take this experience away from you in your ordinary life.—When a man feels this inwardly, with the necessary timbre of inner piety, he is able to become aware of one of the vowels of the spiritual world.

A next stage depends upon the development of something I indicated in my book, The Threshold of the Spiritual World. We grow into the spiritual world as I have there described. The process is that we emerge from ourselves as it were and identify ourselves with another being. But this is not sufficient, in no way is it sufficient. It is necessary not only to be able to identify ourselves with other beings but also to be able to transform ourselves into other beings, so that we do not merely remain what we are, but are able to metamorphose ourselves into other beings, actually to become that into which we penetrate.

A good preparation for this faculty is to practise over and over again a loving interest in everything that is around us in the world. It is impossible to express how infinitely significant it is for the developing occultist to awaken this loving interest for everything in the surrounding world. This is a hint that is, unfortunately, not usually taken deeply enough, hence the lack of success that often attends occultism. It is only too natural for the necessary power of interest to be maintained only in oneself. Even if a man will not admit it, the necessary power of interest is applied only to himself. It may be given another name, but none the less there is very little real interest in other things, and by far the greatest for oneself.

It must of course be said that cosmic law decrees that a man must have interest in himself, and indeed it requires great effort not to be interested the whole time in himself. It is after all a natural part of life on the physical plane. I will ignore the fact that if we have some illness, pain or disorder, this interest is always there. It cannot be otherwise. In such a case, of course, efforts might make it possible for a man not to be interested in himself—but that is extremely difficult. It might happen that a man falls ill and is not especially interested in the fact that he has this illness; he may be quite indifferent to it. What does interest him may be how this illness has arisen out of the whole Cosmos, how at some point in the Cosmos something arose that now is within his own skin. In such a case the man is interested in a severe illness in the same way as if it were something outside himself I

You will admit that what I have described is very difficult. And so it is with most things, at least on the physical plane. It is very difficult to take the most ordinary things we experience in our senses and thoughts as if we were standing outside them as objects. But this is just what we must try to do. And because it is so difficult it is not as a rule attempted. But everyone may be sure that if with great zeal he carries out the exercises described in the book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, he will gradually attain this knowledge.

But for this we must adopt the standpoint therein described—the exercises are not practised at all adequately. The knowledge will be attained only along by-paths because it is extremely difficult. It will be attained in the same measure in which interest in our own self decreases, so that we are no longer an interesting subject for ourselves, but an interesting object. That does no harm; it is indeed very useful because we ourselves are an object which is always to hand—only it must not be confused with the subject!

Now in the same measure in which we ourselves begin to become an object, we begin to be interested in everything outside us, and then we develop loving interest in the world and its phenomena. When the loving devotion to the world and its phenomena develops more and more, the mood of soul is able to intensify to the point where we not only pass out of ourselves but are able to metamorphose ourselves into other beings. Gradually we become capable of this. But such things are difficult for the soul of man and all kinds of help must be sought if this loving devotion is to exist.

I will indicate something that can be a help. A beginning can be made by making the physical world a motive for a kind of occult reading. I have often given an example from which it is good to start. If we confront a human being and look at his countenance, we realise: this boundary of the skin, these lines, what the eye sees—that is not the essential, that is the physiognomic expression of the indwelling soul. And if we had a drawing of the lines—the lines would not be the essential, but the soul which has given itself these lines as its form. And then we can look at external nature around us as though it too were an outer physiognomy. Materialistic investigators face the things of external nature just as if one were to say of a human being: ‘To talk of an indwelling soul is unreal, it is fantastic superstition. All that concerns me are the forms that can be measured and investigated.’

This is how ordinary men investigate external nature. But we can say to ourselves: Just as it comes naturally to see a man's countenance as the physiognomy of his soul, so we can look at the whole of external nature, not in the ordinary way but as the physiognomy of spiritual Beings behind it. And it is good here to look at the whole world of animals as the physiognomy of outer nature. It requires further insight and study not to see in the animals what is usually seen but to see in them something that may be conveyed in the following words.—

There is the eagle, flying towards the Sun; that is the direction upwards, into the spiritual worlds. I will take you, the eagle, as the symbol of rising into the spiritual worlds. I look at the human brow and see something suggesting the eagle-nature, something that is striving upwards into the spiritual worlds. I see how what is expressed in the human soul gives the physiognomy. The eagle is part of the physiognomy of external nature. In the soaring eagle I see something suggestive of the brow in the human countenance. I look at a bull and see how it is bound to the Earth as it chews its food, how it is only in its real element when it is given over entirely to the process of digestion, how in its whole life-process it is bound up with what it takes from the Earth. The bull suggests earthly gravity to me. Then I look at the human being and feel, spiritually: There too there is something of earthly gravity, but it is held in check, kept in equilibrium by the eagle nature in man. I feel how the bull nature is also in man, but it does not express itself in the same way as in the bull itself. The bull nature- is seen to be a physiognomic expression. So, too, is it with the lion nature when I contemplate the heart in man and compare it with the lion in external nature. In this way we can look at the whole world of the higher and lower animals.

There have been men who have related eagle, bull and lion to the human soul and they have made drawings. Such men have attempted to read what is written in the animal world and to glean from it—but in this case separated into its single letters—what is experienced as a totality in connection with the human being. Briefly, we can say: The physiognomy of nature is the animal world.

But it is not only the physiognomy which interests us when we contemplate the human being. When we try to go more deeply into the soul, we are interested in what we call the facial expressions. When the physiognomy is in movement, we come nearer to the soul through the play of facial expressions than through the physiognomy as such. Again, in external nature we can find this play of expression of the spiritual world behind. We find it when we look at the world of plants, at its shades of colour, its budding in spring, its blossoming throughout the summer. The Earth first thrusts it out and then, from the other side, the forces of the spheres enter into it, charming forth living movements in its infinite blossoming, growing and greening. When we look at this world of plants and relate it to a spiritual reality of the Cosmos behind it just as we relate a man's facial expressions to his soul—then this again is an exercise.

Thus, we can say: The plant world is the mien of nature. And then come gestures, movements which emanate from the soul. Just as we can call the animal world the physiognomy of nature, the plant world the mien of nature, so we can now see the forms of the mineral world as the gestures of nature. And to one who is practising occult reading and hearing in the real way, it is one of the most beautiful things that can happen to him to experience the mineral world in such a way that in the forms of the surface-boundaries of the minerals, in their characteristic relations to the Cosmos outside, in their iridescence, transparency, in the crystalline clarity of the quartz, of the lime-salts, of emerald and chrysoprase, he sees the infinitely diverse gestures of the spiritual Beings behind nature.

If we carry out such exercises, if we can really experience in the otherwise dead stones what is expressed through this dead mineral kingdom and is as if a soul were expressing in living gesture what lives in it—this is a help towards acquiring loving interest for all the beings that are around us. Then we gradually reach a stage of development in which—when the attainment of seership is possible—we are also able to transform ourselves into the beings around us. We realise that we have the power to do this. We can transform ourselves into all other human beings, but practice is necessary in the way described. The human being is capable of infinite metamorphoses in this connection.

Again, we can put a question, but before doing so let me speak of the feelings that are bound up with what I have described. The first experience brings about an attitude to the Hierarchies; the consciousness of being protected becomes a feeling that is suffused with piety. The feeling of being able to transform oneself into all the diverse beings brings respect for the humanity of man. We learn to value it in all its preciousness—the humanity that we do not find in the physical world, that we do not find in ourselves, but only find when we have really become another being. The feeling that necessarily accompanies the faculty of transformation does not lead us to pride, for every single transformation tells us that we are not as worthy as the being into whom we must transform ourselves. Realisation of the faculty of transformation means, at the same time, humility. A feeling of deep religious humility is bound up with the realisation of the faculty of transformation.

But another question can be raised. We evoke these powers of transformation from our inner being. Are they, then, within us all the time? Yes; just as the Imaginations we call up in the way described yesterday and today are always around us, so too are these powers of transformation always within us. But in order to have conscious control of them, we must develop in the way I have told you. At every moment we are not only ourselves but every other being as well. It is only that we do not develop our consciousness highly enough. We shall best understand this by thinking of the cases in life where a man on the physical plane transforms himself into another being.

On the physical plane, of course, man uses the forces which are in other circumstances the forces of transformation. But he uses them without knowing anything of them. He uses them every time he dominates his fellow-men by unjustifiably exerting his will over them, every time he does injustice to his fellow-men. This incorporates into his fellow-man something that is unjustified. He gains a certain power thereby because the lie goes on living in the other man.

So is it whenever evil is done. The forces with which some evil is done in the world are these same forces of transformation, but in the wrong place. Everything evil in the world is the unlawful application of these powers of transformation. Profound insight into the secret of existence arises when we know whence come the injustice, evil, crime and sin that happen in the world. They happen because the best and most holy powers which exist in man, the powers of transformation, are applied in the wrong way. There would be no evil in the world if there were not these most holy powers of transformation.

Even in a public lecture 1 once indicated this mystery of the power of evil, saying that it is the distorted application of the power which, in its proper place, would lead to the highest good. [The title of the lecture was: Evil in the light of Knowledge of the Spirit. Berlin, x 5th January, 1914. (Not yet available in English translation.)] This mood in the soul which comes when we know: Here in each human soul is something which on the one side can transform itself into all beings, and on the other, into egoism ... this is the mood with which we must confront the Cosmos if it is our aim to have spiritual hearing. That is a second vowel.

The mood we can have in regard to the mystery of evil as I have presented it to you, is the third vowel—what we experience when we know whereby a man may become evil. If we understand the mystery that it is the highest forces that in evil are applied in a distorted way, then we have the mood of a third cosmic vowel. These moods of soul must be actually experienced.

Thus, we have spoken of three cosmic vowels. It has taken some time to-day; we will speak of the others tomorrow. I had first to speak of the principle that is essential for establishing in inner experience that relationship to the Cosmos whereby, in dedicating our own powers of soul, we become hearers and readers of what is happening out yonder in the spiritual world.