One often finds that beginning esoterics say that they're disturbed by all kinds of thoughts that press in. But that shouldn't surprise us, for thoughts are the only spiritual things on the physical plane, and they assert themselves whenever we get into a spiritual activity like meditation. One shouldn't want to fight against these thoughts much, there's no point to that; let the thoughts do what they want. Here one has to continue, persevere, activate one's will, to always return to the meditation's content. This will is much more important than how one does the meditation. If one repeatedly returns to the content of the meditation one pushes the thoughts back and thereby creates a kind of a sphere around one in which there's no disturbing thoughts, and it's this sphere that's the most suitable for having super-sensible experiences. Another experience of an esoteric is that he begins to notice certain qualities in himself that he had missed before. Here again it's not a matter of combating these qualities — the only thing that one has to do is to strongly continue the given exercises. They're the ones that drove these qualities far enough out for us to notice, and they'll disappear by themselves as the exercises are continued. Now through one's continued exercises one may have gotten so far that one has this or that experience, for instance one sees Imaginations. Then beginners often ask whether what they saw was imaginary or whether it was a reality in the spiritual realm. One can ask this question if one judges in accordance with events on the physical plane — which can hardly be any different at the beginning of an esoteric path. But this question is only meaningful on the physical plane — it's not the important thing in the spiritual world at all.
For instance, let's say that a meditator or someone else has seen his doppelganger. For instance he may have planned to go to a party where they intended to poison him. But he enters a semi-darkened room and sees himself. On the basis of this experience he doesn't go to the party, so he doesn't get poisoned. Now the form in which the experience is clothed isn't the main thing. The most important thing is that the spiritual being who accompanies a man from one incarnation to the next wanted to make an impression on him. There is such a being who belongs to the angel hierarchy and who's called a man's guardian angel in religious confessions. To impress the man this being can't influence his thoughts in such a way that the man would have known: You shouldn't go to the party tonight.
This can't be the case, because all of our thoughts except those that are created through spiritual science belong to the physical plane and therefore can't be influenced from super-sensible realms.
With the exception of the spiritual-scientific ones mentioned we must lay our thoughts aside during sleep and after death. But our feelings and will impulses already reach into the super-sensible realm by themselves and therefore an impression can be made on them. This happens in the seeing of the doppelganger, for instance. But it could also be that someone sees his doppelganger not because the angelic being shows it to him, but because his etheric body became free even if only for a moment and that's why he sees his physical body before him. And it's also possible that one sees one's doppelganger simply because one has ruined one's stomach and therefore the etheric body — maybe only the parts that take care of the stomach — has become free momentarily. All these things must be carefully distinguished from each other.
And it can also be that the same impression that must be made — as in the poisoning case — is made in other ways. One man can see his doppelganger, while another enters a room as a painting falls from the wall with a loud and physically unexplainable crash. This approximately corresponds to one communication being written in English letters and another one in Latin ones. And so it doesn't make any sense to ask: Is what I saw real or not? An esoteric teacher will never explain an Imagination that one has only had once, but only if it occurs often or is important for other reasons. It's as if someone wrote BIN on the blackboard, and someone would say: I see a straight line, then two little arches, an upright line again and then three connected lines. Whereas someone else who has learned to read immediately says: that's bin. But there's no obvious reading of Imaginations — one first has to learn how to read them.
Or it may be that at the beginning of one's esoteric path one sees figures like this in the air:
Then he might go to an eye doctor and he would tell him that this is an eye disease. And from his standpoint the doctor is right — for him the whole belief in theosophy is a disease. But this just comes because the etheric body begins to make new movements and to momentarily transfer them to the physical body; that's why he sees the things. Some esoterics can now say: But then my physical body is harmed by the exercises if the etheric body works on it like that — and then they get a terrible fear of every little pain and trouble. But there's no danger from these things; the etheric body will eliminate these results by itself after awhile. There's only one remedy for this, and that's to persevere calmly. Occasionally someone comes and says: I have a terrible headache at the root of my nose; what should I do for it? — The best thing would be to do nothing for it, but to continue calmly with the meditations. Then the pains will get worse at first, and one will get a feeling as if one's head would split, but firstly it won't split, and secondly the pain will make it possible to break through the wall that separates us from the super-sensible. We can only develop further via pain and suffering. Then too the diseases that arise there are often the result of certain developmental conditions that one went through in a past life and that a soul in this life can't get rid of except through disease and suffering. When such a disease is over one will often be aware that one has gotten further in one's development. One should feel that everything that comes there is karma.