The inner life of man assumes another form from that of ordinary consciousness when it enters upon imaginative knowledge. His relationship to the world is also changed. This change is brought about by the concentration of all the powers of the soul on a presentation-complex which can easily be seen in its entirety. This last condition is necessary to avoid any kind of unconscious process playing a part in the meditation; for in this everything must come to pass only within the psychic and spiritual spheres. The man who thinks out a mathematical problem can be fairly certain that he is employing only psychic-spiritual forces. Unconscious memories, influenced by feeling or will, will not enter into it. It must be the same with Meditation. If we take for it a thought which is brought up out of memory, we cannot know how much at the same time we introduce into the consciousness from the physical, or instinctive, or unconsciously psychical, and cause it to react in the soul on the presentation during meditation. It is, therefore, best to choose for a subject of meditation something which one knows for certain to be quite new to the soul. If we seek advice on this point from an experienced spiritual investigator, he will lay particular stress on this. He will recommend a subject which is perfectly simple and which quite certainly cannot have occurred to us before. It is of no importance that the subject should even correspond with some known fact taken from the world of the senses. We can take as an idea something pictorial, but not necessarily representing a picture of the outer world, e.g., In Light lives streaming Wisdom. It depends on the power of reposeful meditation with such an image-presentation. The spiritual and psychic powers are strengthened by such a calm meditation just as the muscles are strengthened by performing a piece of work. The meditation can be short at a time, but it must be repeated over a long period to be successful. With one person success can be attained after a few weeks, with another only after years, according to natural predisposition. The man who wishes to be a true Spiritual Investigator must do such exercises systematically and intensively. The first result of meditation in the way here indicated is that the man who practises it has through his inner life a greater control over the statements of a Spiritual Investigator than the man of ordinary healthy intellect, though the latter, if sufficiently unfettered and unprejudiced, is also quite capable of such control.
Meditation must call to its aid the exercise in character strengthening, inner truthfulness, calmness of soul, self-possession and deliberation. For only then, when it is thoroughly imbued with these qualities, will the soul gradually imprint on the whole human organization what in meditation appears as a process.
When success is reached by means of such exercises, we find ourselves in the etheric organism. The thought-experience receives a new form. We experience the thoughts not only in the abstract form as before, but in such a way that one feels the power in them. Thoughts of former experience can only be thoughts, they have no power to stimulate action. Whereas the thoughts we now have, have as much power as the powers of growth which accompany man from childhood to maturity, and just for this reason it is necessary to carry out meditation in the right way. For if unconscious forces intervene in it, if it is not an act of complete and deliberate thoughtfulness, and done in self-possession taking a purely psychic and spiritual course, impulses are developed which step in as do the natural powers of growth in our own human organism. This must in no wise occur. Our own physical and etheric organism must remain completely untouched by meditation. The right kind of meditation enables us to live with the newly-developed power of thought-content quite outside our own physical and etheric organism. We have the etheric experience; and our organism itself attains to a personal experience of a relationship with a relative objectivity. We look at it (our organism) and in the form of thought it radiates back what we experience in the ether. This experience is healthy if we arrive at the condition in which we can with complete freedom of choice alternate between an existence in the ether and one in our physical body. The condition is not right if there is something which forces us into the etheric existence. We must be able to be in ourselves and outside ourselves in accordance with perfectly free orientation.
The first experience which we can win through such an inner labour is a review of the course of our own past life on earth. We see it as it has progressed by means of the powers of growth from childhood upwards. We see it in thought-pictures which are condensed into powers of growth. They are not simply remembered scenes of our own life which we have before us. They are pictures of an etheric course of events, which have happened in our own existence, without having been taken into the ordinary consciousness. That which the consciousness and memory hold is only the abstract accompanying appearance of the real course. It is, as it were, a surface wave which is in its shape the result of something deeper.
In the process of viewing this progress the working of the etheric Cosmos on man is brought out. We can experience this work as the subject-matter of Philosophy. It is wisdom, not in the abstract form of the conception, but rather in the form of the working of the etheric in the Cosmos.
In ordinary consciousness it is only the young child who has not yet learnt to speak who is in the same relationship to the Cosmos as the man who uses his imagination correctly. The child has not yet separated the powers of thought from the general (etheric) powers of growth. This happens only when he learns to speak. Then the powers of abstract thought are separated from the universal powers of growth which alone were previously present. In the course of his later life man has these powers of abstract thought, but they are part of his physical organism, and are not taken up into his etheric being. He cannot, therefore, bring his relationship to the etheric world into his consciousness. He can learn to do this , through Imagination.
A quite small child is an unconscious philosopher; the imaginative philosopher is again a small child, but wakened to full consciousness.
Through the exercise of Inspiration a new capacity is added to those already developed, namely, the capacity to obliterate from the consciousness pictures which have been dwelt upon in meditation. It must be clearly emphasized that here the capacity must be developed again to obliterate when one likes pictures which have previously been taken up in meditation by one's freewill. It is not enough to obliterate presentations which have not been implanted in the consciousness by free choice. It requires a greater psychic effort to abolish pictures which have been created in meditation than to extinguish those which have entered into the consciousness in another way. And we need this greater effort to advance in supersensible knowledge.
On such lines we achieve a wakeful, but quite empty soul-life; we remain in conscious wakefulness. If this condition is experienced in full thoughtfulness the soul becomes filled with spiritual facts, as through the senses it is filled with physical. And this is the condition of Inspiration. We live an inner life in the Cosmos just as we live an inner life in the physical organism. But we are aware that we are experiencing the cosmic life, that the spiritual things and processes of the Cosmos are being revealed to us as our own inner soul-life. Now the possibility must have remained of always momentarily exchanging this inner experience of the Cosmos with the condition of ordinary consciousness. For then we can always relate what we experience in Inspiration to something we experience in ordinary consciousness. We see in the Cosmos that is perceived by the senses a reproduction of what we have spiritually experienced. The process may be compared with that by which one compares a new experience in life with a memory-picture which rises in the consciousness. The spiritual outlook which we have won is like the new experience, and the physical view of the Cosmos like the memory-picture.
This spiritual outlook, thus attained, differs from the imaginative. In the latter we have general pictures of an etheric occurrence; in the former, pictures appear of spiritual beings who live and move in this etheric occurrence. What we know in the physical world as Sun and Moon, Planets and Fixed Stars, these we find again as Cosmic beings; and our own psychic-spiritual experience appears enclosed in the orbit of these cosmic essences. The physical organism of man now becomes intelligible for the first time, for not only all that his senses take in Contributes to its shape and life, but also the beings who work creatively in the affairs of the sense-world. Everything which is thus experienced through inspiration remains completely shut out from the ordinary consciousness. Man would only be conscious of it if he experienced the process of breathing in the same way as he experienced the process of observation. The cosmic disposition between man and world remains hidden for ordinary consciousness. The Yoga-philosophy seeks the road to a Cosmology whereby the process of breathing is transformed into a process of observation. Modern western man should not imitate that. In the course of human evolution he has entered upon an organization which for him excludes such Yoga-exercises. He would never through them get quite away from his organism, and so would not satisfy the requirement to leave untouched his physical and etheric organism. Such practices corresponded with a period of evolution which has gone by. But what was attained by them had to be gained in the same way as has just been described for inspired knowledge; the method, that is, of experiencing in a state of full consciousness what in past times man had to experience in waking dreams.
If the Philosopher is a child with fully-developed consciousness, the Cosmologist must become in a fully conscious way a man of past ages, in which the Spirit of the Cosmos could still be seen by means of natural faculties.
In Intuition man is completely translated through the exercises of the Will described last time together with his consciousness into the objective world of the cosmic, spiritual beings. He attains a condition of experience which alone on earth the first men had. They were in as close a connection with the inwardness of their cosmic surroundings as they were with the processes of their own bodies. And these processes were not completely unconscious as with modern man. They were reflected in the soul. Man felt in the soul his growth, and the chemical changes of his body, as in waking dream-pictures. And this experience enabled him to feel also the processes of his cosmic circumstances with their spiritual inwardness as in a dream. He had dreamlike intuition of which we find to-day only an echo in some people specially inclined to it. The world around him was, in the consciousness of primitive man, both material and spiritual; and what he experienced then in a semi-dream state was for him religious revelation, a direct continuation of the other aspects of his life. These experiences in the spirit world, of which primitive man was only half conscious, remain completely unknown to modern man. The man with supersensible, intuitive knowledge brings them into his full consciousness, and so in a new way he is transported back to the condition of primitive man, who still derived the religious content from his world-consciousness.
As the Philosopher resembles the fully-conscious child, and the Cosmologist the fully-conscious man of a past middle human period, so the man with religious cognition in a modern sense resembles primitive man, except that he experiences the spiritual world in his soul, not as in a dream, but with full consciousness.