The Higher Worlds is often a big mistery. At the present stage of
By Rudolf Steiner, Ph.D. – Authorized Translation from the Fourth Edition (Newly Revised)
During waking life the soul is given up to the impressions of the senses, and to the thoughts and pictures that these evoke in it. During
Let us now consider how it would be if
If the soul is capable of experiencing anything, even when sense-activities and recollection of such activities are lacking, then that soul would, so far as the external world is concerned, be “asleep”; and yet the soul would not be sleeping but awake to a world of reality.
Understanding the Higher Worlds
Now such a condition of consciousness can be attained if man makes these psychic experiences possible toward which occult science guides him. And everything that occult science tells us about those worlds beyond the sensible, has been found through such a condition of consciousness.
In the foregoing parts of this book certain communications have been made concerning the higher worlds; and in the following pages, as far as is possible in a book of this kind, methods will be discussed whereby the state of consciousness requisite for such investigations may be acquired.
This state of consciousness resembles that of sleep, in only one respect, namely: that through it, all outward sense activity ceases, and also all thoughts that might be aroused by the action of the senses, are obliterated. But although the soul has no power to experience anything consciously in sleep, yet it receives this power through this very state of consciousness. And through it, a capacity for experiencing is awakened in the soul which in everyday life can be awakened only through sense impressions. The awakening of the soul to this higher state of consciousness is called Initiation.
What does Higher Worlds really mean?
The methods of initiation lead man away from the state of ordinary day-consciousness into such a soul activity as enables him to use his spiritual organs of perception. Like germs, these organs lie dormant in the soul and must be developed. Now it may be that a person, at some particular moment of his earthly life, makes the discovery that these higher organs have developed within his soul without previous preparation.
It is a kind of involuntary self-awakening. Such a person will become conscious of a change affecting his entire being; his soul’s experiences will have been enriched beyond measure and he will find that no experiences of the sense-world can bring him such spiritual happiness, such soul satisfaction and inner warmth as that which now opens up to him, which no physical eye can see and no hand can touch.
From the spiritual world strength and a sense of security in all situations in life, will flow into his will. There are instances of such self-initiation, but they should not give rise to the idea that the only right course is to wait for the coming of such self-initiation and to do nothing toward bringing about initiation through regular training. We need not here give further space to the subject of self-initiation, since it may take place without regard to rules of any kind whatsoever.
What we have to consider is how by training, one may develop those organs of perception, lying dormant in the Soul.
Those who do not feel themselves especially impelled toward doing something for their own development may easily say that man stands under the guidance of spiritual powers, that such guidance should therefore not be interfered with, and that the moment, deemed by those powers to be the right one for revealing another world to the soul, should be awaited in patience. Indeed, persons who are of this opinion are inclined to consider it a kind of presumption, or unjustifiable desire for any one to interfere with the wisdom of such spiritual guidance.
What You Need to Know
about The Higher Worlds
Those who think in this way will only change their opinion if some other mode of presenting the case makes a sufficiently strong impression upon them. If they were to say to themselves, “This wise guidance has endowed me with certain faculties, and it has done so, not that I should let them lie idle, but rather that I should use them.
Indeed, the very wisdom of such guidance lies in the fact of its having placed in me the rudiments of those organs necessary for a higher state of consciousness. I can, therefore, rightly comprehend this guidance only when I regard it as my duty to do everything in my power that may serve to bring such rudimentary growths to their proper development.” Should such thoughts make a sufficiently strong impression on the mind, scruples against training for the attainment of higher consciousness will disappear.
There is, it is true, another scruple which may arise in the mind with regard to such schooling. A person may say to himself: “This development of the inner faculties of the soul means an invasion of man’s most hidden sanctuary.
It involves a certain change of the entire human being: the method for such a change cannot be worked out by any ordinary procedure of thought, for the manner in which the higher worlds are attained can be known only to those to whom the path has become visible by reason of experience.
The Truth about Higher Worlds
Now there are people possessing knowledge of the rules for developing the spiritual organs of perception who are of the opinion that these rules ought not to be entrusted to a book. These people, for the most part, consider the communication of certain truths relating to the spiritual world as forbidden. But this view must be characterized as in a certain sense out of date in view of the present stage of human evolution.
It is true that the communication of the rules referred to can be made only up to a certain point. Yet what is imparted leads so far that one who applies it to his soul-life makes such progress in knowledge that he is able to go on by himself. This way then leads onward in a manner of which a true idea can be gained only through what has been previously experienced. From all these facts, scruples may arise concerning the path of spiritual knowledge.
These scruples however disappear when one clearly understands the essential nature of that course of development which is adapted to our age. Of this latter method of developing we shall speak here and other methods will be only briefly referred to.
The method of training to be here discussed furnishes to him who has the will for a higher development, the means for accomplishing the transformation of his soul. Any questionable encroachment on the personality of the student would only then be possible, should the teacher proceed to carry out the change by methods of which the pupil was not conscious. But no true teacher of occult science in our day would make use of any such method, by which indeed, the pupil would be reduced to a blind tool.
The teacher gives his pupil instructions as to the rules of conduct he is to pursue, and the pupil carries them out. At the same time, should the case seem to demand it, the teacher does not withhold the reasons justifying these rules of conduct.
The acceptance of the rules, and their application by a person seeking spiritual
“How do these rules act upon the life of the soul?”
This question may be satisfactorily answered previous to any schooling by an unbiased use of common sense. Before these rules are adopted, true conceptions may be gained as to the way in which they operate. The effect can be experienced only during training, but even then the experience will always be accompanied by an understanding of the experience if each step that is to be taken is tested by sound judgment.
And in this age, any true spiritual science will only suggest such rules for training as can be vindicated by sound judgment. For him who is willing to simply trust himself to such schooling and does not permit prejudice to drive him into blind faith, all scruples will vanish and objections against regular training for higher states of consciousness will no longer disturb him.
Feeling the Higher Worlds
Even such people as may have arrived at a state of inward maturity,—which sooner or later would lead to the self-awakening of these spiritual organs of perception—even for these, training is by no means superfluous. On the contrary it is especially adapted to them. For there are but few cases in which personal initiation does not have to travel along tortuous and devious ways, and training spares them the traversing of such by-paths, leading them forward in a straight line. In cases where such self-initiation comes to a soul, the reason is that the required degree of ripeness had already been attained in the course of previous incarnations.
It may easily happen that such a soul possesses a certain dim intuition of its ripeness, and by reason of this very feeling may assume an attitude of disinclination toward training. A feeling of this kind may produce a certain degree of pride, which refuses to place confidence in a teacher. Now it can happen that a certain degree of soul development may remain hidden up to a certain age and only then reveal itself. But such schooling may be just the very means needed to call it forth. Should the person hold aloof from such training, it may happen that the power will remain dormant during that particular Life, and will only reappear in a later incarnation.
The rising to a supersensible state of consciousness can only proceed from ordinary waking day-consciousness. It is in this consciousness that the soul lives prior to its ascent, and schooling will furnish the means to lead it out of this consciousness.
The first steps which the schooling here under consideration prescribes, are such as can still be characterized as actions of the ordinary day-consciousness. It is just those quiet acts of the soul which are the most effective steps. This requires that the soul should give itself up to definite perceptions and these perceptions are such as are able by their very nature to exercise an awakening influence upon certain hidden faculties of the inner nature of man.
They thereby differ from those perceptions of waking day-life, whose purpose is to portray external objects. The more faithfully they present these things, the truer they are. It is, indeed, in accordance with their nature that they should be true in this sense, but this is not the mission of those perceptions which the soul is to consider, when in pursuit of spiritual training; and they are therefore so formed as not to present anything external, having rather within themselves the power to act upon the soul. The best percepts for the purpose are the emblematic or symbolic ones. Yet other percepts may be used.
For it does not depend at all on what the percepts contain, but solely on the fact that the soul puts forth all its powers in order not to have anything in the consciousness except the one percept in question.
Whereas in ordinary life, its forces are divided among many things and perceptions change rapidly, the important point in spiritual training is the concentration of the whole inner life upon one single perception. And this perception must be voluntarily brought to the center of one’s consciousness. Symbolic perceptions are better than those which reflect outer objects or events, because the latter is related to the outer world, and the soul has to depend less on itself than in the case of symbolic perceptions, formed by its own inner energy.
The chief object at which to aim is the intensity of the force to be exercised by the soul. It is not what is before the soul that is essential, but the greatness of the effort and the length of time spent concentrating upon one perception. Strength ascends from unknown depths of the soul, from which it is drawn up by concentration on one perception. Occult science contains many such perceptions, all of which have been proven to possess the power alluded to above.
Higher Worlds Concept Today
One gains a comprehension of this immersion or sinking down into a percept by calling the Memory-Concept before the soul. Say, for instance, that we allow the eye to rest on a tree, and then turn away from the object so that it is no longer presented to our sight; we shall, nevertheless, be able to retain the image of the tree in the soul. Now this image or perception of the tree which we have when it is no longer in sight, is a recollection of the tree. Then assume that this recollection is retained in the soul, and the soul reposes, as it were, in this recollection, taking care to exclude all other perceptions from the memory.
The soul then dwells in that memory-concept of the tree, and we then have to do with the immersion of the soul into a concept. Yet this concept is the image of an actual thing perceived through the senses. If however, of our own free will, we take such images into our consciousness, gradually the effect desired will be attained.
One example of meditation based upon a symbolical concept will now be placed before the reader. Such a concept must first be built up in the soul, and this may be done in the following manner. Let us think of a plant, calling to mind how it is rooted in the ground, the way in which leaf after leaf shoots forth, until finally the blossom unfolds. And then let us imagine a human being placed beside this plant, and let us call up in our soul the thought that he has qualities and characteristics which, when compared with those of the plant, will be found to be more perfect. We dwell on the fact that this being is able to move here and there, according to his will and his desires, while the plant remains stationary, rooted in the soil.
But now let us also consider: Yes, man is certainly more perfect than the plant; but on the other hand, I find in him qualities which I cannot perceive in the plant and through the lack of which, the plant appears more perfect than
Also, then again, we call to mind the red blood as it courses through the veins of man, and we recognize in it an expression of man’s instincts, his passions
Now we gaze in spirit on the rose and say to ourselves: “In the red sap of the rose is the erstwhile green sap of the plant—now changed to crimson—and the red rose follows the same pure, passionless laws of growth as does the green leaf.” Thus the red of the rose may offer us a symbol of a kind of blood which is the expression of cleansed impulses and passions, purged of all lower elements, and resembling in their purity the forces working in the red rose. Let us now try not only to assimilate such thoughts within our reason, but also let them come to life within our feelings. We can experience a blissful sensation when contemplating the purity and passionless nature of the growing plant.
We can awaken the feeling within us how certain higher perfections must be paid for through the acquisition of passions and desires. This, then, can change the blissful sensation previously experienced into a serious mood: and then only can it stir within us the feeling of liberating happiness, if we abandon ourselves to the thought of the red blood that can become the carrier of inner pure experiences, like the red sap of the rose. The important point is that we should not look coldly and without feeling upon these thoughts which serve to build up such a symbolical concept. After dwelling for a time upon the above mentioned thoughts and feelings, let us try to transmute them into the following symbolical concept. Let us imagine a black cross. Let this be the symbol for the destroyed lower element of our desires and passions and there where the beams of the cross intersect, let us imagine seven red radiating roses arranged in a circle. Let these roses be the symbol for a blood that is the expression of cleansed and purified passions and desires.
Now we must call up this symbolical concept before our soul just as has been described in the case of a memory-concept. Such a concept has an awakening power if one abandons oneself to it in inner meditation. One must try during this meditation to exclude all other concepts. Only the described symbol must float before the soul as vividly as possible.
It is not without significance that this symbol has been introduced, not merely as an awakening percept, but because it has been constructed out of certain perceptions concerning plants and man. For the effect of such a symbol depends upon the fact of its being put together in this definite manner, before employing it as an instrument for meditation. Should it be called up without a previous process of construction such as has here been delineated, the picture must remain cold and will be far less effective than if it had by previous preparation gathered force with which to give warmth to the soul.
During meditation, however, one should not call up in the soul all the preparatory thoughts, but merely allow the life-like image to float before one’s mind and at the same time permit those feelings which are the result of these preparatory thoughts to vibrate with it. Thus the symbol becomes a sign, co-existent with the inner experience. And it is the dwelling of the soul in this experience that is the active principle. The longer one can do this, without admitting disturbing impressions, the more effective
It is well, however, in addition to the time used in meditation itself, to repeat the building up of the image through the feelings, as described above, so that the corresponding sensation may not pale.
The greater the patience brought to bear in performing these acts of repetition, the more effective becomes this image for the soul.
Such a symbol as has just been described represents no external object or being evolved by nature, but for this very reason it possesses an awakening power for certain inner faculties. It is true, someone may raise the objection: certainly the “whole” as a symbol, does not exist in nature; yet all its details are borrowed from nature, the black color, the roses, etc. It can all be observed through the senses. He who is troubled by such objections, ought to consider that it is not the images of these sense perceptions that awaken the higher faculties of the soul, but that this result is produced purely by the manner in which these details are combined. And this combination does not then picture something that exists in the sense-world.
A symbol was chosen as an example to show the process of effective meditation of the soul. Many symbols of this kind are used in occult training and are built up according to varying methods. Certain sentences, formulæ, and single words can also be given as subjects for meditations, and in every case the means used will have the same object, namely: to detach the soul from sense-impressions and to stimulate it to an activity in which the impressions of the physical senses play no longer any part and in which the unfoldment of inner latent soul capacities becomes the essential.
There are, however, also meditations based exclusively upon feelings, sensations, etc., and these are especially effectual. Let us, for instance, take the feeling of joy. In the normal course of
But the soul can lift itself above the perception of any particular case in the outer world which has given it joy or
Occult science being in a position to penetrate far deeper into the being of things than can be done by ordinary perception, the teacher will be able to indicate to the pupil feelings and sentiments which are still more powerful as awakening agents for the unfolding of the soul’s faculties when used as subjects of meditation. Yet, necessary as this will be for the higher degrees of training, it should be remembered that energetic meditating upon subjects, such as kindness of heart may carry the student very far on his way.
Since the natures of human beings differ, special methods of training are effective for particular individuals. As to the duration of time to be devoted to meditation, we may remind the student that the greater the length of time during which he can meditate uninterruptedly, the stronger will be the effect. But every excess in these matters should be avoided. There is, however, a certain inner discretion, resulting from these exercises themselves which teaches the pupil to keep within due bounds in this regard. Those who pursue their studies in occult science under the personal guidance of a teacher will receive from him precise instruction and advice in these particulars. Nevertheless, it must be emphatically understood that only experienced occultists are in a position to impart such advice.
Such exercises in meditation will generally require practice for some time before the student can become aware of any result. What is essential to occult science is patience and perseverance. He who is unable to awaken these two qualities within himself and who cannot continually practice his exercises in quietude, so that patience and perseverance are always the predominant note in his soul-life, cannot attain very great progress. From what has been said above, the reader will have gathered that meditation is a means of acquiring knowledge of the higher worlds, but he will also see that not just any percept whatsoever, taken at random, is productive of this result, but only those of the kind before-mentioned.
The path here indicated leads in the first place to what is called imaginative knowledge, and this is the first step toward
Now the term “imaginative” can cause confusion in the minds of some, to whom “imagination” stands only for “imaginings”—that is concepts that lack reality. In occult science, however, “imaginative” cognition must be understood to be that kind of cognition
A very natural objection to the use of the symbolic pictures here characterized is that they arise from a dreamy thinking and an arbitrary imagination, and might
The process of meditations is best demonstrated by comparison with sleep. In one respect it is like the state of sleep; in another, the exact opposite of it. It is a sleep which when compared to the day-consciousness, represents a higher state of being. The point is that by concentration on the given conception or image, the soul is obliged to call up much stronger forces out of its own depths than it uses in ordinary life or knowledge. Its inner activity is thereby enhanced. It becomes detached from the body, as it does in sleep; but instead of passing, as in the latter case, into unconsciousness, it experiences a world it did not know before. Although as regards detachment from the body this condition may be compared with sleep, yet it is such that, compared with ordinary waking consciousness, it may be characterized as a more intense waking state.
By this means the soul learns to know itself in its true, inner, independent being. But in ordinary life, owing to the weaker development of its forces, it is only with the help of the body that the soul arrives at self-consciousness. Therefore it does not experience itself but merely sees itself in that image which—like a kind of reflection—is traced, by the physical body (or, properly speaking, by its processes).
These symbols built up in the manner above described are not as yet related to anything real in the spiritual world, but they serve to detach the human soul from sense-observations and from that instrument, the brain, to which the reason is at first fettered. This detachment is not effected until man is able to feel: “I am now perceiving something by means of powers for which neither my senses nor my brain
He is then able to say to himself: “My consciousness does not vanish when I cease to take cognizance of sense-perceptions and ordinary reasoned thought; I can lift myself out of those conditions and then feel myself as a being alongside
Had this detachment from the world of the senses and from the reason been effected without meditation, the person would have lapsed into the nothingness of the unconscious state. This psycho-spiritual being was our possession prior to meditation also, but it then lacked the organs for
It belongs to the nature of spiritual training that the soul, through the
The soul must be able to act with complete independence within these images. This is part of true spiritual training at this stage. If it could not do this, it would be in the same position, in the sphere of spiritual experiences, as a soul in the physical world which, on looking at an object, has its attention so arrested by it that it cannot look away. An exception to this possibility of obliteration is formed by a group of inner imaginative experiences which should not be extinguished at this stage of spiritual training. They
correspond to the inmost kernel of the soul’s being, and the occult student recognizes in those images that which forms the very essence of his being which passes through the various repeated earth lives. At this point the knowledge of repeated earth lives becomes an actual experience. In relation to everything else the before-mentioned independence of experience must prevail. And only after acquiring the faculty of obliterating experiences, is the spiritual outer world really approached. What is obliterated returns in another form, and is experienced as a spiritual outer reality. One feels that out of something indefinite one grows psychically into something definite. From this self-perception, one must then proceed to the observation of a psycho-spiritual outer world. This comes to pass when we can order our inner experience after the manner to be indicated in the following pages.
At first, the soul of the occult student is feeble in all that appertains to a perception of the psycho-spiritual world; and he will therefore need all the inner energy he can summon in order, while meditating, to hold firm the symbols or other concepts which he has built up from the impulses of the sense-world. Should he, however, desire to attain to an actual observation of the higher world, he will not alone have to maintain his hold on these, he must also, after having done this, be able to remain in a condition in which not only no influences of the outer sense-world can affect the soul, but in which also the images above characterized shall have been effaced from his consciousness.
Only now can that which has been previously formed by means of meditation enter the plane of his consciousness. The important point is that there should be at this stage sufficient soul force to spiritually perceive that which has thus been formed through meditation, so that it may not elude the observer’s attention, as is always the case if this inner energy is still insufficiently developed.
That which is here evolved as a psycho-spiritual organism and which should be comprehended through self-perception, is delicate and subtle. The disturbing influences of the outer sense-world, however one may try to exclude them, are nevertheless great. It is not merely a question of those disturbances to which we are able to pay heed, but far more of those which in ordinary life are ever eluding our notice. But it is just through the very nature of man that a transitory condition in this respect becomes possible. What the soul, in its waking state, was powerless to effect, owing to the disturbances of the physical world, it is capable of achieving during sleep. One who gives himself up to serious meditation will, with the proper attention, become aware of a certain change in his sleep.
He will feel that while sleeping, he is yet not quite asleep, but that his soul has times when, although asleep, still it is, in a certain way, active. During these conditions, nature wards off the influences of the outer world which the waking soul is not yet able to keep away of its own strength. When, however, the meditation exercises have taken effect, the soul, during sleep, detaches itself from unconsciousness, and becomes aware of the psycho-spiritual world. This can happen in two ways: the person may, while asleep, become aware that is is in another world, or he may, after awakening, remember that he has been in another world. But the former of these two feelings requires the greater degree of inner energy, for which reason the second is the more common among beginners in occult training. But it may gradually come to pass that the student will become aware of having been during the entire time of sleep in this other world, only emerging therefrom when he awakes.
And his memory of beings and facts connected with this other world will become ever more and more distinct, thus showing that in one form or another he has now entered upon what one may call continuity of consciousness. (The continuation of consciousness during sleep.)
Still, for this to be so, it is not necessary that man’s consciousness should always continue during sleep. Much will already have been attained in the matter of the continuity of consciousness should the person, whose sleep is in general like that of the ordinary individual, have certain periods during his sleeping hours when he is aware of being in the psycho-spiritual world; or if, on awakening, he is able to remember such a condition of consciousness. It should, however, be borne in mind that what is here described is to be understood only as a transition state. It is well to pass through this state as a part of training; yet it should not be imagined that any conclusive views concerning the psycho-spiritual world may be gained from this transition state, for in this condition the soul is uncertain, and unable as yet to rely upon its own perceptions.
But through such experiences, the soul gathers ever more strength enabling it also during waking hours to ward off the disturbing influences of the physical outer and inner world and thus to attain psycho-spiritual observation. Then impressions through the senses no longer reach the soul; the brain-fettered reason is silent and even the image of the meditation, through which one has only prepared oneself for spiritual vision, has been dropped from consciousness. Whatever is given out through occult science in this or that form should never originate in any psycho-spiritual observation other than that which is made with fully waking consciousness. The first experience is one in which the student can say to himself: Even should I now disregard everything that can come to me through impressions from the outer physical world, still I look upon my inner being not as upon one in which all activity has ceased, but I look upon a being which is self-conscious in a world of which I know nothing as long as I permit myself to be governed only by the impressions of ordinary reason and of the senses. The soul at this moment has the sensation that, in the manner described above, it has given birth to a new being as its own essential soul-kernel. And the being possesses totally different qualities from those which were previously present in the soul.
The second experience of the soul is one in which man has his former being, like a second independent one, alongside of himself. That which had up to this time been imprisoned, evolves now into something we are able to confront; we feel, in fact, at certain times outside of what we have been accustomed to regard as our own being, as our own ego. It is as though one now lived in two egos,—one, which we have hitherto known; the other, a newly born being, superior to the first,—and we become aware that the former ego acquires a certain independence in its relationship to the second, just as the physical body has a certain measure of freedom in its relation to that first ego.
This is an event of great importance, for through it man comes to know what it means to live in that world which he has been endeavoring to reach by means of training. It is this second, this new-born, ego which can be led to
To meet properly this stage of spiritual training one must take into account that with the strengthening of the forces of the soul a degree of self-love and egoism appears with such intensity as is quite unknown in the ordinary life of the soul. It would be a mistake for anyone to think that it is only a case of ordinary self-love at this point. Self-love becomes so strong at this stage of development that it acquires the strength of a nature-force within the soul, and a vigorous training of the will is necessary in order to conquer this powerful egoism. This training of the will must go hand in hand with the rest of the spiritual training. A strong inclination exists to feel absolutely happy in a world which we have gradually created for ourselves. And we must be able to obliterate, in the manner above described, that to which we have previously devoted ourselves with all our powers. We must efface ourselves in the imaginative world we have reached. But this effacement is opposed by the strongest impulses of egoism.
The idea might easily arise that the exercises in spiritual training are something merely external which have no connection with the moral
Only he who passes through such an experience might advance the following objections: how can one be sure to be dealing with actualities, and not with mere fancies, visions or hallucinations, when he thinks he is having spiritual perceptions? Now the matter lies thus: every person, who has been systematically trained and who has arrived at the stage already characterized, will be in a position to note the difference between his own percept and a spiritual reality, just as well as a man endowed with sound sense knows the difference between the percept of a bar of hot iron and the actual presence of such a bar that he touches with his hand. The difference is determined by experience and by nothing else; and in the spiritual world, too, life is the touchstone.
Just as we know that in the world of the senses an imagined bar of iron, however hot, will burn no one’s fingers, so does the trained occultist know whether he is passing through a spiritual experience merely in his imagination or whether his awakened spiritual organs of perceptions are impressed by actual facts or beings. The precautions to be taken during schooling, in order that the student may not fall a victim to such delusions will be dealt with in the following pages.
It is of the greatest importance that the student should have attained to a certain very definite condition of the soul when the consciousness of the new-born ego commences. For through his ego, man is the ruler of his sensations, feelings, and conceptions, his impulses, desires, and passions. Observations and percepts cannot be left in the soul to follow their own devices; they must be regulated according to the laws of thought. And it is the ego, as it were, that controls these thought-laws, and by means of them brings order into the life of perception and thought.
It is similar with regard to desires and passions, inclinations and impulses. The fundamental ethical laws become the guides of these forces of the soul, and by reason of the moral judgment, the ego becomes the soul’s guide within this domain. Now if a person detaches a higher ego from his ordinary ego, the latter becomes to a certain extent independent. That much life-power is now taken away from it as is needed for the use of that higher ego. But let us consider the case of a person who has not, as yet, developed certain ability and firmness in exercising the laws of thought and in the power of judgment, but who nevertheless desires to bring about the birth of his higher ego.
He will be able to leave to his ordinary ego only as much thought capacity as he has previously developed. If the amount of well-ordered thinking is insufficient, then the ordinary ego which has now become independent, will certainly fall victim to confused, disordered, fantastic thoughts and judgment, and moreover, since in such a case the new-born ego must inevitably be weak also, the disordered lower ego will gain the upper hand, and the person will lose his ability for balanced judgment. Had he developed sufficient capability and firmness in logical thinking, he might have calmly left his ordinary ego to go its own way.
In the ethical sphere it is precisely the same. Should a person not have attained firmness in the matter of his moral judgment, should he not have become sufficiently master over his inclinations, impulses, and passions, he will then render his ordinary ego independent while in a condition in which it will be overwhelmed by all these soul forces. It may then happen that the person will become worse through the birth of his higher ego than he was before. Had he waited to bring about this birth until he had sufficiently developed his ordinary self, attaining firmness in the matter of ethical judgment, stability of character, and depth of conscience, he would then have been in a position to have all these virtues left within that first ego when the birth of the second came about. Neglecting to do so, however, lays him open to the danger of losing his moral balance, which under the right course of training cannot happen.
Two things must here be borne in mind. First, that the facts above related should be taken as seriously as possible; secondly, that, on the other hand, they should in no way deter one from entering upon such training.
Anyone who has the firm intention of doing all in his power that may give confidence to the first ego in the execution of what it has to fulfil, need never be dismayed when the second ego becomes detached as the result of such spiritual training. Yet he must remember that the power of self-delusion in man is very great with regard to the belief that he has now reached the stage of “ripeness” for any special thing.
During the spiritual training here described the student develops his thought-life to such an extent that he is not exposed to dangers which are often thought to be connected with training. This cultivation of thought brings about all the inner experiences that are
Systematic training points out certain qualities which the student must acquire by means of exercises, in order to find the way to the higher worlds and especial stress is laid on the following,—control of the soul over its thoughts, its will, and its feelings. The manner in which this control is acquired through exercise has a dual aim. On the one hand, the soul by this practice acquires a firmness, reliance, and balance, which will not forsake it even after the birth of the second ego; and on the other hand, this latter ego is provided with strength and inner fortitude for its journey.
What is required is that man’s thinking power shall in all domains conform to facts. In the physical world of the senses, life is the great teacher of the human ego with regard to reality. Were the soul to allow its thoughts to roam aimlessly hither and thither, it would soon be corrected by life, unless it were willing to enter into combat with it; the soul must conform its thoughts to the facts of life. Now, when man leads his thoughts away from the world of the physical senses, he misses the corrective influence of this latter. If his thought is not able to be its own mentor, it will be as unsteady as a will-o’-the-wisp. Consequently, the student’s thought must be exercised in such a way that its course and object are self-determined. Inner firmness and a capacity to concentrate strictly on one object: this is what such thinking must of itself engender. And for this reason the thought exercises should not be concerned with complicated objects or those foreign to life, but should, on the contrary, deal with those that are simple and familiar. Any one who succeeds in fixing his mind, over a period of several months and for a space of at least five minutes a day, on such ordinary objects as a pin or a lead pencil, excluding for the time being all other thoughts not concerned with the object under contemplation, will have accomplished much in the right direction. (A new article may be chosen each day, or the same one adhered to for the space of several days.)
Even those who feel themselves to be “thinkers” need not despise this method of preparing themselves for occult training, because by fixing the attention for a time upon a really familiar object one may be sure that he will be thinking in accordance with facts, and one who asks himself the questions: “What are the constituent parts of a pencil?” “How are these materials prepared?” “How are they afterwards put together?” “When were pencils invented, etc.?” will surely be adapting his perceptions to realities more than he who meditates on the descent of man, or asks himself what life is.
Simple thought exercises prepare us better for an adequate concept of the world in its Saturn, Sun, and Moon stages of development than those based on learned and complicated ideas. For the important thing is not at all just to think, but to think in conformity with facts by means of an inner force. Once one has been trained to accuracy by means of an obvious, physical sense process, the desire to think in conformity with facts will have become habitual, even if thought does not feel itself under the control of the physical sense-world and its laws; we then lose the tendency to let our thoughts drift about aimlessly.
And as in the world of thought, so in the realm of the will, the soul must become the ruler. In the physical sense-world, it is a life that rules. It urges upon man this or that as a necessity, and the will feels constrained to satisfy these same wants. In following higher training, man must accustom himself to obey his own commands strictly, and those who acquire this habit will feel less and less inclined to desire what is of no moment. All that is unsatisfying and unstable in the life of the will comes from the desire for things of the possession of which we have formed no distinct concept. Discontent such as this may, when the higher ego is desirous of emerging from the soul, throw that person’s whole inner life into disorder; and it is a good exercise to give oneself for the space of several months some command to be carried out at a specified time of day: “To-day, at this or that particular hour, you will do this or that thing.”
Thus we gradually become able to command the time at which a thing is to be done and the manner in which it is to be performed, so as to admit of its being accomplished with the utmost exactitude. Thus we lift ourselves above the bad habit of saying, “I should like this,” and “I want the other,” while exercising no thought of the possibility of its accomplishment.
In the second part of Faust, Goethe puts the following words into the mouth of a seeress: “Him I love who craves the impossible,” and Goethe himself, in his “Prose Proverbs,” says: “To live in the idea means treating the impossible as though ‘t were possible.”
Such sentiments must not be put forward as objections against what has here been stated, for the demands made by Goethe and his seeress (Manto) can be fulfilled only by those who have first educated themselves through desire for that which is possible, and have in so doing, arrived at being able, by means of their strong “will,” to treat the “impossible” in such a manner that through their willing it becomes transformed into the possible.
A certain equanimity should pervade the soul of the occult student concerning the world of feeling. And to attain this result, it is necessary that the soul should have mastery over the expressions of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. But it is just concerning the acquisition of this faculty that some prejudice might arise: one might be afraid of becoming dull and indifferent if he does not “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
Yet this is not what is meant. What is pleasurable should rejoice the soul, and sorrow should give it pain, but what the soul is to learn to achieve is control over the expression of joy and sorrow. If that is his aim, the student will become aware that, far from becoming “dull and unsympathetic,” he will be growing all the more receptive to the joy and sorrow around him. But it is true that the student will here find that he needs to watch himself carefully for a considerable time to be able to acquire the faculty indicated. He must be careful to see that he partakes of pain and pleasure to the full, yet without so giving himself up to either that he gives involuntary expression to it. It is not justified sorrow that should be suppressed, but the involuntary weeping; not the revulsion against a mean act, but the blind raging in anger; not the precaution against danger, but the senseless “being afraid,” etc.
It is only by means of such exercises that the occult student can gain the inner calmness of soul necessary in order that, at the birth of the higher ego, the soul may not find itself as a kind of double, leading a second and unhealthy life alongside
For it should be emphatically understood that in the matter of occult training it is not so much a question of what we may already seem to possess, but of carefully and regularly practicing what we need. Contradictory as this phrase may appear, it is nevertheless true that though life may have trained us to this or to that, the qualities to serve us in occult training are those that we have acquired for ourselves. Should life have rendered us excitable, we must train ourselves to
Thought and feeling may be cultivated by yet another means, namely, by the acquirement of the characteristic known as positiveness. There is a beautiful legend in which it is related of Christ Jesus, that He, with others, passed the dead body of a dog. The others turned aside from the hideous sight, but Christ Jesus spoke admiringly of the creature’s beautiful teeth. One can, through practice, attain to the condition of mind in regard to the world, which is indicated in this legend. Error, vice, and ugliness should not deter the soul from seeing truth, goodness, and beauty, wherever they are to be found.
Nor is this positiveness to be mistaken for want of judgment, or for deliberately closing the eyes to what is bad, false, and inferior. He who can admire the beautiful teeth of a decaying animal can also see that decaying corpse—yet the corpse does not hinder his observing the beauty of the teeth. Thus, though what is bad cannot be deemed good, nor error acclaimed as truth, we can yet train ourselves so that what is bad need not prevent us from recognizing what is good, nor need errors render us insensible to that which is true.
Thought, combined with will, attains to a certain maturity if we strive never to allow what we have already experienced or learned to rob us of our unbiased receptiveness for new experiences. Such a thought as: “I have never heard that before; I don’t believe it!” should lose all significance where the occult student is concerned; indeed, he should endeavour, for a fixed period of time, to allow every thing and every creature to convey something new to his mind. Every breath of air, every leaf on the tree, the prattling of a child,—each and all will teach him something, provided he be willing to bring a different point of view to bear upon it from the one he has hitherto held.
It may, of course, be possible to go too far in this particular, and we must not at any time lose sight of the experiences we have previously had. Indeed, what we experience in the present should be judged in accordance with the sum of our past experiences. These must be laid on one side of the scale, while on the other the occult student should place an inclination for ever gathering new knowledge. Above all, a belief in the possibility that new experiences may contradict the old.
Thus we have enumerated those five qualities of the soul which the occult student in regular training, should acquire; control of the trend of his thoughts; control of the impulses of his will; equanimity in sorrow and joy; positiveness in his judgment of the world; and impartiality in his view of life. After giving consecutive periods of time to the acquiring of these qualities through continued practice, the student must go still further, and bring all these qualities into a harmonious whole within the soul, to achieve which, he will have to practice the exercises in twos and twos together, or three and one, simultaneously, so as to bring about the harmony desired.
The exercises indicated above are thus given out by occult teaching because if faithfully carried out, they not only produce in the occult student what we have called above direct results, but they lead indirectly to much else that is needed on the path to the higher worlds. He who practices these exercises sufficiently will, while doing so, become aware of many a lack and many a failing in his own soul-life, and he will at the same time find in them the very means necessary to give strength and security to the intellect, to the emotional tendencies, and to the character as well.
He will assuredly need many additional exercises, according to his capacities, temperament, and character; these, however, will present themselves if the above be frequently carried out. Indeed, one will notice that the already indicated exercises, indirectly, gradually yield that which at first does not seem to be in them. A person endowed with but little self-confidence, for instance, finds in the course of time, that by persistent practice the needed confidence in himself has come about. And it is the same with many other soul qualities.
It is a matter of significance that the occult student is capable of raising these capabilities to ever higher degrees; and he must succeed in so controlling his thoughts and feelings that the soul will have power to maintain complete inner quietude for certain periods of time—periods during which he can keep out of his mind and heart all those things that in any way concern the outer everyday life, its joys and sorrows, its pleasures and cares, even its tasks and demands. At such a time nothing should be allowed entrance into the soul except what the soul itself admits. An abjection may easily be made to this. One might imagine that alienation must result if the student withdraws in heart and spirit from life and its duties for a certain part of the day. Yet in reality, this is by no means the case. For those who, in the above manner, give themselves up to periods of inner quietude and peace will find that out of these there grows such a fund of energy for fulfilling the outer duties of life that they are not only not less efficiently performed, but assuredly more so.
It is of great benefit at such times to detach oneself entirely from thoughts of personal
Those who thus exert themselves to regulate their soul-life will arrive at the possibility of a degree of self-observation that will permit them to review their personal affairs with the same tranquillity as those of others. Seeing one’s own experiences and one’s own joys and sorrows in the light in which those of another appear, is a good preparation for occult training. We bring this exercise gradually to the necessary stage, if, after the day’s work is over, we allow the pictures of the day’s occurrences to pass before the mind’s eye. We would then see ourselves within our own experiences as in a picture; in other words, we would look at ourselves in our daily life, as an outside observer.
A certain practice in self-observation having been gained by concentrating the attention upon short divisions of the day’s experience, the student will become more and more expert in this kind of retrospect, continued practice enabling him to review the events of the whole day completely and quickly. It will become ever more and more the
The conditions here described must be fulfilled, because supersensible experience is built upon the foundation on which the student stands in his ordinary soul-life, before he enters the supersensible world. In a two-fold way, all supersensible experience is dependent upon the soul’s point of departure before entering that world. One who is not intent, from the outset, on making sound powers of judgment the foundation of his spiritual training will develop supersensible capacities which perceive the spiritual world inaccurately and incorrectly. To a certain extent his spiritual organs of perception will develop in the wrong way. And just as a man with a defective or diseased eye cannot see correctly in the sense-world, so it is not possible to have true perceptions with spiritual organs which are not built upon the foundation of sound powers of judgment.
One who starts from an immoral state of soul rises into the spiritual worlds with his spiritual vision stupified and clouded. In regard to supersensible worlds he is like a person in the sense-world who makes observations in a state of lethargy. The latter, however, will not be able to make any statements of consequence, whereas the spiritual observer, even in his stupefaction, is more awake than a person in the ordinary state of consciousness, and the results of his observations will therefore be erroneous in regard to the spiritual world.
The highest possibilities of imaginative cognition can be realized by supporting the aforesaid meditations by that which one might call “sense-free” thinking. Now when we formulate an idea based upon observations made in the physical sense-world, our thought is not free from sense-impressions. Yet it is not as though man could formulate only such ideas: human thought need not become void and meaningless simply because it is not filled with observations derived through the channels of the senses.
The most direct and the safest way for the occult student to acquire this “sense-free” thinking, is to make the facts of the higher worlds presented by occult science, the subject of his thoughts. These facts cannot be observed by means of the physical senses; nevertheless, the student will find that he will be able to grasp them—if only he has enough patience and perseverance. No one can explore higher worlds, or make his own observations therein, without having been trained. But it is quite possible without training to understand everything which investigators communicate about those regions. Should anyone ask, “How can I accept on trust what the occultist tells me, being myself as yet unable to see it?”—such an objection would be groundless, for it is perfectly possible to arrive through mere reflective thinking at the sure conviction that the matters thus communicated are true.
If a man is unable, through reflecting, to arrive at such a conviction, the reason is not that he cannot possibly “believe” something he cannot see, but simply because he has not as yet applied his powers of reflective thinking in a sufficiently unbiased, comprehensive and profound manner.
In order to be clear on this point, it must be borne in mind that human thought, if it arouses itself to energetic activity, can understand more than it usually imagines possible. For in thought there is an inner essence which is in connection with the supersensible world. The soul is not usually conscious of this connection, because it is wont to train its faculty of thought only through the world of sense. On this account it thinks incomprehensible what is imparted to it from the supersensible world. What is thus communicated is, however, not only intelligible to thought which has been spiritually trained, but to any thinking which is fully conscious of its power and is willing to make use of it.
By the persevering assimilation of what occult teachers are able to impart to us we habituate ourselves to a line of thought that is not derived from sense-observation, and we learn to recognize how, within the soul, one thought is allied to another, and how one thought calls forth another, even when the connection of ideas is not occasioned by any power of sense-observation.
The essential point is that by this method we become aware of the fact that the world of thought possesses an inner life, and that while we are engaged in thought we are, indeed, in the realm of
“Out there in space,” says the observer of the sense-world, “is a rose: it is not unfamiliar to me, for both scent and colour proclaim its presence.” And in like manner, when sense-free thought is working within us, we need only be sufficiently unbiased in order to be able to say: “Something real proclaims its presence to me, linking thought to thought and constituting a thought-organism”—only there is a difference to be noted between the communication coming to the observer from the outer world of the senses, and that which actually reaches the sense-free thinker. The former feels that he is standing without—in front of the rose—whereas he who has given himself up to thinking which is untrammelled by the senses will feel within himself whatever thus proclaims its presence to him; he will feel himself one with it.
Those who, more or less, unconsciously consider as beings only that which they can perceive as external objects, will, it is true, be unable to entertain the feeling that whatever has the nature of a being, can also manifest itself within man by his becoming one with it. In order to judge correctly one must be able to have the following inner experiences: one must learn to distinguish between the thought combinations created through one’s own volition, and those experienced without any voluntary exercise of the will. In the latter case, we may then say: I remain quite still within myself; I produce no trains of thought;
I yield to that which “thinks within me.” Then we are fully justified in saying: Within me a being is acting, just as we are justified in saying that the rose acts upon us when we see a certain
Nor is there any contradiction in having derived the contents of our ideas from communications made by the occult seer. The ideas are, it is true already there when we devote ourselves to them; yet they cannot be “thought”, without in each case being created anew within the soul. The important point is that the occult teacher seeks to awaken in his hearers and readers the kind of thoughts which they must first call forth from within themselves, whereas he who describes some physical object indicates something that the listener or reader may observe within the sense-world.
(The path which leads to sense-free thinking by means of the communications made by occult science is thoroughly safe. But there is also another method even safer and above all things more exact, yet for this very reason more difficult for the majority. This method is set forth in my two books, “Goethe’s Conception of the World” and “The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity.” These writings set forth what human thought can achieve for itself, if the thinking is not under the influence of the physical sense impressions but relies merely upon itself. Then pure thinking works within man like a living being. At the same time nothing in the above-mentioned writings is derived from communications due to occult science itself, and yet it is shown that pure, self-reliant thinking can obtain information about the world, life
These writings therefore occupy a very important intermediate position between the actual cognition of the sense-world and that of the spiritual world. They present that which thinking can gain when it raises itself above sense-observation and yet does not enter into occult research. Anyone who allows these books to work upon his whole soul, already stands within the spiritual world, but it appears to him as a world of thought. Those who are in a position to allow this intermediate condition to act upon them, will be following a safe and sane path and can thus win for themselves a feeling concerning the higher worlds, which will for all future time ensure for them most abundant results.)
The object of meditating upon the above described symbolical concepts and feelings is, strictly speaking, the development of the higher organs of cognition within man’s astral body. They are in the first place created from the substance of the astral body. These new organs of observation establish a connection with a new world wherein man learns to know himself as a new ego.
These new organs of perception are first of all to be distinguished from those of the physical sense-world by being active organs. Whereas the eye and ear are passive, allowing light and sound to work upon them, it may be said of these perceptive organs of the soul and spirit that, while functioning they are in a perpetual state of activity, and that they seize hold of their objects and facts, as it were, in full consciousness. This gives rise to the feeling that psycho-spiritual cognition is a union with,—a “dwelling within,”—the corresponding facts.
These separately evolving psycho-spiritual organs may be compared to “lotus flowers” corresponding to the appearance which they present to the clairvoyant consciousness, as they are formed from the substance of the astral body
Very definite kinds of meditation act upon the astral body in such manner that certain psycho-spiritual organs, the so-called “lotus flowers,” are developed. Any proper meditation undertaken with the view of attaining to imaginative cognition has its effect upon one or another of these organs.
A regular course of training arranges and orders the separate exercises to be
It is, however, quite possible that before actual illumination, the student may get repeated “flashes of light” from a higher world. These he should receive gratefully. Even these can make him a witness of the spiritual realms. Yet he must not falter should this never be vouchsafed him during his entire period of preparation, and should its consequent duration seem all too long to him. Indeed, those who yield to impatience “because they can as yet see nothing,” have not yet acquired the right attitude toward the higher worlds.
Those alone will be in a position to grasp this who can view the exercises they undertake as an object in themselves. For this practice is in truth a working on something psycho-spiritual, namely, on their own astral body; even though they do not “see,” they can “feel” that they are working on the psycho-spiritual plane. Only when we have a preconceived idea of what we “wish to see,” are we unable to experience this feeling. In that case we may consider as nothing what is, in reality, of immeasurable importance. But one should observe minutely everything which one experiences while practicing,—experiences which are so fundamentally different from those of the sense-world. We shall then become aware that we cannot work upon our astral body as though it were some indifferent substance; but that in it there lives a totally different world of which the life of our senses does not inform us.
Higher entities act upon the astral body in the same way in which the world of the physical senses acts upon the physical body, and we “come upon” that higher life in our own astral body, provided only we do not shut ourselves out from it. If we are perpetually saying: “I am aware of nothing,” then it is generally the case that we imagined that these experiences should appear thus and so; and because we do not see what we imagined we should see, we say, “I can see nothing.”
However, he who is able to acquire the right attitude of mind with regard to his practice during training will find more and more that he has something which he loves for its own sake and which, as an immeasurably important vital function, he can no longer do without. He will then know that through these very practices he is standing in the psycho-spiritual world and will await with patience and resignation what may further transpire. This attitude of mind of the student may best be expressed in such words as these: “I will do all the exercises which have been assigned to me; for I know that in the fullness of time as much will come to me as I should receive; I do not ask for it impatiently, but I prepare myself to receive it.” On the other hand one should not raise the objection: The occult student, then, is expected perhaps for a long time to feel around in the dark, because he cannot know that he is on the right path with his exercises, before he obtains results. It is not true, however, that he must wait until the results prove to him the correctness of the exercises. If the attitude of the student is right, then the satisfaction which he experiences in the practice of these exercises, in itself carries the conviction that he is doing the right thing, and he does not need to wait for results to prove it. The correct practice of exercises in occult training brings with it a satisfaction that is not merely satisfaction, but conviction—the conviction that I am doing something which shows me that it is leading me forward in the right direction. Every occult student may have this conviction at any moment if he pays careful attention to his experiences. Should he not exercise such attention, he will simply pass by these experiences just as a wayfarer in profound thought does not notice the trees alongside
It is by no means desirable that results, other than those which are always due to such practice, should in any way be hastened. For such results might easily be only an infinitesimal part of what should really take place. Indeed, in the matter of occult development, partial results are, more often than not, the cause of considerable delay in complete development. Contact with such forms of spiritual life corresponding to partial development, tends to dull the perceptive faculties to the influences of those powers which would lead on to higher stages of development; while the benefit derived from such a “glimpse” of the spiritual world, is after all only a seeming one, because this glimpse cannot divulge the truth, but only deceptive illusions.
The psycho-spiritual organs, the “lotus flowers,” shape themselves in such a manner that to clairvoyant consciousness they appear in the vicinity of particular physical organs of the body of the person undergoing training. From among these psycho-spiritual organs the following should be enumerated: that which is to be perceived between the eye-brows is the so-called two-petalled lotus flower; that in the region of the larynx is the sixteen-petalled lotus; in the region of the heart is to be found the twelve-petalled lotus flower and the fourth is near the navel. Others appear in close conjunction with other parts of the physical body.
The lotus flowers are formed in the astral body, and by the time one or the other has developed, we become conscious of them. We then feel that we can make use of them, and that by doing so we really enter a higher world. The impressions received of that world still resemble in many respects those of the physical senses; and one with imaginative cognition will be able to designate the new higher world as impressions of heat or cold, perceptions of sound or words, effects of light or color—because it is in this way that he perceives them. He is, however, conscious of the fact that these perceptions express something different in the imaginative world from what they do in the actual sense-world; and he recognizes that behind them lie causes which are not physical, but psycho-spiritual ones.
Should he receive an impression of heat he will not, for instance, attribute this to a piece of hot iron, but will regard it as the emanation of some soul-process, which he has hitherto experienced only with his soul’s inner life. He knows that behind imaginative experiences exist psycho-spiritual things and processes just as behind physical perceptions we have physical entities and material facts.
And yet this similarity, apparent between the world of imagination and the physical world, is modified by one important difference. There is something present in the physical world which, when met in the imaginative world, bears quite another appearance. In the former we are aware of a perpetual ebb and flow, an alternation between birth and death. But in the imaginative world there appears, in place of this phenomenon, a continual metamorphosis of the one into the other. In the physical world we see, for instance, how a plant fades away, but in the imaginative world there emerges, in proportion as the plant fades, another form, not physically discernible, into which the withering plant is gradually transformed. When once the plant has faded away completely, this form will have become fully developed in its place. Birth and death are conceptions which lose their value in the imaginative world, making way for a comprehension of the transmutation of the one into the other.
This being the case, those truths concerning which we have already made certain communications in an earlier chapter of this book (see Chapter II, “The Nature of Man”) become accessible to the imaginative perception. Physical sense-perception is able to perceive only what takes place in the physical body, processes which are enacted within the “domain of birth and death.” The other principles of man’s being, namely, the etheric or vital body, the sentient body, and the ego, are subject to the law of transmutation, and the perception of them is unlocked by imaginative cognition. Any one who has advanced this far will observe that that which lives on under other conditions of being after death, detaches itself from the physical body.
But development does not come to a standstill within the imaginative world. Anyone who would like to remain stationary in it, would, it is true, be able to note the entities in process of transmutation, but he would be unable to interpret the meaning of these processes of change. He would not be in a position to find his way about in this newly attained world. For the imaginative world is a realm of unrest—there is naught in it but movement and change; nowhere are there stationary points. Such points of rest are reached only by the person who, having transcended the stage of imaginative knowledge, has attained to that grade of development known to occult science as “understanding through inspiration.”
It is not necessary for one seeking knowledge of the supersensible world to develop his capacities so that the imaginative cognition should have been acquired in full measure, before moving on to the stage of “inspiration.” His exercises may, indeed, be so regulated that two processes may go on simultaneously, one leading to imagination and the other to inspiration. The student will then in due time enter a higher world, in which he not only perceives, but where he can also find his way about, as it were, and which he becomes able to interpret. Progress, as a rule, consists
Yet the world of inspiration is something quite new compared with the purely imaginative realm. By means of the latter we learn to know the transformation of one process into another; while through the former we come to recognize the inner qualities of ever changing beings. Imagination shows us the soul-expression of such beings; through inspiration we penetrate into their spiritual core. Above all, we become aware of a multiplicity of spiritual beings and of their relation to one another. In the physical sense-world we have also, of course, to do with a multiplicity of different beings, yet in the world of inspiration this multiplicity is of a different character. In that world each being sustains quite definite relations to all the other beings, not, however, as in the physical world through outer influence upon them, but through their essential inner nature.
When we become aware of a being in the world of inspiration, no external impression made upon another is apparent, such as might be compared with the influence of one physical being upon another; a relation nevertheless exists which is purely the result of the inner constitution of the two beings. This relationship may be compared with that in which the separate sounds or letters of a word stand to one another in the physical world. If we take the word “man,” the impression made is due to a consonance of the letters, m-a-n. There is no impact nor other outer influence passing from the “m” to the “a,” but both letters sound together within “a whole,” owing to their very nature. This is why observations made in the world of inspirations can only be compared to reading and the observer sees the beings of this world like written characters which he must learn and whose inner relations must reveal themselves to him like a supersensible writing. Therefore occult science can call cognition through inspiration, figuratively, the “reading of the secret script.” How one may read by this “secret script” and how one can communicate what has thus been read will now be made clear by reference to previous chapters in this book. Man’s being was first described as composed of different principles. It was then further shown how the cosmos in which man is developing, passes through various conditions; those of Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth. The perception by means of which we are able on the one hand to discern the principles of the human being, and, on the other, the successive states of the Earth and its previous transformations, is revealed to the imaginative cognition. But it is now further necessary that the relations existing between the Saturn state and man’s physical body; between the Sun state and the etheric body, etc., be understood. It must be shown that even during the Saturn state the germ of man’s physical body came into existence, and that it has then further developed to its present form during the Sun, Moon, and Earth periods.
It had to be shown for example, what changes took place in the human being owing to the separation of the sun from the earth, and also that something similar again took place in connection with the moon. We had, moreover, to make plain what contributed to the bringing about of such changes in mankind as those which took place in the Atlantean era, how they were manifested in the successive Indian, ancient Persian, Egyptian, and other periods. The description of this sequence of events is not the result of imaginative perception, but of inspirational cognition derived from the reading of the secret script. For such reading, the imaginative perceptions are like letters, or sounds, although such reading is not alone necessary for interpretations like the above. It would be impossible to comprehend the whole life-process of man by means of imaginative cognition alone. One might possibly be in a position to note how, in the process of dying, the psycho-spiritual principles detach themselves from what remains in the physical world, but it would be impossible to understand the connection between what happens to man after death and the preceding and following stages, were we unable to find our way through the facts obtained by imaginative cognition. Without inspirational
As the student proceeds from imagination to inspiration he will soon see how wrong it would be to neglect this understanding of the facts of the universe and limit himself only to those facts which, so to speak, touch his close personal interests. Indeed, those who are not initiated into these matters may be inclined to say: “The only thing that seems of any importance to me is that I should ascertain the fate of the human soul after death. If anyone can give me information upon that subject, it will suffice; but of what use is it for occult science to present to me such remote subjects as the Saturn and Sun states, or the separation of the moon and the sun, etc.?”
Those, however, who have been properly instructed in these things will recognize that a true understanding of what they desire to learn could not be obtained without knowledge of these matters, which appear so unnecessary to them. A delineation of man’s states after death would remain utterly incomprehensible and valueless to one who is unable to connect it with ideas derived from those very far-off events. Even the most elementary observations of a clairvoyant necessitate his acquaintance with such things.
When, for example, a plant passes from the blossom to a state of fruition, the clairvoyant observes a change in the astral being, which, while the plant is in blossom, has covered and surrounded the blossoming plant from above like a cloud. Had fructification not taken place, this astral being would have been changed into quite a different form from the one it now assumes in consequence of this fertilization. Now we understand the entire process thus clairvoyantly observed if we have learned to comprehend our own nature through
Those who have thoroughly assimilated the idea to be gained by a comprehension of this separation of the sun, will now be able to interpret correctly the significance of the process of plant fertilization, when it is said that “the plant previous to fructification is in a ‘sun state,’ and afterward in the ‘moon state.’ ” Indeed, it may be said of even the smallest occurrence in the world that it can be fully understood only when the reflection of great cosmic events is recognized in it. Otherwise its inner nature remains just as unintelligible as Raphael’s Sistine Madonna would be for one who could see only a small blue speck, while the rest of it remained covered.
Everything that happens to
Through inspiration one arrives at a knowledge of the relationships between the beings of the higher world, and a further stage of cognition makes it then possible to recognize the inner essential nature of these beings themselves. This stage of cognition is known to occult science as that of intuitive cognition.32
Cognition of a sense-being implies standing outside of
That which is released from the human physical body at death passes on through various states in the future. The more immediate conditions after death might, to some extent, be described by referring to imaginative cognition, but that which takes place when man has proceeded farther into that time lying between death and a new birth would be entirely incomprehensible to the imagination, did not inspiration come to its aid. For inspiration alone can disclose what can be revealed about man’s life after its purification in the “land of spirits.” We come to a point where inspiration is no longer adequate—where it reaches the limit of its possibilities. For there is a period in human development, between death and a new birth, in which the human being is accessible only to intuition.
Yet this part of the human being is always within man, and if we wish to understand it in its true inner nature we must also seek it, between birth and death, by means of intuition. Anyone attempting to fathom man by means of imagination and inspiration alone would miss the very innermost being, that which continues from incarnation to incarnation. It is therefore by intuitive cognition alone that adequate research concerning reincarnation and Karma becomes possible, and all genuine knowledge of these processes is derived from research undertaken by means of intuition.
If a man wishes to know his own inner self, he can only do so by intuition; by its aid he becomes aware of what it is that moves onward within him from incarnation to incarnation; and should it fall to anyone’s lot to know something about his earlier incarnations, this can only take place through intuitive cognition.
Cognition through inspiration and intuition is attainable only by means of psycho-spiritual exercises, and they resemble those meditations practiced for the attainment of imagination which have already been described. While, however, in exercises for the development of the imagination, a connection is set up with impressions belonging to the world of the physical senses, such connections gradually cease in the case of exercises for inspiration. In order to understand more clearly what must be done, let us recall once more the symbol of the “rosy cross.”
When we meditate on this we have before us a picture, of which the component parts have been taken from the world of the senses: there is the black colour of the cross, the roses, etc., and yet the combination of those various parts into the “rosy cross” is not derived from the world of the senses. If the student now endeavours to banish from his consciousness both the black cross and the red roses, as pictures of sense-realities, only retaining in his soul that spiritual activity which has been used in putting these parts together, he will then have a means for a meditation that will gradually lead him on to inspiration. He should put the question to himself somewhat in the following manner: “What have I done inwardly to construct that symbol from cross and rose? What I did (an act of my own soul), I will retain within my hold; but the picture itself I will allow to fade away out of my consciousness. I shall then be able to feel within me all that my soul did in order to produce the picture, though I no longer recall the picture itself. I will now live wholly within my own activity that created the picture. I will not meditate upon a picture, but upon the powers of my own soul which are capable of creating pictures.”
Such meditations must now be practiced with various other symbols. This leads then to cognition through inspiration. Here is another example, that of meditating upon the growth and subsequent withering of a plant. Let the picture of a slowly growing plant arise in the soul, as it sprouts from the seed, unfolds leaf after leaf, then blossoms and fruits; then again as it begins to wither on to its complete dissolution.
But if one wishes to attain the corresponding stage of inspiration, this exercise must be practised quite differently. Here one’s own activity of soul must be called to mind,—that which had obtained the conception of growth and decay from the image of the plant. The plant must now be allowed to vanish altogether from the consciousness, and the attention be concentrated entirely upon the student’s own inner activity. It is only such exercises as these that help us to rise to inspiration. At first the occult student will find it difficult to fully grasp how to set about such an exercise. This is because man is used to permitting his inner life to be governed by outward impressions, and thus falls immediately into uncertainty and wavering when now he must unfold in addition a soul life which has freed itself from all connections with outward impressions.
Here the student must clearly understand that he should only undertake these exercises if along with them he cultivates everything that may lead to firmness and stability in his judgment, emotional life, and character; these precautions are even more necessary than when seeking to acquire the faculty of imagination.
Should he take these precautions, he will be doubly successful, for, in the first place, he will not risk losing the balance of his personality through the exercises; and secondly, he will acquire the capacity of being really able to carry out what is demanded in these exercises. They will be deemed difficult only as long as one has not yet attained a particular attitude of soul, and certain feelings and sentiments. He who patiently and perseveringly cultivates within his soul such qualities as are
Any one who can acquire the habit of frequently entering into the quiet of his own soul, and who, instead of brooding over himself, transforms and orders those experiences he has had in life, will gain much. For he will perceive that his thoughts and feelings become richer, if through memory he establishes a relationship between the different experiences of life. He will become aware that he gains stores of new knowledge not only through new impressions and new experiences, but also by letting the old ones be active within him.
He who allows his experiences and his opinions free play, keeping himself with his sympathies and antipathies, personal interests and feelings entirely in the background, will prepare an especially fertile soil for supersensible cognition.
He will in very truth be developing what may be called a rich inner life. But what is of primary importance is the balance and equilibrium of the qualities of the soul. People are very apt to become one-sided when indulging in certain activities of the soul.
Of particular importance is the way in which experience may be utilized by the human soul. For instance, one may make the discovery that someone whom he or another greatly reveres, has some quality that must be regarded as a flaw in his character.
An experience of this kind may lead the person to whom it comes to thoughts which will tend toward one of two different directions. He may simply feel that he can never again regard the person in question with the same degree of veneration; or on the other hand, he may say to himself: “How has it been possible for this revered person to be burdened with such a
Experiences of this nature will, each time they are met with, add something to our understanding of life. Yet it would certainly be a bad thing for one to allow himself to be tempted through this generous view of life, to excuse everything in those whom he happens to like, or to drop into the habit of ignoring every blamable action, in order thereby to seek some benefit to his own inner development. Blaming or excusing the mistakes of others merely as a result of an inner impulse, does not further our development. This can only happen if our action is governed by the particular case itself, regardless of what we may thereby gain or lose. It is absolutely true that we cannot learn by condemning a fault, but only by understanding it; but, at the same time, if, owing to understanding it, we exclude all disapproval of it, we likewise would not progress very far.
Here, again, the important thing is to avoid one-sidedness, either in one direction or the other, and to establish harmony and balance of all qualities in the soul; and this is especially to be kept in mind in regard to one quality which is pre-eminently important to man’s development: the feeling of devotion.
Those who can cultivate this feeling, or on whom nature herself has bestowed so inestimable a gift, have a good foundation for the powers of supersensible cognition. Those who in childhood and youth have been able to look up to certain persons with feelings of devoted admiration, beholding in them some high ideal, will already possess in the depths of their souls the soil in which supersensible cognition may flourish abundantly. And those who, possessed of the maturer judgment of later life, can direct their gaze upon the starry heavens and surrender themselves unreservedly to
For it is only where veneration such as this is present that a vista of the higher worlds can be revealed. Those who possess no sense of reverence will never go very far in their attainment of cognition; for from those who decline to appreciate anything in this world, the essence of all things will assuredly be withheld.
Nevertheless, any one who permits his feelings of reverence and devotion to
The more capable a man is of fixing his attention upon these events of life with which he is not directly familiar, the greater will be the possibility of providing himself with a foundation for development in higher worlds. The following example will make this evident. Let us assume that some one is placed in a position in which it rests with him either to do, or leave undone, a certain thing. His judgment bids him “Do this,” while at the same time there may be a certain indefinite something in his feelings which deters him from the deed. It may so happen that the person in question will pay no heed to this inexplicable something, carrying out the action in accordance with his judgment.
But it may also be that the person so placed will yield to this inner impulse and not perform the act. Now, pursuing the matter further, he may find that mischief would have resulted from his following the dictates of his reason, and that a blessing awaited him through the omission of the act. An experience of this nature may lead a man’s thoughts into quite a definite channel, and then he will put the matter to himself in this way: “There is something within me that is a surer guide than that measure of judgment of which I am at present possessed: I must therefore retain an open mind toward this inner something, to the height of which my own capacity for judgment has not yet attained.”
The soul derives much benefit when it directs its attention to occurrences in life such as these, for they demonstrate that man’s healthy premonitions bear something in them which is of greater moment than he, with his present degree of judgment, is able to perceive. Attention in this direction has the effect of enlarging the life of the soul. Yet here again certain peculiarities may arise which are of themselves dangerous. One who accustoms himself to a perpetual disregarding of his judgment, owing to this or that “premonition,” would easily become a shuttle-cock tossed at the mercy of every kind of undefined impulse; indeed, it is not a far cry from such habitual indecision to a state of absolute superstition.
Every superstition is disastrous to the student of occult science. The possibility of gaining admission, by legitimate means, to the realms of the spiritual life must depend upon a careful exclusion of all superstition, fantasy, and dreaming. One who is pleased with having had a certain experience that cannot be grasped by human reason will not approach the spiritual world in the right manner.
No partiality for the “inexplicable” will ever make one qualified for the discipleship of the Spirit. Indeed the pupil should utterly discard the notion that a true mystic is one who is always ready to surmise the presence of what cannot be explained or explored. The right way is to be prepared to recognize on all hands hidden forces and hidden beings, yet at the same time to assume that what is “unexplored” today will be able to be explored when the requisite ability has been developed.
There is a certain mood of soul which it is important for the pupil to maintain at every stage of his development. He should not let his urge for higher knowledge lead him to keep on aiming to get answers to particular questions. Rather should he continually be asking: How am I to develop the needed faculties within myself? For when by dint of patient inner work some faculty develops in him, he will receive the answer to some of his questions. Genuine pupils of the Spirit will always take pains to cultivate this attitude of soul. They will thereby be encouraged to work upon themselves, that they may become ever more and more mature in spirit, and they will abjure the desire to extort answers to particular questions. They will wait until such time as the answers come.
Here again, however, there is the possibility of a one-sidedness, which may prevent the pupil from going forward in the way he should. For at some moment he may quite rightly feel that according to the measure of his powers he can answer for himself even questions of the highest order. Thus at every turn moderation and balance play an essential part in the life of the soul.
Many more qualities of soul could be cited that may with advantage be fostered and developed, if the pupil is seriously wanting to work through a training for Inspiration; and in connection with every one of them we should find that emphasis is laid on the supreme importance of moderation and balance. These attributes of soul help the pupil to understand the exercises that are given for the attainment of Inspiration, and also make him capable of carrying them out.
The exercises for Intuition demand from the pupil that he let disappear from consciousness not only the pictures to which he gave himself up in contemplation in order to arrive at Imaginative cognition, but also that meditating upon his own activity of soul, which he practiced for the attainment of Inspiration. This means that he is now to have in his soul literally nothing of what he has experienced hitherto, whether outwardly or inwardly. If, after discarding all outward and inward experience, nothing whatever is left in his consciousness that is to say, if consciousness simply slips away from him and he sinks into unconsciousness then that will tell him that he is not yet ripe to undertake the exercises for Intuition and must continue working with those for Imagination and Inspiration.
A time will come however when an effect will linger in the consciousness which can just as well be made the object of meditation, as were before those outer and inner impressions. This something is, however, of a very special nature, and in comparison with all previous experiences, it is something absolutely new. When it occurs, we recognize it as something we have never known before. It is a perception, just as an actual sound is a perception, that strikes upon the ear; yet it can enter the consciousness only through intuition, just as the sound can only enter the consciousness by way of the ear. Thus with intuition, the last remnants of the physical and sentient are stripped from man’s impressions, while the spiritual world begins to expand before the understanding in a form that has nothing in common with the characteristics of the world of the physical senses.
Imaginative cognition is attained by developing the lotus flowers within the astral body. Through those exercises undertaken for the attainment of inspiration and intuition, particular movements, formations and currents which were previously absent, now appear in the human etheric or vital body.
These are the very organs which enable man to “read the secret script,” and bring that which lies beyond it within his reach. For to the clairvoyant, the changes which occur in the etheric body of a person attaining to inspiration and intuition appear in the following manner. Near the physical
This centre near the heart is not, however, formed at the very beginning, under correct training. It is first prepared. A temporary center is first formed in the head: this then moves down to the region of the larynx and is finally transferred into the region of the heart. Under an irregular course of development it would be possible for the organ in question to develop near the heart at the outset. In that case the student, instead of arriving in due course at adequate, tranquil clairvoyance by regular means, would run the risk of turning into a visionary and dreamer.
Subsequent development enables the occult student to render these currents and organized parts of this etheric body independent of his physical body and to use them independently. The lotus flowers then serve him as instruments by which to move his etheric body. Yet, before this can take place, certain currents and radiations must come into action around his entire etheric body, surrounding this, as it were, with a fine network, thus encasing it as though it were a separate entity.
When this has taken place, the movements and currents of the etheric body can without hindrance touch the outer psycho-spiritual world and unite with it so that outer psycho-spiritual occurrences and inner ones (those within the human etheric body) blend into one another. When this comes to pass, the moment has arrived when man can consciously experience the world of inspiration. This cognition takes place in a manner different from cognition of the physical sense-world. In this latter, we become aware of the world by means of our senses and form our ideas and concepts from these perceptions. But in the case of cognition through inspiration, this is not so.
What is thus perceived is instantaneous; there is no thinking after the perception has taken place. That which in the case of physical sense-cognition is only afterward gained through the concept, is, in the case of inspiration, simultaneous with the perception. One would therefore become merged with the surrounding psycho-spiritual world, and be unable to differentiate oneself from it had not the fine network above alluded to been previously formed in the etheric body.
When exercises for intuition are practiced, they not only affect the etheric body but extend their influence to the supersensible forces of the physical body. But it must not, of course, be imagined that effects are brought about in the physical body which are discernible to ordinary sense-observation, for these effects the clairvoyant alone is able to judge, and they have nothing to do with external powers of perception. They come as the result of a ripened consciousness, when this latter is able to have intuitional experiences, even though it has divested itself of all previous inner and outer experiences. The experiences of intuition are, however, subtle, delicate and intimate, in comparison with which the physical body, at its present stage of development, is coarse. For this reason, it offers a positive hindrance to the success of any exercises for attaining intuition.
Nevertheless, should these be pursued with energy and perseverance, and with the requisite inner calm, they will ultimately overcome those powerful hindrances of the physical body. The occult student will become aware of this when he notices how, by degrees, particular actions of his physical body which hitherto had taken place without his own volition, now come under his control. He will also become aware that for a brief time he will feel the need, for instance, of so regulating his breathing (or some similar act) as to bring it into a kind of harmonious accord with whatever is being enacted within his soul, be it exercises or other forms of inner concentration.
The ideal development would be that no exercises should be done by means of the physical body but that everything which has to take place within it should result only as a consequence of exercises for intuition. As, however, the physical body offers such powerful impediments, the training may permit
Such exercises, for instance, include a certain regulated process of breathing to be carried out for a very short space of time. These regulations of the breathing correspond in quite a definite way to particular laws of the psycho-spiritual world. Breathing is a physical process, and when this act is so carried out as to be the expression of a psycho-spiritual law, physical existence receives the direct stamp, as it were, of spirituality, and the physical matter is transformed.
For this reason occult science is able to call the change due to such direct spiritual influence, a transmutation of the physical body, and this process represents what is called “working with the philosopher’s stone” by him who has a knowledge of these matters. He who knows these things, frees himself indeed from those concepts which have been limited by superstition, humbug and charlatanry. The significance of the phenomena does not become less to him who knows, just because, as a spiritual investigator, all superstition is foreign to him. When he has acquired a concept of a significant fact, he may be allowed to call it by its correct name although that name has been fixed upon it as a result of misunderstanding, error and nonsense.
Every true intuition is
As the occult student climbs the path leading to cognition of the higher worlds, he becomes aware at a particular point that the cohesion of the powers of his own personality is assuming a different form from that which it possesses in the world of the physical senses. In the latter the ego brings about a uniform co-operation of the powers of the soul—primarily of thought, feeling and will. These three soul powers are actually, under normal conditions of human life, in perpetual relation one with another. For instance, we see a particular object in the external world, and it is pleasing or is displeasing to the soul; that is to say, the perception of the thing will be followed by a sense of either pleasure or displeasure.
Possibly we may desire the object, or may have the impulse to alter it in some way or other; that is to say, desire and will associate themselves with perception and feeling. Now, this association is due to the fact that the ego co-ordinates presentment (thinking), feeling, and willing, and in this way introduces order among the forces of the personality. This healthy arrangement would be interrupted should the ego prove itself powerless in this respect: if, for instance, the will went a different way from the feeling or thinking. No man would be in a healthy condition of mind who, while thinking this or that to be right, nevertheless wished to do something which he did not consider right.
The same would hold good if a person desired, not the thing that pleased him, but that which displeased him. Now the person progressing toward higher cognition becomes aware that feeling, thinking, and willing do actually assume a certain independence; that, for example, a particular thought no longer urges him, as though of itself, to a certain condition of feeling and willing. The matter resolves itself thus: We may comprehend something correctly by means of thinking, but in order to arrive at a feeling or impulse of the will on the subject, we need a further independent impetus, coming from within ourselves. Thinking, feeling and willing no longer remain three forces, radiating from the ego as their common centre, but become, as it were, independent entities, just as though they were three separate personalities. For this reason, therefore, a person’s own ego must be strengthened, for not only must it introduce order among three powers, but the leadership and guidance of three entities have devolved upon it.
And this is what is known to occult science as the cleavage of the personality. Here is once more clearly revealed how important it is to add to the exercises for higher training others for giving fixity and firmness to the judgment, and to the life of feeling and will. For if certainty and firmness are not brought into the higher world, it will at once be seen how weak the ego proves to be, and how it can be no fitting ruler over the powers of thought, feeling and will. In the presence of this weakness, the soul would be dragged by three different personalities in as many directions, and its inner individual separateness would cease.
But should the development of the occult student proceed on the right lines, this multiplication of himself, so to speak, will prove to be a real step forward, and he will nevertheless continue, as a new ego, to be the strong ruler over the independent entities which now make up his soul.
In the subsequent course of development this division or cleavage is carried further; thought, now functioning independently, arouses the activities of a fourth distinct psycho-spiritual being; one that may be described as a direct influx into the individual, of currents which bear a resemblance to thoughts. The entire world then appears as thought-structure, confronting man just like the plant and animal worlds in the realm of the physical senses. In the same manner feeling and will, which have become independent, stimulate two other powers within the soul to work in it as separate entities. And yet a seventh power and entity must be added, which resembles the ego itself. Thus man, on reaching a particular stage of development, finds himself to be composed of seven entities, all of which he has to guide and control.
The whole of this experience becomes associated with a further one. Before entering the supersensible world, thinking, feeling, and willing were known to man merely as inner soul-experiences. But as soon as he enters the supersensible world he becomes aware of things which do not express physical sense realities, but psycho-spiritual realities. Behind the characteristics of the new world of which he has become aware, he now perceives spiritual beings. These now present themselves to him as an external world, just as stones, plants and animals in the physical
Now the occult student is able to observe an important difference between the spiritual world unfolding itself before him and the world he has hitherto been accustomed to recognize by means of his physical senses. A plant of the sense-world remains what it is, whatever man’s soul may think or feel about it. This is not the case, however, with the images of the psycho-spiritual world, for these
Let us imagine a particular picture presenting itself to
If, for example, a person has secret inclinations, which owing to education and character are precluded from revealing themselves in life, those inclinations will, nevertheless, take effect in the psycho-spiritual world, which is thus colored in a peculiar way, due to that person’s being, quite irrespective of how much he may or may not know of his own being. And in order to be able to advance beyond this stage of development, it becomes necessary that man should learn to distinguish between himself and the spiritual world around him. It is necessary that he should learn to eliminate all the effects produced by his own nature upon the surrounding psycho-spiritual world.
This can be done only by acquiring a knowledge of what we ourselves take with us into this new world. It is therefore primarily a question of self-knowledge, in order that we may become able to perceive clearly the surrounding psycho-spiritual world. It is true that certain facts of human development entail such self-knowledge as must naturally be acquired when one enters higher worlds. In the ordinary world of the physical senses man develops his ego, his self-consciousness, and this ego then acts as a point of attraction for all that appertains to man.
All personal propensities, sympathies, antipathies, passions, opinions, etc., possessed by a person, group themselves, as it were, around this ego, and it is this ego likewise to which human Karma is attached. Were we able to see this ego unveiled, it would also be possible to see just what blows of fate it must yet endure in this and future incarnations, as a result of its life in previous incarnations and the qualities acquired. Encumbered as it is with all this, the ego must be the first picture that presents itself to the human soul, when ascending into the psycho-spiritual world. This double of the human being, in accordance with a law of the spiritual world, is bound to be his first impression in that world. It is easy to explain this fundamental law to ourselves, if we consider the following.
In the life of the physical senses man is cognizant of himself only so far as he is inwardly conscious of himself in his thinking, feeling, and willing. This cognition is an inner one; it does not present itself to him externally, as do stones, plants and animals; but even through inner experiences, man learns to know himself only partially, for he has within him something that prevents deep self-knowledge, namely, the impulse to immediately transform this quality, when through self-cognition he is forced to admit its presence and concerning which he is unwilling to deceive himself.
If he did not yield to this impulse, but simply turned his attention away from himself—remaining as he is—he would naturally deprive himself of even the possibility of knowing himself in regard to that particular matter. Yet should he “explore” himself, facing his characteristics without self-deception, he would either be able to improve
Indeed, this is the way in which man’s sound nature acts; it experiences through self-knowledge various feelings of shame. Even in ordinary
If we consider this well, we shall find it possible to understand why occult science should ascribe more far-reaching effects to another inner experience of the soul, very closely allied to this feeling of shame. Occult science finds that within the hidden depths of the soul a kind of secret feeling of shame exists, of which man in his life of the physical senses is unaware. Yet this secret feeling acts much in the same way as the conscious feeling of shame of ordinary life to which we have alluded; it prevents man’s inmost being from confronting him in a recognizable image, or double. Were this feeling not present, man would see himself as he is in very truth; not only would he experience his thoughts, ideas, feelings
This feeling, therefore, is that which veils man from himself, and at the same time hides from him the entire spiritual world. For owing to this veiling of man’s inner self, he becomes unable to perceive those things by means of which he is to develop organs for penetrating into the psycho-spiritual world; he becomes unable to so transform his own being as to render it capable of obtaining spiritual organs of perception.
If man aims however to form these organs of perception through correct training, that which he himself really is appears before him as the first impression. He perceives his double. This self-recognition is inseparable from perception of the rest of the psycho-spiritual world. In the everyday life of the physical world the feeling of shame here described acts in such a manner as to be perpetually closing the door which leads into the psycho-spiritual world. If man would take but a single step in order to penetrate into that world, this instantly appearing but unconscious feeling of shame, conceals that portion of the psycho-spiritual world which would reveal itself.
The exercises here described do, however, unlock this world: and it so happens that the above-mentioned hidden feeling acts as a great benefactor to man, for all that we may have gained, apart from occult training, in the matter of judgment, feeling and character, is insufficient to support us when confronted by our own being in its true form; its apparition would rob us of all feeling of selfhood, self-reliance and self-consciousness. And that this may not happen, provision must be made for cultivating sound judgment, good feeling and character, along with the exercises given for the attainment of higher knowledge.
A correct method of tuition teaches the student as much of occult science as will, in combination with the many means provided for self-knowledge and self-observation, enable him to meet his double with assured strength. It will then appear to the student that he sees, in another form, a picture of the imaginative world with which he has already become acquainted in the physical world. Anyone who has first learned in the physical world, by means of his understanding, to apprehend rightly the law of Karma, is not likely to be greatly frightened when he sees his fate traced upon the image of his double. Anyone who, by means of his own powers of judgment, has made himself acquainted with the evolution of the universe, and the development of the human race, and who is aware that at a particular epoch of this development the powers of Lucifer penetrated into the human soul, will have little difficulty in enduring the sight of the image of his own individuality when he knows that it includes those Luciferian powers and all their accumulated effects.
This will suffice to show how necessary it is that no one should demand admission into the spiritual world before having learned to understand certain truths concerning it; learning them by means of his own judgment, as developed in this world of the physical senses. All that has been said in this book previous to the chapter concerning “Perception of the higher worlds,” should have been assimilated by the student in the course of his regular development, by means of his ordinary judgment, before he has any desire to seek entrance himself into the supersensible worlds.
Where the training has been such as to pay little heed to firmness and surety of judgment, and to the life of feeling and character, it may happen that the student will approach the higher world before being possessed of the necessary inner capacities. The meeting with his double would in this case overwhelm him. But what might also happen is that the person introduced into the supersensible world then would be totally unable to recognize this world in its true form, for it would be impossible for him to differentiate between what he sees in the things, and what they really are. For this distinction becomes possible only when a person himself has beheld the image of his own being and becomes able to separate from his surroundings everything which proceeds from his inner being.
In respect to life in the world of physical sense, man’s double becomes at once visible through the already mentioned feeling of shame when man nears the psycho-spiritual world, and in so doing, it also conceals the whole of that world. The double stands before the entrance as a “guardian,” denying admission to all who are as yet unfit, and it is therefore designated in occult science as the “guardian of the threshold of the psycho-spiritual world.” However, we may call it the “lesser guardian,” for there is another, of whom we shall speak later.
And besides this meeting with his double on entering the supersensible world as here described, man encounters the Guardian of the Threshold when he passes the portals of physical death, and it gradually reveals itself during that psycho-spiritual development which takes place between death and new birth. However, the encounter can in no wise crush us, for we then know of other worlds or higher worlds, of which we are ignorant during the life between birth and death. A person entering the psycho-spiritual world without having encountered the Guardian of the Threshold would be liable to fall prey to one delusion after another. For he would never be able to distinguish between that which he himself brings into that world and what really belongs to it.
But correct training should lead the student into the domain of truth, not of error, and with such training, the meeting must, at one time or another, inevitably take place, for it is the one indispensable precaution against the possibilities of deception and phantasm in the observation of supersensible worlds. It is one of the most indispensable precautions to be taken by every occult student, to work carefully upon himself in order not to become a visionary, subject to every possible deception and self-deception, suggestion and auto-suggestion.
Wherever correct occult training is followed, the causes of such deceptions are destroyed at their source. It would, of course, be impossible to speak here exhaustively of the many details to be included in such precautions, and we can only indicate in general the underlying principles. The illusions to be taken into account arise from two sources. In
Now, since through this meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold the occult student becomes aware of everything within him, of that which he can take with him into the psycho-spiritual world, this source of delusion is removed, and the preparation which the occult student undergoes prior to his entering that world is in itself calculated to accustom him to exclude himself—even in matters appertaining to the physical world—when making his observations, thus allowing things and occurrences to speak for themselves.
In addition to this there is another source of delusion. This becomes apparent when we place the wrong interpretation upon an impression we receive. We may illustrate it by means of a very simple example taken from the world of the physical senses. It is the delusion we may encounter when sitting in a railway carriage; we think the trees are moving in the reverse direction to the train, whereas in fact we ourselves are moving with the train. Although there are many cases in which such illusions occurring in the physical world are more difficult to correct than the simple one we have mentioned, yet it is easy to see that, even within that world, means may be found for getting rid of those delusions if a person of sound judgment brings everything to bear upon the matter which may help to clear it up.
But as soon as we penetrate into the psycho-spiritual world such elucidations become less easy. In the world of sense, facts are not altered by human delusions about them; it is therefore possible to correct a delusion by unprejudiced observation of facts. But in the supersensible world this is not immediately possible. If we desire to study a supersensible occurrence and approach it with the wrong judgment, we then carry that wrong judgment over into the thing itself, and it becomes so interwoven with the thing, that the two cannot be easily distinguished.
The error then is not in the person and the correct fact external to him, but the error will have become a component part of the external fact. It cannot therefore be cleared up simply by unprejudiced observation of the fact. This is enough to indicate an extremely fertile source of illusion and deception for one who would venture to approach the supersensible world without adequate preparation.
As the occult student has now acquired the faculty to exclude those illusions originating from the coloring of the supersensible world-phenomena with his own being, so must he now acquire the faculty of making ineffective the second source of illusions mentioned above.
Only after the meeting with his double, can he eliminate what comes from himself and thus he will be able to remove the second source of delusion when he has acquired the faculty for judging by the very nature of a fact seen in the supersensible world, whether it is a reality or an illusion. Now if the illusions were of precisely the same appearance as the realities, differentiation would be impossible. But this is not the case. Illusions of the supersensible world have in themselves qualities which distinguish them definitely from the realities, and the important thing is for the occult student to know by what qualities he may be able to recognize those realities.
Nothing seems more natural than that those ignorant of occult training should say: “How, then, is it at all possible to guard against delusions, since their sources are so numerous?” And further: “Can an occult student ever be safe from the possibility that all his so-called higher experiences may not turn out to be based on mere deception and self-deception (suggestion and auto-suggestion)?”
Any one advancing these objections ignores the fact that all true occult training proceeds in such a manner as to remove those sources of delusion. In the first place, the occult student during his preparation, will have become possessed of enough knowledge about all that which may lead to delusion and self-delusion, that he will be in a position to protect himself against them. He has, in this respect, an opportunity, like that of no other human being, to render himself sober and capable of sound judgment for the journey of life. Everything he learns teaches him not to rely upon vague presentiments and premonitions. Training makes him as cautious as possible, and, in addition to this, all true training leads in the first place to concepts of the great cosmic events, to matters, therefore, which necessitate the exertion of the judgment, a process by which this faculty is at the same time rendered keener and more refined.
But those who decline to occupy themselves with these remote subjects, and prefer keeping the revelations nearer at hand, might miss the strengthening of that sound power of judgment which gives certainty in distinguishing between illusion and reality. Yet even this is not the most important thing, but the exercises themselves carried out through a systematic course of occult training. These must be so arranged that the consciousness of the student is enabled during meditation to scan minutely all that passes within his soul. In order to bring about imagination, the first thing to be done is to form a symbol. In this there are still elements taken from external observation; it is not
In his intuition, therefore, the occult student possesses something which shows him the pure, clear reality of the psycho-spiritual world. And if he applies this recognized test to all that meets his observation in the realm of psycho-spiritual realities, he will be well able to distinguish appearance from reality. He may also feel sure that the application of this law provides just as effectually against delusions in the spiritual world as does the knowledge in the physical world that an imaginary piece of red-hot iron cannot burn him.
It is obvious that this test applies only to our own experiences in the supersensible world, and not to communications made to us which we have to apprehend by means of our physical understanding and our healthy sense of truth. The occult student should exert himself to draw a distinct line of demarcation between the knowledge he acquires by the one means, and by the other. He should be ready on one the hand to accept communications made to him regarding the higher worlds, and should seek to understand them by using his powers of judgment. When, however, he is confronted by an “experience,” which he may so name because it is due to personal observation, he will first carefully test the same to ascertain whether it possesses exactly those characteristics which he has learned to recognize by means of infallible intuition.
The meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold being over, the occult student will have to face other new experiences, and the first thing that he will become aware of is the inner connection which exists between this Guardian of the Threshold and that soul-power we have already characterized, when describing the cleavage of personality, as being the seventh power to resolve itself into an independent entity.
This seventh entity is, indeed, in certain respects no other than the double, or Guardian of the Threshold itself, and it lays a particular task upon the student. Namely, that which he is in his lower self and which now appears to him in the image, he must guide and lead by means of the new-born higher self. This will result in a sort of battle with this double, which will continually strive for the upper hand. Now to establish the right relationship to it, to allow it to do nothing except what takes place under the influence of the new-born ego, this is what strengthens and fortifies man’s forces.
This matter of self-cognition is, in certain respects, different in the higher worlds from what it is in the physical sense-world. For whereas in the latter, self-cognition is only an inner experience, the newly born self immediately presents itself as an outward psycho-spiritual apparition.
We see our new-born self before us like another being, yet we cannot perceive it in its entirety, for, whatever the stage to which we may have climbed on our journey to the supersensible worlds (or higher words), there will always be still higher stages which will enable us to perceive more and more of our “higher self.”
It can therefore only partially reveal itself to the student at any particular stage. Having once caught a glimpse of this higher self, man feels a tremendous temptation to look upon it in the same manner in which he is accustomed to regarding the things of the physical sense-world. And yet this temptation is salutary; it is indeed necessary if man’s development is to proceed in the right manner.
The student must here note what it is that appears as his double, as the Guardian of the Threshold, and place it by the
He has plunged into the psycho-spiritual world, but gives up working his way farther, and becomes a captive to that image which, as Guardian of the Threshold, now confronts the soul. And the remarkable thing here is that the person so situated will have no feeling of being a captive. He will, on the contrary, think he is going through quite a different experience, for the image called forth by the Guardian of the Threshold may be such as to awaken in the soul of the observer the impression that in the pictures which appear at this stage of development he has before him the whole universe in its entirety—the impression of having attained to the summit of all knowledge, and of there being, therefore, nothing left to strive after.
Therefore, instead of feeling himself a captive, the student would believe himself rich beyond all measure, and in possession of all the secrets of the universe. Nor need this experience fill one with surprise, though it be the reverse of the facts, for we must remember that by the time these experiences are felt, we are already standing within the psycho-spiritual world and that the special peculiarity of this world is that it reverses events—a fact which has already been alluded to in our consideration of life after death.
The image seen by the occult student at this stage of development shows him a different aspect from that in which the Guardian of the Threshold first revealed itself. In the double first mentioned, were to be seen all those qualities which, as the result of the influence of Lucifer, are possessed by man’s ordinary ego. But in the course of human development, another power has, in consequence of Lucifer’s influence, also been drawn into the human soul; this is known as the force of Ahriman. It is this force that, during his physical existence, prevents man from becoming aware of those psycho-spiritual beings which lie behind the surface of the external world. All that man’s soul has become under the influence of this force may be discerned in the image revealing itself during the experience just described.
Those who have been sufficiently prepared for this experience will, when thus confronted, be able to assign to it its true meaning, and then another form will soon become visible—one we may describe as the “greater Guardian of the Threshold.” This one will tell the student not to rest content with the stage to which he has attained, but to work on energetically. It will call forth in him the consciousness that the world he has conquered will only become a truth, and not an illusion if the work thus began to be continued in a corresponding manner. Those, however, who have gone through incorrect occult training and would approach this meeting unprepared, would then experience something in their souls when they come to the “greater Guardian of the Threshold,” which can only be described as a “feeling of inexpressible fright”, of “boundless fear.”
Just as the meeting with the “lesser Guardian” gives the occult student the opportunity of judging whether or not he is proof against delusions such as might arise through interweaving his own personality with the supersensible world, so too must he be able to prove from the experiences which finally lead to the “greater Guardian,” whether he is able to withstand those illusions which are to be traced to the second source mentioned farther back in this chapter. Should he be proof against the powerful illusion by which the world of images to which he has attained, is falsely displayed to him as a rich possession, when actually he is only a captive, then he is guarded also against the danger of mistaking appearance for reality during the further course of his development.
To a certain degree the Guardian of the Threshold will assume a different form in the case of each individual. The meeting with him corresponds exactly to the way in which the personal element in supersensible observations is overcome, and therefore the possibility exists of entering a realm of experience which is free from any tinge of personality and is open to every human being.
When the occult student has passed through the above experiences, he will be capable of distinguishing in the psycho-spiritual world between what he himself is and what is outside of him, and he will then recognize why an understanding of the cosmic occurrences narrated in this book, is necessary to man’s understanding of humanity itself and its life process. In fact, we can understand the physical body only when we recognize the manner in which it has been built up through the developments undergone in the Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth periods, and we understand the etheric body when we follow its evolution through the Sun, Moon, and Earth stages of evolution. We further comprehend what is bound up with our earth-development at present, if we can grasp how all things proceed by the process of gradual evolution.
Occult training places us in a position to recognize the connection between everything that is within man and the corresponding facts and beings existing in the world external to him. For it is a fact that each principle of man stands in some connection with the rest of the world. The outlines of these subjects could only be briefly sketched in this book. It must, however, be borne in mind that the physical body had, at the time of the Saturn development, for instance, no more than its rudimentary beginnings. Its organs—such as the heart, lungs, and brain—developed later during the Sun, Moon, and Earth periods, for which reason heart, lungs
It is the same with the members of the etheric body, the sentient body, and the sentient soul. Man is the outcome of the entire world surrounding him, and every part of his constitution corresponds to some event, to some being in the external world. At a certain stage of his development the occult student comes to a realization of this relation of his own being to the great cosmos, and this stage of development may in the occult sense be termed a becoming aware of the relationship of the little world, the microcosm—that is, man himself—to the great world, the macrocosm.
And when the occult student has struggled through to such cognition, he may then go through a new experience; he begins to feel
Following this stage of development something takes place that in occult science is described as “beatitude.” It is neither possible nor necessary that this stage be more closely described, for no human words have the power to picture this experience and it may rightly be said that any conception of this state could be acquired only by means of such thought-power as would no longer be dependent upon the instrument of the human brain. The separate stages of higher knowledge, according to the methods of initiation that have been here described, may be enumerated as follows:
- 1. The study of occult science, in the course of which we first of all make use of the reasoning powers we have acquired in the world of the physical senses.
- 2. Attainment of imaginative cognition.
- 3. Reading the secret script (which corresponds to inspiration).
- 4. Working with the philosopher’s stone (corresponding to intuition).
- 5. Cognition of the relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm.
- 6. Being one with the macrocosm.
- 7. Beatitude.
When the occult student has experienced intuition he comes to know not only the forms of the psycho-spiritual world, not only can he recognize their inter-relationship through the “secret script,” but he attains a cognition of these beings themselves through whose co-operation the world, to which he belongs, comes into being. Thus he learns to know himself in the true form which he possesses as a spiritual being in the psycho-spiritual world. He has struggled through to the higher ego and has learned how he must continue the work in order that he may master his double, the Guardian of the Threshold. But he has also met the “greater guardian of the Threshold” who stands before him perpetually urging him to further labors.
It is this greater Guardian of the Threshold who now becomes the ideal he must strive to resemble, and when the student has acquired this feeling he will have risen to that important stage of development in which he will be in a position to recognize who it is that is really standing before him as that “greater Guardian.” For henceforth, in the student’s consciousness, the Guardian is gradually transformed into the figure of the Christ, whose Being and intervention in the evolution of the earth have been dealt with in a foregoing chapter.
Thus the student, through his intuition, will have become initiated into that sublime Mystery which is linked with the name of Christ. The Christ reveals himself to him as the “Great Ideal of humanity on earth.”
When in this manner through intuition, the Christ has been recognized in the spiritual world, then we can also understand those events that took place historically upon earth during the fourth post-Atlantean period (the Greco-Roman time), and how at that time the great Sun-Spirit, the Christ-Being, intervened in the world’s development, and how He still continues to guide its evolution. These are matters the student will then know by personal experience. Therefore it is through intuition that the meaning and significance of the earth’s evolution are disclosed to the occult student.
The path leading to cognition of the supersensible worlds, or higher words, as above indicated, is one which all men may travel, whatever their position under the present conditions of life may be. And in speaking of such a path it must be borne in mind that, while the goal of cognition and truth is the same at all times of the earth’s development, yet the starting-point for man has varied considerably at different periods. For instance, the man of the present day who wishes to find his way into supersensible worlds, cannot start from the same point as the Egyptian candidate for initiation of old. This is why it is impossible for modern humanity to apply, without modification, the exercises given to the candidate for initiation in ancient Egypt.
For since those times men’s souls have passed through different incarnations, and this passing onward from incarnation to incarnation is not without significance and importance. The capacities and qualities of souls change from one incarnation to another. Those who have studied human history only superficially can note that since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries all life conditions have changed and that opinions, feelings and even human capabilities have become different from what they were before that time. The path here described for the acquirement of higher knowledge is one
From epoch to epoch, progressive evolution leads humanity, in respect to the path of higher cognition, to ever changing modes, just as outer life likewise changes its form. For at all times it is necessary that perfect harmony should reign between external life and initiation. It will be pointed out in the next chapter of this book what changes initiation, which in the ancient mysteries lead into the higher worlds, must undergo, in order to become modern “initiation” for the attainment of supersensible cognition in its present form.