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Occult Science - An Outline

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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Occult Science - An Outline

Chapter V

Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

(Concerning Initiation)

Part 4

Part 1 |  Part 2 |  Part 3 |  Part 4 |  Part 5 |  Part 6 |  Part 7 |  Part 8 |  Part 9 |  Part 10  ]

The end in view for which the pupil engages in meditation upon symbolic thought-pictures or upon certain feelings, is neither more nor less than the development, within the astral body, of higher organs of perception. These organs are created out of the substance of the astral body itself; they bring the pupil into contact with a new world, and in this new world he learns to know himself as a new I or Ego. They differ from the organs with which we observe the world of the physical senses in that they are active. Eye and ear remain passive, allowing light and sound to act upon them; of the organs of perception that belong to the soul and spirit it can truly be said that while they are perceiving they are in continual activity, and furthermore that they comprehend, quite consciously, the objects and facts that they perceive. This gives us the feeling that when we “know” with our soul and spirit, the very knowing is at the same time a blending with the facts we come to know; we feel we are living within them.

The several organs of soul and spirit that develop in this manner may be called, by way of comparison, lotus-flowers; the name accords with the form in which supersensible consciousness has to picture them — picture them, that is Imaginatively. (It need hardly be said that such a designation has no more direct relation to reality than has the expression “Flügel” or “wing” in the word “Lungenflügel” meaning “Lobe of the lung.”) Specific kinds of meditation work upon the astral body in such a way as to lead to the development of one or other of these “lotus flowers.” After all that has been given in this book, it should be quite unnecessary to stress the fact that we have not to think of these organs of perception as though the symbolic picture of them which the name suggests were a direct imprint of their real nature. They are supersensible and consist in a definite activity of the soul; indeed they only exist in so far and for so long s the activity continues. We could as little speak, in connection with them, of anything observable by the senses, as we could of seeing a mist or cloud around a man when he is thinking! Those who insist on picturing the supersensible in sensual terms will inevitably be involved in misunderstandings. Superfluous as this remark should be, I let it stand, since one is constantly meeting with people who believe in the supersensible and yet want to picture it in far too sensual a way; also there are opponents of supersensible knowledge who imagine that when the scientist of the Spirit speaks of “lotus flowers” he thinks of them as tangible objects howsoever refined — objects perceptible to the outer senses.

Every meditation undertaken for the attainment of Imaginative cognition has its influence, if rightly carried out, upon one or other of these organs. (In my book Knowledge of the Higher Words and its Attainment meditations and exercises are given that take effect on this or that particular organ.) A proper spiritual training will arrange the several exercises in such order as to enable these organs of the soul to develop singly, together, or in due succession, as the case may be. This development asks for great patience and perseverance on the part of the pupil. The degree of patience a man gains in the ordinary course of life will not suffice. For it will be a long time — in many instances a very long time indeed — before the organs are so far developed that the pupil can make use of them for perceiving in the higher world. The moment he does become able to do this, he enters upon the stage of Enlightenment, so-called in contradistinction to the stage of Preparation, Probation or Purification, where the pupil is engaged upon the exercises that are given for the development of the organs. (The word “Purification” is used, because by means of the exercises he undergoes, the pupil “cleanses” a certain region of his inner life, casting out from it everything that has its source in the external world of the senses.) It may well happen that even before he reaches the stage of Enlightenment, a man will frequently experience sudden flashes that come from a higher world. These he should receive with thankfulness. The fact that he has them enables him already to bear witness to the spiritual world. He must however not weaken in his resolve if no such moments come during the time of Preparation — which may perhaps seem to him to be lasting all too long. Anyone who allows himself to grow impatient because he can still “see nothing” has not yet succeeded in finding his right relation to a higher world. He alone has done so who can look upon the exercises he undertakes in his training as an end in themselves. With these he is in very truth doing work upon something in him that is of the nature of soul and spirit, namely, upon his astral body. And even when as yet he “sees nothing,” he can feel: I am really working and functioning in soul and spirit. If however he has made up his mind beforehand as to what he is going to “see,” he will not have this feeling. He will in that case be disregarding what is in truth of incalculable significance. He should on the contrary be paying careful attention to all that he experiences while doing the exercises. For this is radically different from anything he meets with in the world of sense. Already at this stage he will remark that in working upon his astral body he is not working into some indifferent substance, but that in his astral body lives a world of quite another kind — a world of which his life amid the outer senses tells him nothing. Even as the external world of the senses works upon the physical body, so are the higher Beings working upon the astral body. The pupil will “impinge” upon the higher life in his own astral body, provided he himself does not stand in the way. If he is continually saying to himself: “I can perceive nothing at all,” it will generally mean that he has formed his own idea of what the spiritual percept has to look like, and since he does not see it in the form he has imagined, he says: “I see nothing at all.”

The pupil who has the right attitude to his exercises will find increasingly that the very doing of them is something he can love for its own sake. He knows moreover that the doing of them places him already in a world of soul and spirit, and he waits with patience and above all with devotion for what is to come. This mood in the pupil can be best lifted into consciousness in the following words: “I am resolved to carry out whatever exercises are right for me, and I know that I shall meantime be receiving as much as is important for me to receive. I do not demand it, I am not impatient; I simply hold myself ready all the time to receive it.” It is quite wrong to contend: “So then the pupil is to grope his way on in the dark, perhaps for an incredibly long time, with no means of knowing that he is on the right path until success prove it to him!” For it is simply not true that the pupil has to wait for the exercises to achieve their end before he can be assured of their validity. If he undertakes them in the right spirit he need not wait for their eventual outcome; the satisfaction that he has in doing them will of itself make it clear to him that he is on the true path. Proper practice of exercises belonging to a path of spiritual training brings with it a sense of satisfaction that is no mere satisfaction but certain knowledge. The pupil knows: I am engaging in an activity which I can see is taking me forward in the right direction. Every pupil of the Spirit can have this certainty at every moment, if only he observes his experiences with sensitive discernment. If he is crudely inattentive, he is letting them go past him like a person out walking who is so deeply absorbed in his own reflections that he does not see the trees on either side of his path — although he could quite well be seeing them if he would only turn his eyes in their direction.

It is indeed undesirable that any other result than this one, which always attends the doing of the exercises, should be induced before the time is due. For it may well be that a seemingly successful result is no more than the smallest fraction of what should ensue in right and proper course. In spiritual development a partial success will often lead to a prolonged postponement of complete success. Moving familiarly among such forms of spiritual life as disclose themselves at an imperfect stage renders one insusceptible to influences that lead to higher levels of development. The seeming boon — namely the fact that one has after all had sight of the spiritual world — is not really a boon at all; this kind of “beholding” cannot impart objective truth but only delusive pictures.

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