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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 6

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The faculties of cognition that belong to Inspiration and Intuition — these too can only be attained by means of exercises in the realm of soul and spirit. The exercises are akin to those given for the attainment of Imagination, described above ads deep inner contemplation (meditation.) Whereas however the exercises leading to Imagination are still associated with sense-impressions, in those that lead to Inspiration all such association must be increasingly eliminated. In order to make quite clear what has now to happen, let us return once more to the symbol of the Rose Cross. When we meditate upon the Rose Cross we have before us a picture, the component parts of which are derived from the sense-world — the black color of the cross, the roses, and so forth. But the assembling of the parts to form the Rose Cross is a deed the origin of which is no longer in the sense-world. If now the pupil of the Spirit will try to let the black cross and also the red roses — pictures, both of them, of objects real in the world of the senses — disappear completely from his consciousness, retaining there nothing but the spiritual activity which brought the parts together, in this activity he has the substance of the kind of meditation that can lead him, in course of time, to Inspiration. He should look into his own soul and ask himself: What was I doing when I brought cross and roses together to form a symbolic picture? What I was doing — the process I was bringing about in my soul — that will I now hold fast; the picture itself I will let disappear from consciousness. And now, without letting the picture rise up before me, I will feel what my soul was doing to produce the picture. I will for the time being live a completely inward life, living solely in my own activity that created the picture. I will enter, that is, into deep contemplation, not of any picture, but of my own picture-creating activity.

Meditation of this kind has to be undertaken by the pupil in connection with many different thought-pictures. It will in time lead him to knowledge through Inspiration. To take another example. We meditate the thought-picture of a sprouting, and then again of a dying plant. First, we let the picture rise up in our mind of a plant that is gradually coming into being; we see it sprouting from the seed, we see how it unfolds leaf after leaf and finally brings forth blossom and fruit. Then we see it begin gradually to wither, until at last it died right away. Meditating upon such a picture, we begin to acquire a feeling of the process as such — the process of coming-into-being and dying-away. If we want to go further and reach the corresponding Inspiration, we shall have to do the exercise in another way. We shall have to concentrate our attention on the activity of soul that we ourselves engaged in, in order for the picture of the plant to arrive at the idea of the coming-into-being and dying-away. The plant has now to disappear entirely from consciousness, and we then left meditating upon what we have been doing in our own soul. Only by means of such exercises is the ascent to Inspiration possible.

To begin with, the pupil will not find it altogether easy to be quite clear in his mind as to how he is to set about an exercise of this nature. If he has been accustomed to let his inner life be determined by external impressions, then, when he wants to develop in his soul an inner life that has broken loose from all connection with external impressions, then, when he wants to develop in his soul an inner life that has broken loose from all connection with external impressions, then, he will be at a loss how to proceed. Hence on the path to Inspiration it will be still more essential than before to accompany the given exercises with all those precautionary measures that were recommended to him when setting out to attain Imagination — measures for ensuring stability and confidence, alike in his powers of discrimination, in his life of feeling and in his conduct and character. If he succeeds with these, the pupil will find they have a twofold effect upon him. He will not run the risk of losing his balance when he attains to vision of the supersensible; and he will also become capable of fulfilling quite exactly and faithfully the demands made upon him by the new exercises. The pupil will need to develop here a specific mood and disposition of soul, with the feelings that rightly belong to it; till he has done so, he may well find the exercises difficult. If however he will patiently and perseveringly cultivate within him the qualities of soul that are favorable to the birth of supersensible cognition, it will not be long before he finds himself able to understand the exercises and also to carry them out. Let him make a habit of communing often with his own soul — but not with a view to musing upon himself! Rather should he set out before his mind's eye the successive experiences he has met with in life and consider them quietly. The effort will be well rewarded. He will find that his thought and ideas, and also his feelings, are enriched by bringing these experiences into relation with one another. He will come to realize how true it is that we gain new experience not only by having new impressions or undergoing new events in life; but also by letting the old work on within us. The pupil who really succeeds in letting his experiences — yes, and even the opinions he had gained — play upon one another, as though he himself, with his sympathies and antipathies, his personal interests and feelings, were in no way concerned, will be preparing within him particularly good ground for the growth of the faculty of supersensible cognition. He will in very truth develop what one may call a rich inner life.

What is throughout of the very first importance is that balance and harmony should reign among the various qualities and inclinations of the soul. When man devotes himself to some particular activity of soul, he tends all too easily to become one-sided. Having realized how beneficial is the habit of inner reflection, of sojourning now and again in the world of one's own thoughts, he may grow so fond of doing this that he tends increasingly to shut himself off from the impressions of the world around him. Such a habit could only lead to a bare and arid inner lie. He will advance farthest who retains, along with the ability to withdraw into his own soul, an open-minded receptiveness for all that the external world offers for his perception. And here we should not have in mind merely such objects and events as are commonly considered important; everyone — be his situation in life never so mean and never so circumscribed — can find experience enough within its walls, provided he foster in mind and heart a sensitiveness to all that goes on around him. He has no occasion to go out in search of experiences; they are around him on every hand.

Emphasis has also to be laid on the way in which we receive and reflect upon our experiences. You may, for instance, happen to discover one day that a person whom you revere has some feature in his character which you cannot but regard as a blemish. As you think it over, the discovery may affect you in either of two ways. You may simply say to yourself: Knowing what I now know, I can no longer revere him as I did. Or, you may ask yourself the question: How can it have come about that this person, for whom I have such veneration, has to labor under a defect of this kind? Ought I not perhaps to look upon the fault, not just as a fault, but as a result of the life he has led, perhaps even consequent upon his qualities of greatness? Having seriously faced this question, you may perhaps find that your reverence for him is, after all, undiminished by the discover of a flaw in his character. Every such experience will have taught you something: your understanding of lie will be the truer for it. You would of course be making a bad mistake if you let your appreciation of this way of meeting life mislead you into excusing anything and everything in people or in things to whom or to which you are partial; or if you allowed yourself to drift into a habit of shutting your eyes to whatever is blameworthy, imagining that you were thereby furthering your own inner development. For this you will certainly not be doing, if it is to satisfy your own inclinations that you refrain from blaming faults and try instead to understand and condone them. It will e helpful only if this attitude is called for by the nature of the case, irrespective of whether you yourself are to gain or lose by its adoption. It is undoubtedly true that one can never learn by passing judgment on a fault but only by coming to understand it. Anyone however who in his desire to understand the fault proceeds to banish from his mind all sense of displeasure at it, will be making little headway in his development. So here we have again an instance where what is required is not one-sidedness in one or other direction, but balance and harmony between the several virtues of the soul.

This is true in quite a special degree of on property of the soul that is of outstanding significance for higher development — I mean, the feeling of reverent devotion. One who cultivates this feeling or who has always possessed it as a kind of gift of Nature, has a good foundation upon which to build the faculties of supersensible cognition. Has he been able in childhood to look up with devotion and admiration to persons who stood for him as lofty ideals, then his soul will provide good ground whereon new powers of cognition can grow and flourish. And whoever in later life, in years of riper judgment, gazes up at the starry heavens, filled with wonder and boundless devotion at the revelation he there divines of sublime spiritual powers, will be well on the way to grow ripe for knowledge of supersensible worlds. The same holds true of one who is able to feel wonder and admiration at the powers that are active in the life of man. And of no less significance is also that reverence which a person of maturer years may continue to cherish in full measure for other human beings whose worth he divines or recognizes. Indeed only where such reverence is present, is it possible to come within sight of the higher worlds. A man who is incapable of reverence will not progress very far on the path of knowledge. To one for whom there is nothing in all the world that he deems worthy of his esteem, the real nature of things will ever remain a closed book.

Should anyone on the other hand allow himself to be misled by feelings of reverence and devotion to the complete annulment of his own healthy self-assertion and self-confidence, he too will be sinning against the law of harmony and balance. The pupil of the Spirit will work continuously at his development, that he may grow ever more and more mature; and if he is doing this, then it is only right that he should have confidence in himself and feel assured that his powers are growing all the time. Would he see the whole matter in its true light, let him say to himself: Hidden within me are spiritual powers, and I can call them forth out of my inner life. Hence when I see something that commands my respect because is higher than I, not only should I feel reverence for it, but I may be confident that I myself shall in time come to the stage of development where I am like it.

The more a man is able to be attentive to happenings or situations in his life which in the ordinary course are unfamiliar to him and would elude his judgment, the greater ability will he have to lay the foundation for right development on the path into the spiritual worlds. An example can help make this clear. A person comes into a situation where it is open to him to carry out some particular action — or to leave it undone. His judgment says to him: Do it! But he has in his soul an unaccountable feeling that draws him back. It may happen that he pays no heed to this feeling but simply goes ahead in accordance with the verdict of his judgment. Or again, it may happen that he yields to this inexplicable urge within him, and refrains. If then he follows up the matter to see what happens later, it may turn out that had he obeyed his judgment, harm would have come of it, but that good has resulted from his leaving the action undone. Such an experience can set going in the pupil a train of thought that may run as follows. Within me, he may say to himself, lives something which guides me better than can my faculty of judgment at its present stage of development. I must keep an open mind for this “something” which is on a much higher level than I can reach with my present powers. If we pay careful heed to situations of this kind as we meet them in life, we shall receive considerable benefit from doing so. We shall begin to sense (and this itself is already a sign of health in our inner life) that there is more in man than comes within the range of his ordinary judgment. The very recognition of such a fact widens the soul. Here again, however, we might be led into highly questionable byways. Should we acquire the habit of constantly shutting down our faculty of judgment because some dim feeling impels us to take another course, we might well become the plaything of all manner of undefined motives. And from such a habit the way leads all too quickly into weak-mindedness and superstition.

Fatal for the pupil of the Spirit is superstition of every sort. He can only hope ever to find the right and true path to the realm of Spirit-life by carefully guarding himself from superstition, from flights of fancy, and from all day-dreaming. A person who feels glad when he is brought up against something in life which is “beyond human understanding” will not be the one to enter the spiritual world in the right way. Fondness for the “inexplicable” is emphatically not a qualification for 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, after all experiences, inner and outer, have been banished from it, consciousness is not left empty, but something remains in it to which the pupil can now give himself up in deep contemplation even as he formerly gave himself up to what came to him from outer or inner impressions. This “something” is of a very special nature. In relation to all that the pupil has hitherto experienced and learned it is entirely new. When he feels it there in his consciousness, he knows: This is something of which up to now I have had no knowledge at all. It is a clear perception and I perceive it, just as I should perceive a note of music that my ear was hearing; yet it can only enter my consciousness through Intuition, even as the music can only enter there by way of the ear. In Intuition the impressions man receives are stripped bare of the last remnant of connection with the physical senses. The spiritual world now begins to lie open for his cognition in a form that has nothing in common with the properties of the sense-world.

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