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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 10

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Having come thus far in his experience, the aspirant is now able to make distinction in the surrounding world of soul and spirit between what is himself and what is outside him. He will now be in a position to appreciate how necessary it was to study the evolution of the world as described in this book, in order to arrive at a true understanding of man and of his life. For we can only understand man's physical body if we know how it has been built up right through the Saturn, Sun, Moon and Earth evolutions. So too for the other members of man's being. To understand the ether-body, we need to follow its development through Sun, Moon and Earth evolutions. And if we are to understand all that has to do with the Earth's own evolution at the present time, we shall need to know how it has gradually unfolded, stage by stage. One who has undergone spiritual training will be in a position to recognize the relationship between what is contained in man and the corresponding facts and beings of the world around him. For it is so indeed: there is no member or part of man that does not stand in some relation to the rest of the world — the world in its entirety. In this book it has hardly been possible to do more than give indications in barest outline of this universal correspondence. But we must not forget that the physical body, for example, was, during Saturn evolution, only in its very first beginnings. Its organs — heart, lung, brain and so on — developed out of these first beginnings, during the Sun, Moon and Earth periods. They therefore are connected with Sun, Moon and Earth evolution. The like must be said of man's other members — the ether-body, the sentient body, the sentient soul and so on. The whole of the immediately surrounding world has gone to the forming of man; no single part or feature of him that has not its corresponding process or being in the world without. And when he has reached the above-described stage in his development, the pupil of the Spirit learns to recognize this relationship of his own being to the great world. Such is the characteristic experience at this stage: he becomes conscious of the correspondence that exists between the “little world,” the Microcosm — the world, that is, of man himself — and the “great world,” the Macrocosm.

When the pupil has worked his way through to this perception, a new experience awaits him. He begins to feel as though he has grown together with the whole vast structure of the Universe, retaining, however, at the same time the consciousness of himself as a fully independent being. A feeling nevertheless comes over him, as if he were being merged into the whole vast Universe, were becoming one with it — yet without losing his individuality. This stage of development may be described as the “becoming one with the Macrocosm.” It is essential not to think of it as though implying that separate consciousness should cease and the human individuality be poured out into the All. Such an idea could arise only from an inexact and untrained way of thinking.

We may now set down in order the stages on the way to higher powers of cognition, attained in the training for Initiation that has here been described:

  1. Study of spiritual science. To begin with, the pupil applies himself to this study with the powers of thought and sound judgment acquired in the physical world.
  2. Attainment of Imaginative Cognition.
  3. Reading of the Hidden Script. (This stage is equivalent to Inspiration.)
  4. Living one's way into the Spiritual World that is around one (equivalent to Intuition.)
  5. Knowledge of the relationships between Microcosm and Macrocosm.
  6. Becoming one with the Macrocosm.
  7. A fundamental mood of soul determined by the simultaneous and integral experience of the foregoing stages.

The reader is not however to imagine that the seven stages necessarily follow one another in precise order. Much will depend on the individual character of the pupil. If can be that an earlier stage has only partially been reached when a pupil begins to undertake exercises belonging to the next. For example, it may be perfectly right, when he has had but a few genuine Imaginations, for him already to be doing exercises designed to bring Inspiration or Intuition, or even knowledge of the relationship of Microcosm to Macrocosm, within the reach of his own personal experience.

*   *   *   *   *

When the pupil has got so far as to have an experience of Intuition, then in addition to having knowledge of the pictures that belong to the world of soul and spirit, and being able to read from the Hidden Script how these pictures are interrelated, he also comes to know the Beings through whose co-operation the world to which man belongs has been called into existence. Then too he learns to know himself in his own archetypal form as a soul-and-spirit being in the world of soul and spirit. He has wrestled his way through to a perception of his Higher Self, and now sees clearly what he has still to achieve in order to gain control over his Double, the “Guardian of the Threshold” who stands there before him, continually calling upon him to work on further at his development. This “Greater Guardian of the Threshold” now becomes for him the Ideal, the Example that he will do his utmost to follow. Having once come to this resolve, the pupil will be enabled to recognize who it is that is there before him as the “Greater Guardian of the Threshold.” For now this Greater Guardian changes for the eyes of the pupil into the figure of Christ, whose nature and whose part in the evolution of Earth have been explained in the earlier chapters of this book. Through this experience the pupil is initiated into the sublime Mystery that is connected with the name of Christ. Christ shows himself to him as the great human Prototype and Example, united with the Earth's true evolution.

Having thus come through Intuition to a knowledge of Christ in the spiritual world, the aspirant will find that he is able also to understand what took place historically on Earth in the fourth post-Atlantean period — the time of the Greek and Roman civilization. How the great Sun Being, even the Christ, intervened in Earth evolution, and how He is still working in it now and on into the future, the pupil of the Spirit knows henceforth from his own experience. This then is what he attains through Intuition: the very meaning and significance of Earth evolution are communicated to him.

The path to knowledge of the supersensible worlds that has here been described is one that everyone can tread, no matter what his situation or circumstances in life. When speaking of such a path, we must not forget that the goal of knowledge and truth has been and is the same throughout all epochs of Earth evolution, but that the starting-point has been different in different epochs. Man cannot set out today from the same starting-point as did, for example, the candidate for Initiation in ancient Egypt. Neither can the exercises that were given to a pupil in ancient Egypt be simply taken over by a man of the present age. Since that epoch men's souls have been through sundry incarnations, and this moving on from incarnation to incarnation is not without meaning and purpose. The capabilities and qualities of the soul change from one incarnation to the next. Even a superficial study of history will convince us that since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of our era the conditions of life have been very different from what they were before; men's opinions and feelings, even their capacities, have quite altered from what they were in earlier times. The path to higher knowledge that has here been described is one that is adopted for souls who are incarnated in the immediate present. It takes for its starting-point the situation of a human being of today, living under any of the typical conditions of the present age. As evolution progresses, the outer forms of man's life on Earth undergo change; so too in the paths of higher development every succeeding epoch calls for new ways and new methods. It is of vital importance that at every stage harmony should reign between man's life in the world at large and the Way of Initiation.

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Last Modified: 28-Apr-2024
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