Rudolf Steiner, October 2, 1920:
It is to be hoped that my discussions of the boundaries of natural science have been able to furnish at least some indications of the difference between what spiritual science calls knowledge of the higher worlds and the mode of knowledge proceeding from everyday consciousness or ordinary science. In everyday life and in ordinary science our powers of cognition are those we have acquired through the conventional education that carries us up to a certain stage in life and whatever this education has enabled us to make of inherited and universally human qualities. The mode of cognition that anthroposophically oriented spiritual science terms knowledge of the higher worlds has its basis in a further self-cultivation, a further self-development; one must become aware that in the later stages of life one can advance through self-education to a higher consciousness, just as a child can advance to the stage of ordinary consciousness. The things we sought in vain at the two boundaries of natural science, the boundaries of matter and of ordinary consciousness, reveal themselves only when one attains this higher consciousness. In ancient times the Eastern sages spoke of such an enhanced consciousness that renders accessible to man a level of reality higher than that of everyday life; they strove to achieve a higher development, similar to the one we have described, by means of an inner self-cultivation that corresponded to their racial characteristics and evolutionary stage. The meaning of what radiates forth from the ancient Eastern wisdom-literature becomes fully apparent only when one realizes what such a higher level of development reveals to man. If one were to characterize the path of development these sages followed, one would have to describe it as a path of Inspiration. For in that epoch humanity had a kind of natural propensity to Inspiration, and in order to understand these paths into the higher realms of cognition, it will be useful if first we can gain clarity concerning the path of development followed by these ancient Eastern sages. I want to make it clear from the start, however, that this path can no longer be that of our Western civilization, for humanity is in a process of constant evolution, ever moving forward. And whoever desires — as many have — to return to the instructions given in the ancient Eastern wisdom-literature in order to enter upon the paths of higher development actually desires to turn back the tide of human evolution or shows that he has no real understanding of human progress. In ordinary consciousness we reside within our thought life, our life of feeling, and our life of will, and we initially substantiate what surges within the soul as thought, feeling, and will in the act of cognition. And it is in the interaction with percepts of the external world, with physical-sensory perceptions, that our consciousness first fully awakens.