Thursday, April 30, 2015

Concerning the Nature of Spiritual Perception

From Riddles of the Soul, a collection of essays published by Rudolf Steiner in 1917.

Perceptions in the field of noetic reality do not persist within the psyche in the same way as do representations gained through sense-perception. While it is true that such perceptions may be usefully compared with the ideas of memory, on the lines indicated in Section II, their station within the psyche is nevertheless not the same as that of its memories. This is because what is experienced as spiritual perception cannot be preserved there in its immediate form. If a man wishes to have the same noetic perception over again, he must occasion it anew within the psyche. In other words the psyche's relation to the corresponding noetic reality must be deliberately re-established. And this renewal is not to be compared with the remembering of a sense impression, but solely with the bringing into view once more of the same sense object as was there on the occasion of the former impression.
What can, within the memory, be retained of an actual spiritual perception is not the perception itself but the disposition of soul through which one attained to that perception. If my object is to repeat a spiritual perception which I had some while back, it is no use my trying to remember it. What I should try to remember is something that will call back the psychic preparations that led me to the perception in the first place. Perception then occurs through a process that does not depend on me.
It is important to be very conscious of this dual nature of the whole proceeding, because it is only in that way that one gains authentic knowledge of what is in fact objective spirit. Thereafter, it is true, the duality is modified for practical purposes, through the circumstance that the content of the spiritual perception can be carried over from the intuitive into ordinary-level consciousness. Then, within the latter, it becomes an abstract idea. And this can be later recollected in the ordinary manner. Nevertheless, in order to acquire a reliable psychic relation to the spiritual world, it is a very great advantage to cultivate assiduously the knowledge of three rather subtly differentiated mental processes: 1, psychic, or soul, processes leading up to a spiritual perception; 2, spiritual perceptions themselves; 3, spiritual perceptions translated into the concepts of ordinary consciousness.


From GA21, Riddles of the Soul. Available from Mercury Press:

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