Modern and Ancient Spiritual Exercises; Advice on Meditation
The Human Soul in Relation to World
Evolution. Lecture 7.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach,
May 27, 1922:
The paths by which in very remote times men acquired supersensible knowledge were very different from those appropriate today. I have often drawn attention to the fact that in ancient times man possessed a faculty of instinctive clairvoyance. This clairvoyance went through many different phases to become what may be described as modern man's consciousness of the world, a consciousness out of which a higher one can be developed. In my books Occult Science: An Outline and Knowledge of the Higher Worlds: How is it Achieved? and other writings is described how man at present, when he understands his own times, can attain higher knowledge. Today I want to describe these things from a certain aspect with reference to what was said yesterday.
In ordinary life breathing functions unconsciously. We breathe in, hold the breath, and exhale; this becomes a conscious process only if in some way we are not in good health. In ordinary life, breathing remains for the most part an unconscious process. But during certain periods of his exercises the yogi transformed his breathing into a conscious inner experience. This he did by timing the inhaling, holding, and exhaling of the breath differently, and so altered the whole rhythm of the normal breathing. In this way the breathing process became conscious. The yogi projected himself, as it were, into his breathing. He felt himself one with the indrawn breath, with the spreading of the breath through the body, and with the exhaled breath. In this way he was drawn with his whole soul into the breath.
While the yogi in ancient India passed from one kind of breathing into another, man today must attempt to project himself into a living experience of, for example, the color red. Thus he remains within the realm of thought. He must then do the same with blue and experience the rhythm: red-blue, blue-red, red-blue, and so on, which is a thought-rhythm. But it is not a rhythm that can be found in a logical thought sequence; it is a thinking that is much more alive.
Once attained, these truths can be passed on to the general consciousness of mankind. Nowadays they are opposed simply because people sense that they are not as easy to attain as they would like. I spoke yesterday about how the changed astral body unites, within the heart, with the ether body. I also explained how all our actions, even those we cause others to carry out, are inscribed there. Just think how oppressive such a thought would be to many people. The great truths do indeed demand an inner courage of soul which enables the soul to say to itself: If you are to experience these things you must be prepared to attain knowledge of them through deprivation and suffering. I am not saying this to discourage anyone, but because it is the truth. It may be discouraging for many, but what good would it do to tell people that they can enter higher worlds in perfect comfort when it is not the case. The attainment of higher worlds demands the overcoming of suffering.
Tomorrow we shall link together the considerations of yesterday and those of today and in so doing penetrate further into the spiritual world.