Rudolf Steiner, Munich, February 25, 1912:
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Spiritual Psychology: Consciousness, Subconsciousness, and Superconsciousness
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, February 25, 1912:
Today and the day after tomorrow I propose to discuss a few of the more important facts relating to consciousness and to karmic connections.
If you cast even a superficial glance at that which exists in your soul from awaking in the morning to falling asleep at night — in the form of ideas, moods, impulses of will, adding of course all the impressions that approach the soul from without — then you have everything that may be called the objects of ordinary consciousness.
It must be clear to us that all these details of our conscious activity are dependent, under ordinary conditions, upon the instrumentality of the physical body. The immediate, irrefutable proof of this is that one must awake in order to live within these facts of the usual consciousness. For us this means that the human being must submerge himself in the physical body with what is outside it during sleep, and his physical body must be at his disposal with its instruments. He must be able to make use of them if the activities of the ordinary consciousness are to go on.
The following question then arises: In what way does the human being, as a soul and spiritual entity, make use of his physical instruments, his organs of sense, his nervous system? In what way does he use his bodily organs in order to exist in his ordinary consciousness? In the outer, materialistic world there is, first of all, the belief that the human being possesses in his physical instruments that which produces the facts present to consciousness. It has been frequently pointed out that this is not the case; that it is no more sensible for us to imagine that our inner corporeality, our sense organs or brain, bring forth the details of consciousness than to imagine that a candle creates the flame. The relation of what we call consciousness to the bodily mechanism is quite otherwise. We might compare it with the relation of a man to the mirror in which he sees himself. When we sleep our state of consciousness is comparable, let us say, to walking straight ahead in a certain space. If we do this we do not see ourselves, how our nose or forehead looks, and so forth. Only when someone steps forward with a mirror and holds it before us do we behold ourselves. But then we are confronted by what has always belonged to us. It is then there for us. It is the same with the facts of our ordinary consciousness. They exist continually within us, and have, as they exist there, nothing whatsoever to do with the physical body — as little as we ourselves have to do with the mirror mentioned above. The materialistic theory in this field is simply nonsense; it is not even a possible hypothesis. For the materialist in this field affirms nothing less than would be asserted were someone to declare that because he sees himself in a mirror the mirror created him.
If you wish to give yourself up to the illusion that the mirror creates you because you see yourself only when it is held before you, then you may also believe that parts of the brain or the sense organs produce the content of your soul-life. Both statements are equally intelligent and true. That the mirror creates the human being is just as true as that the brain produces thoughts. The facts of our consciousness persist. It is necessary for our ordinary organization that we be able to perceive these existing details of consciousness. To this end we must encounter that which reflects them — our physical body. We have thus in our physical body what we may call the reflecting apparatus for the facts of our ordinary consciousness. These facts exist in our soul and spiritual entity. We cannot perceive them psychically any more than we can perceive ourselves without a mirror. We become aware of that which lives within us and is a part of us by having held before us the mirror of our bodily nature. That is the actual state of things, except that one has not to do with a passive reflector in the case of the body, but with something that contains processes of its own. Thus it may be imagined that instead of the mirror which is silvered to produce reflection, the physical body has behind it all sorts of processes. The comparison suffices to show the relation of our spirit and soul being to the body. We will hold before our minds the fact that for all we experience in normal, everyday consciousness, the physical body is an adequate reflector. Behind or, let us say, below all the details of this usual consciousness lie the things that rise up into our ordinary soul-life, and which we must designate as facts within the hidden depths of the soul.
Some of that which exists in the hidden depths of the soul is experienced by the poet or the artist who knows — if he is a genuine poet or artist — that he does not conceive his works by means of logic or outer observation. He knows instead that they emerge from unknown depths, and are there, really there, without having been gathered together by the forces of ordinary consciousness. But from these hidden depths of soul-life other things also emerge which, although in everyday life we are unaware of their origin, play a part in our everyday consciousness.
We saw yesterday that we can go down deeper, into the realm of half-consciousness, the realm of dreams, and we know that dreams lift something up out of the depths of soul-life which we cannot lift up by straining the memory in the simple usual way. When something long buried in memory stands before a human soul in a dream picture — which happens again and again — the individual in most cases could never, through recollection alone, lift these things up from the hidden depths of soul-life because the ordinary consciousness does not extend so far down. But that which is inaccessible to this surface consciousness is quite within reach of the subconsciousness, and in the half conscious dream state much that has remained or been preserved, so to say, is brought up or rises up.
Only those things strike upwards that have failed to produce their effects in the way usual to that emanation of human experience which sinks into the hidden depths of the soul. We become healthy or ill, moody or gay, not due directly to our ordinary course of life, but because a bodily condition results from that which has sunk down from our life experience. It is no longer remembered, but there below in our soul this sunken something works, and makes us what we become in the course of our lives. Many a life would be quite comprehensible to us if we but knew what hidden elements had descended throughout its course into these subconscious depths. We should be able to understand many a man in his thirties, forties, or fifties, should know why he has this or that tendency, why he feels so deeply dissatisfied in certain connections without being able to say what causes this discomfort. We should understand a great deal if we were to follow the life of such a man back into childhood. We should be able then to see how in his early years his parents and environment had affected him, what was called forth of sorrow and joy, of pleasure or pain, perhaps entirely forgotten, but acting upon his general condition. For that which rolls down and surges out of our consciousness into the hidden depths of soul life continues its operation there. It is a curious fact that the force, acting in this way, works primarily upon ourselves, does not leave, so to speak, the sphere of our personality. Therefore when the clairvoyant consciousness descends (and this happens through what is called imaginative cognition), when the clairvoyant consciousness descends to the realm where, in the subconsciousness, things rule which have just been described, the seeker always finds himself. He finds that which exists and surges within him. And that is good; for in true self-knowledge the human being must learn to know himself in order that he may observe and become acquainted with all the driving forces that work within him.
If he gives no heed to these facts; if when he gains clairvoyant consciousness through exercises in imaginative cognition, and forces his way down into the subconscious — if he does not recognize that in everything working within him he finds only himself — then he is exposed to manifold errors. For he cannot become aware of this in any way comparable to the ordinary activities of consciousness. There arises for the human searcher the possibility, at one step or another, of having visions, of seeing shapes which are quite new and do not resemble those with which he has become acquainted in average experience. This may happen, but to believe that such things are part of the outer world would be a serious mistake. These phenomena of the inner life do not present themselves as in the ordinary consciousness. If one has a headache it is a fact of the ordinary consciousness. One knows it to be located in one's own head. If anyone has a stomachache he is aware of it within himself. If we descend into what we call the hidden depths of the soul, we remain absolutely within ourselves, and yet what we encounter may present itself objectively, as if it were in the outside world.
Let us consider a striking example: Let us assume that someone has a longing to be the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene. (I have already stated that I have counted during my lifetime twenty-four such Magdalenes!) Let us assume also that this wish is not as yet admitted: we do not need to admit to ourselves our own wishes, that is not necessary. But a woman reads the story of Mary Magdalene, and it pleases her exceedingly. The desire to be Mary Magdalene may arise at once in her subconscious mind while in the surface consciousness nothing is present but the attraction of this character. It pleases the person in question. In the subconsciousness, unknown to its possessor, there is a growing desire to be this Mary Magdalene. This individual goes through the world, and as long as nothing intervenes in her upper consciousness, that is to say, as far as she knows, she is simply pleased with Mary Magdalene. The ardent desire to be Mary Magdalene is in her subconscious mind, but she knows nothing about that, so it does not trouble her. She is guided by the details of the ordinary consciousness, and may go through the world as though she had no such injurious subconscious desire. But let us assume that, as a result of employing this or that occult method of reaching the subconscious, this woman succeeds in descending into herself. She might not become aware of a desire to be Mary Magdalene, as she would of a headache. If she did her attitude towards her desire would be the same as towards a pain: she would just try to get rid of it. But in the case of an irregular penetration this desire presents itself as something outside the personality. The vision pretends to say: Thou art Mary Magdalene! It stands before her, projecting itself as a fact, and a human being, as evolution is today, is unable to control such a condition with the ego. With good, correct, and careful schooling this cannot happen, for then the ego goes along into every sphere; but as soon as something enters the consciousness without the accompanying presence of the ego it is produced as an objective fact. This observer believes that she recalls events surrounding Mary Magdalene, and identifies herself with her.
This is a real possibility. I emphasize this today in order that you may gather from it the fact that only careful schooling and caution in regard to your entrance into the domain of occultism can save you from falling into error. It is to be understood that you must first see a whole world before you, must note objects around you, excluding however that which you relate to yourself, or which is within you, even though it appears as a world tableau — if you know that it is well to regard what you first see only as the projection of your own inner life, then you have a good corrective for the errors along the way. This is the best of all: regard, as a general rule, everything as phenomena emanating from yourself. Most of them arise out of our wishes, vanities, from our ambitions — in short, from characteristics relating to the egotism of humanity. These things project themselves, for the most part, outward, and you may now raise the question: How can we avoid these errors? How can we save ourselves from them?
We cannot save ourselves from these errors by the ordinary facts of consciousness. The deception arises from the fact that, although the human being is confronted in reality by a world-tableau, he cannot escape from himself, is all entangled in himself. From this you may see that it depends upon our coming, in one way or another, out of ourselves — that we learn to differentiate: here you have a vision, and there another. The visions are both outside ourselves; one is perhaps only the projection of a desire, the other is a fact, but they do not differ as radically as in ordinary life when someone else says he has a headache, and you have it yourself. Our own inner life is projected into space, just as the inner life of another person. How shall we learn to distinguish the one from the other?
We must undertake research within the occult field, and learn to distinguish true from false impressions, although they appear confused and all make the same claim to authenticity, as though we looked into the physical world and saw besides ordinary trees, imaginary ones. The real objective facts and those which arise from our own inner life are mixed together. How are we to learn to separate two realms which are so intermingled?
We do not learn this primarily through our consciousness. If we remain entirely within the confines of our mental life there is then no possibility of differentiation. This possibility lies only in the slow occult training of the soul. As we go on further and further we acquire real discrimination. This means that we learn to do in the occult realm what we would have to do in the physical world if trees born of phantasy and genuine trees stood side by side. If we run against phantasy-trees they let us pass through without resistance, but if we encounter real trees we bruise ourselves against them. Something similar, although of course only as a spiritual fact, must confront us in the occult field.
We can, if we go about it properly, learn in a comparatively simple way to distinguish between the true and false within this field, not however through ideas, but by resolution of will. This resolution may be brought about in the following way: If we look over our life we find in it two distinctly different groups of occurrences. We often find that this or that in which we succeed or fail is related to our abilities. That is to say, we find it comprehensible that in a certain field we do not succeed very well because in it we are not particularly bright. Where we assume on the contrary that we have ability, we find success quite natural.
Perhaps we need not always discern so distinctly the connection between what we carry out and our abilities. There is also a less definite way to realize this connection. If, for example, anyone in his later years is pursued by this or that blow of fate and, thinking back says to himself: “As a man I did little to make myself energetic” — or must say to himself: “I was always a careless fellow” — he may also say: “Well, the connection between my lack of success and my other omissions is not immediately apparent, but I do see that things cannot really succeed for a careless, lazy person to the same degree they are possible for one who is conscientious and industrious.” In short, there are successes and failures which we can comprehend and find natural, but there are others which happen in such a way that we cannot discover any connection, so that we say to ourselves: “Although in accordance with certain abilities this or that should have succeeded, it nevertheless did not succeed.” Thus there is distinctly a type of success or failure whose connection with our capacities we cannot see.
That is one thing. The other is that in regard to some things in the outside world which strike us as blows of fate, we can sometimes say: “Well yes, that appears to be just, for we furnished all the predisposing conditions;” but some other things that happen we cannot discover that we are in any position to explain. We have thus two types of experience: those whose relation to ourselves and our capacities we realize, and the other type just characterized, for which we cannot see that we are responsible. Our external experiences fall likewise into two classes: those of which we cannot say that we have produced the determining conditions, in contrast to others which we know we have brought about.
Now, we may look around a little in our lives. That is a useful experiment for everyone. We could gather together all the things whose causes we cannot see, whose success led us to say “a blind chicken has found a kernel of corn” — things whose success we cannot attribute to ourselves. But we can remember and collect also failures in the same way, and those seemingly accidental outer events for which we know of no modifying influence. And now we make the following soul experiment: We imagine that we constructed for ourselves an artificial human being who, through his own abilities, brought about all our successes whose cause we do not understand. If something succeeded for us requiring wisdom just where we ourselves are stupid, then we conceive a person who is particularly clever in this field, and for whom the enterprise simply had to succeed. Or for an outer event we proceed in this way: let us say a brick falls on our head. We can see no reason, but we conceive someone who brought it about by running up to the roof and loosening the brick, so that he needed only to wait a little for it to fall. He runs down quickly, and the brick strikes him. We do this with certain events which we know have not been brought about by us in any ordinary way, and which happen very much against our will. Let us assume that at some time in our life we were struck by someone. In order that we may not find this too difficult we may place this event back in our childhood; we can pretend that then we contrived to be beaten by someone, that is, we had done everything to bring it about. In short, we construct for ourselves a human being who brings down upon himself everything for which we cannot account. You see, if progress in occultism is desired many things must be done which run contrary to ordinary events. If you do only what generally seems reasonable you get no further in occultism, for that which relates to higher worlds may seem to ordinary people quite foolish. It does no harm if the method does seem foolish to the prosaic outer man.
Well, we construct for ourselves this human being. At first it seems to us a merely grotesque performance, something the object of which we perhaps do not understand; but we shall make a discovery about ourselves, in fact everyone will who tries it, namely the astonishing discovery that he no longer wishes to detach himself from this being which he has himself built up, that it is beginning to interest him. If you try it you will see for yourself: you cannot get away from this artificial human being; it lives within you. And in a peculiar way: it not only lives within you but it transforms itself, and radically. It changes so that at last it becomes something quite different from what it was originally. It becomes something of which we are forced to say “it really does exist within us.”
This is an experience which is possible to everyone. We admit that what has just been described — which is not the original self-created being of phantasy, but that which this has become — is a part of what is within us. Now, this is just what has, so to speak, brought about the apparently causeless things during our lives. We find within ourselves the real cause of what is otherwise incomprehensible. That which I have described to you is, in other words, the way not only to peer into your own soul-life and find something, but it is the way out from the soul-life into the environment. For what we fail to bring off does not remain with us, but belongs to our environment. So we have taken something out of our environment which does not harmonize with the facts of our consciousness, but presents itself as if it were within us. Then we gain the feeling that we really have something to do with what seems so causeless in real life. A person acquires in this way a feeling of his connection with his destiny, with what is called karma. Through this soul experiment a real way is opened to experience within himself, in a certain manner, his own karma.
You may say: “Yes, but I do not understand exactly what you have said.” If you say that, you do not fail to understand what you imagine, but you lack understanding for something which even a child can grasp, but about which you simply have not thought. It is impossible for anyone who has not carried out the experiment to understand these things. Only he who has done this can understand. These things are to be taken only as the description of an experiment that can be made and experienced by anyone. Each one comes to the realization that something lives within him which is connected with his karma. If anyone knew this beforehand no rule would need be given him for the attainment of this knowledge.
It is quite in order that no one grasps this who has not yet made the experiment; it is not however a question of understanding in the ordinary sense, but an acceptance of information regarding something that our soul may undertake. If our soul follows such paths it accustoms itself not to live within itself only, in its own wishes and desires, but to relate itself to outer happenings, to consider them. Exactly the things which we ourselves have not desired, we have built into that which is here considered. And when we have come to face our destiny so that we can calmly take it upon us, and think in regard to what we usually murmur and rebel against: “We accept it willingly, for we ourselves have decreed it,” then there arises a state of mind and heart in which, when we force our way down into the hidden depths of soul, we can distinguish with absolute certainty the true from the false. For then is shown with a wonderful clarity and assurance what is true and what false.
If you behold any sort of vision with the mental eye, and can as it were by a mere look banish it, drive it away, simply by the use of all the inner forces with which you have become acquainted — then it is just a phantasm. But if you cannot get rid of it in this fashion, if you can banish at most that which reminds you of the outer world; if the really visionary quality, the spiritual thing remains like a solid fact — then it is true. But you cannot make this distinction until you have done what has been described. Therefore without the above-mentioned training there can be no certainty in the differentiation between the true and false upon the supersensible plane. The essential thing in this soul experiment is that we always remain in full possession of our ordinary consciousness in regard to what we desire, and that by means of this experiment we accustom ourselves to look upon what we in our ordinary consciousness do not at all want, and is repugnant to us, as something willed into existence by us. One may in a certain sense have reached a definite degree of inner development; but unless, through such a soul experiment, we have learned to contrast all the wishes, desires, sympathy and antipathy which live in the soul with our relation to what we have not wished, then we shall make mistake after mistake.
The greatest mistake in the Theosophical Society was first made by H. P. Blavatsky; for although she fixed her spiritual attention upon the realm where Christ may be found, in the contents of her upper consciousness, in her wishes and desires, there was a constant antipathy, even a passion against everything Christian or Hebrew, and a preference for all other spiritual cultures on Earth, and because she had never gone through what has been described today she conceived of the Christ in an entirely false way. That was quite natural. It passed over to her nearest students, and has been dragged along, although grotesquely coarsened, to the present day. These things extend to the highest spheres. One may see many things upon the occult plane, but the power of discrimination is something different from mere sight, mere perception. This must be sharply stressed.
Now, the problem is this: When we sink down into our hidden soul-depths (and every clairvoyant must do this) we first come into what is fundamentally ourselves. And we must learn to know ourselves by really making the transition, by having a world before us — of which Lucifer and Ahriman always promise to give us the kingdoms. This means that our own inner self appears before us, and the devil says: “This is the objective world.” That is the temptation that even Christ did not escape. The inner illusions of the inner world were presented —only He, through His inherent power, recognized from the very beginning that it is not a real world, but a world that is within. It is through this inner world alone, which we must separate into two parts in order to get rid of one — our own personal part — and have the other remain, that we pass through the hidden depths of our soul-life out into the objective supersensible world. And just as our spiritual-soul kernel must make use of our physical body as a mirror for outer perception, for the facts of ordinary consciousness, so must the human being make use of his etheric body as a reflecting apparatus for the supersensible facts which next confront him. The higher sense organs, if we may so describe them, open within the astral body, but what lives in them must be reflected by the etheric body, just as the spiritual and soul activity of which we are aware in ordinary life is reflected by the physical body. We must now learn to manage our ether body, and it is entirely natural — since our etheric body is usually unknown to us, although it represents what vitalizes us — that we must become acquainted with it before we can learn to recognize that which enters us from the supersensible objective world and may be reflected by this ether body.
You now see what we experience when we descend into the hidden depths of our soul life. It is primarily ourselves, and the projection of our wishes is very similar to what we usually call the life in Kamaloca [Region of Burning Desire, or of Cleansing Fire; also Purgatory]. It differs from it only in that when anyone in ordinary life thus pushes forward into imprisonment within himself (which is what it may be called,) he has still his physical body to which he can return. But in Kamaloca the physical body is gone, even part of the etheric body — the part which most immediately reflects for us — but the universal life-ether surrounding us serves as an instrument of reflection, and mirrors everything that is within us. Thus in the Kamaloca period our own inner world is built up about us as an objective world: all our wishes, desires, all that we feel and to which we are inwardly attuned.
It is important to understand that the primary characteristic of the life in Kamaloca is our imprisonment within ourselves, and this prison is the more securely fastened by the fact that we cannot return to any sort of physical life to which our whole inner activity has been related. Only when we live through this Kamaloca period in such a way as to realize gradually (we do come to this gradually) that it all may be got rid of by experiencing ourself otherwise than through mere desires and so forth, only then is our Kamaloca prison opened.
How is this meant? In the following way: Let us suppose that someone dies with a definite wish; this wish belongs to that which projects itself outward and is built up around him in some kind of imagery. Now, as long as this desire lives within him it is impossible, in regard to it, to open Kamaloca with any sort of key. Only when he realizes that this wish cannot be satisfied except by discarding it, when his attitude toward it becomes the opposite to what it has been, then gradually with the wish everything that imprisons us in Kamaloca will be torn from the soul. Only then do we come into the realm between death and rebirth which has been called the devachanic [Devachan = Heaven], and which may be entered also through clairvoyance when we have recognized that which belongs to the self alone. In clairvoyance it is reached through a definite degree of development; in Kamaloca through the passage of time, simply because time so torments us through our own desires that at last they are overcome. By this means that which has been dangled before us as if it were the world and its splendor is destroyed.
The world of supersensible realities is what is usually called Devachan. How does this world of supersensible facts appear before us? Here upon this earthly globe we can speak of Devachan only because in clairvoyance, when the self has been really conquered, we enter at once into the world of supersensible facts, which are objectively present, and these facts coincide with those of Devachan.
The most important characteristic of this devachanic world is that in it moral actualities are no longer separable from the physical, that moral and physical laws are one and the same. What does that mean? Well, is it not true that in the ordinary physical world the Sun shines upon the just and the unjust? Whoever commits a crime may be put in prison, but the physical Sun is not darkened. That is to say: in the physical world there is a realm of moral and physical laws, leading in two very different directions. It is not so in Devachan, not at all; instead of this, everything proceeding from morality, from intelligent wisdom, from the aesthetically beautiful, and so on, leads to growth (is creative), and that which arises from immorality, intellectual falsity, and aesthetic ugliness leads to withering and destruction. And there the laws of nature are such that the Sun does not shine upon the just and the unjust alike but, if we may speak figuratively, it darkens upon the unjust; so that the just, passing through Devachan, have there the spiritual sunshine, that is to say, the influence of the fertilizing forces that bring about their forward progress in life. The spiritual forces draw back from the dishonest or ugly human being. The following is possible there which is impossible here on Earth. When two people — just and unjust — walk here side by side, the Sun cannot shine upon one and not upon the other; but in the spiritual world the effect of the spiritual forces depends absolutely upon the quality of the individual concerned. That is to say: the laws of nature and the spiritual laws do not follow two separate roads, but one and the same. That is the fundamental, essential truth. In the devachanic world the natural, moral, and intellectual laws act together as one.
As a result the following occurs: If a human being has entered and lives through the devachanic world, he has within him what is left over from his last life of justice and injustice, good and evil, aesthetic beauty and ugliness, truth and falsehood. All this residue acts however in such a way that it takes immediate possession of the natural laws. We may compare the law there with the following in the physical world: If anyone in the physical world had stolen or lied and, seeking the sunlight, found that the sun did not shine upon him, could not find it anywhere, and thus through lack of sunshine developed a disease ... or let us rather assume as an example that someone in the physical world who was a liar had difficulty in breathing; that would be an exact parallel with what would be the case in the devachanic world. To the person who has burdened himself with this or that, something happens in his spiritual and soul nature so that the natural law at once and absolutely expresses the spiritual law. Hence, if the further development of this personality is brought about in this way, as he progresses gradually and is more fully permeated by these laws, such characteristics develop in him that he becomes an expression of the qualities which he brought over from his past life. Just let us suppose that someone has been two hundred years in Devachan, and has gone through it, having been in his last life a liar: the spirits of Truth withdraw from him. There dies in him that which in a truthful soul would be invigorated.
Or let us assume that someone with a pronounced quality of vanity which he has not given up goes through Devachan. This vanity in Devachan is an extraordinarily evil-smelling emanation, and certain spiritual beings avoid a personality who gives out the offensive evaporation of ambition or vanity. This is not a figurative statement. In Devachan vanity and ambition are extremely evil exhalations, and lead to the withdrawal of the beneficent influence of certain beings who retreat before this atmosphere. This could be compared to the placing in the cellar of a plant which thrives only in sunlight. A vain person cannot thrive. He will grow up with this characteristic. When he reincarnates he lacks the strength to build in the good influences. Instead of developing certain organs in a healthy way, he forms an unhealthy part in his organism. Thus not only our physical limitations, but our moral and intellectual ones as well, show us the kind of human beings we become in life. Only when we emerge from the physical plane do natural and spiritual law go side by side. Between death and a new birth they are a single whole. And in our soul are implanted the natural forces which destroy if they are the result of the immoral deeds of past lives, but which fructify if they are the result of noble ones. This is true not only for our inner constitution, but also for that which falls upon us from without as our karma.
In Devachan the essential fact is that no difference exists there between natural and spiritual law, and it is the same for the clairvoyant who really penetrates to the supersensible worlds. These laws of the supersensible worlds are radically different from those which rule upon the physical plane. It is simply impossible for the clairvoyant to differentiate in the manner of the materialistic mind when someone says: “That is only a law of objective nature.” Behind this objective natural law there exists always in reality a spiritual law. A clairvoyant cannot cross a scorched meadow, for example, or a flooded district, cannot perceive a volcanic eruption, without thinking that behind the facts of nature are spiritual forces, hidden spiritual beings. For him a volcanic eruption is at the same time a moral deed, even though its morality may lie in an entirely different, undreamed-of realm. Those who always confuse the physical with the higher worlds will say: “Well, when innocent human beings are destroyed by a volcanic outbreak, how can one assume that it is a moral deed?” We do not need to worry about that. Such a judgment would be as cruelly philistine as the opposite idea: namely, to regard it as a punishment from God upon the people who are settled around the volcano. Both judgments are possible only to the narrow-minded standpoint of the physical world. Such is not the question, which may have to do with much more universal things. Those who live on the slope of a volcano, and whose property is destroyed by it, may be for this life entirely innocent. It will be made up to them later. This does not make us hardhearted and unwilling to help them (that again would be a narrow-minded interpretation of the matter). But in the case of volcanic eruptions the fact is that in the course of the Earth evolution certain things happen through human deeds which retard human evolution, and just the good gods must work in a certain way for a balance which is sometimes achieved through such natural phenomena.
This application of the law is to be seen only in occult depths: that compensation is created for what is done by men themselves against the genuine development of humanity. Every event, whether a mere activity of nature or not, is at bottom something moral, and spiritual beings in the higher worlds are the bearers of the moral law behind the physical fact. If you simply conceive a world in which no separation of natural and spiritual laws can be considered, a world in which, with other words, justice rules as a natural law, you have then the devachanic world. Therefore one need not think that in this devachanic world through any sort of arbitrary decision an unworthy action has to be punished, because in that realm the immoral destroys itself as inevitably as fire consumes inflammable material, and morality is self-stimulated, and advances itself.
We thus see that the essential characteristic, the innermost nerve of existence, so to speak, is quite different for the different worlds. We gain no idea of the several worlds if we do not consider these peculiarities which differ so radically upon different levels. We may thus correctly characterize physical world, Kamaloca, and Devachan: in the physical world natural and spiritual law run side by side as two series of facts; in Kamaloca the human being is confined within himself, as if in a prison of his own being; the devachanic world is the complete opposite of the physical; there natural and spiritual law are one and the same. These are the three characteristics, and if you consider them carefully, striving sensitively to realize how very different from our own a world must be in which the moral, the intellectual, and even the law of beauty are at the same time natural law, then you will gain an acute impression of conditions in the devachanic world.
In our physical world, when we meet an ugly or a beautiful face we have no right to treat the ugly person as if he must be psychically revolting, or the beautiful one as if he must necessarily be worthy of high esteem. In Devachan it is quite otherwise. There we meet no ugliness that is not deserved, and it will be impossible for anyone who, because of his preceding incarnation, is obliged in this one to wear an ugly face, but who strives throughout this life to be true and honorable, to meet us in Devachan with any sort of unpleasant appearance. He will have transformed his ugliness into beauty. But it is equally true that he who is untruthful, vain, or ambitious in this life will wander about in Devachan with some hideous form. And something else is also true: In ordinary physical life we do not see that an ugly face continually robs itself, nor that a beautiful one contributes something to itself, but in Devachan it is like that; ugliness is an element of progressive destruction, and we cannot perceive beauty without assuming that it is the result of an equally continuous furtherance and help.
We must feel quite otherwise toward the devachanic or mental world than toward the physical world. And this is necessary: to differentiate in these sensations, to see the essential which matters, in order that you may appropriate not only the description of these things, but that you may take away feelings, sensitivity, toward that which is described in spiritual science. If you try to soar upward to an appreciation of a world in which morality, beauty, and intellectual truth appear with the inevitability of natural law then you have the feeling of the devachanic world; and this is why we must, so to say, collect so much material and work so much, in order that the things which we work out for ourselves may at last be merged into one feeling.
It is impossible for anyone to come easily or lightly to a real knowledge of what must gradually be made clear and comprehensible to the world through spiritual science. There are many different movements that say “Oh why must so many things be learned in spiritual science? Are we to become pupils again? Feeling is all that matters.” It does matter, but it must be the right feeling, which must first be developed! This is true of everything. It would be pleasanter, would it not, for the painter if he did not have to learn the technique of his art, if he did not have to bring out upon the canvas, at first slowly, the final result, if he needed only to exhale in order to have his finished work before him! In our world today it is a curious fact that the more the realm of the soul is in question, the harder it is for people to realize that nothing is accomplished by mere exhaling! In music it would not be admitted that one could become a composer without learning anything of composition; there it is quite obvious. This is so also with painting, though people admit it less easily, and in poetry they admit it even less, otherwise there would be in our own time fewer poets. For actually no time is as unpoetic as our own, though there are so many poets. If it is not necessary to have studied poetry, but only to be able to write (which naturally has nothing to do with poetic art) and of course to spell correctly — we need only to be able to express our thoughts! And for philosophy still less is required. For today, that anyone may judge straight away anything concerning the conceptions of life and the world is regarded as a matter of course, since everyone has his own point of view. One finds again and again that no value is set by such people upon the carefully worked out personal possession of the means and methods of cognition and of research in the world, gained through every resource of inner work. Instead, it seems to them obvious that the standpoint of one who has labored long before venturing to give out even a little about world secrets has no greater value than that of the one who simply takes it upon himself to have a standpoint. Anyone can count nowadays as a man with a world conception.
This, on the contrary, is what really matters, upon which everything depends: that we labor with all our energy in order that what we work out for ourselves we may at last gather together and carry over into feelings, which through their coloring give the highest, the truest knowledge. Struggle through, by working toward a feeling, an impression of a world in which natural and spiritual law coincide. Then if you work seriously — no matter though people believe you to have learned only theoretically, although you have striven hard in working through this or that theory — you will realize that it makes an impression upon the devachanic world. If you have not simply imagined a feeling, but evolved it by years of careful work, then this feeling, these nuances of sensibility, have a strength which will bring you further than they could reach of themselves; for through earnest, eager study, they have become true. Then you are not far from the point where these nuances burst asunder, and there lies before you the reality of Devachan. For if the nuances of feeling are truly worked out they become a power of perception.
Therefore, if work along these lines is undertaken by student groups upon a basis of truth, honesty, and patient practice, outside of all sensation, their meeting places become what they should be: schools to lead human beings into spheres of clairvoyance. And only those who cannot wait for this, or who will not cooperate, can have an erroneous view of these matters.