Rudolf Steiner: "Thoughts that formerly had floated more or less abstractly within pure thinking have been transformed into substantial forces that are alive in our consciousness: what once was pure thought is now Inspiration. We have developed Imagination, and pure thinking has become Inspiration. Following this path further, we become able to keep apart what we have gained following two paths that must be sharply differentiated: on the one hand, what we have obtained as Inspiration from pure thinking — the life that at a lower level is thinking, and then becomes a thinking raised to Inspiration — and on the other hand what we experience as conditions of equilibrium, movement, and life. Now we can bring these modes of experience together. We can unite the inner with the outer. The fusion of Imagination and Inspiration brings us in turn to Intuition. What have we accomplished now? Well, I would like to answer this question by approaching it from another side. First of all I must draw attention to the steps taken by the Oriental who wishes to rise further after having schooled himself by means of the mantras, after having lived within the language, within the word. He now learns not only to live in the rhythms of language but also in a certain way to experience breathing consciously, in a certain way to experience breathing artificially by altering it in the most varied ways. For him this is the next highest step — but again not something that can be taken over directly by the West. What does the Eastern student of yoga attain by surrendering himself to conscious, regulated, varied breathing? Oh, he experiences something quite extraordinary when he inhales. When inhaling he experiences a quality of air that is not found when we experience air as a purely physical substance but only when we unite ourselves with the air and thus comprehend it spiritually. As he breathes in, a genuine student of yoga experiences something that works formatively upon his whole being, that works spiritually; something that does not expend itself in the life between birth and death, but, entering into us through the spirituality of the outer air, engenders in us something that passes with us through the portal of death. To experience the breathing process consciously means taking part in something that persists when we have laid aside the physical body. For to experience the breathing process consciously is to experience the reaction of our inner being to inhalation. In experiencing this we experience something that preceded birth in our existence as soul-spirit — or let us say preceded our conception — something that had already cooperated in shaping us as embryos and then continued to work within our organism in childhood. To grasp the breathing process consciously means to comprehend ourselves beyond birth and death. The advance from an experience of the aphorism and the word to an experience of the breathing process represented a further penetration into an inspired comprehension of the eternal in man. We Westerners must experience much the same thing — but in a different sphere.
What, in fact, is the process of perception? It is nothing but a modified process of inhalation. As we breathe in, the air presses upon our diaphragm and upon the whole of our being. Cerebral fluid is forced up through the spinal column into the brain. In this way a connection is established between breathing and cerebral activity. And the part of the breathing that can be discerned as active within the brain works upon our sense activity as perception. Perception is thus a kind of branch of inhalation. In exhalation, on the other hand, cerebral fluid descends and exerts pressure on the circulation of the blood. The descent of cerebral fluid is bound up with the activity of the will and also of exhalation. Anybody who really studies The Philosophy of Freedom, however, will discover that when we achieve pure thinking, thinking and willing coincide. Pure thinking is fundamentally an expression of will. Thus pure thinking turns out to be related to what the Oriental experienced in the process of exhalation. Pure thinking is related to exhalation just as perception is related to inhalation. We have to go through the same process as the yogi but in a way that is, so to speak, pushed back more into the inner life. Yoga depends upon a regulation of the breathing, both inhalation and exhalation, and in this way comes into contact with the eternal in man. What can Western man do? He can raise into clear soul experiences perception on the one hand and thinking on the other. He can unite in his inner experience perception and thinking, which are otherwise united only abstractly, formally, and passively, so that inwardly, in his soul-spirit, he has the same experience as he has physically in breathing in and out. Inhalation and exhalation are physical experiences: when they are harmonized, one consciously experiences the eternal. In everyday life we experience thinking and perception. By bringing mobility into the life of the soul, one experiences the pendulum, the rhythm, the continual interpenetrating vibration of perception and thinking. A higher reality evolves for the Oriental in the process of inhalation and exhalation; the Westerner achieves a kind of breathing of the soul-spirit in place of the physical breathing of the yogi. He achieves this by developing within himself the living process of modified inhalation in perception and modified exhalation in pure thinking, by weaving together concept, thinking, and perceiving. And gradually, by means of this rhythmic pulse, by means of this rhythmic breathing process in perception and thinking, he struggles to rise up to spiritual reality in Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition. And when I indicated in my book The Philosophy of Freedom, at first only philosophically, that reality arises out of the interpenetration of perception and thinking, I intended, because the book was meant as a schooling for the soul, to show what Western man can do in order to enter the spiritual world itself. The Oriental says: systole, diastole; inhalation, exhalation. In place of these the Westerner must put perception and thinking. Where the Oriental speaks of the development of physical breathing, we in the West say: development of a breathing of the soul-spirit within the cognitional process through perception and thinking."
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