Rudolf Steiner, Oxford, England, August 20, 1922:
I would like to respond to your kind invitation to speak here this evening by telling you something about how, through unmediated research, one can come to spiritual knowledge, and I would like to explain the educational consequences of that knowledge. At the outset today I would also like to say that I will be speaking primarily about the method for entering and researching super-sensible worlds; perhaps on another occasion it will be possible to impart some of the results of super-sensible research. Everything I have to say today will refer to the researching of spiritual, super-sensible worlds, not to the understanding of super-sensible knowledge. Supersensible knowledge that has been researched and communicated can be understood by ordinary healthy human understanding if this ordinary understanding has not lost its unbiased perspective. A biased view is present when the understanding takes as its starting point the proof or logical deduction appropriate for dealing with the outer world of sense. Because of this hindrance alone it is often said that the results of super-sensible research cannot be understood by anyone who is not a researcher of the super-sensible.
What will be imparted here today is the object of what is known as initiation knowledge. In previous ages of humanity's development this knowledge was cultivated in a form different from the form appropriate for today. As I have already said in other lectures, the things of the past are not to be brought forward again; rather the path of research into super-sensible worlds is to be entered upon in a way appropriate to the thinking and feeling of our age. When it comes to initiation knowledge, everything depends on the individual's ability to undergo a fundamental reorientation or revisioning of his entire soul configuration.
An individual possessing initiation knowledge is distinguished from those who have knowledge in the present-day sense of the word, not merely because his initiation knowledge is a step above ordinary knowledge. Of course, it is achieved on the foundation of ordinary knowledge; this foundation must be present; intellectual thinking must be fully developed if one wants to acquire initiation knowledge. However, a fundamental reorientation is then necessary. The possessor of initiation knowledge must come to see the world from a point of view altogether different from the way it was seen without initiation knowledge.
I can express the fundamental difference between initiate and ordinary knowledge in a simple formula: In ordinary knowledge we are aware of our thinking; indeed, we are altogether aware of the inner soul experience through which we, as the subject of knowing, acquire knowledge. For example, when we think and believe that we know something through thought we think of ourselves as thinking human beings, as subjects. We are looking for objects when we observe nature or human life or perform experiments. We always look for objects. Objects are supposed to present themselves to us. Objects should surrender themselves to us so we can encompass them with our thoughts, so we can apply our thinking to them. We are the subject and that which comes to us is the object.
With a man who strives for initiation knowledge an entirely different orientation comes into play. He must become aware that as a human being, he is the object; then, for this object, this human being, he must seek the subject. A situation exactly the opposite of ordinary knowing must occur. In ordinary knowledge we experience ourselves as subject and look for the object outside of us. In initiation knowledge we ourselves are the object, and we seek the corresponding subject; in other words, genuine initiation knowledge leads us to find subjects. But that would be the object of a later knowledge.
It is as though the mere definitional concepts already force us here to see that in initiation knowledge, we must actually flee from ourselves; we must become like the plants and stones, like thunder and lightning, which are, for us, objects. In initiation knowledge we slip out of ourselves, so to speak, and become objects that seek the corresponding subjects. If I may express myself somewhat paradoxically, I would like to say that from the point of view of thinking the difference is as follows: In ordinary knowing we think about the things; in initiation knowledge we seek to discover how we are being thought by the cosmos.
This is nothing more than an abstract guiding principle. But you will find that this abstract guiding principle is followed everywhere in the concrete methods of initiation. To begin with, if we want to receive initiation knowledge appropriate for today we must proceed from thinking. The life of thought must be fully developed if we want to come to initiation knowledge today. This life of thought can be especially well schooled through an immersion in the natural scientific development of the last centuries, the nineteenth century in particular.
People react in different ways to natural scientific knowledge. Some listen to the pronouncements of science with what I would like to call a certain naïveté. They hear, for example, how organic beings have developed from the simplest, most primitive forms up to the human being. They think about this development but have little regard for their own involvement in these ideas. They do not stop to consider the fact that they themselves unfold something in the seeing of external processes, something which belongs to the life of thought.
But someone who receives natural scientific knowledge with critical consideration of his own involvement must ask himself: What does it mean that I myself can follow the development of beings from the imperfect to the perfect? Or he could say to himself: When I do mathematics I create thoughts purely out of myself. Properly understood, mathematics is a web spun out of myself. I then apply this web to the outer world and it fits. Here we come to the great question, I would like to say the really tragic question: How do things stand with respect to thinking itself — this thinking that is involved every time I know something?
No matter how long we think about it we cannot find out how things stand with thinking; for thinking remains always stuck in the same place. We merely spin, so to speak, around the axis we have already built for ourselves. We must accomplish something with our thinking. With our thinking we must carry out what I described as meditation in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment.
We should not think mystically about meditation but then neither should we think of it lightly. It must be completely clear what meditation is in the modern sense. It also requires patience and inner energy of soul. Above all there is something else that belongs to meditation, something that no one can ever give to another human being: the ability to promise oneself something and then keep that promise. When we begin to meditate we begin to perform the only really fully free act in human life. We always have the tendency toward freedom within us. We have also attained a good measure of freedom. However, if we stop to think about it, we will find we are dependent upon our heredity, our education, and our present life situation.
To what extent are we in a position to suddenly leave behind all we have acquired through heredity, education, and life? We would be confronted with nothingness were we to suddenly leave that all behind.
Although we may have decided to meditate mornings and evenings in order gradually to learn to see into the spiritual world, we can, in fact, on any given day, leave this undone. There is nothing to prohibit this. And experience teaches us that most people who approach the meditative life, even those with the best intentions, soon leave it again. In this we are completely free. Meditation is an essentially free act.
If we are able to remain true to ourselves despite this freedom, if we promise ourselves, not another but ourselves, that we will remain faithful to this meditation, then that is, of itself, an enormous power in the soul.
Having said that, I would like to draw your attention to how, in its simplest form, meditation is done. I can only deal with the basic principles today. This is what we are dealing with: An idea or image, or a combination thereof, is moved into the center of our consciousness. Although the content of this thought complex does not matter, it should be immediate and not represent anything from our memory. For this reason it is good if the thought complex is not retrieved from our memory but rather given to us by someone experienced in such things. It is good for it to be given to us, not because the one who gives the meditation wants to exercise any suggestion but because we then can be certain that what we meditate is, for us, something entirely new.
We could just as well find a passage for meditation in any old book that we know we have not read. What is important is that we not pull a sentence out of our subconscious or unconscious, which would then overwhelm us. We could never be absolutely certain about a sentence like that. All kinds of things left over from past feelings and sensations would be mixed in. It is essential that the meditation be as transparent as a mathematical equation.
Let us take something very simple, the sentence: “Wisdom lives in the light.” To begin with, the truth of this sentence cannot be tested. It is a picture. But it is not important for us to concern ourselves with the content in any other way than to see through and understand it. We are to dwell upon it with our consciousness. In the beginning we will only be able to dwell in full consciousness upon such a content for a very short period of time. But this period of time will get longer and longer.
What then is essential? Everything depends upon our gathering together our whole life of soul in order to concentrate all our powers of thinking and feeling upon the content of the meditation. Just as the muscles of the arm become strong as we work with them, so too soul forces are strengthened by focusing them on a meditative content again and again. If possible the content of meditation should remain the same for months, perhaps for years. For genuine super-sensible research the forces of the soul must first be strengthened, empowered.
If we continue practicing in this way, the day will come, I would like to say, the big day, on which we make a very special observation. Gradually we observe that we are in a soul activity entirely independent of the body. We notice that whereas previously we were dependent upon the body for all our thinking and feeling — for our thinking upon the nervous system, for our feeling upon the circulatory system, and so on — now we feel ourselves in a spiritual-soul activity that is fully independent of any bodily activity. And we notice this because we are now in a position to cause something in our head to vibrate, something that had remained entirely unconscious previously. We now discover the strange difference between sleeping and waking. The difference consists in this: when man is awake there is something vibrating throughout his entire organism — except in his head. What is otherwise in movement in all the rest of the human organism is, in the head, at rest.
We will better understand what we are dealing with here if I draw your attention to the fact that, as human beings, we are not these robust solid bodies that we usually believe ourselves to be. We are actually made up of approximately 90 percent fluids; and the 10 per cent solid constituents are immersed in the fluids, they swim around in the fluids. We can only speak of the solid part of the human being in an uncertain way. We are, if I may put it this way, approximately 90 per cent water; and to a certain extent, air and warmth pulsate through this water.
If you can imagine the human being this way — to the least extent solid body and to a greater extent water and air with warmth vibrating therein — then you will not find it so difficult to believe that there is something even finer and more rarefied within us. This finer element I will call the etheric body. This etheric body is more rarefied than air. It is so fine that it permeates us without our being aware of the fact — at least in ordinary life. This etheric body is what is in inner movement when we are awake — in a regular movement throughout the entire human body, except in the head. In the head the etheric body is inwardly at rest.
In sleep it is otherwise. Sleep begins and then continues when the etheric body also begins to be in movement in the head. So that in sleep the whole human being — the head as well as the rest of the human being — has an etheric body that is in inner movement. When we are dreaming, for example, just upon awakening, we are then still just able to perceive the last movements of the etheric body. They present themselves to us as dreams. We are still able to perceive the last etheric movements in the head; however, when we awaken quickly that cannot happen.
Someone who meditates for a long time in the fashion I have indicated arrives at a stage where he can form pictures into the etheric body which permeates the head when it is at rest. In the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. I have called these pictures Imaginations. These Imaginations, which can be experienced in the etheric body independently of the physical body, are the first super-sensible impressions we can have. They bring us to the place where, entirely without regard for our physical body, we can behold, as in one picture, our life in its movement and its actions. What has often been described by people who were submerged in water and about to drown — that they have seen their lives backward in a series of moving pictures — that vision can be developed here systematically so that everything that has happened in our present earth life can be seen.
The first result of initiation knowledge is a view of our own soul life. This turns out to be entirely different from what one usually expects. We usually abstractly suppose this soul life to be woven from ideas and mental images. When we discover it in its true form we find that it is something creative and, at the same time, that it is what was working in our childhood, what shaped and molded our brain, what permeates the rest of the body and brings about a plastic form-building activity within the body as it enkindles and supports our waking consciousness, even our digestive activity. We see this inner activity in the organism as the etheric body of the human being. This is not a spatial body but a time body. For this reason you can describe the etheric body as a form in space only if you realize that what you are doing is the same as painting a bolt of lightning. When you paint a picture of a lightning flash you are, of course, painting only a moment of its existence. You are holding the moment in place. The human etheric body also can only be captured as a spatial form for a moment. In reality we have a physical body in space and an etheric body in time, a time body, which is always in movement. And it is only meaningful to speak of the etheric body if we speak of it as a body of time which we can behold. From the moment we are in a position to make this discovery we see it extending backward all the way back to our birth. This is, to begin with, the first super-sensible ability we can discover in ourselves.
The development of the soul, brought about through processes such as I have described, shows itself above all in a change of the entire soul mood and disposition of those people who strive for initiation knowledge. Please do not misunderstand me. I do not mean that someone who arrives at initiation knowledge suddenly becomes an entirely transformed and different human being. On the contrary, modern initiation knowledge must leave a man standing fully in the world so that he is able to continue his life, when he returns to it, just as he once began it. But when super-sensible research is carried out man has become, through initiation knowledge, for those hours and moments someone different than he is in ordinary life.
Above all I would like to emphasize an important moment that characterizes initiation knowledge. As a person penetrates further into experience of the super-sensible he feels more and more how his own bodily nature disappears. That is, it disappears for him with respect to those activities in which this bodily nature plays a part in ordinary life.
Let us consider for a moment how our judgments in life come about. We grow up and develop as children. Sympathy and antipathy become solidly set in our lives — sympathy and antipathy for the things that appear to us in nature and for other people. Our body is involved in all of this. Of course, this sympathy and antipathy that, to a large extent, actually have their foundation in the physical processes in our body, are then placed and located in the body. In the moment when people about to be initiated rise into the super-sensible world, they live into a world in which, for the duration of the time spent in the super-sensible, the sympathies and antipathies connected with their bodily nature become increasingly foreign to them. They are lifted above that with which their bodily nature is connected. When they wish to take up ordinary life again they must again fit themselves, so to speak, into their usual sympathies and antipathies — something which otherwise occurs by itself.
When we awaken in the morning we fit into our bodies, develop the same love for things and people, the same sympathy and antipathy we had before. This happens by itself. But when we stay for a while in the super-sensible and then wish to return to our sympathies and antipathies, then we must exert an effort to submerge ourselves into our bodily nature. This condition of separation from our own bodily nature is a phenomenon that shows that we are really making progress. The appearance of wide-hearted sympathies and antipathies is, altogether, something that an initiate gradually makes a part of his being.
There is one thing that shows the development toward initiation in a particularly strong way: the working of the memory during initiation knowledge. We experience ourselves in ordinary life. Our memory is sometimes a little better, sometimes a little worse; but we acquire a memory. We have experiences and later remember them. This is not the case with what we experience in super-sensible worlds. We can experience greatness, beauty, and meaning, but after it has been experienced it is gone. And it must be experienced again if it is to stand before the soul again. It is not imprinted in the memory in the usual sense. It is imprinted only if we bring into concepts what we have seen in the super-sensible, only if we can also bring our understanding along with us into the super-sensible world. This is very difficult. We must be able to think just as well on the other side but without the body helping with this thinking. For this reason our concepts must be strengthened beforehand; we must have become proper logicians before, so that we do not always forget when we look into the super-sensible world. It is just the primitive clairvoyants who, although they can see quite a bit, forget their logic when they are over there. It is just when we want to share super-sensible truths with someone else that we notice this change in our memory with respect to these truths. From this we can see how our physical body is involved in the exercise of memory, not in thinking, but in the exercise of memory, which always plays into the super-sensible.
If I may be permitted to say something personal, it is this: When I myself hold lectures it is different from the way lectures are usually held. People often speak from memory, they often develop from memory what they have learned, what they have thought. Anyone who really presents super-sensible truths actually must always produce them in the moment when he presents them. I can hold the same lecture thirty, forty, fifty times, and for me it is never the same. Of course, that would be so in any case, but it is even more so with this independence from memory that comes into play when a higher stage of memory is reached.
I have already told you about the ability to bring forms into the etheric body of the head. This then makes it possible to see through the time-body, the etheric body, all the way back to birth. It also brings the soul to a very special mood with respect to the cosmos. One loses one's own bodily nature, so to speak, but feels oneself living into the cosmos. Consciousness expands, as it were, into the widths of the ether. One can no longer look at a plant without becoming immersed in its growth. One follows it from the root to the blossom. One lives in its juices, in its blossoms, in its fruits. One can steep oneself in the life of animals according to their forms, but especially in the life of other human beings. The slightest gesture encountered in another human being leads one, so to speak, into the entire soul life of the other person. One feels as though one is no longer in oneself, but is out of oneself during this super-sensible knowing.
But it is necessary that we be able to return again and again, otherwise we are lazy, nebulous mystics, dreamers, and not knowers of super-sensible worlds. We must be able to live in super-sensible worlds while simultaneously being able to return at any time to stand firmly on our two feet. For this reason, whenever I explain such things about super-sensible worlds, I must stress that it is far more important for a philosopher to know how a shoe or a coat is made than it is to know logic, that he must really stand in life in a practical way. Actually no one should think about life unless he really stands in it in a practical way. This is even more so the case for someone seeking super-sensible knowledge. Knowers of the super-sensible cannot be dreamers or fanatics or people who cannot stand on their two feet; otherwise they would lose themselves, for one must, as a matter of fact, get outside of oneself. But this “getting outside of oneself” must not lead to the loss of one's self. The book Occult Science — an Outline was written out of knowledge such as I have described here.
Then it is important that we penetrate further into this super-sensible knowledge. This happens when we further develop our meditations. With our meditations we rest upon certain ideas or mental pictures or a combination thereof, thereby strengthening the soul life. But this is not enough to bring us fully into the spiritual world. It is also necessary that we practice the following: Beyond dwelling with our meditations upon ideas, beyond concentrating our entire soul upon these ideas, we must be able, at will, to cast them out of our consciousness. Just as, in the life of the senses, we can look at something and then away from it whenever we want, so too, in the development of super-sensible knowledge we must learn to concentrate on a content of soul and then be able to cast it out of the soul again.
Even in ordinary life this is not easy. Just think how little we have it in our power to drive our thoughts away at will. Sometimes they will pursue us for days, especially if they are unpleasant. We cannot get rid of them. This becomes much harder after we have become accustomed to concentrating on the thoughts. A thought content we have concentrated upon eventually begins to get a firm grip on us; then we really have to work hard to remove it. When we have practiced for a long time we can manage the following: We can remove, we can cast out of our consciousness, this entire retrospect of our life from birth onward, this entire etheric body, as I have called it, this time body.
This is, of course, a stage to which we must develop ourselves. We must first become mature for this step by ridding ourselves of this colossus, this giant being in our soul. The whole terrible specter that embodies life between the present moment and our birth is standing there before us. This is what we must do away with. If we can get rid of it then something will appear for us that I would like to call a more wakeful consciousness. Then we are merely awake without anything in the waking consciousness. Then it begins to fill. Just as air streams into lungs that need it, so too the real spiritual world now streams into the consciousness that has been emptied in the way described.
This is Inspiration. Now something streams in that is not a finer, more rarefied matter. It is related to matter as negative is related to positive. The opposite of matter now streams into the human being who has become free of the ether. This is the most important thing we can become aware of. It is not true that spirit is merely an even finer, more etherealized form of matter. If we call matter the positive (it really does not matter if we call it positive or negative; these things are relative), then in terms of the positive we must call spirit negative. It is as if I had the vast fortune of five dollars in my wallet. If I give one away then I will have four left. But say, alternatively, that I accumulate debts. If I owe one dollar then I have less than no dollars.
If through the methods described I have removed the etheric body then I come, not into a still finer ether, but into something that is the opposite of ether, in the same way debts are the opposite of assets. Now I know from my own experience what spirit is. Through inspiration the spirit comes into us and the first thing we experience is what surrounded our soul and spirit before our birth, that is before conception, in the spiritual world. That is, the preexistent life of our soul and spirit. Previously we had seen into the etheric realm back to our birth. Now we look back beyond birth, that is conception, into a world of soul and spirit and reach the point where we can perceive how we were before we descended from spiritual worlds into a physical body taking on a line of heredity.
For inspiration knowledge these things are not thought-out philosophical truth. They are experiences, but experiences which must only be acquired after a preparation such as I have indicated. So the first thing that comes to us when we enter the spiritual world is the truth of the preexistence of the human soul, that is, of the human spirit. We learn now to see the eternal directly.
For many centuries now European humanity has considered eternity from one side only, from the point of view of immortality. Europeans have asked only: What becomes of the soul after it leaves the body at death? Of course, it is the egotistical right of human beings to ask such a question. They are interested in what will follow after death for egotistical reasons. We will presently see that we too can speak about immortality, but immortality is usually discussed for egotistical reasons. People are less interested in what happened before their birth. They say: We are here now. What went on before has value only as history. But knowledge of history that has any value is only possible if we seek knowledge of our existence before birth, that is, before conception.
We need a word in modern languages that makes the eternal complete. We should speak not only of immortality but also of unborn-ness. For eternity consists of both immortality and unborn-ness; furthermore, initiation knowledge discovers unborn-ness before it discovers immortality.
A further stage of development in the direction of the spiritual world can be reached if we strive to free our soul and spiritual activities still further from the support given by the body. We can achieve this freeing by guiding our exercises, meditations, and concentration more in the direction of will-exercises. As a concrete example I would like to describe a simple will exercise that will allow you to study the principle under consideration. In ordinary life we are accustomed to think along with the flow of the world. We let the things come to us as they happen to come. What comes to us first we think first, what comes to us later we think later. And even if in more logical thinking we are not thinking along with the flow of time, still in the background there is the effort to stick with the external, “real,” flow of events and facts. In order to exercise our soul and spiritual forces we must get free from the external flow of events. And a good will exercise is this: We try to think back through the experiences of the day, not as they occurred, from the morning to evening, but backward, from evening to morning, paying attention to the details as much as possible.
Suppose we come to the following in this backward review: We walked up a set of stairs. First we picture ourselves on the top step, then at the one before the top, and so on down to the bottom. We descend the stairs backward. In the beginning we will only be able to visualize backward the episodes of the day's experiences in this way, say from six o'clock to three o'clock, or from twelve to nine, and so on, back to the moment of waking. But gradually we will acquire a kind of technique by means of which, as a matter of fact, in the evening or the next morning we will be able to let a tableau of the day's events, or the events of the day before, pass before our soul in reverse order.
When we are in a position (and everything depends on our achieving this position) to free ourselves entirely from the three dimensional flow of reality, then we will see how a powerful strengthening of our will occurs. The same effect can be achieved if we are able to hear a melody backward or if we can picture a drama of five acts running backward from the fifth, fourth, and so forth back to the first. We strengthen our will inwardly with all of these means, and outwardly we tear it free from its bondage to events in the world of the senses. Other exercises that I have mentioned in previous lectures can be added. We can take stock of ourselves and our habits. We can take ourselves in hand, apply iron will in order, in a few years, to acquire another habit in place of the old. As an example, I mention the fact that in his handwriting everyone has something that reveals his character. Making the effort to acquire another handwriting, one which is not at all similar to the former, requires a powerful, inner strength. Of course, the second handwriting must become just as habitual as the first. That is a small thing. There are many such things through which we can alter the fundamental direction of our will through our own energetic efforts.
In this way gradually we are able to do more than just bring the spiritual world as inspiration into us. With our spirit freed from the body we are really able to immerse ourselves in the other spiritual beings outside us. Genuine spiritual knowing means that we enter into spiritual beings around us when we behold physical things. If we want to know spiritual things we must first get out of ourselves. I have described this freeing of ourselves from the physical. But then we must also acquire the ability to sink ourselves again into spiritual things and beings.
We can only do this after practicing the kinds of exercises just described; then, as a matter of fact, we are no longer disturbed by our own bodies but can immerse ourselves in the spiritual side of things; then the plants no longer merely appear to us, but we are able to dive down into the color itself. We live in the process whereby the plant colors itself. By not only knowing that the chicory growing alongside the road is blue, but by being able to enter into the blossom inwardly and participate in the blue we dwell intuitively in this process. From this point we can extend our knowledge more and more.
From certain symptoms we can tell we have really made progress with such exercises. I would like to mention two, but there are really many. The first symptom consists in this, that we acquire entirely different views concerning the world of morality than we had before. For the pure intellect the moral world is something unreal. Certainly, if he has remained a decent person during the age of materialism, a man feels himself obligated to do what the old traditions prescribe. Yet even if he does not admit it, he thinks to himself that doing the good does not make something happen that is as real as what happens when lightning flashes or when thunder rolls through space. He is not thinking of reality in this sense when he thinks of morality. But when he lives into the spiritual world he becomes aware that the moral order of the world has not only a reality such as is found in the physical world, but actually a higher reality. He gradually comes to understand that this entire age, with its physical ingredients and processes, can decay and be dissolved; but the morality that flows forth from our actions continues to exist in its effects. He becomes aware of the reality of the moral world. The physical and moral worlds, being and becoming are then one. He really experiences the truth that moral laws are also objective laws of the world.
This experience intensifies our sense of responsibility with respect to the world. It gives us an altogether different consciousness, a consciousness much needed by modern humanity. Modern humanity looks at the beginning of the earth, how it was formed from a primal plasma in space, how life, man, and — much like a fata morgana — the world of ideas arose out of this primal matter. Our present-day humanity looks at the cold grave of the universe that entropy will bring us to. According to this materialistic idea, everything in which human beings live will again sink into a great graveyard. Humanity needs knowledge of the moral order in the world, the knowledge that can be achieved through super-sensible sources. This I can only touch on in this lecture.
Another symptom of our progress must be mentioned: the intensified suffering that we experience. We cannot come to intuitive knowledge, to this submerging of ourselves in things external to ourselves, without having gone through an intensified suffering. This suffering is intensified compared with the pain involved in imaginative knowledge, the pain that always arises when we must find our way again into our sympathies and antipathies. The great effort required to find our way back always hurts. The pain now becomes a cosmic co-experiencing of all the suffering that rests upon the ground of existence.
It is easy to ask why the gods, or God, created suffering. Suffering must exist if the world is to arise in its beauty. We have eyes because, to begin with, in a still undifferentiated organism something organic was, so to speak, “dug out” and transformed into the power to see and, then, into the eye. If we were still able today to perceive the tiny, insignificant processes that go on in the retina when we see, then we could perceive that even those processes represent a pain that rests upon the ground of existence. All beauty rests on the foundation of suffering. Beauty can only be developed out of pain. We should be able to feel this pain, this suffering. We can only really find our way into the spiritual by going through pain. To a lesser degree this can already be said for a lower stage of knowledge. Anyone who has acquired even a little knowledge will admit to the following: I am grateful to my destiny for the happiness and joys life has brought me, but my knowledge has only been achieved through my pains, through my suffering.
If this is felt with respect to more elementary knowledge, it can then become an even greater experience when we overcome ourselves, when we find our way through the pain that is felt as cosmic pain to a neutral experience in the spiritual cosmos. We must struggle through to a co-experiencing of the events and essential nature of all things; then intuitive knowledge is present. We are fully within an experience of knowledge that is no longer bound to the body. We can then return to and live again in the sensible world until death but with full knowledge of what it means to be real, to be real in the soul-spiritual outside the body.
If we grasp this experience of intuitive knowledge, then, in a picture, we have knowledge of what happens when we leave the physical body at death, then we know what it means to go through the gate of death. The reality we encounter, that the soul and spirit go over into a world of soul and spirit when they leave the body behind — we experience this reality beforehand when we have ascended to intuitive knowledge. That is, we know what it is like in a world where there is no body to provide support. When we have then brought this knowledge into concepts, we return to the body. But the essential thing is that we learn how to live without a body and acquire thereby the knowledge of what it will be like when we can no longer use our body, when we lay it aside at death and step over into a world of soul and spirit. Once again, this is not a question of philosophical speculation concerning immortality based upon initiation knowledge. It is, I would like to say, an experience, a pre-experience of what is to come. We know what it will be like. We do not experience the full reality of dying, but we experience immortality. This experience also becomes a part of our knowledge.
I have attempted to describe how you can rise through Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition and how, through this development, you can learn to know yourself in your full reality as a human being. In the body we learn to know ourselves for as long as we are in the body. But we must free our soul and spirit from the body, for only then can the whole human being be free. What we know through the body, through our senses, through thinking based on sense experience and bound up with the body's nervous system — with all this we can know only one part of us. We only learn to know the whole human being if we have the will to ascend to the knowledge that comes from initiation science.
Once again, I would like to stress that once the research has been done, then the results can be understood — just as what astronomers and biologists say about the world can be understood and tested — by anyone approaching them with an unprejudiced mind, with ordinary, healthy human understanding. Then you will find that this testing is the first step of initiation knowledge. Because man does not seek untruth and error but truth, we must first get an impression of the truth in initiation knowledge. Then, as much as destiny makes it possible for us, we will be able to penetrate further and further into the spiritual world.
In our day, and in a higher sense, the words which stood inscribed above the Greek temple as a challenge must be fulfilled: “Man, know thyself.”
Those words certainly did not mean that we should retreat into our inner life. They were, rather, a challenge to search for our being: to search for the essence of immortality, which is found in the body, to search for the essence of unborn-ness, which is found in the immortal spirit, and to search for the mediator between earth, time, and spirit which is the soul. For the true human being consists of body, soul, and spirit. The body can only know the body, the soul can only know the soul, and the spirit can only know the spirit. Therefore, we must try to find the spirit active within us so that the spirit can also be recognized in the world.
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