Let us suppose that a man were following the spiritual path by methods known to you, and which are to be found in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, and that such a person reached the point when what we call Imaginative pictures arose out of the depths of his soul. We know what Imaginative pictures are. They are visionary images, confronting a man when he is following the spiritual path as an entirely new world. If a man is really seriously following this path, he comes to the stage at which the whole of the physical world around him grows dim. In the place of this physical world there appears a world of moving images, a world of surging impressions of the nature of sounds, smell, taste, and light. This presses on and whirls within our spiritual horizon and we experience what may be called imaginative visions which then surround us on all sides and constitute the world in which our souls live and move.
Now let us suppose that a man were convinced that in the visionary world which appeared before him he had something entirely real; such a man would be subject to a very grave mistake. And here we are at the point where danger begins. The realm of visionary life is immeasurable as long as we do not ascend from Imagination, which conjures up a visionary world, to Inspiration. It is the latter which first tells us to direct our attention to one particular picture, to turn our spiritual gaze to it, and that then we shall experience truth; and the countless other pictures that surround this one must vanish into lifeless space. This one picture will arise from countless others and will prove itself to be an expression of the truth.
Thus, when we find ourselves on the spiritual path, we enter a realm where countless visions are possible and we must develop, so that we can select, as it were, out of this realm of infinite possibilities of vision, those which express a true spiritual reality. No other guarantee is possible than the one just mentioned, for if anyone were to come and say: “I enter a realm infinitely rich in visions, tell me which are true and which are false, can you not give a rule whereby I can distinguish the one from the other?” — no genuine occultist or spiritual investigator would answer these questions with a rule, but he would have to say: “If you wish to learn to discriminate, you must go on developing yourself. Then it will happen that it will be possible for you to direct your vision to that which remains. The visions which endure are those that have reached a certain level; but those which must be wiped out by you are merely images of mist.”