Rudolf Steiner, Hamburg, May 16, 1910:
One often hears Theosophists say that there are dangers connected with occult development. But it should be emphasized that one mustn't be kept from treading an occult path because one has a feeling of fear. For someone who gets indications from a proper esoteric school and follows them correctly will also develop properly. The main thing is to awaken the right seriousness in one and to permeate oneself completely with the things one learns in esoteric classes.
It's always good for an esotericist to tell himself that he still has a long way to go. One may have grasped something with one's intellect a while back and yet not have arranged one's life in accordance with the knowledge gained. As an example of this, we can give the statement that should be familiar to all theosophists: “Everything that surrounds us is maya.” There are people who find this very enlightening but don't apply it. They let pains and joys work upon them without telling themselves: If everything is maya, then the cause of my pain is also maya.
But it's good that this is so, for if a man would take this statement into his feeling too soon, he might not be able to stand the shock that he would thereby get. This requires a strong force that must gradually develop, and namely in that a man tries to see the truth in this statement through little everyday things around him rather than through big events in his life. We know that everything that surrounds us looks different than it really is. For instance, let's take a red object. Through what do we see the red color? Through the fact that light falls on it. If the object is in the dark, it doesn't look red. But when light shines on it, a red color arises because the object absorbs all the other colors that light produces and only reflects the red color it can't use, that it doesn't want or like. So it shows what it isn't in its interior.
Now, can a man press into this interior and get to know the true nature of things? He can only do this on a meditative path. If a man sticks to a view or idea, he's also being confused by maya. But he usually also does something else. If a color approaches him, let's say a red one, it has an effect on his feeling. He has a freshening feeling when he looks at red. A blue mixed with a little violet will put him in a devotional mood. A man has these feelings in himself and he feels that they are true. The objects that induce these feelings may be maya, may arise and pass away, but the feelings remain the same. Someone can go out into a forest, hear a rustling and be frightened by it because he imagines that it's coming from a snake, whereas it was caused by the wind. Further on he can hear rustling again that is really coming from a snake this time. His fright is the same in both cases, but one time the cause was a deception.
But how do we arrive at the true nature of things through our feelings? When we look at the way plants sprout, shoot up, and put out vernal flowers, how are we supposed to see the truth behind the maya that they stretch out to us? There is a moment in the life of a plant when it shows us something of its inner nature, and that's when it begins to die. And when does this happen? At fertilization time. Up till then the plant has used all of its forces to push back what it doesn't want, but now it has received something from outside, and it turns its life around, as it were. It loses its rejection power and withdraws into itself, it now turns the force that it used outwards inwards. Can we awaken a feeling in us that is like this process in a plant's soul life? When would we like to withdraw into our interior? When do we lose the power to ward off outer things? When we feel shame. If we awaken this feeling without outer cause and look at a fertilized plant, we'll become aware that the very same feeling lives in the plant, that it lives in it so intensely that it makes it die. In the fall a feeling of enormous shame runs through plants. A red rose is a quite special example of this.
Now which color would we use for the feeling of dying, for withdrawal from the outer things to the spirit? Black, and that's why we have the black cross on which red roses bloom. Black, charcoaled wood in which all outer things have died is an expression to us of the fact that the spirit reveals itself behind all dying things. Goethe once spoke of the color that the Earth would have to have when it's dying at the end of the present cycle and passes over into a spiritual realm as it's fertilized by the spirit. It would have to “glow in flaming red.” This remark arises from deep knowledge. For when the Earth is mature enough to be fertilized by the spirit, how could the Earth do anything else than to glow in deep shame?
If we awaken feelings in us that are induced by outer things in this way we'll get closer to the truth behind these things. We can also awaken pictures and feelings in us without any outer cause, can create ideas and feelings only in us. Then we're together with a world in us that wasn't produced by any outer cause, and thereby we can find the path to absolute truth. This should happen in our meditations. If we look at the Sun and meditate on its vitalizing influences, we always have an outer inducement for the meditation. But if we take the words: In pure rays of light … etc. and awaken to an idea of light in us, and then imagine that it's the garment of the godhead, then we've recreated something in us that's not connected with anything external. And then when we awaken a feeling of love for all beings in the next lines, we'll permeate ourselves with this feeling, and it will become a strong germinating force in us.