Tuesday, January 31, 2023
What the World Needs Now Is Anthroposophy: Some Conditions for Understanding Supersensible Experiences
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, January 18, 1920:
From the present time onwards it will be impossible for man to acquire any real self-knowledge or feeling of his own being without approaching the science of initiation, for the forces out of which human nature actually takes shape are nowhere contained in what man is able to know and experience in the material world. To form an idea of what I want to convey by saying this, you must think about many things that are familiar to you from anthroposophical studies.
You must remind yourselves that as well as living through his life here between birth and death, man passes again and again through the life between death and a new birth. Just as here on Earth we have experiences through the instrumentality of our body, we also have experiences between death and a new birth, and these experiences are by no means without significance for what we do during our earthly existence in the physical body. But neither are they without significance for what happens on Earth as a whole. For only part — and indeed the rather lesser part — of what happens on the Earth originates from those who are living in the physical body. The dead are perpetually working into our physical world. The forces of which man is unwilling to speak today in the age of materialism are nevertheless at work in the physical world. Our physical environment is fashioned and permeated not only by the forces emanating from the spiritual world, from the beings of the higher hierarchies, but forces proceeding from the dead also penetrate into what surrounds and overtakes us here. So that a full and complete survey of man's life is possible only if we look beyond what can be told us by knowledge obtained through the senses and through history, here on Earth.
The existence of such forces is in the end the one and only thing that can explain man in his whole being and the whole course of human evolution on the Earth. A time will come in the physical evolution of the Earth — it will be after the year 5,700 — when, if he fulfills his rightful evolution, man will no longer tread the Earth by incarnating in bodies derived from physical parents. In that epoch, women will be barren; children will no longer be born in the manner of today, if evolution on the Earth takes its normal course.
There must be no misunderstanding about such a fact as this. Something else, for example, might come about. The Ahrimanic powers, which under the influence of the impulses working in men today are becoming extremely strong, might succeed in preventing Earth evolution in a certain respect. It would then become possible for men — by no means for their good — to be held in the same form of physical life beyond this time in the sixth or seventh millennium. They would become much more like animals, while continuing to be held in the grip of physical incarnation. One of the endeavors of the Ahrimanic powers is to keep humanity fettered too long to the Earth in order to divert it from its normal evolution.
However, if men really take hold of the best possibilities for their evolution, then in the sixth millennium they will enter for a further 2,500 years into a connection with the earthly world of such a kind that they will, it is true, still have a relationship with the Earth, but a relationship no longer coming to expression in the birth of physical children. In order to make the picture graphic, I will put it like this: In clouds, in rain, in lightning and thunder, man will be astir as a being of spirit-and-soul in the affairs of the Earth. He will pulsate, as it were, through the manifestations of nature; and in a still later epoch his relationship to the earthly will become even more spiritual.
To speak of any such matters today is possible only when men have some conception of what happens between death and a new birth. Although there is not complete conformity between the way in which, between death and a new birth today, man is related to earthly conditions and the way in which he will be related to them when he no longer incarnates physically, there is nevertheless a similarity. If we understand how to imbue Earth evolution with its true meaning and purpose, we shall enter permanently into the same kind of relationship with earthly affairs that we now have only between death and a new birth. Only our life between death and a new birth in the present age is, shall I say, rather more essentially spiritual than it will be when this relationship is permanent.
Without the science of initiation, understanding of these things lies leagues away. Most people today still persist in believing that the essential way to acquire knowledge of the science of initiation is to amass all kinds of spiritual experiences, but not by the path that is proper for us in the physical body. Even the experiences gained by spiritualistic methods are apt to be valued more highly today than those which can be understood by the healthy human reason. Everything that is discovered by an initiate, and can be communicated, is intelligible by the normal, rightly applied, human reason if only the necessary efforts are made. It is a primary task for the initiate, also, to translate what he is able to proclaim out of the spiritual world into a language intelligible to human reason. Much more depends upon such translation being correct than upon the fact of having experiences in the spiritual world.
Naturally, if one has no such experiences, there is nothing to communicate. But crude experiences which arise without healthy reason being applied to their interpretation are really worthless, and have not the right significance for human life. Even if people were able to have many supersensible experiences, but disdained to apply healthy reason to them, these experiences would be of no use whatever to humanity in the future. On the contrary, they would do serious harm, for a supersensible experience is of use only when it is translated into the language that human reason can understand. The real evil of our time is not that men have no supersensible experiences; they could have plenty if they so wished. Such experiences are accessible, but healthy reason is not applied in order to reach them. What is lacking today is the application of this healthy human reason.
It is of course unpleasant to have to say this to a generation that prides itself particularly on the exercise of this very reason. But at the present time it is not supersensible experience that is in the worst plight; it is healthy logic, really sound thinking, and above all, too, the force of truthfulness that are worst off. The moment untruthfulness asserts itself, the supersensible experiences fade away without being understood. People are never willing to believe this, but it is a fact.
The first requirement for understanding the supersensible world is the most scrupulous veracity in regard to the experiences of the senses. Those who are not strictly accurate about these experiences can have no true understanding of the supersensible world. However much may be heard about the supersensible world, it remains so much empty verbiage if the strictest conscientiousness is not present in formulating what happens here in the physical world.
Anyone who observes how humanity is handling palpable truth today will have a sorrowful picture! For most people are not in the least concerned to formulate something they have experienced in such a way that the experience is presented faithfully; their concern is to formulate things as they want them to be, in the way that suits themselves. They know nothing about the impulses that are at work to beguile them in one direction or another away from a faithful presentation of the physical experience.
Leaving aside trifling matters, we need only observe the impulses which arise from ordinary human connections in life and prompt men to varnish the truth in one respect or another. Further, we need only realize that the majority of people today are not speaking the truth at all about certain things, because of national interests or the like. Anyone who has national interests of some kind at heart can neither think nor say anything that is true in the sense in which truth must be conceived today. Hence the truth is virtually never uttered about the events of the last four or five years, because people everywhere speak out of one or other national interest.
What must be realized is that when a man desires to approach the supersensible world, infinitely much depends upon such things. In times when procedures such as I characterized at the end of the lecture yesterday are possible — can you believe that many avenues to the truth lie open? They certainly do not. For those who wallow in such swamps of untruthfulness as were disclosed yesterday spread fog which completely shuts off what should be grasped as supersensible truth by the healthy human reason. There is equal unwillingness to perceive that straightforward, candid relations between man and man must prevail if supersensible truths are to penetrate in the right way into the social life. One cannot varnish truth on the one hand and, on the other, wish to understand matters of a supersensible nature.
When they are put into words, these things seem almost matters of course, but actually they are so little matters of course that everybody today ought constantly to repeat them to himself. Only so can there gradually be achieved what is necessary in this domain. As I said here recently, the essential principle of social community is that it must be founded upon confidence, in the sense indicated. This must be taken in all earnestness. In very many respects this confidence will also be necessary in the future with regard to paths of knowledge. The attitude adopted toward those who are in a position to say something about the science of initiation should be to examine their utterances with the healthy reason only, not with sympathy, antipathy, or the like, nor in the mirror of personal feeling. It must at all times be realized that the Anthroposophical Society should become in the real sense a bearer of supersensible truths into the world. Thereby it could achieve something extraordinarily necessary and significant for the evolution of mankind.
But it must be remembered that to have experiences in sensible spheres is obviously a matter to be taken in earnest. I told you some time ago how a friend of our Movement, shortly before he died from the effects of war-wounds, wrote lines in which, in the very face of death, he speaks of the air becoming hard, granite-like.
I said at the time that this is an absolutely true experience. Think only of the most elementary experiences connected with crossing the Threshold of the spiritual world and you will be able to gauge the importances of these things. In our life by day — or also by night, for then there is electric light — the Sun, the light of the Sun, illumines the objects around us; the sunlight makes them visible. In a similar way the other senses become aware of surrounding objects. If I limit myself at the moment to the example of the sunlight, directly the Threshold is crossed man must become one with the light in his inmost being. The light cannot enable him to see objects because he has to pass into the very light itself. Objects can be seen with the help of the light only as long as the light is outside. When man is himself moving together with the light, the objects illumined by it can no longer be seen. But when, in his being of soul, he is moving in the light itself, then for the first time he becomes aware that thinking is, in reality, one with the light weaving in the world.
Thinking that is bound up with the body is proper to physical life only. Directly we leave this body, our thinking loses definition; it weaves into the light, lives in the light, is one with the light. But the moment our thinking is received into the light, it is no longer possible to have an ego as easily as man has one between birth and death, without doing anything toward it. His body is organized in such a way that his being reflects itself through the body, and he calls this mirror-image his ego. It is a faithful mirror-image of the real ego, but it is a mirror-image, a picture only, a picture-thought, a thought-picture. And the moment the Threshold is crossed, it streams out into the light.
If another anchorage were not now available, man would have no ego at all. For this ego, this ‘I’, that he has between birth and death, is furnished for him by his body. He loses it the moment he leaves the body, and then he can be conscious of an ego only by becoming one with what may be called the forces of the planet, especially the variations of the planet's force of gravity. He must become so entirely one with the planet, with the Earth, that he feels himself to be a part of the Earth, as the finger feels itself to be a member of the human organism. Then, in union with the Earth, it is possible for him again to have an ego. And he perceives that just as here in earthly life he makes use of thinking in the physical body, after earthly life he can make use of the light.
From the standpoint of initiation, therefore, one would have to say: Man is united with the Earth's force of gravity and through radiating light concerns himself with the things of the world. Applied to the experience beyond the Threshold, this would express the same fact as when one says here on Earth: Man lives in his body and thinks about the things of the world. Of the life between birth and death we say: Man lives in the body and concerns himself with things through thinking.
As soon as he leaves the body, we must say: He is united with the Earth's force of gravity or with its variations, with electricity or magnetism, and through radiating light, inasmuch as he is now living in the light, concerns himself with the things of the world.
When things that have been illumined in this way — instead of being merely thought about, as is generally the case — are put into words, they are entirely comprehensible to the healthy human reason. And even the initiate, if he has not developed his reason in the right way, gains nothing whatever from his supersensible experiences. When someone today — please take what I am now saying as a really serious matter — has learned to think in a way perfectly adapted to meeting the demands of school examinations, when he acquires habits of thought that enable him to pass academic tests with flying colors — then his reasoning faculty will be so vitiated that even if millions of experiences of the supersensible world were handed to him on a platter, he would see them as little as you could physically see the objects in a dark room; for that which makes men fit to cope with the demands of this materialistic age darkens the space in which the supersensible worlds come toward them.
Men have become accustomed to think in the one and only way that is possible when thinking is based on the bodily functions. This kind of thinking is ingrained in them from their youth onwards. But healthy human reason does not unfold on bodily foundations; it unfolds in free spiritual activity. And even in our elementary schools today children are educated away from free spiritual activity. The very methods of teaching hinder the development of free spiritual activity. Dare one incur the responsibility of concealing from the world these vital truths of the age? People may not realize why it was thought necessary to set into active operation an institution such as the Waldorf School in Stuttgart. But through this Waldorf School some at least of the children of men will be given a real chance to discard the bigotry of the times and to learn how to move in the element of thinking that is truly free. As long as such things are not regarded in this serious light, we shall make no progress.
Now I would like to call your attention to another tendency which is still far too common. Because people are tired of the old in its ordinary form, they like to get hold of something new; but for all that, they want the new to be somehow veiled, whenever possible, in all the old, habitual conceptions. I have known many people — and it is well to be under no delusion about these things — who have realized that anthroposophical spiritual science is endeavoring to promulgate something true and right about Christianity, about the Mystery of Golgotha. But among them were some for whom this was right only because it exposed them to less disapproval in Church circles; hence they found Anthroposophy more opportune than some other form of spiritual science holding a different view of Christianity. In anthroposophical spiritual science the one and only question is that of truth; but with some people it has not always been a question only of truth, but often only of opportunism. Naturally it is unpleasant nowadays to have to witness the attitude to truth adopted by the representatives of the religious confessions and ultimately by their congregations who are also influenced by it. This is a trend of the times that must be kept clearly in view.
If it is desired to approach the supersensible world in the right way, we must have interest in all things — but never mere curiosity. People are so ready to confound curiosity with interest. They must learn not only to think differently but to feel differently about all things. If anthroposophical spiritual science were ever to be given a mantle suitable for the atmosphere of coffee-parties or what corresponds to them nowadays, this would by no means conduce to the fulfillment of its task — for this task is of grave moment.
The reason for the hostility that is asserting itself at the present time in such ugly forms is simply this: People realize that here it is not a matter of a sect, or of a happier “family circle” such as many desire, but that something is truly striving to activate the impulses needed by the times. But what interest have the majority of people today in these impulses? If only they can bask in happiness or have something in the nature of a new religion! This egoism of soul, which impels very many people to anthroposophical spiritual science, must be overcome. Interest in the great affairs of humanity is necessary for any true understanding of Anthroposophy.
These great concerns of the life of humanity are clearly to be discerned in the most seemingly trivial facts of life. But in one respect our whole life of perception and feeling must change if we want so to orientate healthy human reason that it functions in the right stream of spiritual science. Let me repeat: The whole of our life of soul must change in one particular respect if our healthy human reason is to function within the stream of spiritual life that is to be brought to mankind through Anthroposophy. What is the orientation given us here on Earth by the culture that is smothered in materialism? Our orientation is such that we feel ourselves as bodily men — with bones, muscles, nerves. And our body acts as a mirror, reflecting the image of our ego to us — schematically, like this:
Your true being is somewhere in spiritual regions. Here, in the physical world, is your body. It becomes a mirror, reflecting back to you the image of the ego. The ego itself is here (= = =), but the image of the ego is reflected back to you by the body. You know of this ego-image when you look at the body with that center of your being of which most people at present know nothing, but in which they nevertheless live. So the ego, together with the thoughts, feelings, and impulses of will, is mirrored by the body. Behind this ego-image is the body, and man calls these mirrored images his soul; behind the soul he perceives the body and uses it as his support.
But this picture: There, down below, is the body; there the ego emerges ... this picture must be entirely changed. It is a picture perceived in complete passivity, and is indeed perceived only because the body is behind it. We must learn to perceive quite differently. We must learn to perceive: You are there in your spiritual world, a world in which there are no plants, minerals, and animals, but Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai, and the other beings of the hierarchies; in them you live. And because these beings permeate us through and through, we ray forth the ego:
We ray forth this ego from the spiritual world. We must learn to feel this ego, to feel that we have within us the ego behind which stand the hierarchies, just as the body, composed of elements of the three kingdoms of nature, is behind the ego that is an image only. We must pass out of the passive experience into activity in the fullest sense. We must learn to feel that our real ego is brought into being out of the spiritual world. And then we also learn to feel that the mirror-image of our ego is brought into being for us out of the body that belongs to physical existence.
This is a reversal of the usual feeling, and to this reversal we must habituate ourselves. That is the important thing — not the amassing of facts and data. They will be there in abundance once this reversal of feeling has been experienced. Then, when thinking is active in the real sense, those thoughts are born which can fertilize social thinking. When the ego is allowed to remain a mirror-image, thinking can take account only of those social matters which are (as I said yesterday) merely the outcome of changes in phraseology. Only when man is active in his ego can his thoughts be truly free.
In past centuries, not so very long ago, this freedom in thinking was still present in men, although springing, it is true, from atavistic qualities of soul. Instinctively, they regarded it as an ideal to achieve this freedom in their thinking, whereas we have to achieve it in the future by conscious effort. There is an outer illustration of this. Just look at the diplomas conferring the Doctor's degree at universities in Middle Europe. As a rule, people are made not only Doctors, but Doctors and Masters of the Seven Liberal Arts — Arithmetic, Dialectic, Rhetoric, and so on. This no longer means anything, for the Seven Liberal Arts are nowhere included in the curriculum of modern universities. It is a relic, a heritage from an earlier period when through university life men strove to liberate their thinking, to develop a life of soul able to rise to truly free thinking.
At the universities today the degrees of Master of the Liberal Arts and Doctor of Philosophy are still conferred. But this is no more than a relic, for nobody understands what the Liberal Arts really are. They are justly named ‘Arts’ because they were pursued in a sphere lying above that of sensory experience, just as the artist's imagination unfolds freely and independently of material existence. The degrees inscribed in university diplomas once represented a reality, just as many other things still surviving in the formula current at universities were once realities. The title Magister Artium Liberalium is a very characteristic example.
This living grasp of the self (Sicherfassen) must again be achieved. But it goes against the grain, because people today prefer to move about on crutches instead of using their legs. Their ideal is to have what they are to think conveyed to them by the outer, material facts. It is unpleasant for them to realize that thinking in the true sense must be experienced in free spiritual activity, because it means tearing themselves away from the convenient things of life, from all props, all crutches in the life of soul. Whenever things are said from the standpoint of a kind of thinking that has nothing whatever to do with the sense-world, but in complete freedom creates out of intuitions, people do not understand it. My Philosophy of Spiritual Activity was not understood because it can be grasped only by one who is intent upon unfolding really free thoughts, one who is truly and in a new sense a ‘Master of the Liberal Arts’.
These are the things that must be understood today with the right feeling and with the earnestness that is their due. Especially to the English friends who are here for a short time only, I want to say this: The building we have erected on this hill must be regarded as an outer beacon for the signs of the times. This building stands here in order that through it the world may be told: If you go on thinking in the old way, as for four centuries you have become accustomed to think in your sciences, you will condemn humanity to destruction. With the help of crutches you may seek in the easy way to establish principles of social life, but in so doing you will only be preserving what already has death within it.
For the life of soul today it is essential to unfold thinking that is as free as are those forms out of which, in architecture, sculpture, or painting, the attempt has been made to create this building. Its purpose is that at one spot on the Earth these things shall be said not through words alone, but also through forms. Men should feel that here, through these forms, something different from what can be heard elsewhere in the world today is intended to be said, and also that what is said is urgently necessary for the further progress of mankind in respect of knowledge and social principles, in respect of all the sciences and of all branches of social life.
Source: January 18, 1920 GA 196
Sunday, January 29, 2023
The Holy Grail : The human crown of thorns : The yoga of shame and gratitude : Life is the unfolding glory of the rose of expiation
"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt
The Effects of Esoteric Development
Lecture 5 of 10
Rudolf Steiner, The Hague, March 24, 1913:
This course of lectures should rightly be considered as an explanation of certain experiences passed through by the student as changes produced in him by his esoteric development, or, shall we say, Theosophy; so that what is described is really to be looked upon as something that can actually be experienced during development. Naturally, only outstanding experiences, typical experiences, as it were, can be explained; but from the description of these characteristic experiences we may gain an idea of many other things we have to notice in the course of development.
In the last lecture we spoke principally of the fact that the student acquires a great sensitivity with respect to what goes on in the external life-ether, or in the ether as a whole. These experiences are connected with many other things, and one which we should particularly notice is the experience we have with respect to our power of judgment. As human beings, we are so placed in the world that in a certain way we judge the things that come before us, we form ideas about things; we consider one thing to be right, another wrong. A person's capacity for judging depends upon what is known as shrewdness, cleverness, discernment. This shrewdness, this cleverness, this discernment, is in course of his development gradually placed in a different light. This was briefly indicated in the last lecture. The student finds more and more that for the actual affairs of the higher, spiritual life, this shrewdness or cleverness is not of the slightest value, although he must bring as much of it as possible at his starting point on the physical plane if he wishes to enter upon the path to the higher worlds. And thus he comes inevitably into a position which may easily seem unendurable to the utilitarian; for while of necessity he needs something at first for his higher development, yet when he has acquired the needful quality it loses its value. To a certain extent the student must do everything possible to develop a sound power of judgment here on the physical plane, one that weighs the facts carefully; but having done so he must quite clearly understand that during his sojourn in the higher worlds this power of judgment has not the same value as it possesses here below on the physical plane. If the student wishes his higher senses to be sound he must proceed from a healthy power of judgment; but for the higher vision healthy judgment must be transformed into healthy vision.
But however highly we may develop, as long as we have to live on the physical plane we are still human beings of this plane, and on this physical plane we have the task of developing our power of judgment in a healthy way. Therefore we must take care to learn betimes not to mix the life in the higher worlds with that of the physical plane. One who wishes to make direct use on the physical plane of what he experiences in the higher worlds will easily become a visionary, an incompetent man. We must accustom ourselves to be able to live clearly in the higher worlds, and then, when we pass out of that condition, to hold again as firmly as possible to what is suitable for the physical plane. We must carefully and conscientiously maintain the twofold attitude demanded by the twofold nature of the spiritual and physical life. We accustom ourselves to the right attitude towards the world in this respect by accustoming ourselves not to bring what belongs to the higher worlds into the everyday course of life; to bring into everyday affairs as little as possible of that which may easily tempt us to say, for instance, when something in a person is unsympathetic to us, that we cannot bear his aura. In ordinary life, when speaking of this or that as unsympathetic, it is better to keep to the ordinary terms; it is better in this respect to remain like one's fellows on the physical plane, and to be as sparing as possible in ordinary life of expressions which only have their true application when used for the higher life. We ought carefully to refrain from mixing into daily life words, ideas, conceptions, belonging to the higher life. This may perhaps seem a sort of pedantic requirement to anyone who, from a certain enthusiasm for the spiritual life, shall we say, finds it necessary to permeate his whole being with it. And yet, that which in an ordinary way in ordinary life may perhaps seem pedantic, is an important principle of training for the higher worlds. Therefore, even if it should seem more natural to describe the ordinary life in words belonging to the higher life, let us translate them into the language most fitted for the physical plane. It must be emphasised again and again that these things are not without consequence, but are full of significance and possess active power. This being admitted, we may also speak without prejudice of the fact that, as regards the life in the higher worlds, the ordinary power of judgment ceases to be of use, and we learn to feel, to a certain extent, that the sort of cleverness we had before is now at an end. And here again the student notices — this is an experience which grows more and more frequent — he notices his dependence upon the etheric life of the world, that is, upon time. How often do we find in our particular age that people, even quite young people, approach everything in the world upon which judgment can be passed, and think that when they have acquired a certain power of judgment they can pronounce opinion about everything in existence, and speculate on everything possible. In esoteric development the belief that one can speculate on all things is torn out of the soul by the roots; for we then notice that our opinions are capable of growth and, above all, that they need to mature.
The student learns to recognise that if he wishes to arrive at an opinion with which he is himself able to agree, he must live for some while with certain ideas which he has acquired, so that his own etheric body can come to an understanding with them. He learns that he must wait before he can arrive at a certain opinion. Only then does he realise the great significance of the words: ‘Let what is in the soul mature.’ He really becomes more and more modest. But this ‘becoming modest’ is a very special matter, because it is not always possible to hold the balance between being obliged to form an opinion and being able to wait for maturity to have an opinion upon a subject, though delusion about these things is possible to a high degree, and because there is really nothing but life itself which can explain these things. A philosopher may dispute with a person who has reached a certain degree of esoteric development concerning some cosmic mystery, or cosmic law; if the philosopher can only form philosophic opinion he will believe himself necessarily in the right concerning the matter, and we can understand that he must have this belief; but the other person will know quite well that the question cannot be decided by the capacity for judgment possessed by the philosopher. For he knows that in former times he also used the conceptions upon which the philosopher bases his opinion, but allowed them to mature within him, which process made it possible for him to have an opinion on the subject; he knows that he has lived with it, thereby making himself ripe enough to form the opinion which he now pronounces at a higher stage of maturity. But an understanding between these two persons is really out of the question, and in many cases cannot be brought about directly; it can only come to pass when in the philosopher there arises a feeling of the necessity of allowing certain things to mature in his soul before he permits himself to give an opinion about them. Opinions, views must be battled for, must be won by effort — this the student recognises more and more. He acquires a profound, intense feeling of this, because he gains the inner feeling of time which is essentially connected with the development of the etheric body. Indeed, he gradually notices a certain opposition arise in his soul between the way he formerly judged and the way he now judges after having attained a certain maturity in this particular matter; and he notices that the opinion he formed in the past and the opinion he now holds confront each other like two powers, and he then notices in himself a certain inner mobility of the temporal within him; he notices that the earlier must be overcome by the later. This is the dawn in the consciousness of a certain feeling for time, which arises from the presence of inner conflicts, coming into existence through a certain opposition between the later and the earlier. It is absolutely necessary to acquire this inner feeling, this inner perception of time, for we must remember that we can only learn to experience the etheric when we acquire an inner idea of time. This develops into our always having the feeling that the earlier originates in ourselves, in our judgment, in our knowledge; but that the later flows into us, as it were, streams towards us, is vouchsafed to us. More and more clearly comes the feeling of what was described in the last lecture, viz., that the cleverness which springs from oneself must be separated from the wisdom which is acquired by surrender to the stream flowing towards one from the future. To feel ourselves being filled by thoughts, in contradistinction to our former experiences of consciously forming the thoughts ourselves — this shows progress. When the student learns more and more to feel that he no longer forms thoughts, but that the thoughts think themselves in him — when he has this feeling it is a sign that his etheric body is gradually developing the necessary inner feeling of time. All that went before will have the attribute of being something formed egotistically; all that is attained by maturing will have the characteristic of burning up and consuming what the student has made for himself. Thus the gradual change in his inner being results in a very remarkable experience; he becomes increasingly conscious that his own thinking, his own thought processes must be suppressed because they are of little value, compared with his devotion to the thoughts which stream to him from the cosmos. The individual life loses, as it were, one of its parts — that is extremely important — it loses the part we usually call personal-thinking, and there only remains personal-feeling and personal-willing. But these too undergo a change at the same time as the thinking. The student no longer produces his thoughts, but they think themselves within his soul. With the feeling that the thoughts have their own inner power through which they think themselves, comes a certain merging of feeling and will. Feeling, we might say, becomes more and more active, and the will becomes more and more allied to feeling. Feeling and will become more closely related to each other than they were before on the physical plane. No impulse of the will can be formed without accompanying development of feeling. Many of the student's deeds produce within him a bitter feeling, others produce an uplifting feeling. As regards his will, he feels at the same time that his own will-impulses must be adjusted in conformity with his feelings. He gradually finds that feelings which are there merely for the sake of enjoyment give rise to a kind of reproach; but feelings which are so perceived that he says: ‘The human soul must furnish the field of work for such feelings, they must be experienced inwardly, otherwise they would not exist in the universe’ — such feelings he gradually finds more justifiable than the others. An example shall be given at once, a characteristic example, in order that what is meant may be made quite clear; it is not intended to decry anything, but only to express the essential nature of this difference. Someone may find his pleasure in having good meals. When he experiences this pleasure, something happens within him — this is indisputable. But it does not make much difference in the universe, in the cosmos, when an individual experiences this pleasure in a good meal; it is not of much consequence to the general life of the world. But if someone takes up St. John's Gospel and reads but three lines of it, that is of immense consequence to the whole universe; for if among all the souls on earth none were to read St. John's Gospel, the whole mission of the earth could not be fulfilled; from our taking part in such activities there stream forth spiritually the forces which ever add new life to the earth in place of that which dies within it. We must distinguish a difference in experience between ordinary egotistic feeling and that in which we are but providing the field for experience of a feeling necessary for the existence of the world. Under certain circumstances a man may do very little externally, but when in his developed soul, for no personal pleasure, he is aware that through his feeling the opportunity is given for the existence of a feeling important to the universal existence — then he is doing an enormous amount.
Strange as it may seem, the following may also be said: There was once a Greek philosopher named Plato. He wrote many books. As long as a person only lives with his soul on the physical plane, he reads these books for his own instruction. Such outer instruction has its significance for the physical plane, and it is very good to make use of every means of instruction on the physical plane, for otherwise we remain stupid. The things achieved on the physical plane are there for the purpose of our instruction. But when a soul has developed esoterically, he then takes Plato, shall we say, and reads him again for a different reason; that is, because Plato and his works only have a meaning in the earthly existence if what he has written is also experienced in other souls; and the student then reads not only to instruct himself, but because something is accomplished thereby.
Something must be added to our feeling, enabling us to recognise a difference between egotistic feeling, which leans more towards enjoyment, and selfless feeling, which presents itself to us as an inner spiritual duty. This may extend even into external life and the external conception of life; and here we come to speak on a point which shines, it might be said, out of individual into social experience.
When a person acquainted with the secrets of esotericism observes what goes on in the world — how so many people waste their spare time instead of ennobling their feelings with what comes into the earthly existence from spiritual creations — he might weep over the stupidity which ignores all that in human life flows through human feeling and sentiment. And in this connection it should be noticed that when these experiences begin a certain more delicate egoism appears in human nature. In the following lectures we shall hear how this finer egoism is assumed for the purpose of overcoming itself; but at first it merely appears as a finer egoism, and during our theosophical development we shall find that a sort of higher thirst for enjoyment appears, a thirst for the enjoyment of spiritual things. And, grotesque as it may sound, it is nevertheless true that a man who is undergoing an esoteric development may at a certain stage declare, even though he may not allow this consciousness to grow into pride and vanity, that all that lies before him on the earth in the way of spiritual creations must be enjoyed by him; it is there for his enjoyment — so it belongs to him. And gradually he develops a certain urge towards such spiritual enjoyments. In this respect esotericism will not cause any mischief in the world, for we may be quite sure that when such a desire for the spiritual creations of humanity appears it will not be a drawback.
As a result of this something else appears. Gradually the student feels in a sense the awakening of his own etheric body, by becoming aware that feeling his own thinking is of less value, and by feeling the inflow of thought from the cosmos, interwoven as it is with the Divine. He feels more and more how will and feeling arise from himself; he begins to feel egoism only in his will and feeling, while he perceives the gifts of the wisdom, which he feels streaming through, as connecting him with the whole cosmos.
This experience is connected with another. He begins to feel inner activity of feeling and will, interwoven with inner sympathy and antipathy. A more subtle and delicate feeling tells him that when he himself does this or that it is a disgrace, for he has within him a certain amount of wisdom. Of something else he may feel that it is right to do it, according to his amount of wisdom. An experience of self-control appearing in feeling comes about naturally. We are overcome with feelings of bitterness when we feel a will arising from within, impelling us to do something or other which does not seem to be right in view of the wisdom in which we have now learned to share. This bitter feeling is most clearly perceived with respect to the things we have said; and it is well for one who is developing theosophically not to pass by inattentively without noticing how the whole of the inner life of feeling may be refined in this respect. While in the case of a person in exoteric life, when he has uttered certain words, when he has said something or other, that is the end of the matter, in the case of a person who has undergone a theosophical development there comes a clear after-feeling regarding what he has said; he feels something like an inner shame when he has expressed what is not right in a moral or intellectual sense; and something like a sort of thankfulness — not satisfaction with himself — when he has been able to express something to which the wisdom he has attained can give assent. And if he feels — and for this, too, he acquires a delicate sensitiveness — that something like an inner self-satisfaction, a self-complaisance with himself arises when he has said something that is right, that is a sign that he still possesses too much vanity, which is no good in his development. He learns to distinguish between the feeling of satisfaction which follows when he has said something with which he can agree, and the self-complaisance which is worthless. He should try not to allow this latter feeling to arise, but only to develop the feeling of shame when he has said anything untrue or non-moral, and, when he has succeeded in saying something suitable to the occasion, to develop a feeling of gratitude for the wisdom he now has part in, and to which he does not lay claim as his own, but receives as a gift from the universe.
Little by little the student feels in this way with respect to his own thinking. As has already been said, he must remain a man on the physical plane; and while not attaching too much value to the self-formed thoughts, he must still form them; but this self-thinking itself now alters, so much that he holds it under the self-control we have just described. Regarding a thought of which he may say: ‘I have thought that and it is in keeping with the Wisdom’ — regarding this thought he develops a feeling of gratitude towards the Wisdom. A thought which arises as a wrong, ugly, non-moral thought leads to a certain inner feeling of shame, and the student feels: ‘Can I really still be like this? Is it possible that I have still sufficient egotism to think this, in the face of the Wisdom that has entered into me?’ It is extremely important for him to feel this kind of self-control in his inner being. The peculiarity of this self-control is that it never comes through the critical intellect, but always appears in feeling, in perception. Let us pay great attention to this, my dear friends: A man who is only clever, who only possesses the judgment of the outer life, who is critical, can never arrive at what we are now speaking of; for this must appear as feeling. When he has acquired this feeling — when it arises as if from his own inner being — he identifies himself with this feeling either of shame or thankfulness, and feels that his own self is connected with this feeling. And if I were to make a diagram of what is thus experienced, it is as though one felt wisdom streaming in from above, coming towards one from above, streaming into one's head in front and then filling one from above downwards. On the other hand, a student feels that, as though coming from his own body, there streams towards that wisdom a feeling of shame, so that he identifies himself with this feeling, and addresses the wisdom as something given from outside; and feels within himself a region wherein this feeling, which is now the ego, meets the instreaming wisdom bestowed.
The pupil can inwardly experience the region where these two meet. To feel this meeting, proves a right inner experience of the etheric world; he experiences the thoughts pressing in from the external etheric world — for it is the wisdom streaming towards him from the external etheric world that presses in and is perceived by means of the two feelings — that is the rightly-perceived etheric world. And when he perceives it thus he ascends to the higher Beings which only descend as far as to an etheric body and not to a physical human body. On the other hand, he may experience this etheric world wrongly, in a certain sense. Rightly, the etheric world is experienced between thinking and feeling, in the manner just described. The experience is purely an inner process in the soul. The elementary or etheric world may be experienced wrongly, if it is experienced on the boundary between breathing and our own etheric body. If the student performs breathing exercises too soon, or in an incorrect way, he gradually becomes a witness of his own breathing-process. With the breathing-process of which he is then aware (the act of breathing being usually unnoticed), he may acquire a breathing which perceives itself. And this feeling may be associated with a certain perception of the etheric world. By means of all kinds of breathing-exercises a person may gain the power of observing certain etheric processes which really are in the external world, but which belong to the lowest external psychic processes, and which, if experienced too soon, can never give the right idea of the true spiritual world.
Of course, from a certain point in the esoteric practice a regulated breathing-process may also begin; but this must be properly directed. It then comes about that we perceive the etheric world, as has been described, on the border between thinking and feeling, and what we thus learn to recognise is only strengthened by our also coming to know the grosser etheric processes which take place on the border between the etheric world and our breathing-processes. For the matter is as follows: — There is a world of genuine higher Spirituality; this we attain through the interaction which takes place — as we have described — between wisdom and feeling; there we come to the deeds accomplished in the etheric world by the beings belonging to the higher hierarchies. But there are a great number of all sorts of good and bad and hostile and horrible and dangerous elementary beings, which, if we become acquainted at the wrong time, obtrude themselves upon us as if they really were a valuable spiritual world, while they are nothing more, in a certain sense, than the lowest dregs of the beings of the Spiritual world. He who wishes to penetrate into the Spiritual world must indeed become acquainted with these beings, but it is not well to become acquainted with them at the beginning. For the peculiarity is this: that if a person becomes acquainted with these beings at first, without traversing the difficult path of his own inner experience, he grows fond of them, has astonishing partiality for them; and it may then occur that a man who thus raises himself into the spiritual world in a wrong way, especially through such physical training as may be called a changing of the breathing-processes, will describe certain things pertaining to this spiritual world, as they appear to him. He describes them in such a way that many people may think them extremely beautiful, while to the occultist who perceives them in the inward experience, they may be horrible and loathsome. Such things are quite possible in the experience of the spiritual world.
We need not here speak of other processes which a person may undertake as a training, and through which he may enter evil worlds, because in Occultism it is the custom not to speak of that which one comes to know as the dross of the spiritual world. It is not necessary that we should enter spiritually into that world; hence it is not the practice to speak of the methods which go still lower than the breathing processes. Even the breathing-process, when it is not done in the right way, really leads to the dross-beings, which we must indeed come to know, but not at first, as they then make us enamoured of them, which ought not to be. We shall only obtain a true, objective standpoint regarding their value when we have penetrated into the spiritual world from the other side.
If the student now begins in this way to feel streaming out of himself, as it were, responsive feelings towards wisdom — the feeling of shame, and the feeling of thankfulness — if these responsive feelings spring up, as it were, from his own organism, then he thereby becomes first acquainted in the most elementary way with something of which he must learn more in the course of his further occult development. In the last lecture we pointed out that in the course of our gradual experience of the etheric we become aware of what is active in the etheric part of our brain, the Amshaspands, referred to in the teaching of Zarathustra. As regards our ideas we may also say: There we learn at first to form an idea of the active archangel beings and what they have to do in us. Through what is here stored up, through what here arises within us as the feeling of thankfulness or shame, which feeling has a personal character because it comes forth from ourselves — through this we gain the first elementary true conception of what are called the Archai or Primal forces; for we experience in the first most elementary way in the manner described what the Primal forces bring about in us. While the student — when he begins to experience in the etheric — first experiences the Archangels in his head in a shadowy way, one might say, in their activities, in their etheric working, he experiences in that with which the wisdom comes in contact in him, and which reacts to it, the Primal forces permeated with something like will, not entirely of its nature, but the Primal forces which have entered into him and work in the human personality. When he learns to feel in this way, he gradually obtains an idea of what the occultist means when he says: On that primeval embodiment of our earth, Ancient Saturn, dwelt the Primal Forces or the Spirits of Personality at their human stage, so to speak. At that time these Primal Forces or Spirits of Personality were human. They have now developed further, and in so doing they have attained the capacity of working from the supersensible world. And how do they manifest at the present time, in our earth-period, this power which they have acquired through the progress of their evolution as far as the earth? They have attained the capacity of being able to work from the supersensible upon our own bodily nature, and so to work on our sheath that they produce forces in our etheric body manifesting in the manner described. They have placed these forces in us, and if we feel today we are so organised that we can develop within ourselves the above-mentioned feelings of gratitude and shame as an inner natural process (and this can become our own experience), we must admit: That this can become an inward experience, that our etheric body should pulsate in this way, and respond in this manner to the Wisdom — to this end have the Primal forces poured forces into it. In the same way man himself in future incarnations of our earth will attain to the ability to imprint capacities such as these into a corresponding covering in other beings, who will be below him; he will imprint them into their inner being. What man is to know regarding the higher worlds will gradually be gained by inner experience, by our ascending, by our passing over from physical to etheric experience.
Let us try to make these matters still clearer. On ancient Saturn — as you know — heat was the densest physical condition, as it were, the only physical condition which had been reached by the middle of the Saturn period. And as you may read in my book An Outline Of Occult Science, the Saturn activities in the physical were currents of heat and cold. We may also speak of these currents of heat and cold from the psychic, soul-aspect, and say: Heat flowed in streams, but this heat was the flowing gratitude of the Spirits of Personality; or this flowing heat which moved in a different direction was the flowing feeling of shame of the Spirits of Personality. What we must gradually acquire is the capacity of connecting the physical with the moral activity; for the further we go into the higher worlds the more closely are these two things connected — the physical occurrence, which then ceases to be physical, and the moral, which then flows through the world with the power of the laws of nature.
All that has just been described as something which appears in inner experience through the altered etheric body brings about something else in the human soul. This human soul gradually begins to feel discomfort in being this individual man at all, this single, personal human being. It is important for us to learn to notice this; and it is well to make a rule of noticing it. The less interest one has developed previously to this stage of esoteric development in what concerns humanity in general, in what is common to humanity, the more disquieting does one find this on pressing forward. A person having developed no interest in mankind in general, and yet wishing to undergo an esoteric development, would feel himself more and more as a burden. For example, a person to whom it is possible to go through the world without sympathy and fellow-feeling with what another may suffer and enjoy, who cannot well enter into the souls of others, nor transpose himself into the souls of other human beings, such a person, when he progresses in esoteric development, feels himself to be a kind of burden. If in spite of remaining unmoved by human sorrow and human joy he undergoes a theosophical development, the student drags himself about with him as a heavy weight; and we may be quite sure his theosophical development will merely remain external, an intellectual affair only, that such a person is merely taking up theosophy like learning a cookery-book or some external science, unless he feels that he is a mere weight if in spite of his development he cannot develop a heart that truly feels with all human sorrow and all human gladness. Hence it is very good if, during a theosophical, occult development, we extend our human interests; and really nothing is worse during this esoteric progress than not to try to gain an understanding of every kind of human feeling and human sensation and human life. Of course, this does not postulate the principle — this must be emphasised again and again — that we should pass over all the wrong that is done in the world without criticism, for that would be an injustice towards the world; but it postulates something else; whereas before esoteric development we may have felt a certain pleasure in finding fault with some human failing, this pleasure in finding fault with other people entirely ceases in the course of esoteric development. Who does not know in external life people who like to deliver very pertinent criticisms of other people's faults? Not that the pertinence of judgment over human faults has to cease, not that under all circumstances, such an act as was committed, let us say, by Erasmus of Rotterdam when he wrote his book, The Praise of Folly, should be condoned; no, it may be quite justifiable to be stern against the wrongs done in the world; but in the case of one who undergoes an esoteric development every word of blame he utters or sets in motion pains him, and prepares more and more pain for him. And the sorrow at being obliged to find fault is something which can also act as a barometer of the esoteric development. The more we are still able to feel pleasure when we are obliged to find fault or when we find the world ludicrous, the less we are really ready to progress; and we must gradually gain a sort of feeling that there is, developing more and more within us, a life which makes us see these follies and errors in the world with eyes of which one is critical and the other filled with tears, one dry and the other wet. This inner dividing into parts, this becoming more independent, as it were, of that which was previously intermingled, also forms part of the change undergone by the human etheric body.
Life is the unfolding glory of the rose of expiation
Saturday, January 28, 2023
The Yoga of the Lord's Prayer