How To Know Higher Worlds
This treatise begins with the introduction here, then a biography of Rudolf Steiner, next the table of contents, then the full abridged version text.
The essence of Rudolf Steiner’s book “How To Know Higher Worlds” is to instruct the individual as to how to obtain access to knowledge imparted from higher worlds. According to Steiner, a person who, after much training and purification, has gained this connection to these spiritual sources is then referred to as an “initiate.” The quest of the student here is to gain full access to the higher worlds not just for themselves but also, not without their total commitment and efforts directed towards the inclusion of their fellow beings.
The work here is an abridged version of “How To Know Higher Worlds.” The original work was published in 1909 in German. The combination of the English version having been translated from German and, given when it was written, over one hundred years ago, led me to occasionally apply more contemporary wording in place of the original translated text.
The author emphasizes that the teachings are more than mere lessons; that they become actual living forces within. I found this to be true having personally experienced some surprising mystical events as I read the book. One of the first beneficial outcomes of these teachings was a noticeable improvement of the quality of my dreams as well as the uninterrupted duration and general soundness of my sleep state. Also, during a particularly difficult time, the teachings in the book contributed towards my being able to find the strength and maintain soundness of mind necessary in order to effectively confront the difficulty to the best of my ability. However, there is much, much more to be gained by studying and applying that which is taught here.
Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner
Biography – Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner (February 1861- March 1925) was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect and esotericist. He initially gained recognition as a literary critic and cultural philosopher advocating a form of ethical individualism (meaning the moral worth of the individual) including a spiritual component. Another consistent theme in Steiner’s philosophical and spiritual views is that there are no essential limits to human knowledge. From 1879 through 1883 Steiner attended the Vienna Institute of Technology where he studied mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany, biology. In 1881 he received his PhD. at the University of Rostock, Germany.
At the age of 21 Steiner met an herb gatherer, Felix Kogutyski, who conveyed to Steiner a knowledge of nature that was non-academic and spiritual which inspired him to read Goethe’s publications on natural science. Kogutyski also introduced him to a person that Steiner only identified as a “Master” and had a great influence on him. Eventually Steiner’s interest in Goethe’s works led to a position as a chief editor of an important new edition of Goethe’s writings; an impressive opportunity for such a young student without any related academic credentials or previous publications of his own. Also, during his twenties, Steiner supported himself as a private tutor in the family of a wealthy businessman and, during this period of his life, he also wrote scientific articles for “Purers Encyclopedia” where he contributed a number of pieces on geology and mineralogy.
Steiner was a part owner and chief editor, as well as contributor, of the literary journal “Magazen fur Literatur” from 1897 through 1900 where he hoped to find a readership sympathetic to his philosophy. Yet, many subscribers were alienated by his unpopular support of Emile Zola in the Dreyfus Affair and this led to his departure from the magazine. During Steiner’s position with the magazine he developed an extensive lecturing and teaching activity under the patronage of a number of literary and scientific societies.
As an aside: Emile Zola was a French writer influential in the exoneration of the falsely accused convicted army officer Alfred Dreyfus; a young French artillery officer of Jewish decent. Anti-Semitism seemed to have caused senior officers to suspect Dreyfus of treason. In 1894 he was convicted and sentenced to the penal colony on Devil’s Island in French Guiana and was placed under solitary confinement for five years. Later, all accusation were proven baseless and Dreyfus was released and reinstated as a major in the French Army having become a lieutenant-colonel by the end of his military service.
Based on his lectures given during this period at the Theosophical Library of Count and Countess Brockoff in 1901 and 1902, he developed what he referred to as an “anthroposophical spiritual science” based on the idealist tradition in philosophy rooted in the thinking of Aristotle, Plato and Thomas Aquinas. He then became the General Secretary of the German Theosophical Society. This step from a traditional scholar to a developer and presenter of spiritual research shocked many who came to know him as a widely respected scholar and cultural figure.
In 1918 when a revolution took place, not only in Russia but in Germany, and threatened to disintegrate the social structure, Steiner proposed a system for the organization of society described in his book “The Threefold State” which sold 100,000 copies on the European continent as well as a large number of an English edition in Great Britain.
This then led to the founding of the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany. This school became the model for the Waldorf movement leading the building and development of (by 2009) some 1,600 Waldorf Kindergartens and nearly 1,000 grammar through high schools worldwide. Beginning after World War l, Steiner initiated the foundation and development of a general anthropomorphically rooted philosophy. During this time he also worked to establish practical endeavors such as a biodynamic farming system emphasizing a holistic program concerned with the interrelationships between soil, plants and animals as an approach toward a self-sustaining agricultural system. He also employed his efforts in the development of anthroposophical medicine; a complimentary medicine combining elements of conventional medicine along with homeopathic and naturopathic approaches to healing (human wellness and illness connecting mind, body and spirit).
Steiner began to have spiritual experiences as a child but only began to speak of them as an adult. When he was 9 years old he thought he saw the spirit of an aunt who had died in a far off town asking him to help her. When he had the vision neither he nor his family had been informed of her death concurrent with the time of the vision. In 1899, when he was 38, Steiner experienced what he described as a life transforming inner encounter with the being of Christ prior to which he had no relationship with Christianity. From then on his association with Christianity was founded on this personal experience; non-denominational and quite different from the conventional religious forms. Steiner states he was in the midst of a tremendous inner struggle at the time of this encounter. To use his own words, “The experience culminated in my standing in the spiritual presence of the Mystery of Golgotha in a most profound and solemn festival of knowledge.” (Golgotha, according to Christian belief, is outside Jerusalem’s early first century walls where the crucifixion of Jesus occurred). Steiner describes Christ’s being and mission in life as having a central place in human evolution.
Marie Steiner-Von Sievers (March 1867 – 1948) was Steiner’s second wife and one of his closest colleagues. She made a great contribution toward the development of anthroposophy. His first wife, Anna Eunicke Steiner, died in 1911.
In 1921 Adolf Hitler attacked Steiner in an article in the right-wing newspaper “Volkischer Beobachter” accusing him of being a tool of the Jews. Other nationalist Germans publicly called up a “war against Steiner” claiming he was a Jew. In 1923 the Goetheanum building designed by Steiner and built by volunteers for the Anthroposophical Society burnt to the ground; arson was alleged to be the cause.
Steiner designed 17 buildings three of which have been listed as the most significant works of modern architecture. In 1923 and 1924 he initiated the foundation and development of a general anthroposophical school, The School of Spiritual Science. During 1924 his lecturing activity reached a climax. He held 330 lectures from the start of the year through September when exhaustion forced him to halt all public activities. He died six months later on March 30, 1925 in Dornach, Switzerland.
Rudolf Steiner’s first Goetheanum building
Biography resources: Wikipedia, www.biodynamics.com, Rudolf Steiner Press
Images resource and for more information about Rudolf Steiner and his works visit : http://www.rudolfsteinerweb.com/index.php
Table of Contents
Truth and Knowledge ……………………………………………………………………. Page 1
Daily Internal Practice………………………………………………………………………………1
The Internal Life………………………………………………………………………………………2
Non Physical Beings.……………………………………………………………………………….5
Seed of Life……………………………………………………………………………………………..6
Three Step Summary……………………………………………………………………………….6
Courage and Trust…………………………………………………………………………………..7
The Fountainhead of Strength…………………………………………………………………8
Initiation – The Three Trials …………………………………………………………….8, 9, 10
The Draught of Forgetfulness and Remembrance……………………………………11
Some Practical Aspects……………………………………………………………………………12
Seven Conditions for Training………………………………………………………………….13
Creation Versus Destruction……………………………………………………………………16
The Physical Senses, Soul and Spirit…………………………………………………………18
Meditation Instructions and Intention……………………………………………………..20
The Four Attributes….………………………………………………………………………………21
The Self Revealed…………………………………………………………………………………….23
On Knowing One’s Higher Self…………………………………………………………………24
The Transformation of the Dream Life….………..…………………………………..25, 26
Sensory Perception of the Spiritual World………………………………………………..27
Feelings, Instincts and Desires in the Spiritual World……………………,…………28
The Continuity of Consciousness……………………………………………………….29, 30
Preparation and Transformation………………………………………………………..31, 32
The Awakened Mind……………………………………………………………………………….33
The Guardian of the Threshold………………………………………………34, 35, 36, 37
The Greater Guardian of the Threshold…………………………….38, 39, 40, 41, 42
How To Know Higher Worlds – By Rudolf Steiner
Truth and Knowledge
First of all one must acknowledge that which is truly worthy of veneration and therefore devote themselves to: that being truth and knowledge. Trust that every feeling of true devotion harbored in the soul develops a power which may, sooner or later, lead further on the path of higher knowledge. It is also important to realize that there are laws in the spiritual life just as there are laws governing the physical, material life.
Civilization tends more toward critical judgment and condemnation than toward devotion and selfless veneration. But, every criticism, every adverse judgment passed, disperses the soul’s powers for the attainment of higher knowledge in the same measure that veneration and reverence, or respect, develops them. While there is no question of reasons for leveling criticism against civilization, rather than giving in to this unfavorable tendency consider instead, “test all things and hold fast that which is best”. For, every thought that does not contribute to one’s ideal slays a force in the soul and every thought that does contributes to one’s ideal develops actual life forces within the soul.
If one meets another and blames them for their shortcomings they rob themselves of attaining higher knowledge. But, if one enters lovingly into another’s merits this draws them nearer to higher knowledge. Again, criticism disperses powers for the attainment of higher knowledge whereas reverence and veneration develops these powers. Yet, it must be also be emphasized here that higher knowledge is not concerned with the veneration of persons but rather the veneration of truth and knowledge.
It is one thing to consider that which is true intellectually but, spiritual development depends on feeling. Feelings are for the soul what food is for the body; they are a faculty of cognition. Veneration, homage and devotion are like a nutriment, in particular for the feeling activity of cognition. Disrespect, antipathy, underestimation of what deserves recognition, false admiration, all exert a paralyzing and withering effect on this important faculty of cognition.
Daily Internal Practice
1. The student is to set aside moments to quietly allow experiences and messages from the outer world to re-echo within themselves, ignoring the affairs of the ego.
2. Take a moment each day to allow the plants, animals, the stars, every observed action, event, etc., to unveil themselves and their secrets through quiet “different eyes”.
3. Take this law into account daily: Adapt actions and frame speech such that it infringes on no one’s free will. (This does not suggest one should allow evil to run riot).
4. Set aside time for quiet introspection; devote thought to distinguishing between the essential and the non-essential.
5. During these periods one should adopt such a position that they may pass in review before their soul their joys, sorrows, cares, experiences and actions from a higher point of view. The aim here is to contemplate these feelings and events as though they applied to another, and not themselves, with the impartiality of a judge. For, in every individual resides the higher-self and this self remains hidden until awakened, and this practice greatly assists in the awakening of this higher, internal self.
In these moments of contemplation and meditation one realizes that their labor and difficulties are given and endured as their spirit is further developed for the sake of a great spiritual cosmic whole. Meditation produces not weariness but strength; the strength to live. These meditations lead to the knowledge of one’s eternal, indestructible essential being and it is only through meditation that one can attain such knowledge. The question is often asked: Why does it seem that we know nothing of our experiences beyond the borders of life and death? The question instead should be: How can we attain such knowledge?
To all who thus persevere in the above recommendations the day will come when spiritual light will envelop them and a new world will be revealed to an organ of sight within them that prior to which they were never aware.
The Internal Life
Do not stop at the enjoyment of the quiet inner life but rather consider it as a means of ennobling oneself for the benefit of the world. Enjoyment, be it internal or in participation in the external world is like a scout informing one further about the world. But, once so instructed, one passes on to working for, in service to, the world. All knowledge pursued as a contribution towards the process of human ennoblement and cosmic development brings one a step forward toward becoming an initiate.
By thus advancing one gradually becomes more and more their own guide and less led by circumstances and external influences and, rather than approaching a challenge in a faint hearted way thinking, “Oh, I lack the power to accomplish what is required of me” instead thinks “I will summon all my strength to do what is necessary as best as I possibly can.” Thus they begin to steer their own ship on a secure course through the waves of life; whereas it was formerly battered to and fro by these waves. Consider impatience as well. For example, when one is kept waiting rather than becoming embroiled in the agitations brought about by impatience one utilizes the circumstance filling it with useful observations which can be made while waiting. These concepts assist in the growth of the inner, higher-self directing the outer being with sure guidance. Otherwise, the outer being is forever the master and this inner, higher-self cannot unfold its powers.
The student considers matters beyond their own unique situation and directs their consciousness toward those matters which concern all of humanity regardless of distance and differing situations. And, from there, the student focuses their attention in the direction of worlds higher than those with which everyday life connects. It is here one begins to feel and realize, as an inner experience, that they belong to those higher worlds. This higher, spiritual world then begins to speak to the student developing within them a discourse with the spiritual worlds in these moments of tranquility. Eventually this speech becomes audible; whereas formerly sound only reached them through their ear, now it resounds through their soul.
It is possible to pursue becoming an initiate with earnest for a long period of time and not notice any appreciable progress. However, through perseverance, quite suddenly one could achieve this inner victory. In spiritual science everything depends upon the ongoing effort and uncompromising sincerity with which we confront ourselves as a stranger; the greater the effort required the more important is the achievement. It is important not to give into intellectual speculations on such matters but rather to allow things to penetrate ones tendency towards self serving and superficial interpretations and reveal truths about themselves instead. For, just as the physical senses are built out of natural forces in living matter so too are the supersensitive, spiritual organs developed out of thoughts and feelings thus evoked.
In the soul and thought world feelings and thoughts react upon each other just as physical objects react upon each other in the physical world. Therefore, progress will be greatly impeded unless we guard our thoughts and feelings just as we guard our steps in the physical world. For example, the ebbing and flowing of emotions must be regulated otherwise we become deficient in feeling. Eventually, in place of petty emotionalism and capricious flight of thought, significant emotions and thoughts lead the student toward orientation, a right position, in his relation to the spiritual world. Since these instructions are culled from the living inner word, from the living inwardly instilled speech, they are themselves gifted with spiritual life. These are not mere words: they are living powers.
Enlightenment proceeds from very simple processes. Again, it is a matter of developing certain feelings and thoughts which slumber in the student and must be awakened. One needs to consciously develop increasing awareness of accompanying feelings associated with their thoughts. As well, that which is being observed should pass through the student’s soul while acknowledging the associated feelings and thoughts thus produced.
When one observes a flourishing or blooming in nature they shall abandon themselves briefly to the feelings these observations produce. The same is true for observations of that which is in the process of decay. Growth and decay, rather than producing indefinite thoughts, they instead formulate themselves into spiritual impressions and images. Anyone having reached this point of “spiritual vision” is the richer by a great deal being able to perceive things not only in their present state of existence, but also in the whole material processes of growth and decay. For, they begin to see in all things – spirit; that which the physical eyes alone can reveal nothing.
It is through patient diligence and conscientiousness that one is led to the perception of the inner light forms of beings and things by observing them in a particular way. For instance, in comparing a transparent beautifully formed stone, or crystal, a plant and an animal: when observing the stone and the animal one perceives their form, yet the stone remains in place whereas the animal moves. The animal’s limbs and organs are fashioned in response to desire and instinctual forces whereas the innate stone is fashioned on desireless force. If a plant should be included in these observations it will be noticed that the feeling flowing from it lies between the feelings derived from the stone and the animal in quality and degree. At first these feelings (again, not intellectual cognition processes) are only present as long as the observation lasts. Later on they continue and grow into something which remains in the observer’s soul. The organs thus formed from this practice are the spiritual eyes and the student begins to see something like soul and spiritual colors. This is enlightenment; the student’s world becomes light.
Also, of very great importance for the development of the student, is the way in which they listen to others when they speak. One must accustom themselves to do this in such a way that, while listening, their inner self is absolutely silent. In fact, it is good practice to listen attentively without opinion in such circumstances. For when the student practices listening without criticism, even when a completely contradictory opinion is spoken or, the most inane thoughts are expressed or, the most hopeless mistake is committed before them the student then learns, little by little, to blend themselves with the being of another and become identified with the other thus hearing beyond the words and into the soul of the other. It is through the development of selfless listening one trains themselves to be fully receptive from within, in stillness, unmoved by personal opinion or feeling. This practice can also be applied to the sounds of nature. It is only to such persons whom have developed this inner silence while listening attribute the higher beings can communicate.
Non Physical Beings
Every stone, every plant, and every animal has its own particular shade of spiritual color. In addition to these there are beings in the higher worlds who do not ever incarnate physically yet, they have their colors (sometimes quite lovely and sometimes horrible). The wealth of colors in these worlds is immeasurably greater than in the physical world. Once the faculty of seeing with spiritual eyes has been acquired one then encounters, sooner or later, the beings here mentioned; some of them higher and some of them lower than man himself. But, what the student imparts out of this experience is a pillar of strength required in order to penetrate through darkness to light.
Courage and self-confidence are two beacons which must never be extinguished on the path to higher knowledge. Long before any distinct perception of progress there rises in the student, from the soul, a feeling that they are on the right path. This feeling should be cherished and fostered, for it can develop into a trustworthy guide.
It is also highly important to give the proper direction to thoughts and feelings always keeping in mind the intention: that being, for the sake of the good of all of humanity as part of the powerfully evolving cosmic whole. The greater the good intentions of the student the greater the knowledge and power imparted to the student from the higher worlds.
Seed of Life
The student is instructed to hold in their hand a seed from which they contemplate that, once planted in the soil, universal forces, light and the surrounding environment, may very well produce a great tree from the seed. Then, the student contemplates if they should hold in their hand an artificial exact likeness of the same seed they would, of course, know that no light nor environmental forces could avail the artificial seed to produce a thriving tree. Consider that all that will ultimately grow out of the genuine seed is secretly enfolded within it as being the force of the whole of the plant. In the artificial imitation there is no such force present. And yet, both appear alike to the eyes of the observer. The real seed contains something invisible that is not present in the imitation and, it is this invisible something that thought and feeling are to be concentrated upon here.
It is important for one not to confuse spiritual reality with imagination while pressing onward toward spiritual development. In other words, it must be emphasized the importance of an ongoing cultivation of a healthy soundness of mind that is capable of distinguishing truth from illusion. Fully conscious self-control must always be applied during spiritual development and observations as is applied to the details of the everyday life. Strict care must be taken not to drift at random into vague reveries or to experiment with all kinds of exercises for these may lead to student on the path of boundless chimera.
Three Step Summary
Here is a three step summary of significant points made above:
1. Develop more acceptance and tolerance of lower intellect and baser human beings.
2. To others listen, speak less, regardless of content with the intent of connecting with the soul of the other.
3. When making observations of another person, place, thing or event, rely less on intellectualization and more on feeling endeavoring to connect with and discover spiritual truths and knowledge.
For the golden rule here is for every step you take toward higher knowledge you take three steps in the perfection of your own character.
It is generally advisable for the student to remain silent about their developing supersensibilites and spiritual experiences. And to know that one’s reasoning faculties are, by no means, equal to one’s new supersensible experiences. Previously the student has acquired their reasoning faculties in a life that had been confined to the world of the physical senses whereas these new faculties transcend this world. It is also not advisable to attempt to apply to the new and higher perception to the standard of the old.
One eventually arises to the level of certainty that thoughts are real things. Once this is understood one thinks of their fellow man only in a way that is compatible with the highest reverence for human dignity and human liberty. Never for a moment should such thoughts be entertained that a human being could be merely an object for whatever purposes, even in passing observation. The sacred and inviolable nature which dwells in each and every human being must always be recognized.
Courage and Trust
The would-be initiate must bring with them a certain measure of courage and fearlessness. In fact, during life, one must go out of their way seeking opportunities for the development of these virtues. In this respect, life itself is a good school; possibly the best school. For instance, when in the presence of some peril, one must quickly realize that fear is of no possible use and concentrate only on that which must be done. For, to be frightened or to be disheartened are simply out of the question. By acquiring self discipline in this manner definite qualities are developed which are necessary for initiation into the knowledge of higher worlds, their powers and their mysteries.
Having accessed the higher world’s mysteries one sees things which are concealed by the physical senses from ordinary humanity. Therefore the intentional development of courage in the course of one’s physical life is beneficial by preventing that which, without due preparation, would throw most into extreme confusion and terrify. The student must be prepared to endure this spiritual seeing and, in doing so, they lose certain outer, material world support systems which previously they relied upon. It is much like if the attention of someone were called to a danger which had threatened them for a long time but, of which they knew nothing of. Prior to the student’s awareness of higher worlds they felt no fear, but now that the student knows of the peril, and they may become overwhelmed by fear, although the danger is not made any greater by their now knowing of it.
The forces in the world are both constructive and destructive; the destiny of manifested beings is birth and death. The psychically advanced are to behold the workings of these forces and the march of destiny. The veil enshrouding spiritual seeing is to be removed for man is interwoven with these forces; his own nature is both constructive and destructive. This seeing reveals to the psychic their own nature as undisguised as that of any other’s, event or thing. Therefore, they must bring a surplus of strength with them from which to draw in the face of this self-knowledge. For this purpose one must learn to maintain inner calm and steadiness in the face of difficult circumstances and for that steadfastness, one must cultivate a strong trust in the beneficent power of existence.
The many motives that previously incited one will do so no longer once having realized that their acting in a certain way was due to having been in the throes of ignorance; the motives that formerly influenced will disappear. Having acted out of selfishness and greed due to fear the individual will become acutely aware of how destructive all greed is and will then develop new incentives for their thoughts and actions. It is just for this very purpose that courage and fearlessness are required.
The Fountainhead of Strength
The student must never despair over failure. They must be equal to the thought: I shall forget that I have failed in the matter and I shall try once more as though this had not happened. From there, one struggles through to the firm conviction that the fountainhead of strength from which they may draw is inexhaustible. However weak and ineffective one may have been they must be capable of pressing on into the future undismayed by any experiences of the past. It is then that the student becomes ready to become an initiate learning the language and receiving the knowledge of these higher worlds.
The secrets of higher worlds are only accessible to an extent corresponding to one’s degree of maturity. For this reason alone the path to the higher knowing and power is beset with obstacles. A person initiated today without due preparation would lack the experience which they will gain during their future incarnations before they can attain higher knowledge in the normal course of their soul’s development. The candidate for initiation therefore undergoes three trials:
The Fire Trial
As a rule the would-be initiate proceeds to learn how the objects of nature and living beings manifest themselves to their spiritual eyes and ears in such a way that these things and beings appear in their truest form before them. Physical senses conceal spiritual perception as if by a veil, and the falling· away of this veil for the would-be initiate is in a process of purification designated as The Fire Trial. For many people, as well as the candidate, life in general is, more or less, an unconscious process of initiation through the fire trial. Such people have passed through a wealth of experience, so that their self-confidence, courage and fortitude have been greatly strengthened in a normal matter while learning to bear sorrow, disappointment and failure in their undertakings with greatness of soul. And, especially with equanimity and unbroken strength.
The candidate may always turn back after the fire trial. They will then resume their life strengthened in body and soul, and wait for a future incarnation to continue their process of initiation. In this present incarnation they will have become a more useful member of society and of humanity as a whole then they were before. In whatever position they may find themselves, their beneficent influence upon their fellows will have increased greatly. However, the candidate can consciously choose to continue the path.
Higher knowledge reveals itself to the soul when the latter has attained spiritual perception. The candidate develops into clairvoyant (clear seeing) knowledge in an appropriate way. It is during this growth a new strength is developed in the soul, as a new faculty, that impels them to learn of and decipher the communications from higher world beings for, these forces are actively engaged in the world and its affairs. It is now that the student begins to feel confident that their observations and communications are rightly seen and heard. It is of value to mention here that there are those who directly act out of higher worlds without undergoing initiation processes. Such helpers of the world and of humanity pass through life bestowing blessings and performing good deeds. Gifts have been bestowed on them which appear supernatural but, this is no reason not to regard the work of spiritual training as being of great value to those not already in such an evolved state.
It also need hardly be mentioned that the candidate in no way should neglect any of their duties in ordinary life because they are working with the higher worlds. There is no duty in the higher worlds that would require one to neglect a single worldly function and responsibility for, daily duties do not at all detract from the mission of the student. On the contrary, all the qualities which make a human being capable and efficient are enhanced in the advanced, would-be initiate to a degree incomprehensible to the uninitiated.
The Water Trial
The second trial is referred to as the Water Trial. At this stage of initiation there are duties to be performed for which no outward stimulus is given. The candidate will not be moved to action by external pressures or expectations of remuneration and recognition. If the student recognizes their duty and acts rightly, their trial has been successful. During this trial one is deprived of support from outward circumstances; much like a swimmer is without support when swimming in water that is beyond their depth. This trial activity must be repeated until the candidate attains absolute poise and a resolute faith in themselves. During this trial one relies on higher knowledge produced by the intention of a greater good and never introducing their own willful inclinations and desires due to fear, greed or ego gratifications. The importance of this trial lies again in the acquisition of self-control and unquestionably sound judgment (the objective) which is acquired in such a short time as to avoid numerous future incarnations.
For, as it is difficult for those who have not learned to spell correctly in their childhood to make good this deficiency when grown-up, so too it is difficult to develop the necessary degree of self-control at the moment of looking into the higher worlds should this ability not be acquired to a certain degree in ordinary life. The reason being that the laws of the objects in the physical world do not alter based upon our thoughts alone. However, the nature of our wishes, desires and impulses can produce considerable effects in the higher worlds. Therefore the student must develop complete self-control following the right rules and subdue every arbitrary impulse. There must be perfect readiness to abandon at once any idea, opinion, or inclination when logical thought demands it. Certainty in higher worlds is only likely to be attained when personal bias and opinion is never considered. Dreamers and fantastical people are also unfit for the path to higher knowledge. This cannot be overemphasized. For the most dangerous enemies on the way to knowledge of the higher worlds lurk in such fantastical reveries. The same is true for superstitions and prejudice. Of course this certainly does not mean that the student need abandon creative thought and endeavor but rather, without common sense all efforts to become an initiate are in vain.
The Air Trial
Here the student finds no definite goal to be reached. They find themselves in a situation where nothing impels them to act and must find their way out all alone and out of their self. Things and people to stimulate them to action are non-existent. No thing nor no person can give them the strength they need. They can depend on no other but themselves. Few who have successfully passed the previous two trials will fail to find the necessary strength at this point for, either they have turned back already or they have the strength to succeed at this point also.
It is here the student must find their higher self in the truest sense of the word. They must develop the habit of listening to the inspiration of the spirit; without doubt or hesitation. For in this situation, and within such a circumstance, it is a question of exhibiting and maintaining complete presence of mind and, it is the perfection of this quality the third trial is concerned with. Whereas all previous inducements to act or even think cease. So, in order not to remain inactive the student must not lose themselves, for only within oneself can one truly gain a firm hold. Should one persevere here, success in this trial brings with it a moment of supreme happiness.
When a danger or difficulty is present and a misstep or carelessness would assure an unfortunate outcome, one who has developed the instinct of listening to the higher inner-self, maintaining complete presence of mind, has acquired the degree of maturity necessary for success in the third trial. Here, every situation is left to one’s own responsibility to discover within themselves what one has to do. When this has been achieved the would-be initiate is permitted to enter the temple of higher wisdom. The author here provides only the slenderest allusion for, those who have entered the temple of higher wisdom are aware that they may never betray that which they have learned; although the word betray is insufficient and misleading. The only obstacle to giving information regarding these matters is the potential for lack of understanding on the part of the recipients. As the candidate for initiation begins to really and truly understand the spiritual and material world he also learns how to apply this higher knowledge for the benefit of humanity. And, the more one functions in genuine service to humanity the more the spiritual world will continue to be of service to them.
The Draught of Forgetfulness and Remembrance
The Draught of Forgetfulness
What next the candidate has earned is referred to symbolically as the Draught of Forgetfulness. This means they are initiated into the secret knowledge that enables them to act without being continually disturbed by the lower memory. This is necessary for one must have full faith in the immediate present. They must be able to destroy the veil of memory which envelops man every moment of his life. This does not mean however, that experience gained during life should be renounced; that should be kept in mind as clearly as possible. But, the initiate must have the ability to judge every new experience wholly according to what is inherent in that experience. One must be prepared at every moment that every object, every event and every being can bring to them some new revelation. If we judge the new by the standard of the old we are liable to error. Thus past experience should serve the purpose of perceiving the new and not of judging it by the standard of the old.
The Draught of Remembrance
The second draught presented to the initiate is the Draught of Remembrance. Through its agency one acquires the faculty of retaining the knowledge of higher truths ever present in one’s soul. Ordinary memory would be unequal to this task. We must unite ourselves and become as one with the higher truths manifesting and applying them in living actions even as we go about our daily routines. The recall of higher truths must become our practice, our habit, our inclinations; a living expression flowing through man himself.
Some Practical Aspects
Attaining enlightenment requires the cultivation of the quality of patience. Every symptom of impatience produces a paralyzing, even a destructive effect, on the higher faculties that slumber within us. We must not expect a view into the higher worlds from one day to the next. This will only lead to disappointment. Patience has the effect of attraction, impatience the effect of repulsion on the treasures of higher knowledge. In the higher regions of existence nothing can be attained by haste and unrest. The same is true for a craving of this knowledge. From yearning and craving all higher knowledge shyly withdraws. Nor is it of any use to combat these inclinations in the ordinary sense, for they will become only that much stronger. Rather it is better to surrender oneself to a certain definite thought, making it absolute and their own. For example, “I must certainly do all I can for the development of my soul however, I shall wait patiently until higher powers determine I have sufficiently prepared for and am worthy of enlightenment.”
When Dealing with an Affront
In the case of another affronting us, the thought is immediately present in the mind of the student that such an affront makes no difference to their intrinsic worth and, does whatever must be done to meet the affront with calm and composure rather than in a spirit of anger. This does not mean that one need accept every affront, but rather respond with the same calm composure as if the affront were directed towards another in whose favor we had the right to intervene. In-other-words, respond from our higher selves. This training is to be applied not only in the case of anger and vexations, but also when attitudes of prejudice, vanity or superiority and competitive ambitions arise. It must also be remembered that the effects of this training is carried out not in the crude outer senses but in the subtle, silent alterations in the life of thought and feeling.
Honesty with Oneself
Also, however precious this higher knowledge is the student will not attain it if they wish it for their own sake; it will simply not be made available to them. This requires the potential initiate to be truly honest with their innermost self looking at their own faults, weaknesses and unfitness full in the face. Anytime one tries to excuse any one of their weaknesses, they have placed a stone in their way blocking their progress. Whereas anyone making a habit of being truthful with themselves opens the way to the portal leading to greater knowing.
Every word spoken without having been thoroughly purged in thought is a stone thrown in the way of this training. For example, if anything be said to which we must reply, we must be careful to consider the speaker’s opinion, feelings and even his prejudice, rather than what we ourselves have to say at the moment on the subject under discussion. In this example a refined quality of tact is indicated to the cultivation of which the student must devote his care. One must learn to judge what importance it may have for the other person if he opposes the latter’s opinion. However, this does not mean that one must withhold their opinion and there is no question of that. But rather, one must listen to the speaker as carefully and as attentively as they possibly can and let their reply derive its form from what they have just heard. The importance here is not about the difference of opinions but in discovering through this effort what is best and how one can contribute toward that objective. Thoughts such as this and of a similar nature cause the character and behavior of the student to be permeated with a quality of gentleness; for harshness repels higher learning and the seeing associated with the finer sensory organs of the soul.
Also of note: people who begin to have some presentiment of supersensible things are apt to wax talkative on the subject, thereby retarding their normal development. The less one talks about these matters the better.
Again, one cannot expect to immediately see and hear in the world of soul and spirit, for what is being developed here are one’s higher sensory perception organs. No other obstacles exist save those which we ourselves place in our own path and, which can be avoided to any who chose to undertake the inner development required before being bestowed with higher knowing.
Especially fortunate are those who can carry out some of their training surrounded by the green world of plants, or among the sunny hills, or alongside a stream where nature weaves her web of true and lovely simplicity.
Seven Conditions for Training
The fulfillment of the conditions listed below is not insisted upon, but rather the corresponding effort. For few can totally and at all times fulfill them but all can start on the path. It is the genuine effort and the will that matters most here.
1. The first condition is that the student should pay heed to the advancement of physical health. It is not suggested that the unhealthy are rejected, but it is demanded of the student that they should have the will to lead a healthy life. Should duty include a risk to physical health, then duty prevails over physical health. Pleasure, on the other hand, should not be placed higher than physical health. Pleasure however, can be a means to health but, in this sense the student must be honest with themselves as to whether the pleasure is such that it is a detriment to physical and mental health. Some may derive satisfaction from asceticism just as others can from imbibing. But, they must not imagine that asceticism will, in and of itself, assist them in attaining higher knowledge.
In regards to work, one need only do as much as possible, whatever their position, to further the health of mind, body and soul. Every kind of work can serve the whole of humanity; and it is a surer sign of greatness of soul to perceive clearly how necessary for this whole is a particular employment regardless of how petty, perhaps even an offensive employment, their work may at times seem.
The real task here is the development of a healthy thought and feeling life. Clear, calm thinking, with stability of feeling and emotion is to be at the very core of all work. Here again, nothing should be further removed from the student than an inclination toward a fantastical, excitable life, toward nervousness and exaggeration. The student should instead meet the demands of life with steady assurance, quietly letting all things make their impression upon them and reveal their messages enabling the student to do justice to life on every occasion.
2. The second condition is that the student should feel themselves coordinated as a link in the whole of life; a sharer in the responsibility for everything that happens. This thought should not evoke feelings of agitation but rather cherished as a stillness in the soul as it fosters connectedness. It is of no avail, in the sense of the forgoing thoughts, to make general demands on the whole of humanity being that it is easy to decide what others ought to be doing. Many political agitators know as a rule what to demand of other people but, say little of their demands upon themselves. The student works in the depths, not on the surface.
3. The student must work their way upward to the realization that their thoughts and feelings are as important for the world as are their actions. It must be realized that it is equally injurious to hate a fellow being as it is to strike him. The realization will then follow that by perfecting ourselves both inwardly and outwardly we accomplish something not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. The world derives equal benefit from our untainted feelings and thoughts as from our good actions and demeanor. As long as one cannot believe in the cosmic importance of the inner life, they are unfit for the path that is here described. It absolutely must be admitted that our every thought and every feeling produces an effect just as does our every action.
4. The fourth condition requires the conviction that one’s true being does not lie in their exterior but in their interior. It is in this esoteric training that we are defined as beings of soul and spirit that is its very basis. Therefore one’s position and circumstances in the outer world can indeed contribute or not to their training but does not at all characterize their inner soul and spiritual development. The acknowledgement of this fact, and the acquisition of the associated feelings, renders the student not to distinguish between inner duty and outward success. The student should not force upon those in their environment anything that they are not ready for, nor can have an understanding of. Also they must be quite free from the desire to do only what they can be admired for by those around them. There is an inner “spiritual” balance to be achieved here: an open heart for the needs and expectations of the outer world lies on one side of the scale, and an inner fortitude and unfaltering endurance on the other.
5. Next, the fifth condition: A steadfastness in carrying out a resolution. Every resolution is a force, and if this force does not produce an immediate and expected effect at the point to which it was applied, it works nonetheless on its own way. True success is only decisive when an action is performed in service to the greater good for such is an act of love. And, the greater the love the greater the spiritual assistance. It is a readiness for such actions once the need is made apparent, even to the extent of the expense of the whole of one’s life and, regardless of how the world receives such action, that the student demonstrates their faith and the courage necessary towards becoming an initiate into the knowledge of higher worlds.
6. The sixth condition is the development of a feeling of thankfulness for everything which makes our lives. We must realize that our existence is a gift from the entire universe. How much is needed to enable each one of us to receive and maintain our existence! We must extend our thoughts and reflect on how much we owe to nature and to our fellow beings. These thoughts must come naturally to all who seek higher spiritual knowledge. For, if the would-be initiate is not inclined to consider such they will be incapable of developing within themselves that all-embracing love which is necessary for the attainment of higher knowledge. Nothing can reveal itself to us which we do not love. The very act of learning of the value and the true nature of anyone or anything is an interest in, a caring for, and are therefore genuine expressions of love. Therefore, knowing and love are linked as one and the same.
7. All of these conditions must be united in a seventh condition: that being to regard life increasingly in the manner demanded by these conditions. This develops in the student a uniform constitution where all modes of expression will, in this way, be brought into harmony and contradiction will disappear.
Also to be considered here is that everything interior must manifest itself in an exterior way. Just as a painting is not evident when it exists in the mind of the artist, so too, there can be no real effects of this training without outward expression. The exterior is the avenue of expression for the interior. Actual deeds are required — not just good intentions. There is no doubt that it is the spirit that really matters, and not the form. But, just as form without spirit is but a void (therefore all form possesses a degree of spirit) spirit is meaningless without a form of expression.
Creation versus Destruction
All striving for truth must be based on the development of love for all of humankind. Here one must think of the whole of humanity. Otherwise one is distracted by the cruelty and base behavior of a few and these thoughts will darken and distress the mind. This does not mean that the student must simply look on while evil runs riot, but that he must seek even in evil that side through which he may transform it into a good.
The student must train themselves not only in their actions (even passively as in forms of entertainment) but in their words, thoughts and feelings to refrain from destruction of any sort excluding, when necessary, to promote new life (i.e., new structures, plant life, improved organizations). The student knows that out of nothing, nothing can be created but also knows that the imperfect can be transformed into the perfect. Therefore, anyone developing within themselves the disposition to create genuine good will soon find themselves capable of confronting evil in the right and most effective way. Yet, it must be clearly emphasized here that at the core of this training is creation, not destruction.
Control of Thought
Internal thoughts that dart to and fro and follow each other in no logical or rational sequence undermine the spiritual development path. It is during the practice of the awareness and control of one’s own thoughts that the higher self emerges and exerts its influence.
If one hears irrational thoughts they immediately allow instead the right thoughts associated with the subject to pass through their mind. Nor should the student feel the need to correct all the irrational thoughts expressed around them regardless of how contrary to their own these thoughts may be. Rather one should silently coordinate the thoughts expressed seeking common sense and rational logic and, in doing so, develops the capacity for a whole and greater understanding within.
Control of Actions
All destructive and out-of-control actions are baneful to the spiritual beings in higher worlds and their help and influence will retreat under such circumstances. Again, when the internal higher self is immediately called upon and allowed to exert its influence when such actions seem intent upon expressing themselves through emotional impulses or strong desires, this higher self develops general mastery over the lower internal being as well as its influences, internal and external and, in doing so, one’s connection with higher beings and worlds greatly strengthens.
The would be initiate is impervious to all influences which would divert them from the goal they have set for themselves as long as they can truly regard it as the right goal. For the student, obstacles contain a challenge that impels them to surmount and never a reason for giving up.
This is regarding the development of forbearance toward persons, creatures, and also circumstances. The student suppresses all superfluous criticism of everything that is imperfect, evil and bad, and seeks rather to understand everything that comes under their notice. Even as the sun does not withdraw its light from the bad and the evil, they also do not refuse them an intelligent sympathy. Again, this does not mean that evil should never be confronted and prevented from its destructive path but, rather than condemnation and criticism, the student accepts the inevitable circumstance and endeavors to give the matter a turn for the better as best they can.
Any great degree of difficulty of circumstance may cause a person to become intolerant, timid, or contentious toward their environment and fellow human being. This may even reach the point where, by reason of the inner coldness that overwhelms them when, for example, they hear repugnant opinions they are unable to listen or may respond in an objectionable way. To become intolerant, timid or contentious or to shun or hate others is a state of evil in and of itself.
Faith and Trust
The student meets every human being and every creature with an initial impartial attitude. This maintains their receptiveness to those involved in the circumstance and allows others to inspire with their every related thought and action. Along with a willingness to test and review one’s own opinions and intentions prior to action, one can then trust in the efficacy of their undertakings. Trust and faith will guide and empower. A hundred failures cannot rob the student of this faith and it cannot be internally repeated enough that this “faith can move mountains”.
The student endeavors to retain their composure in the face of joy and sorrow, and eradicates the tendency to fluctuate between the seventh heaven of joy and the depths of despair. Misfortune and danger, fortune and advance alike find him ready armed.
The Physical Senses, Soul and Spirit
If one wills to see something they will see it and if they do not voluntarily take notice of something it is actually non-existent for them. The greater the energy devoted to this work, the more extensively will this faculty be attained. One must also avoid vacuous gazing and mechanical listening. It is also of value to practice hearing nothing even during the greatest disturbance. And if, for instance, one feels a particular antipathy for something he will confront it and endeavor to establish a conscious relation between himself the thing in question. In this way the unconscious elements that intrude into one’s soul will eventually become fewer and fewer. The student’s inner life must become a life of attention, and they must learn really to hold at a distance everything to which they do not nor should not wish to direct their attention.
The body must be ennobled and purified such that its sensory and physical organs incite to nothing that is not in service of the soul and spirit. The soul also must not be impelled through the body to lusts and passions which are antagonistic to rational and noble thoughts. Yet, at the same time, the spiritual teachings must not stand like a slave driver over the soul, dominating it with laws and commandments; rather, one obeys these laws and performs their duties out of their own free inclination. The student must not at all feel the spirit’s influence to be an oppressive power to which they unwillingly submit, but rather something which they perform out of love. The task here is to develop a free soul while maintaining equilibrium between body and spirit.
This strict discipline is, of course, to be accompanied by meditation practices. In doing so the talents, nature and faculties of other beings are thereby revealed as are the forces and hidden attributes of nature. For some, the colored aura of living creatures then becomes visible; all that is around them reveals their manifest spiritual attributes. It is also at this stage of development that the affects of unconscious memories (expectations and limitations based on previous experiences and assumptions) is hereby exceedingly active. Otherwise, many would already possess this inner sensory perception. It comes into evidence when the impressions delivered by the outer senses are held under control such that they be dependent on nothing other than our selected degree of attention or inattention. Otherwise, the subtler inner sensory perceptions remain ineffective as long as the powerful outer senses are allowed to smother and numb them.
If one engages in self-chastisement at their weaknesses and perceived lack of progress then this in itself is an impediment to progress. For it must be recognized that this undertaking is a path leading to spiritual expansion and freedom; not oppression. Also, a lust for these supersensory attributes can only lead to failure. However, all who try in earnest and as a contributor to the greater cosmic good do indeed succeed even if it is not readily apparent. For, it is the sincere effort and intention of the hopeful initiate that is considered of the greatest importance in the higher spiritual worlds — not one’s developed supersensibilites in the physical realm.
It is at this point the author distinguishes between the physical body, the soul body and the etheric, or spirit, body. I have chosen to skip past text involving the differences between the bodies and let the reader decide whether or not to pursue Rudolf Steiner’s descriptions and the relationships between three. His book “How to Know Higher Words” is readily available for purchase by most book sellers should the reader wish to research this or read the book in its entirety.
My reason for skipping much of this part of the text is because I feel that the teachings are of considerable value when applying them without the in-depth descriptions of the separate bodies and the spiritual organs (or lotus flowers as the author metaphorically describes them). To develop emotionally and spiritually and, in doing so, gaining access to higher wisdom and knowing is the greatest concern and intent here rather than learning of detailed specifics regarding spiritual anatomy.
I must also point out that the author uses the term “etheric body” quite frequently whereas in this unabridged version I have changed it to “spiritual or ethereal body” to better suit contemporary parlance. I should also mention that Steiner does not wish for the reader to assume he is associating the etheric body to the ether which, by the time of the writing of the original text, the early 1900’s, the ether theory to explain cosmological fields had been empirically disproved. However, the etheric body is indeed a good term describing the unseen form either disembodied or inherent in material structures or systems (crystals, plants, animals, humans, colonies of the aforementioned and others, etc.). Yet again, for the sake of the times, I feel the words “spiritual or ethereal body” better suits.
That said, I do believe there is value in developing an awareness of the chakras, the spiritual body organs, and their locations in the physical body particularly during meditation and therefore have included the image below and, following that, the author’s meditation instructions.
Meditation Instructions and Intention
During meditation the student introduces into their spirit body currents and movements which are in harmony with the laws and evolution of the world to which they belong. Consequently, these laws are reflections of the great laws of cosmic evolution. Here we start with a view to the deepening of the logical activity of the mind and the producing of an inward focus of thought; it is concentrated in one point in the center of the mind and held entirely still. In doing so one is thereby made free and independent of all physical sensory impressions and experiences. It is here that the currents of the spiritual body formulate and no esoteric training can be successful which does not first create this center.
Once this center is duly fixed, concentration is then moved lower down, to the region of the larynx. It is from here that the currents of the spirit body radiate illuminating the astral space surrounding the individual. Then from there the individual moves their concentration upwards towards the crown and then downwards feeling the radiation and illumination flow through all of the seven chakra regions: crown, third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, sacral, and root.
Continued practice enables the student to feel the position of their spiritual body, prior to which only the position of the physical body was known. Through further development the student is able to turn their spiritual body to all sides. This faculty is initially effected by currents moving along both hands and centered in the chakra region of the mind’s center and through radiation surrounding the larynx region. Upon further subtle sensory development these currents branch out delicately though all of the spiritual body into a gently radiant and whole network. The individual here develops a connection to the life currents from the universal ocean of life flowing freely in and out of this membrane. The student becomes sensitive to these external streams; they become perceptible.
Now the student moves the complete system of currents and movements to its center situated in the region of the heart. This again is affected by persevering with the exercises in concentration and meditation and it is at this point the level is reached when the student becomes gifted with the inner word. All things now acquire a new significance for them. These words become, as it were, spiritually audible in their innermost self, and speak to the individual of their essential being. The currents described above place them in touch with the inner being of the world to which they currently belong. They then begin to mingle their life with the life of their environment and allow it to reverberate in the movements of their spiritual organs or chakras.
At this point the spiritual world is entered. If the student has advanced thus far, they acquire a new understanding of all that the great teachers of humanity have spoken. The sayings of the Buddha and the Gospels, for instance, produce a new effect on them. They are pervaded with a living truth, not mere words of unattainable states which they had only dreamt of before. The changing tone of the student’s words and the movements that follow are due to the higher rhythms which have now begun to form within. One can now have a positive knowledge of that which a Buddha or the Evangelists did not utter as being of their own revelations, but those which flowed into them from the inmost being of all things. One now awakens to that which they truly are … their higher selves.
The Four Attributes
In spiritual learning there is a question of four attributes which must be acquired on the preparatory path for the attainment of higher knowledge.
1. Developing the faculty of unbiased discrimination between the truth and appearance or mere opinion.
2. One must be able to ascertain what is inwardly true and real and not mere imagination or emotions overwhelming logic.
3. Practice of the development of the six qualities already mentioned in previous pages:
Control of actions
Tolerance (listening and sympathetic understanding)
Equanimity (maintain composure)
4. Love of inner freedom.
Note: These four inner habits do actually produce a transformation of the delicate spiritual body and again, it is the intention and repeated effort that is of greatest value here.
Consider, for instance, the first of these attributes: the discrimination between truth and appearance. The student must so train themselves that, as a matter of course, they distinguish between the non-essential elements and those that are significant and essential in everything that confronts them . They will only succeed here if, in their observations of the outer world, they quietly and patiently ever and again repeat the attempt. Eventually they will naturally single out the essential and the true at a glance, whereas otherwise the nonessential and the transient would have contented them. The correct estimation of what is true and what is apparent and nonessential is necessary prior to the facts of the higher worlds becoming perceptible to the individual.
The most trifling action, every little step in life has something of a significance in the great cosmic household, and it is merely a question of the awareness of this important fact by the student. A correct estimation of the affairs of daily life is required, not an underestimation of them.
The fourth attribute, the want of liberation, serves to bring to fruition the spiritual organ in the heart region. Once one ceases to view things from their own personal separate standpoint the boundaries of their own self, thus fettering them to this narrow point of view, these boundaries begin to disappear. Once this attribute becomes an inner habit, the individual frees themselves from everything which depends only upon the faculties and inclinations of their own personal nature. And, it is from this limiting personal manner of regarding things that the student must become liberated and free.
The great initiates knew, and it is from their knowledge, that the ideals of humanity are formed. One approaches these great leaders when they uplift themselves in their own development to their heights. Therefore, self-perfection is by no means to be considered self-seeking for, the imperfect being is an imperfect servant of the world and of humanity. The more perfected one is, the better they serve the world.
“If a rose adorns itself, it adorns the whole of the garden.”
From hereon some parts of the text may seem fantastical to some. If the reader finds this to be the case, regardless, there is much else in Steiner’s thesis that is of considerable value and worthy of contemplation and application to one’s life.
The Self Revealed
A completely new life opens out before the student when their spiritual body develops in the way described above and at the proper time during the course of this training. They will begin to perceive spiritual figures of a higher world and will subsequently receive that enlightenment which enables them to adapt themselves to their new surroundings. The spiritually advancing individual will notice that their own thoughts and feelings exert a powerful influence on some, not all, of these spiritual beings. It is also characteristic of the spiritual forms proceeding from material objects that they too are influenced by the thoughts of the observer and this also will become apparent. The same is true of plants and animals. There is also a world of species of form which arise from the collective feelings, instincts and the passions of human beings. Once brought into existence they are potentially altered by an individual’s thoughts and feelings to some degree as well. Although, there are forms in the higher worlds that once brought into being by such means they are no longer influenced by the individual.
At the outset of spiritual experience the student can perceive but little beyond their immediate circumstances and it is at this stage of development one only discovers the higher realms by observing themselves. Here one learns what forms they themselves produce, for their will, their wishes, and so on are expressed in these forms. An instinct that dwells within, a desire that fills one, an intention that one harbors, and so forth, are all manifested in these forms; one’s whole character displays itself in this world of forms. Thus, by conscious thoughts and feelings a person can exert an influence, to one degree or another, on these forms within their environment, physical or spiritual, and this becomes apparent to the student. To higher knowing the inner world appears as part of the outer world.
In a higher world one’s inner being confronts them as a reflected image, just as though in the physical world they were surrounded by mirrors and could observe their physical body in that way. They can now begin to observe the inner-self as connected with the outer world, just as they previously regarded the outer world acting upon them through their physical senses. Now, upon entering this world an entirely new method of judgment must be acquired. For apart from the fact that things actually pertaining to inner nature appear as existing in the outer world, they also bear the character of mirrored reflections of their source. For example, passions residing in the lower part of human nature can assume animal forms or similar shapes that hurl themselves against the individual. In physical reality, these passions are headed outward; they seek satisfaction in the outer world, but this striving outward appears in the “mirrored reflection” as an attack on the individual from whom they proceed.
If the student, before attaining insight into higher worlds, has learned by quiet and sincere self-observation to realize the qualities and defects of their own character, they will then, at the moment when their inner-self confronts them as a mirrored image, find strength and courage in order to conduct themselves in the right way. Those who have failed to test themselves in this way, and are insufficiently acquainted with their own inner-self, will not recognize themselves in their own mirrored image and mistake it instead for an alien reality.
Or, they may become alarmed at the vision and, because they cannot endure the sight, deceive themselves into believing the whole thing is no more than an illusion which leads them nowhere. It is absolutely necessary that the student should experience this spiritual aspect of their own inner-self before progressing to higher spheres. Otherwise, no matter how many other spiritual beings appeared to the student, they would find themselves unable to discover the nature and qualities of these beings and would soon feel the ground give way beneath them. Thus it cannot be too often repeated that the only safe entrance into the higher worlds is at the end of a path through a genuine knowledge and hence a re-estimate of one’s own nature.
Pictures of a spiritual kind are first encountered by the student on his progress into higher worlds: and the reality to which these pictures correspond is actually within themselves. The student should here refrain from desiring a more robust reality at this initial stage, and to regard these pictures as timely. Soon enough they will meet something quite new within this world of picture. Their lower self is before them as a mirrored image; but from within this image there appears the true reality of their higher self. Out of the picture of one’s lower personality the form of the ethereal ego becomes visible. Then, threads are spun from the latter to other and higher spiritual realities.
On Knowing One’s Higher Self
The spiritual currents developed during meditation practices previously described flow from the individual toward the higher realities in such a way that their movements are apparent. The student here becomes, in truth, a new being. They now mature to developing still higher faculties and, by means of the life currents of their spiritual body, control its higher and actual life force thus attaining a high degree of independence from the restrictions of the physical body. Also, just as light renders physical objects visible, so too, these currents disclose spiritual beings. However, it cannot be emphasized enough that it is at this stage of development the value of sound judgment, clear and logical thought, come to the fore.
The higher self, which had previously slept, is now born into conscious existence. This is not a figurative, but a positive birth in the spiritual world and, this higher awareness being, must enter that world with all the necessary organs and aptitude if it is to be fully capable of this now further evolved, extended life. Just as nature must provide for a child being born into the physical world with suitable sensory perception organs, so too, the laws of inner self-development must provide for the necessary capacities with which the higher self can enter into its conscious existence. The very constitution of the higher spiritual self is conditioned by the same laws of developed intelligence, reason and morality that govern the physical life.
At this stage of the student’s esoteric development they now realize through personal inward experience all that had previously appealed to their sense of truth, to their intuitive sense of intellect and reason; in other words, they now have direct knowledge of their higher self. One now distinguishes the imperishable in themselves from the perishable. They also learn how this higher self is connected with exalted spiritual beings and, with them form a united whole. It becomes plain to them that they are part of a great spiritual complex and, that their qualities and destiny are due to this connection. The student learns to recognize the law of their life; their karma. They consider always the possibility of their actually working down from their higher self into their lower self so that they may perfect themselves ever more and more.
In regarding others, the student acknowledges the great differences between human beings in regard to their level of perfection all the while becoming aware that there are others above them that have already traversed the stages which still lie before them; these are the initiates. The individual realizes that the teachings and deeds of such beings proceed from the inspiration of a higher world and that they owe their knowledge of these initiates by way of their own glimpses into this higher world. In many cases these are well known spiritual figures. Various religions have presented in their ceremonies, sacraments, and rites, externally visible pictures of the higher spiritual beings and events. One’s personal insight into spiritual reality explains the great significance of these religious belief systems and organizations and their generally good intentions. Religious service becomes for the spiritual seeker a reflection of their own communion with the higher, spiritual world.
The Transformation of the Dream Life
The student will begin to notice during this stage of their development the awareness of their spiritual body and a change in their dream life. The dream pictures begin to assume a more regular character succeeding each other in sensible connections just as in one’s thoughts of daily activity. The content too is changed. While before they discerned only reminiscences of daily life and transformed impressions of their surroundings or physical condition, there now appears before them events and pictures of a world they had not previously known. These are the first experiences lying beyond the range of waking consciousness. Yet the spiritually developed individual will not ever make experiences in dreams the basis of any authoritative account of a higher world. Such dreams during this stage of development provide but a hint of further progress.
Very soon however, and as a further result, the student’s dreams will no longer remain beyond the reach of intellectual guidance as was previously so. But, on the contrary, they will be mentally controlled and supervised (otherwise known as lucid dreaming) as are life’s impressions and conceptions during waking consciousness. The difference between dreaming and waking consciousness then grows ever smaller. The dreamer remains awake in the fullest sense of the word during their dream life; that is, the person is aware of their master and control over their own vivid mental activity while their physical sensory perception system sleeps.
During our dreams we are actually in a world other than that of our physical senses, but with undeveloped spiritual organs we can form none other than confused conceptions of this other world. It is only comprehensible to the individual as could possibly be for one equipped with no more than rudimentary spiritual organs. This is why we can see nothing in this dream world but counterfeits and reflections of one’s own daily life in the physical environment. It is only perceptible to us at all because one paints of their daily experiences in pictorial form into the substance of which that other world consists. It must be understood that in addition to our ordinary conscious work-a-day life we lead a second, unconscious life in that other world where we engrave in it all our thoughts and perceptions. These only become fully apparent to us when we develop our spiritual sensory perception organs.
In every person there is the basic, rudimentary form of these spiritual organs, or chakras. We cannot perceive these organs during waking consciousness (except during meditation) because the impressions made by them are subtle. Metaphorically speaking, we cannot see the stars during the daytime for their visibility is extinguished by the glare of the sun. Thus too, the subtle spiritual impressions cannot make themselves felt, or known, in the face of the powerful impressions received through the physical sensory organs. Therefore, typically, when the physical senses are closed during sleep, these other world impressions begin to emerge confusedly, and the dreamer is therefore only aware that this other world exists. For the most part they recall glimpses of this world and often most haphazardly. Only developed spiritual organs make it possible for manifestations to be made directly in this other world (rather than impressions formed from the physical world imposed upon it).
This signifies the beginning of life and activity in a new world, and at this point the student is presented with two important tasks. First, they must take stock of everything they observe in their dream state. In doing so they are led to making the same observations as they do during their waking state. Thus training their attention and receptivity for spiritual impressions during both states of consciousness, waking and sleeping. For the spiritual organs now begin functioning at such a level that from hereon spiritual impressions need not disappear in the face of physical impressions.
Sensory Perceptions of the Spiritual World
The next task for the student is to grow, as it were, into their higher self. That is, to regard this higher self as one’s true being and act accordingly. They realize ever more clearly and intensely that their physical body and all that they previously thought of as “I am” are merely temporary instruments of their higher selves thus adopting an attitude towards their lower self as one would a vehicle that temporarily serves over the course of a journey; but not that which they truly are.
However, if one is to avoid becoming a fantastic visionary they must not impoverish this [physical] life through their higher consciousness but, on the contrary, enrich it. When the student has raised themselves to a life in the higher state, or rather during their acquisition of the higher consciousness, they will learn how to stir to life the spiritual perceptive force in the organ of the heart and control it through the currents described previously. This perceptive force is an element of higher substantiality which proceeds from the organ in question and flows with beautiful radiance through the dynamic chakras and the other channels of the developed ethereal body. Hence it radiates outward into the surrounding astral, or non-physical, world rendering it spiritually visible, just as the sunlight falling on the objects of the physical world renders them visible.
It is only when this heart organ of perception sends its currents from the spiritual world throughout the student’s ethereal body and, from within outwards towards the outer world from this very organ, the heart chakra, the student’s inner light reveals this non-physical world to them. The heart organ is the only chakra region where the individual kindles, from within, this spiritual light. It is of the utmost importance that the higher spiritual realities be related to the physical world. And, that the physical being, the developing initiate, must act as a channel through which they flow. It is precisely through the heart organ that the higher self governs the physical self, making it of service to the evolving being thus making them of service to others and to the world.
The feelings of the spiritually developed individual towards that which occupies and exists in the physical world are very different from the feelings of the undeveloped person. The latter feels themselves to be at a particular place in the world of sense, and the surrounding objects and environment to be external to them. The developing student however begins to feel and see themselves as united with, and as though in the interior of, a very different world; the spiritual, astral world.
Having become a wanderer, so to speak, from spiritual place to place, the individual must establish their astral home and relate everything to it. Whereas in physical life a person sees everything in terms of their physical home they now must establish their spiritual home. They are to found this spiritual home in awakened consciousness and in doing so their judgment is based on its being formed in the light of freedom; not a thing that at all confines; rather it frees. In spiritual language this is metaphorically referred to as the building of the hut.
Feelings, Instincts and Desires in the Spiritual World
Spiritual seeing at this stage extends to the ethereal counterparts of the physical world (often referred to as auras) so far as these exist in the so-called astral world. There, everything is found which, in its nature, is similar in nature to human feelings, instincts, desires. For powers related to all these human characteristics are similarly associated with all physical objects. A crystal, for instance, is cast in its form by a power which, seen from a higher standpoint, appears as an active field similar to that of a human impulse. Similar impulse-like forces drive the sap through the capillaries of the plant, cause the blossoms to unfold and the seed vessels to burst. To the developed spiritual organs of perception all these forces appear with form and color, just as the objects of the physical world have form and color for the physical eyes.
Animal and human impulses also become perceptible not only through their physical manifestations but directly observable in and of themselves. The whole range of instincts, impulses, desires and passions, both of an animal and of a human being, constitute the astral cloud in which the being is enveloped. The astral air varies greatly given the specific environment (i.e., a university town vs. an industrial town, or a hospital vs. a ballroom). One can spiritually see the astral difference between a room full of low or high-minded people. The same applies to actions. For instance, a loving action is accompanied by quite a different astral concomitant than from one inspired by hate. Senseless desire gives rise to an ugly astral counterpart, while a feeling evoked by a high ideal creates one that is beautiful.
These astral images are but faintly perceptible during physical life for, as previously mentioned, their strength is diminished by life in the physical world. The desire for an object, for example, produces a counterpart of this desire in this astral region. If however, the object be attained during physical life and the desire satisfied, or if, at any rate, the possibility of satisfaction is forthcoming, the corresponding ethereal image will show but faintly. It only attains its full force after the death of the individual when the soul, in accordance with his or her nature, still harbors such desires or longings, but can no longer satisfy them, because the object and the physical being are both lacking. The gourmand, for instance, will still retain after death the desire to please his palate; but there is no possibility of satisfying this desire because they no longer have a palate.
These experiences evoked by the counterparts of the lower soul nature after death only vanish when the soul has managed to overcome these desires inclining towards those overbearing urges in the physical world. Only then does the soul mount to the higher regions, the higher spiritual realms. Even though these images are faint during life in the physical world they are nonetheless present; following one as their world of desire.
Also, if such and similar desires and impulses fill the life of the student during this training they will not attain the higher spiritual experience at this stage of their development.
The Continuity of Consciousness
Revelations in dream life are not actual knowledge so long as the events or messages do not also reveal themselves during ordinary waking life. But, in time, the student achieves this as well; they develop this faculty of carrying over into waking consciousness the condition they created for themselves out of their dream life. Thus something new is introduced into the world of one’s physical sensory experience and enriches it. Just as a person born blind and successfully operated upon will recognize the surrounding objects as enriched by all that the eye perceives so too will anyone, having become clairvoyant in the above manner, perceive the whole world surrounding them populated with new qualities, things, beings and so forth.
They now no longer need to wait for their dreams to live in another world, but the person can at any suitable moment put themselves into the above condition for the purpose of higher perception. This condition then acquires a significance for them similar to the perception, in ordinary life, of things perceived with active senses as opposed to dull or inactive senses. It can truly be said that the student opens the eyes of their soul and beholds things which necessarily remain concealed from the bodily senses. Yet, this condition is but a transition to higher stages of knowledge.
If the student continues their esoteric training in earnest they will find in due time that the radical change, as described above, does not confine itself to their dream life, but that this transformation also extends to what was previously a condition of deep dreamless sleep. Isolated conscious experiences begin to interrupt the complete insensibility of this deep sleep. Perceptions, previously unknown to them, emerge from the pervading darkness of this sleep state. One knows very well, upon waking, that they have had such an experience, but is completely in the dark as regards to its nature. The most important thing to remember upon awakening is to remain quiet and composed, do not lapse into any unrest, or other emotional state. This is detrimental and delays development. It is best that the student cultivate a quiet and yielding receptivity for the gift that has been presented to them.
Things and beings of the higher worlds are closely enough related to those of the physical world to enable, with a little good will, some sort of conception of these higher worlds to be formed even though words suitable for the physical world (and not applicable to the higher worlds) are necessarily utilized. Although the reader must bear in mind that descriptions of the supersensible worlds must, to a large extent, be in the nature of simile and symbol.
Once this perceptive faculty is acquired and the experiences during sleep are presented to the student’s consciousness in complete lucidity and clarity, their attention should be directed to the following point — all these experiences are seen to consist of two kinds, which can be clearly distinguished: The first kind will be totally different from anything that they have ever before experienced. These experiences may be a source of joy and edification, but otherwise they should be left to themselves for the time being. They are the first harbinger of higher spiritual worlds in which the student will find their way later on. In the other kind of experiences, the attentive student will discover a certain relationship with the ordinary world in which they live; that being the subjects of their reflections during life, what they would like to understand in these things around them but cannot understand with the ordinary intellect; these are the things concerning which these experiences begin to provide answers.
It seems to the student ever more and more as though the solution to the riddles over which they ponder are whispered to them in tones and words out of a higher world. And, that they are able to connect with their ordinary life these communications from a higher world. For, the things and beings of this physical world are by no means only what they appear to be to the student’s physical perception. They are, contrary to what we generally believe, the expression of that which we are here to learn, confront and purify sent from a higher state, a spiritual world, for just that purpose.
The unique and isolated experiences during sleep, as described above, occur the moment of birth is approaching for the liberated soul; for they have literally become a new being, developed by the individual within themselves, from seed to fruit. The efforts, previously outlined, required for concentration and meditation must therefore be carefully and accurately maintained, for they contain the laws governing the germination and fruition of the higher human soul-being. That this higher soul-being be born during deep sleep will be easily grasped for, if that delicate nascent organism, lacking all power of resistance, chance to appear during physical everyday life it could not prevail against the harsh and powerful processes of the waking physical life.
The less the habits of thought acquired in the physical world are allowed to play into these higher experiences, the better it is. Also, should all manner of fantastic ideas and conceptions be applied to the inner soul world, a world might then easily be constructed which has nothing to do with the true spiritual world. The student must continually practice self-control. The right thing to do is to strive for an ever clearer conception of the isolated real experiences and to await the spontaneous arrival of new experiences which will connect them, as though of their own accord, with those already experienced. By virtue of the power of the spiritual world into which one has now found their way, and through continued application to the prescribed exercises, the student experiences an ever increasing extension and expansion of consciousness during sleep. The unconscious intervals during sleep life grow ever smaller, as more and more experiences emerge from erstwhile unconsciousness.
Here the student approaches ever nearer to the attainment of that condition, on their path to higher knowledge, which the unconsciousness of sleep life is transformed into complete consciousness. This important stage of development, at which consciousness is retained in the life during sleep, is known in spiritual science as the continuity of consciousness.
Preparation and Transformation
The author titled this section “The Splitting of the Human Personality During Spiritual Training” which I changed to the above concerned the reader would immediately associate the author’s choice of words with a serious mental condition. Let us remember the period of time, the early 20th century, and that his original works are written in German and this interpretation is derived from an English text edition.
The student renders themself conscious of their higher being thereby becoming much transformed. Prior to such, matters that affected them in the higher worlds were guided by advanced beings. However, upon reaching this stage in their spiritual development they outgrow the principle of being guided by higher sources and must henceforward undertake to be their own guide. The moment this becomes the case the student is, of course, liable to commit errors totally unknown in the ordinary conscious state. The person acts now from a world from which, formerly, higher powers unknown to them influenced them. These higher powers are directed by cosmic harmony. The individual, now withdrawn from guidance from these sources, must now accomplish things which were previously done for them without their knowing.
It is for this reason that so much is found in books dealing with these matters concerning the dangers connected with the ascent into higher worlds. The descriptions given of these dangers may well make timid souls shudder at the prospect of this higher life. Yet, the fact is, that dangers only arise when the necessary precautions are neglected. If all the measures and practices counseled previously throughout this book are adopted the ascent will indeed ensue through experiences surpassing in power and magnitude everything the boldest flights of sense-bound fantasy can picture; and yet there can be no question of injury to health or life. The student can meet with horrible powers threatening their physical life and spiritual development at every turn and from every side. It will even be possible for the person to make use of certain forces and beings existing beyond physical perception, yet the temptation is great to control these forces for the furtherance of personal and forbidden interests, or to prematurely employ them wrongly out of a deficient knowledge of higher worlds.
In the higher worlds, as in the physical world, we must not be naive and realize that hostile powers are present, even though we know nothing of them. It is true that in this case their relation to man is permitted by higher powers (as is the case of evil in the physical world), and that this relation alters when the human being consciously enters this world of beings, high and low, previously concealed from them. But, at the same time, the individual’s experience is enhanced and the whole of their life greatly enriched by a great and new field of experience. A real danger can only arise if the student, through impatience or arrogance, assumes too early a certain independence with regard to the experiences of the higher world; their being unable to wait to gain insight into supersensible laws. It is important to note that within these spheres, modesty and humility are far less empty words than in ordinary life.
Anyone desiring to shirk their earthy tasks and escape into another world may be certain they will never reach their goal. Yet what the physical senses perceive is only part of the world and it is in the spirit world that the beings dwell who express themselves in the facts of the physical world. Man must become a partaker of the spiritual life in order to carry its revelations into the physical world thus transforming the Earth by implanting in it what has been ascertained in the higher worlds. “On Earth as it is in Heaven,” this is the task. It is only for this reason should one have the desire to ascend to the higher worlds. And, it is only because the physical world is dependent upon the spiritual worlds, and because one can work upon Earth, in a true sense, only if the individual is a participator in those higher, spiritual worlds wherein the true creative forces lie.
Therefore, no one approaching esoteric training with these sentiments, and resolved not to deviate for a moment from these prescribed directions, need fear the slightest danger. No one should allow the prospect of these dangers to deter them from spiritual training; rather, it should act as a strong challenge urging one and all to acquire those faculties which every true esoteric student must possess.
The Awakened Mind
A particular thought inevitably evokes a feeling and/or an activity of will. The brain of the higher developed person divides into three independently active characteristics: the thought brain, the feeling brain and the will, or intent and action, brain. In the course of higher development, the threads interconnecting the three fundamental forces are not intrinsically connected. These cognition processes and their concomitant reactions are not automatic but rather managed by the awakened higher consciousness of the individual. This then is the change which the student observes coming over them; meaning that no connection arises of itself between an idea and a feeling and an action impulse unless the student provides the connection. In other words, no impulse urges them from thought to action unless they themselves freely give rise to the impulse. For example, they can confront, devoid of feeling, a fact which, before their training, would have filled them with animosity, and remain instead impassive at the thought which formally would have spurred them on to action, as though of its own accord.
However, if the forces of thinking, feeling and action are prematurely separated (prior to the mature development of the individual) the possibility arises of an aberration of human behavior. Such an aberration can occur if the connecting threads are severed before the higher consciousness is sufficiently advanced to hold the reins and guide properly the separated mental forces in a free yet harmonious combined activity. When a person is influenced by the predominance of one mental force over another; when will, for instance, is not moderated by the leveling influence of thinking and feeling, such a person constantly presses on to greater and greater exertions of power and this will [intent] then pursues its own unrestrained way continually overpowering its possessor. Feeling and thought lapse into complete impotence and the individual is thus plagued by his over-mastering will. Another example is found when thought predominates, resulting in a contemplative intellectual nature hostile to life and locked up within itself. The world for such people has no further importance save that it provides them with endless information for satisfying their boundless thirst for knowledge. No thought ever moves them to an action or a feeling and they appear as cold and unfeeling creatures. They flee from every contact with the things of ordinary life as one would an aversion and as though everything had lost all meaning for them.
There are three ways of error into which the student can stray: 1) exuberant violence of will. 2) overly sentimental emotionalism, and 3) cold, loveless striving for knowledge. In other words, what may appear a harmless characteristic (namely, a predominance of thinking, or feeling, or willing) and, as long as its possessor is without spiritual training, the characteristic becomes so intensified in the individual that the universal human soul [our oneness] element, indispensable for life, thus becomes obscured.
Should anything within these higher experiences not be as it should, the irregularity continues lying in wait and may, at every turn, throw them off the right path. For this reason the student should omit nothing which can secure for them unfailing mastery over the whole of their being. They should never be found wanting in presence of mind or in calm penetration of all situations of life. For then as the student becomes acquainted with the dangers as they progress, simultaneously, at the right time, acquires the full power to rout them from the field.
The Guardian of the Threshold
It is at this part of the book where the more pragmatic minded individual may become skeptical and uninterested in reading further. It is not my intention upon writing this abridged version to convince another or others that what is written about here, or in any other part of Mr. Steiner’s book, is true or not. That said, upon first reading this chapter I thought that the author had gone too far, so-to-speak. Then, then that night following having read this part (and this surprised me quite a bit, and still does to this day), I personally experienced an event of a supernatural nature which validated, at least to some degree, what the author describes here.
The important experiences marking the student’s ascent into the higher worlds include their meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold . There are two Guardians: a lesser and a greater. The student meets the lesser Guardian when the internal threads connecting willing, feeling, and thinking begin to loosen in the way previously described. The Greater Guardian is encountered when this separating of the aforementioned connections extends to the physical parts of the body as well.
Perhaps he’s referring to an out-of-body state; a state I found myself in and was an aspect of that which I experienced following having read the Guardians of the Threshold chapters. I’ll just further add that I rushed back to my physical body as fast as my astral wings would carry me.
Previously, powers invisible to the person watched over them. They see to it that in the course of their lives each of their good deeds brought their rewards just as their evil deeds produced their effects. Thus the individual’s character formed from out of their life experiences and thoughts; these are the instruments of the person’s destiny. In past lives, as in the present, they rule over one as a karmic law. These instruments and their effects will now partly release the would-be initiate from their constraining influence. Whereas circumstances both difficult and joyful generally caused the individual to react to them as they came, and in the process revealing both strong and admirable traits, they also revealed weak and flawed characteristics. These karmic laws maintain all deeds as well as one’s secret thoughts and feelings thus determining accordingly the present self and circumstance. It must be understood however, that no person can judge another’s circumstances based on their limited understanding of the karmic life of another as well as of the karmic laws in general.
The student now shall behold all the good and evil sides of the totality of their lives. Prior to this stage of their development these characteristics were interwoven with their whole being and therefore not apparent to them. These deeds actually become released from the individual’s personality assuming an independent form which becomes visible upon death. The Lesser Guardian is that form woven, created, from one’s life record that, until now, was internal and concealed, yet at work within. Now, at this stage of esoteric development, this guardian, having departed from the individual, it has either become perfect and beautiful or, ugly and hideous due to the person having fallen prey to corruption and destructive tendencies. Should the latter be the case the lesser guardian will drag the corrupt individual down with them into a dark and corrupt world. As a form, now visible to the individual, it does not leave their side once this threshold has been crossed. It must be understood that when one acts or thinks wrongly this produces an ugliness in the form. However, once one has made good all bygone wrongs and strengthened their character this being will have become transformed into a lovely radiance. Then, too, shall the guardian accompany the individual on behalf of the welfare of their future activity.
This threshold is formed out of all the timidity that remains in one, out of all the dread of the strength needed to take full responsibility for all of one’s thoughts and actions. As long as there remains a trace of fear of becoming the guide of one’s own destiny, this threshold shall lack what remains to be built into it. Metaphorically speaking, as long as a single stone is found missing, or so long as one remains standing as though transfixed, or else stumble, then one is not ready for the crossing of this threshold and the highest responsibility that follows along with it.
This Guardian emerged from the personality when death recalled them in previous lives, but even then the form was veiled. Only the greater powers of destiny who watch over one beheld the Guardian’s form and could thus, in the intervals between death and a new birth, build into the person, in accordance with the Guardian’s appearance, that power and capacity towards which one could labor in a new Earth life at the beautification of its form in the interest of the individual’s welfare and progress. And it is only by unconsciously transforming the guardian into complete perfection in ever recurring earthly lives that one can eventually escape the powers of death and pass over into immortality united with their perfected being.
Visible now does the lesser guardian stand before the would-be initiate just as was the case beside them invisible in the hour of death. Once one has chosen to cross the threshold they shall enter into realms which they only had access to after physical death. Now, they enter these realms with full knowledge and as one visibly wanders outwardly in the physical world. This kingdom, regarded as the kingdom of death, is actually the kingdom of life eternal. The Guardian is indeed the angel of death, but at the same time the bearer of a life without end. Through this guardian one experiences these higher eternal worlds and, with their body still living while experiencing being born into imperishable existence.
It is in this kingdom that one now enters that they meet supersensible beings and supreme happiness is one’s state here. The Guardian provides the first acquaintance with that world yet, the individual does here recall that this guardian is a manifestation of themselves. Formerly, it drew its life from within the individual, but here the individual has awakened this guardian to a separate existence so that it stands before the individual as the visible gauge of their future deeds and perhaps as well as a constant informer on one’s status or spiritual progress. Again, one forms this guardian and, in doing so, has undertaken, as a duty, to transform such in transforming themselves.
The Guardian of the Threshold is an astral figure, revealing itself to the student’s awakened higher sight; and it is to this supersensible encounter that the spiritual laws conduct them. There may be lower magic processes that could perhaps prematurely reveal this guardian however, such encounters made by anyone with yet unredeemed karma, and therefore insufficiently prepared for the higher sight, their unredeemed karma may indeed appear before their eyes. However, the individual runs the risk of straying into evil byways.
As stated earlier, this awakening is brought about by the matured self developed by the separation of thought, feeling and will, or action. And, to feel for the first time that one has themselves called a spiritual being into existence is in itself an experience of the deepest significance. The student’s preparation must aim at enabling them to endure the sight based on their inner spiritual development and faith. Thus without a trace of timidity and, at the moment of the meeting, they feel their strength so increased that they can undertake, fully conscious, the responsibility for fully transforming and beautifying this Guardian.
If successful, this meeting with the Guardian results in the student’s next physical death being an entirely different event from previous deaths. This time, unlike previous deaths, they experience it as a laying aside of the physical body as one discards a garment that is no longer of use. This passing is of emotional and special significance only for those living with them whose perception is still limited to the world of the physical sensory perceptions. For them, the individual dies but for the student nothing dramatic has changed in so far as the totality of their life experience. The entirety of the supersensible world had already begun to reveal itself to the student prior to their current death and it is this same world they now fully enter following their physical death.
From the moment the student meets the Guardian, they must not only know their own task, but must knowingly collaborate in those tasks involving their community. For, every extension of one’s horizon necessarily enlarges the scope of their duties. What actually happens is that the student adds a new body, a new layer so-to-speak, to their finer soul-body as one puts on a second garment. Whereas prior they found their way through the world with the coverings of their personality traits (i.e., community, race, sex, nation) enveloping their soul. And, what was required of them to accomplish for their community, their race, their nation, the whole of humankind, had been directed by higher spirit guides who made use of these acquired personality traits.
The student, upon meeting the Guardian, will then choose to withdraw from the guiding hands of these higher beings and at the same time step out beyond the circle of their immediate community. Whereas if not having made this choice, they would become hardened in themselves. The personality traits of the individual formulated by their immediate surroundings and human connections are there initially to support and be supported by that which they are like and familiar with. These connections must necessarily also be appreciated for contributing to that which the individual had become and brought them to this state. For, it is from such a state that one becomes exalted above all their prejudices yet, at the same time, becomes a light bringer and benefactor to one’s community, race, nation and humankind.
For those restricted to their physical senses these things remain mere general ideas; and the materialistic thinker, in their prejudice, will look down with ridicule on the spiritual learner and explorer when they hear the reports of the higher worlds, their realities and beings. Regardless, the student having entered a world far beyond anything of the physical world and having severed that which is bound by the threads connecting thought, feeling and action now willfully chooses to build a home of a very different form. At this point a whirlwind extinguishes all the spiritual lights that previously illuminated the path of the student’s life. The complete darkness that follows is relieved only by the rays issuing from the lesser Guardian that then unfold before the student. Here, the Guardian again proclaims that the individual shall not cross its threshold until it is clearly understood that the person themselves illumine the darkness ahead and to not take a single step forward until they are certain that there is sufficient oil in their lamps. The lamps of the guides whom they had previously followed will, from this point forward, no longer be available.
At these words the student must turn and look backward. The Guardian of the Threshold now draws aside a veil which until now had concealed deep life mysteries. The spirits of family, nationality and race are revealed in their fullness so that the individual perceives clearly on the one hand, how they had previously been led, and no less clearly on the other hand, that they will no longer have this guidance. Without preparation no one could endure the sight of what has here been indicated. But the higher training which makes it possible at all for the student to have progressed thus far puts them in a position to find the necessary strength readying them at the proper time. Indeed, the student’s training can be so harmonious in its nature that the entry into the higher realms is relieved of everything of an agitating or tumultuous quality. Their experience at the threshold will then be attended by a premonition of a very great happiness which is to provide the recognition, or central fact, of their now newly awakened life. The feeling of a new freedom will outweigh all other feelings. And attended by this feeling, their new duties and responsibilities will appear as something which one, at a particular stage of life, must and needs to take upon themselves.
The Greater Guardian of the Threshold
The human being, having been confronted by the lesser Guardian, becomes aware that they themselves brought this supersensible being into existence and, that its body consists of the previously non-visible results of the student’s own actions, feelings and thoughts. These unseen forces have become the source of the individual’s character and they now realize how they themselves founded their present state from their past. The person can understand why their inner-self, now revealed before them, includes particular inclinations and habits developed the result of circumstances both fortuitous and adverse; in other words, that the visible life is explained by invisible causes. They know that the being within them can only be brought to its final perfection in the visible, physical world. The student learns that they are bound to this world until they have developed within themselves everything that can here be gained prior to becoming a useful collaborator in another, higher world having acquired all the requisite faculties in this physical, material world.
Anyone not possessing this insight and/or perhaps therefore imagines the supersensible regions to be infinitely more valuable than the physical world has, most likely, underestimated the physical world experience. Yet, the possessor of this insight knows that without experience in the physical, material world they would be totally powerless in that other higher supersensible reality. Again, and more simply stated, before one can live in the latter they must have the necessary faculties and attributes which can only be acquired in the visible world.
Upon the meeting with the lesser guardian, the student perceives why they love one thing and hate another; why someone or something makes them happy and other things or persons make them unhappy. They understand the essential facts of life too; for example, the reasons for health and illness, peace and war, birth and death. The individual observes how before their birth they wove the causes which necessarily led to their return into the physical life. They also realize that the being within themselves, fashioned along with all its imperfections in the course of the student’s existence in this world, can only be brought to its final perfection in this same world. Death will not and cannot sever them forever from this world, but rather one remains bound to the physical world until they have developed within themselves everything that can here be gained.
Consciousness in the invisible higher world is not possible without spiritual sight but, this power of vision in the higher world is gradually developed through experiences in the lower. No one can be born in the spiritual world with spiritual eyes without having first developed them in the physical world, any more than a child could be born with physical eyes had these organs not begun forming within the mother’s womb.
From this standpoint it will also be readily understood why the threshold to the supersensible world is watched over by a Guardian. In no case may real insight into these regions be admitted by anyone lacking the requisite faculties. Thus, when at the hour of death anyone who enters the higher world while still incompetent to work in it, the higher experiences therein are shrouded from them. When the initiate enters the supersensible world, life acquires quite a new meaning for them; they discern that the physical world is the seed-ground of a higher world, so that in a certain sense, the higher world would otherwise appear defective without the proper development acquired in the lower.
Two outlooks are opened before them: the first into the past and the second into the future. The initiate’s vision extends to a past in which this physical world was not yet existent having long since rejected the notion that the supersensible world was developed out of the sense world. But rather, they know that the former existed first, and that out of it everything physical was evolved. They see that they themselves belonged to a supersensible world before coming for the first time into the material, physical sensory world. But, this pristine supersensible world needed to pass through the physical sensory world for, without this passage, its further evolution would not have been made possible. This higher world can only pursue its evolutionary course when certain beings will have developed the requisite faculties and attributes within the realm of the physical world. These beings are none other than human beings. They owe their present life to an imperfect stage of spiritual existence and are thus being led, even within this stage, to that perfection which will make them fit for further work in the higher world. This physical sense world will be overcome but the positive results will be embodied in a higher world.
The reasons for disease and death in the sense world are thus explained: death merely expresses the fact that the original supersensible world reached a point beyond which it could not progress by itself. Therefore, from the remnants of a dying, rigid world sprouts the seeds of a new one and that is why we have death and life in the physical world. And, illness is nothing but the continued effect of the dying portions of the past in this world. The decaying portion of the old world adheres to the new life blossoming from it thus the process of evolution moves forth slowly in worldly time frames. This is apparent most clearly in man himself. The sheath he bears is gathered from the preserved remnants of the old world, and within this sheath the germ of that being is matured unto that which will live on into the future.
Thus man is twofold: mortal and immortal. But, it is only within this twofold world, which finds its expression in the lower physical world, that humans can acquire the requisite faculties and attributes to lead them toward immortality. The student understands they have in them the elements of a decaying world and that these elements are continually at work in them. Yet, their power and influence can be broken little by little, thanks to the new immortal elements coming to life within them. This is the path leading man from death to life. One realizes at the hour of their death that the perishing world had dominated their life and, while their death is the result of their entire past, the soil of immortal life has further matured the seeds of immortal life which are carried with the being into another world.
The answer to the question why man works his way only gradually through error and imperfection to the good and true. One’s actions, feelings and thoughts are at first dominated by the perishing and the mortal giving rise to one’s own temporal and physical sensory organs. It is for this reason that these organs and all things activating them are perishable. The imperishable is not to be found in the instincts, impulses and passions or, in the organs belonging to them, but rather in the work produced by these organs. One must extract from the perishable everything that can be extracted, and this work alone will eventually enable them to discard the background, out of which they have grown and, which finds its repeated expression in the physical sense world.
Thus the first Guardian confronts the individual as the counterpart of his two-fold nature in which the perishable and the imperishable are blended; and it stands clearly proven how far removed they still are from attaining that sublime luminous figure which dwells in the pure, spiritual world. The extent to which they are entangled in the physical sense world is exposed to the student’s view upon the meeting with the first Guardian.
The presence of instincts, impulses, desires, egotistical wishes and all forms of selfishness, soon expresses itself in this entanglement as it does further in one’s race, nation, and so forth; for peoples and races are also but steps leading to a pure humanity. A race or a nation stands so much the higher the more perfectly it members express the pure, ideal human type the further they have worked their way from the physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable. This is a process of both individual and collaborative liberation and ultimately, man must finally appear in harmonious perfection. In a similar way, the pilgrimage through ever purer forms of morality and spirituality (including religions) is a perfecting process; for every moral stage has within it the passion for the perishable as well as the seeds of an eternal, ideal future.
Now, in the Lesser Guardian of the Threshold as described above, the product of the past is made manifest, containing only so many seeds of the future as could be planted in the course of time. Yet, everything that can be extracted from the physical sense world must be carried into the supersensible world. Were man to bring with him only what had been woven into their counterpart, the Lesser Guardian, from out of their past, their earthly task would remain but partially accomplished. For this reason the Lesser Guardian is joined after a time, by the Greater Guardian.
When the student has recognized all the elements from which they must liberate themselves, their way into the higher realms is barred by a sublime luminous being whose beauty is difficult to describe in the words of human language. This encounter takes place when the separation of the of thinking, feeling and willing, or acting, is such that the physical reciprocal connections are no longer regulated by these connections themselves but by the higher consciousness, the higher self, which has now entirely liberated itself from the physical condition. The organs of thinking, feeling, and willing will then be controlled from supersensible regions (as opposed to the physical regions) as instruments in the power of the human soul. The latter, thus liberated from all physical bonds, is now confronted by the second Guardian of the Threshold that communicates such:
Having realized oneself from the world of the senses, one has obtained the right to become a citizen, an initiate, of the supersensible world, from which their activities can now be directed. If all were for one’s own benefit alone, no longer would the body be required in its current form. And if the intention were merely to acquire the faculties necessary for life in the supersensible world then one would not need to return to the physical world. But rather, a new era is to begin in which one’s liberated powers must be applied to further work in the world of the physical senses. And it is now that the would-be initiate sees how sublimely the Greater Guardian towers above all that they had made of themselves thus far. Again, a new era is to begin in which the student’s liberated powers must be applied to further work in the physical world. Having previously sought only their own release, becoming free, they can now go forth as a liberator of their fellow human being.
Until this point, the student had strived as an individual, but now seeks to coordinate themselves with the whole, so that they may bring into the higher world not themselves alone, but all things existing in the physical world. In the future the would be initiate will unite with the Greater Guardian, but this Guardian cannot be wholly blessed so long as others remain behind unredeemed. As a separate freed being, the student would fain their entrance into the higher kingdom for they could not ignore, nor not see, the still unredeemed beings in the physical world all the while assuming their destiny is separated from them for, in truth, they are inseparably united. Having obtained those very powers in and derived from the physical world for their life, their entry, into the higher world, to separate oneself from their fellow being would mean to abuse those very powers which they could not have developed without all other’s participation.
One must now share with their fellow beings the powers which, together with these others, they did acquire. The higher Guardian will bar entry into the higher regions so long as the individual has not applied the powers they are gifted with on behalf of the liberation of their companions. With the powers already at the individual’s disposal they may sojourn in the lower regions of the supersensible world. But the guardian of the higher regions stands at the portal obstructing entrance there as long as these powers remain unused in the physical world. If one refuses to apply these powers in this world, others will come who will not refuse, and a higher supersensible realm will develop above and beyond leaving those who refused the sharing of their gifts, excluded from it having chosen the darkened black path while others chose the white, the lighted path. The Greater Guardian makes its presence known soon after the meeting with the first Guardian. The initiate knows full well what is in store for them if they yield to the temptation of a premature abode in the supersensible world.
An indescribably beautiful splendor shines forth from the second Guardian of the Threshold and a union with such looms as a far distant ideal before the soul’s vision. Yet there is also a certainty that this union will not be possible until all the powers afforded by the lower world are applied to the task of the totality of its liberation and redemption. By fulfilling the demands of the higher light-being the would be initiate will contribute to the liberation of the human race; they lay their gifts on the alter of humanity. Yet, on the other hand, should they prefer their own premature elevation into the higher world, the stream of human evolution will flow over and past them.
It does not follow that when called upon to decide, anyone will naturally follow the white path. That depends on how deeply one is purified at the time of their choice of self-seeking thus making this prospect of felicity appear desirable or otherwise. For the allurements are evident; there nothing appeals to one’s egotism. The gift one receives in the higher regions of the supersensible world is nothing that comes to them, but rather something that flows from them, that is, love for the world and for one’s fellow beings.
Nothing that egotism desires is denied upon the black path, for the latter provides for, on the contrary, the complete gratification of egotism. And, this black path will not fail to attract those desiring merely their own felicity, for it is indeed the appropriate path for them. Yet, no one should expect the spiritualists of the white path to give them instruction for the development of their own egotistical self. The spiritualist has no interest in the delights of the individual person for, each can attain that for themselves. They are only concerned with the development and liberation of all human beings and all creatures. Their instructions therefore deal only with the development of powers for collaboration in this work placing selfless devotion towards all before all other qualities. However, the initiate never actually refuses anyone, for even the greatest egotist can purify themselves. Regardless, no one merely seeking a petty advantage for themselves will ever obtain assistance from the white spiritualist.
Anyone following the instructions of the evolved and good spiritualist will, upon reaching the Threshold, understand the requirements of the greater Guardian and, anyone not following the spiritually advanced initiate’s instructions, can never hope to so much as to reach the Threshold. Their instructions, if followed, produce good results or no results at all; for it is not part of the initiate’s task to lead the student to egotistical delights and mere existence in the supersensible world. In fact, it becomes the initiate’s duty to keep the student away from the higher supersensible world until they can enter it with a genuine, heart-felt will for selfless collaboration and collective, elevation.
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