http://www. rsarchive. org/Books/ SUPERSENSIBLE KNOWLEDGE: Its Secrecy in the Past and Publication in our Time THERE are two experiences whence the soul may gain an understanding for the mode of knowledge to which the supersensible worlds will open out. The one originates in the science of Nature; the other, in the Mystical experience whereby the untrained ordinary consciousness contrives to penetrate into the supersensible domain.
Both confront the soul of man with barriers of knowledge — barriers he cannot cross till he can open for himself the portals which by their very essence Natural Science, and ordinary Mysticism too, must hold fast closed. Natural Science leads inevitably to certain conceptions about reality, which are like a stone wall to the deeper forces of the soul; and yet, this Science itself is powerless to remove them. He who fails to feel the impact, has not yet called to life the deeper needs of knowledge in his soul.
He may then come to believe that it is impossible in any case for Man to attain any other than the natural-scientific form of knowledge. There is, however, a definite experience in Self-knowledge whereby one weans oneself of this belief. This experience consists in the insight that the whole of Natural Science would be dissolved into thin air if we attempted to fathom the above-named conceptions with the methods of Natural Science itself.
If the conceptions of Natural Science are to remain spread out before the soul, these limiting conceptions must be left within the field of consciousness intact, without attempting to approach them with a deeper insight. There are many of them; here I will only mention two of the most familiar: Matter and Force. Recent developments in scientific theory may or may not be replacing these particular conceptions; the fact remains that Natural Science must invariably lead to some conception or another of this kind, impenetrable to its own methods of knowledge.
To the experience of soul, of which I am here speaking, these limiting conceptions appear like a reflecting surface which the human soul must place before it; while Natural Science itself is like the picture, made manifest with the mirror’s help. Any attempt to treat the limiting conceptions themselves by ordinary scientific means is, as it were, to smash the mirror, and with the mirror broken, Natural Science itself dissolves away. Moreover, this experience reveals the emptiness of all talk about ‘Things-in-themselves,’ f whatsoever kind, behind the phenomena of Nature. He who seeks for such Things-in-themselves is like a man who longs to break the looking-glass, hoping to see what there is behind the reflecting surface to cause his image to appear. It goes without saying that the validity of such an experience of soul cannot be ‘proved,’ in the ordinary sense of the word, with the habitual thoughts of presentday Natural Science. For the point will be, what kind of an inner experience does the process of the ‘proof’ call forth in us; and this must needs transcend the abstract proof.
With inner experience in this sense, we must apprehend the question: How is it that the soul is forced to confront these barriers of knowledge in order to have before it the phenomena of Nature? Mature self-knowledge brings us an answer to this question. We then perceive which of the forces of man’s soul partakes in the erection of these barriers to knowledge. It is none other than the force of soul which makes man capable, within the world of sense, of unfolding Love out of his inner being.
The faculty of Love is somehow rooted in the human organisation; and the very thing which gives to man the power of love — of sympathy and antipathy with his environment of sense, — takes away from his cognition of the things and processes of Nature the possibility to make transparent such pillars of Reality as ‘Matter’ and ‘Force. ’ To the man who can experience himself in true self-knowledge, on the one hand in the act of knowing Nature, and on the other hand in the unfolding of Love, this peculiar property of the human organisation becomes straightway apparent.
We must, however, beware of misinterpreting this perception by lapsing again into a way of thought which, within Natural Science itself, is no doubt inevitable. Thus it would be a misconstruction to assume, that an insight into the true essence of the things and processes of Nature is withheld from man because he lacks the organisation for such insight. The opposite is the case. Nature becomes sense-perceptible to man through the very fact that his being is capable of Love. For a being incapable of Love within the field of sense, the whole human picture of Nature would dissolve away.
It is not Nature who on account of his organisation reveals only her external aspect. No; it is man, who, by that force of his organisation which makes him in another direction capable of Love, is placed in a position to erect before his soul images and forms of Reality whereby Nature reveals herself to him. Through the experience above-described the fact emerges, that the scientific frontiers of knowledge depend on the whole way in which man, as a sense-endowed being, is placed within this world of physical reality. His vision of Nature is of a kind, appropriate to a being who is capable of Love.
He would have to tear the faculty of Love out of his inner life if he wished no longer to be faced with limits in his perception of Nature. But in so doing he would destroy the very force whereby Nature is made manifest to him. The real object of his quest for knowledge is not, by the same methods which he applies in his outlook upon Nature, to remove the limitations of that outlook. No, it is something altogether different, and once this has been perceived, man will no longer try to penetrate into a supersensible world through the kind of knowledge which is effective in Natural Science.
Rather will he tell himself, that to unveil the supersensible domain an altogether different activity of knowledge must be evolved than that which he applies to the science of Nature. Many people, more or less consciously aware of the above experience of soul, turn away from Natural Science when it is a question of opening the supersensible domain, and seek to penetrate into the latter by methods which are commonly called Mystical. They think that what is veiled to outwardly directed vision may be revealed by plunging into the depths of one’s own being.
But a mature self-knowledge reveals in the inner life as well a frontier of knowledge. In the field of the senses the faculty of Love erects, as it were, an impenetrable background whereat Nature is reflected; in the inner life of man the power ofMemory erects a like background. The same force of soul, which makes the human being capable of Memory, prevents his penetrating, in his inner being, down to that experience which would enable him to meet — along this inward path — the supersensible reality for which he seeks.
Invariably, along this path, he reaches only to that force of soul which recalls to him in Memory the experiences he has undergone through his bodily nature in the past. He never penetrates into the region where with his own supersensible being he is rooted in a supersensible world. For those who fail to see this, mystical pursuits will give rise to the worst of illusions. For in the course of life, the human being receives into his inner life untold experiences, of which in the receiving he is not fully conscious. But the Memory retains what is thus half-consciously or subconsciously experienced.
Long afterwards it frequently emerges into consciousness — in moods, in shades of feeling and the like, if not in clear conceptions. Nay more, it often undergoes a change, and comes to consciousness in quite a different form from that in which it was experienced originally. A man may then believe himself confronted by a supersensible reality arising from the inner being of the soul, whereas, in fact, it is but an outer experience transformed — an experience called forth originally by the world of sense — which comes before his mental vision.
He alone is preserved from such illusions, who recognises that even on a mystic path man cannot penetrate into the supersensible domain so long as he applies methods of knowledge dependent on the bodily nature which is rooted in the world of sense. Even as our picture of Nature depends for its existence on the faculty of Love, so does the immediate consciousness of the human Self depend upon the power of Memory. The same force of the soul, endowing man in the physical world with the Self-consciousness that is bound to the bodily nature, stands in the way to obstruct his inner union with the supersensible world.
Thus, even that which is often considered Mysticism provides no way into the supersensible realms of existence. For him who would penetrate with full conscious clarity of understanding into the supersensible domain, the two experiences above described are, however, preparatory stages. Through them he recognises that man is shut off from the supersensible world by the very thing which places him, as a self-conscious being, in the midst of Nature. Now one might easily conclude from this, that man must altogether forego the effort to gain knowledge of the Supersensible.
Nor can it be denied that many who are loath to face the painful issue, abstain from working their way through to a clear perception of the two experiences. Cherishing a certain dimness of perception on these matters, they either give themselves up to the belief that the limitations of Natural Science may be transcended by some intellectual and philosophic exercise; or else they devote themselves to Mysticism in the ordinary sense, avoiding the full enlightenment as to the nature of Self-consciousness and Memory which would reveal its insufficiency.
But to one who has undergone them and reached a certain clarity withal, these very experiences will open out the possibility and prospect of true supersensible knowledge. For in the course of them he finds that even in the ordinary action of human consciousness there are forces holding sway within the soul, which are not bound to the physical organisation; forces which are in no way subject to the conditions whereon the faculties of Love and Memory within this physical organisation depend. One of these forces reveals itself in Thought.
True, it remains unnoticed in the ordinary conscious life; indeed there are even many philosophers who deny it. But the denial is due to an imperfect self-observation. There is something at work in Thought which does not come into it from the faculty of Memory. It is something that vouches to us for the correctness of a present thought, not when a former thought emerging from the memory sustains it, but when the correctness of the present thought isexperienced directly. This experience escapes the every-day consciousness, because man completely spends the force in question for his life of thought-filled perception.
In Perception permeated by Thought this force is at work. But man, perceiving, imagines that the perception alone is vouching for the correctness of what he apprehends by an activity of soul where Thought and Perception in reality always flow together. And when he lives in Thought alone, abstracted from perceptions, it is but an activity of Thought which finds its supports in Memory. In this abstracted Thought the physical organism is cooperative. For the every-day consciousness, an activity of Thought unsubjected to the bodily organism is only present while man is in the act of Sense-perception.
Sense-perception itself depends upon the organism. But the thinking activity, contained in and co-operating with it, is a purely supersensible element in which the bodily organism has no share. In it the human soul rises out of the bodily organism. As soon as man becomes distinctly, separately conscious of this Thinking in the act of Perception, he knows by direct experience that he has himself as a living soul, quite independently of the bodily nature. This is man’s first experience of himself as a supersensible soul-being, arising out of an evolved self-knowledge. The same experience is there unconsciously in every act of perception.
We need only sharpen our selfobservation so as to Observe the fact: in the act of Perception a supersensible element reveals itself. Once it is thus revealed, this first, faint suggestion of an experience of the soul within the Supersensible can be evolved, as follows: In living, meditative practice, man unfolds a Thinking wherein two activities of the soul flow together, namely that which lives in the ordinary consciousness in Sense-perception, and that which is active in ordinary Thought. The meditative life thus becomes an intensified activity of Thought, receiving into itself the force that is otherwise spent in Perception.
Our Thinking in itself must grow so strong, that it works with the same vivid quality which is otherwise only there in Sense-perception. Without perception by the senses we must call to life a Thinking which, unsupported by memories of the past, experiences in the immediate present a content of its own, such as we otherwise only can derive from Sense-perception. From the Thinking that co-operates in perception, this meditative action of the soul derives its free and conscious quality, its inherent certainty that it receives no visionary content raying into the soul from unconscious organic regions.
A visionary life of whatsoever kind is the very antithesis of what is here intended. By self-observation we must become thoroughly and clearly familiar with the condition of soul in which we are in the act of perception through any one of the senses. In this state of soul, fully aware that the content of our ideation does not arise out of the activity of the bodily organism, we must learn to experience ideas which are called forth in consciousness without external perceptions, just as are those of which we are conscious in ordinary life when engaged in reflective thought, abstracted from the enter world. As to the right ways of developing this meditative practice, detailed indications are given in the book‘Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment’ and in several of my other writings. ) In evolving the meditative life above-described, the human soul rises to the conscious feeling perception of itself, as of a supersensible Being independent of the bodily organisation. This is man’s first experience of himself as a supersensible Being; and it leads on to a second stage in supersensible self-knowledge.
At the former stage he can only be aware that he is a supersensible Being; at the second he feels this Being filled with real content, even as the ‘I’ of ordinary waking life is felt by means of the bodily organisation. It is of the utmost importance to realise that the transition from the one stage to the other takes place quite independently of any co-operation from outside the soul’s domain — namely from the mere organic life. If we experienced the transition, in relation to our own bodily nature, any differently from the process of drawing a logical conclusion for example, it would be a visionary experience, not what is intended here.
The process here intended differs from the act of drawing logical conclusions, not in respect of its relationship to the bodily nature, but in quite another regard; namely in the consciousness that a supersensible, purely spiritual content is entering the feeling and perception of the Self. The kind of meditative life hitherto described gives rise to the supersensible self-consciousness. But this self-consciousness would be left without any supersensible environment if the above form of meditation were unaccompanied by another. We come to an understanding of this latter kind by turning our self-observation to the activity of the Will.
In every-day life the activity of the Will is consciously directed to external actions. There is, however, another concomitant expression of the Will to which the human being pays little conscious attention. It is the activity of Will which carries him from one stage of development to another in the course of life. For not only is he filled with different contents of soul day after day; his soul-life itself, on each succeeding day, has evolved out of his soul-life of the day before. The driving force in this evolving process is the Will, which in this field of its activity remains for the most part unconscious.
Mature self-knowledge can, however, raise this Will, with all its peculiar quality, into the conscious life. When this is done, man comes to the perception of a life of Will which has absolutely nothing to do with any processes of a sense-perceptible external world, but is directed solely to the inner evolution of the soul — independent of this world. Once it is known to him, he learns by degrees to enter into the living essence of this Will, just as in the former kind of meditative life he entered into the fusion of the soul’s experiences of Thinking and Perception.
And the conscious experience in this element of Will expands into the experience of a supersensible external world. Evolved in the way above described, and transplanted now into this element of Will, the supersensible self-consciousness finds itself in a supersensible environment, filled with spiritual Beings and events. While the supersensible Thinking leads to a self-consciousness independent of the power of Memory which is bound to the bodily nature, the supersensible Willing comes to life in such a way as to be permeated through and through by a spiritualised faculty of Love.
It is this faculty of Love which enables the supersensible self-consciousness of man to perceive and grasp the supersensible external world. Thus the power of supersensible knowledge is established by a self-consciousness which eliminates the ordinary Memory and lives in the intuitive perception of the spiritual world through the power of Love made spiritual. Only by realising this essence of the supersensible faculty of knowledge, does one become able to understand the real meaning of man’s knowledge of Nature. In effect, the knowledge of Nature is inherently connected with what is being evolved in man within this physical world of sense.
It is in this world that man incorporates, into his spiritual Being, Self-consciousness and the faculty of Love. Once he has instilled these two into his nature, he can carry them with him into the super sensible world. In supersensible perception, the ordinary power of Memory is eliminated. Its place is taken by an immediate vision of the past — a vision for which the past appears as we look backward in spiritual observation, just as for sense-perception the things we pass by as we walk along appear when we turn round to look behind us.
Again the ordinary faculty of Love is bound to the physical organism. In conscious supersensible experience, its place is taken by a power of Love made spiritual, which is to say, a power of perception. It may already be seen, from the above description, that supersensible experience takes place in a mood of soul which must be held apart, in consciousness, from that of ordinary Perception, Thinking, Feeling and Willing.
The two ways of looking out upon the world must be kept apart by the deliberate control of man himself, just as in another sphere the waking consciousness is kept apart from the dream life. He who lets play the picture-complexes of his dreams into his waking life becomes a listless and fantastic fellow, abstracted from realities. He, on the other hand, who holds to the belief that the essence of causal relationships experienced in waking life can be extended into the life of dreams, endows the dream-pictures with an imagined reality which will make it impossible for him to experience their real nature.
So with the mode of thought which governs our outlook upon Nature, or of inner experience which determines ordinary Mysticism: — he who lets them play into his supersensible experience, will not behold the supersensible, but weave himself in figments of the mind, which, far from bringing him nearer to it, will cut him off from the higher world he seeks. A man who will not hold his experience in the supersensible apart from his experience in the world of the physical senses, will mar the fresh and unembarrassed outlook upon Nature which is the true basis for a healthy sojourn in this earthly life.
Moreover, he will permeate with the force of spiritual perception the faculty of Love that is connected with the bodily nature, thus tending to bring it into a deceptive relationship with the physical experience. All that the human being experiences and achieves within the field of sense, receives its true illumination — an illumination which the deepest needs of the soul require — through the science of things that are only to be experienced supersensibly. Yet must the latter be held separate in consciousness from the experience in the world of sense.
It must illumine our knowledge of Nature, our ethical and social life; yet so, that the illumination always proceeds from a sphere of experience apart. Mediately, through the attunement of the human soul, the Supersensible must indeed shed its light upon the Sensible. For if it did not do so, the latter would be relegated to darkness of thought, chaotic wilfulness of instinct and desire. Many human beings, well knowing this relationship which has to be maintained in the soul between the experience of the supersensible and that of the world of sense, hold that the supersensible knowledge must on no account be given full publicity.
It should remain, so they consider, the secret knowledge of a few, who have attained by strict self-discipline the power to establish and maintain the true relationship. Such guardians of supersensible knowledge base their opinion on the very true assertion that a man who is in any way inadequately prepared for the higher knowledge will feel an irresistible impulsion to mingle the Supersensible with the Sensible in life; and that he will inevitably thus call forth, both in himself and others, all the ill effects which we have here characterised as the result of such confusion.
On the other hand — believing as they do, and with good reason, that man’s outlook upon Nature must not be left to grope in utter darkness, nor his life to spend itself in blind forces of instinct and desire, — they have founded self-contained and closed Societies, or Occult Schools, within which human beings properly prepared are guided stage by stage to supersensible discovery. Of such it then becomes the task to pour the fruits of their knowledge into life, without, however, exposing the knowledge itself to publicity.
In past epochs of human evolution this idea was undoubtedly justified. For the propensity above described, leading to the misuse of supersensible knowledge, was then the only thing to be considered, and against it there stood no other circumstance to call for publication of the higher knowledge. It might at most be contended that the superiority of those initiated into the higher knowledge gave into their hands a mighty power to rule over those who had no such knowledge.
None the less, an enlightened reading of the course of History will convince us that such conflux of power into the hands of a few, fitted by self-discipline to wield it, was indeed necessary. In present time, however — meaning ‘present’ in the wider sense — the evolution of mankind has reached a point whenceforward it becomes not only impossible but harmful to prolong the former custom. The irresistible impulsion to misuse the higher knowledge is now opposed by other factors, making the — at any rate partial — publication of such knowledge a matter of necessity, and calculated also to remove the ill effects of the above tendency.
Our knowledge of Nature has assumed a form wherein it beats perpetually, in a destructive way, against its own barriers and limitations. In many branches of Science, the laws and generalisations in which man finds himself obliged to clothe certain of the facts of Nature, are in themselves of such a kind as to call his attention to his own supersensible powers. The latter press forward into the conscious life of the soul. In former ages, the knowledge of Nature which was generally accessible had no such effect.
Through Natural Science, however, in its present form — expanding as it is in ever widening circles — mankind would be led astray in either of two directions, if a publication of supersensible knowledge were not now to take place. Either the possibility of a supersensible world-outlook would be repudiated altogether and with growing vehemence; and this would presently result in an artificial repression of supersensible faculties which the time is actually calling forth.
Such repression would make it more and more impossible for man to see his own Being in a true light. Emptiness, chaos and dissatisfaction of the inner life, instability of soul, perversity of will; and, in the sequel, even physical degeneration and illhealth would be the outcome. Or else the supersensible faculties-uncontrolled by conscious knowledge of these things-would break out in a wild tangle of obtuse, unconscious, undirected forces of cognition, and the life of knowledge would degenerate in a chaotic mass of nebulous conceptions.
This would be to create a world of scientific phantoms, which, like a curtain, would obscure the true supersensible world from the spiritual eye of man. For either of these aberrations, a proper publication of supersensible knowledge is the only remedy. As to the impulse to abuse such knowledge in the way above described, it can be counteracted in our time, as follows: the training of thought which modern Natural Science has involved can be fruitfully employed to clothe in words the truths that point towards the supersensible.
Itself, this Science of Nature cannot penetrate into the supersensible world; but it lends the human mind an aptitude for combinations of thought whereby the higher knowledge can be so expressed that the irresistible impulsion to misuse it need not arise. The thought-combinations of the Nature-knowledge of former times were more pictorial, less inclined to the domain of pure Thought. Supersensible perceptions, clothed in them, stirred up — without his being conscious of it — those very instincts in the human being which tend towards misuse.
This being said, it cannot on the other hand be emphasised too strongly that he who gives out supersensible knowledge in our time will the better fulfil his responsibilities to mankind the more he contrives to express this knowledge in forms of thought borrowed from the modern Science of Nature. For the receiver of knowledge thus imparted will then have to apply, to the overcoming of certain difficulties of understanding, faculties of soul which would otherwise remain inactive and tend to the above misuse.
The popularising of supersensible knowledge, so frequently desired by overzealous and misguided people, should be avoided. The truly earnest seeker does not call for it; it is but the banale, uncultured craving of persons indolent in thought. In the ethical and social life as well, humanity has reached a stage of development which makes it impossible to exclude all knowledge of the supersensible from public life and thought. In former epochs the ethical and social instincts contained within them spiritual guiding forces, inherited from primaeval ages of mankind.
Such forces tended instinctively to a community life which answered also to the needs of individual soul. But the inner life of man has grown more conscious than in former epochs. The spiritual instincts have thus been forced into the background. The Will, the impulses of men must now be guided consciously, lest they become vagrant and unstable. That is to say, the individual, by his own insight, must be in a position to illumine the life in the physical world of sense by the knowledge of the supersensible, piritual Being of man. Conceptions formed in the way of natural-scientific knowledge cannot enter effectively into the conscious guiding forces of the ethical and social life. Destined as it is — within its own domain — to bear the most precious fruits, Natural Science will be led into an absolutely fatal error if it be not perceived that the mode of thought which dominates it is quite unfitted to open out an understanding of, or to give impulses for, the moral and social life of humanity.
In the domain of ethical and social life our conception of underlying principles, and the conscious guidance of our action, can only thrive when illumined from the aspect of the Supersensible. Between the rise of a highly evolved Natural Science, and present-day developments in the human life of Will — with all the underlying impulses and instincts — there is indeed a deep, significant connection.
The force of knowledge that has gone into our science of Nature, is derived from the former spiritual content of man’s impulses and instincts. From the fountain-head of supersensible Realities, the latter must now be supplied with fresh impulsive forces. We are living in an age when supersensible knowledge can no longer remain the secret possession of a few. No, it must become the common property of all, in whom the meaning of life within this age is stirring as a very condition of their soul’s existence.
In the unconscious depths of the souls of men this need is already working, far more widespread than many people dream. And it will grow, more and more insistently, to the demand that the science of the Supersensible shall be treated on a like footing with the science of Nature. Knowledge of the State Between Death and a New Birth The following thoughts are intended as aphoristic sketches of a domain of knowledge that, in the form in which is it characterised here, is almost entirely rejected by the culture of our time.
The aphoristic form has been chosen in order to give some idea of the fundamental character of this field of knowledge, and to show — at least in one direction — the prospects for life which it opens up. The narrow frame of an essay requires one to refer the reader to the literature of the subject for further information. The author is fully aware that precisely this form of presentation may easily be felt as presumptuous by many who, from the well-founded habits of thought of the culture of the day, must find what is here brought forward directly pposed to all that is scientific. It may be said in answer to this that the author, in spite of his ‘spiritual-scientific’ orientation, believes that he can agree with every scientist in his high estimation of the spirit and significance of scientific thinking. Only it seems clear to him that one can fully accept Natural Science without being thereby compelled to reject an independent Spiritual Science of the kind described here.
A consequence of this relation to Natural Science will, at all events, be to guard true Spiritual Science from that amateurishness which is noticeable in many quarters to-day, and which usually indulges the more presumptuously in phrases about the ‘crude materialism of Natural Science’ the less the speakers are able to judge of the earnestness, rigour and scientific soundness of Natural Knowledge. The writer wished to make these introductory remarks because the brevity of the discussions in this article may possibly obscure from the reader his attitude towards these matters.
He who speaks to-day of investigating the spiritual world encounters the sceptical objections of those whose habits of thought have been moulded by the outlook of Natural Science. His attention will be drawn to the blessings which this outlook has brought for a healthy development of human life, by destroying the illusions of a learning which professed to follow purely spiritual modes of cognition. Now these sceptical objections can be quite intelligible to the spiritual investigator.
Indeed it ought to be perfectly clear to him that any kind of spiritual investigation which finds itself in conflict with established ideas of Natural Science cannot rest on a sure foundation. A spiritual investigator with a feeling for, and an understanding of the earnestness of scientific procedure, and insight into the achievements of Natural Knowledge for human life, will not wish to join the ranks of those who, from the standpoint of their ‘spiritual sight,’ criticise lightly the limitations of scientists, and imagine their own standpoint so much the higher the more every kind of Natural Knowledge is lost for them in unfathomable depths.
Natural Science and Spiritual Science could live in harmony if the former could rid itself of the erroneous belief that true spiritual investigation necessarily requires we [human beings] to reject attested knowledge of sensible reality and of the soul-life bound up with this. In this erroneous belief lies the source of innumerable misunderstandings which Spiritual Science has to encounter. Those who believe they stand, in their outlook on life, on the ‘firm ground of Natural Science’ hold that the spiritual investigator is compelled by his point of view to reject their knowledge.
But this is not really the case. Genuine spiritual investigation is in full agreement with Natural Science. Thus spiritual investigation is not opposed on account of what it maintains, but for what people believe it could or must maintain. With regard to human soul life the scientific thinker must maintain that the soul activities which reveal themselves as thinking, feeling and willing, ought, for the acquisition of scientific knowledge, to be observed without prejudice in the same way as the phenomena of light or heat in the outer world of Nature.
He must reject all ideas about the entity of the soul which do not arise from such unprejudiced observation, and from which all kinds of conclusions are then drawn about the indestructibility of the soul, and its connection with the spiritual world. It is quite understandable that such a thinker begins his study of the facts of soul-life as Theodor Ziehen does in the first of his lectures on “Physiological Psychology. ” He says: “The psychology which I shall put before you, is not that old psychology which attempted to investigate soul phenomena in a more or less speculative way.
This psychology has long been abandoned by those accustomed to think scientifically. ” True spiritual investigation need not conflict with the scientific attitude which may he in such an avowal. And yet, among those who take this attitude as a result of their scientific habits of thought, the opinion will be almost universally held to-day that the specific results of spiritual investigation are to be regarded as unscientific.
Of course one will not encounter everywhere this rejection, on grounds of principle, of the investigation of spiritual facts; yet when specific results of such investigation are brought forward they will scarcely escape the objection that scientific thinking can do nothing with them. As a consequence of this,one can observe that there has recently grown up a science of the soul, forming its methods of investigation on the pattern of natural-scientific procedure, but unable to find the power to approach those highest questions which our inner need of knowledge must put when we turn our gaze to the fate of the soul.
One investigates conscientiously the connection of soul phenomena with bodily processes, one tries to gain ideas on the way presentations associate and dissociate in the soul, how attention acts, how memory functions, what relation exists between thinking, feeling and willing; but for the higher questions of soul-life the words of Franz Brentano remain true.
This acute psychologist, though rooted in the mode of thinking of Natural Science, wrote: “The laws of association of ideas, of the development of convictions and opinions and of the genesis of pleasure and love would be anything but a true compensation for the hopes of a Plato or an Aristotle of gaining certainty concerning the continued life of our better part after the dissolution of the body. ” And if the recent scientific mode of thinking really means “excluding the question of immortality,” this exclusion would have great significance for psychology (see Note 1).
The fact is, that considerations which might tend in the direction of the ‘hopes of a Plato and an Aristotle’ are avoided in recent psychological writings which wish to satisfy the demands of scientific thought. Now the spiritual investigator will not come into conflict with the mode of procedure of recent scientific psychology if he has an understanding of its vital nerve. He will have to admit that this psychology proceeds, in the main, along right lines insofar as the study of the inner experiences of thinking, feeling and willing is concerned.
Indeed his path of knowledge leads him to admit that thinking, feeling and willing reveal nothing that could fulfil the ‘hopes of a Plato and an Aristotle’ if these activities are only studied as they are experienced in ordinary human life. But his path of knowledge also shows that in thinking, feeling and willing something lies hidden which does not become conscious in the course of ordinary life, but which can be brought to consciousness through inner soul exercises.
In this spiritual entity of the soul, hidden from ordinary consciousness, is revealed what in it is independent of the life of the body; and in this the relations of man to the spiritual world can be studied. To the spiritual investigator it appears just as impossible to fulfil the ‘hopes of a Plato or an Aristotle’ in regard to the existence of the soul independent of bodily life by observing ordinary thinking, feeling and willing, as it is impossible to investigate in water the properties of hydrogen. To learn these one must first extract the hydrogen from the water by an appropriate procedure.
So it is also necessary to separate from the everyday life of the soul (which it leads in connection with the body) that entity which is rooted in the spiritual world, if this entity is to be studied. The error which casts befogging misunderstandings in the way of Spiritual Science lies in the almost general belief that knowledge about the higher questions of soul-life must be gained from a study of such facts of the soul as are already to be found in ordinary life. But no other knowledge results from these facts than that to which research, conducted on what are at present called scientific lines, can lead.
On this account Spiritual Science can be no mere heeding of what is immediately present in the life of the soul. It must first lay bare, by inner processes in the life of the soul, the world of facts to be studied. To this end spiritual investigation applies soul processes which are attained in inner experience. Its field of research lies entirely within the inner life of the soul. It cannot make its experiences outwardly visible. Nevertheless they are not on that account less independent of personal caprice than the true results of Natural Science.
They have nothing in common with mathematical truths except that they, too, cannot be proved by outer facts, but are proved for anyone who grasps them in inner perception. Like mathematical truths they can at the most be outwardly symbolised but not represented in their full content, for it is this that proves them. The essential point, which can easily be misunderstood, is, that on the path pursued by spiritual investigation a certain direction is given, by inner initiative, to the experiences of the soul, thereby calling out forces which otherwise remain unconscious as in a kind of soul sleep. The soul exercises which lead to this goal are described in detail in my books “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment” and “Occult Science. ” It is only intended to indicate here what transpires in the soul when it subjects itself to such exercises). If the soul proceeds in this way it inserts — as it were — its inner life into the domain of spiritual reality. It opens to the spiritual world its organs of perception so formed, as the senses open outwardly to physical reality. One kind of such soul exercises consists in an intensive surrender to the process of thinking.
One carries this surrender so far that one acquires the capacity of directing one’s attention no longer to the thoughts present in thinking but solely to the activity of thinking itself. Every kind of thought content then disappears from consciousness and the soul experiences herself consciously in the activity of thinking. Thinking then becomes transformed into a subtle inner act of will which is completely illuminated by consciousness. In ordinary thinking, thoughts live; the process indicated extinguishes the thought in thinking.
The experience thus induced is a weaving in an inner activity of will which bears its reality within itself. The point is that the soul, by continued inner experience in this direction, may make itself as familiar with the purely spiritual reality in which it weaves as sense observation is with physical reality. As in the outer world a reality can only be known as such by experiencing it, so, too, in this inner domain. He who objects that what is inwardly real cannot be proved only shows that he has not yet grasped that we become convinced of an outer reality in no other way than by experiencing its existence together with our own.
A healthy life has direct experience of the difference between a genuine perception in the outer world and a vision or hallucination; in a similar way a healthily developed soul life can distinguish the spiritual reality it has approached from fantastic imagining; and dreamy reverie. Thinking that has been developed in the manner stated perceives that it has freed itself from the soul force which ordinarily leads to memory. What is experienced in thinking which has become an inwardly experienced ‘will-reality’ cannot be remembered in the direct form in which it presents itself.
Thus it differs from what is experienced in ordinary thinking. What one has thought about an event is incorporated into memory. It can be brought up again in the further course of life. But the ‘will-reality’ here described must be attained anew, if it is to be again experienced in consciousness. I do not mean that this reality cannot be indirectly incorporated into ordinary memory. This must indeed take place if the path of spiritual investigation is to be a healthy one. But what remains in memory is only an idea (Vorstellung) of this reality, just as what one remembers to-day of an experience of yesterday is only an idea (Vorstellung).
Concepts, ideas, can be retained in memory: a spiritual reality must be experienced ever anew. By grasping vividly this difference between the cherishing of mere thoughts and a spiritual reality reached by developing the activity of thinking, one comes to experience oneself with this reality outside the physical body. What ordinary thinking must mostly regard as an impossibility commences; one experiences oneself outside the existence that is connected with the body. Ordinary thinking, regarding this experience ‘outside the body’ only from its own point of view, must at first hold this to be an illusion.
Assurance of this experience can, indeed, only be won through the experience itself. And it is precisely through this experience that one understands only too well that those whose habits of thought have been formed by Natural Science cannot, at first, but regard such experiences as fantastic imaginings or dreamy reverie, perhaps as a weaving in illusions or hallucinations. Only he can fully understand what is here brought forward who has come to know that the path of true spiritual investigation releases forces in the soul which lie in a direction precisely opposite to those which induce pathological soul experiences.
What the soul develops on the path of spiritual investigation are forces competent to oppose pathological states or to dissipate these where they tend to occur. No scientific investigation can see through what is visionary — of an hallucinatory nature — when this tries to get in man’s way, as directly as true spiritual science, which can only unfold in a direction opposed to the unhealthy experiences mentioned. In that moment when this ‘experience outside the body’ becomes a reality for him the spiritual investigator learns to know how ordinary thinking is bound to the physical processes of the body.
He comes to see how thoughts acquired in outer experience necessarily arise in such a way that they can be remembered. This rests on the fact that these thoughts do not merely lead a spiritual life in the soul but share their life with the body. Thus the spiritual investigator comes not to reject but to accept what scientific thought must maintain about the dependence of the life of thought on bodily processes. At first the inner experiences described above present themselves as anxious oppression of the soul. They appear to lead out of the domain of ordinary existence but not into a new reality.
One knows, indeed, that one is living in a reality; one feels this reality as one’s own spiritual being. One has found one’s way out of sense reality, but one has only grasped oneself in a purely spiritual form of existence. A feeling of loneliness resembling fear can overtake the soul — a loneliness to experience oneself in a world, not merely to possess oneself. Yet another feeling arises. One feels one must lose again the acquired spiritual self-experience, if one cannot confront a spiritual environment. The spiritual state into which one thus enters may be roughly compared to what would be experienced if one had to clutch with one’s hands n all directions without being able to lay hold of anything. When, however, the path of spiritual investigation is pursued in the right way, the above experiences are, indeed, undergone, but they form only one side of the soul’s development. The necessary completion is found in other experiences. As certain impulses given to the soul’s experiences lead one to grasp the ‘will-reality’ within thinking, so other directions imparted to the processes of the soul lead to an experience of hidden forces within the activity of the will. (Here also we can only state what takes place in the inner being of man through such soul experiences.
The books mentioned give a detailed description of what the soul must undertake in order to reach the indicated goal). In ordinary life the activity of the will is not perceived in the same way as an outer event. Even what is usually called introspection by no means puts one into the position of regarding one’s own willing as one regards an outer event of Nature. To achieve this — to be able to confront one’s own willing as an observer stands before an outer fact of Nature — intensive soul processes, induced voluntarily, are again necessary.
If these are induced in the appropriate way there arises something quite different from this view of one’s own willing as of an outer fact. In ordinary perception a presentation (Vorstellung) emerges in the life of the soul and is, in a certain sense, an inner image of the outer fact. But in observing one’s own willing this accustomed power of forming presentations fades out. One ceases to form presentations of outer things. In place of this a faculty of forming real images — a real perception — is released from the depths of willing, and breaks through the surface of the will’s activity, bringing living spiritual reality with it.
At first one’s own hidden spiritual entity appears within this spiritual reality. One perceives that one carries a hidden spiritual man within one. This is no thought-picture but a real being — real in a higher sense than the outer bodily man. Now this spiritual man does not present himself like an outer being perceptible to the senses. He does not reveal his characteristic qualities outwardly. He reveals himself through his inner nature by developing an inner activity similar to the processes of consciousness in one’s own soul.
But, unlike the soul dwelling in man’s body, this higher being is not turned towards sensible objects but towards spiritual events — in the first place towards the events of one’s own soul-life as unfolded up till now. One really discovers in oneself a second human being who, as a spiritual being, is a conscious observer of one’s ordinary soul-life. However fantastic this description of a spiritual man within the bodily may appear, it is nevertheless a sober description of reality for a soul-life appropriately trained. It is as different from anything visionary or of the nature of an illusion as is day from night.
Just as a reality partaking of the nature of will is discovered in the transformed thinking, so a consciousness partaking of the nature of being — and weaving in the spiritual — is discovered in the will. And these two prove, for fuller experience, to belong together. In a certain sense they are discovered on paths running in opposite directions, but turn out to be a unity. The feeling of anxiety experienced in the weaving of the ‘will-reality’ ceases when this ‘will-reality,’ born from developed thinking, unites itself with the higher being above described. Through this union man confronts, for the first time, the complete spiritual world.
He encounters, not only himself, but beings and events of the spiritual world lying outside himself. In the world into which man has thus entered, perception is an essentially different process from perception in the world of sense. Real beings and events of the spiritual world arise from out of the higher being revealed through developing the will. Through the interplay of these beings and events with the ‘will-reality’ resulting from developed thinking, these beings and events are spiritually perceived. What we know as memory in the physical world ceases to have significance for the spiritual world.
We see that this soul force uses the physical body as a tool. But another force takes the place of memory in observing the spiritual world. Through this force a past event is not remembered in the form of mental presentations but perceived directly in a fresh experience. It is not like reading a sentence and remembering it later, but like reading and re-reading. The concept of the past acquires a new significance in this domain; the past appears to spiritual perception as present, and we recognise that something belongs to a past time by perceiving, not the passage of time, but the relation of one spiritual being or event to another.
The path into the spiritual world is thus traversed by laying bare what is contained in thinking and willing. Now feeling cannot be developed in a similar way by inner initiative of soul. Unlike the case of thinking and willing, nothing to take the place of what is experienced within the physical world as feeling can be developed in the spiritual world through transforming an inner force. What corresponds to feeling in the spiritual world arises quite of itself as soon as spiritual perception has been acquired in the described way.
This experience of feeling, however, bears a different character from that borne by feeling in the physical world. One does not feel in oneself, but in the beings and events which one perceives. One enters into them with one’s feeling; one feels their inner being, as in physical life one feels one’s own being. We might put it in this way: as in the physical world one is conscious of experiencing objects and events as material, so in the spiritual world one is conscious of experiencing beings and facts through revelations of feeling which come from without like colours or sounds in the physical world.
A soul which has attained to the spiritual experience described knows it is in a world from out of which it can observe its own experiences in the physical word — just as physical perception can observe a sensible object. It is united with that spiritual entity which unites itself — at birth (or at conception) — with the physical body derived from one’s ancestors; and this spiritual entity persists when this body is laid aside at death. The ‘hopes of a Plato and an Aristotle’ for the science of the soul can only be fulfilled through a perception of this entity.
Moreover the perception of repeated earth-lives (between which are lives spent in the purely spiritual world) now becomes a fact inasmuch as man’s psychic-spiritual kernel, thus discovered, perceives itself and its own weaving and becoming in the spiritual world. It learns to know its own being as the result of earlier earthlives and spiritual forms of existence lying between them. Within its present earth-life it finds a spiritual germ which must unfold in a future earth-life after passing through states between death and a new birth.
As the plant germ contains the future plant potentially, so there develops, concealed in man, a psychic-spiritual germ. This reveals itself to spiritual perception through its own essence as the foundation of a future earth-life. It would be incorrect so to interpret the spiritual perception of life between death and a new birth as if such perception meant participating beforehand in the experience of the spiritual world entered at physical death.
Such perception does not give a complete, disembodied experience of the spiritual world as experienced after death; it is only the knowledge of the actual experience that is experienced. While still in one’s body one can receive all of the disembodied experience between death and a new birth that is offered by the experiences of the soul described above, that is to say, when the ‘will-reality’ is released from thinking with the help of the consciousness set free from the will.
In the spiritual world the feeling element revealing itself from without can first be experienced through entrance into this world. Strange as it may sound, experience in the spiritual world leads one to say: the physical world is present to man in the first place as a complex of outer facts, and man acquires knowledge of it after it has confronted him in this form; the spiritual world, on the other hand, sends knowledge of itself in advance, and the knowledge it kindles in the soul beforehand is the torch which must illumine the spiritual world if this world is to reveal itself as a fact.
It is clear to one who knows this through spiritual perception that this light develops during bodily life on earth in the unconscious depths of the soul, and then, after death, illumines the regions of the spiritual world making them experiences of the human soul. During bodily life on earth one can awaken this knowledge of the state between death and a new birth. This knowledge has an entirely opposite character to that developed for life in the physical world.
One perceives through it what the soul will accomplish between death and a new birth, because one has present in spiritual perception the germ of what impels towards this accomplishment. The perception of this germ reveals that a creative connection with the spiritual world commences for the soul after death. It unfolds an activity which is directed towards the future earth life as its goal, whereas in physical perception its activity is directed — although imitatively and not creatively — towards the outer world of sense.
Man’s growth(Werden) as a spiritual being connected with the spiritual world lies in the field of vision of the soul between death and a new birth, as the existence (Sein) of the sense world lies in the field of view of the bodily man. Active perception of spiritual Becoming (Werden) characterises the conditions between death and a new birth. (It is not the task of this article to give details of these states. Those interested will find them in my books “Theosophy” and “Occult Science”).
In contrast to experience in the body, spiritual experience is something to which we are completely unaccustomed, inasmuch as the idea of Being as acquired in the physical world loses all meaning. The spiritual world has nothing of the nature of Being. Everything is Becoming. To enter a spiritual environment is to enter an everlasting Becoming. But in contrast to this restless Becoming in our spiritual environment we have the soul’s perception of itself as stationary consciousness within the never-ceasing movement into which it is placed.
The awakened spiritual consciousness must accommodate itself to this reversal of inner experience with regard to the consciousness that lives in the body. It can thereby acquire a real knowledge of experience apart from the body. And only such knowledge can embrace the states between death and a new birth. “ . . . . In a certain sense all human beings are ‘specialists’ to-day so far as their souls are concerned. We are struck by this specialised mode of perception when we study the development of Art in humanity.
And for this very reason a comprehensive understanding of spiritual life in its totality must again come into existence. True form in Art will arise from this comprehensive understanding of spiritual life . . . . ” RUDOLF STEINER (From Ways to a New Style in Architecture) We lose the human being from our field of vision if we do not fix the eye of the soul upon his entire nature in all its life-manifestations. We should not speak of man’s knowledge, but of the complete man manifesting himself in the act of cognition. In cognition, man uses as an instrument his sense-nerve nature.
For feeling, he is served by the rhythm living in the breath and the circulation of the blood. When he wills metabolism becomes the physical basis of his existence. But rhythm courses into the physical occurrence within the sense-nerve nature; and metabolism is the material bearer of the life of thought, even in the most abstract thinking, feeling lives and the waves of will pulsate. *| *| *| *| The ancient Oriental entered into his dream-like thinking more from the rhythmic life of feeling than does the man of the present age.
The Oriental experienced for this reason more of the rhythmic weaving in his life of thought, while the Westerner experiences more of the logical indications. In ascending to super-sensible vision, the Oriental Yogi interwove conscious breath with conscious thinking, in this way, he laid hold in his breath upon the continuing rhythm of cosmic occurrence. As he breathed, he experienced the world as Self. Upon the rhythmic waves of conscious breath, thought moved through the entire being of man.
He experienced how the Divine-Spiritual causes the spirit-filled breath to stream continuously into man, and how man thus becomes a living soul. The man of the present age must seek his supersensible knowledge in a different way. He cannot unite his thinking with the breath. Through meditation, he must lift his thinking out of the life of logic to vision. In vision, however, thought weaves in a spirit element or music and picture. It is released from the breath and woven together with the spiritual in the world.
The Self is now experienced, not in connection with the breath in the single human being, but in the environing world of spirit. The Eastern man once experienced the world in himself, and in his spiritual life today he has the echo of this. The Western man stands at the beginning of his experience, and is on the way to find himself in the world. If the Western man should wish to become a Yogi, he would have to become a refined egoist, for Nature has already given him the feeling of the Self. which the Oriental had only in a dream-like way.
If the Yogi had sought for himself in the world as the Western man must do, he would have led his dream-like thinking into unconscious sleep, and would have been psychically drowned. *| *| *| *| The Eastern man had the spiritual experience as religion, art, and science in complete unity. He made sacrifices to his spiritual-divine Beings. As a gift of grace, there flowed to him from them that which lifted him to the state of a true human being. This was religion. But in the sacrificial ceremony and the sacrificial place there was manifest to him also beauty, through which the Divine-Spiritual lived in art.
And out of the beautiful manifestations of the Spirit there flowed science. Toward the West streamed the waves of wisdom that were the beautiful light of the spirit and inspired piety in the artistically inspired man. There religion developed its own being, and only beauty still continued united with wisdom. Heracleitos and Anaxagoras were men wise in the world who thought artistically; Aeschylos and Sophocles were artists who moulded the wisdom of the world. Later wisdom was given over to thinking; it became knowledge. Art was transferred to its own world.
Religion, the source of all, became the heritage of the East; art became the monument of the time when the middle region of the earth held sway; knowledge became the indepen
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