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Occult Science - An Outline

Chapter V

Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

(Concerning Initiation)

Part 8

Part 1 |  Part 2 |  Part 3 |  Part 5 |  Part 5 |  Part 6 |  Part 8 |  Part 8 |  Part 9 |  Part 10  ]

When the pupil is making his way upwards on the path that leads to higher worlds, he will remark at a certain stage that the interconnection of the activities of his personality is beginning to assume a new form. In the world of the physical senses the I sees to it that the various faculties of the soul co-operate in an orderly manner. In the affairs of everyday life these faculties — we refer here especially to Thinking, Feeling and Willing — always stand in a certain recognized relation to one another. Let us say we are looking at some object. It pleases us, or perhaps we dislike it. That is to say, a feeling associates itself, almost inevitably, with our mental picture, our idea of the object. Very possibly we may also wish we could possess it or we may feel impelled to alter it in this or that particular. That is to say, desire and will unite themselves with the thought and the feeling. That this association comes about is due to the fact that the I unites ideation (thinking,) feeling and willing into a harmonious whole, thus bringing order into the forces of our personality. This healthy harmony would be broken if the I were to show itself powerless in the matter — if desire, for example, were to branch off in another direction than feeling or thinking. If someone thought that a particular course was right, and yet his will were set on following another course — one that did not comment itself to him — his soul would certainly not be in a healthy condition. The same could be said of a person who was bent on having, not what he liked, but rather what he disliked.

The pupil will, however, find that on the way to the attainment of higher powers of cognition, thinking, feeling and willing do definitely separate one from another, each of them assuming a kind of independent existence. A thought, for instance, will not now of its own accord stir up a particular feeling and evoke a particular volition. The situation will be that while in our thinking we can perceive a thing objectively and truly, yet before we can have any feeling about it or come to any resolve in the matter, we shall need to develop within us a distinct and independent impulse. While engaged in supersensible observation, our thinking, feeling and willing do not continue to simply three powers of the soul raying out, as if were, from the I, as a single center of our personality; they become independent beings. It is as though they were three separate personalities. The implication is that our I or Ego needs to be made all the stronger, for it has no longer merely to ensure that order reigns among three faculties of soul; it has to guide and lead three beings. This partition into three distinct beings must, however, only be allowed to subsist during the time of supersensible observation. Here again we see how important it is to include among the exercises for more advanced training those that give stability and firmness to the faculty of thoughtful judgment, to the feeling life and to the life of will. For if we fail to bring with us into the higher world the necessary stability and firmness of soul, then we shall very soon find how weak the I will prove itself to be — not fit guide for the thinking, feeling and willing! Should such weakness manifest in the I, it will be as though the soul were being pulled in different ways by distinct personalities; its inner integrity will inevitably be destroyed. If, however, development has taken its right course, the change will signify a genuine advance. The Ego does not lose control but remains in command even of the independent beings that now constitute the soul.

As development proceeds, a further step is taken. The thinking that has become independent evokes a fourth being of soul and spirit, a being that may be described as a direct inpouring of spiritual streams that are of the nature of Thought. The whole Universe now confronts the human being as a mighty edifice of Thought even as the plant or animal world confronts him in the realm of the physical senses; he beholds it before him like a mighty edifice built of thought. The Feeling too and the Will, that have become independent, evoke powers in the soul which become active there as independent beings. And there appears in addition yet a seventh power, a seventh entity which bears resemblance to one's own I — to the I as such.

With this whole experience another is united. Before reaching the supersensible world man wads familiar with thinking, feeling and willing purely as inner experiences of the soul. No sooner has he entered the supersensible world than he begins to perceive things that are the expression, not of anything physical, but of soul and spirit. Underlying what he is able to perceive in the new world are beings of soul and spirit. These beings present themselves to him as an external spiritual world, just as stones and plants and animals present themselves to the senses in the physical world. The pupil can however perceive a significant difference between the world of soul and spirit that is now unfolding before him and the world he has been accustomed to observe with the help of the physical senses. A plant in the latter remains as it is, whatever man may feel or think about it. It is not so with the pictures of the soul-and-spirit world. These change according as man has this or that thought or feeling towards them. Man himself stamps them in this way with a character that is derived from his own being. Suppose a certain picture appears before him in the Imaginative world. To begin with, he may perhaps be quite indifferent to it; in that case, it will manifest in a certain form. But the moment he begins to feel pleased with it or to take a dislike to it, it will change its form. This is what is so striking about the pictures of the supersensible world: they are not only the expression of something outside of man and independent of him, they also reflect what the man is himself. They are, in fact, thoroughly permeated with his being. His being overlays them as with a veil. And what man sees when he is faced with a real spiritual being, is not that being at all, but something he himself has produced. He may thus have before him something true in itself, yet what he sees may still be false. Nor is it only what he is ware of in himself that works in this way; there is nothing in him that does not leave its mark on the Imaginative world. Someone may, for instance, have deeply hidden inclinations, held in check by dint of education or force of character; they will nevertheless be making their impression on the world of soul and spirit. That world receives its coloring according to the entire being of the man, irrespective of how much or how little he himself may know of his own nature and character.

If the pupil is to be capable of going forward from this stage of development, he must learn to make a clear distinction between himself and the surrounding spiritual world. To this end he has to learn to put a stop to any kind of influence that he himself might exert upon the world of soul and spirit that is around him. The only way to ensure this is to be fully cognizant of what it is that he is taking with him into the new world. In other words, it is a matter of acquiring, first and foremost, genuine and searching self-knowledge. Once he has that, he will be able to see with clear, unclouded vision that world of soul and spirit by which he is surrounded. Now thanks to certain facts in the whole development of man, self-knowledge of this kind cannot but arise — as it were, quite naturally — when a man enter the higher world. In the everyday physical world man develops, as we know, his I or Ego, his consciousness of self; and this his I acts as a center of attraction for his whole personality. All his inclinations, his sympathies and antipathies, his passions and propensities, his views and opinions group themselves around his Ego. A man's Ego too is the center of attraction for what we call his Karma. If we were able to see this our Ego naked and undisguised, we would at the same time be perceiving that we have yet to undergo such and such strokes of destiny in our present and future incarnations, owing to the way we lived and the tendencies we acquired in past incarnations. Therefore this Ego, with all its encumbrances, must necessarily be the first picture that confronts the human soul on ascending into the world of soul and spirit. According to a certain law of the spiritual world, this — the man's “Double” — is bound to be the very first impression man receives on entering the spiritual world.

We can well understand the law when we reflect how in his life on the physical plane man perceives himself only in so far as he experiences himself in thinking, feeling and willing. In other words, he perceives himself only from within; his “self” does not confront him from without, as do the stones and plants and animals. Moreover, the knowledge he thus gains of himself is very partial and incomplete.

For there is that in human nature which hinders him from attaining deeper self-knowledge. It is the urge, wherever dawning self-knowledge compels him to admit some imperfection in his character, and he does not want to deceive himself about it — the urge to set to work to alter the unpleasant trait.

If he is not obedient to the urge, but turns his attention away from himself and remains as he is, then it need hardly be said that he robs himself of the possibility of attaining self-knowledge in that direction. If on the other hand he examines himself intently and, refusing to give way to self-deception, boldly faces the trait he has observed in his own character, then either he will find he can improve it, or it may be that — such as he is at present — he is unable to do so. In the latter instance, a feeling will steal over him that one can only call a kind of shame. This is, in fact, how healthy human nature works: self-knowledge gives rise to a sense of shame — a feeling that may show itself in many ways. Now as we know, in everyday life the sense of shame has a particular effect upon us. A man of healthy feeling will take care that those aspects of his character which make him eel ashamed shall not take effect in the world at large — shall not find expression in his deeds. Shame is thus a power that impels man to shut something up inside him and not allow it to be seen.

Thinking this over carefully, we shall have little difficulty in understanding that spiritual science ascribes even more far-reaching effects to an experience of the soul that is very nearly akin to the familiar one of a sense of shame. Spiritual research discovers in the depths of the human soul a kind of hidden sense of shame of which in physical life man is unconscious. This hidden feeling is none the less active in the soul. It works there in much the same way as does the sense of shame of which a man is normally conscious. It prevents his having before him in a clearly perceptible picture his real and inmost being. If this feeling were not there, man would see displayed before him what he is in very truth. He would no longer experience his thoughts and ideas, his feelings and his will in a merely inward way, but would perceive them even as he perceives the stones and animals and plants. Thus does a hidden sense of shame conceal man from himself. Nor is that all; it hides from him at the same time the entire soul-and-spirit world. For since his own inner being is hidden from him, he cannot get sight of that domain within him where he should now be endeavoring to develop the organs that will enable him to attain knowledge of the world of soul and spirit. He misses the opportunity of so transforming his inner being that it may acquire organs of spiritual perception.

When however in the pursuit of a right spiritual training man labors to promote the development within him of these organs of perception, the very first impression that confronts him is his own self. He perceives what he truly is, he perceives his Double. This perception of oneself is inseparable from perception of the world of soul and spirit. In ordinary life in the physical world, the hidden sense of shame is continually shutting for man the door into the world of soul and spirit. Is he about to take one step into that world, at once an unconscious sense of shame comes in the way and hides from him that corner of the soul-and-spirit world which was on the point of coming into view. The exercises, however, that have been described open the way to yonder world. In effect, the sense of shame which he bears hidden within him is a great benefactor to man. For the measure of intelligent discrimination and of right feeling and strength of character we can acquire in ordinary lie without special training will not suffice us when we have to face our very inmost being in its true form. We would not be able to endure it; we would lose our self-confidence, we would even lose all consciousness of self. That this may not happen, we have yet again to have recourse to those precautionary measures that need to be taken alongside of the exercises for the attainment of higher powers of cognition — namely the special exercises for the cultivation of sound judgment, good feeling and strength of character. In the course of a right and healthy spiritual training, the pupil learns incidentally enough of the truths of spiritual science and also of the measure he requires to take in order to attain self-knowledge and self-observation, for him to be able to face his own Double with courage and with strength. What it will mean for him then is simply that he sees in another form, as a picture belonging to the world of Imagination, what he has already made acquaintance with here in the physical world. If in the physical world we have grasped the law of Karma with our understanding, we shall have no occasion to be horror-struck when we behold the seeds of our future destiny visibly before us in the picture of our Double. If we have made an intelligent study of the evolution of the world and of man, and have learned how at a particular moment in this evolution the forces of Lucifer penetrated into the human soul, we shall not be unduly disturbed when we become conscious of the presence, in the picture of our own being, of the Luciferic beings and their activities.

We can however see from this how necessary it is that man should not demand entry into the spiritual world until he has learned and understood certain essential truths of that world by the simple exercise of his everyday intelligence, developed in the physical world. If spiritual development follows the right and normal path, then before he aspires to enter the supersensible world the pupil will already have mastered with his ordinary intelligence the whole of the earlier contents of this book.

In a training where care is not taken to develop in the pupil certainty and stability in his powers of judgment and discrimination as well as in his emotions and his moral character, it may happen that the higher world presents itself to him before he has the inner faculties with which to fact it. The encounter with his Double, will in that event cause him great distress and lead him astray. If on the other hand — as would also be possible — he were completely to elude the meeting with the Double, he would still be just as incapable of coming to any true knowledge of the higher world. For he would then be unable to distinguish between what the things around him really are and what he himself is seeing into them. To be able to do this, he must first have seen the distinct picture of his own being; then he can separate and distinguish from his environment whatever has flowed over into it from his own inner life.

As far as his life in the physical world is concerned, the moment man begins to draw near to the world of soul and spirit, the Double immediately makes himself invisible and therewith also conceals from him the whole soul-and-spirit world. The Double stands in front of it like a Guardian, forbidding entrance to those who are not yet competent to enter. He may therefore rightly be called “The Guardian of the Threshold of the World of Soul and Spirit.”

Besides meeting with him when approaching the supersensible world by the method that has been described, man also meets this Guardian of the Threshold when he passes through physical death. And in the course of the time between death and a new birth, while man's soul and spirit are undergoing development, the Guardian progressively reveals himself to him. There, however, the encounter cannot disquiet man unduly, since he now has knowledge of the higher worlds which between birth and death were not within his ken.

Were man to enter the world of soul and spirit without encountering the Guardian of the Threshold, he would be liable to succumb to one delusion after another. For he would never be able to distinguish between what he himself brings into that world and what rightly belongs to it. A sound and proper training, however should lead the pupil only into the realm of truth, never into the realm of illusion. The training itself should ensure that the meeting with the Guardian will follow as a necessary consequence. For this meeting with his Double is one of the testing experiences that are indispensable to the pupil aspiring to conscious perception in supersensible worlds, and that protect him from the possibility of illusion or false fantasy.

It is of urgent importance that every pupil of the Spirit should take himself in hand and see to it that he does not become a visionary and a dreamer, for then he would all too easily fall a victim to delusion and self-deception (suggestion and auto-suggestion.) Where the instructions for training are faithfully carried out, the very sources of delusion are destroyed in the process. It is naturally not possible to enter here in detail into all the steps that have to be taken by the pupil in this connection. We can only indicate wherein their main import lies.

There are two chief sources for delusions of this kind. They may, in the first place, be due to the fact that reality receives a coloring from the nature an disposition of the pupil himself. In ordinary life in the physical world there is comparatively little danger of delusion arising from such a source; the external world impresses its true form upon the observer in all distinctness, however, much he would like to color it in conformity with his own wishes and interests. No sooner, however, does he enter the world of Imagination that its pictures change under the influence of these desires and interests of his, and he has then before him, giving every appearance of reality, what are in effect merely his own creations, or forms that he has at least helped to create. But in meeting the Guardian of the Threshold the pupil learns to know what he has within him; thus he knows well what he may be bringing with him into the world of soul and spirit, and so this first source of delusion is eliminated. Thanks to the preparation he undergoes before entering the world of soul and spirit, the pupil has already grown accustomed to eliminate self in his observation of the physical world and to let its objects and events speak to him purely by virtue of their own inherent nature. If the preparation has been sufficiently thorough, he can await unperturbed the meeting with the Guardian. This meeting will put him to the final test as to whether, when he confronts the world of soul and spirit, he will be able there too to eliminate himself.

Besides this, there is another source of delusion. It shows itself when we interpret incorrectly some impression we receive. A simple example of this in everyday life is the illusion we fall into when we are sitting in a train and think that the trees are moving in the opposite direction to that of the train, whereas it is really we ourselves who are moving with the train. There are of course countless instances where an illusion of this nature is more difficult to dispel than in the simple example of the moving train; nevertheless it will easily be seen that in the physical world ways and means can always be found of correcting such illusion, if with sound judgment we avail ourselves of every circumstance that can serve to make the matter clear. No sooner, however, have we penetrated into supersensible realms than we find a different state of affairs. In the world of the senses the facts are not altered by our misconception of them; thus the way is left open for unprejudiced observation to correct the delusion by reference to the facts. In the supersensible world this cannot so easily be done. Suppose we are wanting to observe some supersensible fact, and as we approach it we come to a wrong conclusion about its nature. The correct conception we have formed, this we now carry into the fact itself, and it becomes so closely interwoven with the latter that the one cannot readily be distinguished from the other. What we then have is not the mistake within ourselves, and the true fact in the object observed; the mistake has been incorporated in the outer fact — has become part of it. It is therefore no longer possible simply to correct the illusion by looking at the fact again with open mind.

We have here been describing an all too frequent source of deception and false fantasy for one who approaches the supersensible world without due preparation.

Yet even as the pupil becomes able to rid himself of delusions that arise from the phenomena of the supersensible world being colored by his own character and inclinations, so must he now also find the way to render powerless this second source of delusion. He is able to obliterate what comes from himself if he has first made acquaintance with his own Double; he will be able to get rid of this second source of delusion when he has learned to recognize from its very nature and character whether a fact of the supersensible world is reality or mere delusion. If delusions looked exactly like realities, there would naturally be no possibility of distinguishing them. But it is not so. In the supersensible world delusions have properties peculiar to themselves by which they can be distinguished from realities. And it is important for the pupil to know what are the properties by which he may recognize realities. One who is unacquainted with spiritual training will very naturally doubt the possibility of ever being safe from delusion, when the sources of it are so numerous. How, he will say, is any pupil of the Spirit ever to be sure that all the higher knowledge he imagines himself to have gained does not rest on delusion and self-delusion? The one who argues in this way has failed to observe that in every genuine spiritual training the sources of delusion are dispelled — dried up as it were, through the whole way the training proceeds.

In the first place, the genuine pupil of the Spirit will in the course of his preparation have learned a great deal about all the things that can give rise to illusion and self-deception, and will thus be one his guard against them. In this respect he has far more opportunity than his fellow-men of learning to lead his life with calm detachment and sound judgment. All that he learns and experiences is calculated to save him from having anything to do with vague premonitions and uncontrolled fancies. His training makes him very careful. Moreover, every right and true training introduces the pupil from the start to grand and sublime conceptions, teaching him of events in the great Universe; he has to put forth his best powers of discernment to grasp the great cosmic facts, and will find these his powers growing ever finer and keener in the process. Only one who shrinks from venturing into realms so remote, preferring to cling to “revelations” that are nearer home, will be in danger of missing that sharpening of his mental faculties which can ensure for him the ability to distinguish clearly between deception and reality.

With all this, however, we have not yet touched on the most important factor of all — namely, what is latent in the exercises themselves. The exercises that belong to a right and proper spiritual training have necessarily to be so regulated and arranged that the pupil, while engaged in meditation, is fully conscious of all that is taking place in his soul. As he sets out on the road to Imagination, he forms, to begin with, a symbolic picture. In this picture are still contained mental images that owe their origin to what he has perceived in the outer world. He is not the sole creator of the picture; something besides himself has shared in the creation of its content. This means that he may still be under an illusion as to how the content of the picture has come about; he may ascribe it to a mistaken source. When the pupil progresses further and embarks on exercises for Inspiration, he banishes this content from consciousness and gives himself up entirely to the contemplation of his own activity of soul, which formed the picture. Here again, error may still creep in. For the particular character of his soul's activity he is indebted to his education — in the widest sense of the word. It is impossible for him to be fully informed of its origin. But now there comes the time when even the pupil's own activity of soul has to be expelled from consciousness. If there is still anything left, this remaining content is fully exposed to view. Nothing can intrude here that cannot be perceived and appraised in all its parts and aspects. The pupil has in his Intuition something that reveals to him the essential character of pure reality in the world of soul and spirit. From now onward, in everything that enters his field of observation he can look for what he has learned to recognize as the characteristic marks of soul-and spirit reality, and will thus be able to discern between what is real and what is only apparent. And he can be assured that in applying this test he will be just as safe from the risk of delusion in the supersensible world as in the physical world — where it would be quite impossible for him to mistake an imaginary bar of hot iron for one that could really burn him.

It will of course be understood that the pupil can have this relation only to facts of the supersensible worlds that he has seen for himself — that have thus become for him a matter of actual experience — and not to those communicated by others, which he comprehends with his ordinary powers of understanding, aided by a natural and healthy feeling for the truth. He will indeed be at pains to draw a sharp dividing line between the spiritual knowledge he has acquired in the one and in the other way. He will be ready and willing to receive communications about the higher worlds and will summon up his beset powers of judgment to comprehend them. On the other hand, when he describes something as the fruit of his own experience and spiritual observation, he will always first have tested whether it showed itself to him with the qualities he has learned to recognize in a genuine Intuition.

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