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How Can We Gain Knowledge of the Supersensible Worlds?

How Can We Gain Knowledge of the Supersensible Worlds?

A Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Single Lecture

The lecture presented here was given in Dornach on March 9, 1913, and has not been assigned a GA Number. The only known publication of this lecture is in this Anthroposophic News Sheet, and now, on-line at the Rudolf Steiner Archive. The translator is unknown.

A lecture by
Rudolf Steiner
Dornach, March 9, 1913
GA Unknown

The lecture presented here was given in Dornach on March 9, 1913, and has not been assigned a GA Number. The only known publication of this lecture is in this Anthroposophic News Sheet, and now, on-line at the Rudolf Steiner Archive. The translator is unknown.

This English edition is published in agreement with, and the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

Copyright © 1944
This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
The General Anthroposophical Society
Dornach, Switzerland
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Anthroposophic News Sheet


PUBLISHED BY THE GENERAL ANTHROPOSOPHIC SOCIETY, DORNACH, SWITZERLAND
FOR MEMBERS ONLY


16th vol. No. 7/8 22nd of February, 1948.


All subscriptions, communications, notices, advertisements, etc. should be addressed to Miss DORA BAKER,
“Anthroposophic News Sheet” Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland.
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Copyright and all other Rights of reproduction and translation reserved by General Anthroposophic Society, Dornach, Switzerland. Responsibility for the contents of the articles in the “Anthroposophic News Sheet” attaches only to the writers.




HOW CAN WE GAIN KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUPERSENSIBLE WORLDS?

Lecture by Dr. Rudolf Steiner

9 March, 1913

[From stenographic notes unrevised by the lecturer.]

The subject of today's lecture sets out from a question which is often asked by people who have perhaps heard superficially of spiritual science and spiritual investigation, for led by the conceptions and habits of thought ruling in the present time, they cannot think how it is possible to draw knowledge from the super-sensible worlds.

We have frequently emphasized that a person standing upon the foundation of spiritual research can best of all understand the objections raised from an external standpoint. Indeed one can say that if the conceptions advanced by a spiritual investigator were to meet the approval of wider circles, this would be far more surprising than if they were to give rise to the greatest possible opposition … for they must give rise to antagonism! This fact is explained by the whole of today's civilization and by the whole development of the external economic life during past centuries. Moreover, we have frequently emphasized that spiritual science always fully recognizes the results achieved for the whole of civilization by natural science, and the natural-scientific mentality depends on the fact that the Spirit of the Time has — if we may use this expression — turned away for a while from the spiritual world. (In the course of human evolution “a while” is long and may last for centuries!) This is evident through the fact that it is the physical world which induces people to think, so that they adopt a mentality which is not accustomed to the contemplation of the spiritual world. But this is not the only reason which induces people to oppose spiritual science; this antagonism is due to other, deeper causes. The subject of today's lecture — “How can we gain Knowledge of the Supersensible Worlds?” — therefore seems very appropriate.

The very first requirement is that the human being should recognize through self-knowledge that he is a super-sensible being and be able to understand his own super-sensible nature. But there are many things in the psychic life of modern man connected with the cultural achievements of the present time, and of humanity as a whole, which are a serious handicap to real self-knowledge.

In regard to his soul, the human being is never alone with it, yet he should be able to face his soul in complete solitude if he really wishes to understand its innermost being. Consciously, he is never quite alone with his soul. Yet there is a kind of solitude which arises when the human being passes over to that condition in which he does not use his external limbs but leaves them to the earth's force of gravity, and when he commands his memory and his intellect bound up with the senses to stand still. This is the case every day, when he falls asleep. The objection raised against the spiritual-scientific statement or truth that when the human being is asleep his bodily organization does not reveal anything that might explain the processes surging up and down within his soul until he wakes up again — that the bodily processes do not in any way explain what takes place in the soul during sleep — this will be unreservedly recognized by natural science in a comparatively short time. Natural science will admit that the soul's content dives down into the bodily organization at the moment of waking up, in the same way in which the air which we inhale becomes a part of our own body. And the same thing can be said of the moment in which we fall asleep, when the soul's content abandons the body. From the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking up, we therefore confront a being which is severed from the bodily structure and which does not offer us any instruments enabling us to observe this fact.

We can therefore say that the sleeping soul is in a certain sense isolated; that is to say, it is not connected with the external world through the intellect, the senses, and memory, as is the human being when he is awake. But in normal life, we lose consciousness when we fall asleep, and we must therefore say that in this isolated state of the soul the human being is not able to observe the soul that inhabits his body. It is this circumstance which renders a real self-knowledge impossible to ordinary people.

But the following question can be raised: Is it nevertheless possible to attain to real self-knowledge?

It will be of help to consider another condition of the soul. The fact which will now be advanced is not meant as an analogy, but as an aid enabling us to envisage the reality of the soul's condition between sleeping and waking. It is not an analogy, but an explanation pointing to the real facts. This is the SOUL CONDITION OF THE SEASONS OF THE YEAR.

In the Spring the vegetable world springs up, the uplifting world of Nature filling us with joy. In the Spring we see the plants springing up, in the summer we see them growing and flourishing, in the autumn we see them fade way (with the exception of evergreen plants) and in the winter Nature takes them back into her bosom, so that their growth and development cannot be perceived.

Let us now suppose that with the coming of Spring the human being were able to obtain another state of consciousness; his consciousness would be dulled, and as summer advances it would grow more unconscious — only when Nature begins to fade and to decay he would wake up again. Human consciousness would therefore be slumbering on that part of the earth where summer holds sway, but in that case the human being would never gain knowledge of the germinating, flowering plants round about him. The plants which cover the earth during the summer would remain an unknown world to a person or a being endowed with human qualities, a world which his senses could not perceive, a super-sensible world.

Now we have something in human life which really corresponds to this. Those who penetrate more deeply into things will not look upon it as a mere analogy, but as a reality — the reality which thus confronts us in the WHOLE NATURE OF THE HUMAN BEING.

What is the sleeping human being that can be physically perceived by our senses? Though outwardly and substantially he may differ from a plant, he is inwardly of the same value as a plant, for a plant's development attains the stage of life, but not that of consciousness, not even the consciousness of animals. Sleeping man therefore resembles a plant, but under different life conditions.

In regard to certain forces which influence the human being, he appears to us, in his plant-like condition of sleep, similar to the earth during summer, when the sun with its forces of heat and of light draws the plants out of the soil. We know that we fall asleep when our strength is worn out by the day's work. We also know that sleep restores our worn-out strength by drawing forces out of the depths of life.

The same process takes place in the cosmos. If we discard old habits of thinking, we gradually learn to know that sleep is in the real meaning of the word, and not analogously, the SOUL'S SUMMERTIME.

From the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking up, we pass through the soul's summer.

But when we are awake, the day's work, and particularly our efforts of thought and the soul forces expended on thought, demolish the plant-like processes. Does not man's waking condition resemble autumn and winter which obliterate from the surface of the earth the plants which the summer produced? Our waking hours are the soul's winter season. This is not an analogy. It is easy to maintain the external analogy so as to discover certain similarities, but this would be a superficial way of considering things. We must look upon things from within, in an intimate way.

If we wish to observe ourselves, we cannot find the same access to our being during the soul's summer season as during its winter season, but we lose ourselves as the summertime advances. For if we could observe what forces are at work in order to produce a germinating, growing life, we would really have to grow unconscious. In fact, we are not able to observe the soul; we seem to lose our consciousness in spring and regain it only in the autumn.

We can therefore say that self-knowledge is only possible if the hidden side of man's being can be revealed.

Let us now consider the characteristics of the soul's wintertime; that is to say, of the waking condition. During our waking condition, the soul is filled with emotions, resolutions, thoughts, ideals, and so forth. If we survey all this, we must say that we experience it only in part. For let us only take human thought outside the whole compass of human soul life: How does the human being experience the soul's wintertime, if he wishes to fulfill his tasks in the external physical world? He is interested in his world of thoughts, in everything which he obtains through thinking, only to the extent of asking: What external realities do thoughts reflect? What value should be attributed to thoughts, as images of reality? This constitutes, to begin with, his chief interest.

The whole life of the soul is directed towards this chief interest: to develop THIS side of the soul. Other things have far less importance in the so-called normal life. Can one, however, not attribute to thoughts another value than that which consists in merely reflecting something like a picture in the mirror? Those who only wish to attribute this one-sided value to thought (and most people do), are in the same position of an artist who only sees what his work of art is to represent. Yet in the production of a work of art something quite different takes place than a mere representation: something takes place within the soul. Art could not play such an important part in the development of humanity if it did not constantly bear the soul along the path of progress, if it were not a seed which takes root in the soul, thus enabling it to have new experiences and changing it into something quite different from what it was before it looked upon the work of art.

The soul does not advance by a one-sided pedagogical, pedantic contemplation of works of art, but by recognizing the laws of human development which are contained in art. Those who only recognize the validity of thought in regard to things which it mirrors and represents, resemble people who only look upon a work of art from the aspect of what it sets forth. The human soul is accustomed to look upon thought as a mere representation. The value of truth is determined by the value of reality grasped by thought. Thoughts which do not aim at this are generally rejected. Philosophy, for instance, has a right to adopt this attitude; but let us ask whether such concepts really grasp reality, whether they refer to something real.

There is another way of looking upon thought: it can be measured in accordance with its value as an inner means of self-education. There are thoughts which do not reproduce an external reality, but they are able to advance the soul inwardly. Thoughts of this kind should be taken into consideration when the soul really sets out upon the path of self-knowledge.

We have frequently explained that when we immerse ourselves in thoughts which do not represent an external reality, we may designate them as MEDITATION, CONCENTRATION, or CONTEMPLATION. What does this mean? That we call into being a soul condition which resembles that of sleep. It means that the soul does not use its external members, is not incited by the senses, but by a strong will power, by — one might say — a negative attention which rejects the experiences brought by the normal daytime consciousness. This is a condition which is radically different from that of sleep, because the soul remains fully conscious of itself and is filled by a definite thought, and when the soul is thus immersed in this thought, fully concentrated upon it, it is immersed in concentration or contemplation.

It is not easy to produce this condition; careful and systematic exercises are needed for it. But it kindles in the soul the light of an entirely new life. When this condition has reached the stage of maturity, the soul feels that dormant forces awaken within it. For this reason the thought itself is not the essential thing in meditation, but the essential thing is to practice CONCENTRATION, to concentrate fully upon this thought. This is the same as training the muscles by physical exercises; they develop by physical training. In the case of the ordinary forces of the soul, thought training exercises are of no importance, for new forces have to be drawn out of the soul's depths, forces which render the soul stronger and more elastic; for instance, that part of the soul has to be drawn out which only re-echoes faintly in our ordinary waking life. Consequently the CONTENT of thought is not the essential thing; the essential thing is that the soul should be ACTIVE, that through this activity it should call into life forces which exist in ordinary life, but in a dormant state. This training shows us that the soul can also exist independently without having to rely on the physical body; a condition arises which resembles that of sleep, though it is radically different from sleep.

Why is sleep an unconscious state during our ordinary life? Because the soul's inner life is so weak and concealed that we cannot perceive it. But when these forces awaken, the soul can become aware of itself even when it is not dependent on the body.

We now experience that the soul is really able to face its summer season consciously. The content of our thoughts is now experienced in an entirely different way. In the ordinary course of the day, our thoughts are like grains of corn which the farmer gathers on the field. If they are used as nourishment, they only reach a certain stage of development. But when they are gathered, they do not differ from the grains which are to be used as seed. Thus the ordinary thoughts which we experience during the soul's winter form the soul's spiritual content. They fill the soul, they are like the grains of corn which are used as nourishment. But the thoughts which form the subject of meditation and concentration resemble the grains of corn which are used as seed; dormant forces are drawn out of them, which germinate and grow.

Ordinarily we only learn to know one side of the influence of thought. But through meditation and concentration our thoughts take root in the life of the soul, and their activity changes, for they begin to germinate and grow. We now experience consciously things which we otherwise experience unconsciously during the soul's summertime; a new world arises, the so-called imaginative world. The fruit of our efforts now rises up before the soul and the soul's summer is raised into consciousness, so that we live through it differently than during our normal life, for the experiences which normally glide down into unconsciousness now begin to germinate and grow just as if plants were to grow out of single grains of corn during the winter.

We must learn to know this other aspect of our being which reveals the soul in its fruitfulness, in its greening, sprouting life. Thought will otherwise maintain the character of a mere representation, but it begins to germinate and grow if we do not treat it as a mere image, if we look upon it as a seed which can germinate.

Self-knowledge then enables us to call up in our consciousness the soul's summertime.

Even as we first assumed that springtime dulls the consciousness and that a new world arises during the summer, so the soul is now able to survey a new world, which it did not know before. A world, which otherwise would remain concealed, grows out of the soul's living foundation if we do not remain standing halfway, but use our thoughts as seeds. Meditation, concentration and contemplation simply imply that our thoughts and feelings (for this is also possible through feeling) are able to develop forces which otherwise remain dormant and unknown; that is to say, a new world rises up before us.

Many things work against us if we incessantly strive to produce this world. It is a requirement of human nature that when we enter the summer time of the soul, we must above all maintain within the soul a certain winter constitution if we wish to be capable human beings in life and in ordinary science. This is a necessity in external life, for otherwise we cannot be capable human beings. We should also have confidence in our thinking, for we cannot find our way in the world unless confidence is our starting point; that is to say, unless we confidently believe that we can be guided by our thinking and can trust in the guidance of our thought. Imagine what consequences would arise if there were worlds in which we could not rely upon our thinking! This would shatter us; it would deprive us of every capacity. Human beings must be able to rely on thought; they must have this belief in thought … no matter where they may land with it.

Everything has its light and dark side. But where we need light, we do not take into consideration the shadows. We train our thought in the sensory world; the physical world is our teacher. It is not the physical world which teaches us to rely on thought in itself; from the physical world we learn to rely on a kind of thinking which finds its support in the external sensory world. From the very outset, we are thus not accustomed to look upon thought as an instrument which is able to lead us in every sphere of life. And we lose our confidence; we begin to feel uncertain whenever we come across something which does not approach us in the customary way.

It is this which induces people to take up a negative attitude towards spiritual science. We can understand this, and, as stated, no objection can be raised against it; on the contrary, our contemporaries are quite helpless. But the true cause of their attitude is the fact that their thought has been trained by observing the physical world. In regard to spiritual science, it is as if they were to enter a world which is not the physical world, but with capacities acquired by living in the physical world which trains external thought. This explains the attitude towards realms which are different from those which can be grasped by ordinary external thought. When people are confronted by the super-sensible worlds, they feel that their confidence in thought is imperiled.

There is another thing which characterizes the soul's winter, or the ordinary waking condition. We know that the habits of thinking during the past centuries gave rise to materialism, or — to use a nobler term, which is, however, a mistaken designation — monism. This world conception can, however, only be applied to the external world, to the external aspects of life. Spiritual science shows us that the spirit lives behind everything, and if one penetrates into external things one can discover the spirit everywhere.

If the soul has passed through a conscientious training, as explained above, a point is reached where we pass through extraordinary soul experiences, which show us why we come to materialism, monism, and so forth. When we feel a new world springing up within us (as described in my book KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS), a certain moment arises in which the soul has the same feeling towards this new world as towards the physical world. This means that when we observe things in the super-sensible world, we should develop the capacity to turn our attention towards them in full freedom and then to turn our gaze away from them just as freely.

Imagine what it would be like if we were not able to turn our gaze away at will from the objects of the physical world, if they fascinated us to such an extent that we could not look away even if we wished. This would be the situation of a soul who could not turn away from the things which rise up before it as a result of exercises or through its own faculties.

In the super-sensible world, however, we cannot turn our gaze away from the objects in the same way in which we turn away from things in the physical world. This does not suffice. It should be remembered that the spiritual investigator must be able to obliterate and cancel every new soul content which he produces. In the spiritual world this is the same as turning away our gaze from the physical objects in the physical world.

This is the radical difference between the spiritual investigator and people who have hallucinations, visions and fixed ideas, which they obstinately consider to be objective realities. A spiritual investigator cannot admit such things. He must be aware of the fact that he is only conjuring up shadow images and that he must blot them out again from his spiritual vision. The capacity to obliterate such images pertains to a definite stage of development. One can see how greedily the soul clings to its fixed ideas and images and to blot them out is one of the most difficult things of all!

Why? — Because not only the forces already described develop and grow, but also other forces which normally are quite weak. There is ONE force in particular which grows with the development of the other one; namely, SELFISHNESS, the self-love which exists in ordinary life. It grows like a force of Nature. In ordinary life our moral forces can overcome selfishness, but they cannot overcome forces of Nature, such as thunder or lightning! This increased self-love or selfishness appears within the soul as if it were a force of Nature, an elemental force. The soul development leading to spiritual investigation must consequently bring with it also the capacity to overcome this enhanced selfishness, which lives within the soul like a force of Nature that fetters the soul. The soul's ordinary forces do not suffice for this; they cannot overcome it.

At this point we come across a deeply stirring phenomenon, which appears from the very outset. It may take on various forms, but it is justified to designate it as the APPROACH TO THE THRESHOLD OF DEATH. We feel as if that part which we call our Ego or the soul were torn away from us as if by lightning, taken away from us. Everything which formerly appeared to be connected with us now seems to be severed from us. Our own self appears like a Being outside; we face it in the same way in which we confront an object of the external world.

Though it is easy to describe this in words, it is one of the most stirring experiences which we can have. The ground under our feet seems to vanish. Everything which constituted our thoughts and feelings is surrendered, given up. But if we succeed in remaining steadfast, we shall be borne over a kind of abyss. This experience awakens a feeling which lived in us in a dormant state and which must now rise to the surface: it is the FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN.

The spiritual world is always present, but we do not know it, and at this moment we confront it as if it were a void. This gives rise to a feeling of fear. But if we proceed regularly along the spiritual path, we should not think that we are in any way endangered by this experience. It forms part of self-education, for we must acquire the strength to bear the sight of the spiritual world — we develop the strength and steadfastness enabling us to bear its sight. In ordinary life we are protected against it and we speak of a GUARDIAN OF THE THRESHOLD.

The fact that ordinarily we are not conscious of such things does not prove that they do not exist within the soul. The soul is a twofold being: within its depths it often presents an entirely different aspect from the one which we know. We may, for instance, hate a person and be conscious of this feeling, yet our hate may simply be the cloak of love and we daze ourselves because this love cannot come to full expression. Not only Faust, but every human being, has two souls.

A soul investigator may come across the following: In ordinary life the human being finds support and strength by checking the fear that lives in his subconsciousness. But a spiritual investigator cannot fail to see the fear which always lives in the soul's depths. He enters the spiritual world by overcoming this fear. If this fear rises to the surface without entering human consciousness, if it knocks at the door, as it were, and a person ignores it in spite of all, what takes place and what enables that person to overlook this feeling? He pushes down fear, as it were, by denying the existence of the spiritual world.

Materialists and monists are therefore afraid of the spiritual world; this fear lives in their soul's depth and their materialism dazes them, so that they do not notice it. This is a strange phenomenon; nevertheless it is true that materialism is based upon an unknown, unnamed fear. Of course, it cannot be pleasant for them to hear from a spiritual investigator that monists and materialists speak as they do because they are tormented by fear. But to a real observation this connection between materialism and fear will be clearly evident.

We learn to confront the physical world by training thought through the observation of physical things. This gives us confidence in our thinking power and we ignore our subconscious fear. But this also prevents us from entering the super-sensible world.

A twofold soul condition must therefore be developed if we wish to enter the super-sensible world: on the one hand we should rise to the state of being existing in the spiritual world and on the other hand we should be able to blot it out; that is to say, when we return to the physical world we must push into the background everything that constitutes our field of vision in the super-sensible world. For if we mix up these two worlds we become dreamers, false mystics, and so forth and can never become spiritual investigators.

Strength of soul should enable us to keep these worlds apart, but at the same time we should be able to connect physical things with super-sensible things, because the foundation of the physical world lies in the super-sensible world. This characterizes a spiritual investigator.

It is necessary, for this same reason, that a spiritual investigator should raise into his consciousness, in the soul's summer and winter time, what is normally concealed by sleep. If he fails to do this, he will at every moment fall a prey to the above-mentioned fear.

When we enter the spiritual world we do not only perceive a vague soul-spiritual element, but definite objects, facts and beings which are just as differentiated as the things pertaining to the physical world. Modern people find it so difficult to accept this. They do not forgive the spiritual investigator for seeing a spiritual reality consisting of differentiated beings.

A well-known man, such as Charles Elliot of Harvard University, once declared that he could find a spiritual element behind the physical-sensory world, but that the human being is always distinct and separate from his body. If the spiritual investigator now declares that self-training, of the kind described above, leads to the perception of DIFFERENTIATED spiritual beings that form a cosmos, people reject this. But if one were to tell Charles Elliot that whenever he sees the vegetable world or observes single plants this is nothing but Nature, Nature, and Nature, or that when he studies various substances in his laboratory these substances are “Nature, nothing but ‘Nature’,” he would come to no result whatever! People tolerate spiritual science if it limits itself to speaking of the spirit in general, but they do not tolerate it if it begins to speak of definite objects and beings pertaining to the spiritual world. But even as the physical world appears differentiated to our sensory organs, so the spiritual world has differentiated beings, even though they do not possess a physical body.

When we learn to know the spiritual world, it therefore presents a differentiated aspect. As stated, SELF EXPERIENCE OF THE SPIRITUAL WORLD is needed in order to recognize it, or even to admit its existence. The stirring experience mentioned above produces the result that everything which constitutes our Ego separates from us and that otherwise dormant forces awaken within us. Our soul-spiritual being that helps to build up our physical body and unites itself with the hereditary stream, with everything that comes to us from father and mother, separates from us, and this separation is a deeply stirring, significant experience. A new being then comes to life within us and we realize that the Being which passes through birth and death is not that part of our being which we ordinarily look upon as our own Self! We now experience that part of our being described by spiritual science, the eternal part which passes through REPEATED LIVES ON EARTH.

We now face the prospect of solving the problem of infinity in a concrete way, for without such a solution we confront an infinity extending beyond our vision. Infinity comprises single lives on earth. Insight into the super-sensible worlds and knowledge of these worlds can only be acquired along the path described above. People who think that a really satisfactory knowledge can be gained along some other path follow a wrong direction which does not lead to the stirring soul experiences described above. For they wish to acquire super-sensible truths which are really physical facts, truths pertaining to the physical world, but this does not lead them to real knowledge. One can therefore see how difficult it is for modern people to acquire a true knowledge of the super-sensible even for the best of our contemporaries. Here we can only adopt Schopenhauer's standpoint, who says that to begin with truth takes on a paradoxical form, for this has always been its lot. People now adopt the same attitude towards spiritual science as they once did towards Galileo, Giordano Bruno, and Copernicus. We must take it for granted that spiritual science necessarily encounters the same obstacles. Giordano Bruno said that the blue vault of heaven was not a boundary, as was generally believed. This made natural science progress immensely. Spiritual science is in the same situation today. There are no boundaries of birth (or conception) and death, even as the blue vault of heaven is not a boundary. Giordano Bruno, though he realized the limitations of human knowledge, showed that one can look into infinity and envisage infinite worlds in the infinite firmament. The spiritual scientist must now speak in a similar way. He sets forth truths pertaining to the super-sensible worlds. But our contemporaries find it difficult to understand such truths. They can see that the teaching of repeated lives on earth can really throw light upon human destiny, and they realize that this conception gives courage and strength, for it shows that death does not blot out the human being, but that he can find himself again in future lives on earth. Many of our contemporaries can see this. Nevertheless they expect proofs supporting this truth, proofs which must be advanced in a different way from the one described above and they reject everything which is set forth from the super-sensible aspect.

A modern writer who really tried to penetrate into the super-sensible sphere and who showed this in many of his writings, recently also occupied himself with the teaching designated as that of repeated lives on earth. This writer is Maurice Maeterlinck. Further down I will quote a passage from his book “ON DEATH.” Maeterlinck has no idea where the proofs for super-sensible truths should be sought, and so he designates this teaching as a mere belief, as mere faith.

Spiritual science, however, has nothing to do with beliefs and dogmas. The Copernican world conception can be accepted independently of any belief, because it is science. In the same way spiritual science, like Copernicanism, does not come into conflict with any faith. Yet Maeterlinck looks upon it as a belief and the teaching of repeated lives on earth is to him something which can also be found in certain religions, as Metempsychosis. Yet spiritual science speaks of something quite different! It speaks of the REPEATED LIVES ON EARTH. In his book on death Maeterlinck writes:

... “There never existed a belief more beautiful, just, pure, moral and consoling, and in a certain sense a more probable belief than theirs. Only the teaching of universal atonement and purification of all bodily and spiritual imperfections can explain every social error and all the injustice in human destinies which so often make us feel indignant. But the strength of a BELIEF does not prove its truth. Although six millions of people adhere to it, although it approaches the darkness of man's origins more than any other and is the only one which is not filled with hatred, although it is the least absurd of all religions, it should have given us what the others failed to bring: irrefragable witnesses. So far it has only given us the first shadow of a first testimony.”

In the first place, spiritual science has nothing to do with religion; it is a world conception like Copernicanism. Spiritual science is never in contrast with any religion which is rightly understood. But Maeterlinck's new book, which also deals with modern spiritual science, shows that he does not see that spiritual science comes to its results along paths which are quite different from those of ordinary external science. That is why he adopts the standpoint that spiritual science fails to supply proofs. What kind of proofs does he expect? Proofs consisting in the very things which must be cast aside when one enters the super-sensible worlds! He confronts this in the same way in which one used to confront the problem of the squaring of the circle. Until quite recently, the almost yearly attempts to transform a circle into a square covering the same surface never passed the test. The Academy in Paris showed that such attempts cannot lead to any results and that they must end in the wastepaper basket! If one day a solution can really be found, it will somehow come to the surface, but the Academicians declared that they could not waste their time in checking all the calculations presented to them in connection with the squaring of the circle, and people who still try to tackle this problem are looked upon as amateurs, because it is evidently impossible to solve it with the aid of mathematics. Consequently one must say that at the present time it is foolish to attempt to solve this problem of squaring the circle.

Spiritual science can easily show that in regard to super-sensible things people try to square the circle in another sphere! Supersensible things have to be treated in accordance with the methods described in “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds” and their demonstrations must be understood accordingly. Otherwise one chases after problems which resemble that of the squaring of the circle. One can find even today that the teaching of repeated lives on earth is “more beautiful, pure, just, and consoling,” more probable than others, and nevertheless fail to recognize it. But it is possible to grasp it if one can see that one cannot discuss it intellectually.

Supersensible facts must, of course, be investigated by a spiritual investigator, but when they have been investigated, they are accessible to the ordinary intellect. To such truths one cannot apply demonstrations which are obtained by ordinary means, but only proofs such as those required for the understanding of a painting by someone who is not a painter. The ordinary intellect can examine the facts pertaining to the spiritual world and grasp its characteristics. Under the ground there are mines and ores, which cannot exist upon the surface of the earth, under the direct influence of the sunlight. Similarly the results of spiritual investigation cannot be found with the aid of ordinary thought, or through ordinary science. For the investigation of spiritual facts we need the soul forces described above. But when the results of spiritual investigation are communicated, this is the same as sunlight penetrating into the depths of the earth and revealing the ores in all their beauty and refulgence.

The ordinary intellect can therefore grasp the results of spiritual investigation, but super-sensible facts can only be investigated by a soul that undergoes the training described above. When we thus grasp spiritual-scientific truths, we develop within the soul a FORCE which gives us inner strength and support. Fruits ripen within us, which appear as a definite way of thinking and feeling, as a definite volitional attitude towards our own self and the universe.

We have amply explained all the obstacles which the soul must overcome in order to enter the spheres where the spiritual world reveals itself in its authentic form. We must pierce the darkness and at the conclusion of this lecture we may accept the feelings which are expressed in the following words. If the soul never flags, it will finally come

Through difficult soul obstacles,
Through the chaos of spiritual darkness,
To earnest clarity,
To luminous truth.




Last Modified: 17-Oct-2017
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