[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

The Way of Initiation

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document




Highlight Words

The Way of Initiation

VII

THE HIGHER EDUCATION OF THE SOUL

If a man carries out the culture of his thoughts and feelings and emotions in the way already described in the chapters on Probation, Enlightenment, and Initiation, he then effects a change in his soul such as Nature has effected in his body. Before this training, soul and spirit are undifferentiated masses. In, such a state the clairvoyant will perceive them as interlacing clouds, rotating spirally, and having usually a dull glimmer of reddish colour or reddish-brown, or, perhaps, of reddish-yellow; but after this culture they begin to assume a brilliant yellowish-green or yellow-blue colour, and become of a regular structure, A man attains to such regularity of structure, and at the same time to the higher knowledge, when he brings into the region of his thoughts, feelings, and emotions, an order such as Nature has brought into his bodily organs, by means of which he can see, hear, digest, breathe, speak, and so forth. Gradually the student learns, as it were, to breathe, to see with the soul, and to speak and hear, with the spirit.

In the following pages only a few of the practical points pertaining to the higher education of the soul and spirit will be more fully treated. They are such as may be practically attained by anyone without additional instruction, and by means of which a further step in occult science nay be taken.

A particular kind of discipline must be patiently attempted. Every emotion of impatience produces a paralysing, nay, even a deadening, effect on the higher faculties latent within us. One must not expect immeasurable glimpses of the higher worlds to open out before one from day to day, for assuredly, as a rule, this does not occur. Content with the smallest attainment, repose and tranquillity must more and more possess the soul. It is conceivable, of course, that the learner should impatiently expect results but he will attain to nothing so long as he fails to master this impatience. Nor is it of any use to struggle against this impatience in the ordinary way, for then it will only become stronger than ever. It is thus that men deceive themselves, for in such a case it plants itself all the more deeply in the depths of the soul. It is only by repeatedly surrendering oneself to a single definite thought, and by making it absolutely one's own, that anything is really attained. One should think: “I must certainly do everything possible for the culture of soul and spirit, but I will wait tranquilly until, by higher powers, I shall be found worthy of definite illumination.” When this thought has become so powerful in a man that it is an actual trait in his character, he is treading the right path. This trait will then express itself even in external affairs. The gaze of the eye becomes tranquil; the movements of the body become sure; the resolutions defined; and all that we call nervous susceptibility gradually disappears. Rules that seem trifling and insignificant must be taken into account. For example, suppose that someone affronts us. Before this occult education, we should have directed our resentment against the wrong-doer; there would have been an uprush of anger within us. But in such a case the occult student will think to himself: “An affront of this. kind can make no difference to my worth,” and whatever must be done to meet the affront, he accomplishes with calm and composure, not with passion. To him it is not a matter of how an affront is to be borne, but without hesitation he is led to punish an affront to his own person exactly as if it had been offered to another, in which case one has the right to resent it. It must, always be remembered that the occult training is perfected not by coarse external processes, but by subtle, silent alterations in the life of thought and emotion.

Patience has an attractive, impatience a repellent, effect on the treasures of the higher knowledge. In the higher regions of being, nothing can be attained by haste and restlessness. Above all things, desire and longing must be silenced, for these are qualities of the soul before, which all higher knowledge recedes. However precious this knowledge may be accounted, one must not desire to anticipate the time of its coning. He who wishes to have it for his own sake will never attain it. Before all things it is demanded that one should be true to oneself in one's innermost soul. One must not there be deceived by anything; one must encounter, face to face and with absolute truthfulness, one's own faults, failings, and unfitness. The moment you try to excuse to yourself any one of your weaknesses, you have placed an obstacle in the way which is to lead you upward. Such obstacles can only be removed by self-illumination. There is only one way by which to get rid of our faults and weaknesses, and that is by correctly appreciating them. All that is needed lies latent in the human soul and can be evoked. It is even possible for a man to improve his understanding and his reason, if in repose he makes it clear to himself why he is weak in this respect. Self-knowledge of this kind is naturally difficult, for the temptation to deceive oneself is immeasurably great. He who is accustomed to be truthful with himself has opened the portals into a deeper insight.

All curiosity must fall away from the student. He must wean himself as much as possible from inquiries into matters of which he only wishes to know for the gratification of his personal thirst for knowledge. He must only ask himself what things will assist him in the perfection of his innermost being for the service of the general evolution. Nevertheless, his delight in knowledge, and his devotion to it must in no degree become relaxed. He must listen devoutly to all that contributes to such an end, and should seek every opportunity of doing so.

For this interior culture it is especially necessary that the desire-life should be carefully educated. One must not become wholly destitute of desire, for if we are to attain to something it is necessary that we should desire it, and a desire will always be fulfilled if a certain special force be behind it. This particular force results from a right knowledge: “Do not desire at all until you know the true conditions of any sphere.” That is one of the golden rules for the occult student. The wise man first ascertains the laws of the world, and then his desires become powers which realise themselves. Let us consider an example in which the effect is evident. There are certainly many who would like to learn from their own intuition something about their life before birth. Such a desire is altogether aimless, and leads to no result so long as the person in question has not acquired a knowledge of the laws that govern the nature of the Eternal, and a knowledge of them in their subtlest and most intimate character. But if he has actually acquired this knowledge and then wishes to pass onward, he is able to do so by his elevated and purified desire.

Moreover, it is of no use to say to oneself: “Yes, I will forthwith examine my previous life, and learn with that very aim in view.” One must rather be ready to abandon this desire, to eliminate it altogether, and learn, first of all, without considering this aim. One should cultivate devotion to what is learnt without regard to such an end. It is only then that one begins to possess the desire which we are considering, in such a way that it leads to its own fulfilment.

If one is angry or vexed, a wall arises in the spiritual world, and those forces which would open the eyes of the soul are shut away. For example, if someone should annoy me, he sends forth a current into the world of the soul. So long as one is capable of annoyance, one cannot see this current. One's own annoyance clouds it. But neither must it be supposed that when one feels annoyed no longer, one will see an astral vision. For this it is indispensable that the eye of the soul should be already developed; but the capacity for sight of this kind is latent in everyone. It is true that so long as one is capable of being annoyed it remains inoperative; but at the same time it is not immediately present as soon as one has overcome to a small extent this feeling of annoyance. One must continue to persevere in the struggle with such a feeling, and patiently make progress: then, some day, one will find that this eye of the soul has become developed. Of course annoyance is not the only quality with which we have to struggle before attaining this end. Many people grow impatient or sceptical, because they have for years combated certain qualities of the soul and yet clairvoyance has not ensued. They have only developed some qualities and have allowed others to run wild. The gift of clairvoyance first manifests itself when all those qualities which do not permit the development of the latent faculties are suppressed. Undoubtedly the beginnings of such hearing and seeing may appear at an earlier period, but these are only young and tender shoots which are subject to all possible error, and which, if they be not carefully fostered, may quickly die off.

To the qualities which, like anger and vexation, have to be combated, belong such as ambition, timidity, curiosity, superstition, conceit, the disease of prejudice, a needless love of gossip, and the making of distinctions in regard to human beings according to the merely outward marks of rank, sex, race, and so forth. In our time it is difficult for people to comprehend that the combating of such qualities can have any connection with an increase of capacity for knowledge. But every devotee of Occultism is aware that much more depends upon such matters than upon the expansion of the intellect or the employment of artificial practices. It is particularly easy for a misunderstanding of this point to arise, inasmuch as many believe that one should cultivate foolhardiness because one must be fearless; that one ought to ignore altogether the differences in men because one has to combat the prejudices of race, rank, and so forth. Rather does one first learn to appreciate these differences correctly, when one is no longer entangled in prejudice. Even in the usual sense it is true that a fear of any phenomenon baulks one from estimating it rightly; that a race-prejudice prevents one from looking into a man’s soul. The student of Occultism must bring his common-sense to perfection in all its exactitude and subtlety.

Even everything that a man says without having clearly thought it out will place an obstacle in the path of his occult education. At the same time we must here consider one point which can only be elucidated by giving an example. Thus, if anyone should say something to which one must reply, one should be careful to consider rather the intention, the feelings, even the prejudices of this other person, than what one has to say at the moment on the subject under discussion. In other words, the student must apply himself keenly to the cultivation of a certain fine tact. He must learn to judge how much it may mean to this other person if his opinion be opposed. But he ought not, for this reason, to withhold his own opinion. This must not be imagined for a moment. One must give to the sneaker as careful a hearing as possible, and from what one has heard should formulate one's own reply. In such cases there is a certain thought which will constantly recur to the student, and he is treading the true path if this thought becomes so vital within him that it grows into a trait of his character. The thought is as follows: “It is not a question of whether my view be different from his, but whether he will discover the right view for himself if I am able to contribute something towards it.” By thoughts of such a kind, the mode of action and the character of the student will be permeated with gentleness, one of the most essential qualities for the reception of occult teaching. Harshness only scares away that internal image which ought to be evoked by the eye of the soul, but by gentleness are obstacles cleared from the way, and inner organs opened.

Along with this gentleness another trait will presently be developed in the soul. He will make a quiet estimate of all the subtleties in the soul-life around him, without considering the emotions of his own soul. And if this condition has been attained, the soul-emotions in the environment of anyone will have such an effect on him that the soul within him grows, and growing, becomes organised, as a plant expands in the sunlight. Gentleness and quiet reserve, and along with these true patience, open the soul to the world of souls, and the spirit to the region of spirits. Persevere in repose and retirement; close the senses to that which they brought you before you began your training; bring into utter stillness all those thoughts which, in accordance with your previous habits, were tossed up and down within you; become quite still and silent within, wait in patience, and then will the higher worlds begin to develop the sight of your soul and the hearing of your spirit. Do not suppose that you will immediately see and hear in the worlds of soul and spirit, for all that you are doing does but help the development of your higher senses, and you will not be able to see with the soul and to hear with the spirit before you have acquired those senses. When you have persevered for a time in repose and retirement, then go about your daily affairs, having first imprinted upon your mind the thought: “Some day when I am ready, I shall attain what I am to attain.” Finally: “Make no attempt whatever to attract any of these higher powers to yourself by an effort of the will.” These are instructions which every occult student receives from his teacher at the entrance of the way. If he observes them, he then perfects himself; and if he does not observe them, all his labour is in vain; but they are only difficult of achievement for him who has not patience and perseverance. No other obstacles exist save only those which one sets for oneself, and these may be avoided by anyone if he really wills it. It is necessary to continually insist upon this point, because many people form an altogether wrong conception of the difficulty that lies in the path of occultism. In a certain sense, it is easier to accomplish the earlier steps of this way than it is for one who has received no occult instruction to get rid of the difficulties of every-day life. In addition to this, it must be understood that only such things are here imparted as are attended by no danger to the health of soul or body. There are certain other ways which lead more quickly to the goal, but it is not well to treat of them publicly, because they may sometimes have certain effects on a man which would necessitate the immediate intervention of an experienced teacher, and at all events would require his continual supervision. Now, as something about these quicker ways frequently forces itself into publicity, it becomes necessary to give express warning against entering upon them without personal guidance. For reasons which only the initiated can understand, it will never be possible to give public instruction concerning these other ways in their real form, and the fragments which here and there make their appearance can never lead to anything profitable, but may easily result in the undermining of health, fortune, and peace of mind. He who does not wish to put himself in the power of certain dark forces, of whose nature and origin he can know nothing, had far better avoid meddling in such matters.

Something may here be added concerning the environment in which the practices of occult instruction ought to be undertaken. For this is not without importance, though for almost every man the case is different. He who practises in an environment which is only filled with selfish interests, as, for example, the modern struggle for existence, ought to be sure that these interests are not without their influence upon the development of his spiritual organs. It is true that the inner laws of these organs are so powerful that this influence cannot be fatally injurious. Just as a lily, though placed in an environment, however inappropriate, can never become a thistle, so too can the eye of the soul never grow to anything but its destined end, even although it be subjected to the influence of modern cities. But it is well if, under all circumstances, the student should now and then seek for his environment the quietude, the inner dignity, the sweetness of Nature herself. Especially fortunate are the conditions of him who is able to carry on his occult instruction altogether in the green world of plants, or among the sunny mountains or the delightful interplay of simple things. This develops the inner organs in a harmony which can never be present in a modern city. He also is more favourably situated than the mere townsman, who, during his childhood at least, was able to breathe the perfume of the pines, to gaze on the snowy peaks, or observe the silent activity of woodland creatures and insects. Yet no one who is obliged to live in a city should fail to give his evolving soul and spirit the nurture that comes from the inspired utterances of the mighty teachers of man. He who cannot every springtime follow day by day the unfolding of the greenwood, ought in its place to draw into his heart the sublime doctrines of the Bhagavad Gita, or of St. John's Gospel, or of Thomas a Kempis. There are many paths to the summit of insight, but a right selection is indispensable.

The adept in occultism could, indeed, say much concerning these paths — much that night seem strange to an uninitiated hearer. For example, suppose that someone has advanced far along the occult path: he may be standing at the very entrance to the sight of the soul and the tearing of the spirit, and then he has the good fortune to pass over the peaceful, or it may be the tempestuous, ocean, and a bandage falls airway from the eyes of his soul. Suddenly he can see, suddenly he attains to vision. Another, it may be, has advanced so far that this bandage only needs to be loosened, and by some stroke of destiny this occurs. On someone else this very stroke might actually have the effect of paralysing his powers and undermining his energy, but for the occult student it becomes the occasion of his enlightenment. Perhaps a third has patiently persevered for years, and without any marked result. Suddenly, while tranquilly seated in his quiet chamber, light envelops him, the walls become transparent, they vanish away, and a new world expands before his opened eyes, or is audible to his awakened spirit.




Last Modified: 16-Aug-2019
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]