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An Outline of Occult Science

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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An Outline of Occult Science



(Part 4)

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The object of meditation on the previously characterized symbolic mental images and feelings is, correctly speaking, the development of the higher organs of perception within the human astral body. They are created from the substance of this astral body. These new organs of observation open up a new world, and in this new world man becomes acquainted with himself as a new ego. The new organs of observation are to be distinguished from the organs of the physical sense world through the fact of their being active organs. Whereas eyes and ears remain passive, permitting light and sound to act upon them, the soul-spirit organs of perception are continually active while perceiving and they seize upon their objects and facts, as it were, in full consciousness. This results in the feeling that soul-spirit cognition is the act of uniting with the corresponding facts, is really a “living within them.” — The soul-spirit organs that are being individually developed may, by way of comparison, be called “lotus flowers,” according to the forms which they present imaginatively to supersensible consciousness. (Granted, it must be clear that such a designation has nothing more to do with the case than the expression “chamber” has to do with the case when we speak of the “chamber of the heart.”) Through quite definite methods of inner meditation the astral body is affected in such a way that one or another of the soul-spirit organs, one or another of the “lotus flowers,” is formed. After all that has been described in this book it ought to be superfluous to accentuate the fact that these “organs of observation” are not to be imagined as something that, in the mental representation of its sense-image, is a picture of its reality. These “organs” are supersensible and consist of a definitely formed soul activity; they exist only as far and as long as this soul activity is practiced. The existence of these organs in the human being produces nothing of a sensory character any more than human thinking produces some sort of a physical “vapor.” Whoever insists on visualizing the supersensory as something sensory becomes involved in misunderstandings. In spite of the superfluity of this remark, it is made here because again and again there are those who accept the supersensory as a fact, but who, in their thoughts, desire only what is sensory, and because again and again there appear opponents of supersensory cognition who believe that the spiritual researcher speaks of “lotus flowers” as though they were delicate, physical structures. Every correct meditation that is made in regard to imaginative cognition has its effect upon one or another organ. (In my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, certain methods of meditation, and exercises that affect one or another of the organs, are outlined.) Proper training sets up the several exercises of the student of the spiritual and arranges them to follow one another so that the organs are able to develop correspondingly, either singly, in groups, or consecutively. In connection with this development the spiritual student must have great patience and endurance. Anyone having only the measure of patience possessed, as a rule, by most human beings through the ordinary relationships of life will find that this does not suffice. For it takes a long time, often a very long time, before the organs are sufficiently developed to permit their employment by the spiritual student in perceiving the spiritual world. This is the moment when something occurs for him that may be called illumination, in contrast to the preparation or purification consisting of the exercises that develop the organs. (We speak of purification, because the corresponding exercises purify the student in a certain sphere of his inner life of all that springs only from the sensory world of observation.) It may happen that the student, even before his actual illumination occurs, may experience repeatedly “flashes of light” coming from a higher world. He should accept such experiences gratefully. Through them he can already become a witness for the spiritual world. But he should not waver if this does not occur during this period of preparation, which may perhaps seem to him altogether too long. If he exhibits any impatience whatever “because he does not yet see anything,” he has not yet gained the right attitude toward a higher world. This attitude can only be grasped by someone for whom the exercises performed in his training can be, as it were, an end in themselves. These exercises are, in truth, work performed on the soul-spirit nature, that is to say, on the student's own astral body, and although he “sees nothing,” he may “feel” that he is working on his soul-spirit nature. If, however, one forms a definite opinion right at the beginning of what one actually expects to “see,” one will not have this feeling. Then one will consider as nothing what in truth is of immeasurable significance. But one should be subtly observant of everything one experiences during the exercises and that is so fundamentally different from all experiences in the sense world. One will then certainly notice that one's astral body, upon which one is working, is not a neutral substance, but that in it there lives a totally different world of which one knows nothing in one's life of the senses. Higher beings are working upon the astral body, just as the outer physical-sensory world works upon the physical body, and one encounters this higher life in one's own astral body if one does not close oneself to it. If someone repeatedly says to himself, “I perceive nothing!” then, in most cases, he has imagined that spiritual perception must take place in this or that manner, and because he does not perceive what he imagines he should see, he says, “I see nothing!”

If the student has acquired the right attitude toward the exercises of spiritual training, they will constitute something for him that he loves more and more for its own sake. He then knows that through the practice itself he stands in a world of soul and spirit, and with patience and serenity he awaits what will result. This attitude may arise in the consciousness of the student most favorably in the following words, “I will do everything that is proper in the way of exercises, and I know that just as much will come to me at the proper time as is important for me. I do not demand it impatiently, but I am ever ready to receive it.”

It is not valid to object that “the spiritual student must thus grope about in the dark, perhaps for an immeasurably long time; for he can only know clearly that he is on the right path in his exercises when the results appear.” It is untrue that only results can bring knowledge of the correctness of the exercises. If the student takes the right attitude toward them, he finds that the satisfaction he draws from the practice gives him the assurance that what he is doing is right; he does not have to wait for the results. Correct practice in the sphere of spiritual training calls forth satisfaction that is not mere satisfaction, but knowledge that is to say, the knowledge that he is doing something which convinces him that he is making progress in the right direction. Every spiritual student may have this knowledge at every moment, provided he is subtly attentive to his experiences. If he does not employ this attention then the experiences escape him, as is the case with a pedestrian who, lost in thought, does not see the trees on both sides of the road, although he would see them were he to direct his attention to them. — It is not at all desirable that a result be hastened different from the one that must always occur from correct practice. For this result might easily be only the smallest part of what should actually appear. In regard to spiritual development a partial success is often the reason for a strong retardation of the complete success. The movement among such forms of spiritual life that correspond to the partial success dulls the sensitivity in regard to the influences of the forces that lead to higher stages of evolution, and what we may have gained by having “peered” into the spirit world is only an illusion, for this “peering” cannot furnish the truth, but only a mirage.

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