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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 5)

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The psycho-spiritual organs, the lotus flowers, are fashioned so as to appear to supersensible consciousness, in the student undergoing training, as though located in the neighborhood of certain organs of the physical body. From among these soul organs the following will be mentioned here. First, the one that is felt between the eyebrows — the so-called two-petalled lotus flower; the one in the neighborhood of the larynx — the sixteen-petalled lotus flower; a third in the heart region — the twelve-petalled lotus flower; a fourth in the region of the solar plexus. Other similar organs appear in the neighborhood of other parts of the physical body. (The names “two-petalled” or “sixteen-petalled” may be used because the corresponding organs may be likened to flowers of a corresponding number of petals.)

One becomes conscious of the lotus flowers through the astral body. The moment one has developed one or another of these organs, one is aware of its existence. One feels that one can employ it and through its use really enter into a higher world. The impressions that one receives from that world still resemble in many ways those of the physical-sensory world. He who possesses imaginative cognition will be able to speak of the new, higher world in such a way that he designates the impressions as sensations of heat or cold, as perceptions of tones and words, as effects of light and color, for he experiences them as such. But he is aware that these perceptions in the imaginative world express something quite different from sense reality. He recognizes that behind them stand not physical material, but soul-spirit causes. If he experiences something like an impression of heat, he does not, for instance, ascribe it to a piece of hot iron, but he considers it the outflow of a soul process that, up to the present, he has only known in his inner soul-life. He knows that behind imaginative perceptions stand soul and spiritual things and processes just as behind physical perceptions stand material physical beings and facts. — Beside this similarity of the imaginative with the physical world there is, however, a significant difference. Certain phenomena in the physical world appear quite different in the imaginative world. In the former can be observed a continual growth and decay of things, an alternation of birth and death. In the imaginative world a continual transformation of one thing into another takes the place of these phenomena. One sees, for example, the decay of a plant in the physical world. In the imaginative world, in proportion to the withering of the plant the growth of another formation makes its appearance that is not perceptible physically and into which the decaying plant is gradually transformed. When the plant has disappeared, this formation stands completely developed in its place. Birth and death are ideas that lose their significance in the imaginative world. In their place appears the concept of transformation of one thing into another. — Because this is so, the truths about the being of man become accessible to imaginative cognition, truths that have been described in Chapter 2 of this book, entitled “The Essential Nature of Mankind.” To physical-sensory perception only the processes of the physical body are perceptible. They occur in the “region of birth and death.” The other members of human nature — life body, sentient body, and ego — come under the law of transformation, and perception of them is acquired through imaginative cognition. Whoever has advanced to this point perceives the releasing itself from the physical body of what at death continues to live on in another state of existence.

Development, however, does not stop with the imaginative world. The human being who might wish to stop in this world would perceive the beings undergoing transformation, but he would be unable to explain the processes of transformation; he would be unable to orientate himself in the newly attained world. The imaginative world is an unstable region. In it there exist everywhere constant motion and transformation; nowhere are there points of rest. Such points of rest are attained by man only when he has developed himself beyond the stage of imaginative cognition to the stage that may be called “cognition through inspiration.” — It is not necessary that a person who seeks cognition of the supersensible world develop himself in such a way that he advance first to the possession of a full degree of imaginative cognition, and then only advance to “Inspiration.” His exercises may be so arranged that what may lead to imagination and to inspiration proceeds hand in hand. He will then, after a certain time, enter a higher world in which he not only perceives, but in which he is able to orientate himself, and which he can interpret. To be sure, this progress will, as a rule, be of such a character that first of all some of the phenomena of the imaginative world manifest themselves to him; then after a time he will experience the feeling, “Now I am beginning to orientate myself.” — The world of inspiration is, nevertheless, something quite new in comparison with the world of mere imagination. Through the latter one perceives the transformation of one process into another; through the former one learns to know the inner qualities of beings who transform themselves. Through imagination one learns to know the soul-expression of beings; through inspiration one penetrates into their inner spiritual nature. One recognizes above all a host of spiritual beings and discerns a great number of relationships between one being and another. One has to deal with a multitude of individual beings also in the physical-sensory world; in the world of inspiration, however, this multitude is of a different character. There each being has a quite definite relationship to others, not as in the physical world through external influences, but through its inner constitution. If we perceive a being in the world of inspiration, there is no evidence of an outer influence upon another being, which might be compared with the effect of one physical being upon another, but a relationship exists between two beings through their inner constitution. Let us compare this relationship with a relationship in the physical world, by selecting for comparison the relationship between the separate sounds or letters of a word. Take, for instance, the word “man.” It is produced through the concordance of the sounds m-a-n. There is no impulse or other external influence passing over from the m to the a; both sounds act together within the whole through their inner constitution. Therefore observation in the world of inspiration may only be compared with reading, — and the beings in the world of inspiration act upon the observer like the letters of an alphabet, which he must learn to know and the interrelationships of which must unfold themselves to him like a supersensible script. Spiritual science, therefore, may call cognition through inspiration — speaking figuratively — the reading of secret or occult script.

How we may read by means of this occult script, and how we may communicate what is read, will now be made clear by means of the preceding chapters of this book itself. How the human being takes shape out of various members was described at the very outset. It was then shown how the cosmic being, within which the human being develops, passes through the various states of Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth. The perceptions through which one can, on the one hand, cognize the members of the human being and, on the other, the consecutive states of the Earth and its preceding transformations, disclose themselves to imaginative knowledge. It is, however, also necessary that it be known what relationships exist between the Saturn state and the human physical body, the Sun state and the ether body, and so forth. It must be shown that the germinal human physical body has come already into existence during the Saturn state, and that it has evolved further to its present form during the Sun, Moon, and Earth states. It was necessary to show also, for example, what transformations have taken place within the human being as a result of the separation of the sun from the Earth, and similarly through the separation of the moon. It was necessary also to describe the powers and beings who co-operated in order that such transformations could occur in humanity as are expressed in the transformations during the Atlantean period and also during the successive periods of the ancient Indian, the ancient Persian, the Egyptian cultures, and the subsequent periods of culture. The description of these relationships does not result from imaginative perception, but from cognition through inspiration, by reading the occult script. For this sort of “reading” the perceptions of imagination are like letter symbols or sounds. This “reading,” however, is not only necessary for the purpose of explaining what has just been described, but it would be impossible to understand the life course of the whole human being were it only perceived through imaginative cognition. One would perceive, indeed, how the soul-spiritual members are released at death from what remains in the physical world, but one would not understand the relationships between what happens to the human being after death and the preceding and succeeding states, were one unable to orientate oneself within the imaginatively perceived.. Without cognition through inspiration the imaginative world would remain like writing at which we stare but which we cannot read.

When the student of the spiritual advances from imagination to inspiration he soon sees how incorrect it would be to relinquish the understanding of the macrocosmic phenomena and to limit himself only to facts that, so to say, touch upon immediate human interests. Someone who is not initiated into these things might well say the following. “It appears to me only necessary to learn about the fate of the human soul after death; if I am told something about that, it will suffice; why does spiritual science wish to demonstrate such distant things as the Saturn or Sun state, and the sun and moon separation, and so forth?” Anyone properly informed about these things learns that real knowledge of what he wishes to know is never acquired without an understanding of what seems to him so unnecessary. A description of the human states after death remains completely unintelligible and worthless if man is unable to connect them with concepts that are derived from such remote matters. Even the simplest observation of the scientist of the supersensible makes his acquaintance with such things necessary. If, for example, a plant makes the transition from blossom to fruit, the human observer of the supersensible sees a transformation taking place in an astral being that during the period of flowering has overshadowed the plant from above and enclosed it like a cloud. Had the fructification not occurred, then this astral being would have made a transition into quite a different shape from the one it has assumed in consequence of fructification. Now one understands the entire process perceived by supersensible observation, if one has learned to understand its nature through the macrocosmic process through which the Earth and all its inhabitants have passed at the time of the sun separation. Before fructification, the plant is in a position similar to the entire Earth prior to the sun separation. After fructification, the plant blossom shows itself in a condition similar to the Earth after the sun had severed itself and the moon forces were still present in it. If one has made one's own the concepts that may be gained by studying the sun separation, one then understands adequately the meaning of the process of plant fructification. One will say that the plant is in a sun state before fructification, in a moon state after it. For it is a fact that even the smallest process in the world may be grasped only if we recognize that it constitutes a copy of macrocosmic processes. Otherwise its very nature remains unintelligible, just as Raphael's Madonna would remain unintelligible if nothing were to be seen but a small blue speck when the rest of the picture were covered up. Everything that occurs in the human being is a copy of macrocosmic processes that have to do with his existence. If one wishes to understand the observations of supersensible consciousness concerning the phenomena occurring between birth and death, and again between death and rebirth, one can do this if one has acquired the faculty of deciphering the imaginative observations through the concepts acquired by the study of the macrocosmic processes. — This study gives us the key to the comprehension of human life. Therefore, in the sense of spiritual science, observation of Saturn, Sun, and Moon is at the same time observation of man.

Through inspiration one acquires the knowledge of the relationships between the beings of the higher world. It is possible through a higher stage of cognition to understand the inner nature of these beings themselves. This stage of cognition may be designated intuitive cognition. (Intuition is a word misused in everyday life for an obscure, uncertain insight into a fact, that is, for a certain idea which at times agrees with truth but the justification of which is at the time not provable. What is meant here has naturally nothing to do with this sort of intuition. Intuition denotes here a cognition of the highest, most illuminating clarity, and, if one has it, one is conscious in the fullest sense of its justification.) — To have knowledge of a sense-being means to stand outside it and to judge it according to the external impression. To have knowledge of a spiritual being through intuition means to have become completely one with it, to have become united with its inner nature. Step by step the student of the spiritual ascends to such knowledge. Imagination leads him to sense the perceptions no longer as outer characteristics of beings, but to recognize in them the outpouring of something psycho-spiritual; inspiration leads him further into the inner nature of beings. He learns through it to understand what these beings are to each other; with intuition he penetrates into the beings themselves. — The significance of intuition also may be shown by the descriptions given in this book. In the preceding chapters, not only the course of Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions was described, but it was told that beings participate in this development in the most varied ways. Thrones or Spirits of Will, Spirits of Wisdom, of Motion, and others were mentioned. In the Earth evolution mention was made of the spirits Lucifer and Ahriman. The construction of the cosmos was traced back to the beings who participate in it. What may be learned about these beings is won through intuitive cognition. This faculty is also necessary if one wishes to have a knowledge of the course of human life. What is released after death from the human bodily nature goes through various states in the subsequent period. The states directly after death might be described in some measure through imaginative cognition.

What, however, takes place when man advances further into the period between death and rebirth would have to remain quite unintelligible to imaginative cognition, if inspiration did not come to the rescue. Only inspiration is able to discover what may be said about the life of man in the land of spirits after purification. Then something appears for which inspiration no longer suffices, where it reaches, so to say, the limits of understanding. There is a period in human evolution between death and rebirth when the being of man is accessible only to intuition. This part of the being of man, however, is always present in him; and if we wish to understand it according to its true inner nature, we must investigate it by means of intuition also in the period between birth and death. Whoever wished to fathom the nature of man by means of imagination and inspiration alone, would miss the innermost processes of his being that take place from incarnation to incarnation. Only intuitive cognition, therefore, makes possible an adequate research into repeated earth lives and into karma. The truth communicated about these processes must originate from research by means of intuitive cognition. — If man himself wishes to have a knowledge of his own inner being, he can only acquire this through intuition. By means of it he perceives what progresses in him from earth life to earth life.

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