by Rudolf Steiner
Translated from the German by Frank Thomas Smith
Dornach, March 7, 1924
My dear friends,
In the previous lessons, we were concerned with meeting the Guardian of the Threshold. And we must understand this meeting well, to the extent that its earnestness can really occupy our minds. For here we enter an area which is essentially different from other areas of spiritual life, what is called spiritual life by today's civilization, that is. The encounter with the Guardian of the Threshold is the first thing one experiences when a relationship with the spiritual world truly and earnestly takes place. A relationship with the spiritual world cannot take place without this understanding of the meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold, because the spiritual world is on the other side of this threshold. So when communications are received from the spiritual world, they should be understood as merely in preparation for a relationship with the spiritual world.
As an example of what we will receive today, my dear friends, I would like to tell you a story taken from ancient esoteric tradition.
Once upon a time a student was accepted into the mysteries. He completed the preliminary stages. And when he had achieved a certain stage of maturity - not that he became what most people nowadays consider clairvoyant, but he entered into a relationship with the spiritual world, the relationship where, as far as feeling is concerned, one correctly receives communications from the spiritual world - the teacher said to him:
Behold, when I talk to you the words I speak are not human words; what I have to say is merely clothed in human words. What I have to say to you are the gods' thoughts, and these gods' thoughts are imparted to you by human words. But it must be clear to you that I am thus appealing to everything in your soul. You must meet the words which I direct to you on behalf of the gods with all your thinking, all your feeling, all your willing. You must receive these words with all your soul's enthusiasm, all its inner warmth, all its inner fire. You must receive them with total alertness, to the limit of your mind's capacity.
But there is one soul-force in you to which I am not appealing. Your memory. And I will be satisfied if you do not hold in your memory what I am now saying to you. I will be satisfied if tomorrow you forget what I have said today. Because what you usually call your memory, and what others call your memory, is only meant for earthly things, and not for godly things. So, when you appear before me again tomorrow, and when I again speak to you, appealing to your thinking, feeling, willing, and to all your enthusiasm, all your warmth, all your inner fire, to your mind's alertness, then these soul forces will be renewed for what is to be received. Everything should be new and freshly vital the next day, and the day after, and every day.
I said that I do not appeal to your memory, to your capacity for remembering. That does not mean that tomorrow you should remember nothing of what is said to you today. But you should not preserve it in your memory alone. You should wait an see what your memory makes of it. What should lead you to me tomorrow in a new attitude, however, should be your feelings, the innermost feelings of your soul; they should preserve what is said to you today. For you see, memory, that capacity for remembrance, is for learning. What the esoteric has to say, however, is not merely for learning, but for life, and every time it approaches you it should be relived without the help of memory's concepts. [Although there is no indication in the original, this appears to be the end of the story. Trans.]
It is in fact true that whenever we are dealing with esoteric truths we should not think: Oh, I know that already. For the essence of the esoteric does not lie in knowledge, but in direct experience. And inwardly, in deeper levels of our souls than where memory has its roots, is where we should grasp and retain the esoteric.
If you reflect on this, my dear friends, it will be of great help in understanding true esoteric life as we continue. For what must be taken seriously is that in the moment that we accept the esoteric, our very understanding of it brings about a different relationship of thinking, feeling and willing in us than our everyday consciousness is accustomed to.
For everyday consciousness, thinking, feeling and willing are bound together. A trivial example may be used to demonstrate how closely bound together thinking, feeling and willing are in normal consciousness. Let's say you know someone, anyone, with whom you had an intimate or a more distant relationship. The things you experienced with him or her have been retained in your memory and permeate your feelings. When you are together with her these things lead you to certain actions in your behavior towards her. You go on in life with such thoughts and feelings. One day someone reminds you of this person, says something about her and your memory is stimulated. If you had loved her, your love is recalled; if you hated her, your hate is recalled. If you had wanted to undertake something together with her, this is also recalled. You cannot separate what you feel and will towards this person with what you think about her. [In German, the gender of this person is not specified; it is immaterial. Trans.]
With this kind of attitude it is not possible to understand esoteric truths correctly. Such truths can only be understood correctly when, for example, the following happens. You know someone with whom you have a certain relationship. Certain aspects of this person are most antipathetic to you. When you are reminded of this person, you can think of her without the antipathy arising. You can simply think about her.
It is quite difficult, my dear friends, to just think about your enemy without letting the animosity towards him arise. One can practice this with a correct grasp of art. You could ask yourself: Am I able to exclusively think about certain despicable characters in Shakespeare's works? If I were to meet such characters in real life, I would feel great antipathy towards them. When artistically presented, however, I can regard them objectively, perhaps just because they are such excellent villains. This is possible in the artistic area, for people do not always feel the urge to jump across the footlights and throttle these Shakespearean villains. It is possible to separate thinking from feeling in the artistic area.
But in order to be a true esotericist one must also be able to do so in real life. At the moment when something derived from the esoteric is said, it must be possible to separate thinking from feeling in this way in order for it to be absorbed by the soul. For they do not separate on their own. At first when we think esoteric things, they are so strongly present within the thoughts, and they are so distant from personal feelings, that we do not understand them if we do not use pure thinking to do so. So if we do not wish to listen to the esoteric like couch potatoes and let everything pass over us with indifference, we must develop feelings and will-impulses apart from those engendered through thinking. Such feelings should be developed in order that the esoteric not remain a cold, icy field, which merely pours through our understanding, when it should immerse us in the brightest enthusiasm. But this enthusiasm, this world of feeling, must come from somewhere else if it does not come from thinking.
For you see, if we want to make our feelings warm in the right way, we must be clear about the fact that when one speaks correctly from out of the esoteric, he is speaking from the godly sphere and therefore our feelings do not encounter thoughts, but realities.
That is why when I gave the first lesson I said that it is the School that speaks here, that is, the true spirit which goes through the School, and that it is necessary to realize that the School has not been born of some personal intention, but that it has been willed and instated by the spiritual world. If we see it in this way, the School's existence will give us the enthusiasm we need.
And then we will understand something else. Yes, my dear friends, in ordinary life and in ordinary science, we are spoken to in words. And when we understand the words, the thoughts they are meant to express come to us because they are contained in the words. The esotericist must also use words, for he must speak. But he uses words only as a means to show how the spirit flows toward us in streams and seeks to pour itself into human hearts.
Therefore, it is necessary that in an Esoteric School a sense is gradually developed to hear beyond the words. And when this sense has been developed it will be possible to acquire - in respect to the esoteric - what has been called in esoteric streams of all times with an attitude of holiness: silence - the silence which preserves holiness. And this holiness-preserving silence is connected with something else, without which the esoteric can not further humanity. It is connected with innermost humility. And without this innermost humility it is not possible to approach the esoteric. Why? Well, when we are exhorted to hear beyond the words, it is an appeal to the innermost essence of our souls, not to our memory. Then our capacity comes into play, to what extent we are capable of hearing beyond the words. And it is good for our souls to hear much. But we should not jump to the conclusion that what dawns in our souls as a result is necessarily valid and should be relayed to the world. We will need much time, even when we hear beyond the words, before we come to terms with ourselves. We should develop the idea that the esoteric must first live and weave wordlessly in the soul before it can be considered to be mature enough.
Therefore, in the esoteric we must go back from what words mean in ordinary life to the deeper understanding in the soul. And that is what I did in the last lesson, my dear friends, when I provided mantric verses for you, in which scanning is used. The first verse had a trochaic rhythm, the second an iambic rhythm and the third a spondaic rhythm. We should feel as though we were descending from the mountain into the valley with the trochaic rhythm, and we should understand how this rhythm, which pertains to thinking, can by grasped only when we feel this descent within the soul. That is why this verse is trochaic, beginning with a stressed syllable and descending to an unstressed one. It was meant to instill in us a kind of psychic blood circulation in spiritual space. We don't just stand still when such mantras penetrate our souls, or voice certain thoughts, but we move together with the spiritual movement of the cosmos, in that human thoughts weave into human souls. So we learned the first verse, which is related to thinking:
Yes, the gods have raised us to themselves by giving us thoughts. And we descend from the peaks upon which the gods have placed us down into the valleys, where we encompass and grasp earthly things with these thoughts.
It is different with feeling. We act correctly if, standing below in the valley, we wish to ascend with our feelings on a spiritual ladder to the gods. Feeling puts us in the opposite wave movement: from below to above. Therefore, the mantric verse has an iambic rhythm. It begins with an unstressed syllable and rises to a stressed one. We should feel it:
And it's again different when we come to the will. To do so, we must be aware that our humanity is split within us. Then we must move close to the gods in feeling and, halfway there, through feeling's strength give birth to the will-impulse. That is only possible if we meditate in the spondaic, beginning with two stressed syllables:
strive in you with thrust of will:
As I said last time, it is not a question of understanding the meaning of words, but that we also grasp what lies in the words' movements and that our souls enter into that movement. In that way, we no longer depend only on ourselves, but we grow into the universe.
Words whose meanings alone are grasped leave us unto ourselves. When the esoteric is concerned, however, it is a matter of growing together with the world, that we more and more come out of ourselves. For only so, by coming out of ourselves, are we able to withstand the separation of thinking, feeling and willing. Within ourselves, our corporeal “I” holds thinking, feeling and willing together for everyday consciousness. Outside, they must be held together by the gods. For this, however, we must enter the divine being. And we must grow together with the world. We must learn to develop a sense through which we can say to ourselves in all honesty and earnestness: Here I have my hand; I contemplate it. Over there stands a tree; I contemplate it. I contemplate my hand: it is I. I contemplate the tree: it is I. I contemplate the cloud: it is I. I contemplate the rainbow: it is I. I contemplate the thunder: it is I. I contemplate the lightning: it is I. I feel myself one with the world.
Abstractly, meaning dishonestly, this is easy to achieve. Concretely, meaning honestly, one must overcome many inner aspects. If, however, one does not shy away from overcoming these things, the desired goal will be achieved. For the question the esotericist must ask himself is: I contemplate my hand; it belongs to me. What would my life - which began a few decades ago - have become if I didn't have the hand? It is necessary for all I have become. But the tree: it is as it stands before us today - its conception originally from the Ancient Moon - grown out of the whole earth organism. What was present in the Ancient Moon organism could not have existed had the conception of the tree not been developed. But at that time the conception of my thinking also arose. If the tree didn't exist, I would not be thinking today. My hand is only necessary for my present earthly existence. The tree is necessary in order that I can be a thinking being. Why should the hand be worth more to me than the tree? Why should I reckon the hand more to my physicality than the tree? Little by little I am able to realize that what I call the outer world is much more my inner world than what I considered to be the interior of my physicality in this incarnation. To feel this deeply and sincerely must be learned.
So today we will consider three verses, mantric verses, through which this feeling-one with the whole so-called “outer being” can gradually penetrate deeply into the soul.
What is our attitude initially towards outer being? We look down at the earth. We feel dependent on this earth; it gives us what we need to live. We look into space. The sun rises in the morning; it goes down in the evening; its light streams across the earth; it comes from afar, it goes afar. We look up at night: the heavenly sky speaks mysteriously to us. In this threefold gaze our relationship to the world is determined. I look downward, I look out afar, I look upward. But let us do this with intensive consciousness, let us do it as indicated in the following mantric verses:
[These lines are written on the blackboard.]
You see, my dear friends, we do not consciously relate what binds us to the earth with our own humanity. We look down at the earth, knowing that crystals are formed in it, knowing that it moves through space, that it exerts a force of gravity, that it attracts the stone that falls to earth, knowing that it attracts even us. We think about all this. What we don't think about are the urges, instincts, cravings and passions that live in us, what we ascribe to lower human nature, and which also belong to the earth. When we look down and ask what the earth causes in us, we should remember: something exists in us, created by the earth, which would drag us down below the human level, which would darken our I, which would push us into the subhuman region. We must be aware that we are so bound to the earth that, despite all its beauty and majesty that spreads over its surface, for us humans the downward force is at the same time a sub-humanizing force. By honestly recognizing this we develop into true human beings.
Then we will be able to not only look downward in our development, but also to look afar in the distance at our own height and to see what surrounds the earth on all sides and describes our humanity within a circle. Thus, something begins physically, which to a certain extent lifts us above the downward pulling earthly forces. Through the downward pulling earthly forces man can become evil; but not so easily through the breath, which also belongs to what encircles the earth. And even less through the light which the sun lets encircle the earth. We consider breath and light as things that have no spiritual importance. But gods live in breath and light. And we must be aware that godly forces are especially active in light and, because they pass through us humans, act differently than the deep earthly forces.
This brings the second mantric verse to our consciousness:
We are not always aware that we can love what flows over our earth as light, be it sunlight or starlight. But we are aware that we can love the sunlight, love it as warmly as a friend, then we also learn how gods in garments of light circle round the earth. Then the opinion that sunlight is merely what illuminates the earth changes for good; sunlight becomes the garment of the gods. And the gods wander over the earth in shining garments. And what we experience from the light becomes wisdom. The gods bring their wisdom to our hearts, into our souls. And now, because of this differentiation in feelings, we have ascended higher.
First, we developed the appropriate feelings in respect to the deep earthly forces. We sensed correctly the part of our humanity that belongs to the deep earthly forces. Then we raised ourselves to that higher part of our humanity which belongs to the godly beings in shining garments moving over the earth, who do not wish to leave man in the earthly sphere but, even while he is walks on the earth, raise him to their spheres, so that when he passes through the gates of death, he can continue to walk in them. For the gods do not want to leave us alone on earth, but want to bring us into their spheres. They want to make us into beings who live among them. The deep earth forces want to separate us from the godly forces.
Therefore, a previous mantra communicated to you:
We must, however, also feel this when we are in the world and feel ourselves to be one with the world.
But we have not yet reached our full humanity in consciousness if we cannot look upward. We must gaze into the depths, we must gaze into the distance, we must gaze into the heights. From everyday consciousness which mixes the depth, the distant and the height, we must differentiate depth-consciousness, distant-consciousness, height-consciousness.
[The third verse is written on the blackboard.]
We can feel that we are gazing up into the heights with full consciousness. Think, my dear friends, about standing outside in a field looking up at a star-bedecked sky. It becomes clearer when we have the opportunity to choose; it can also happen in daylight, but it is clearer at night. We feel at one with the world; we feel: that is you. But the point on earth we stand on, which we consider to be so important that it only encompasses our individual self, dissolves when we gaze up into space. It expands to the hemisphere. If we do this in the right way, then narrow selfhood ends and becomes selfless, for it is infinitely expanded in the heights of space:
Who really feels how the gods in shining garments move around the earth with the steaming sunlight and with every breath breathes in and breathes out of the human soul, and who gazes skywards feeling selfless in his selfhood, is soon able to also develop the distance of space within. The following lines are pertinent:
The heights are speaking. And just as we can grow in love together with the gods who move around the earth in shining garments, we can also grow together with the words resounding from the heights, if we develop the capacity to strive together with the forces of thinking in the heavenly heights.
But, my dear friends, you will only be able to correctly achieve these inner feelings, which convert your consciousness to a depth, spatial and heights-consciousness, if you make the corresponding verses [about the third, second and first beasts] so deep and visible for your souls as contrasted with these verses [the three verses on the blackboard].
You come before the Guardian of the Threshold. Living thought-images about it should be active in your minds. The Guardian of the Threshold shows you the third beast of which we spoke in the previous lesson. What this beast characterizes resounds within you:
It is what draws us downward. We escape from it by saying with inner courage:
At first glance there seems to be little difference between looking at the beast and what liberates you from it. Both mantras sound similar in that they both characterize the drawing under, except that one specifically describes the beast, while the other indicates watchfulness.
But let us go on to the second beast and take what rescues us from it; place both mantric verses alongside each other: the mood is completely different. In one the gruesome description of the second beast, in the other an appeal to the gods who approach us in shining garments. And we hear these two mantric verses alongside each other, how different their styles are:
Because we begin by describing the third beast, we must place ourselves, as in this mantric verse [Feel how the earth's depths ...], next to the third beast. At first we can not free ourselves, we are only prompted to be aware of where the beast wants to lead us. When we turn to the second beast, and the helping mantric verse [Feel how from cosmic distance ...], the verse is already able to lead us far away from the beast whose ghastliness is characterized by its mocking face.
And when we approach the first beast, which wants to hinder us from hallowing our humanity by gazing up to the heavenly heights, and how we can escape in our innermost being from this beast, if we turn to the mantric verse which leads us upwards to the heavenly heights:
And yet: As though we wished to burn up all that this verse says and lift ourselves up in flame, the other verse exists - comforter and grace-giving as opposed to what the first beast is, by means of our own courageous soul-force:
You see, the last time we saw that we practice an inner rhythm when we integrate our own being into the shining light-being of the world, so today we must recognize how the esoteric things which we are learning have an inner connection, so that we must always go back to the previous elements - not only in respect to the meaning of the words, which remain earthly, but to the inner disposition. And this disposition, this mood, comes both from the whole and from the details.
Take for example the first verse: “Feel how the earth's depths”. Here we are directed to the earth's depths. And the other verse directs us to “ The third beast's glassy eye”. They belong together.
In the second verse “Feel how from cosmic distance”: We feel how the gods approach in shining garments. Here we are raised up - if we can really feel it - and away from what mocks the divine in the world. “The second beast's mocking countenance” is truly wiped away by radiant sunshine, if we wish to grasp “radiant sunshine” spiritually.
And the third verse, which begins: “The first beast's bony spirit” ossifies us. We become warm if we are freed from the ossification by gazing at the heavenly heights. So we can also say:
My dear friends, it is necessary to add something, because the School must be taken seriously, and what I said that Wednesday about its conditions must be taken seriously. So I have been obliged to withdraw the membership card from a person who, by neglecting to do what is necessary on duty here, could have caused a great misfortune. I mention this here because I wish to show that the intentions indicated during the Christmas Meeting must be taken seriously. And I request that in the future this should not be understood as a mere manner of speaking, if the fact that this Esoteric School is desired in all earnestness by the spiritual world is deemed valid, and in the moment when someone does not want to be a representative of the anthroposophical movement in the right way, the School must reserve the right to withdraw his membership card. I wish to indicate in all earnestness that the membership card had to be withdrawn from a person - at least for a period of time, until that person shows by his attitude that the opposite is the case. We will grow into the School in the right way if we reject all the flippant views about the anthroposophical movement which have brought so much mischief into the movement. We must grow into the esoteric in full earnestness. And I must say here again that what was meant in the Christmas Meeting has not been understood by everyone. But the School's leadership will be alert and will take the School seriously. Let us bear this in mind as part of today's lesson.
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