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

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Guidance in Esoteric Training [General Demands ...]

Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Rudolf Steiner Archive Books Document: An electronic Library (e.Lib) and Archive site for the collected works (over 6000) of the Austrian born philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925).



                       (Subsidiary Exercises)

In what follows, the conditions which must be the basis of any occult 
development are set forth. Let no one imagine that he can make progress 
by any measures applied to the outer or the inner life unless he fulfils 
these conditions. All exercises in meditation, concentration, or exercises 
of other kinds, are valueless, indeed in a certain respect actually harmful, 
if life is not regulated in accordance with these conditions. No forces can 
actually be imparted to a human being; all that can be done is to bring to 
development the forces already within him. They do not develop of their 
own accord because outer and inner hindrances obstruct them. The outer 
hindrances are lessened by means of the following rules of life; the inner 
hindrances by the special instructions concerning meditation, 
concentration, and the like.

The first condition is the cultivation of absolutely clear thinking. For this 
purpose a man must rid himself of the will-o'-the-wisps of thought, even 
if only for a very short time during the day - about five minutes (the 
longer, the better). He must become the ruler in his world of thought. He 
is not the ruler if external circumstances, occupation, some tradition or 
other, social relationships, even membership of a particular race, the 
daily round of life, certain activities and so forth, determine a thought and 
how he works it out. Therefore during this brief time, acting entirely out 
of his own free will, he must empty the soul of the ordinary, everyday 
course of thoughts and by his own initiative place one single thought at 
the centre of his soul. The thought need not be a particularly striking or 
interesting one. Indeed it will be all the better for what has to be attained 
in an occult respect if a thoroughly uninteresting and insignificant 
thought is chosen. Thinking is then impelled to act out of its own energy 
the essential thing here, whereas an interesting thought carries the 
thinking along with it. It is better if this exercise in thought-control is 
undertaken with a pin rather than with Napoleon. The pupil says to 
himself: Now I start from this thought, and through my own inner 
initiative I associate with it everything that is pertinent to it. At the
end of the period the thought should be just as colourful and living as it
was at the beginning. This exercise is repeated day by day for at least a
month; a new thought may be taken every day, or the same thought may be 
adhered to for several days. At the end of the exercise an endeavour is 
made to become fully conscious of that inner feeling of firmness and 
security which will soon be noticed by paying subtler attention to one's 
own soul; the exercise is then brought to a conclusion by focusing the 
thinking upon the head and the middle of the spine (brain and spinal 
cord), as if the feeling of security were being poured into this part of the 

When this exercise has been practised for, say, one month, a second 
requirement should be added. We try to think of some action which in the 
ordinary course of life we should certainly not have performed. Then we 
make it a duty to perform this action every day. It will therefore be good 
to choose an action which can be performed every day and will occupy as 
long a period of time as possible. Again it is better to begin with some 
insignificant action which we have to force ourselves to perform; for 
example, to water at a fixed time every day a flower we have bought. 
After a certain time a second, similar act should be added to the first; 
later, a third, and so on . . . as many as are compatible with the carrying 
out of all other duties. This exercise, also, should last for one month. But 
as far as possible during this second month, too, the first exercise should 
continue, although it is a less paramount duty than in the first month. 
Nevertheless it must not be left unheeded, for otherwise it will quickly be 
noticed that the fruits of the first month are lost and the slovenliness of 
uncontrolled thinking begins again. Care must be taken that once these 
fruits have been won, they are never again lost. If, through the second 
exercise, this initiative of action has been achieved, then, with subtle 
attentiveness, we become conscious of the feeling of an inner impulse of 
activity in the soul; we pour this feeling into the body, letting it stream 
down from the head to a point just above the heart.

In the third month, life should be centered on a new exercise - the 
development of a certain equanimity towards the fluctuations of joy and 
sorrow, pleasure and pain; `heights of jubilation' and `depths of despair' 
should quite consciously be replaced by an equable mood. Care is taken 
that no pleasure shall carry us away, no sorrow plunge us into the depths, 
no experience lead to immoderate anger or vexation no expectation give 
rise to anxiety or fear, no situation disconcert us, and so on. There need 
be no fear that such an exercise will make life arid and unproductive; far 
rather will it quickly be noticed that the experiences to which this 
exercise is applied are replaced by purer qualities of soul. Above all, if 
subtle attentiveness is maintained, an inner tranquillity in the body will 
one day become noticeable; as in the two cases above, we pour this 
feeling into the body, letting it stream from the heart, towards the hands, 
the feet and, finally, the head. This naturally cannot be done after each 
exercise, for here it is not a matter of one single exercise but of sustained 
attentiveness to the inner life of the soul. Once every day, at least, this 
inner tranquillity should be called up before the soul and then the 
exercise of pouring it out from the heart should proceed. A connection 
with the exercises of the first and second months is maintained, as in the 
second month with the exercise of the first month.

In the fourth month, as a new exercise, what is sometimes called a 
`positive attitude' to life should be cultivated. It consists in seeking 
always for the good, the praiseworthy the beautiful and the like, in all 
beings, all experiences, all things. This quality of soul is best 
characterized by a Persian legend concerning Christ Jesus. One day, as 
He was walking with His disciples, they saw a dead dog lying by the 
roadside in a state of advanced decomposition. All the disciples turned 
away from the disgusting sight; Christ Jesus alone did not move but 
looked thoughtfully at the corpse and said: `What beautiful teeth the 
animal has!' Where the others had seen only the repulsive, the 
unpleasant, He looked for the beautiful. So must the esoteric pupil strive 
to seek for the positive in every phenomenon and in every being. He will 
soon notice that under the veil of something repugnant there is a hidden 
beauty, that even under the outer guise of a criminal there is a hidden 
good, that under the mask of a lunatic the divine soul is somehow 

In a certain respect this exercise is connected with what is called 
`abstention from criticism'. This is not to be understood in the sense of 
calling black white and white black. There is, however, a difference 
between a judgment which, proceeding merely from one's own 
personality, is coloured with the element of personal sympathy or 
antipathy, and an attitude which enters lovingly into the alien 
phenomenon or being, always asking: How has it come to be like this or 
to act like this? Such an attitude will by its very nature be more set upon 
helping what is imperfect than upon simply finding fault and criticizing.

The objection that the very circumstances of their lives oblige many 
people to find fault and condemn is not valid here. For in such cases the 
circumstances are such that the person in question cannot go through a 
genuine occult training. There are indeed many circumstances in life 
which make occult schooling impossible, beyond a certain point. In such 
a case the person should not impatiently desire, in spite of everything, to 
make progress which is possible only under some conditions.

He who consciously turns his mind, for one month, to the positive aspect 
of all his experiences will gradually notice a feeling creeping into him as 
if his skin were becoming porous on all sides, and as if his soul were 
opening wide to all kinds of secret and delicate processes in his 
environment which hitherto entirely escaped his notice. The important 
point is to combat a very prevalent lack of attentiveness to these subtle 
things. If it has once been noticed that the feeling described expresses 
itself in the soul as a kind of bliss, endeavours should be made in thought 
to guide this feeling to the heart and from there to let it stream into the 
eyes, and thence out into the space in front of and around oneself. It will 
be noticed that an intimate relationship to this surrounding space is 
thereby acquired. A man grows out of and beyond himself, as it were. He 
learns to regard a part of his environment as something that belongs to 
him. A great deal of concentration is necessary for this exercise, and, 
above all, recognition of the fact that all tumultuous feelings, all 
passions, all over-exuberant emotions have an absolutely destructive 
effect upon the mood indicated. The exercises of the first months are 
repeated, as with the earlier months.

In the fifth month, efforts should be made to develop the feeling of 
confronting every new experience with complete open-mindedness. The 
esoteric pupil must break entirely with the attitude which, in the face of 
something just heard or seen, exclaims: `I never heard that, or I never saw 
that, before; I don't believe it - it's an illusion.' At every moment he must 
be ready to encounter and accept absolutely new experiences. What he 
has hitherto recognized as being in accordance with natural law, or what 
he has regarded as possible, should present no obstacle to the acceptance 
of a new truth. Although radically expressed, it is absolutely correct that 
if anyone were to come to the esoteric pupil and say, `Since last night the 
steeple of such and such a church has been tilted right over', the 
esotericist should leave a loophole open for the contingency of his 
becoming convinced that his previous knowledge of natural law could 
somehow be augmented by such an apparently unprecedented fact.

If he turns his attention, in the fifth month, to developing this attitude of 
mind, he will notice creeping into his soul a feeling as if something were 
becoming alive, astir, in the space referred to in connection with the 
exercise for the fourth month. This feeling is exceedingly delicate and 
subtle. Efforts must be made to be attentive to this delicate vibration in 
the environment and to let it stream, as it were, through all the five 
senses, especially through the eyes, the ears and through the skin, in so 
far as the latter contains the sense of warmth. At this stage of esoteric 
development, less attention is paid to the impressions made by these 
stimuli on the other senses of taste, snell and touch. At this stage it is
still not possible to distinguish the numerous bad influences which 
intermingle with the good influences in this sphere; the pupil therefore 
leaves this for a later stage.

In the sixth month, endeavours should be made to repeat all the five 
exercises again, systematically and in regular alternation. In this way a 
beautiful equilibrium of soul will gradually develop. It will be noticed, 
especially, that previous dissatisfactions with certain phenomena and 
beings in the world completely disappear. A mood reconciling all 
experiences takes possession of the soul, a mood that is by no means one 
of indifference but, on the contrary, enables one for the first time to work 
in the world for its genuine progress and improvement. One comes to a 
tranquil understanding of things which were formerly quite closed to the 
soul. The very movements and gestures of a person change under the 
influence of such exercises, and if, one day, he can actually observe that 
the character of his handwriting has altered, then he may say to himself 
that he is just about to reach a first rung on the upward path. Once again, 
two things must be stressed:

First, the six exercises described paralyse the harmful influence other 
occult exercises can have, so that only what is beneficial remains. 
Secondly, these exercises alone ensure that efforts in meditation and 
concentration will have a positive result. The esotericist must not rest 
content with fulfilling, however conscientiously, the demands of 
conventional morality, for that kind of morality can be extremely 
egotistical, if a man says: I will be good in order that I may be thought 
good. The esotericist does not do what is good because he wants to be 
thought good, but because little by little he recognizes that the good alone 
brings evolution forward, and that evil, stupidity and ugliness place 
hindrances along its path.

                         FOR THE DAYS OF THE WEEK

The pupil must pay careful attention to certain activities in the life of soul 
which in the ordinary way are carried on carelessly and inattentively. 
There are eight such activities.

It is naturally best to undertake only one exercise at a time, throughout a 
week or a fortnight, for example, then the second, and so on, then 
beginning over again. Meanwhile it is best for the eighth exercise to be 
carried out every day. True self-knowledge is then gradually achieved 
and any progress made is perceived. Then later on - beginning with 
Saturday - one exercise lasting for about five minutes may perhaps be 
added daily to the eighth so that the relevant exercise will occasionally 
fall on the same day. Thus: Saturday - Thoughts; Sunday - Resolves; 
Monday - Talking; Tuesday - Actions; Wednesday - Behaviour, and so 


To pay attention to one's ideas.

To think only significant thoughts. To learn little by little to separate in 
one's thoughts the essential from the nonessential, the eternal from the 
transitory, truth from mere opinion.

In listening to the talk of one's fellow-men, to try and become quite still 
inwardly, foregoing all assent, and still more all unfavourable judgments 
(criticism, rejection), even in one's thoughts and feelings.

This may be called:

                          `RIGHT OPINION'.


To determine on even the most insignificant matter only after fully 
reasoned deliberation. All unthinking behaviour, all meaningless actions, 
should be kept far away from the soul. One should always have well-
weighed reasons for everything. And one should definitely abstain from 
doing anything for which there is no significant reason.

Once one is convinced of the rightness of a decision, one must hold fast 
to it, with inner steadfastness.

This may be called:

                          `RIGHT JUDGMENT'.

having been formed independently of sympathies and antipathies.


Talking. Only what has sense and meaning should come from the lips of 
one striving for higher development. All talking for the sake of talking - 
to kill time - is in this sense harmful.

The usual kind of conversation, a disjointed medley of remarks, should 
be avoided. This does not mean shutting oneself off from intercourse 
with one's fellows; it is precisely then that talk should gradually be led to 
significance. One adopts a thoughtful attitude to every speech and answer 
taking all aspects into account. Never talk without cause - be gladly 
silent. One tries not to talk too much or too little. First listen quietly; then 
reflect on what has been said.

This exercise may be called:

                             `RIGHT WORD'.


External actions. These should not be disturbing for our fellow-men. 
Where an occasion calls for action out of one's inner being, deliberate 
carefully how one can best meet the occasion - for the good of the whole, 
the lasting happiness of man, the eternal.

Where one does things of one's own accord, out of one's own initiative: 
consider most thoroughly beforehand the effect of one's actions.

This is called:

                             `RIGHT DEED'.


The ordering of life. To live in accordance with Nature and Spirit. Not to 
be swamped by the external trivialities of life. To avoid all that brings 
unrest and haste into life. To hurry over nothing, but also not to be 
indolent. To look on life as a means for working towards higher 
development and to behave accordingly.

One speaks in this connection of

                          `RIGHT STANDPOINT'.


Human Endeavour. One should take care to do nothing that lies beyond 
one's powers - but also to leave nothing undone which lies within them.

To look beyond the everyday, the momentary, and to set oneself aims and 
ideals connected with the highest duties of a human being. For instance, 
in the sense of the prescribed exercises, to try to develop oneself so that 
afterwards one may be able all the more to help and advise one's fellow-
men - though perhaps not in the immediate future.

This can be summed up as:



The endeavour to learn as much as possible from life.

Nothing goes by us without giving us a chance to gain experiences that 
are useful for life. If one has done something wrongly or imperfectly, that 
becomes a motive for doing it rightly or more perfectly, later on.

If one sees others doing something, one observes them with the like end 
in view (yet not coldly or heartlessly). And one does nothing without 
looking back to past experiences which can be of assistance in one's 
decisions and achievements.

One can learn from everyone - even from children if one is attentive.

This exercise is called:

                           `RIGHT MEMORY'.

(Remembering what has been learnt from experiences).


To turn one's gaze inwards from time to time, even if only for five 
minutes daily at the same time. In so doing one should sink down into 
oneself, carefully take counsel with oneself, test and form one's 
principles of life, run through in thought one's knowledge - or lack of it - 
weigh up one's duties, think over the contents and true purpose of life, 
feel genuinely pained by one's own errors and imperfections. In a word: 
labour to discover the essential, the enduring, and earnestly aim at goals 
in accord with it: for instance, virtues to be acquired. (Not to fall into the 
mistake of thinking that one has done something well, but to strive ever 
further towards the highest standards.)

This exercise is called:

                        `RIGHT EXAMINATION'.



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