by Rudolf Steiner
Translated from the German by Frank Thomas Smith
Dornach, February 22, 1924
My dear friends,
We will relate what is said today to the previous lesson, partly to preserve the thread, and partly because there are members present who were not here last time. We shall therefore start with a short recapitulation of the last lesson.
We proceeded in thought to the place where the human being - who with normal consciousness can grasp the sense-world, which is the world that surrounds him - can feel himself related to the super-sensible, related to a being which corresponds to his own being. And we want to first develop this sensation before proceeding to the mysteries of the spiritual life, which we will do shortly.
The first sensation should make us aware of how the human being, in his normal condition, lives surrounded by the world of the senses, which however he is not able to identify with his own being. We shall therefore develop this theme. And although the words “Know thyself!” have been enunciated throughout the ages, encouraging man to perform his noblest deeds, still he can find no answers, no satisfaction if, under the influence of “Know thyself”, he only sees what the senses provide - the exterior world. Now, however, he is directed towards something else, something beyond the exterior world.
If with this sensation, which one can have when one gazes out to the depths of cosmic space with the question of his own being in mind, when in thought we approach super-sensible being, which is one with the inner human being, then the corresponding sensation will be given through the words I provided to you the last time:
We can now observe and feel in our souls the beauty, the greatness and the sublimity of the external world, but we also realize that we can never find our own being in this world. For the person who seeks the spirit, it is necessary to repeatedly feel this sensation in his soul. Because by deeply experiencing the sensation that by looking out into the external world we gain no answer to the question of who we are, feeling this sensation again and again gives the soul the impulse and the strength that can carry us into the spiritual world. Yet just as by having this sensation we will be carried up into the spiritual world, we must also bear in mind that the person of normal consciousness in normal life is unprepared to encounter that world, which in reality is the world of his own being.
Therefore on the border between the sense-world and the spiritual world that guardian stands who earnestly warns people against crossing over into the spiritual world unprepared. And it is the case, my dear friends, that we must always keep in mind the fact that the Guardian stands before the [entrance to] the spiritual world for the well-being of unprepared human beings. And we must therefore be quite clear about the necessity for a certain attitude of soul in order to achieve real knowledge and insight.
If such insight were provided to everyone walking down the street it would be terrible for them because they wouldn't be prepared. They would be receiving it without the preparatory attitude of soul. Therefore we must deeply feel the second sensation which over and over again tells us how we must approach the Guardian:
Then the Guardian himself speaks while we are still on this side, in the sense-fields. He points to the other side where for us is unmitigated darkness while we are on this side, but which is to become light-filled, which must become light to us through spirit-knowledge, from out of which he speaks who alone is bright. He speaks, indicating the apparent darkness, this maya-darkness:
Whoever can feel deeply enough the words which resound from the Guardian's mouth, if he looks back upon himself, will realize that this looking back, the perception in looking back, constitutes the first stage of self-knowledge. Self-knowledge which is preparatory for the true self-knowledge which reveals spiritual cosmic knowledge of the being which is one with our own humanity. And then the knowledge arises which one can obtain on this side of the threshold of spiritual existence, knowledge which reveals the contamination in our own thinking, feeling and willing in terrible but true images; as three beasts arising from the yawning abyss between the sense-world and the spirit-world.
What we should feel at the abyss of being between the maya, the illusion, and the real world, should appear before our souls as the fourth sensation.
We must be quite clear, my dear friends, that bravery in acquiring knowledge is not present at first in the soul, but cowardice for acquiring knowledge is what dominates. Especially in our time that cowardice is what holds back most people from even approaching an insight into the spiritual world.
That is the second thing that we have within us - which plants doubt in our soul, every kind of uncertainty about the spiritual world. It is inherent in feeling, because feeling is weak and cannot rise to enthusiasm. True knowledge must outgrow superficial enthusiasm which trails all kinds of cheap external life. Inner enthusiasm, inner fire which becomes a burning thirst for knowledge; that is what overcomes the second beast.
We must find the courage and the fire to bring activity to our thinking. When we create with ordinary consciousness we create arbitrarily, we create what is not real. When, however, we correctly prepare ourselves for creative thinking, the spiritual world streams into our creative thinking. And then, due to knowledge-bravery, to a burning thirst for knowledge and to creative knowledge, we are truly standing in the spiritual world.
Such sensations can lead to feeling what we must activate in ourselves in order to enter the spiritual world as genuine, living human beings. In ordinary life it is often the most banal things which cause us to realize that life is serious and not a mere game. But what leads to knowledge does not impress us as much as exterior life does. It is all too easily made a game. And one is convinced that the game is in earnest. But one harms one's self and others greatly by playing at spiritual striving, by not being completely earnest about it.
This earnestness should not be expressed as sentimentality. Humor may be called for with respect to some aspects of life. But the humor must then be serious. When we compare earnestness with mere game-playing, it is not sentimentality, false piety or the rolling of eyes as opposed to games. Rather is it the possibility of really concentrating on spiritual striving and consistently and wholeheartedly living in it.
In order to sense the importance of what I am saying, my dear friends, it would be really good for spiritual striving if all the friends who are sitting here - especially those who have been in the Anthroposophical Society for a long time - to ask themselves the following question: How often have I resolved to undertake some task related to anthroposophical life, and how often have I completely forgotten about it after a short time? Perhaps I would have done it if I had thought about it, but I did not think about it any more. It was extinguished, just as a dream is extinguished.
It is neither meaningless nor unimportant to ask yourselves such a question. And perhaps it would not be unimportant if a large number of our friends were to undertake something in this direction now.
The Christmas Conference  was to be the beginning of true esotericism pouring into the entire anthroposophical worldview stream, supported by the Anthroposophical Society. How often - one can ask - have I forgotten what I found to be quite beautiful during the Christmas Conference and in my thoughts and feelings continued as though the Anthroposophical Society were the same as it was before the Christmas Conference. And if someone says: that is not the case with me, it could be quite important for that person to ask himself: Am I fooling myself to think it is not the case with me? In respect to all anthroposophical activity have I realized that a new phase of the Anthroposophical Society has begun? To ask this question is very significant, for then the correct earnestness enters the soul.
And you see, this is connected to the life-blood of the Anthroposophical Society and therefore to the life-blood of every member who has requested acceptance in the Class; and it is good if it relates to something which exerts a strong influence in life. Therefore it would be good if all those who wish to belong to the Class ask themselves: Isn't there something I can do - now that the Anthroposophical Society has been re-founded - do differently than previously. Couldn't I introduce something new into my life as an anthroposophist? Couldn't I change the way I acted previously by introducing something new?
That would be enormously important, if taken seriously, for every individual who belongs to the Class. For thereby it would be possible for the Class to continue without being burdened by such heavy baggage. For everyone who keeps to the old humdrum routine burdens the progress of the Class. It is perhaps not noticeable, but true nevertheless. In esoteric life there is no possibility of introducing what is so prevalent in life: interpreting lies as truth. If one tries to do this in esoteric life it is not the interpretation which matters, but the truth. In esoteric life only the truth works, nothing else. You may color something because of vanity, but what has been colored makes no impression on the spiritual world. The unvarnished truth is what is effective in the spiritual world.
From all this you can judge how different spiritual realities are - which under the surface of life work today as always - from what everyday life shows, patched up as it is with so many lies. Very little of what passes today between people is true. To continually remind ourselves of this belongs to the beginning of work within the Class. For only with this notion can we find the strength to cooperate here in the Class with what will be unfolded in our souls from lesson to lesson in order that we may find the path to the spiritual world.
For we will only be able to recognize what must be cultivated in our thinking, feeling and willing in order for the three beasts to be defeated: thinking, the thought - phantom; feeling - mockery; willing - the bony crookedness of spirit. For these three beasts are the enemies of knowledge. We see them in the mirror, but as realities from the yawning abyss of being.
And deeply rooted with our humanity is everything which hinders us from real knowledge, firstly in our thinking. Normal human thinking is reflected in the thought-phantom of the first beast, the form of which was described thus:
It is the image of ordinary human thinking which thinks about things of the outside world and doesn't realize that such thinking is a corpse. Where did the being live whose corpse this ordinary thinking is?
Yes, my dear friends, nowadays - in accordance with contemporary civilization - when thinking from waking in the morning till retiring at night according to the guidance given us in school and in life itself, our thinking is a corpse. It is dead. When did it live, and where?
It lived before we were born; it lived when our souls were in pre-earthly existence. Just as you imagine, dear friends, that the human being lives on the physical earth animated by his soul within and he goes around in this physical body until his death, when the animating soul is invisible to external observation and the corpse is visible - the dead form of the human figure. You must imagine this related to thinking. A living, organic, growing, moving being possessed it before the human being entered into earthly existence. Then it becomes a corpse buried in our own heads, in our brains. And just as if a corpse in the tomb were to declare: I am the man! so declares our thinking when it lies buried in the brain as a corpse and thinks about the external things of the world. It is a corpse. It is perhaps depressing to realize that it is a corpse, but it is true, and esoteric knowledge must hold to the truth.
That is the meaning of the Guardian of the Threshold's words. After he has described the warning of the three beasts, he continues. And the words which resound in our hearts are these:
I will repeat it:
Thinking, with which we achieve so much here in the sense-world, for the gods of the cosmos is the corpse of our soul's being. By entering into an earthly existence we have died in thinking during this time on earth. The death of thinking had gradually been preparing itself since the year 333 A.D. The middle of the fourth post-Atlantean period. Before that life had poured into thinking, which was the heritage of pre-earthly existence. The Greeks felt that vitality, as did the Orientals, in that they thought of thinking as being the work of the spirit, of the gods. They knew, in that they thought, that in every thought the god lived. That has been lost. Thinking has become dead. And we must heed the message of the times that reaches us through the Guardian:
This cosmic age began in the year 333 after Christianity began, after the first third of the fourth century had passed. And now thinking, devoid of the force of life, is clearly present in everything. And the dead thinking of the nineteenth century forced dead materialism to the surface of human civilization.
It is different with feeling. The greatest enemy of humanity, Ahriman, has not yet been able to kill feeling in the same way he killed thinking. Feeling also lives in human beings in the present cosmic age. But man has to a great extent driven this feeling down from full consciousness into the halfway unconscious. Feeling arises in the soul. Who has it in his power, as he has thinking in his power? To whom is it clear what lives in feeling as it is clear to him what lives in thinking?
Take one of the saddest - to the spirit saddest - occurrences of our times, my dear friends. When people think clearly they are citizens of the world, for they well know that thinking makes you human, even when it is dead in the present age.
But people are separated by their feeling into nations, and especially today they let this unconscious feeling dominate in the worst possible way. Because people feel themselves as only belonging to a certain group, all kinds of conflicts arise.
Nevertheless, world karma places us in a certain human group, and it is our feeling that acts as an instrument of world karma when we are placed in this tribe, in that class, in that nation. It is not through thinking that we are so placed. Thinking, if it is not colored by feeling and willing, is the same thinking everywhere. Feeling, however, is graduated according to the different regions of the world. Feeling lies halfway in the unconscious, alive yes, but in the unconscious. Therefore the ahrimanic spirit, unable to exert influence on the living part, uses the opportunity to agitate in the unconscious. And he concentrates this agitation on the confusion between truth and error. All our prejudices based on feeling are colored by ahrimanic influences and impulses.
If we want to enter the spiritual world this feeling must rise up before our souls. We must be able to include feeling in the development of knowledge. Through constant review of our own being, we must be able to know what kind of persons we are as feeling human beings. This is not easy. With thinking it is relatively easy to achieve clarity about ourselves. We don't always do it, but it is still easier to admit: you are not exactly a genius, or you lack clear thinking about this or that. At the most, it is either vanity or opportunism which prevents us from achieving clarity about our thinking.
But with feeling we never really get to the point of observing ourselves in our souls. We are always convinced that the direction of our feeling is the correct one. We must delve most intimately into our souls if we wish to know ourselves as feeling human beings. Only by facing ourselves directly with complete conscientiousness do we lift ourselves up, do we lift ourselves up over the obstacles which the second beast places before us on the path to the spiritual world.
Otherwise, if we do not occasionally practice this self-knowledge as feeling human beings, then we will always develop a mocking countenance with respect to the spiritual world. Because we are not conscious of our ailing feeling capacity, we are also unconscious of being mockers of the spiritual world. We disguise the mockery in all possible forms, but we are still mocking the spiritual world. And it is just those, of whom I spoke previously, who lack earnestness, who are the scoffers. They are sometimes embarrassed to express the mockery even to themselves, but they are still mocking the spiritual world. For how can one lack seriousness regarding the spiritual world, playing games about it, without mocking it. To such as they the Guardian speaks:
The first beast is the reflection of our will. The will does not only dream, it does not lie only half in the unconscious; it lies completely in the unconscious.
I have often described to you, my dear friends, how the will lies deep in the unconscious. And deep in the unconscious is where man seeks the paths of his karma, at least for ordinary consciousness. Every step that a person takes in life related to karma is measured. But he knows nothing about it. It is all unconscious. Previous earth-lives work forcefully into his karma. Karma leads us to our life's crises, to our decisions, to our doubts. Here we meet the individual's aberrations, the person who lives only for himself, and seeks only his own way. In thinking: one seeks the path which all men seek. In feeling: one seeks the path which his group seeks. In feeling we recognize if someone is from the north, from the west or the south, from eastern, southern or central Europe. One must concentrate on the will's unconscious impulses in order to see another human being as a single individual, rather than merely a human being in general or a member of a group. This is an act of will - but also deep in the unconscious. The first beast shows the aberrations of the will.
The Guardian reminds us:
In our willing work the spiritual powers which want to strip our bodies from us during our earthly existence and therewith take a portion of our souls with it, in order to build an earth which does not continue to develop as Jupiter, Venus, Vulcan. Rather the earth is to be sundered from divine intentions and stolen at some point in the future. Together with the earth stolen from the gods, the human being would be united with certain powers which work in his will ... the same will through which he seeks his karma.
The first beast is surely capable of revealing in a mirror-image what is working in the will: bony head, dried-out body with dull blue skin, the crooked back. It is the Ahrimanic spirit, which acts in the will when karma is being sought and which can only be overcome by the courage of knowledge. So the Guardian of the Threshold speaks about this beast as I have just described.
I will read it again:
In these words from the Guardian of the Threshold's mouth resound further the warning to the human being seeking knowledge and insight.
Let the following words live most intensively in our souls, my dear friends, and let us listen often to the Guardian's words:
Once again, you must grasp the concordance in these verses
[The first stanza of this mantram is written on the blackboard:]
At first we feel what each stanza contains.
The second stanza refers to feeling:
[The second stanza is written on the blackboard.]
Now we feel first: “denies”, and then “hollows out” and feel the nuance that enters into the verses by “denies” becoming “hollows out”.
The Guardian's words directed to willing:
This third stanza is written on the blackboard:
Note that in all three stanzas the word “evil” echoes. [The word is underlined.] And if you observe and feel the critical points in the escalations and in the difference between thinking, feeling and willing [the words are underlined], and if you correctly sense how all three are united by the always recurring word “evil”, then, my dear friends, each stanza will become a mantram for you, according to its inner meaning. And they can become a guide on the three stages to the spiritual world - that of the third beast, of the second beast and of the first beast. And if you never omit these three concordances and never fail to unite the three by the one decisive word towards an inner soul- then they will become your guide, my dear friends, on the path past the Guardian of the Threshold and into the spiritual world.
We will get to know him better in the following lessons.
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