KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT
TO THE AUTHOR’S LATEST EDITION 1918
The way to supersensible knowledge, as described in this book, leads the soul through experiences concerning the nature of which it is especially important that all illusions and misconceptions should be avoided. Yet it is but natural that the latter should arise in such questions as are here considered. In this connection one of the most serious mistakes arises when the whole range of inner experience dealt with in true Spiritual Science, is distorted into appearing in the same category as superstition, visionary dreaming, mediumship (spiritualism) and other degenerate pursuits. This distortion is often due to the fact that persons desirous of following the path described in this book, are confused with others who in their search for supersensible reality, and as a result of methods foreign to a genuine striving for knowledge, wander into undesirable paths. The experiences through which the human soul lives on the path here meant, are wholly confined to the realm of psycho-spiritual occurrence. They are only possible if equal freedom and independence from the bodily life are attained for certain other inner experiences, as is the case during ordinary consciousness, when thoughts are made concerning things outwardly apprehended or inwardly felt and willed, thoughts that do not themselves originate in what is apprehended, felt and willed. There are people who deny the existence of such thoughts. They believe that no thought is possible that is not extracted from perceptions or from the inner life dependent on the body. For them, all thoughts are, to a certain extent, mere reflections of perceptions and of inner experiences. This view, however, cannot be expressed save by those who have never raised themselves to the faculty of experiencing with their souls a self-sustaining life in pure thought. For others, who have lived through this experience, it is a matter of knowledge that whatever thought dominates the life of the soul, inasmuch as this thought permeates other functions of the soul, the human being is involved in an activity, in originating which his body has no share. In the ordinary life of the soul, thought is almost always blended with other functions, e.g. apprehension, feeling, willing, etc. These other functions are effectuated by the body; yet thought plays into them, and inasmuch as it plays into them, a process takes place, in and through the human being, in which his body has no share. This can only be denied so long as the illusion is not discarded which arises from the observation of thought only when the latter is united with other functions. Yet an inner exertion is possible enabling the thinking part of inner life to be experienced, separated from everything else. Something consisting in pure thought alone, can be detached from the compass of soul-life, that is, thoughts which are self-sustaining and from which everything provided by bodily conditioned inner life is excluded. Such thoughts reveal themselves through themselves, through what they are, as spiritual supersensible entity. Anyone uniting himself with them, while excluding all apprehension, all memory and every other token of inner life, knows himself to be in a supersensible region, and experiences himself outside the physical body. For anyone familiar with this whole process, it becomes irrelevant to question whether the soul can live through experience outside the body, in a supersensible world. For it would mean denying what he knows by experience. He is concerned only with inquiring into what prevents such a positive fact from being recognized. And the answer he finds to this question, is that the above fact does not reveal itself unless the individual first cultivates a condition of soul, allowing him to become the recipient of this revelation.
Now people become at once suspicious when an activity solely confined to the soul is expected of them, in order that something extraneous to themselves should reveal itself. They believe that they themselves give the revelation its content because they prepare themselves to receive it. They expect experiences to which they contribute nothing and which allow them to remain quite passive. Should such people, in addition, be ignorant of the simplest scientific requirements for the comprehension of a given fact, they will take for an objective revelation of non-sensible entity, contents and productions of the soul, in which the soul’s participation is reduced below the level maintained in apprehension and wilful action. Such are the soul-contents provided by the experiences and revelations of the visionary and the medium. But what comes to the fore through such revelations is not a supersensible but a sub-sensible world. Human waking life does not run its course completely within the body; the most conscious part of it transpires on the boundary between the body and the physical outer world; thus the process of apprehension in the organs of sense, is as much an extra-physical process penetrating into the body as a permeation of this process from out of the body. So, too, is the life of will, that is founded on the co-ordination of the human being in the cosmic being, so that what occurs in the human being is simultaneously a link in the chain of cosmic occurrence. In this life of the soul transpiring on the boundary of the physical body, the human being is largely dependent on his physical organisation; but the function of thought plays into this activity, and inasmuch as this is the case, the human being makes himself independent of his bodily organisation in the functions of apprehending and willing. As a visionary and a medium the human being becomes completely dependent on his body. He excludes from the life of his soul that function which, in apprehending and willing, makes him independent of his body. Thus the content and productions of his soul are merely revelations of his bodily life. The experiences of the visionary and the productions of the medium owe their existence to the circumstance that the individual, while thus experiencing and producing, is, with his soul, less independent of his body than in ordinary apprehending and willing. In the experience of the supersensible as indicated in this book, the development of soul-life proceeds in just the opposite direction to that taken by the visionary and the medium. The soul acquires a progressively greater independence from the body than is the case in apprehending and willing. The same independence realised in the experience of pure thought, is attained by the soul for a far wider range of activity.
For the supersensible activity of the soul here meant, it is exceptionally important to grasp and realise, in the clearest possible way, this experience of life in pure thought. For, in the main, this experience is already a supersensible activity of the soul, only one in which nothing supersensible is as yet perceived. With pure thought we live in the supersensible; but we experience this alone in supersensible fashion; we do not, as yet, experience anything else supersensibly. And supersensible experience must be a continuation of that life already attained by the soul, when united with pure thought. For this reason it is so important to gain knowledge of this union in the right way, for it is from its comprehension that light shines forth to bring correct insight into the nature of supersensible knowledge. The moment the life of the soul sinks below the level of clear consciousness existing in thought, the soul is on the wrong path, so far as true knowledge of the supersensible world is concerned; for the soul is seized by the bodily functions and what is then experienced is not the revelation of a supersensible world, but bodily revelations confined to the sub-sensible world.
Having penetrated to the sphere of the supersensible, the soul’s experiences are of such a nature, that descriptive expressions cannot so easily be found for them as for experiences confined to the world of the senses. Care must often be taken not to overlook the fact that to a certain extent, in descriptions of supersensible experience, the distance separating the actual fact from the language used to describe it, is greater than in descriptions of physical experience. The reader must be at pains to realise that many an expression is intended as an illustration merely indicating, in a delicate way, the reality to which it refers. Thus it is said on page 17 of this book: ‘Originally all the rules and teachings of Spiritual Science were expressed in a symbolical sign-language.’ And on page 52 a ‘particular writing system’ was mentioned. Now anyone may easily be led to suppose that such a writing can be learnt in the same way as the letters of an ordinary physical language, and their combination. In this connection it must be pointed out that there have been and there still exist spiritual scientific schools and associations possessing symbolical signs, by means of which supersensible facts are brought to expression. And anyone initiated into the meaning of these symbols attains thereby the means of directing his inner life towards the supersensible realities in question. Yet such an external symbolical language is of no essential importance for supersensible experience. It is more important that in the course of that supersensible experience to which the realisation of the contents of this book leads, the soul should, in the contemplation of the supersensible, gain the revelation of such a writing through personal experience. The supersensible says something to the soul which the soul must translate into these illustrative signs, so that it can be surveyed with full consciousness. The statement can be made that what is imparted in this book can be realised by every soul. And in the course of this realisation, which the soul can personally determine according to the indications given, the resulting events occur as described.
Let the reader take this book as a conversation between the author and himself. The statement that the student needs personal instruction should be understood in the sense that this book itself is personal instruction. In earlier times there were reasons for reserving such personal instruction for oral teaching; to-day we have reached a stage in the evolution of humanity in which spiritual scientific knowledge must become far more widely disseminated than formerly. It must be placed within the reach of every individual, to a quite different extent from what was the case in older times. So the book replaces the former oral instruction. It is only to a limited extent correct that further personal instruction is necessary, beyond that contained in this book. No doubt, someone may need assistance, and it may be of importance for him or her; but it would be false to believe that there were any cardinal points not mentioned in this book. They can be found by those who read correctly, and, above all, completely.
The descriptive instructions given in this book appear at first sight as though they required the complete alteration of the whole human being. Yet, when rightly read, it will be found that no more is intended by them than a description of the inner condition of soul required by anyone, in those moments when he confronts the supersensible world. He develops this condition of soul as a second being within himself; and the other healthy being pursues its course in the old way. He knows how to hold the two beings apart in full consciousness, and how to make them act and react on each other in the right way. This does not make him useless and incompetent for life, nor does he lose his interest and skill in it, and become a ‘spiritual investigator the whole day long’. It is of course true that the student’s manner of experience in the supersensible world will shed its light over his whole being; but far from distracting him from life, it makes him more capable and his life more productive. The necessity of adopting the existing method of description is due to the fact that every cognitive process directed towards the supersensible, calls the whole human being into action; so that in the moment of such cognition the whole human being is engaged. Whereas in the process of apprehension of colour, the eye alone with its adjoining nervous system is engaged, the supersensible cognitive process engages the whole human being. The whole human being becomes an ‘eye’ or an ‘ear’. For this reason, when information is given concerning the construction of supersensible cognitive processes, it appears as though a transformation of the human being were meant, as if nothing were right, in the ordinary human being, and he should become quite different.
I should like to add to what was said on pages 81 et seq., concerning ‘some results of Initiation’, something which, with a slight alteration, can apply to other parts of the book. It may occur to some to ask if such figurative descriptions are necessary, and if it is not possible to describe these supersensible experiences in ideas, without such illustrations. In reply it must be pointed out that for the experience of supersensible reality it is essential that the human being should know himself to be a supersensible being in a supersensible world. Without this vision of his own supersensible being, whose reality is fully revealed, in its way, in the descriptions here given of the lotus flowers and the etheric body, the individual’s experience of himself in the supersensible world would be as though he were placed in the sensible world in such a way that the things and processes around him revealed themselves, while he himself had no knowledge of his own body. But his perception of his own supersensible form in soul-body and etheric body enables him to stand, conscious of himself, in the supersensible world, as he is conscious of himself in the physical world through the perception of his physical body.