KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT
At the very beginning of his course, the student is directed to the ‘Path of Reverence’ and the development of the inner life. Spiritual Science now also gives him practical rules, by observing which, he may tread that path and develop that inner life. These practical rules have no arbitrary origin. They rest upon ancient experience and ancient wisdom, and are given out in the same manner, wheresoever the ways to higher knowledge are indicated. All true teachers of the spiritual life are in agreement as to the character of these rules, even though they do not always clothe them in the same words. This difference, which is of a minor character, and is more apparent than real, is due to circumstances which need not be dwelt upon here.
No teacher of the spiritual life wishes to establish a mastery over other persons by means of such rules. He would not tamper with any person’s independence. Indeed, none respect and cherish human independence more than the spiritually experienced. It was stated in the preceding pages, that the bond of union embracing all Initiates is spiritual, and that two laws form, as it were, clasps, by which the component parts of this bond are held together. Whenever the Initiate leaves his enclosed spiritual circuit and steps forth before the world, he must immediately take a third law into account. It is this: adapt each one of your actions, and frame each one of your words in such a way that you infringe upon no man’s free-will.
The recognition that all true teachers of the spiritual life are permeated through and through with this principle, will convince all who follow the practical rules proffered to them, that they need sacrifice none of their independence.
One of the first of these rules can be expressed somewhat in the following words of our language: ‘Provide for yourself moments of inner tranquillity, and learn, in these moments, to distinguish between the essential and the non-essential.’ It is said advisedly: ‘Expressed in the words of our language.’ Originally all rules and teachings of Spiritual Science were expressed in a symbolical sign-language, some understanding for which must be acquired before its whole meaning and scope can be realized. This understanding is dependent on the first steps towards higher knowledge, and these steps result from the exact observation of such rules as are here given. For all who earnestly will, the path stands open to tread.
Simple, in truth, is the above rule concerning moments of inner tranquillity; equally simple is its observation. But it only achieves its purpose when it is observed in as earnest and strict a manner, as it is, in itself, simple. How this rule is to be observed, will be explained, therefore, without digression.
The student must set aside a small part of his daily life, in which to concern himself with something quite different from the objects of his daily occupation. The way, also, in which he occupies himself at such a time, must differ entirely from the way in which he performs the rest of his daily duties. But this does not mean that what he does in the time thus set apart, has no connection with his daily work. On the contrary, he will soon find that just these secluded moments, when sought in the right way, give him full power to perform his daily task. Nor must it be supposed that the observance of this rule will really encroach upon the time needed for the performance of his duties. Should anyone really have no more time at his disposal, five minutes a day will suffice. It all depends on the manner in which these five minutes are spent.
At these periods, the student should wrest himself entirely free from his work-a-day life. His thoughts and feelings should take on a different colouring. His joys and sorrows, his cares, experiences and actions must pass in review before his soul; and he must adopt such a position that he may regard all his sundry experiences from a higher point of view.
We need only bear in mind how, in ordinary life, we regard the experiences and actions of others quite differently from our own. This cannot be otherwise, for we are interwoven with our own actions and experiences, whereas those of others we only contemplate. Our aim in these moments of seclusion, must be so to contemplate and judge our own actions and experiences, as though they applied not to ourselves but to some other person. Suppose, for example, a heavy misfortune befalls us. How different would be our attitude towards a similar misfortune, had it befallen our neighbour! This attitude cannot be blamed as unjustifiable; it is part of human nature, and applies equally to exceptional circumstances and to the daily affairs of life. The student must seek the power of confronting his own self, at certain times, as a stranger. He must stand before his own self with the inner tranquillity of a judge. When this is attained, our own experiences present themselves in a new light. As long as we are interwoven with them and stand, as it were, within them, we cling to the non-essential just as much as to the essential. If we attain the calm inner survey, the essential is severed from the non-essential. Sorrow and joy, every thought, every resolve, appear different when we confront ourselves in this way. It is as though we had spent the whole day in a place where we saw the smallest objects at the same close range as the largest, and in the evening climbed a neighbouring hill, and surveyed the whole scene at a glance. Then the various parts appear related to each other in different proportions from those they bore when seen from within. This exercise will not and need not succeed with current blows of fate, but it should be attempted by the student in connection with misfortune experienced in the past. The value of such inner tranquil self-contemplation depends far less on what is actually contemplated, than on our finding within ourselves the power which such inner tranquillity develops.
For every human being bears within himself, besides what we may call the work-a-day man, a higher man. And each individual can only himself awaken this higher being within him. As long as this higher being is not awakened, the higher faculties, slumbering in every human being, and leading to supersensible knowledge, will remain concealed. The student must resolve to persevere in the strict and earnest observation of the rule here given, so long as he does not feel within himself the fruits of this inner tranquillity. To all who thus persevere, the day will come when spiritual light will envelope them, and a new world will be revealed to an organ of sight of whose existence, within them, they were hitherto unaware.
And no change need take place in the outward life of the student in consequence of this new rule. He performs his duties, and, at first, feels the same joys, sorrows and experiences as before. In no way can it estrange him from life; he can rather devote himself the more thoroughly to this life, for the remainder of the day, having gained a higher life in the moments set apart. Little by little this higher life will make its influence felt on his ordinary life. The tranquillity of the moments set apart will affect also everyday existence. In his whole being, he will grow calmer, he will attain firm assurance in all his actions, and will cease to be put out of countenance by all manner of incidents. By thus advancing he will gradually become more and more his own guide, and will allow himself, less and less, to be led by circumstances and external influences. He will soon discover how great a source of strength is available to him in these moments thus set apart. He will begin no longer to get angry at things which formerly angered him; countless things which he formerly feared cease to alarm him. He acquires a new outlook on life. Formerly he may have approached some occupation in a faint-hearted way. He would say: ‘Oh, I lack the power to do this as well as I could wish.’ Now this thought does not occur to him, but rather a quite different thought. Henceforth he says to himself: ‘I will summon up all my strength to do my work as well as I possibly can.’ And he suppresses the thought which makes him faint-hearted; for he knows that this very thought might be the cause of a worse performance on his part, and that, in any case, it cannot contribute to the improvement of his work. And thus thought after thought, each fraught with advantage to his whole life, flow into the student’s outlook. They take the place of those that had a hampering, weakening effect. He begins to steer his own ship on a secure course through the waves of life, whereas it was formerly battered to and fro by these waves.
This calm and serenity react on the whole being. They assist the growth of the inner man, and with the inner man, those faculties also grow which lead to higher knowledge. For it is by his progress in this direction that the student gradually reaches the point, when he himself determines the manner in which the impressions of the outer world shall affect him. Thus he may hear a word spoken with the object of wounding or vexing him. Formerly it mould indeed have wounded or vexed him, but now that he treads the path to higher knowledge, he is able to take from the word the sting which gives it the power to wound or vex; before it has found its way to his inner self. Take another example. We easily become impatient when we are kept waiting, but if we tread the path to higher knowledge, we so steep ourselves, in our moments of calm, with the feeling of the uselessness of impatience, that henceforth, on every occasion of impatience, this feeling is immediately present within us. The impatience that was about to make itself felt, vanishes, and an interval which would otherwise have been wasted in expressions of impatience, will be filled by useful observation, which can be made while waiting.
Now the scope and significance of these facts must be realized. We must bear in mind that the higher man within man is in constant development. But only the state of calm and serenity here described renders an orderly development possible. The waves of outward life press in upon the inner man from all sides, if, instead of mastering this outward life, he is mastered by it. Such a man is like a plant which tries to expand in a cleft in the rock, and is stunted in its growth, until new space is given it. No outward forces can supply space to the inner man. It can only be supplied by the inner calm which man himself gives to his soul. Outward circumstances can only alter the course of his outward life; they can never awaken the inner spiritual man. The student must himself give birth to a new and higher man within him.
This higher man now becomes the inner ruler, who directs the circumstances of the outer man with sure guidance. As long as the outer man has the upper hand and control, this inner man is his slave, and therefore cannot unfold his powers. If it depends on something foreign to myself, that I should get angry or not, I am not master of myself, or, to put it better, I have not yet found the ruler within me. I must develop the faculty of letting the impressions of the outer world approach me only in the way in which I myself determine; then only do I become in the real sense a student. And only in so far as the student earnestly seeks this power, can he reach the goal. It is of no importance - how far anyone can get in a given time; the point is that he should earnestly seek. Many have striven for years without noticing any appreciable progress; but many of those who did not despair, but remained unshaken, have then, quite suddenly achieved the ‘inner victory’.
No doubt a great effort is required, in many stations of life, to provide these moments of inner calm; but the greater the effort needed, the more important is the achievement. In Spiritual Science everything depends upon the energy, inward truthfulness and uncompromising sincerity with which we confront our own selves, with all our deeds and actions, as a complete stranger.
But only one side of the student’s activity is characterized by this birth of his own higher being. Something else is needed in addition. Even if he confronts himself as a stranger, it is only himself that he contemplates; he looks on those experiences and actions with which he is connected through his particular station of life. He must now disengage himself from it and rise beyond, to a purely human level, which no longer has anything to do with his own special situation. He must pass on to the contemplation of those things which would concern him, if he lived under quite different circumstances, and in quite a different situation. In this way something begins to live within him which ranges above the purely personal. His gaze is directed to higher worlds than those with which everyday life connects him. And thus he begins to feel and realize, as an inner experience, that he belongs to those higher worlds. These are worlds concerning which his senses and his daily occupation can tell him nothing. Thus he now shifts the central point of his being to the inner part of his nature. He listens to the voices within him, which speak to him, in his moments of tranquillity; he cultivates an intercourse with the spiritual world. He is removed from the everyday world. Its noise is silenced. All around him there is silence. He puts away everything that is around him; he even puts away everything that reminds him of such impressions from without. Calm inward contemplation and converse with the purely spiritual world fill his soul. Such tranquil contemplation must become a natural necessity in the life of the student. He is now plunged in a world of thought. He must develop a living feeling for this silent thought-activity. He must learn to love what the spirit pours into him. He will soon cease to feel that this thought-world is less real than the everyday things which surround him. He begins to deal with his thoughts as with things in space, and the moment approaches when he begins to feel that which reveals itself in the silent inward thought-world, to be much higher, much more real than the things in space. He discovers that something living expresses itself in this thought-world. He sees that his thoughts do not merely harbour shadow-pictures, but that, through them, hidden beings speak to him. From out of the silence speech becomes audible to him. Formerly sound only reached him through his ear; now it resounds through his soul. An inner language, an inner word is revealed to him. This moment, when first experienced, is one of greatest rapture for the student. An inner light is shed over the whole external world, and a new life begins for him. Through his being there pours a divine stream from a world of divine rapture.
This life of the soul in thought, which gradually widens into a life in spiritual being, is called by Gnosis and by Spiritual Science, Meditation (contemplative reflection). This meditation is the means to supersensible knowledge. But the student in such moments must not merely indulge in feelings; he must not have indefinite sensations in his soul. That would only hinder him from reaching true spiritual knowledge. His thoughts must be clear, sharp and definite, and he will be helped in this if he does not cling blindly to the thoughts that rise within him. Rather must he permeate himself with the lofty thoughts with which men already advanced and possessed of the spirit were inspired, in such moments. He should take as his starting point the writings which themselves had their origin in such revelation during meditation. In the mystic, gnostic and spiritual scientific literature of to-day, the student will find such writings, and in them the material for his meditation. The seekers of the spirit have themselves set down, in such writings, the thoughts of the divine science, which the Spirit has suffered to be proclaimed to the world through his messengers.
Through such meditation a complete transformation takes place in the student. He begins to form quite new conceptions of reality. All things acquire a fresh value for him. It cannot be repeated too often that this transformation does not alienate him from the world. He will in no way be estranged from his daily duties, for he comes to realize that the most insignificant action he has to accomplish, the most insignificant experience which offers itself to him, stand in connection with cosmic beings and cosmic events. When once this connection is revealed to him in his moments of contemplation, he engages in his daily circle of activities with a new, fuller power. For now he knows that his labour and his suffering are given and endured for the sake of a great, spiritual, cosmic whole. Not weariness, but strength to live springs from meditation.
With firm step the student passes through life. No matter what it may bring him, he goes forward erect. In the past he knew not why he laboured and suffered, but now he knows. It is obvious that such meditation leads more surely to the goal, if conducted under the direction of experienced persons, who know of themselves how everything may best be done; and their advice and guidance should be sought. Truly no one loses his freedom. What would otherwise be mere uncertain groping in the dark, becomes, under this direction, precise work. All who apply to such as possess knowledge and experience in these matters will never apply in vain, only they must realize that what they seek is the advice of a friend and not the domination of a would-be ruler. It will always be found that they who really know, are the most modest of men, and that nothing is further from their nature than what is called the lust for power.
When, by means of meditation, man rises to be united with the spirit, he brings to life the eternal in him, which is limited by neither birth nor death. The existence of this eternal being can only be doubted by those who have not themselves experienced it. Thus meditation is the way which also leads man to the knowledge, to the contemplation of his eternal, indestructible, essential being. Gnosis and Spiritual Science tell of the eternal nature of this being, and of its re-incarnation. The question is often asked: Why does a man know nothing of his experiences beyond the borders of life and death? How can we attain such knowledge! In right meditation the path is opened. This alone can revive the memory of experiences beyond the border of life and death. Everyone can attain this knowledge; in each one of us lies the faculty of recognizing and contemplating for ourselves what genuine Mysticism, Spiritual Science, Anthroposophy and Gnosis teach. Only the right means must be chosen. Only a being with ears and eyes can apprehend sounds and colours, nor can the eye perceive, if the light, which makes things visible, be wanting. Spiritual Science gives the means of developing the spiritual ears and eyes, and kindling the spiritual light; this method of spiritual training may be described as consisting of three stages: (1) Probation; this develops the spiritual senses. (2) Enlightenment; this kindles the spiritual light. (3) Initiation; this establishes intercourse with the higher spiritual beings.