When the student seeks the path leading to higher knowledge in the way described in the preceding chapter, he should not omit to fortify himself, throughout his work, with one ever-present thought. He must never cease repeating to himself that he may have made quite considerable progress, after a certain interval, though it may not be apparent to him in the way he perhaps expected; otherwise he can easily lose heart, and abandon all attempts after a short time. The powers and faculties to be developed are of a most subtle kind, and differ entirely, in their nature, from the conceptions formed of them by the student in advance. His occupation has been restricted to the physical world alone; and it is therefore not surprising if he does not immediately notice the powers of soul and spirit now developing in him. In this respect there is a possibility of error for those setting out on the path to higher knowledge, if they ignore the experience gathered by responsible investigators. The teacher is aware of the progress made by his pupil long before the latter is conscious of it. He knows how the delicate spiritual eyes begin to form themselves, long before the pupil is aware of their existence, and a great part of what he has to say is couched in such terms as to prevent the pupil from losing patience and perseverance, before he can himself attain knowledge of his own progress. The teacher, as we know, can confer upon the pupil no powers which are not already latent within him, and his sole function is to assist in the awakening of slumbering faculties. But what he imparts out of his own experience is a pillar of strength for him who will penetrate through darkness to light. Many abandon the path to higher knowledge, soon after having set foot upon it, because their progress is not immediately apparent to them. And even when the first experiences begin to dawn upon the seeker, he is apt to regard them as illusions, because he had formed quite different conceptions of what he was going to experience. He loses courage, either because he regards these first experiences as being of no value, or because they appear to him to be so unlikely that he cannot believe they will lead him to any appreciable results within a measurable time. Courage and self-confidence are two beacons which must never be extinguished on the path to higher knowledge. No one will ever travel far who cannot bring himself to repeat, over and over again, an exercise which has failed, apparently, for a countless number of times.

Long before any distinct perception of progress, there rises, in the student, from the hidden depths of the soul, a feeling that he is on the right path. This feeling should be cherished and fostered, for it can develop into a trustworthy guide. Above all it is imperative to extirpate the idea that any fantastic, mysterious practices are required for the attainment of higher knowledge. It must be clearly realized that a start has to be made with the thoughts and feelings with which we continually live, and that these feelings and thoughts are given a new direction. Everyone must say to himself: ‘In my own world of thought and feeling, the deepest mysteries lie hidden, only hitherto I have been unable to perceive them.’ In the end it all resolves itself into the fact that man ordinarily carries body, soul and spirit about with him, and yet is conscious, in a true sense, only of his body, and not of his soul and spirit. The student becomes conscious of soul and spirit, just as the ordinary person is conscious of his body. Hence it is highly important to give the proper direction to thoughts and feelings, for then only can the perception be developed of all that is invisible in ordinary life. One of the ways by which this development may be carried out will now be indicated. Again, like almost everything else so far explained, it is quite a simple matter. Yet its results are of the greatest consequence, if the necessary devotion and sympathy be applied.

Let the student place before himself the small seed of a plant, and while contemplating this insignificant object, construct with intensity, the right kind of thoughts, and through these thoughts develop certain feelings. In the first place let him clearly grasp what he really sees with his eyes. Let him describe to himself the shape, colour and all other qualities of the seed. Then let his mind dwell upon the following train of thought: ‘Out of the seed, if planted in the soil, a plant of complex structure will grow.’ Let him build up this plant in his imagination, and reflect as follows: ‘What I am now picturing to myself in my imagination, will, later on, be drawn out of the seed by the forces of the earth and of light. If I had before me an artificial object, which imitated the seed to such a deceptive degree that my eyes could not detect it from a real seed, no forces of the earth or of light could avail to produce from it a plant.’ If the student thoroughly grasps this thought so that it becomes an inward experience, he will also be able to form the following thought and couple it with the right feeling: ‘All that will ultimately grow out of the seed is now secretly enfolded within it, as the force of the whole plant. In the artificial imitation of the seed, there is no such force present. And yet both appear alike to my eyes. The real seed therefore contains something invisible, which is not present in the imitation.’ It is on this invisible something that thought and feeling are to be concentrated. [footnote: ‘Anyone objecting that a microscopical examination would reveal the difference between the real seed and the imitation, would only show that he had failed to grasp the point. The intention is not to investigate the physical nature of the object, but to use it for the development of psychic- spiritual forces.]

Let the student fully realize that this invisible something will transmute itself later on into a visible plant, which he will have before him in its shape and colour. Let him cling to the thought: ‘The invisible will become visible. If I could not think, then that could not already make its presence felt to me, which will only become visible later on.’ Particular stress must be laid on the following point: what the student thinks, he must also feel with intensity. In inner tranquillity, the thought mentioned above, must become a conscious inner experience, to the exclusion of all other thoughts and disturbances. And sufficient time must be taken to allow the thought and the feeling which is coupled to it, to bore themselves into the soul. If this be accomplished in the right way, then, after a time - possibly not until after numerous attempts - an inner force will make itself felt. This force will create new powers of perception. The grain of seed will appear as if enveloped in a small luminous cloud. In a sensible-supersensible way, it will be felt as a kind of flame. The centre of this flame evokes the same feeling as when one is under the impression of the colour lilac, and the edges as when under the impression of a bluish tone. What was formerly invisible now becomes visible, for it is created by the power of the thoughts and the feelings we have stirred to life within ourselves. The plant itself will not become visible until later, so that the physically invisible now reveals itself in a spiritually visible way.
It is not surprising that all this appears to many as illusion. ‘What is the use of such visions,’ they ask, ‘and such hallucinations?’ And many will thus fall away and abandon the path. But this is precisely the important point: not to confuse spiritual reality with imagination, at this difficult stage of human evolution, and furthermore, to have the courage to press onward and not become timorous and faint-hearted. On the other hand, however, the necessity must be emphasized of maintaining unimpaired and of perpetually cultivating that healthy sound sense which distinguishes truth from illusion. Fully conscious self-control must never be lost during all these exercises, and they must be accompanied by the same sane, sound thinking which is applied to the details of everyday life. To lapse into reveries would be fatal. The intellectual clarity, not to say the sobriety of thought, must never for a moment be dulled. The greatest mistake would be made, if the student’s mental balance were disturbed through such exercises, or if he were hampered from judging the matters of his daily life as sanely and as soundly as before. He should examine himself again and again to find out if he has remained unaltered in relation to the circumstances among which he lives, or whether he may perhaps have become unbalanced. Above all, strict care must be taken not to drift at random into vague reveries, or to experiment with all kinds of exercises. The trains of thought here indicated have been tested and practised in esoteric training since the earliest times, and only such are given in these pages. Anyone attempting to use others devised by himself, or of which he may have heard or read, at one place or another, will inevitably go astray and find himself on the path of bound- less chimera.

As a further exercise, to succeed the one just described, the following may be taken: Let the student place before him a plant which has attained the stage of full development. Now let him fill his mind with the thought that the time will come when this plant will wither and die. ‘Nothing will be left of what I now see before me. But this plant will have developed seeds, which, in their turn, will develop to new plants. I again become aware that in that which I see, something lies hidden which I cannot see. I fill my mind entirely with the thought: this plant, with its form and colours, will in time be no more. But the reflection that it produces seeds, teaches me that it will not disappear into nothing. I cannot at present see with my eyes that which guards it from disappearance, any more than I previously could discern the plant in the grain of seeds. Thus there is something in the plant which my eyes cannot see. If I let this thought live within me, and if the corresponding feeling be coupled with it, then, in due time, there will again develop in my soul, a force which will ripen into a new perception. ‘Out of the plant there again grows a kind of spiritual flame-form, which is, of course, correspondingly larger than the one previously described. The flame can be felt as being greenish-blue in the centre, and yellowish-red at the outer edge.

It must be explicitly emphasized that the colours here described are not seen as the physical eyes see colours, but that through spiritual perception, the same feeling is experienced as in the case of a physical colour-impression. To apprehend blue spiritually, means to have a sensation similar to the one experienced when the physical eye rests on the colour blue. This fact must be noted by all who intend to rise to spiritual perception. Otherwise they will expect a mere repetition of the physical in the spiritual. This could only lead to the bitterest deception.

Anyone having reached this point of spiritual vision, is the richer by a great deal, for he can perceive things not only in their present state of being, but also in their process of growth and decay. He begins to see in all things the spirit, of which physical eyes can know nothing. And therewith he has taken the first step towards the gradual solution, through personal vision, of the secret of birth and death. Fur the outer senses a being comes into existence through birth, and passes away through death. This, however, is only because these senses cannot perceive the concealed spirit of the being. For the spirit, birth and death are merely a transformation, just as the unfolding of the flower from the bud is a transformation enacted before our physical eyes. But if we desire to learn this through personal vision we must first awaken the requisite spiritual sense in the way here indicated.

In order to meet another objection, which may be raised by certain people who have some psychic experience, let it at once be admitted that there are shorter and simpler ways, and that there are persons who have acquired knowledge of the phenomena of birth and death through personal vision, without first going through all that has here been described. There are, in fact, people with considerable psychic gifts, who need but a slight impulse in order to find themselves already developed. But they are the exceptions, and the methods described above are safer and apply equally to all. It is possible to acquire some knowledge of chemistry in an exceptional way, but if you wish to become a chemist, you must follow the recognized and reliable course.

An error fraught with serious results would ensue, if it were assumed that the desired result could be reached more easily, if the grain of seed or the plant mentioned above, were merely imagined, were merely pictured in the imagination. This might lead to results, but not so surely as the method here given. The vision thus attained would, in most cases, be a mere figment of the imagination, the transformation of which into genuine spiritual vision, would still remain to be accomplished. It is not intended arbitrarily to create visions, but to allow reality to create them within oneself. The truth must well up from the depths of our own soul; it may not be conjured forth by our ordinary Ego, but by the beings themselves, whose spiritual truth we are to contemplate.

Once the student has found the rudiments of spiritual vision by means of such exercises, he may proceed to the contemplation of man himself. Simple appearances of human life must first be chosen. But before making any attempts in this direction, it is imperative for the student to strive for the absolute purity of his moral character. He must banish all thought of ever using knowledge gained in this way for his own personal benefit. There must be no fear in his mind that he would ever, under any circumstances, avail himself in a sense that is evil, of any power he may gain over his fellow-creatures. For this reason, all who seek to discover through personal vision the secrets in human nature, must follow the golden rule of true Spiritual Science. This golden rule is as follows: For every one step that you take in the pursuit of higher knowledge, take three steps in the perfection of your own character. If this rule be observed, such exercises as the following may be attempted:

Recall to mind some person whom you may have observed when he was filled with desire for some object. Direct your attention to this desire. It is best to recall to memory that moment when the desire was at its height, and it was still uncertain whether the object of the desire would be attained. And now fill your mind with this recollection, and reflect on what you can thus observe. Maintain the utmost inner tranquillity. Make the greatest possible effort to be blind and deaf to everything that may be going on around you, and take special heed that through the conception thus evoked, a feeling should awaken in your soul. Allow this feeling to rise in your soul like a cloud on the cloudless horizon. As a rule, of course, your reflection will be interrupted, because the person whom it concerns, was not observed in this particular state of soul for a sufficient length of time. The attempt will most likely fail hundreds and hundreds of times. It is just a question of not losing patience. After many attempts you will succeed in experiencing a feeling in your soul corresponding to the state of soul of the person observed, and you will begin to notice that through this feeling, a power grows in your soul, that leads to spiritual insight into the state of soul of the other. A picture experienced as luminous appears in your field of vision. This spiritually luminous picture is the so-called astral embodiment of the desire observed in that soul. Again the impression of this picture may be described as flame-like, yellowish-red in the centre, and reddish-blue or lilac at the edges. Much depends on treating such spiritual experiences with great delicacy. The best thing is not to speak to anyone about them, except to your teacher, if you have one. Attempted descriptions of such experiences, in inappropriate words, usually only lead to gross self-deception. Ordinary terms are employed, which are not intended for such things, and are therefore too gross and clumsy. The consequence is that in the attempt to clothe the experience in words, we are misled into blending the actual experience with all kinds of fantastic delusions. Here again is another important rule for the student: know how to observe silence concerning your spiritual experiences. Yes, observe silence even towards yourself. Do not attempt to clothe in words what you contemplate in the spirit, or to pore over it with clumsy intellect. Lend yourself freely and without reservation to these spiritual impressions, and do not disturb them by reflecting and pondering over them too much. For you must remember that your reasoning faculties are, to begin with, by no means equal to your new experience. You have acquired these reasoning faculties in a life hitherto confined to the physical world of the senses; the faculties you are now acquiring transcend this world. Do not try therefore to apply to the new and higher perceptions, the standard of the old. Only he who has gained some certainty and steadiness in the observation of inner experiences can speak about them, and thereby stimulate his fellow-men.

The exercise just described may be supplemented by the following. Direct your attention in the same way upon a person to whom the fulfilment of some wish, the gratification of some desire has been granted. If the same rules and pre- cautions be adopted as in the previous instance, spiritual insight will once more be attained. A spiritual flame-form will be distinguished, creating an impression of yellow in the centre and green at the edges.

By such observation of his fellow-creatures the student may easily lapse into a moral fault. He may become uncharitable. Every conceivable effort must be made to prevent this. Such observation should only be practised by one who has already risen to the level on which complete certainty is found that thoughts are real things. He will then no longer allow himself to think of his fellow-men in a way that is incompatible with the highest reverence for human dignity and human liberty. The thought that a human being could be merely an object for observation, must never for a moment be entertained. Self-education must see to it that this insight into human nature should go hand in hand with an unlimited respect for the personal privilege of each individual, and with the recognition of the sacred and inviolable nature of that which dwells in each human being. A feeling of reverential awe must fill us, even in our recollections.

For the present, only these two examples can be given to show how enlightened insight into human nature may be achieved; they will at least serve to point out the way to be taken. By gaining the inner tranquillity and repose indispensable for such observation, the student will have undergone a great inner transformation. He will then soon reach the point when this enrichment of his inner self will lend confidence and composure to his outward demeanour. And this transformation of his outward demeanour will again react favourably on his soul. Thus he will be able to help himself further along the road. He will find ways and means of penetrating more and more into the secrets of human nature, which are hidden from our external senses, and he will then also become ripe for a deeper insight into the mysterious connections between human nature and all else that exists in the universe. By following this path, the student approaches closer and closer to the moment when he can effectively take the first steps of Initiation. But before these can be taken, one thing more is necessary, though at first its necessity will be least of all apparent; later on, however, he will be convinced of it.

The would-be Initiate must bring with him a certain measure of courage and fearlessness. He must absolutely go out of his way to find opportunities for developing these virtues. His training should provide for their systematic cultivation. In this respect, life itself is a good school - possibly the best school. The student must learn to look danger calmly in the face, and try to overcome difficulties unswervingly. For instance, when in the presence of some peril, he must immediately rally to the conviction that fear is of no possible use; I may not feel afraid; I must only think of what is to be done. And he must improve to the extent of feeling, upon occasions which formerly inspired him with fear, that ‘to be frightened’, ‘to be disheartened’, are things that are out of the question, as far as his own inmost self is concerned. By self-discipline in this direction, quite definite qualities are developed, which are necessary for Initiation into the higher Mysteries. Just as man requires nervous force in his physical being, in order to use his physical senses, so also he requires, in his soul-nature, the force which is only developed in the courageous and the fearless. For in penetrating to the higher Mysteries he will see things which are concealed from ordinary humanity by the illusion of the senses. If the physical senses do not allow us to perceive the higher truth, they are also for this reason our benefactors. Things are thereby hidden from us which, if realized without due preparation, would throw us into unutterable consternation and the sight of which we could not endure. The student must be fit to endure this sight. He loses certain supports in the outer world, which he owes to the very illusion surrounding him. It is truly and literally as if the attention of someone were called to a danger which had threatened him for a long time, but of which he knew nothing. Hitherto he felt no fear, but now that he knows, he is overcome by fear, though the danger has not been rendered greater by his knowing it.

The forces at work in the world are both destructive and constructive; the destiny of manifested beings is birth and death. The seer is to behold the working of these forces and the march of destiny. The veil enshrouding the spiritual eyes in ordinary life is to be removed. But man is interwoven with these forces and with this destiny. His own soul reveals itself to the seer as undisguisedly as the other objects. He must not lose strength in the face of this self-knowledge; but strength will fail him unless he brings a surplus on which to draw. For this purpose he must learn to maintain inner calm and steadiness in the face of difficult circumstances; he must cultivate a strong trust in the beneficent powers of existence. He must be prepared to find that many motives which had actuated him hitherto will do so no longer. He will have to recognize that he hitherto only thought and acted in a certain way because he was still in the throes of ignorance. Reasons influencing him formerly will now disappear. He often acted out of vanity; he will now see how utterly futile all vanity is for the seer. He often acted out of avarice; he will now become aware how destructive all avarice is. He will have to develop quite new motives for his thoughts and actions and it is just for this purpose that courage and fearlessness are required.

It is pre-eminently a question of cultivating this courage and this fearlessness in the inmost depths of thought-life. ‘The student must learn never to despair over failure. He must be equal to the thought: ‘I will forget that I have failed in this matter, and I will try once more as though nothing had happened.’ Thus he will struggle through to the firm conviction that the fountain-head of strength from which he may draw is inexhaustible. He struggles ever on to the spirit which will uplift him and support him, however weak and impotent his earthly self may have proved. He must be capable of pressing on to the future undismayed by any experiences of the past. If the student has acquired these faculties, up to a certain point, he is then ripe to hear the real names of things, which are the key to higher knowledge. For Initiation consists in this very act of learning to call the things of the world by those names which they bear in the spirit of their divine Author. In these their names lies the mystery of things. It is for this reason that the Initiates speak a different language from the uninitiate, for the former know the names by which the beings themselves are called into existence.

Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment

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