How to Know Higher WorldsThe capacities by which we can gain insights into higher worlds lie dormant within each one of us. Mystics, gnostics, and theosophists have always spoken of a world of soul and spirit that is as real to them as the world we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands. Listening to them, we can say to ourselves at every moment: “I know that I, too, can experience what they talk about, if only I unfold certain forces within me that today still lie dormant there.” All we need to know is how to begin to develop these faculties for ourselves. Only those who have already developed such powers for themselves can help us to do this. From the beginning of the human race, a form of schooling has always existed in which persons possessing higher faculties guide those who seek to develop these faculties for themselves. Such schooling is called esoteric or mystery schooling; and the instruction one receives there is called esoteric or occult teaching. By their very nature, these terms invite misunderstanding. Hearing them, we might easily be led to believe that those who provide this kind of schooling wish to form a privileged class of human beings who arbitrarily withhold their knowledge from their fellows. We might even think that perhaps there is nothing much to this kind of knowledge. Were it genuine knowledge, we are tempted to think, there would be no need to make a secret of it; it could be made public and its benefits shared by all. Those initiated into the nature of esoteric knowledge are not in the least surprised that the uninitiated should think like this. After all, the secret of initiation can be understood only by those who have themselves, to some degree, undergone initiation into the higher mysteries of existence. How, we may well wonder, under these conditions, are the uninitiated to develop any human interest whatsoever in this so-called occult knowledge? Why and how should one seek for something of whose nature one can have no clear idea? Such questions are basedon a completely false idea of the nature of esoteric knowledge. In actuality, esoteric or inner knowledge is no different from other kinds of human knowledge and ability. It is a mystery for the average person only to the extent that writing is a mystery for those who have not yet learned to write. Just as, given the right teaching methods, anyone can learn to write, so too anyone can become a student of esoteric knowledge, and, yes, even a teacher of it, if he or she follows the appropriate path. Ordinary knowledge and ability differ from esoteric knowledge in one respect only. A person may not have the possibility of learning to write because of the cultural conditions or poverty he or she is born into, but no one who seeks sincerely will find any barriers to achieving knowledge and abilities in the higher worlds. Many people believe that they must seek out masters of higher knowledge wherever such masters may be found in order to receive teachings from them. There is a twofold truth to this. On the one hand, if our aspiration to higher knowledge is sincere, we will certainly spare no effort and avoid no obstacle in our quest for an initiate able to lead us into the higher mysteries of the world. On the other hand, we can be certain that, if our striving for knowledge is sincere and worthy, initiation will find us whatever the circumstances. There is a universal law among initiates that the knowledge due a seeker cannot be withheld. But there is also another universal law that esoteric knowledge may not be imparted to anyone not qualified to receive it. The more perfect the initiate, the more strictly these two laws are observed. The spiritual bond uniting all initiates is not an outward one, but the two laws just mentioned are what hold its members together. You may live in close friendship with one who has been initiated, but until you yourself have been initiated something will always separate you from that initiate’s inmost being. You may enjoy an initiate’s full heart and love, but the initiate will not share the secret with you until you are ready. You may flatter, you may torment, but nothing will induce the initiate to betray anything that should not be divulged to you if, at the present stage of your development, you do not yet understand how to prepare a proper welcome for this secret in your soul. Quite specific methods prepare us to receive such secrets. Their course is traced out with indelible, eternal letters in the spiritual worlds where initiates preserve the higher secrets. In ancient, prehistoric times, the temples of the spirit were outwardly visible, but today, when our life has become so unspiritual, they no longer exist where we can see them with our physical eyes. Yet spiritually they are still present everywhere, and whoever seeks can find them. Only within our own souls can one find the means of opening an initiate’s mouth. But before one can receive the highest treasures of the spirit, one must develop definite inner qualities to a specific high degree. We begin with a fundamental mood of soul. Spiritual researchers call this basic attitude the path of reverence, of devotion to truth and knowledge. Only those who have acquired this fundamental mood or attitude can become pupils in an esoteric school. Anyone with any experience in this area knows that those who later become students of esoteric knowledge demonstrate this gift for reverence in childhood. Some children look up to those whom they revere with a holy awe. Their profound respect for these people works into the deepest recesses of their hearts and forbids any thoughts of criticism or opposition to arise. Such children grow up into young people who enjoy looking up to something that fills them with reverence. Many of these young people become students of esoteric knowledge. If you have ever stood before the door of someone you revered, filled with holy awe as you turned the doorknob to enter for the first time a room that was a “holy place” for you, then the feeling you experienced at that moment is the seed that can later blossom into your becoming a student in an occult, esoteric school. To be gifted with the potential for such feelings is a blessing for every young person. We should not fear that such feelings of reverence lead to subservience and slavery; on the contrary, a child’s reverence for others develops into a reverence for truth and knowledge. Experience teaches that we know best how to hold our heads high in freedom if we have learned to feel reverence when it is appropriate—and it is appropriate whenever it flows from the depths of the heart. We will not find the inner strength to evolve to a higher level if we do not inwardly develop this profound feeling that there is something higher than ourselves. Initiates found the strength to lift themselves to the heights of knowledge only because they first guided their hearts into the depths of veneration and devotion. Only a person who has passed through the gate of humility can ascend to the heights of the spirit. To attain true knowledge, you must first learn to respect this knowledge. We certainly have the right to turn our eyes toward the light, but we must earn this right. Spiritual life has its laws just as physical life does. Rub a glass rod with the appropriate substance and it becomes electrified—that is, the glass rod will now have the power to attract small particles. This process demonstrates a physical law. If one has learned some elementary physics, one knows that this is so. Similarly, if one knows the fundamentals of esoteric science, one knows that every feeling of true devotion unfolded in the soul produces an inner strength or force that sooner or later leads to knowledge. Whoever possesses an innate tendency toward feelings of devotion, or has been lucky enough to receive an education that cultivated those feelings, is well prepared in later life to seek the way to higher knowledge. Those who do not bring this preparation with them will have to work at developing this devotional mood with vigorous self-discipline; if not, they will encounter difficulties after taking only the first few steps on the path of knowledge. In our time it is particularly important to focus complete attention on this point. Our civilization is more inclined to criticize, judge, and condemn than to feel devotion and selfless veneration. Our children criticize far more than they respect or revere. But just as surely as every feeling of devotion and reverence nurtures the soul’s powers for higher knowledge, so every act of criticism and judgment drives these powers away. This is not meant to imply anything against our civilization—our concern here is not to criticize it. After all, we owe the greatness of our culture precisely to our ability to make critical, self-confident human judgments and to our principle of “testing all and keeping the best.” Modern science, industry, transportation, commerce, law—all these would never have developed without the universal exercise of our critical faculty and standards of judgment. But the price of this gain in outer culture has been a corresponding loss in higher knowledge and spiritual life. Therefore we must never forget that higher knowledge has to do with revering truth and insight and not with revering people. Nevertheless, we must be clear about one thing. Those completely immersed in the superficial civilization of our day will find it particularly difficult to work their way to cognition of the higher worlds. To do so, they will have to work energetically upon themselves. In times when the material conditions of life were still simple, spiritual progress was easier. What was revered and held sacred stood out more clearly from the rest of the world. In an age of criticism, on the other hand, ideals are degraded. Reverence, awe, adoration, and wonder are replaced by other feelings—they are pushed more and more into the background. As a result, everyday life offers very few opportunities for their development. Anyone seeking higher knowledge must create these feelings inwardly, instilling them in the soul. This cannot be done by studying. It can be done only by living. If we wish to become esoteric students, we must train ourselves vigorously in the mood of devotion. We must seek—in all things around us, in all our experiences—for what can arouse our admiration and respect. If I meet other people and criticize their weaknesses, I rob myself of higher cognitive power. But if I try to enter deeply and lovingly into another person’s good qualities, I gather in that force. Disciples of this occult path must always bear in mind the need to cultivate such admiration and respect. Experienced spiritual researchers know what strength they gain by always looking for the good in everything and withholding their critical judgment. This practice should not remain simply an outer rule of life, but must take hold of the innermost part of the soul. It lies in our hands to perfect ourselves and gradually transform ourselves completely. But this transformation must take place in our innermost depths, in our thinking. Showing respect outwardly in our relations with other beings is not enough; we must carry this respect into our thoughts. Therefore we must begin our inner schooling by bringing devotion into our thought life. We must guard against disrespectful, disparaging, and criticizing thoughts. We must try to practice reverence and devotion in our thinking at all times. Each moment that we spend becoming aware of whatever derogatory, judgmental, and critical opinions still remain in our consciousness brings us closer to higher knowledge. We advance even more quickly if, in such moments, we fill our consciousness with admiration, respect, and reverence for the world and life. Anyone experienced in these things knows that such moments awaken forces in us that otherwise remain dormant. Filling our consciousness in this way opens our spiritual eyes. We begin to see things around us that we could not see before. We begin to realize that previously we saw only a part of the world surrounding us. We begin to see our fellow human beings in a different way than we did before. Naturally, this rule of life alone does not yet enable us to perceive what, for example, is called the human aura. For this, still higher schooling is needed. Yet we cannot begin such schooling until we have undergone a vigorous training in devotion. As occult pupils, we should embark upon “the path of knowledge” quietly, unnoticed by the outer world. No one should perceive any change in us. We continue to carry out our duties and attend to our business just as before. Changes occur only in the inner part of the soul, which is withdrawn from, and invisible to, the outer eye. At first, a basic mood of devotion to everything truly worthy of reverence suffuses our entire inner life. This one fundamental feeling becomes the center of our soul’s life. Just as the sun’s rays quicken all living things, so the reverence in us quickens all the feelings in our soul. At first glance, it is not easy to believe that feelings of reverence and respect are in any way connected with knowledge. This is because we tend to see cognition as an isolated faculty that has no connection whatsoever with anything else going on in our souls. Thus we forget that it is the soul that cognizes. What food is to the body, feelings are to the soul. If we feed the body stones instead of bread, it will cease to function. It is the same with the soul. We nourish it with reverence, respect, and devotion. These make the soul healthy and strong, particularly for the activity of knowing. Disrespect, antipathy, and disparaging admirable things, on the other hand, paralyze and slay our cognitive activities. For spiritual researchers these soul realities are visible in the aura. A soul that learns feelings of devotion and reverence changes its aura. Certain spiritual yellow-red or brown-red colors, as they may be called, disappear and are replaced by tones of blue-red. Our cognitive capacity increases. We now receive information about facts in our environment of which we were previously unaware. Reverence awakens a power of sympathy in the soul. This draws toward us qualities in the beings around us that would otherwise remain hidden. What we attain through devotion becomes even more effective when another kind of feeling is added. This consists in our learning to surrender ourselves less and less to the impressions of the outer world and develop instead an active inner life. If we chase after amusements and rush from one sense impression to the next, we will not find the way to esoteric knowledge. Not that occult students should become dull or unfeeling toward the outer world; rather, a rich inner life should orient us in responding to impressions. A person rich in feeling and deep of soul who passes through a beautiful mountain landscape will have a different experience from one whose inner life is poor in feeling. Inner experience is the only key to the beauties of the outer world. It depends upon the inner lives we have developed whether, when we travel across the ocean, only a few inner experiences pass through our souls, or we sense the eternal language of the world spirit and understand the mysterious riddles of creation. To develop a meaningful relationship to the outer world we must learn to work with our own feelings and ideas. The world around us is filled everywhere with the glory of God, but we have to experience the divine in our own souls before we can find it in our surroundings. As students of occult knowledge, we are told to create moments in life when we can withdraw into ourselves in silence and solitude. In these moments, we should not give ourselves up to our own concerns. To do so would lead to the opposite of what we are striving for. Instead, in such moments, we should allow what we have experienced— what the outer world has told us—to linger on in utter stillness. In these quiet moments, every flower, every animal, and every action will disclose mysteries undreamed of. This prepares us to receive new sense impressions of the outer world with eyes quite different than before. If we seek only to enjoy—consume—one sense impression after another, we will blunt our capacity for cognition. If, on the other hand, we allow the experience of pleasure to reveal something to us, we will nurture and educate our cognitive capacities. For this to happen, we must learn to let the pleasure (the impression) linger on within us while we renounce any further enjoyment (new impression) and assimilate and digest with inner activity the past experience that we have enjoyed. Here we must face a great hurdle, and with it a great danger. Instead of working inwardly we can fall into the opposite and indulge our enjoyment to the full. We should not underestimate the boundless sources of error opening up for us here. For we must pass through a throng of tempters of the soul, all of whom seek to harden the I and enclose it in itself. As students, it is our task to open the I to the world. And because the outer world can approach us only through sensory impressions, we must certainly seek for pleasure there. If we become indifferent to enjoyment, we become like plants that can no longer draw nourishment from their environment. On the other hand, if we stop at mere pleasure, we become shut up in ourselves. We might have meaning for ourselves, but we will have none for the world. No matter how intensely we live in ourselves and how much we cultivate our “I,” the world will then cut us out. As far as the world is concerned, we shall be dead. As esoteric students, we regard pleasure only as a means whereby we can become nobler for the sake of the world. Pleasure becomes a messenger, instructing us about the world. After we have taken in the teaching it provides, we move on to inner work. The purpose is not to accumulate learning as our own private store of knowledge, but to place what we have learned in the service of the world. One fundamental principle of esoteric science, taught in every form of schooling, must never be violated if we wish to achieve our goal: Every insight that you seek only to enrich your own store of learning and to accumulate treasure for yourself alone leads you from your path, but every insight that you seek in order to become more mature on the path of the ennoblement of humanity and world evolution brings you one step forward. This fundamental law must always be observed. Only if we make it the guiding principle of our lives can we call ourselves genuine seekers after higher knowledge. This truth of esoteric schooling may be summarized as follows: Every idea that does not become an ideal for you kills a force in your soul, but every idea that becomes an ideal for you creates forces of life within you. Inner Peace At the beginning of esoteric training, the student is directed first to the path of reverence and to the development of an inner life. Spiritual science then provides practical rules which, when observed, help us to follow this path and develop an inner life. These practical rules are not arbitrary. They are based on age-old experience and wisdom. They are given in a similar manner wherever ways to higher knowledge are taught. All true teachers of spiritual life agree upon the content of these rules, though they may not always express them in the same words. Any apparent differences are only minor and are due to facts we need not discuss here. No teacher of spiritual life exercises dominion over other human beings by means of such rules. Such teachers do not seek to restrict anyone’s autonomy. Indeed, there is no better judge and guardian of human independence than a spiritual researcher. As we said earlier, a spiritual bond connects all initiates, and two laws hold this bond together. But when initiates leave their closed spiritual circle and appear in public, they are immediately subject to a third law: “Regulate each of your words and actions so that you do not interfere with anyone’s free decisions and will.” Once we have realized that a true teacher of spiritual life must be thoroughly permeated by this attitude, we know that we can lose nothing of our independence if we follow the practical rules we are given. One of the first rules may now be put into words, somewhat as follows: “Create moments of inner peace for yourself, and in these moments learn to distinguish the essential from the inessential.” Here, as I said, it is put into words, but originally all the rules and teachings of spiritual science were given symbolically in a sign language. Whoever would learn the full meaning and import of these rules must first understand this symbolic language. Such understanding, however, depends upon having taken the first steps in spiritual science. To take these steps, one must observe closely the rules presented here. The way stands open to anyone whose will is sincere. The rule concerning moments of inner peace is simple. Following it is also simple. However, the rule leads to results only when the practice of it is as sincere and rigorous as it is simple. Therefore it will be plainly stated how this rule is to be followed. As students of the spirit, we must set aside a brief period of time in daily life in which to focus on things that are quite different from the objects of our daily activity. The kind of activity we engage in must also differ from what occupies the rest of our day. This is not to say, however, that what we do in the minutes we have set aside is unconnected with the content of our daily work. On the contrary, we soon realize that, if approached in the right way, such moments give us the full strength for completing our daily tasks. We need not fear that following this rule will actually take time away from our duties. If someone really cannot spare any more time, five minutes a day are sufficient. What matters is how those five minutes are used. In these moments we should tear ourselves completely out of our everyday life. Our thinking and feeling lives should have a quite different coloring than they usually have. We should allow our joys, sorrows, worries, experiences, and actions to pass before our soul. But our attitude toward these should be one of looking at everything we have experienced from a higher point of view. Consider, in ordinary life, how differently we perceive what other people have experienced or done from the way we perceive what we ourselves have experienced or done. This must be so. We are still interwoven with what we experience or do, but we are only onlookers of other people’s experiences or acts. In the time we have set aside for ourselves, then, we must strive to view and judge our own experiences and actions as though they belonged to another person. For example, imagine you have had a serious misfortune. You naturally regard your own misfortune differently than you would that of another person. This attitude is quite justified; it is simply human nature. Indeed, it comes into play not only in exceptional circumstances but also in the events of everyday life. As students of higher knowledge we must find the strength to view ourselves as we would view strangers. We must face ourselves with the inner tranquillity of a judge. If we achieve this, our own experiences will reveal themselves in a new light. As long as we are still woven into our experiences, and stand within them, we will remain as attached to the nonessential as to the essential. But once we have attained the inner peace of the overview, the nonessential separates itself from the essential. Sorrow and joy, every thought, every decision will look different when we stand over against ourselves in this way. It is as though we spent the whole day somewhere and saw everything, small and large, at close range, and then in the evening climbed a neighboring hill and enjoyed an overview of the whole place at once. Then the various parts of the town and their relationships to each other would appear very different from when we stood among them. Of course, one cannot succeed in achieving such a transcendent perspective toward whatever experience destiny daily brings us—nor is it necessary to do so. However, as students of the spiritual life, we must strive to develop this attitude toward events that occurred in the past. The value of such inner, peace-filled self-contemplation depends less upon what one contemplates and more upon finding the inner strength that such inner calm develops. For all human beings, in addition to what we may call the ordinary, everyday self, also bear within themselves a higher self or higher human being. This higher human being remains concealed until it is awakened. And it can be awakened only as each of us, individually, awakens it within ourselves. Until then, the higher faculties that are latent within each one of us and that lead to supersensible knowledge remain hidden. We must continue to observe this rule seriously and faithfully until we feel the fruits of inner calm and tranquillity. For each of us who does this, a day will come when all around will become bright with spirit. Then, to eyes we did not know we had, a whole new world will be revealed. Nothing needs to change in our outer lives because we begin to follow this rule. We carry out our duties as before. In the beginning, too, we endure the same sufferings and experience the same joys. We must not in any way become alienated from “life.” On the contrary, we become able to live “life” more fully the rest of the day, just because we are acquiring a “higher life” in those moments we set aside. As this “higher life” makes its influence more and more felt in our ordinary, established lives, the calm of our contemplative moments begins to affect our everyday existence. Our whole being becomes more peaceful. We act with greater confidence and certainty in all our undertakings. We do not lose composure in the face of all kinds of events. Slowly, as we continue on the path, we increasingly come to guide ourselves, as it were, rather than allowing ourselves to be led by circumstances and outer influences. Before long, we realize that the moments set aside each day are a great source of strength for us. For example, we gradually cease to become angry about the things that used to annoy us, and are no longer afraid of many things that used to frighten us. Instead, we acquire a whole new outlook on life. Hitherto we may have approached what we had to do hesitantly, saying to ourselves, “Oh, I don’t have the strength to do this as I would like to.” Now, however, such thoughts no longer occur to us. We are more likely to say, “I shall gather up my strength and do my task as well as I possibly can.” We suppress any thought that could make us tentative, because we know that hesitation can lead to a poorer performance, or at least can do nothing to improve the execution of what we have to do. Thus thought after thought, fruitful and beneficial for the affairs of our lives, begins to permeate our interpretation of life. These new thoughts replace the thoughts that previously weakened and hindered us. In the process, we begin to steer a safe and steady course through the ups and downs of life, rather than being tossed about by them. Such inner calm and certainty affect our whole nature. Our inner person grows, and with it, inner faculties that lead to higher knowledge. As we progress in this direction, we become increasingly able to control the effect that impressions from the outer world have upon us. For example, we may hear someone say something to hurt or anger us. Before we began esoteric training, this would have made us feel hurt or anger. Now, however, because we are on the path of inner development, we can take the hurtful or annoying sting out of another’s words before it finds its way into our inner being. Another example: before beginning to follow this path, we may have been quick to lose our patience when we had to wait for something. But now, having started on the path and become pupils in a school of esoteric study, we imbue ourselves in our contemplative moments so fully with the realization that most impatience is futile that, whenever we feel any impatience, it immediately calls this realization to mind. The impatience that was about to take root thus disappears, and the time we would otherwise have wasted in expressions of impatience can now be filled with some useful observation that we may make while we wait. We should realize the scope and significance of all these changes. The “higher self” within us evolves continuously. Only such inner calm and certainty as has been described can ensure that its evolution unfolds organically. If we are not masters of our own lives but are ruled by life, then the waves of outer life press in upon our inner self from all sides, and we are like a plant trying to grow in the cleft of a rock. Unless it is given more space, the plant will be stunted. Outer forces cannot create the space our inner being needs to grow. Only the inner calm we create in the soul can do so. Outer circumstances can change only our outer life situation—they can never awaken the “spiritual person” within. As esoteric students, we ourselves must give birth to a new, higher being within us. This higher self then becomes the inner ruler, directing the affairs of the outer person with a sure hand. As long as the outer being has the upper hand and guides us, the “inner” self remains its slave and cannot unfold its powers. If other people can make me angry, I am not the master of myself—or rather, better stated, I have not yet found the “inner ruler.” In other words, I must develop the inner faculty of allowing the impressions of the outer world to reach me only in ways that I myself have chosen. Only if I do this, can I become a student of the occult. Only a person striving sincerely for this ability can reach the goal. How far we advance in a certain amount of time is unimportant; what matters is only that our seeking be sincere. Many work on themselves for years without noticeable progress, and then suddenly—if they have not despaired, but have remained unshakable—they attain the “inner victory.” Of course, in many life situations, great strength is needed to create such moments of inner peace. But the greater the effort required, the more meaningful the achievement accomplished. On the path to knowledge all depends upon whether we can face ourselves and all our deeds and actions energetically, with inner truthfulness and uncompromising honesty, as though we were strangers to ourselves. Yet the birth of our own higher self marks only one side of our inner activity. Something else is also needed. When we look upon ourselves as strangers it is still only ourselves that we are contemplating. We see the experiences and actions connected to us by the particular course of life we have grown through. But we must go beyond that. We must rise to see the purely human level that no longer has anything to do with our own particular situation. We must reach the point of contemplating those things that concern us as human beings as such, completely independent of the circumstances and conditions of our particular life. As we do this, something comes to life in us that transcends what is personal or individual. Our view is directed toward worlds higher than those our everyday life brings us. We begin to feel, to experience, that we belong to these higher worlds of which our senses and everyday activities can tell us nothing. The center of our being shifts inward. We listen to the voices that speak within us in our moments of serenity. Inwardly, we associate with the spiritual world. Removed from our daily round, we become deaf to its noise. Everything around us grows still. We put aside everything that reminds us of outer impressions. Quiet, inward contemplation and dialog with the purely spiritual world completely fill our soul. For students of the spirit, this quiet contemplation must become a necessity of life. At first, we are wholly absorbed in a world of thought. We must develop a living feeling for this silent thinking activity. We must learn to love what streams toward us from the spirit. Then we shall soon cease to accept this world of thought as less real than the everyday life surrounding us. Instead, we will begin to work with our thoughts as we do with material objects. And then the moment will approach when we begin to realize that what is revealed to us in the silence of inner thinking activity is more real than the physical objects around us. We experience that life speaks in this world of thoughts. We realize that thoughts are not mere shadow pictures and that hidden beings speak to us through thoughts. Out of the silence something begins to speak to us. Previously we could hear speech only with our ears, but now words resound in our souls. An inner speech, an inner word, is disclosed to us. The first time we experience this we feel supremely blessed. Our outer world is suffused with an inner light. A second life begins for us. A divine, bliss-bestowing world streams through us. This life of the soul in thoughts, gradually broadening into life in spiritual beingness, is called in spiritual science or gnosis “meditation” (contemplative reflection). Meditation, in this sense, is the way to supersensible knowledge. We should not lose ourselves in feelings in these moments of meditation. Nor should our souls be filled with vague sensations. This would only keep us from attaining true spiritual insight. Our thoughts should be clear, sharp, precise. We will find a way of achieving this if we do not stay blindly with the thoughts arising within us. Rather, we should fill ourselves with high thoughts that more advanced and spiritually inspired souls have thought in similar moments. Here our starting point should be writings that have themselves grown out of meditative revelations. We may find such texts in works of mystical, gnostic, or spiritual scientific literature. These texts provide the material for our meditations. After all, it is seekers of the spirit who have themselves set down the thoughts of divine science in such works. Indeed, it is through these messengers that the spirit has permitted these thoughts to be made known to the world. Practicing such meditation will completely transform us. We begin to form quite new ideas about reality. Things take on a different value for us. Yet such transformation does not make us unworldly. In no way does it estrange us from our daily responsibilities. This path teaches us that the most trivial tasks we have to carry out and the most trivial experiences that come our way are woven together with great cosmic beings and world events. Once this interconnection becomes clear to us in our moments of contemplation, we will enter our daily round of activities with new and increased strength, because now we know that all our work and all our suffering are work and suffering for the sake of a great, spiritual, cosmic interrelationship. Thus meditation produces not indifference but strength for life. Consequently, students of higher knowledge walk through life with confidence, holding their heads high, regardless of what life may bring them. Before, they did not know why they worked and suffered. Now they know. Naturally, such meditative activity will lead to its goal more easily if it is practiced under the guidance of someone with experience who knows from personal knowledge how best to do it. Therefore, we would do well to consider the advice and instructions of such people. We certainly will not thereby lose our freedom or independence. Such guidance turns uncertain groping into work with a clear end. If we listen to those with knowledge and experience we will never ask for guidance in vain. Nevertheless, we must understand that we are seeking only the advice of a friend, not domination by someone who wants to have power over us. We will always find that those who truly know are the most humble and that nothing is more alien to them than any lust for power. When we raise ourselves through meditation to what unites us with the spirit, we quicken something within us that is eternal and unlimited by birth and death. Once we have experienced this eternal part in us, we can no longer doubt its existence. Meditation is thus the way to knowing and beholding the eternal, indestructible, essential center of our being. Only meditation can lead us to this vision. Gnosis and spiritual science speak of the immortality of this essence and of its reincarnation. It is often asked why we do not know anything of our experiences before birth and after death. This is the wrong question. Rather, we should ask how we can attain such knowledge. Meditation, properly carried out, opens the way to such knowledge. Meditation brings to life memories of experiences that lie beyond birth and death. Each of us can attain this knowledge; each of us possesses the capacities to see firsthand what true mysticism, spiritual science, anthroposophy, and gnosis teach. We have but to choose the right means. Only a being with ears and eyes can perceive sounds and colors. But even the eye can see nothing when the light that makes things visible is lacking. Spiritual science offers us a method of developing our spiritual ears and eyes and of kindling the spiritual light. Three stages in this method of spiritual schooling may be distinguished: Preparation, which develops our spiritual senses; Illumination, which kindles the spiritual light; and Initiation, which initiates our relationship with higher spiritual beings. These stages will be discussed in the following chapters.