How to Know Higher Worlds

The 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.

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