Path of Development
So long as one is only considering passive thoughts, thinking remains just a development going on in the body while the physical senses are occupying themselves with external objects. But when a person suffuses this passive thinking with inner activity, he lights upon another similar comparison for the thinking he formerly engaged in, and can begin to see what its passivity resembled. He comes to the realization that this passive thinking of his was exactly the same thing in the soul realm that a corpse represents in the physical. When one looks at a corpse here in the physical world, one has to recognize that it was not created as the thing one sees, that none of nature's ordinary laws can be made to account for the present material composition of this body. Such a configuration of material elements could be brought about only as a result of a living human being having dwelt in what is now a corpse. It has become mere remains, abandoned by a formerly indwelling person; it can be accounted for only by assuming the prior existence of a living human being.
An observer confronting his own passive thinking resembles someone who has never seen anything but corpses, who has never beheld a living person. Such a man would have to look upon all corpses as miraculous creations, since nothing in nature could possibly have produced them. When one suffuses one's thinking with active soul life, one realizes for the first time that thought is just a left-over and recognizes it as the remains of something that has died. Ordinary thinking is dead, a mere corpse of the soul, and one has to become aware of it as such through suffusing it with one's own soul life and getting to know this corpse of abstract thinking in its new aliveness. To understand ordinary thinking, one has to see that it is dead, a psychic corpse whose erstwhile life is to be sought in the soul's pre-earthly existence. During that phase of experience the soul lived in a bodiless state in the life-element of its thinking, and the thinking left to it in its earthly life must be regarded as the soul corpse of the living soul of pre-earthly existence.
This becomes the illuminating inner experience that one can have on projecting will into one's thinking. One has to look at thinking this way when, in accordance with mankind's present stage of evolution, one searches for the source of ethical and moral impulses in pure thinking. Then one has the experience of being lifted by pure thinking itself out of one's body and into a realm not of the earth. Then one realizes that what one possesses in this living thinking has no connection whatsoever with the physical world, but is nonetheless real. It has to do with a world that physical eyes cannot see, a world one inhabited before one descended into a body: the spiritual world. One also realizes that even the laws governing our planetary system are of a kind unrelated to the world we enter with enlivened thinking. I am deliberately putting it in an old-fashioned way and saying that one would have to go to the ends of the planetary system to reach the world where what one grasps in living thinking has its true significance. One would have to go beyond Saturn to find the world where living thoughts apply, but where we also discover the cosmic source of creativity on earth.
This is the first step we take to go out again into the universe in an age that otherwise regards itself as living on a mere speck of dust in the cosmos. It is the first advance toward a possibility of seeing what is really out there, seeing it with living thinking. One transcends the bounds of the planetary system.
If you consider the human will further as I have done in my Philosophy of Freedom, though in that book I limited the discussion entirely to the world of the senses, keeping more advanced aspects for later works because matters like these have to be gradually developed, one finds that just as one is carried beyond Saturn into the universe when the will strikes into formerly passive thinking, so one can advance on the opposite side by entering deeply into the will to the extent of becoming wholly quiescent, by becoming a pole of stillness in the motion one otherwise engenders in the world of will. Our bodies are in motion when we will. Even when that will is nothing more than a wish, bodily matter comes into movement. Willing is motion for ordinary consciousness. When a person wills, he becomes a part of the world's movement.
Now if one does the exercises described in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, and thereby succeeds in opposing one's own deliberate inner quiet to this motion in which one is caught up in every act of willing, if — to put it in a picture that can be applied to all will activity — one succeeds in keeping the soul still while the body moves through space, succeeds in being active in the world while the soul remains quiet, carries on activity and at the same time quietly observes it, then thinking suffuses the will just as the will previously suffused thinking.
When this happens, one comes out on the opposite side of the world. One gets to know the will as something that can also free itself from the physical body, that can even transport one out of the realm subject to ordinary earth laws. This brings one knowledge of an especially significant fact that throws light on man's connection with the universe. One learns to say, 'You harbor in your will sphere a great variety of drives, instincts and passions. But none of them belong to the world about which you learn in your experiments, restricted as they are to the earthly sense world. Nor are they to be found in corpses. They belong to a different world that merely extends into this one, a world that keeps its activity quite separate from everything that has to do with the sense world'.
I am only giving you a sketch of these matters today because I want to characterize the third phase of anthroposophy. One comes to enter the universe from its opposite side, the side given its external character by the physical moon. The moon repels rather than absorbs sunlight; it leaves sunlight just as it was by reflecting it back from its surface, and it rays back other cosmic forces in a similar way. It excludes them, for it belongs to a different world than that that gives us the capacity to see. Light enables us to see, but the moon rays back the light, refusing to absorb it. Thinking that lays hold on itself in inner activity carries us on the one side as far as Saturn; laying hold on our will leads us on the other side into the moon's activity. We learn to relate man to the cosmos. We are led out of and beyond a grain-of-dust earth. Learning elevates itself again to a concern with the cosmos, and we re-discover elements in the universe that live in us too as soul-spiritual beings. When, on the one hand, we have achieved a soul condition in which our thinking is rendered active by its suffusion with will, and, on the other hand, achieve the suffusion of our will with thinking, then we reach the boundaries of the planetary system, going out into the Saturn realm on the one side while we go out into the universe on the other side and enter the moon sphere. When our consciousness feels as much at home in the universe as it does on earth, and then experiences what goes on in the universe as familiarly as our ordinary consciousness experiences things of earth, when we live thus consciously in the universe and achieve self-awareness there, we begin to remember earlier earth lives. Our successive incarnations become a fact experienced in the cosmic memory to which we have now gained access.
It need not surprise us that we cannot remember earlier lives on earth while we are incarnated. For what we experience in the intervals between them is not earthly experience, and the effect of one life on the next takes place only as a result of man's lifting himself out of the realm of earth. How could a person recall his earlier incarnations unless he first raised his consciousness to a heavenly level?
I wanted just to sketch these things today, for they have often been discussed by me here before. What I had in mind was to indicate the regions in which, in recent years, anthroposophy has been carrying on its research. Those interested in weighing what has been going on surely recall how consistently my more recent lectures have concerned themselves with just these realms. Their purpose was gradually to clarify the process whereby one develops from an ordinary consciousness to a higher one. Though I have always said that ordinary thinking can, if it is unprejudiced, grasp the findings of anthroposophical research, I have also emphasized that everybody can attain today to a state of consciousness whereby he is able to develop a new kind of thinking and willing, which give him entry to the world whereof anthroposophy speaks. The essential thing would be to change the habit of reading books like my Philosophy of Freedom with the mental attitude one has toward other philosophical treatises. The way it should be read is with attention to the fact that it brings one to a wholly different way of thinking and willing and looking at things. If this were done, one would realize that such an approach lifts one's consciousness out of the earth into another world, and that one derives from it the kind of inner assurance that makes it possible to speak with conviction about the results of spiritual research. Those who read The Philosophy of Freedom as it should be read, speak with inner conviction and assurance about the findings of researchers who have gone beyond the state one has oneself reached as a beginner. But the right way of reading The Philosophy of Freedom makes everyone who adopts it the kind of beginner I am describing. Beginners like these can report the more detailed findings of advanced research in exactly the same way in which a person at home in chemistry would talk of research in that field. Although he may not actually have seen it done, it is familiar to him from what he has learned and heard and knows as part of reality. The vital thing in discussing anthroposophy is always to develop a certain soul attitude, not just to project a picture of the world different from the generally accepted one.
The trouble is that The Philosophy of Freedom has not been read in the different way I have been describing. That is the point, and a point that must be sharply stressed if the development of the Anthroposophical Society is not to fall far behind that of anthroposophy itself. If it does fall behind, anthroposophy's conveyance through the Society will result in its being completely misunderstood, and its only fruit will be endless conflict!
Each of the following are intertwined in terms of their respective development. Thus each concurrently leads to the development of the others.
Reverence and discernment - Ajna
Be reverent, and distinguish the essential from the inessential.
This aspect first and foremost establishes a disposition to be in awe before our fellow human beings and our world. It also encourages the development of careful penetrating observation which allows for the intermingling of appropriate concepts to unveil.
Eight-fold path and valuing truth - Vishuddha
Develop the eight characteristics presented in Buddhism (the 'eight-fold path').
Seeking truth and understanding, developing thoughtful intent and aspirations, appropriate and care-filled speech, love-filled action, sensitive livelihood, balanced effort, mindful contemplation, and meditative concentration.
Developing the twelve-petalled Heart - Anahata
Control thoughts and actions, and persevere; Be tolerant, impartial and maintain equanimity.
Controlling the sequence of thoughts flowing through oneself, controlling one's actions, and the perseverence through difficulties, leads to characterological dispositions from oneself into the world; Tolerance, impartiality and equanimity become characterological dispositions of oneself in open-arm receptivity of the world.
Awakening to the Spirit
Develop a genuine Love for inner freedom.
Engaging in light of truth and love of action for its own sake leads to the development of a new spiritual chamber whereby inner freedom may find its unfoldment.
Spiritual development exercises
At the opening of each day, a brief meditation.
At the close of each day, a brief meditation that simply observes the day's development, beginning from the most recent backwards in time until the waking moment has been reached.
These are adapted principally from Rudolf Steiner's Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (also translated as How to Know Higher Worlds).
a) Take a pencil (or other simple implement) and meditate on it over a period of six months. Its composition, its construction, whence its materials were obtained, its design, its origin, its uses, its relation to other items, its connection to human civilisation, its value, its change over time (including its eventual decay). Here, both the specific item itself, and its class (ie, pencils of the same type) are included in one's reflections.
Both focus and relaxed observation are important.
b) Take a seed (of a known plant - such as an apple seed) and medidate on it for a period of six months. Its living quality, its transformation or metamorphosis, its relation to Earth and Sun, to the spiritual hierarchies, its animal and human connections.
Both active yet precise imagination are here important.
c) Observe the rising Sun and its living connection to growth. Observe the rising Moon and its living connection to decay.
d) Listen to the distinctions in the sounds of a wind instrument (flute, clarinet, saxophone, or recorder, for example); a string instrument (lyre, violin, guitar or piano, for example); a bell (or gong - something in which the whole is struck and vibrates); and to a drum (or standard loudspeaker, basically a vibrating stretched skin).
Then compare these to the sounds from living creatures (birds, frogs, cows, crickets, etc.).
e) Observe in yourself the different qualities of health, motion, balance, smell, taste, sight, warmth, hearing, and the distinctions between the tonal qualities of language and the ideas there carried. What is distinct in meeting another human being to 'meeting' with a cat, dog, cow or other animal. Finally, whence is the limit of your own body when felt from the inside.
Books on self development
Steiner, Rudolf Knowledge of the Higher Worlds
Tomberg, Valentin Inner Development
Das, Surya Awakening the Buddha Within
Wolf, Laibl Practical Kabbalah
for other Anthroposophical pages within this site:
Anthroposophy tab on the home page