Knowledge of the spiritual science that is aimed at in this book can be acquired by every man for himself. Descriptions of the kind given here present a thought picture of the higher worlds, and they are in a certain respect the first step towards personal vision. Man is a thought being and he can find his path to knowledge only when he makes thinking his starting-point. A picture of the higher worlds given to his intellect is not without value for him even if for the time being it is only like a story about higher facts into which he has not yet gained insight through his own perception. The thoughts that are given him represent in themselves a force that continues working in this thought world. This force will be active in him; it will awaken slumbering capacities. Whoever is of the opinion that it is superfluous to give himself up to such a thought picture is mistaken because he regards thought as something unreal and abstract. Thought is a living force, and just as for one who has knowledge, thought is present as a direct expression of what is seen in the spirit, so the imparting of this expression acts in the one to whom it is communicated as a germ that brings forth from itself the fruit of knowledge.
Anyone disdaining the application of strenuous mental exertion in the effort to attain the higher knowledge, and preferring to make use of other forces in man to that end, fails to take into account the fact that thinking is the highest of the faculties possessed by man in the world of his senses.
To him who asks, How can I gain personal knowledge of the higher truths of spiritual science? the answer must be given, Begin by making yourself acquainted with what is communicated by others concerning such knowledge. Should he reply, I wish to see for myself; I do not wish to know anything about what others have seen, one must answer, It is in the very assimilating of the communications of others that the first step towards personal knowledge consists. If he then should answer, Then I am forced to have blind faith to begin with, one can only reply, In regard to something communicated it is not a case of belief or unbelief, but merely of an unprejudiced assimilation of what one hears. The true spiritual researcher never speaks with the expectation of meeting blind faith in what he says. He merely says, I have experienced this in the spiritual regions of existence and I narrate my experiences. He knows also that the reception of these experiences by another and the permeation of his thoughts with such an account are living forces making for spiritual development.
What is here to be considered will only be rightly viewed by one who takes into account the fact that all knowledge of the worlds of soul and spirit slumbers in the profoundest depths of the human soul. It can be brought to light through the path of knowledge. We can grasp, however, not only what we have ourselves brought to light, but also what someone else has brought up from those depths of the soul. This is so even when we have ourselves not yet made any preparations for the treading of that path of knowledge. Correct spiritual insight awakens the power of comprehension in anyone whose inner nature is not beclouded by preconceptions and prejudices. Unconscious knowledge flashes up to meet the spiritual fact discovered by another, and this flashing up is not blind faith but the right working of healthy human understanding. In this same healthy comprehension we should see a far better starting-point even for first hand cognition of the spiritual world than in dubious mystical contemplations or anything of a similar nature, in which we often fancy that we have something better than what is recognized by the healthy human understanding, when the results of genuine spiritual research are brought before it.
One cannot, in fact, emphasize strongly enough how necessary it is that anyone who wishes to develop his capacity for higher knowledge should undertake the earnest cultivation of his powers of thought. This emphasis must be all the more pressing because many persons who wish to become seers actually estimate lightly this earnest, self-denying labor of thinking. They say, Thinking cannot help me reach anything; the chief thing is sensation or feeling. In reply it must be said that no one can in the higher sense, and means in truth, become a seer who has not previously worked himself into the life of thought. In this connection a certain inner laziness plays an injurious role with many persons. They do not become conscious of this laziness because it clothes itself in a contempt of abstract thought and idle speculation. We completely misunderstand what thinking is, however, if we confuse it with a spinning of idle, abstract trains of thought. Just as this abstract thinking can easily kill supersensible knowledge, so vigorous thinking, full of life, must be the groundwork on which it is based.
It would, indeed, be more comfortable if one could reach the higher power of seeing while shunning the labor of thinking. Many would like this, but in order to reach it an inner firmness is necessary, an assurance of soul to which thinking alone can lead. Otherwise there results merely a meaningless flickering of pictures here and there, a distracting display of soul phenomena that indeed gives pleasure to many, but that has nothing to do with a true penetration into the higher worlds. Further, if we consider what purely spiritual experiences take place in a man who really enters the higher world, we shall then understand that the matter has still another aspect. Absolute healthiness of the soul life is essential to the condition of being a seer. There is no better means of developing this healthiness than genuine thinking. In fact, it is possible for this healthiness to suffer seriously if the exercises for higher development are not based on thinking. Although it is true that the power of spiritual sight makes a healthy and correctly thinking man still healthier and more capable in life than he is without it, it is equally true that all attempts to develop oneself while shirking the effort of thought, all vague dreamings in this domain, lend strength to fantasy and illusion and tend to place the seeker in a false attitude towards life. No one who wishes to develop himself to higher knowledge has anything to fear if he pays heed to what is said here, but the attempt should only be made under the above pre-supposition. This pre-supposition has to do only with man's soul and spirit. To speak of any conceivable kind of injurious influence upon the bodily health is absurd under this assumption.
Unfounded disbelief is indeed injurious. It works in the recipient as a repelling force. It hinders him from receiving fructifying thoughts. Not blind faith, but just this reception of the thought world of spiritual science is the prerequisite to the development of the higher senses. The spiritual researcher approaches his student with the injunction, You are not required to believe what I tell you but to think it, to make it the content of your own thought world, then my thoughts will of themselves bring about your recognition of their truth. This is the attitude of the spiritual researcher. He gives the stimulus. The power to accept what is said as true springs forth from the inner being of the learner himself. It is in this manner that the views of spiritual science should be studied. Anyone who has the self-control to steep his thoughts in them may be sure that after a shorter or longer period of time they will lead him to personal perception.
In what has been said here, there is already indicated one of the first qualities that everyone wishing to acquire a vision of higher facts has to develop. It is the unreserved, unprejudiced laying of oneself open to what is revealed by human life or by the world external to man. If a man approaches a fact in the world around him with a judgment arising from his life up to the present, he shuts himself off by this judgment from the quiet, complete effect that the fact can have on him. The learner must be able each moment to make of himself a perfectly empty vessel into which the new world flows. Knowledge is received only in those moments in which every judgment, every criticism coming from ourselves, is silent. For example, when we meet a person, the question is not at all whether we are wiser than he. Even the most unreasoning child has something to reveal to the greatest sage. If he approaches the child with prejudgment, be it ever so wise, he pushes his wisdom like a dulled glass in front of what the child ought to reveal to him.*
* One can very well see, precisely from what is stated here, that in the requirement of unreservedly laying oneself open there is no question of shutting out one's own judgment or of giving oneself up to blind faith. Anything of that sort would quite obviously have no sense or meaning in regard to a child.
Complete inner selflessness is necessary for this yielding of oneself up to the revelations of the new world. If a man tests himself to find out in what degree he possesses this accessibility to its revelations, he will make astonishing discoveries regarding himself. Anyone who wishes to tread the path of higher knowledge must train himself to be able at any moment to obliterate himself with all his prejudices. As long as he obliterates himself the revelations of the new world flow into him. Only a high grade of such selfless surrender enables a man to receive the higher spiritual facts that surround him on all sides. We can consciously develop this capacity in ourselves. We can try, for example, to refrain from any judgment on people around us. We should obliterate within ourselves the gauge of attractive and repellent, of stupid or clever, that we are accustomed to apply and try without this gauge to understand persons purely from and through themselves. The best exercises can be made with people for whom one has an aversion. We should suppress this aversion with all our power and allow everything that they do to affect us without bias. Or, if we are in an environment that calls forth this or that judgment, we should suppress the judgment and free from criticism, lay ourselves open to impressions.*
* This open-minded and uncritical laying of ourselves open has nothing whatever to do with blind faith. The important thing is not that we should believe blindly in anything, but that we should not put a blind judgment in the place of the living impression.
We should allow things and events to speak to us rather than speak about them ourselves, and we also should extend this to our thought world. We should suppress in ourselves what prompts this or that thought and allow only what is outside to produce the thoughts. Only when such exercises are carried out with holiest earnestness and perseverance do they lead to the goal of higher knowledge. He who undervalues such exercises knows nothing of their worth, and he who has experience in such things knows that selfless surrender and freedom from prejudice are true producers of power. Just as heat applied to the steam boiler is transformed into the motive power of the locomotive, so do these exercises in selfless, spiritual self-surrender transforms themselves in man into the power of seeing in the spiritual worlds.
By this exercise a man makes himself receptive to all that surrounds him, but to this receptivity he must allow correct valuation also to be added. As long as he is inclined to value himself too highly at the expense of the world around him, he bars himself from the approach to higher knowledge. The seeker who yields himself up to the pleasure or pain that any thing or event in the world causes him is enmeshed by such an overvaluation of himself. Through his pleasure and his pain he learns nothing about the things, but merely something about himself. If I feel sympathy with a man, I feel to begin with nothing by my relation to him. If I make myself mainly dependent on this feeling of pleasure, of sympathy, for my judgment and my conduct, I place my personality in the foreground I obtrude it upon the world. I want to thrust myself into the world just as I am, instead of accepting the world in an unbiased way, allowing it to assert itself in accordance with the forces acting on it. In other words I am tolerant only of what harmonizes with my peculiarities. In regard to everything else I exert a repelling force. As long as a man is enmeshed by the sensible world, he acts in an especially repelling way on all influences that are non-sensory. The learner must develop in himself the capacity to conduct himself toward things and people in accordance with their own peculiar natures, and to allow each of them to count at its due worth and significance. Sympathy and antipathy, pleasure and displeasure, must be made to play quite new roles. It is not a question here of man's eradicating them, of his blunting himself to sympathy and antipathy. On the contrary, the more a man develops the capacity to refrain from allowing immediately by a judgment, an action, the finer will his sensitivity become. He will find that sympathies and antipathies take on a higher character if he curbs those he already has. Even something that is at first most unattractive has hidden qualities. It reveals them if a man does not in his conduct obey his selfish feelings. A person who has developed himself in this respect has in every way a greater delicacy of feeling than one who is undeveloped because he does not allow his own personality to make him unimpressionable. Every inclination that a man follows blindly blunts the power to see things in his environment in their true light. By obeying inclination we thrust ourselves through the environment instead of laying ourselves open to it and feeling its true worth.
Man becomes independent of the changing impressions of the outer world when each pleasure and pain, each sympathy and antipathy, no longer call forth in him an egotistical response and conduct. The pleasure we feel in a thing makes us at once dependent on it. We lose ourselves in it. A man who loses himself in the pleasure or pain caused by every varying impression cannot tread the path of spiritual knowledge. He must accept pleasure and pain with equanimity. Then he ceases to lose himself in them and begins instead to understand them. A pleasure to which I surrender myself devours my being in the moment of surrender. I should use the pleasure only in order to arrive through it at an understanding of the thing that arouses pleasure in me. The important point should not be that the thing has aroused pleasure in me. I should experience the pleasure and through it the nature of the thing. The pleasure should only be an intimation to me that there is in the thing a quality capable of giving pleasure. This quality I must learn to understand. If I go no farther than the pleasure, if I allow myself to be entirely absorbed in it, then it is only myself who lives in it. If the pleasure is only the opportunity for me to experience a quality or property of the thing itself, I enrich my inner being through this experience. To the seeker, pleasure and displeasure, joy and pain, must be opportunities for learning about things. The seeker does not become blunted to pleasure or pain through this. He raises himself above them in order that they may reveal to him the nature of the things. By developing himself in this respect, he will learn to understand what instructors pleasure and pain are. He will feel with every being and thereby receive the revelation of its inner nature. The seeker never says to himself merely, Oh, how I suffer! or Oh, how glad I am! but always, How does suffering speak? How does joy speak? He eliminates the element of self in order that pleasure and joy from the outer world may work on him. By this means there develops in a man a completely new manner of relating himself to things. Formerly he responded to this or that impression by this or that action, only because the impressions caused him joy or unhappiness. Now he causes pleasure and displeasure to become also the organs by which things tell him what they themselves really are in their own nature. Pleasure and pain change from mere feelings within him to organs of sense by which the external world is perceived. Just as the eye does not act itself when it sees something, but causes the hand to act, so pleasure and pain do not bring about anything in the spiritual seeker insofar as he employs them as means of knowledge, but they receive impressions, and what is experienced through pleasure and displeasure causes the action. When a man uses pleasure and displeasure in such a way that they become organs of transmission, they build up for him within his soul the actual organs through which the soul world opens up to view. The eye can serve the body only by being an organ for the transmission of sense impressions. Pleasure and pain become the eyes of the soul when they cease to be of value merely to themselves and begin to reveal to one's soul the other soul outside it.
By means of the qualities mentioned, the seeker for knowledge places himself in a condition that allows what is really present in the world around him to act upon him without disturbing influences from his own peculiarities. He has also to fit himself into the spiritual world around him in the right way because he is as a thinking being a citizen of the spiritual world. He can be this in the right way only if during mental activity he makes his thoughts run in accordance with the eternal laws of truth, the laws of the spiritland. Only thus can that land act on him and reveal its facts to him. A man never reaches the truth as long as he gives himself up to the thoughts continually coursing through his ego. If he permits this, his thoughts take a course imposed on them by the fact of their coming into existence within the bodily nature. The thought world of a man who gives himself up to a mental activity determined primarily by his physical brain looks irregular and confused. In it a thought enters, breaks off, is driven out of the field by another. Anyone who tests this by listening to a conversation between two people, or who observes himself in an unprejudiced way, will gain an idea of this mass of confused thoughts. As long as a man devotes himself only to the calls of the life of the senses, his confused succession of thoughts will always be set right again by the facts of reality. I may think ever so confusedly but in my actions everyday facts force upon me the laws corresponding to the reality. My mental picture of a city may be most confused, but if I wish to walk along a certain road in the city, I must accommodate myself to the conditions it imposes on me. The mechanic can enter his workshop with ever so varied a whirl of ideas, but the laws of his machines compel him to adopt the correct procedure in his work. Within the world of the senses facts exercise their continuous corrective on thought. If I come to a false opinion by thinking about a physical phenomenon or the shape of a plant, the reality confronts me and sets my thinking right.
It is quite different when I consider my relations to the higher regions of existence. They reveal themselves to me only if I enter their worlds with already strictly controlled thinking. There my thinking must give me the right, the sure impulse, otherwise I cannot find proper paths. The spiritual laws prevailing within these worlds are not condensed so as to become sensibly perceptible, and therefore they are unable to exert on me the compulsion described above. I am able to obey these laws only when they are allied to my own as those of a thinking being. Here I must be my own sure guide. The seeker for knowledge must therefore make his thinking something that is strictly regulated in itself. His thoughts must by degrees disaccustom themselves entirely from taking the ordinary daily course. They must in their whole sequence take on the inner character of the spiritual world. He must be able constantly to keep watch over himself in this respect and have himself in hand. With him, one thought must not link itself arbitrarily with another, but only in the way that corresponds with the severely exact contents of the thought world. The transition from one idea to another must correspond with the strict laws of thought. The man as thinker must be, as it were, constantly a copy of these thought laws. He must shut out from his train of thought all that does not flow out of these laws. Should a favorite thought present itself to him, he must put it aside if it disturbs the proper sequence. If a personal feeling tries to force upon his thoughts a direction not inherent in them, he must suppress it.
Plato required those who wished to attend his school first to go through a course of mathematical training. Mathematics with its strict laws, which do not accommodate themselves to the course of ordinary sensory phenomena, form a good preparation for the seeker of knowledge. If he wishes to make progress in the study of mathematics, he has to renounce all personal, arbitrary choice, all disturbances. The seeker prepares himself for his task by overcoming through his own choice all the arbitrary thinking that naturally rules in him. He learns thereby to follow purely the demands of thought. So, too, he must learn to do this in all thinking intended to serve spiritual knowledge. This thought life must itself be a copy of undisturbed mathematical judgments and conclusions. The seeker must strive wherever he goes and in whatever he does to be able to think after this manner. Then there will flow into him the intrinsic characteristic laws of the spirit world that pass over and through him without a trace as long as his thinking bears its ordinary confused character. Regulated thinking brings him from sure starting points to the most hidden truths. What has been said, however, must not be looked at in a one-sided way. Although mathematics act as a good discipline for the mind, one can arrive at pure healthy, vital thinking without mathematics.
What the seeker of knowledge strives for in his thinking, he must also strive for in his actions. He must be able to act in accordance with the laws of the nobly beautiful and the eternally true without any disturbing influences from his personality. These laws must be able constantly to direct him. Should he begin to do something he has recognized as right and find his personal feelings not satisfied by that action, he must not for that reason forsake the road he has entered on. On the other hand, he must not pursue it just because it gives him joy, if he finds that it is not in accordance with the laws of the eternally beautiful and true. In everyday life people allow their actions to be decided by what satisfies them personally, by what bears fruit for themselves. In so doing they force upon the world's events the direction of their personality. They do not bring to realization the true that is traced out in the laws of the spirit world, rather do they realize the demands of their self-will. We only act in harmony with the spiritual world when we follow its laws alone. From what is done only out of the personality, there result no forces that can form a basis for spiritual knowledge. The seeker of knowledge may not ask only, What brings me advantages; what will bring me success? He must also be able to ask, What have I recognized as the good? Renunciation of the fruits of action for his personality, renunciation of all self-will; these are the stern laws that he must prescribe for himself. Then he treads the path of the spiritual world, his whole being penetrated by these laws. He becomes free from all compulsion from the sense world; his spirit man raises itself out of the sensory sheath. He thus makes actual progress on the path towards the spiritual and thus he spiritualizes himself. One may not say, Of what use to me are the resolutions to follow purely the laws of the true when I am perhaps mistaken concerning what is true? The important thing is the striving, and the spirit in which one strives. Even when the seeker is mistaken, he possesses, in his very striving for the true, a force that turns him away from the wrong road. Should he be mistaken, this force seizes him and guides him to the right road. The very objection, But I may be mistaken, is itself harmful unbelief. It shows that the man has no confidence in the power of the true. The important point is that he should not presume to decide on his aims in accordance with his own egotistical views, but that he should selflessly yield himself up to the guidance of the spirit itself. It is not the self-seeking will of man that can prescribe for the true. On the contrary, what is true must itself become lord in man, must permeate his whole being, make him a copy of the eternal laws of the spiritland. He must fill himself with these eternal laws in order to let them stream out into life.
Just as the seeker of knowledge must be able to have strict control of thinking, so he must also have control of his will. Through this he becomes in all modesty without presumption a messenger of the world of the true and the beautiful. Through this he ascends to be a participant in the spirit world. Through this he is lifted from stage to stage of development because one cannot reach the spiritual life by merely seeing it. On the contrary, one has to reach it by experiencing it, by living it.
If the seeker of knowledge observes the laws here described, his soul experiences relating to the spiritual world will take on an entirely new form. He will no longer live merely within them. They will no longer have a significance merely for his personal life. They will develop into soul perceptions of the higher world. In this soul the feelings of pleasure and displeasure, of joy and pain, do not live for themselves only, but grow into soul organs, just as in his body eyes and ears do not lead a life for themselves alone but selflessly allow external impressions to pass through them. Thereby the seeker of knowledge wins that calmness and assurance in his soul constitution necessary for research in the spiritual world. A great pleasure will no longer make him merely jubilant, but may be the messenger to him of qualities in the world that have hitherto escaped him. It will leave him calm, and through the calm the characteristics of the pleasure-giving beings will reveal themselves to him. Pain will no longer merely fill him with grief, but be able to tell him also what the qualities are of the being that causes the pain. Just as the eye does not desire anything for itself but shows man the direction of the road he has to take, so will pleasure and pain guide the soul safely along its path. This is the state of balance of soul that the seeker of knowledge must reach. The less pleasure and pain exhaust themselves in the waves that they throw up in the inner life of the seeker of knowledge, the more will they form eyes for the supersensible world. As long as a man lives in pleasure and pain he cannot gain knowledge by means of them. When he learns how to live by means of them, when he withdraws his feeling of self from them, then they become his organs of perception and he sees by means of them, attaining through them to knowledge. It is incorrect to think that the seeker of knowledge becomes a dry, colorless being, incapable of experiencing joy and sorrow. Joy and sorrow are present in him, but when he seeks knowledge in the spiritual world, they are present in a transformed shape; they have become eyes and ears.
As long as we live in a personal relationship with the world, things reveal only what links them with our personality. This, however, is their transitory path. If we withdraw ourselves from our transitory part and live with our feeling of self, with our I, in our permanent part, then our transitory part becomes an intermediary for us. What reveals itself through it is an imperishable, an eternal in the things. The seeker of knowledge must be able to establish this relationship between his own eternal part and the eternal in the things. Even before he begins other exercises of the kind described, and also during them, he should direct his thought to this imperishable part. When I observe a stone, a plant, an animal or a man, I should be able to remember that in each of them an eternal expresses itself. I should be able to ask myself, What is the permanent that lives in the transitory stone, in the transitory man? What will outlast the transitory sensory appearance? We ought not to think that to direct the spirit to the eternal in this way destroys our careful consideration of, and sense for, the qualities of everyday affairs and estranges us from the immediate realities. On the contrary, every leaf, every little insect will unveil to us innumerable mysteries when not only our eyes but through the eyes of spirit is directed upon them. Every sparkle, every shade of color, every cadence will remain vividly perceptible to the senses. Nothing will be lost, but in addition, unlimited new life will be gained. Indeed, the person who does not understand how to observe even the tiniest thing with the eye, will only attain to pale, bloodless thoughts, not to spiritual sight.
It depends upon the attitude of mind we acquire in this direction. What stage we shall succeed in reaching will depend on our capacities. We have only to do what is right and leave everything else to evolution. It must be enough for us at first to direct our minds to the permanent. If we do this, the knowledge of the permanent will awaken in us through this. We must wait until it is given, and it is given at the right time to each one who with patience waits and works. A man soon notices during such exercises what a mighty transformation takes place within him. He learns to consider each thing as important or unimportant only insofar as he recognizes it to be related to a permanent, to an eternal. He comes to a valuation and estimate of the world different from the one he has hitherto had. His whole feeling takes on a new relationship toward the entire surrounding world. The transitory no longer attracts him merely for its own sake as formerly. It becomes for him a member, an image of the eternal, and this eternal, living in all things, he learns to love. It becomes familiar, just as the transitory was formerly familiar to him. This again does not cause his estrangement from life. He only learns to value each thing according to its true significance. Even the vain trifles of life will not pass him by quite without trace, but the man seeking after the spiritual no longer loses himself in them, but recognizes them at their limited worth. He sees them in their true light. He is a poor discerner of the spiritual who would go wandering in the clouds losing sight of life. From his high summit a true discerner with his power of clear survey and his just and healthy feeling for everything will know how to assign to each thing its proper place.
Thus there opens out to the seeker of knowledge the possibility of ceasing to obey only the unreliable influences of the external world of the senses that turn his will now here, now there. Through higher knowledge he has seen the eternal being of things. By means of the transformations of his inner world he has gained the capacity for perceiving this eternal being. For the seeker of knowledge the following thoughts have a special weight. When he acts out of himself, he is then conscious of acting also out of the eternal being of things because the things give utterance to him in their being. He, therefore, acts in harmony with the eternal world order when he directs his action out of the eternal living within him. He thus knows himself no longer merely as a being impelled by things. He knows that he impels them according to the law implanted within them that have become the laws of his own being. This ability to act out of his inner being can only be an ideal towards which he strives. The attainment of the goal lies in the far distance, but the seeker of knowledge must have the will to recognize clearly this road. This is his will to freedom, for freedom is action out of one's inner being. Only he may act out of his inner being who draws his motives from the eternal. A being who does not do this, acts according to other motives than those implanted in things. Such a person opposes the world order, and the world order must then prevail against him. That is to say, what he plans to carry through by his will cannot in the last resort take place. He cannot become free. The arbitrary will of the individual being annihilates itself through the effects of its deeds.
Whoever is able to work upon his inner life in such a way climbs upwards from stage to stage in spiritual knowledge. The reward of his exercises will be the unfolding of certain vistas of the supersensible world to his spiritual perception. He learns the real meaning of the truths communicated about this world, and he will receive confirmation of them through his own experience. If this stage is reached, he encounters an experience that can only come through treading this path. Something occurs whose significance can only now become clear to him. Through the great spiritual guiding powers of the human race there is bestowed on him what is called initiation. He becomes a disciple of wisdom. The less one sees in such initiation something that consists in an outer human relationship, the more correct will be his conception of it. What the seeker of knowledge now experiences can only be indicated here. He receives a new home. He becomes thereby a conscious dweller in the supersensible world. The source of spiritual insight now flows to him from a higher region. The light of knowledge from this time forth does not shine upon him from without, but he is himself placed at its fountainhead where the problems that the world offers receive a new illumination. Henceforth he holds converse no longer with the things that are shaped by the spirit, but with the shaping spirit itself. At the moments of attaining spiritual knowledge, the personality's own life exists now only in order to be a conscious image of the eternal. Doubts about the spirit that could formerly arise in him vanish because only he can doubt who is deluded by things regarding the spirit ruling in them. Since the disciple of wisdom is able to hold intercourse with the spirit itself, each false form vanishes in which he had previously imagined the spirit. The false form under which one conceives the spirit is superstition. The initiate has passed beyond all superstition because he has knowledge of the spirit's true form. Freedom from the prejudices of the personality, of doubt, and of superstition these are the characteristics of the seeker who has attained to discipleship on the path of higher knowledge. We must not confuse this state in which the personality becomes one with the all-embracing spirit of life, with an absorption into the universal spirit that annihilates the personality. Such a disappearance does not take place in a true development of the personality. Personality continues to be preserved as such in the relationship into which it enters with the spirit world. It is not the subjection of the personality, but its highest development that occurs. If we wish to have a simile for this coincidence or union of the individual spirit with the all-encompassing spirit, we cannot choose that of many different coinciding circles that are lost in one circle, but we must choose the picture of many circles, each of which has a quite distinct shade of color. These variously colored circles coincide, but each separate shade preserves its color existence within the whole. Not one loses the fullness of its individual power.
The further description of the path will not be given here. It is given as far as possible in my Occult Science, an Outline, which forms a continuation of this book.
What is said here about the path of spiritual knowledge can all too easily, through failure to understand it, tempt us to consider it as a recommendation to cultivate certain moods of soul that would lead us to turn away from the immediate, joyous and strenuously active, experience of life. As against this, it must be emphasized that the particular attitude of the soul that renders it fit to experience directly the reality of the spirit, cannot be extended as a general demand over the entire life. It is possible for the seeker after spiritual existence to bring his soul for the purpose of research into the necessary condition of being withdrawn from the realities of the senses, without that withdrawal estranging him from the world. On the other hand, however, it must be recognized that a knowledge of the spiritual world, not merely a knowledge gained by treading the path, but also a knowledge acquired through grasping the truths of spiritual science with the unprejudiced, healthy human intellect, leads also to a higher moral status in life, to a knowledge of sensory existence that is in accord with the truth, to certainty in life, and to inward health of the soul.